Summit School District remains high-achieving, but loses elite ranking | SummitDaily.com

Summit School District remains high-achieving, but loses elite ranking

The Summit School District recently dropped a peg based on the latest state accountability ratings, but the academic focus remains unchanged at the local public school system.

Previously one of only a handful of the state's 178 districts to be awarded the prestigious "distinction" label with its annual accreditation, Summit's rating fell a notch on the five-point scale, missing the highest designation in 2016 by a few points. Achieving the preeminent score is still a goal, but it's not seen as the be-all, end-all.

"It's not about getting the 'A,' but it is about moving from this spot to the next," said Julie McCluskie, spokeswoman for the district. "Of course we want to see all of our kids excel in their classwork and be successful, because we know if they're successful in the classroom, they're going to be successful in college or in their careers. You want to see that movement to higher levels, but it isn't about the grade itself. It's about using that information to make things better."

Some good news the district can hang its hat on is in addition to the six elementaries, both the high school and middle school received top marks on the four-point school-specific scale. Snowy Peaks, the district's alternative high school, is the only one to fall below state guidelines, and the district is still awaiting response from the state board on its request for reappraisal. That should arrive in the coming days and will decide if SPHS will stay at turnaround status.

While all schools have their own set of deficiencies within the categories of academic achievement and growth across English, math and science, there were some very high-performing schools. Breckenridge Elementary topped the list with a 98.5 out of 100 points with Upper Blue not far behind at 89.4. Silverthorne and Dillon Valley elementaries each came in with a raw score at just above 63, and Frisco and Summit Cove were both at the midpoint in the low-80s. Throughout the state, it is recognized that schools most impacted by poverty, special education and language learners often produce lower scores.

The assessment for which these performance frameworks are based changed in 2015, so different results were not unexpected. The district last received that elite billing in 2014, and the state legislature retained those prior ratings while schools adjusted to the new assessment system, known as the Colorado Measures of Academic Success, frequently abbreviated to CMAS.

Recommended Stories For You

Since receiving the updated score, with state ratings made public toward late December, the district has doubled down on what previously helped it reach the zenith. School leadership is viewing the evaluation as part of a more comprehensive dataset to establish improvement plans that address decided weaknesses at each of its schools.

"That's the conversation that we really focus on, and less on the numbers and less on the scores," said Bethany Massey, the district's director of assessment and technology. "Those are one piece to the puzzle. But those plans actually take buildings in the district through a process that starts with, 'What are your big challenges, what are the root causes that would fix these challenges, and then what are the improvement strategies that we can put in place that would dissolve them?'"

It's not all based around negative leanings, either. If one of the elementaries has a decided strength in, say, reading, the emphasis becomes analyzing what's working there and how to replicate it at the other five around the county with a mentality that a rising tide lifts all boats. Adjustments to classroom instruction, curriculums and professional development for teachers are then put into effect.

What the district never plans to do, however, is specifically cater courses to advancing the district's ranking — so-called "teaching to the test." The One2World initiative implemented by the district this school year, which provides a one-to-one ratio of student-to-device for all grades, should help with the all-digital testing format now used by the state. But the overarching philosophy of the school board, administration and Vision 2020 strategic plan remains a functional comprehension of skills and abilities.

"Teaching to the test isn't really going to help us improve student performance if all we're really worried about is how they answer Question 48, right?" said McCluskie. "Instead, we want to see all of the math scores improve, we want to see them improve outside this one assessment. We want to seem them improve in formative assessments along the way — those benchmarks that we're measuring internally, not just with the help of the state in a one-time assessment that kids participate in."

At its core, the CMAS is still a measure of how the district and its individual schools are performing. And it's still an apples-to-apples comparison of Colorado's different public school systems, just as the exam iterations were before them, and that's not lost on Summit.

"We're not making excuses for a change in those scores," McCluskie added. "We just want to be sure that our community recognizes that the assessment tool is different. We don't shy away from being held accountable for our responsibility to teach every kid, to make sure that every kid is achieving at highest possible academic levels. The most important aspect of this data is that we use it to inform and improve instruction."

School Scores:

Summit School District: 70.4 (out of 100)

Breckenridge Elementary: 98.5

Upper Blue Elementary: 89.4

Frisco Elementray: 81.1

Summit Cove Elementary: 80

Silverthorne Elementary: 63.3

Dillon Valley Elementary: 63.2

Summit Middle School: 66.5

Snowy Peaks High School: N/A

Summit High School: 74.1