Schools unveil plans to improve

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Every public school in the district now has a comprehensive plan to improve its academic performance and social climate during the next three years.

At a meeting of the Steamboat Springs School Board on Monday night, district principals presented school improvement plans to the board, after more than two months of preparation. The plans outline specific goals -- and processes to achieve them -- for improvements such as higher Colorado Student Assessment Program, or CSAP, scores, better writing skills and reading levels, and increased communication with parents.

"I started reading through this stuff, and let me tell you, there's more here than I need to know," board member Pat Gleason said, hefting the thick documents.

In recent years, improvement plans have been prepared on a one-year basis and presented to the board in September. Superintendent Donna Howell said the change was made to three-year plans to make goals outlined in the plans more attainable.

Although the board extended the due date for the plans until last week, principals on Monday said creating the larger plans was still difficult.

"It was a real, real time-consuming process," said Steamboat Springs Middle School Principal Tim Bishop, adding that administrators and teachers put several tasks on hold in order to create the school's plan. "But some great conversations took place -- I'm excited about it."

For example, one goal that middle school staff members hope to achieve with students by the 2007-08 school year is to have at least 70 percent of eighth-graders score at or above a proficient level on the CSAP math assessment. The improvement plan outlines math curriculums, frequent assessments and teaching strategies to raise student scores. Similar plans, such as creating more classroom time for reading instruction, are outlined for other academic fields. The middle school also aims to decrease student discipline referrals by at least 10 percent in the next three years.

Steamboat Springs High School Principal Mike Knez-evich cited similar time and logistical constraints as Bishop, but he also outlined plans to create common academic assessments that will allow teachers to better track student performance. Knezevich also included data in his plan that shows CSAP scores for the same groups, or "cohorts," of students as they progress through grades preceding high school.

District officials plan to create a database for students to help teachers address specific strengths and weaknesses in students.

"This is a work in progress," Howell said. "It's going to grow over time."

An improvement plan for North Routt Community Char-ter School was also included but not discussed.

At the elementary level, Soda Creek Elementary School Principal Judy Harris and Strawberry Park Elementary School Principal Mark MacHale expressed a need to address rapidly growing numbers of English Language Learners, or ELL students.

"Our ELL students have doubled in the past year," Harris said. "We celebrate that."

Soda Creek's three-year plan calls for more materials and staff support to meet immediate and future ELL enrollment.

MacHale said he would like to see future long-term plans created in the spring, not the fall.

"It's a little awkward presenting this in November," he said. "I should have been implementing my goals for this year starting last May."

-- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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