District superintendent Lisa Yates followed up last meeting’s report on school testing with the district’s results in S-CAP surveys on student, parent and staff attitudes toward school at the Nov. 4 meeting of the Buena Vista school board.
The Buena Vista school district is one of nine rural Colorado districts that participate in the Student-Centered Accountability Project.
The school districts evaluate one another on criteria related to student feelings about their school – things like whether they feel challenged, whether those challenges make them want to work harder or give up and whether they feel their fellow students respect one another.
Staff are also evaluated on criteria like whether they’re given enough time to effectively plan their lessons and whether they believe the schools’ administrative policy supports student learning.
Parents are asked questions related to how they feel the school is serving their child, as well as questions related to communication from the school district.
The surveys are intended to provide more qualitative information on the environments that students are learning in as a complement to standardized testing numbers.
“This whole thing just shows what my advocacy for S-CAP is about, and it’s about local accountability,” Yates said. “There’s no way you could ask those kinds of questions at the state level and try to put it into some kind of matrix where a district gets a score and have it be meaningful … Now we have data about what our students, our parents and our staff are saying about our schools that we can go and act on.”
Each district principal reported on their school’s results, which contained a mix of positive affirmations, surprises and evidence of room to improve.
At Chaffee County High School, high positive scores from staff indicated to principal Christine Biley that “we’re all on the same page with how we think we’re doing our work. What’s really interesting is being able to compare that with what the students said and some of the discrepancies there and ask ‘What is it we need to do to bring those together’, and if we say that we’re doing this, how can we be sure we’re seeing it in practice?”
With students and parents, the school ranked highly on “Provides emotional support to students,” but scored lower on providing family support.
Avery-Parsons Early School director Lynelle Denton gave her report on the preschool’s TS-GOLD social-emotional data through pre-recorded comments, as she was speaking at a parent-teacher event at the time.
The data collected on preschoolers related to connecting with adults (33 percent surveyed were below expectations, 66 percent meeting expectations and one student who is exceeding expectations), responding to emotional cues (75 percent meeting expectations, 20 percent below and 5 students exceeding expectations), interacting with peers (76 percent meeting, 12 percent below, 11 percent exceeding), making friends (65 percent meeting, 24 percent below, 9 percent exceeding).
Instructional coach Emily Madler presented the results for Avery-Parsons Elementary School. Beginning with the parent survey, Madler reported that over 80 percent of respondents agreed that “this school is a safe place for my child to learn.”
On the question of receiving information, Madler said, “That’s something that we as a whole school, are we communicating with parents, that’s something that Judy (Lynn, the interim principal) came in knowing that she really wanted to focus on. Parents know they can come in and get help, yet we’re seeing that they’re not always receiving information on what students are learning in class.”
Madler also noted that the school scored high marks from parents in providing volunteer opportunities, but showed room to grow in clearly expressing its mission and leadership.
Staff at the elementary school reported on the survey that social and emotional learning was supported at the school, but less positively in regards to whether they had adequate time to look at student data.
“That’s an area for further discussion. They see the support, yet they’re still looking for the time for those discussions even more,” Madler said.
McGinnis Middle School principal John Emilsson gave some context to the survey’s findings, having gone through similar testing as an administrator in larger, urban school districts
“The survey data from all the schools in Buena Vista, in my opinion, is highly impressive,” Emilsson said. “You don’t see numbers like that in a lot of the big district schools. Where I was at in Aurora, we were lucky to crack 35 percent across the board. So I think you’re really doing something well when you’re up in the high 60s, low 70s and in some cases 80-90 percent with these surveys.”
At the middle school, 100 percent of teacers said their class size was reasonable. Emilsson noted that a change is class schedule likely caused positive responses about having adequate time to plan to rise.
Students gave positive responses to “feeling like they belong,” “having opportunities to be creative,” and “my teachers help me find ways to problem-solve.”
On the other hand, 45 percent of student respondents said that “students at my school show respect for one another” and 57 percent said that “my teachers make the school an exciting place to learn.”
For Buena Vista High School, the school scored highly in “My child’s school is a friendly environment,” and overall showed growth in the percentage of positive responses compared to last year in the parents’ survey.
In the staff survey, teachers reported growth of 19 percent in adequate time to communicate with students’ families, as well as growth in “our school is a safe place to work.”
That growth was notable considering that a considerable portion of the campus is currently a construction zone.
“I think it’s perhaps this perception of a coming new building,” BVHS principal Kevin Denton said.
As for student data, Denton said, “I’ve been very upset about this data ever since I’ve seen it.”
The survey returned very low percentages of students saying they felt inspired by school or liked school.
Denton said that he would be unpacking some of this data with teachers and noted that during the last school year, civics teacher Greg Perrin used this S-CAP data as the basis for a student project.
“This is a big bomb drop on a lot of people who wake up every day and just sling all day long their hearts and their souls, and it can be hard to see that. And yet, at the end of the day, we want to know what that means,” Denton said.
Centauri compliments Demon sportsmanship
Yates also shared with the board a letter she received from Curt Wilson, the superintendent of the North Conejos School District following the Sept. 27 football game between the Demons and the Centauri High School Falcons.
Wilson commended the Buena Vista team for “an act of authentic sportsmanship and ultimately one of the classiest moves I’ve witnessed in years.”
“What happened is the desired outcome of creating individuals who are top-shelf regardless of win or loss or circumstance,” Wilson wrote. “Each BV player extended an act of kindness to shake the hand of a young man on the team who the day before lost his father to suicide … The winner of the actual contest will fade sooner than most realize, but regardless of the score I want to convey that Buena Vista won.”