Education chief lauds Re-1 for work to close achievement gap
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Roaring Fork District Re-1 schools won praise Wednesday from the state’s top education official for beginning to create a model that others in the state can follow in terms of closing the achievement gap for minority students.
“You had the courage to try something new … and your students are showing unbelievable growth,” Colorado Education Commissioner Dwight Jones told Re-1 teachers and staff at an all-district staff meeting in the Glenwood Springs High School auditorium.
Jones was the keynote speaker at the annual gathering of district staff to kick off the new school year. Teachers reported to their respective schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt this week, and classes begin for students next Monday.
The Re-1 school district is one of six in the state that are part of a $1.8 million, three-year pilot program aimed at closing the achievement gap between Anglo and Latino students.
Jones noted that the district made impressive gains in just the first year, improving 10 percentage points in terms of moving Latino students toward reading proficiency.
“The students your district targeted for intervention improved,” Jones said. “And, your students who were already high performing continued to improve as well.”
While the gap itself may not have closed in the first year, the fact that both groups of students continued to show growth is what the pilot program is designed to do, he said.
“You are developing a model that can be used all across the state,” Jones said. “I want to say congratulations, and let’s continue to build on that.”
While the gap in proficiency levels exists in many districts across the state – ranging from 28 percent to 36 percent – it is even more pronounced in the pilot districts.
Jones also talked about the recent legislative changes related to accreditation for schools and the new growth model that measures student growth from year to year that is now part of the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP).
The state used to measure a district or an individual school’s success in terms of the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced in CSAP testing. That meant that for districts that had a majority of Anglo students who were already proficient, it wasn’t hard to maintain and improve proficiency levels.
“Those were the schools we praised, while we punished the schools that had demographics similar to yours,” Jones said. “That was the first thing we changed under the new system.”
The growth model credits students and schools for showing growth beyond a certain starting point, even if a student has yet to become proficient.
Under the former system, oftentimes high-performing students lost ground because of an intense focus on bringing scores up for lower-performing students, Jones said.
“Here in Re-1, you didn’t narrow the gap by bringing your top kids down,” he said. “All of your kids are catching up, keeping up and moving up.”
The new CSAP reports also measure the percentage of students catching up, keeping up and moving up in their proficiency levels.
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