Steamboat schools rank among state's best

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— The Steamboat Springs School District is considered one of the highest performing school districts in Colorado according to the accreditation report prepared by the Colorado Department of Education.

The report was one item discussed during the board of education meeting Monday night.

"There is a clear focus on improving student achievement that permeates all parts of the school district," said Morris Danielson, Colorado Department of Education regional manager for the northwest region.

Danielson visited the Steamboat School District in April to perform an accreditation review.

The Steamboat School District had to demonstrate how it was meeting the state accreditation standards in 10 areas, including an educational improvement plan, Colorado Student Assessment Program goals, closing learning gaps, value-added growth, data regarding achievement in other curriculum standards areas and compliance with the School Accountability Report, Safe Schools Act and Colorado Basic Literacy Act.

The school district's proficiency in all 10 areas of the report represents their effort to continually increase educational standards and promote a high-quality performance from both students and faculty, Danielson said.

"We commend the district for clarity of focus and expectations that create results. Clearly, you have set high expectations and the district empowers administrators and teachers to make this a premier district," Danielson said.

The report summarized plans the school district has to improve their standards in academic excellence.

The accreditation report included the new requirement for seniors to take either CAREERS or Senior Experience starting with the class of 2005.

The classes will provide students with the opportunity to explore in-depth an area of interest and discover potential careers before entering college or the workforce.

During the program each student will work with the guidance of a community member.

The report also addressed the district's desire to improve the way students are assessed in subject areas not measured by the CSAP.

Kelly Stanford, director of content standards for the Steamboat Springs School District, said certain subjects cannot be measured through standardized testing because it is not available. She said continual efforts are being made to develop assessment standards that help teachers refine their teaching methods and target areas in which students need to improve.

She said the CDE has developed a system to interpret how students' improve from year to year on the CSAP. The new system will be released within the next few weeks, giving administrators a new way to interpret CSAP data.

Achieving academic excellence within the district is reflective of an outstanding faculty, she said.

The district's efforts to retain and recruit teachers and support staff was commended by the CDE in the report.

"The district's openness and review of compensation is refreshing as this often is a taboo subject. Your work in this area will greatly assist your district and hopefully will also provide state leadership as well, in this most important initiative," Danielson said.

Superintendent Cyndy Simms said board of education members were instrumental in implementing the multi-year competitive pay plan, which Danielson was referring to in the accreditation report.

The district also hired a consultant this year to review and provide recommendations on teacher and support staff compensation. The consultant helped initiate the second piece of the multi-year competitive compensation plan, which involved creating evaluation criteria for the new knowledge and skills-based pay plan that should begin the fall of 2003.

The Steamboat School District did not have any accreditation deficiencies.

This is "truly a neat report and congratulations to the district," said Paul Fisher, president of the Steamboat Springs board of education.

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