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BVSD Earns State’s Top Performance Rating, Almost 80 Percent of SVVSD’s Schools in Top Category

August 28, 2018

Second-grade teacher Kathryn Malson helps Dylan Fredlund with his math Monday at Burlington Elementary School. The state released school accreditation ratings Monday.

The Boulder Valley School District jumped up a level to earn the state’s highest accreditation rating — accredited with distinction — based on preliminary ratings released Monday by the state.

“BVSD is being recognized for high achievement at all levels, strong growth at the elementary and high school levels, and how well our students are prepared for post-secondary success,” said Jonathan Dings, Boulder valley’s Executive Director of Student Assessment.

The ratings are based mainly on achievement on statewide tests and growth from year to year on language arts and math tests. At high schools, ratings also include graduation and dropout rates and college entrance exam scores.

The neighboring St. Vrain Valley School District maintained its overall rating of accredited.

“We’re very pleased,” said Tori Teague, St. Vrain Valley’s assistant superintendent for assessment.

Ratings for both districts included the “low participation” designation given to districts and schools that didn’t meet the federal 95 percent participation benchmark.

While Boulder Valley didn’t hit the 95 percent participation mark, the district did see significant improvement in its participation rates on the state tests. Dings credited the increased participation with boosting the rating.

“We appreciate that many more families took the test last spring than in recent years, enabling our results to reflect more accurately the district’s high level of academic performance,” he said.

While the ratings were good news overall for Boulder Valley, one of its schools — Lafayette’s Sanchez Elementary — dropped to the lowest of four categories, earning a turnaround rating.

The preliminary school ratings are, from lowest to highest, turnaround, priority improvement, improvement and performance. Schools in the lowest two categories face state sanctions if they don’t improve after five consecutive years.

Robbyn Fernandez, Boulder Valley’s executive director of elementary school leadership, said the district last school year worked with Sanchez’s interim principal to identify root causes for low test scores.

The district also did a social and emotional needs analysis at the school in the spring, identifying a need for a board certified behavior analyst to support students who have experienced trauma.

Sanchez is the district’s school with the highest number of students experiencing poverty. Almost 70 percent of its students receive federally subsidized lunches.

Based on that work, the district this year moved Bear Creek Elementary Principal Kent Cruger to Sanchez, hired a full-time assistant principal who’s also a national literacy trainer, hired a board certified behavior analyst and reduced class sizes. In the early grades, class sizes generally are at 20 students or fewer.

Cruger is working with teachers on best practices in math, while the assistant principal, Becky McKay, is working on best practices in literacy. The school also is providing support to students with behavior challenges in the classroom instead of pulling them out.

“There are many, many new things in place for the first time this year,” Fernandez said. “It’s an ongoing process of looking at root causes and appropriate responses to those root causes.”

All the rest of Boulder Valley’s schools were rated in the top two categories, with all but five rated in the top category.

Nine of Boulder Valley’s schools also improved their rating from the previous year, with one, Boulder’s Columbine Elementary, jumping up two levels.

In St. Vrain Valley, all the district’s schools except one, Longmont’s Timberline PK-8, are in the top two performance categories. Timberline has a priority improvement rating.

Timberline and five other schools saw their ratings drop, while the ratings for two schools — Longmont’s Burlington Elementary and Longs Peak Middle — improved.

“We have 79 percent of our schools on performance,” Teague said. “That’s pretty solid.”

Teague said the district uses the ratings to help identify schools that need extra support, which includes school support teams, district support and instructional coaching.

“It’s a really valuable piece of data for us,” she said. “It gives us a lot of insight on where we can help schools and what schools need to improve on.”

The ratings are preliminary, and districts can contest the preliminary ratings before they’re finalized in November for districts and in December for schools. Neither Boulder Valley nor St. Vrain Valley plan to contest any of the ratings.

Still to come are ratings for schools considered alternative education centers, which include Olde Columbine High School in Longmont, Arapahoe Ridge High and Halcyon in Boulder, Justice High charter in Lafayette, Boulder Prep charter in Gunbarrel, and St. Vrain’s Global Online.

In Boulder Valley, tiny Gold Hill Elementary also had too few students to calculate ratings using the state formula.

Amy Bounds: 303-473-1341, boundsa@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/boundsa

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