RIDGWAY SCHOOLS Perspectives and assessments of learning
By Bill Tiedje
The Ridgway School Board reviewed standardized test scores and a parent satisfaction survey and considered an accountability committee recommendation regarding the posting of curriculum topics during its first board meeting of the 2014-15 school year.
The meeting took place in the district lounge on Tuesday evening, located just outside the district office in the Ridgway Elementary School building.
Accountability committee member Tim Taplin explained his committee recommended that the district establish a policy of requiring each teacher to post basic information about the topics they would be covering in class.
"It's possible to do something about this promptly, and we think that's important," said Taplin.
Taplin indicated members of the committee had spoken to secondary school teachers.
He relayed to the board that these teachers indicated it was possible to supply such information, although the type and format would vary greatly by subject matter.
"That sort of document is eminently available," said Taplin.
Interim Superintendent Steve Smith said, "If we're going to expect parents to be involved in their child's education, then we need to tell them what (the students) are doing."
He indicated the district was already in the process of implementing a similar curriculum reporting policy.
Board member Bart Skalla said, "I don't recall one teacher or one class as parents that we didn't know what the syllabus is," noting teachers had always been "very responsive" when contacted.
Smith indicated this curriculum reporting would likely be as simple as a general overview posing the essential questions that would fuel a unit of study.
In addition to benefiting parents, Smith said this technique had been demonstrated to help student learning as well.
District assessment coordinator Jim Unruh presented the 2014 Transitional Colorado Assessment Program test results for grades 3 - 10 at Ridgway schools.
An overview of the test results was presented in last week's Plaindealer.
Unruh explained that instead of examining overall trends, teachers found it most useful to look at cohort groups to identify specific students' needs and adjust curriculum and lesson plans accordingly.
Unruh added that this was the last year for TCAP tests as the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) would be taken during this school year.
He said he had heard anecdotal evidence that, under the more rigorous new PARCC assessments, current sixth grade standards will now be considered third grade requirements in some subjects.
"The shift is that dramatic," he said.
Additionally, Smith indicated the school did not yet know when it would receive the data from the new tests, typically received at the start of classes each year.
Board Member Greg Lawler said, "We'll be able to do a national comparison before we can do a state comparison," referring to national use of the new tests.
Smith added that those interested in the new PARCC tests, which include Common Core standards conducted in a digital format, could take sample questions online.
A majority of parents at both Ridgway schools are satisfied with the curriculum, rigor, classroom environment and extra-curricular opportunities provided to their students, according to an online survey emailed to parents this summer.
At the elementary level, the highest approval numbers related to the welcoming environment at RES, while roughly a quarter of the 35 respondents said they were only "somewhat satisfied" with the curriculum.
Ridgway Secondary School respondents also showed a high level of approval for the learning environment but 35 percent of the 45 RSS respondents were "somewhat satisfied" with the curriculum and instructors' ability to inspire learning.
Communication with administration was another area for improvement cited by both RES Principal Trish Greenwood and RSS Principal Chuck Siefken.
Siefken said RSS was working to develop learning objectives on a daily basis to incorporate "higher level" thinking.
Both principals reported that the first two days of school had gone smoothly.
Smith reported that current enrollment is approximately 327 students, equating to a projected increase of "eight or nine" students compared to last year.