Lieutenant governor to honor education efforts in midvalley | AspenTimes.com

Lieutenant governor to honor education efforts in midvalley

Some students in Basalt and Glenwood Springs had a chance last summer to study for free in a special program organized by nonprofit Summit 54. The program will expanded this summer to assist 750 students in Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. / Jason Dewey courtesy photo

Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia will recognize two Basalt schools and a Roaring Fork Valley nonprofit organization Friday for their exceptional contributions to improving education.

Garcia will visit Basalt Elementary School to recognize the Summer Advantage program coordinated by Roaring Fork Valley nonprofit organization Summit 54 in partnership with the Roaring Fork Re-1 School District and funding from Mile High United Way.

Garcia also will present Basalt Elementary School and Basalt Middle School with Governor's Distinguished Improvement awards. It is the second straight time the elementary school has received the distinction and the third straight time the middle school got the award.

Longtime Aspen-area residents Tony and Terri Caine founded Summit 54 to create additional educational opportunities for children in Colorado, especially those underserved. The program provided five weeks of free summer education last year to 400 students in Basalt and Glenwood Springs. The program will expand this summer to include Carbondale. All told, funding has been arranged for 750 kids from kindergarten to third grade to attend the five-week session in each town.

“This is the program we felt was the best for so many reasons.”
Terri Caine
Summit 54

Terri Caine said Thursday that she and her husband are businesspeople, not educators, so they checked out numerous programs that undertook their goal of offering additional teaching in summers. They wanted to bring a program to the valley rather than create one.

"This is the program we felt was the best for so many reasons," Caine said.

Organizers from Indianapolis-based Summer Advantage will recruit and train teachers from Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs for the effort. Parents must attend an introductory session that stresses to them how important it is for them to help their kids read at home, Caine said. Parents and teachers get together halfway through the five-week session to review how the kids are doing.

Caine said the program worked "extremely well" in its first summer, as evidenced by testing. Participants had a 3.7-month "gain" on average in reading skills because of the five-week session, Caine said. They had a 1.7-month gain in math. Students who do not work on reading, writing, thinking and math skills during summers typically suffer a two- to three-month "summer learning loss" during the three months out of school, national studies show.

Mile High United Way awarded another grant for this summer to promote early literacy. The grant will provide half the funding to educate 500 kids in the Roaring Fork Valley through Summer Advantage. Summit 54 will provide the rest of the funding for those kids and all the funding for an additional 250 children.

Garcia also will use his visit to hand out accolades for the progress in achievement by students of Basalt elementary and middle schools. In both cases, the improvements students made in standardized Colorado tests from 2010-11 to 2011-12 was in the top 8 percent in the state, Basalt Middle School Principal Jeremy Voss said. Winning the distinction three years in a row clearly shows that the school is improving, Voss said, but it hasn't achieved all goals of the administration and staff.

"We're on the right track," Voss said. "We openly acknowledge that our proficiency isn't where we want it to be."

For example, 95 percent of the middle school's sixth-grade Anglo students are proficient in reading, compared with 58 percent of Latinos, Voss said. There generally is a 20 to 40 percent achievement gap in proficiency levels in various disciplines across the middle school grades, he said. The biggest room for improvement is with Latino students, though progress has been made.

"They're rapidly progressing, and both groups are rapidly progressing," Voss said.

Data that a Roaring Fork Re-1 School District representative provided indicated that the middle school student body is 44 percent Anglo, 54 Hispanic and 2 percent "other." The elementary school is 46 percent Anglo, 50 percent Hispanic and 4 percent other.

The middle school currently has 435 students. That is expected to swell to 470 next year with a large class entering fifth grade.

Voss said he believes the school has achieved a level of integration rarely matched in other aspects of living in the Roaring Fork Valley.

The middle school has performed better over the past three years because it focuses on improving kids' efforts rather than their achievements, Voss said. The teachers are creating an atmosphere among students of "perseverance and grit."

"I want the hardest-working students in Colorado," he said.

ColoradoSchoolGrades.com, a coalition of 18 groups working for improved education, gave Basalt Middle School an "A" grade overall and said it ranks 28th of 491 middle schools in the state.

Basalt Elementary School had an overall grade of "B" from Colorado School Grades. It ranked 170th out of 998 schools in the state. The school has 646 students in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade.

Elementary school principal Suzanne Wheeler-Del Piccolo said the school's approach is to recognize each student's needs and respond accordingly. Two straight years of winning the state's recognition for improvement shows that the school's programming model is working, she said.

Garcia will appear at Basalt Elementary School at 8 a.m. today, with awards for Summit 54 and the elementary school at 8:30 a.m. The public is welcome to attend. The middle school will receive its award at 9 a.m. in an assembly also open to parents and the public.

Glenwood Springs High School also received the Governor's Distinguished Improvement award.

scondon@aspentimes.com