Schools trying new techniques

Boosting overall performance goal of effort to reach students

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— The dog days of summer are nearly over for the young people in south Routt, and when the first bell of 2000-2001 school sessions rings on Aug. 30, officials will begin experimenting with more personalized teaching strategies for the students.

"We're really going to be focused on individual students this year," south Routt Superintendent Steve Jones said.

The idea is to get teachers and administrators focused on student achievement and to act as a safety net for those who are slipping through the cracks of the educational system.

When a child is identified as having a problem with a certain skill, the teacher, supported by the administration, will find a way to give the student the attention needed to correct the deficiency.

"We're looking at trying to build the responsibilities of the students from 'K' through 12," Jones said. "In some cases, that might mean additional school."

Jones has said that he would like to develop a strong summer school program. Those classes will be for the students who don't prove to be proficient in reading, writing and math.

But before summer school is required, Jones hopes that identifying and then reaching students will enable everyone to reach proficiency during the normal school year.

The changes in the district come on the heels- of below-average test scores in reading and writing among south Routt fourth- and seventh-graders

First thing, the teachers and principals will go over each class roster to look at the scores of the children.From there, each school will assess how to meet the needs of all the students.

"We're going to mold our programs to fit the needs," first-year South Routt Elementary School Principal Troy Zabel said.

Though there is no concrete strategy to do that yet, Zabel explained that the staff and administrators at the elementary school will sit down together to figure out how to focus on each student individually.

"We'll be looking at a lot of different ideas," he said.

The Soroco Middle School has a new counselor, who will assist in helping connect with students, while the high school has an extra teacher on hand to help, Jones said.

One asset that south Routt schools have, compared to urban public schools is the smaller student population.

Working with students personally doesn't stop with children who are struggling either, Zabel added. It also benefits those who excel, by encouraging them to do better.

James Chamberlin, Soroco Middle School principal, said the encompassing goal for the district this year is better student achievement, and individualization is the first key to doing that. But he stressed that three other elements of teaching will be reinforced, too. Those elements are: high expectations with high standards, high support of students, parents and teachers by the administration and high accountability for teachers, administrators and students.

On a broad scale, the state takes care of two of those focus areas high expectations and accountability with the Colorado Student Assessment Program. C-SAP tests give students and teachers a measuring stick on expectation and proficiency, while the consequence of schools losing accreditation by not showing proficiency, or striving toward proficiency, enforces accountability.

"The measure of quality in the school district is going to be assumed by the C-SAPs," Chamberlin said.

The state has set the standard of proficiency, and the district needs to do everything it can meet those standards, Chamberlin said.

Recent low C-SAP scores in reading and writing for Soroco fourth- and seventh-graders has the district motivated to do better.

This year, students from third grade through 10th will take the C-SAP reading test. Fourth-, seventh- and 10th-graders will the writing tests; and those in fifth , eighth and 10th grade will take a math test.

"We've got one year to build," Jones said. He explained that next year the tests will be taken by the all students.

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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