South Routt schools near performance ranking goal

Routt County school districts accept state accreditation ratings

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— South Routt Superintendent Scott Mader last year called his district’s goal of being “Accredited with Distinction” by the state within three years a “moon shot.”

That goal now seems much closer to Earth.

Based on Colorado Student Assessment Program test scores that last year measured academic growth in South Routt, the school district has earned the ranking of “Accredited” for student performance during the 2010-11 school year. The ranking is a step up from the district’s previous ranking of “Accredited with an Improvement Plan” and just one step below the state’s highest academic ranking of “Accredited with Distinction,” an honor only 14 of Colorado’s 178 school districts received for the 2009-10 school year.

“I was in shock when I saw how much we had improved,” Mader said. “A lot of average people did some extraordinary things to make this happen. We found we had to focus our efforts instead of spray them, and that’s exactly what we did with our teachers.”

The state’s accreditation process was rolled out as part of the Education Accountability Act of 2009, which evaluates whether students in a school district are achieving academic growth based on a number of factors that include measured improvement on their CSAP scores from year to year and their readiness for postsecondary education or a career following high school graduation.

Mader said a lack of focus on individual student achievement in past years was responsible for the district’s lower accreditation scores.

Although higher rankings don’t provide financial benefits for school districts, Mader said the increased rankings reinforce the work of teachers and make school districts more competitive as they attract new students.

South Routt’s most recent accreditation ratings show that its elementary and middle schools jumped up two rankings from “Priority Improvement” to “Performance,” the state’s top accreditation status for an individual school. Soroco High School maintained the “Performance” ranking it earned last year.

Soroco High School Principal Dennis Alt attributes the district’s progress this year to a more focused review of testing data made available by the state. He also said staff last year received more training, and class schedules at the middle school were adjusted to allow for more instructional time on reading and writing. He said the district now will be challenged to maintain the higher rankings as it attempts to push it even higher to reach the highest accreditation rating.

“We don’t want this to be a flash in the pan,” he said. “There’s always room to increase those percentages.”

Mader and his school board have made attaining the state’s highest accreditation rating a top priority for the district. At the start of the past two school years, the district has had Olympic skier Johnny Spillane and Iditarod dog musher Tom Thurston give pep talks to teachers about the importance of endurance, a topic Mader said ties in pretty well with the district’s drive for academic excellence.

Steamboat, Hayden ratings

The Hayden and Steamboat Springs school districts also accepted their latest accreditation ratings from the state last week. For the second year in a row, Steamboat was ranked among the elite school systems in the state with its “Accredited with Distinction” rating. Each Steamboat school received the highest performance rating as well.

In Hayden, Superintendent Mike Luppes announced the district’s overall state rating remained at “Accredited” for the 2010-11 school year. He praised the results that showed Hayden’s middle school had moved up a ranking from “Priority Improvement” to “Improvement.” Hayden’s high school and elementary school are rated “Performance.”

He said the middle school’s upgraded ranking from the state may allow the district to develop one improvement plan that includes all of its schools instead of four separate improvement plans.

“We’re very pleased with that progress,” he said.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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