Parents weighing option for students at Sandrock Elementary |

Parents weighing option for students at Sandrock Elementary

Ben McCanna

The parents of Sandrock Elementary School students have a month to make a choice.

They have the option to continue their children with the elementary school, or transfer them to another school in the district.

Michelle Powers, mother of a fifth-grader, said she's unsure of what choice her family will make.

"The more I think about it, the more I think I might pull him out," she said of her son.

In May, Powers and other parents received a letter from school principal Kamisha Siminoe.

The five-page letter, which includes graphs of test scores, explains that Sandrock didn't make Adequate Yearly Progress, a state-mandated standard.

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As part of No Child Left Behind legislation, schools that fall short of that standard must inform parents of their rights to choose a different school.

Powers said the letter came as a surprise. She wasn't previously aware of Sandrock's low scores on the Colorado Student Assessment Program tests.

"I was kind of worried because my son goes to school there," she said.

"When I got the letter, I questioned him going to that school because if he already has trouble, what's to come? They're not teaching them what they're supposed to be teaching them."

Siminoe said the law required her to send the letter because of last year's scores. Scores for most of this year's CSAP testing will be available in August.

"Even though they haven't seen our (2011) scores yet, they require us to put this letter out," Siminoe said. "So, they don't give us an opportunity to show what we've done."

In May, the district released CSAP scores for third-grade reading.

Sandrock students improved — 64 percent of third-graders read at a proficient level.

A year earlier, in 2010, 45 percent of third-graders at Sandrock read at the proficient level.

Other data in Siminoe's letter indicates progress, such as scores in Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) tests. Siminoe said those are encouraging signs.

"MAPs is a very good predictor for how you may be doing on CSAPs," she said. "That (data) coupled with other information we looked at gives us a very good indication that our (CSAP) scores will go up."

For Charity Neal, mother of a third-grader and a kindergartener, scores are only part of the picture.

"We are choosing to move our kids, which is something we were looking at doing before the letter even came out," she said.

Neal spent two years on the school's Parent Advisory Comm-

ittee. She now wants her children to attend Sunset Elementary School.

"I was very involved in the PAC … and I just came to the realization that I had to give my children better opportunities," she said. "We gave it a good try."

The problems, she said, have more to do with the school's culture than academics.

"It just has more of a negative feel than you would hope at an elementary school," she said. "Even my 7-year-old could feel the difference in environment when we went to visit Sunset."

Siminoe said creating a welcoming culture at Sandrock is challenging.

The school is relatively new. It was transformed from Craig Intermediate School to Sandrock as part of the Moffat County School District's reconfiguration. It opened its doors to elementary school students for the 2009-10 school year.

"For a brand new school, we have worked very hard," Siminoe said. "We had kids that came from three different schools, staff that came from three different schools. It takes a little while for staff to get to know each other and work together.

"I think we've worked really hard to create a wonderful sense of school community."

Neal said a recurring theme at PAC meetings was patience. She said she was asked to wait, and told there would be improvements.

Neal recalled her response.

"I said, 'You're asking me, as a mother, to give you my children's time for you to get better, and that's just not acceptable to me any more,'" she said. "I think they can get there, but I'm not going to waste their elementary years while the school figures it out. When we opened a new hospital, people didn't expect us to take a couple of years to get better."

Amanda Ott, mother of a third-grader, said her daughter will remain at Sandrock.

"From what we were told, the letter was based off the scores from the first year, not the second," she said. "The scores from the second year have already increased dramatically.

"The things that Sandrock needs to fix have already been fixed."

Ott said her daughter is succeeding in the school's environment.

"My daughter has excelled at Sandrock," she said. "They're very good at keeping her challenged, which is one of the things I've always been very concerned about."

Ott added that the atmosphere at Sandrock is "welcoming and warm."

Siminoe said parents should consider the whole picture when making their decision. Those factors include the school's culture, teachers, classroom environment, students and academics.

Neal acknowledged that the school has a lot going for it.

"They have great teachers at Sandrock, they really do," she said. "But, there's a lot more to school than just that. I think that Sandrock will get there, but I think the elementary years are too important to use up for somebody to get there."

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