Teachers are critical to student success. Most of you can think of at least one teacher — if not several — who made an important connection with you as a child or young adult; a teacher who inspired you to learn and unlocked the doors to a better education. It seems obvious to so many of us that great teachers and great teacher leaders make a tremendous difference in student learning. Research tells us that the single most important factor to a student’s academic success is the classroom teacher. For example, one study determined that teacher quality more heavily influenced differences in student performance than did race, class, or school of the student.
I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Summit School District teachers and staff on achieving outstanding academic results. Our recent district and school report cards, or School Performance Frameworks (SPFs), detail our students’ academic achievement using the results of last spring’s state assessment program or TCAP.
We know, for example, that at Dillon Valley and Silverthorne elementary schools, students exceeded expected academic growth in reading, writing and mathematics. Both schools earned a rating of 96.4 percent. Summit Middle School and Summit High School also continued to show gains, even though the prior year they had each had their highest gains ever. The gains at our schools also improved the overall district results, which continue to be impressive. The dedication of leadership and staff to focus on student achievement through exemplary classroom instruction is paying off.
The Colorado Academic Standards prepare students for the critical job skills they’ll need in a globally connected workplace. More targeted assessments help teachers to understand what their students know and what they have yet to learn, helping to improve and refine classroom instruction. This fall, we also embraced a new teacher evaluation system designed to provide ongoing feedback on how teaching practices are impacting student learning.
As one of our principals recently told me, “Education is a three-legged stool. For us to be successful, we need equal commitment and effort from our schools, our parents and our students.” While our teachers continue to deliver first-rate classroom instruction, it is very important to recognize the tremendous contributions our parents make each and every day to get students to school healthy, prepared and ready to learn. Equally valued is parents’ support of their children’s after-school learning through extra-curricular activities, homework and other classroom assignments. We are grateful to all of our families for making education a priority in their homes.
As we embark on the journey of another school year, I am reminded of my favorite teacher, Mr. St. John (my 7th grade math teacher), who convinced me that I had math aptitude even when I felt like I would never get it. His continued belief in me and in my ability to excel in math is the reason I continued to take higher level math courses. Thank you to all of our wonderful teachers for inspiring each of our students.
Heidi Pace is the superintendent of Summit County schools.