Vail Valley Voices: What a year for Battle Mountain | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley Voices: What a year for Battle Mountain

Philip Qualman
Vail, CO, Colorado

The graduating class of 2011 can hardly contain their excitement to receive diplomas on May 28. Simultaneously, we watch them recognize that the remaining chapters of the script are blank. The story is theirs to write.

We started the year by overhauling grading practices. We positioned Battle Mountain High School at the forefront of innovative grading strategies as outlined by assessment experts Rick Wormeli and Ken O’Connor.

Our students are assessed on mastery of clearly stated learning objectives, not subjective criteria like participation points or extra credit. This transition has required teachers and students to focus on content mastery.

Another aspect of the grading overhaul provides students opportunities to reassess. This practice is grounded in the belief that students must be accountable for class content even if they struggled with an initial attempt. If content knowledge is important enough to teach, it is important enough to ensure it is learned.

In the 2011-12 school year, teachers will refine protocols to permit re-assessment only when students can demonstrate additional effort toward content mastery. In other words, students only get to reassess when they can prove they have worked hard to earn the opportunity.

At Battle Mountain, reassessment is a privilege not a right. We plan to continue this process during the 2011-12 school year by implementing common assessments across the district that will help us periodically measure student progress against state standards.

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Initial data points are encouraging. In January some of our students took the Colorado English Language Acquisition test. Results showed the Battle Mountain students designated as second-language learners acquired English at the fastest rate in school history. Additionally, among all students we saw improved attendance rates and a reduction in fail rates.

We are anxious to examine achievement data next fall to see how our changes to grading and assessment have affected overall academic growth.

Aside from academic growth, our students also continue to excel in athletics and arts. For the eighth time in 10 years, Battle Mountain students won the ProStart State Championship in Culinary Arts. Our girls track team won regionals for the first time since 1993. We also qualified several students for the national competition in speech and debate. Our Future Business Leaders of American chapter remains one of the strongest in the entire state.

We are also very proud to have a Daniel’s Fund Scholar for the second year in a row. Once again, Battle Mountain students have been accepted to Ivy League and other highly-ranked universities across the country.

Next year, we will make the transition from a trimester schedule to a semester schedule. This will ensure that students receive instruction in math, English and foreign languages year-round, eliminating the gaps in core content instruction that resulted from the trimester schedule.

Semesters also help us improve efficiency in the master schedule. Nearly all classes next year will enjoy class sizes in the mid-20s.

This fall, Battle Mountain is proud to offer additional language, music and art classes, including Mandarin Chinese. We have partnered with the Chinese Office of Language and Culture to bring a highly trained native Mandarin speaker to Battle Mountain to initiate this program. Over 100 students have already registered for Mandarin.

Additionally, Battle Mountain continues to provide opportunities for all four grades to earn college credit with nine Dual Enrollment courses through Colorado Mountain College and 11 Advanced Placement classes.

In 2011-12, we plan to improve our athletics and extracurricular activities by providing coaches and sponsors with more opportunities for professional development.

This plan is emerging and will likely include mentoring by some of our veteran coaches. They have a wealth of experience that can be valuable for new coaches.

The intent is to promote a climate of respect and dignity for all participants with an emphasis on developing leadership among young coaches and players.

The key to our success is the relationship between the school and the community. The achievements of our students and teachers would not be possible without the consistent support from our community. We are lucky to have such strong support from PTSA, the Accountability Committee, Athletic Super Boosters, and The Arts Booster Club. I thank them for their continued support.

As a way of giving back to the community, we have made the building available to numerous groups. In the 2010-2011 school year, Battle Mountain was used for over 400 meetings, events and special occasions. That number does not include Battle Mountain meetings, sporting events, plays or musicals. We are grateful for our beautiful facility and are happy to share it with the community.

This year, the Battle Mountain family lost several amazing young men in Andrew Claymon, Eric Spry, Todd Walker and Graham Bultemeier. Their loss underscored the importance schools play for the whole community.

Schools provide much more than an education to young people. They are the heart of the community. They bring people together to share experiences that run the full spectrum of human emotion. Families enroll their students in our school, trusting we will provide a great education.

n that journey, we all grow from relationships built on accomplishment, joy and tragedy. Never is this more evident than when a community mourns the loss of a young person.

I have never been more proud to be a member of the Husky Nation.

Philip Qualman is the principal of Battle Mountain High School.