Aspen schools receive state distinction honors | AspenTimes.com

Aspen schools receive state distinction honors

Bob Ward
Aspen Journalism

The Colorado Department of Education is sending a little love to the Aspen School District today, including one award that doesn't fit the stereotypical Aspen profile.

Every year, the department recognizes districts across the state that have been "accredited with distinction" under the state's performance and accountability system. Aspen has earned this designation for the past five years, so it didn't come as a huge surprise that the district would be honored in today's ceremony at the Department of Education offices in Denver. Still, as Superintendent John Maloy said Monday, only 11 of the state's 178 districts have shown such consistency over time.

"We're in a very select group," he said.

Aspen is one of 27 districts to be accredited with distinction this year. The designation requires extraordinary performance on four measures: academic achievement, academic growth, closing achievement gaps and post-secondary and workforce readiness. All of these measures are based on standardized-testing data accumulated by the state and then compared across schools and districts.

Similar criteria were used to land Aspen High School among 160 schools statewide to be named John Irwin Schools of Excellence, meaning they exceeded academic expectations over three years. Again, Aspen is not a newcomer to this group, but it's a welcome sign that local students continue to excel amid a supportive community of parents, teachers and school staff members.

"It speaks volumes about the way education is valued and revered in this community," Maloy said.

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It isn't surprising to see kids from affluent, well-educated Aspen scoring highly on standardized tests. But one wouldn't necessarily expect a posh resort town to be a hotbed of English-language learners. That's why Maloy was pleased the district was named a 2014 Excellence Award winner under the state's English Language Proficiency Act, which means the district's non-English-speaking students showed extraordinary achievement and growth. The award comes with a monetary award to the district.

"We're going to get about $8,500 that we'll put toward serving the needs of our (English-language-learning) population," Maloy said.

Maloy estimated that at least 200 Aspen students are so-called English-language learners, although the numbers fluctuate as children transition between that category and the regular school program. In fact, one of the criteria for the award was that students move out of English-language-learner status.

The Excellence Award demonstrates that though Aspen students continue to excel on standardized tests, many other activities are happening on campus. Maloy mentioned outdoor education, robotics and Model U.N. as a few of the programs and club offerings that make Aspen different.

"We don't take these awards for granted, but we know there is a lot more happening around here that is not assessed and evaluated by the (Department of Education)," he said.

Aspen Journalism is an independent nonprofit news organization working in the local public interest. More at http://www.aspenjournalism.org.

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