Principals taking timeto learn from one another
Educators in the Roaring Fork School District call it sharing best practices. What that really means is, this year principals and assistant principals will intensify their focus on letting one another know what ideas are really working to improve student learning. Whether it’s a 7:15 a.m. zero hour for homework help for eighth-graders or time scheduled every day for ninth- and 10th-graders to study math, the small ideas are making big differences in student performance. The results can be seen in everything from more kids turning in assignments to improving assessment scores to increased communication between parents and teachers.Not all of the ideas amount to “rocket science,” educators say, but the effort often requires midstream changes, relentless focus work and adding extra time for students.Last school year at Basalt Middle School, where both Anglo and Latino fifth- and sixth-graders recorded “commendable” improvements on math CSAP scores, the teachers worked in teams to focus on math skills.”The fifth-grade team realized that a lot of their students were not making adequate progress in math. They decided to combine science and social studies into one class and double up on math to prepare for the CSAP test,” said BMS Principal Christian Kingsbury. “The sixth-grade team decided to dedicate 20 additional minutes every day to math skills.” The school’s eighth-grade teaching team created the Zero Hour program to help motivate students. Students who missed assignments were asked to come in for tutoring and homework help before school started. This year, the focus at Basalt Middle School is reading, where students can be found sharing their favorite books with their classmates. Additional small-group reading classes have been added at all grade levels for students who need extra help. Teams of teachers are discussing good reading strategies across all subjects.At Sopris Elementary School in Glenwood Springs, the third-grade Anglo students earned the district’s first 100 percent proficient or advanced CSAP score in writing. All third-grade students at the school have scored 80 percent proficient or higher in reading and writing for the past four years, Principal Howard Jay said.Teachers say success at Sopris comes through school leadership making teachers feel valued, teachers who share ideas, high expectations for students and strong parent participation.Third-grade teacher Jerry Pluger, in his 27th year in the district, said many parents reserve an hour a week to help in the classrooms. Parents provide extra one-on-one time with students to edit and discuss writing assignments. The school uses a Step up to Writing program to help identify where student skills are weak.”Students start knowing what quality writing looks like from kindergarten on,” Pluger said.District leaders want to leave behind competition between schools, which often is emphasized through state and federal assessments and in the media, and instead learn as a team how to replicate programs that are working best for all kids.”We want to be a great school district, and we know we need to do everything we can for every student,” Assistant Superintendent Judy Haptonstall said.Suzie Romig is the Re-1 public information officer.
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