CDE’s preliminary performance report on Gilpin schools

100 Elk Outdoor Lab

by Patty Unruh

The Gilpin County Board of Education had its regular meeting on Tuesday, October 16, at 7:00 p.m. Board members present were Craig Holmes, Sarah Swanson, and Kersten Armstrong; Brook Ramsey and Steve Boulter were absent. Superintendent David MacKenzie, Elementary Principal Heather Huntoon, and Secretary to the Board Joni Schmidt were also present. Secondary Principal Alexis Donaldson was absent.

100 Elk Outdoor Lab

Fourth-grade teacher Susan Sepanik and fifth-grade Montessori teacher Suzanne Diekman and some of their students detailed their experiences at the 100 Elk Outdoor Center in Buena Vista.

The mission of the Center is “revealing the possibilities within.” The students worked in small groups and rotated through a variety of activities, including Ninja training, a rope course, a zip line, an ecology walk, and a leap of faith. Through these, the children had opportunities to discover skills and talents they may not have known they possessed. The personal challenges help them grow in character development, learn to trust themselves, and bond with the people in their group. The goal was to have them transfer those new skills back to the classroom.

Diekman played a video of the outdoor adventure, while the students told about what they had gained from the experience.

Fourth grader Bea Hanson said, “I am stronger and more comfortable in class now. I can take risks in school.”

Classmate Ezekiel Bloom said, “I conquered my fear of heights, and now I’m not afraid to take tests.”

Fifth grader Elise Vincent added, “It was good to hang out with some kids I didn’t know before.”

Packing and cleaning up after themselves taught life skills, and the children were encouraged to take only what they could eat at each meal. Leftovers were taken into Buena Vista to help the needy.

Public Participation

Dick Vickery spoke on behalf of the Accountability Committee. “We discovered that we were supposed to report the committee roster to you in September. We will soon be providing the names and emails of the committee members.”

There are 13 on the committee, including six parents, one community member, three administrators, and three teaching staff.

Consent Items

The Board approved the Business Manager’s Report, check vouchers, financial statement, and human resources report for September.

Business Manager Terry Scharg reported that the inter-fund transfers for 2017-18 have not been finalized, so the beginning fund balances on the quarterly report are accurate now but will change when the 2017-18 audit is finalized. That audit will be presented at the November 6 Board meeting. The revised adopted budget will be presented to the Board by December; most of the budget revisions will pertain to staffing changes and capital expenditures.

General fund revenue for September was $629,375; expenditures were $405,821.

CDE Performance Report

The Colorado Department of Education’s (CDE) Preliminary 2018 School Performance Framework report showed that the elementary school exceeded the state average for academic achievement, but was just “approaching” expectations in academic growth. The percentile growth was 48 for English Language Arts and 46 for Mathematics. CDE gave the elementary school a “Performance” level rating and an overall score of 65.7 points out of 100.

In keeping with a plan to improve growth to above the 50th percentile, the Lexia reading support intervention program has started, with 42 kids involved. Growth is the goal with this grant-funded program, Elementary Principal Huntoon advised. The program tracks levels of achievement and is for children who are behind one or one-and-a-half years.

Huntoon said when Gilpin first started using Lexia, the format was to pull the kids out of class for this intervention. Lexia and Title I interventions are online programs with teacher involvement.

“The first year, it was a great success. Then we tried not to take the kids out of instructional time, so last year we pushed it into the classroom. We saw that growth was not where it needed to be. Maybe the program was not done with fidelity because of time,” she said.

There were a couple of the teachers who were able to take time to do the program consistently, but the others were busy with many other things. This year, staff member Kathy Kelly is overseeing the Lexia program.

Huntoon acknowledged that not all of the students want to do the program, but has told them if they demonstrate at or above level for two progress checks in a row, they can quit the program.

She noted that just a few kids who didn’t grow as much as expected could affect the rating. There has been an influx of several new children, some of whom read two or three levels below where they should.

Huntoon and the teachers have worked just as hard as they ever have and were disheartened by the data. She accepted responsibility, saying that she had scheduled two tests a day during the testing period, which she thought may have been too much. Also, two teachers retired and were not replaced, so classes are bigger now, with 20 students or more. She added that some new students were not accustomed to Gilpin’s high expectations.

She and her staff have analyzed each child and are working on action plans. She said they want to target at-risk students with progress monitoring and quarterly screening. Technology teacher Patrick Linnehan will be doing co-teaching as math support. Additionally, a full-time paraprofessional has been hired to work in first- through fourth-grade traditional classes, and a half-time para has been hired to help kindergarten teacher Kathy Haley. For special education, Edmentum and ST Math online are being added. Tier 2 intervention will be included (everyone gets this instruction, plus additional Title I or a behavior plan for those students who need it).

  Secondary students had scored 74.1 percent out of 100 on the CDE’s Performance Framework report. CDE gave the undivided high school a “Performance” rating. The school met the state average in academic achievement and in growth in English Language Arts. However, the students were “approaching” growth in math.

“Discipline of math is our weakest area,” Donaldson’s report said. “We have put in more targeted interventions with the addition of Deb Benitez through November to address our middle school students. The goal is to be at or above the state average consistently in all areas and to score 80 out of 100 points in 2019.”

Superintendent MacKenzie said, “The District fell short of being accredited with distinction by two-tenths of a point.”

He has submitted a request to reconsider to the CDE, for which he pulled together additional data to support the school’s original data. He noted that there was good growth and achievement in the kindergarten through second grade and asked the CDE to use that to accredit Gilpin with distinction.

He said that five fourth- and fifth-grade students have left, and 12 are new.

“Not to be defensive, but it’s a small cohort, and to base the whole elementary school’s achievement and growth on one group is not representative. And, it’s just one test on one day,” he said. Two additional students from the Class of 2017 had been found to have entered college, and MacKenzie was asking that that be considered also.

MacKenzie had attended a recent meeting of state superintendents and learned that the CDE wants to raise test cut scores and possibly weigh growth less and achievement more. If they do this, he said, accreditation ratings would drop across the state. 178 superintendents will request the CDE not take these steps and will stay the course. They plan to make recommendations on moving forward, MacKenzie said.

“We might drop from a ‘performance’ to an ‘improvement’ rating. We’ve been transitioning in our tests for years — from CSAP to TCAP and PARCC. Each assessment is more rigorous than the last.”

In examining data from STAR testing last May, MacKenzie and the principals found the data indicated the students didn’t do well.

“But we still did very well on achievement in third through eighth grade. In 13 out of 14 tests, we were above the state average.”

MacKenzie concluded, “We have a moral responsibility to grow the kids by one year in one year’s time. We have a small window of time to move them ahead if they’re behind. One-and-a-third years ahead is the goal.”

Save the Dates

November 2 – Trick or Treat Street and Carnival 5 p.m.

November 8 – Veterans Day Assembly 9:30 a.m.

November 15 – Gilpin Senior Citizen Thanksgiving lunch 11:30 a.m.

November 29 – Tommyknockers at Teller House 2 p.m.

Next Board Meeting

The next meeting is on Tuesday, November 6, at 7:00 p.m.

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