Students head of state class

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The numbers look good, at least locally.

Earlier this month, the Fund for Colorado's Future -- an independent, nonprofit educational analysis and fundraising organization led by Gov. Bill Owens -- hosted a Colorado Education Summit to analyze student data from across the country and make recommendations for educational programs in Colorado. Out of that summit came a report detailing student achievement and college preparation in the state.

Comparing figures in the report to figures from the Steamboat Springs School District shows that local students are not only performing at a comparatively high academic level, but they also are attending four-year colleges or universities immediately after high school at a significantly higher rate than their peers statewide.

"Most of our kids go to college, and most graduate," said Brad Kindred, a middle school science teacher and president of the Steamboat Springs Education Association. "People are moving here because of the schools."

According to the fund's rep--ort, 42 percent of Colorado high school graduates enroll in a four-year college or university the next year.

Locally, that number is higher. Sixty-five percent of the 132 seniors who graduated from Steamboat Springs High School in 2005 immediately enrolled at a four-year higher education institution, according to data used by the school district's Grad----uation Requirements Com--mittee.

However, that is the high school's lowest percentage in the past five years. In 2002, 77 percent of the school's 132 graduating seniors enrolled at four-year institutions.

That same year, 57 percent of graduating seniors in Colorado -- and the nation -- went on to four-year schools.

The decline in high school graduates enrolling at colleges and universities -- and the rising number of graduates who are not ready for college when they get there -- is a significant challenge facing public schools in the state, according to the funding report.

"Poor preparation in high school is a problem for many students," the report reads. "According to the Colorado Commission on Higher Educ--ation, 26.6 percent of Colorado students attending in-state colleges in 2003 required remedial course work in at least one subject. In 11 Colorado school districts, at least half of the students attending college need remediation."

Remediation work consists of low-level courses that help students catch up to college-level academics.

Only 34 percent of Colorado high school graduates leave school prepared for college academically, according to the report.

In Steamboat, the success of high school graduates may be partly because district administrators, teachers and school staff begin academic preparation for college early in a student's career -- well before students begin high school.

According to the district data, 51 percent of a core -- or "cohort" -- group of eighth-graders tested at a proficient or advanced level in mathematics in 2004. Eighty-three percent of eighth-graders read at proficient or above.

Eighth-graders statewide tested lower. The fund's report states that 44 percent of Colorado eighth-graders are proficient or better in mathematics, with 64 percent proficient or better in reading.

To improve students' preparation for college, the Fund for Colorado's Future concludes its report with a recommendation that will sound familiar to Steamboat school district administrators and employees.

"At a minimum, the state should align high school and post-secondary curriculum so students will be prepared for the demands of post-secondary education," the report reads.

Last week, administrators from the Steamboat Springs School District's five schools, including the North Routt Community Charter School, unveiled three-year improvement plans for their schools. The plans focus on creating a curriculum integrated throughout the school system and geared toward preparing students for life after high school.

"My goal was to focus and streamline the district," high school Principal Mike Knezevich said about the improvement plan for his school.

-- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203

or email mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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