Significant improvement in 2018 state test scores has removed Dolores Elementary School from a Colorado watch list, school officials reported last week.
And overall, the Dolores School District RE-4A was the highest-scoring district out of the eight main school districts in the San Juan Board of Cooperative Educational Services region.
Dolores Elementary’s scores in math and English rebounded this year to an overall score of 62.5, reaching the state’s top plan type, known as “performance plan.” That’s up from a 2017 score of 33.4, and the lowest plan type, “turnaround.”
New Superintendent Phil Kasper credited school staff, board and former Superintendent Scott Cooper for the success.
“It is a job well-done and a moment to appreciate. I called Scott Cooper to congratulate him also,” Kasper said.
When factoring in scores from all testing grades, Kasper noted that the Dolores district earned a rating of 67.7, outperforming regional districts Bayfield (65.3), Cortez (43.1), Dove Creek (60), Durango (59.5), Ignacio (46.8), Mancos (65), and Pagosa (64.1).
Elementary School Principal Gary Livick said he and staff were not surprised by the improved 2018 test scores because internal academic testing predicted an upward shift.
He attributed the severe drop in test scores in 2017 to a high percentage of students who opted out of testing and a student body that was affected by a student’s suicide. The school was in turnaround status for a year.
The improved test results are sustainable, Livick said, and will put the district on track to regain the “accredited with distinction” rating – the state’s gold standard – that it achieved in 2011.
“We can see that the early grades are showing high academic growth levels, and that will carry over into the higher grades,” he said. “It means that we are positioned to build on our success and have quality instructors. Retaining our great staff is a key component to our success.”
Several factors were cited for the improvement, and there is still room for improvement.
Livick said students are responding well to a project-based curriculum at the elementary, which incorporates multiple subject areas and problem solving and translates to stronger test scores. The innovative instructional style also attracts and retains quality teachers, he said.
A more rigorous math program implemented two years ago is starting to show results, Livick said, and a $450,000 reading grant that includes intensive teacher training in the past three years also has improved instruction and academic performance.
The previous 2017 turnaround status for Dolores Elementary was cited by critics of the Dolores school board as one reason to seek a recall election, which is scheduled for Oct. 9.