Roaring Fork Schools learning from ‘bright spots’

With a new school year beginning, the Roaring Fork School District itself is in study mode regarding the spring 2018 CMAS (Colorado Measures of Academic Success) results, and how it could better serve its students in the 13 schools located throughout the communities of Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs.

According to the 2018 CMAS results, Roaring Fork Schools performed very similarly when put alongside Colorado’s overall academic performance as a whole. However, the data still highlighted numerous local bright spots.

“The whole growth model is designed to be a leveler,” Roaring Fork Schools Superintendent Rob Stein said. “Our growth is very similar to the state. When you see a difference in achievement you first have to ask, what’s the student group?”

Stein explained how high-income students tend to perform higher on test scores than lower-income students, and before one can assess its achievement scores in comparison with the state one must first look at its school district’s demographics.

“We have more students who qualify for free lunch than the state, and we have significantly more students that the state calls, ‘English Language Learners,’” Stein explained of the district’s student makeup.

“I think our biggest area for improvement is probably consistency,” he said. “The variability in some of our scores, especially in English Language Arts, makes it clear to me that we haven’t yet identified, district-wide, those instructional strategies for high levels of achievement for all of our students.”

The 2018 CMAS data illustrates that 19.2 percent of Roaring Fork School District students did not meet the English language expectations. Statewide, 12.9 percent of Colorado students as a whole did not meet that expectation, either.

A higher number presented itself for Roaring Fork Schools in the percentage of students who are “approaching” expectations in English literacy — 32.3 percent. The state as a whole, in that same category, earned a 25.4 percent.

“We have real bright spots and we have some schools that seemed to have cracked the code,” Stein said.

According to Stein, those bright spots shine particularly in the Roaring Fork District’s middle schools.

Wanting to learn from and capitalize upon that, Stein hopes to eventually see that level of consistency carry over into the district’s elementary and high schools.

“If we don’t have the language skills for the test, then it’s going to be hard for the [math] test to measure maybe what we know, because so much is mediated through language,” Stein said. “Does a low score mean the student didn’t have the language skills to answer the questions well, or does the low score mean the student didn’t have the math skills or the content knowledge? That’s certainly going on.”

Overall, 20.4 percent of Roaring Fork District students met or exceeded expectations in English Language Arts, compared to the state’s 44.5 percent.

“When you get a low score you can’t automatically assume the kid doesn’t know the content,” Stein explained. “I want 100 percent. Where we fall short, I want to see improvements, how we get there is another matter and that’s learning from our bright spots.”

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