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Study: Teachers on right track

Tim Mutrie

An increased emphasis on writing, literacy, math and spelling in Aspen schools was among recommendations made Tuesday by the Center for Performance Assessment.

Douglas B. Reeves, Ph.D., of CFPA in Denver, presented the findings to the Aspen School District board, parents and community members. His organization recently completed a comprehensive, yearlong study of the Aspen School District.

“My bottom line is take what is working in Aspen and implement it in Aspen,” Reeves began. “Look at the teacher one or two doors down from you, and learn from them, because you’ve got some great programs here. …

“I want to suggest that the answers are right here, in Aspen, to learn from.”

Moving quickly over an enormous amount of material, Reeves attempted to capsulize a several-hundred page document that district Superintendent Tom Farrell said is available to the public.

At the elementary school, Reeves stressed literacy over content studies, such as social studies or science.

“If you’ve got to make a choice this fall, choose literacy. Let us support the third-grade teachers’ efforts,” he said, referring to Aspen’s 84-percent proficiency score on the Colorado State Assessment Program test scores earlier this month. “You’ve got a strong core, now build on the foundation of literacy that you have.”

Reeves then turned to writing, saying it should take precedence over – as well as be integrated into – other subjects.

“The number one issue is writing,” he said. “It tells teachers the why and how of why something is right or wrong, and the consequence of not doing it right is doing it again and again … After reading hundreds of pages of results, the one thing that stands out is that our kids need to do more writing.”

Reeves suggested that spelling, a weakness among the district’s students, could be integrated into writing skills; and that other disciplines, such as math, social studies and outdoor education programs, should make writing a focus. Strong writers, Reeves assured the board, test better across the board.

Reeves said other disciplines should help bolster students’ fundamental math skills. In art, youngsters can learn ratios and proportions; in music, fractions.

Superintendent Tom Farrell said the district’s professional development team will spearhead an effort to implement the study’s suggestions. Additionally, he said that Reeves’ organization will be working with the district for another three to five years, and that this is the first step in the review process.


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