St. Vrain Schools Honored with State Awards

This year six schools within St. Vrain received awards by the state for their academic achievements during the 2016-17 school year. These awards recognize the work ethic of our students, strength of academic commitment from parents, impact of high-quality teachers and districtwide support that schools receive.

The Governor’s Distinguished Improvement Award is given to schools that demonstrate exceptional student growth during the course of one academic school year. The Colorado Department of Education created a school performance framework that is used to evaluate all schools throughout Colorado. The schools that “exceed” expectations on the indicator related to longitudinal academic growth and “meet or exceed” expectations on the indicator related to academic growth gaps are recognized for their achievements.

Congratulations to the following schools who earned a Colorado Governor’s Distinguished Improvement Award.

  • Black Rock Elementary
  • Erie Elementary School
  • Mead Middle School

The next award that Colorado gives to schools throughout the state are the John Irwin Awards. These are given to schools that demonstrate exceptional academic achievement over longer periods of time. These schools receive an Exceeds Expectations rating on the Academic Achievement indicator of the School Performance Frameworks reflecting exceptional performance in Math, English Language Arts and Science.

This year, we would like to congratulate the following schools for earning a John Irwin Schools of Excellence Award.

  • Altona Middle School
  • Black Rock Elementary
  • Blue Mountain Elementary
  • Lyons Elementary School

Black Rock’s administration team highlights what they do to increase growth and academic achievement.

Academic growth is one measurement that teachers and administration focus on. It is something that teachers begin to watch and measure in preschool. During conferences, teachers highlight each child’s abilities at the beginning of the year and how much they have grown. Patterns in growth tell teachers if student learning is on track and if growth is where it should be.

Black Rock Elementary uses a flex group strategy for both reading and math which allows teachers to focus on student’s instructional needs, customize learning strategies for different levels and provide additional resources to students who need extra support in certain subjects.

“Through flex grouping, we can vary the size of the classes, the focus, the pace and we can differentiate instructional strategies,” said Cathy O’Donnell, Principal at Black Rock.

Principal O’Donnell also shared that their teachers spend a lot of time collaborating and communicating with each other about how each class is tackling the different standards. These conversations makes grade level teams stronger and it provides teachers an opportunity to learn from and share with one another over the course of a year. These discussions also happen vertically between grade levels as teachers partner to analyze past trends and to determine what works for their students.

Another tool that teachers use to measure growth is formal and informal assessments.

“Our fourth and fifth grade teachers in particular pay close attention to how students are performing on their iReady Assessment and informal assessments. By using this data, teachers can teach students new concepts and re-teach skills as needed, explained O’Donnell. “These teams are very focused on our students and their ability demonstrate mastery on the standards.”

Colorado’s Department of Education sets long and short-term educational goals for all of the schools in Colorado to measure academic achievement. Through these goals, they are able to measure if a specific school had exceeded their level of academic achievement.

“At Black Rock, we have a schoolwide approach to academic achievement, regardless of whether you teach Kindergarten, Music or Computer Lab,” says O’Donnell. “We look at the trends and adjust as needed throughout all of our grades.

Assistant Principal DeAnn Dykes continued to explain that “Although the third, fourth and fifth grade levels are where the testing takes place, the entire staff is invested in academic achievement and together we look at the data.”

Strong schools are built through partnerships between students, parents, teachers and administration. We are proud to recognize all of our schools for their achievements and growth.