Steamboat Springs High School senior Katie Hitchcock watches as senior Rusty Andres visits Wednesday with Danica Moss, the high school’s career and college counselor, about admission rules for Stanford University. The Steamboat Springs School District is one of 14 districts in Colorado recognized for its success in preparing students for college and careers.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Steamboat Springs High School senior Katie Hitchcock watches as senior Rusty Andres visits Wednesday with Danica Moss, the high school’s career and college counselor, about admission rules for Stanford University. The Steamboat Springs School District is one of 14 districts in Colorado recognized for its success in preparing students for college and careers.

Colorado Department of Education: Steamboat schools top-notch

Superintendent praises community after district ranks in top 14 in state

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Top 14 school districts

The school districts to receive the highest ranking by the state are:

■ Academy School District 20

■ Aspen School District 1

■ Cheyenne Mountain School District 12

■ Expeditionary BOCES (Rocky Mountain School of Expeditionary Learning)

■ Hinsdale County School District RE-1

■ Kiowa County School District C-2

■ Lewis-Palmer School District 38

■ Littleton Public Schools

■ Ouray School District R-1

■ Plateau School District RE-5

■ Prairie School District RE-11

■ Ridgway School District R-2

■ Steamboat Springs School District RE-2

■ Telluride School District.

— Steamboat Springs School Dis­­trict Superintendent Shalee Cun­­ningham credited the community for the district’s success.

The Colorado Department of Education announced Tuesday that Steamboat was among the top 8 percent of school districts statewide. It was one of 14 districts, out of 178, to be accredited with distinction, the highest accreditation ranking.

Cunningham called that an honor.

“This community has wrapped its arms around the schools,” she said in an e-mail. “They support our teachers, they volunteer their expertise in the schools, and most importantly, they trust the educators to make the best decisions on behalf of their students.”

Cunningham also praised the teachers, whom she called the most dedicated she’d seen in her 30 years as an educator.

“They work endless hours above and beyond the call of duty, they have very high standards and expectations of what every student can achieve, and no child falls through the cracks in our system,” she said. “Students are very fortunate to go to school in Steamboat.”

Tuesday’s announcement was the first under the state’s new accreditation process, part of the Edu­­cation Accountability Act of 2009.

The new process evaluates whether districts experience academic growth based on certain performance indicators, such as academic achievement and academic growth, and prepare students for postsecondary education or careers. The rankings are: accredited with distinction, accredited, accredited with improvement plan and accredited with turnaround plan.

Each ranking requires school districts to adopt and submit to the state a plan for how it will continue performing, improve or turn around.

According to the Department of Education, the Hayden School District is accredited, and the South Routt School District is accredited with an improvement plan.

South Routt Superintendent Scott Mader said it’s been his goal since he started before the 2008-09 school year to increase the district’s academic achievement. The South Routt School Board in July approved a resolution to make becoming accredited with distinction the district’s three-year goal to achieve by 2012-13.

Mader said the district is creating its plan to become accredited with distinction. He said district administrators and teachers are evaluating state and district test results and assessments to see where instruction needs to improve and how to intervene more quickly when students struggle.

He stressed that the district is serious about becoming accredited with distinction.

“It’s a specific goal for the district and a goal that’s achievable, measurable,” Mader said. “It can be done, but it’s going to take effort, perseverance. It’s going to take a team effort by the administrators, teachers, board, students and community members. I think South Routt deserves this. I think they deserve the best.”

Hayden Superintendent Mike Luppes said the district was pleased with its ranking, but like South Routt, it was evaluating data to increase academic achievement and close achievement gaps for students who may struggle.

Steamboat School Board Pre­sident Robin Crossan said she was proud to hear about the district’s accreditation ranking. She said the kudos go all around, from the faculty and staff to parents and the community, but said it came down to the students.

Crossan said despite being accredited with distinction, Steam­­boat couldn’t sit back and relax. Cunningham said the same.

“It is not a given that we will earn this award year after year,” she said. “We must be diligent in our progressive thoughts about how we can best educate our students.”

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