Joel D Sheridan: 3A and Student Achievement

Understandably, there seems to be some uncertainties about what Referendum 3A should do and what it actually does. Very simply, the primary purpose of 3A is to repair our aging buildings. We have been using a Band-Aid approach for the past few years, trying to stretch the life of the buildings and efficiency of our dollars as far as we can. We are at the point of no longer being able to sustain this approach. We must have the necessary funding to bring our buildings up to current standards.

The question has been asked, "Will 3A improve student achievement in Moffat County School District?" The answer is "Yes," to a degree. While we are in the process of remodeling and repairing our buildings, we will be able to improve learning conditions in areas such as science classrooms, grade configurations, and accessibility to technology. Although these upgrades are not the primary reason for 3A, they are more easily and economically accomplished if done in conjunction with the major renovation.

Several public comments have been made regarding the fact that upgraded buildings alone will not improve the academic performance of our students. That is correct. No more than having the transmission fixed in the family car will make it a happier or healthier family. No more than putting a new roof on a church will make the parishioners more spiritual. But, we repair our cars and perform maintenance to our brick and mortar structures out of necessity. We are facing a necessity.

Regarding the overall academic performance of the school district, achievement trends have been positive. The scores on state tests have increased in five of the last six years. The district has met 78 out of 79 targets mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind legislation. Of the nineteen districts in Northwest Colorado, Moffat County School District has shown more growth in reading, writing, and mathematics than any other district.

Without additional dollars to meet our capital needs, the choice will be to replace roofs out of the operational funds, limit student access to technology tools needed for the 21st Century, and trade academic support for maintenance and construction necessities. We have reduced our staff development (teacher training) budget by 70 percent, cut out academic paraprofessional support by 10 percent, and are facing the choice of upgrading the technology in our science classrooms or not using some of the technology that was provided with recently purchased texts.

The implications of 3A are very significant. The vote will be a statement as to the priority we place on providing the students of Moffat County School District with a quality education.

Joel D Sheridan

Assistant Superintendent

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