Dean Massey: Soroco has fine details
Steamboat Springs — I teach science at Soroco High School and have chosen to stay primarily because of the quality of the student-centered school community I found when I arrived four years ago.
As outlined in the recent articles, this year has presented some frustrations resulting from the declining enrollment and administrative issues. However, looking to the future, I think it’s important to point out a number of things that seem never to be reported and which, in my view, form a strong foundation for the future of the district, whatever configuration that may take.
The following are some points you might not know about Soroco.
■ Academic achievement: The three graduating classes I’ve witnessed have been well prepared for the next level as they leave high school. While official records are hard to assemble, at a small school, teachers keep track of their students. My informal records show approximately 60 percent of graduates throughout my three-plus-year tenure move on to further their education. About half of those students attend four-year colleges, with the remaining enrolled in vocational programs at a community college or tech school. These Soroco graduates are succeeding in engineering, agriculture and a wide variety of other majors in such schools as New York University, Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, University of Colorado, Colorado State University, Colorado Mesa, Kansas State, Colorado Northwestern Community College and a host of other colleges across the region.
■ College preparation: These students have not only enrolled in these post-secondary schools; they are thriving. Soroco has a strong dual-enrollment college course program, which offers students rigorous academic challenges as well as the chance to get a head start on college credits as they complete high school, saving thousands on tuition. A number of Soroco graduates become eligible for early graduation as a result of the college credits they earned. The average class size in our dual-enrollment courses is fewer than ten students, allowing for intensive, one-on-one instruction.
■ Vocational education: Soroco’s agricultural program is well known as the finest and most innovative in the state. That program was featured in a nationally-broadcast NPR segment focusing on 21st century teaching and is currently pioneering a certificate program for students that will provide its graduates with a leg up in both college and the workplace.
■ Athletics: Soroco offers a wide range of interscholastic sports to its students, with a new cross country program and wrestling participation on the rise again. But here, everybody participates, and the coaches and athletic director are 100 percent committed to academics as well as athletics. Soroco students also participate in competitive winter sports, and the district has a learn-to-ski program open to every student.
■ Music: Soroco’s music program is well known as one of the best in the region, and again, the participation rate rivals that of athletics — everybody gets to play. At Soroco, it not uncommon to see a star athlete playing in the band.
But what about the test scores that so enamor the education establishment and are diligently reported by this paper? The average composite ACT score of the first graduating class I encountered was 24 (exceeding the coveted Steamboat average), and the following year, it was approximately 19.
Did Soroco fall off the cliff? Of course not. Rather, the combination of small sample size and a diverse socioeconomic setting renders such test scores as essentially useless in judging the performance of small schools.
I’d encourage a careful look at the graduates. Have they had a rich, diverse educational environment with opportunities comparable to their peers elsewhere? Are they college, career ready and succeeding at the next level?
By these measures Soroco excels. So, let’s move on from the noise, get outside the box and chart our own course.
Soroco High School
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