LONGMONT — The St. Vrain Valley School District is thrilled with the results of this year’s Transitional Colorado Assessment Program, released this month by the Colorado Department of Education.
The results show district students outperforming the state average in each of the four subject areas: Reading, writing, science and math.
Executive Director of Assessment and Curriculum Tori Teague said the scores for St. Vrain Valley schools have been heading in the right direction for several years, but the results from the 2012-13 assessments were especially good.
“We were extremely pleased. This was our best year ever for several reasons. For one, we beat the state average for every single grade and for every test,” Teague said. “We had our highest scores ever on 11 of the tests. So for all the years that we’ve been taking TCAP, we had the highest scores we ever got for 11 of the tests. And we improved on 22 of the 29, which is by far the best improvement we’ve seen as well.
Teague said the district’s summer programming has helped push test scores upward.
“We have outstanding teaching happening throughout the year, and to maintain that education into the summer, we have many great programs as well,” Teague said. “Especially targeting primary students and literacy.
The district’s focus on the STEM courses — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — has yielded better scores on those subjects, Teague said, by providing new challenges for academically gifted students.
“We also have so many opportunities to increase the rigor with all of our STEM programming that’s really taking off,” Teague said. “So getting that piece really ratchets up rigor and engages students.”
Part of the district’s renewed focus on STEM education comes in the form of the new Spark! Discovery Preschool, at the site of the old Frederick Elementary. The STEM focus in Preschool has drawn the attention of several companies, including IBM and Encana, which have given money for the preschool and helped develop aspects of the curriculum.
“We also have expanded our early childhood education, including the preschool piece extensively. And there’s also a full-time kindergarten that we’ve implemented,” Teague said. “I just think there’s so many opportunities in our school district.”
Teague said new federal guidelines, the Common Core State Standards Initiative, are helping align diverse state education approaches.
“Another piece I think is really taking off at this point is we’ve now aligned all of our curriculum, especially our main core areas, to new Colorado academic standards, which align to the Common Core national standards,” Teague said. “And the rigor is much higher. We’ve been able to ratchet up the rigor for the last few years. This is the third year of solid implementation.”
Teague said the district is not content to keep test scores where they’re at, and there are still areas that the district would like to see improvement.
“I think one area that we were looking at a little bit was third-grade and seventh-grade writing. But then, our writing scores in seventh grade, those scores came out very strong,” Teague said. “So I think that had a little bit more to do with the cohort of students. But certainly in third-grade, we’d like to see more.”
The tests also help give the district goal posts for progress, Teague said, including the goal of making sure that all of the fourth graders are proficient readers.
“We’re really focusing, not only on that rigor in the system especially with the STEM focus, but really focusing on primary to make sure that students who are struggling to read, in particular, in the primary grades can be successful by third grade,” Teague said. “So we’re sending all of our students to fourth grade as proficient.”
Overall, Teague called this year’s results “outstanding,” and she said the teachers in the classroom deserve most of the credit for pushing students to improve.
“I think all of our programs that we’re working on are going to pay off here in the near future, and that includes the outstanding summer programming,” Teague said. “We’ve got great teachers, and they’re meeting the requirements coming up with the Colorado Academic Standards. And they have the support they need to be successful.”
The community had an important part to play in the district’s improvement, Teague said.
“Because of the two mill levies, we’re not struggling as much as some other districts might be with the budget,” Teague said. “So we had the resources kids need to be successful.”