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How are our schools doing?

Veronica Whitney

The charter academy, however, was the only school in the Eagle County School District that got an “excellent” rating.

In the next weeks, most parents will receive an “average” report card for the school in the district their children attend. The 2002 Student Accountability Reports, commonly known as “report cards,” show that 11 of the 17 schools in the district are ranked “average” by the state Department of Education.

The exceptions are Eagle Valley Middle School, which went from “average” to “high,” and Eagle Valley and Red Sandstone elementary schools, which received “highs” marks for a second time.

Although none of the district’s schools are “unsatisfactory,” Red Canyon High School ranked “low.”Pam Holmes Boyd, spokeswoman for the school district, says that’s not unusual for an alternative school.

Most of the schools in the state ranked average – 665 of 1,700.

“We want to hit the “excellent’ point,” Boyd says. “We don’t feel we have an average teaching staff or an average student performance.”

The state rankings are based on student performance on annual tests administered by the Colorado Student Assessment Program, or CSAP. The annual tests evaluate how well schools and students meet Colorado standards in writing, reading, math and science,

“As when we got the CSAP results, we aren’t satisfied with our results and we want to see improvement,” Boyd says.

Following “average” CSAP results, county educators have set a goal of having 80 percent of its students scoring at the “proficient” and “advanced’ levels in three years. That means a 50 percent boost in some cases, says Assistant Superintendent John Brendza.

Rewards and consequences

The report cards come with rewards for being good and consequences for those schools staying “unsatisfactory” for more than three years.

Awards of $5,000 to $15,000 will go to “excellent” schools, as well as schools scoring “low” and “unsatisfactory” grades that show improvement.

“Unsatisfactory” schools that don’t improve to at least the “low” level could be turned into charter schools under new principals.

The report cards also include information on the average annual teacher’s salary and the average number of years of teaching experience.

This year, the state has included two new categories: student’s mobility; and the percentage of students qualifying for free lunches. Educators say transient and low-income students tend to score lower.

At Avon Elementary, a school that this year dropped from “high” to “average,” almost a fourth of its students are eligible for free lunch.

“High mobility in a school is one of the challenges,” says Mike Gass, principal of Gypsum Elementary School, which last year saw a mobility rate of 75 percent. “Even though our rating comes out as average, what we do here with the kids is very good.”

Gass says he expects improvement this year because the school is taking part in the Teacher Advancement Program, or TAP. Plus, he says, there’s been no teacher turnover this year.

Success stories

One of the reasons for Eagle Valley Middle School’s improvement comes from becoming a smaller school, says Principal Jerry Santoro. The school was split in two schools last year when Gypsum Creek Middle School was built. Eagle Valley Middle School went from 520 students to 260.

“Also, the teachers have been working hard and in teams to realize what we need to teach,” Santoro says. “Students also stepped up. They have taken their achievement seriously.”

The charter academy in Edwards was one of 89 charter schools in the state to make the top of the rankings at all grade levels for the 2002 CSAP tests.

This year, its elementary school jumped from “high” to “excellent.”

“I thought we would get (an “excellent’ rating) because we had an average of 87 percent scoring at “proficiency’ or “advanced’ levels,” Cerny says.

The charter academy’s success, he says, comes from small classes and a lot of parental involvement.

“We have amazing teachers and a setup that is very conducive to academic excellence,” he says. “In our school, it’s not if you’re going to be succesful but when. Our students put out a lot of work.”

If a school wants to improve, Santoro says it has to be a joint effort with the parents and the community.

“There has to be a culture that supports achievement at home,” he says. “This isn’t done by a school alone, it has to be the culture of the community and the school working together.”

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.


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