Schools to host site review by peers
Holyoke School District Re-1J’s demonstration of innovative thinking led the district to be a member of the Student-Centered Accountability Program that allows a small group of school districts across the state to create an alternative means of accrediting their schools.
Holyoke’s administration and staff look forward to hosting a one-day site review Monday, April 23. The review will be conducted by peers from other school districts, as well as representatives from the Colorado Department of Education and graduate students from the University of Colorado and the University of Denver.
The district is compiling information to be shared with the reviewers. The visitors will look for consistency in the answers as they evaluate the district in the areas of learning climate, as well as curriculum and instruction.
Focus groups will be conducted with teachers, students in grades 5-12 and parents. Local parents who are interested in taking part in the survey and review April 23 are encouraged to contact Elementary School Principal Kyle Stumpf at 970-854-3411 or Holyoke JR/SR High Counselor Angela Powell at 970-854-2284.
Information was available for Spanish-speaking parents at the last English Language Learners parent night, as the district wants to make sure they’re represented in the process, as well.
Stumpf and Powell said the district has selected survey questions for the April 23 review that will best serve to help the whole district grow.
With a late-start school day April 23, the System Support Review will begin with parent focus groups and staff introductions from 7:45-8:45 a.m. in the JR/SR high old gym.
The panel will then be out and about in both schools from 9 a.m. to noon to observe classroom activity, as well as the visuals of the classroom itself.
The reviewers will be armed with an evaluation rubric to base their observations on. It will include data that the district has submitted prior to the visiting team’s arrival.
Lunchtime focus groups will be conducted with students in grades 5-12, after which the reviewers will return to classrooms for more observation from 1-3 p.m.
The goal is for information to be compiled and comments written in Google format from 3-4:30 p.m., with the visitors sitting down with the Holyoke administrative team to share their findings from the day.
Next year, the district will then use that information as a starting point as they create another S-CAP action plan.
Five school districts served as a pilot group for S-CAP and are now in their third year. The S-CAP core districts are Buena Vista, Kit Carson, La Veta, Merino and Monte Vista. Representatives from those districts will be part of the review panel in Holyoke.
Local staff members participated in two-day site reviews at those five districts last fall and this spring to get a better understanding of the System Support Review.
Stumpf noted that these visits have helped familiarize the staff with the process and to observe the benefits of peers looking at peers.
The SSRs have also served as a way to build connections and relationships in a network.
After a Holyoke group visited Kit Carson, they found they’re using the same reading resource. The Kit Carson staff had questions about the ELL materials. Through that networking connection, three of the Kit Carson teachers were invited to Holyoke when training on those resources was offered.
Most recently, a group of local teachers, including Lynn Schneider and Cyndi Bahler, attended the Monte Vista review.
Bahler cited that S-CAP reviews were very insightful, showing that even the best have ways to improve. “I left there thinking more about what I need to become, even after 25 years of teaching.”
Schneider said that when the possibility of this district participating in the S-CAP program was first presented, the thing that excited her most was the fact that the emphasis is on students — student-centered accountability.
“I am excited to have (this group from all over the state) observe what we are doing to give us valuable feedback. Unlike other state reports which simply look at data and numbers, this feedback will also be based on real time spent in classrooms with teachers and students — seeing what actually goes on in our schools each day.”
She added that she’s excited to see what other educators will see as strengths in the district and what suggestions they will have to help the district grow and improve to continue to better meet the needs of the students.
S-CAP defines student success by more than a single test score
The Student-Centered Accountability Program is a system of accountability proposed and designed by a group of rural Colorado school districts. At the heart of S-CAP is a focus on the success of well-rounded students.
These districts wanted accreditation to represent values that are unique to them and not just based on raw test scores.
“Every school district has a niche they’re proud of that would never be measured in standard accountability,” said Powell. This might include art, woods, wellness, band, manufacturing, brain bowl or some other area that the community believes in and values.
S-CAP allows the districts to have that uniqueness as a way to show growth. Test scores, of course, are an important tool, added Powell and Stumpf. However, they’re not the only tool in measuring student success.
“It gives justification to continue to fund areas in our district that we value,” added Stumpf.
The State Board of Education passed a formal resolution for S-CAP in 2015, and the five pilot districts are now in their third year.
With a belief in innovation and not just settling for the status quo, Holyoke School District is a pilot school for the original five pilot districts.
In addition to the benefits of referencing values unique to this district, involvement in the S-CAP has also led to a social-emotional learning grant.
With this being a new focus nationwide, social-emotional learning ties directly to academic learning. The grant will give Holyoke the opportunity for access to some testing through a direct link.
Focusing on the concept that there’s way more to a chid than a one-time, one-test measurement, Holyoke School District prides itself in its involvement in S-CAP.
A process that honors the community’s values of education certainly has merit for measuring student achievement.