Hayden Elementary School third-graders have accomplished something unique to third-graders in the Yampa Valley.
For the third consecutive year, at least 90 percent of Hayden third-graders rank as advanced or proficient readers by the Colorado Student Assessment Program.
In honor of their achievement, the students were invited to have their photo taken with Colorado Commissioner of Education William Moloney in Denver on Tuesday. While acknowledging the honor and the hard work that went into achieving it, the schools politely declined.
"It's a long way to drive for a picture, quite frankly," said Hayden School District Superintendent Scott Mader.
"I think (Hayden's CSAP reading score) indicates a strong elementary program," Mader said. "I think a lot of hard work by the teachers and principals is paying off. We take these CSAP scores seriously, and I think that shows."
Hayden third-graders ranked as 91 percent advanced or proficient readers for the second consecutive year, and ranked 92 percent in 2002.
This year's score is well above the state average, which has held at 74 percent advanced or proficient for the past two years.
Before 2002, however, Hayden third-graders' CSAP reading scores ranked below the current state average. Their scores indicated an average 72 percent as advanced or proficient in reading from 1998 to 2002.
Hayden Elementary School Principal Mike Luppes cited three main reasons for the improved scores in recent years.
The introduction of the "balanced literacy program" about five years ago is one of those reasons, he said.
"The balanced literacy program involves small-group reading, small-group instruction and individual reading tasks," Luppes said. "It's a blend of phonics and all the important ingredients, rather than just the read-and-then-write approach."
Luppes also cited decreased class size and subsequently more individualized attention as a help to the CSAP scores -- perhaps the only benefit of declining enrollment, he said.
"We also have a very skilled teaching staff," Luppes said. "The invitation to Denver was definitely an honor and a huge compliment to our teaching staff."