Moffat County School district passes review

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Though a preliminary report won't be available until June, there are no indications that the schools accreditation is in jeopardy.

In fact, Moffat County Schools are implementing some programs -- such as its student remediation and teacher collaboration programs -- that other districts are copying, which is a benefit of having officials from other districts on the accreditation team.

Accreditation, CDE Regional Manager Morris Danielson said, is not based on a single number -- test scores for example. It's based on a "preponderance of evidence," taking several factors into consideration.

Evaluators look at 11 indicators during the accreditation process including the district's educational improvement plan, CSAP performance and goals, student achievement, student progress, communication with parents, safe schools policies and compliance with budgeting and accounting requirements.

"In Colorado it's about achievement, achievement, achievement, and we make no apology about that," Danielson said.

But what the state is looking for, he said, was reasonable progress over time.

"We're comparing Moffat County to Moffat County," he said.

Should progress not be demonstrated, the first step would be a discussion between the school district and the CDE. If performance doesn't improve after a year, a letter of concern is issued. Thirty-six Colorado school districts received that letter this year.

After a third year of no progress, a district is placed on academic watch. There are nine school districts in the state currently on academic watch -- although none are in the northwest region.

The next step is probation.

The Moffat County School District is accredited through 2007. The yearly inspection is just an effort to ensure a school continues on the right track.

"It really does make us look in the mirror each year and evaluate our successes and our focus," Superintendent of Schools Pete Bergmann said.

Bergmann used the analogy that the Moffat County School District was like a river with the different schools, grades and curriculum goals forming the tributaries. Those second-grade students who meet literacy goals contribute to the health of the river as they progress through grade levels and other achievements to bolster the main river.

The district's critical questions are what do officials want students to learn, what can be done when they don't and what can be done when they still don't.

"When students don't learn, we revise our strategy with the motto 'failure is not an option,'" Bergmann said.

Many of the district's goals focus on underachieving students and they steps that can be taken to get them up to snuff. It requires early intervention and forced remediation before the problem grows.

The creation of collaborative teams goes a long way toward meeting that goal, Bergmann said, in that those teams are able to gauge students' needs on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis without having to wait for state test scores to return.

"If everybody does their part at the team level, we hope that will pile up and we'll have a flash flood of achievement," he said.

Bergmann hopes the district's goals will result in less emphasis on Colorado Student Assessment Program testing and more on day-to-day goals of student achievement. Those goals are aligned with CSAP standards, so Bergmann believes that they are met, then CSAP scores will reflect that and show improvement.

Commendations the school district will receive will include: its openness to public oversight, its focus on math score improvements, its overall focus, its forward thinking planning, and its in-house accreditation process for each school in the district.

Parent advisory committee members from each school form a team to evaluate each school on a three-year rotating basis.

"It's an impressive process," Danielson said. "It's as nicely done as any one I've seen."

The team unanimously voted in favor of continued accreditation for the Moffat County School District.

"You've shown us nothing but areas you can be proud of," Danielson said. "I think there is fresh air in this district and I commend that."

The final report will be mailed in the fall.

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