Steamboat schools grade well |

Steamboat schools grade well

Strawberry Park Elementary, middle school get top marks

Melinda Mawdsley

— Steamboat Springs Middle School Principal Tim Bishop did something unheard of Tuesday – he canceled homework.

Bishop said students deserved a reward for helping the middle school receive an “excellent” rating from the Colorado Department of Education. It was the second straight year the middle school has received the state’s highest rating.

The Department of Education released its School Accountability Reports on Tuesday, and all Steamboat Springs district schools received ratings of “excellent” or “high.” The four Steamboat schools have never had a rating lower than “high” in the six years the state has issued the reports.

School Accountability Report ratings are based on Colorado Student Assessment Program test scores and compare Steamboat schools with other schools across the state.

“Our ratings are the result of the talent and dedication of our teachers and support staff, and the support we receive from parents and the community,” Steamboat Superintendent Donna Howell said.

In addition to the “excellent” ratings, the middle school and Strawberry Park Elementary School received the John C. Irwin School of Excellence Award.

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The John C. Irwin Award is given to public schools that finish in the top 8 percent of the state regardless of school size or level, meaning all elementary, middle school and high schools compete against one another for the John C. Irwin Award.

This is the fifth consecutive year – and seventh out of the past nine years – that Strawberry Park has received the John C. Irwin Award, but it is the first time the middle school received the award.

“We take special satisfaction in seeing that not only did we receive an excellent rating, but we improved our overall ranking score from the previous year,” Bishop said.

The middle school students did their part, celebrating with ice cream sundaes and the cancellation of homework. For most middle school students, it was the perfect ending to a day that hadn’t been going well.

Jessie Dunlop, Sophie Abate and Marisa Beggs noted that their homework load was abnormally large Tuesday, saying history teacher Scott Parker had given his students a week’s worth of Lewis and Clark entries to do in one day.

“The teachers knew. They amped things up,” Bishop said of canceling homework. “I had a couple kids hit me up and say, ‘Man, we’ve got a lot of homework.'”

Bishop said he has to figure out a way to reward Steamboat’s freshmen because they played a part in the middle school’s rating for the 2005-06 school year.

Even though the sixth-graders were not a part of last year’s middle school CSAP scores, Bishop included the class as a way to prepare them for testing in the spring.

While Strawberry Park retained its excellent rating, which Principal Mark MacHale was pleased to see, the school showed a decline in CSAP scores, which he plans to address.

“Based upon our CSAP scores, we know that we have some work to do this year, particularly in writing,” MacHale said. “We are working together as a staff to ensure that every child reaches his or her potential.”

Schools that earn excellent ratings are in the top 8 percent of comparable schools statewide.

The next 25 percent of schools receive a rating of high, which is where Soda Creek Elementary School and Steamboat Springs High School fit in this year.

Soda Creek was rated high last year.

“We are implementing some exciting intervention strategies this year and are watching students’ achievement closely,” Principal Judy Harris said.

The high school dropped from excellent last year to high this year.

“Any time you decrease in any academic measure, it is disappointing,” high school Principal Mike Knezevich said. “With that being said, we are making great strides with our curriculum development, use of common assessments and analysis of data that will lead to increased student achievement in the future on multiple academic measures.”

The North Routt Community Charter School made significant improvement, according to the Department of Education.

This year, the middle school students were rated excellent, and the elementary students were rated high. The small student population can skew CSAP results and ratings either way, so head of school Colleen Poole was pleased with how well the small charter school fared this year.

She had not heard the news when contacted Tuesday morning, but she was pleased.

After the schools are broken up into excellent and high ratings, the next 40 percent receive an average rating; the next 25 percent receive a low rating, and the bottom 2 percent of schools receive an unsatisfactory rating. There were no public schools in Routt County that received a low or unsatisfactory rating.

“Education today is all about using data to inform decisions that improve the educational experience for students,” said Kelly Stanford, the district’s director of curriculum and instruction. “Colorado’s School Accountability Reports are an important piece of data indicating how our schools performed on the CSAP as compared to other schools in the state. They are a source of validation for our teachers and support staff personnel as they continue in their dedication to the job of helping our children learn.”