Local schools get thumbs up | SteamboatToday.com

Local schools get thumbs up

Steamboat Springs School District accredited, in top 5 statewide

Mike McCollum

Soda Creek Elementary School third-grader Elijah Austin ponders his next move in a game of checkers during class Friday afternoon. Austin made the unique western-themed checkers set on his own during a lesson about pioneer children making their own toys.

Steamboat Springs — JoAnne Hilton-Gabeler said meeting the state's accreditation requirements for the Steamboat Springs School District was easy. But Hilton-Gabeler, director of curriculum and instruction for the Steamboat Springs School District, stressed that meeting her own high expectations is much more difficult. — JoAnne Hilton-Gabeler said meeting the state's accreditation requirements for the Steamboat Springs School District was easy. But Hilton-Gabeler, director of curriculum and instruction for the Steamboat Springs School District, stressed that meeting her own high expectations is much more difficult.

— JoAnne Hilton-Gabeler said meeting the state’s accreditation requirements for the Steamboat Springs School District was easy. But Hilton-Gabeler, director of curriculum and instruction for the Steamboat Springs School District, stressed that meeting her own high expectations is much more difficult.

“We are the No. 4 performing district in the state,” Hilton-Gabeler told the Steamboat Springs School Board on Monday. “We met all 11 indicators for accreditation, but I always look for ways to grow and improve.”

The state requires each of its 178 public school districts to be accredited to receive state funding. The Colorado Department of Education sent a team of regional educators and officials to Steamboat Springs last winter. The team completed its report in November.

The accreditation system is designed to ensure school districts are meeting state requirements, which include setting goals for Colorado Student Assessment Program, or CSAP, test scores; closing achievement gaps; and complying with the provisions of state School Accountability Reports and the federal No Child Left Behind law.

The accreditation report commended Steamboat’s CSAP assessments, implementation of positive behavior support programs and use of achievement data to monitor student progress.

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“The considerable efforts that the district expends continue to pay off,” the report stated. “These efforts include hiring gifted and talented specialists (and) English language learner specialists, implementing professional learning communities, continuously reviewing student achievement data and adjusting curriculum based on that data.”

The district scored above the state average for “proficient” and “advanced” on all of the 27 CSAP assessments, and the district made gains in 18 of the 23 subtests from 2006 to 2007.

“It’s quite impressive and shows we did some pretty good work as always,” said interim Superintendent Sandra Smyser.

Hilton-Gabeler stressed that there is much to be proud about in Steamboat schools. But the state’s accreditation report also revealed weaknesses.

Although the district outperformed state averages with its CSAP scores, data analysis revealed that students improved in only 10 of the 19 grade-level tests, with the largest grade-level declines in ninth- and 10th-grade math.

Math proficiency levels for eight-grade students were near 77 percent, while about 60 percent of ninth graders were reported as proficient. Proficiency levels dropped below 50 percent for 10th-grade students.

“A couple of the biggest things is consistency of staff,” said Steamboat Springs High School Principal Mike Knezevich. “We are working on why this happened, and we’ll continually meet weekly with the math department, hoping to lead to some consistency.”

School Board member Lisa Brown praised Hilton-Gabeler’s efforts in trying to surpass state goals.

“We appreciate that you are being critical and trying to tear this data apart,” she said. “It’s difficult and it puts pressure on everybody, but it’s the true way in leading to results.”