School District 49 educators say building positive relationships and integrating instruction are helping students achieve their highest scores since before 2008 in some content areas.
The Transitional Colorado Assessment Program scores released Aug. 14, 2013, by the Colorado Department of Education show District 49 recorded the highest percentage of proficient and advanced students in fourth grade reading, and third and fourth grade math in more than six years.
Eighth grade writing and science scores are also the highest since before 2008 as the district saw more students scoring proficient and advanced in science. An investment in 21st century learning is paying off, says Amber Whetstine, school improvement coordinator.
“The district recognizes that in order to meet the needs of 21st century learners, we have to teach in a way we’ve never taught before,” Whetstine said. “We are incorporating more rigorous curriculum and opportunities for students to collaborate, communicate and problem solve. The district has also been ambitious in implementing new technologies and resources to meet the needs of these learners.”
Woodmen Hills Elementary School was a standout, scoring 90-percent proficient and advanced in fourth grade reading; 92-percent proficient and advanced in third grade math, one of their highest scores ever; and 90-percent proficient and advanced in fourth grade math.
“Our staff builds relationships with students to ensure their academic success,” said Kelly Warren, principal at Woodmen Hills Elementary School. “We continually strive to improve our individual and team skills to better serve our students and parents.”
Warren also cites a positive educational learning climate, aligning grade-level goals, common assessments and interventions, and ongoing professional development for educators as keys to the students’ success.
Pikes Peak School of Expeditionary Learning had the district’s highest score, with 96 percent of students achieving at advanced or proficient levels in eighth grade reading. The school saw its highest scores since before 2008 in numerous grade levels and content areas.
“We have worked diligently to implement expeditionary learning and provide our community with a school of choice that focuses on things like school culture and student engagement, in addition to academics,” said Don Knapp, Pikes Peak School of Expeditionary Learning principal.
Knapp said getting students involved in their academic data and educating them about their strengths and weaknesses has positively impacted learning.
Evans International Elementary School students saw their highest third grade reading, writing and math scores in six years.
“We work to differentiate instruction for every student,” said Michelle Slyter, Evans International Elementary School principal. “As an International Baccalaureate school, our teachers integrate reading and writing into science and social studies instruction.”
Evans International Elementary School also structures math instruction to incorporate inquiry-based learning, where students problem solve to work through real-world math issues and master number computation.
The following schools saw some of the highest scores in recent years in specific grade levels and content areas: Banning Lewis Ranch Academy, Falcon Elementary School, Falcon Middle School, Imagine Indigo Ranch, Rocky Mountain Classical Academy, Remington Elementary School and Springs Ranch Elementary School.
In looking more broadly, District 49 scores are relatively flat. Whetstine says the district is preparing for the state’s new standards and assessments.
The district is already working to address achievement gaps, the biggest concern in assessing the TCAP data. The district continues to see significant growth gaps in all content areas for students on Individualized Education Plans. Schools are continuing to evaluate the effectiveness of current educational programming for students with special needs.
The district is also striving to see more students scoring advanced across all content areas. This year, District 49 welcomed a new gifted and talented coordinator who will work to ensure educators meet the needs of advanced students by implementing strategies to meet those learners’ needs.
However, achievement gaps in math between female and male students are closing in many grade levels and the district continues to see slight gains in growth gaps with English Language Learners.