MONTROSE – For the first time since the Colorado Department of Education initiated its District Performance Framework in 2010, the Montrose County School District RE-1J has earned an "accredited" rating. And with new academic programs starting this year and improved state test scores, officials want to keep the momentum going.
Overall, the district earned a rating of 63.7 percent, a nearly two-percent difference over the previous year. The district had retained the status "accredited with improvement" since the framework program began in 2010, when the district was at 60.6 percent.
Three of four performance indicators – including academic achievement, academic growth and postsecondary/workforce readiness – were higher than in 2012 and 2011. The fourth, academic growth gaps, was slightly lower than it was in 2012.
Most improved was postsecondary/workforce readiness, which increased its rating from 56.3 percent to 64.1 percent. A report by the Colorado Department of Higher Education in September said 44 percent of high school graduates within Montrose County require postsecondary remediation or developmental education once they reach trade school or college, almost five points higher than the state average.
Earlier this year, in order to address that, the district approved a new strategic plan to help propel graduates into postsecondary education without remedial education.
All but one district school received a rating of "performance" according to DPF data. The lone school still listed in "improvement" was Olathe Elementary School.
The elementary school with the most improvement was Johnson Elementary, improving from a rating of 49 percent in 2012 to 71.6 percent in 2013. The second best was Pomona Elementary, which increased by 17.3 percent, from 48.3 to 65.6. Olathe Elementary dropped from 51.8 to 48.3 percent, continuing a two-year decline from the school's highest rating of 61.1 in 2011.
"It's just been amazing to see us grow and see our students gain the knowledge we are striving for each day to give them," said Pomona Elementary School principal Joe Simo. "We have a lot more to come.”
The largest drop was at Oak Grove Elementary, which held the highest performance rating of all elementary schools, at 78.6 in 2012, to 57.5 in 2013.
The three-level of classification for schools is "priority improvement" to "improvement " to the highest at "performance." Each of the district's three middle schools were all reported at “performance,” along with the two high schools, Olathe and Montrose.
District Officials Hope New 2013 Initiatives, Improved Test Scores Will Pay Off Next Year
Two years ago district schools began re-aligning their curriculums from what district superintendent Mark MacHale described as a "chaotic system" where reading programs were being taught differently from classroom to classroom.
Laurie Pascoe, the district's director of curriculum and instruction, said this week the results from those efforts are beginning to show.
"We continue to see great things happening," Pascoe said.
In April, the district approved a new K-5 reading program labeled a "district priority," and began implementation of it in August, along with new data resources for teachers.
Earlier this year, and for the first time ever, teachers were sent data packets before the start of the school year containing performance assessments of each student, and comparative achievement results in the critical areas of math, reading, writing and science from other district elementary schools.
Elementary students make up nearly half of the district's student population. District officials said improving K-5 early education would make the district stronger as a whole, which is critical, they said, as students of the district's six elementary schools feed students into its three middle schools and into its two high schools.
It was also discovered this year that a number of curricular areas within the district had not been reviewed in over 10 years. The previous review cycle was frozen due to the recession but in 2012 those efforts were reinstated.
The district's curriculum review and alignment calendar for the 2013-2014 school year calls for a review of sixth grade math, early childhood development and health and physical education.
Another factor in academic growth comes from state TCAP test scores released in August, which show Montrose students have been making gains in each curriculum area but remain below state averages in math and science. Pascoe said the district is "seeing upward trends with improvements."
Montrose County RE-1J students improved their reading scores from 66.6 percent in 2012 to 67.2 percent in 2013. The state average is 69.5 percent.
The Transitional Colorado Assessment Program (TCAP) is Colorado’s standards-based assessment designed to provide a picture of student performance to schools, districts, educators, parents and communities.
In 2012, Montrose students scored 47.8 percent in writing. In 2013 that number climbed to 50.2 percent – still nearly five percentage points below the state average of 55 percent.
Montrose students’ math scores declined slightly, from 50.5 in 2012 to 50.3 today, and are six percentage points below the state average, at 56.6 percent.
In science, Montrose students improved almost a full percentage point, from 45.9 in 2012 to 46.5 in 2013, yet are four percentage points below the state average of 50.4 percent.
Of the three district middle schools labeled as "performance,” Centennial Middle School held the highest rating at 68.3 percent, Columbine Middle School at 62.3 and Olathe Middle School at 57.5 percent. MHS earned a rating of 74.3, and Olathe High School was listed at 70.2 percent.
The DPF is part of the Education Accountability Act, passed by the state legislature in 2009.