School district evaluates learning programs

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— The Steamboat Springs School District now has a process to evaluate programs.

For the first time, officials last year considered the Montessori strand at Strawberry Park Elementary School, the elementary Spanish program, the alternative high school and the Students Engaged in Active Learning, or S.E.A.L., program.

The programs were evaluated because they are new. This school year, the same programs will be evaluated, as well as Senior Odyssey and the North Routt Community Charter School.

"I think it was a good start," Super--intendent Donna Howell said about the evaluation process. "The whole intent is to get better at what we're doing."

District officials have been "very pleased" with outcomes of the evaluations, said Cathleen Nardi, director of technology and program evaluation.

To evaluate the programs, officials chose the Evaluative Inquiry Process, which is a research-based model.

The first step in the model is for a team of school officials, teachers and others to identify the programs' goals and outline strategies to meet those goals. Later in the year, data is collected and analyzed to determine whether those goals were met. Findings and recommendations are presented to the School Board and community.

The timeline for evaluating programs was tweaked this school year to make sure the final report would be available in June, Nardi said. The report on 2004-05 school year programs was presented this week.

Some major findings for each program evaluated according to the report are:

Elementary Spanish: Most students were interested in the program and showed they were learning Spanish; most parents were supportive of the program and wanted to expand it; and most teachers were supportive of the program but felt it took time away from the regular curriculum. Recommendations included assessing more students, looking at effects on the middle school language program and investigating opportunities for teachers to integrate elementary Spanish into their regular classes.

Montessori strand: Comparison of scores from students in the Montessori program and students in traditional classes showed Montessori students were on target with what they were learning. Recommendations include giving teachers opportunities to observe other classrooms, creating transition plans for students and conducting interviews with staff at Strawberry Park Elementary School about their perception of the Montessori program.

Students Engaged in Active Learning: The program created a modified parallel curriculum; overall GPA of the class increased from 1.7 to 2.8; and worksheets filled out by students suggest they feel the program offers a positive environment. Recommendations include developing a system to identify at-risk students, replicating successes seen in increased performance in math and modifying policy to address increases in tardiness.

Alternative high school: Students and parents work with an alternative high school teacher to determine what credits they need to graduate. The teacher works one on one with students, and students take responsibility for their actions and attitudes, learn cultural and social norms and values and learn time management. Recommendations include having a more formal record of expectations for each student, using electronic record keeping and improving communication between student, parents, classroom teachers and the alternative high school teacher.

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