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State eases off CES takeover

John Colson

The State of Colorado no longer is poised to take over the management of Carbondale Elementary School, according to an official with the Roaring Fork School District Re-1.That’s the good news, said Re-1 Assistant Superintendent Judy Haptonstall.The bad news, although she did not specifically term it so, is that the school remains in the endangered category, with too many students who consistently fall below state standards in schoolwide testing, thus failing to meet the requirements of the federal “No Child Left Behind” regulations.It had been the requirements of that act that led to the threatened state takeover of the school, which has produced unacceptably low scores in the Colorado Student Assessment Program tests, administered every year to students in public schools.Haptonstall said the state Department of Education announced the change in attitude earlier in the school year. She said officials on the local and the state levels conceded that “they didn’t have the people to do it,” meaning the state lacked the resources to come into the Re-1 district, take over the school’s operations and remake it in some other configuration that would produce better test scores among the students.School officials must still find a way to get the Carbondale students’ test scores higher. This year’s School Report Card on the test scores is due out at the end of the month.And in a memo issued this week, Superintendent Fred Wall noted, “If Adequate Yearly Progress (as defined by the state) does not occur at CES in the future, changes will be required …” in the form of a “corrective action plan” to develop procedures for improving the level of education at the school, and possibly a “restructuring plan” that could include staff changes to eliminate underperforming teachers; contracting with a “private management company” to run the school; or reopening the school as a charter school, among other things.Wall’s memo, in explaining the corrective action plan, refers to such concepts as “scientifically research-based professional development,” which could “include restructuring of the delivery of curriculum to students,” as well as the provision of “outside professional assistance to staff in the building on an ongoing basis.”Even if Adequate Yearly Progress is achieved this year, Wall reported, the school will still be under its “corrective action plan” requirements for a year, though a formal “restructuring plan” will not be required.Meanwhile, school officials, teachers and parents continue their own efforts to investigate ways to improve the school’s performance. At a recent presentation by Alan Gottlieb of the Piton Foundation in Denver, arranged by the Advocates for Carbondale Education group, the school performance expert maintained that the biggest single factor contributing to declining student performance is poverty.When a school reaches a threshold in its proportion of lower income students, he said, the overall educational performance of the student body drops considerably. Citing instances in cities where schools worked to attract higher-income families back to schools they once had abandoned, he noted that those efforts included a wide variety of curriculum-based modifications.In particular, he said, schools that offered “dual language” courses – in which English speaking students learned Spanish while Spanish speakers learned English – had proved attractive to the target demographic. Other successes, he said, came with the reintroduction of music and art programs in schools where those programs had been dropped for budgetary reasons.Haptonstall said this week that she was “not sure” if such measures would help at CES, adding that these and other, similar questions will be asked at an upcoming “focus group” meeting, where volunteers and district staffers will be working on the school’s problems.Among the ideas to be investigated, she said, is whether a local foundation can be found, or created, that will take on the specific task of working on improvements at the Carbondale schools, in ways that cannot be handled through volunteer focus groups and overtime on the part of school officials.She mentioned that the Aspen Community Foundation had indicated an interest in getting involved, but was unsure how deep that involvement might go.The next focus group will meet at the Roaring Fork High School Media Center at 6 p.m. on Nov. 3.The next focus group will meet at the Roaring Fork High School Media Center at 6 p.m. on Nov. 3.


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