Strategies for improvement |

Strategies for improvement

Veronica Whitney

County educators have set a goal of having 80 percent of the district’s students scoring at the “proficient” and “advanced’ levels in three years.

And, although it would mean a 50 percent boost in some cases, Assistant Superintendent John Brendza says the target is achievable.

Even before the CSAP scores were announced, the school district had developed strategies for writing and math, says Gary Rito, curriculum director with the school district.

Rito says the district now has literacy coaches in all elementary and secondary schools.

“In addition, each school has designated a building-level literacy coach.”

A literacy guidebook has been compiled for middle-school teachers, Rito says. It includes information regarding best teaching practices for reading and writing, as well as information about the administration of individual literacy tests.

“We have emphasized different scoring criteria in our in-district writing

assessments,” Rito says. “We are changing that to match the CSAP, and that alignment should help our teachers and students to meet more of the standards the CSAP tests.”

The district also will continue its efforts to make sure all teachers are fully trained in its writing instruction programs. One training day on Oct. 9, for example, will be dedicated to writing instruction and the new scoring criteria.

“Writing is a very difficult thing to teach,” Brendza says. “We need to get the teachers to discuss what has to be done.”

Math issues

Math scores this year were the lowest, with a high of only 55 percent proficient and advanced in fifth and sixth grades. Math also scored the highest unsatisfactory rate – only 35 percent in ninth grade.

“This year will be the first year we will have the designated math coach available for the whole term, as well has having math coaches named at each school,” Rito says.

Last year a district-wide math coach was named mid-term.

“This summer, the district undertook a comprehensive re-write of its math curriculum to make sure that the areas tested by the CSAP are covered at each grade level,” Rito says. “Through that extensive process, we did find some gaps in our instruction and we have now corrected that.”

This past year, the district has been researching math textbooks and other

instructional materials for both the high-school and middle-school levels.

Those new materials will be purchased in the current district budget cycle and distributed.

Math instruction, Rito says, will be a key focus during staff training.

The district also is:

– Developing a database of best math teaching practices, which will be available to teachers.

– Developing a pilot program that would feature tests modeled after the CSAP format.

– Continuing its in-depth research regarding weaknesses in math, such as algebraic and geometric thinking, and identifying the best strategies and materials to enhance instruction.

What remains to be seen, Rito says, is how the district will do this year in the School Accountability Report, or SAR.

Last year, schools were rated on categories based on CSAP scores. Eagle County schools placed average or above, Rito says.

“We need to look at other school districts and see how we can improve our teaching,” Brendza says.

“Also, there has to be an opportunity for collaboration between teachers in the district,” Brendza says. “We need to find out what the best practices are.”

The Teacher Advancement Program, or TAP, which will be implemented in five schools in the district this year, will help to achieve this, Rito says.

TAP puts emphasis on professional growth and student achievement. It also includes performance pay for teachers.

“It’s sad we’re focusing everything on CSAP scores,” says Cass Mason, a McCoy pre-school teacher and the only parent or teacher to attend Wednesday’s School board meeting where Brendza presented CSAP scores to the directors.

“Other programs offered by the school district are important, like business and arts,” she says. “Do we scale back on these programs in favor of giving kids more math programs to improve CSAP scores? Several kids will never go to college, and we also want to make these kids ready for life.”

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at

Editor’s note: This is the final part of a series on Eagle County School District strategies to improve CSAP scores.

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