Local school performance improves | VailDaily.com

Local school performance improves

Christine Ina Casillas
Students such as these fourth-graders at Eagle County Charter Academy are some of the students who scored the highest on the state's school accountability report. The charter school scored excellent on the report.

Evidence of student improvement in county schools was shown Wednesday by results of the 2003 state school accountability reports.

“This year’s school accountability reports provide tangible evidence that our school improvements efforts are bearing fruit,” said John Brendza, superintendent of the Eagle County School District. “With these improvement ratings, combined with our strong performance ratings, the reports reflect that our district is focused on improving student achievement.”

Eleven out of 16 schools scored as “high” or “excellent” on the school accountability report. In its third year, the accountability report acts as a report card, rating schools on academic improvement. The rankings are significant improvement, stable, declining and significant decline. Seven county schools showed “significant improvement” or “improvement,” and the remaining schools rated as “stable.”

Schools that have an unsatisfactory rating and fail to improve for three consecutive years face conversion to charter schools. Such sanctions, however, cannot occur until the 2005-2006 school year.

“It’s important to look at the two indicators – academic improvements and school improvements,” said Gary Rito, director of secondary curriculum, instruction and staff development for the Eagle County School District. “They show that we continually get better. But if you only look at the first indicator, you don’t really get the whole picture. The second indicator is just as important in achievement and improvement.”

The scores that shows high/significant improvement or average/significant improvement indicate that the schools are moving into the next category of excellent to high ratings, Rito said.

Integral exam

The sole measure used to determine schools’ ratings for the report is student’s performance on the Colorado Student Assessment Program, or CSAP, exam. The CSAP is administered to all students in grades three through 10 and includes the subject areas of mathematics, science, reading and writing. The report did not include Spanish-speaking results.

School officials weren’t entirely pleased with the CSAP results, stating in July when they were released that the students “were better than that.”

“Overall compared with the state, we’re above average,” Rito said in July. “But we’re not satisfied with the results. We’re better than those results. Our teachers are better, our students are better, our staff and the parents -we’re all better than that.”

The accountability reports, combined with the CSAP testing, form the core of Colorado’s education reform, said Pam Holmes Boyd, spokeswoman for the Eagle County School District.

Gypsum Elementary School recorded some of the district’s largest gains in the CSAP scores this summer.

“There are a couple of factors that have resulted in our success,” said Mike Gass, principal Gypsum Elementary School. “What I am happiest about is what this all means for the veteran teachers in my building who have seen the increase in achievement.”

Teachers praised

Overall, school district officials say they are encouraged and pleased by the results.

“While we are pleased with the overall rating in this year’s reports, we know that this is just one measure for overall success,” Brendza said.

Only one school rated low on the reports, Brendza said. Red Canyon High School, an alternative high school, rated low but stable.

“This alternative school is truly one of the school district’s success stories,” Brendza said. “We know that Red Canyon is making a difference in students’ lives by bringing them back to the classroom.”

Red Canyon, by definition, is an alternative school, Rito said.

“We tried for a long time to let them be exempt from those scores but we haven’t been able to achieve that yet,” Rito said.

School officials say that the Teacher Assessment Program – or TAP, a merit pay program that tags teachers pay with performance – for boosting the results.

“Teachers work hard, and they want to see their students succeed,” Gass said. “I feel like what we are doing now is working smarter. Maybe we are working harder, too, but we are definitely working smarter.”

Brendza agreed.

“We believe that with the TAP program, we are taking definitive action to address the single most important factor affecting student success,” Brendza said. “We are committed to placing a highly qualified and well-prepared teacher in front of every student, every day.”

2003 school accountability reports

The State of Colorado released its 2003 School Accountability reports Wednesday, showing high marks and improvements for Eagle County schools.

The following are some of the results.

Performance/improvement ratings

Elementary schools

Avon Elementary School – average/stable

Brush Creek Elementary School – high/significant improvement

Eagle Valley High School – high/improvement

Edwards Elementary School – average/significant improvement

Gypsum Elementary School – high/significant improvement

Meadow Mountain Elementary School – high/stable

Red Hill Elementary School – high/significant improvement

Red Sandstone Elementary School – high/improvement

Eagle County Charter Academy – excellent/stable

Middle schools

Berry Creek Middle School – average/stable

Eagle Valley Middle School – high/stable

Gypsum Creek Middle School – high/stable

Minturn Middle School – average/stable

Eagle County Charter Academy – excellent/stable

High schools

Battle Mountain High School – high/improvement

Eagle Valley High School – high/stable

Red Canyon High School – low/stable


Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at ccasillas@vaildaily.com.

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