Roaring Fork School District chosen for pilot state program |

Roaring Fork School District chosen for pilot state program

Katie Redding
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” The Roaring Fork School District will soon receive help with a reading achievement gap among students. The district is among six that have tapped into a pilot state program geared for students of differing income and ethnicity.

In 2007, only 27 percent of impoverished Roaring Fork fifth-grade students read at or above their grade level, as measured by CSAP test scores. But 73 percent of non-impoverished fifth graders did so.

The pilot is part of the Colorado Department of Education’s attempt to move away from merely being a regulatory agency and into a position of support, according to assistant state superintendent Jeanette Cornier.

Roaring Fork Assistant Superintendent Brett Geis said the district’s main gap is between native and nonnative speakers, though he noted that language and poverty can be “somewhat interlinked.”

“That’s not singling out any ethnicity or type of population,” said Geis. “We have students in our system that come to us that are not proficient. It inhibits their learning.”

The district includes schools in Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. District offices on are Glenwood.

The 3-year pilot will begin with an outside evaluation”called a Comprehensive Assessment of District Improvement ” scheduled for May 27-30. A 10-person team will offer an accounting of the district’s strengths and weaknesses and present a report on June 16.

Recommendations in hand, the district will contract with one of several state-approved providers to help teachers and school leaders respond to the assessment’s recommendations, said Cornier. She added that the district will also hire a full time staff member to focus entirely on the achievement gap.

Geis predicted that the assessment will suggest that the district focus on consistency and bettering their existing practices.

“We have so many things going on, we’re trying to meet so many needs, maybe we need to take a step back and focus,” he mused.

Something Cornier expects to see implemented in all the chosen school districts is continual progress monitoring, a practice that helps teachers adjust their instruction to students’ needs.

“You need to measure progress along the way and not just at one point in time,” she said.

All six districts chosen ” Roaring Fork, Eagle, Summit, St. Vrain Valley, Greeley-Evans and Yuma ” have achievement gaps greater than the state average. They also have administrations willing to participate in the program, said Colorado Department of Education spokesperson Mark Stevens. According to Stevens, no district refused the state’s offer of help.

Cornier calls the pilot an “action research project,” explaining it will let the state learn from the willing, leading districts.

“The hope is that they become role models for best practices for closing the gap,” said Stevens.