Adams 12 sees five-year decrease in performance measures

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Adams 12 Five Star School District's principals and district directors sounded a positive note at the Oct. 19 Board of Education meeting even though the district's performance frameworks have decreased for the fifth consecutive year. 

“We continue to see higher incidences of student behavior which we believe is symptomatic of social (and) emotional learning challenges that affect students' ability to focus on learning,” said Executive Director Tobey Bassoff. “Student and staff absences are high.” 

The Adams 12 Unified Improvement Plan, discussed at the meeting, highlighted the areas where the district is struggling. Across the schools, indicators for academic achievement, academic growth and a combined postsecondary and workforce readiness metric went down from 61.9% in 2019 to 57.6% in 2022. 

Academic achievement declined from 56.7% in 2019 to 52%.1 in 2022, academic growth from 68.2% to 66.1% and secondary and workforce readiness from 58.7% to 51.9%. 

As well, the four-year graduation rate decreased by 2% and attendance rates dropped by 2%. The number of chronically absent students increased 1.2% and the dropout rate increased 0.3%. 

The plan also addressed the root causes that the district verified with teachers, school leaders and district leaders during the transition back to in-person instruction. 

Educators found it challenging to balance the need to develop relationships and engage with students while holding them to high expectations. As well, teachers had trouble assessing students on their learning targets. Much of the difficulties came out of virtual learning and staff shortages.

Solutions

School district officials presented their strategies for getting students back on track. 

Lee Peters, executive director of high schools, said Thornton High School staff will be meeting with other high school teachers and administrators to share different teaching practices, focusing on outcomes. Outcomes could include what the educators want students to be able to do, how educators would know what they are capable of doing and what steps to take when students fall short of the skills.

The teachers in those sessions will then go back to their schools and help train other teachers. 

The meetings are being designed to help increase consistency and rigor across the different schools. Thornton teachers will also have instructional coaches to support and help teachers try different ways of learning. 

Attendance is an issue at high schools, specifically Thornton High School.

“Students might take an extended lunch or miss first period or might leave school early multiple times a week,” he said. 

Peters said that a truancy court out of Adams County will intervene, having a magistrate meet with parents and students to help decrease missed classes. 

Scott Simon, executive director of middle schools, said Northglenn Middle School and Thornton Middle School serve 80% of free and reduced lunch populations. He said academic achievement and academic growth are their biggest challenges. 

Simon explained that both schools saw low marks for students feeling included and a sense of belonging. To address this, setting clear behavioral expectations and building more opportunities for social and emotional learning opportunities. 

District 4 Director Amira Assad-Lucas said building relationships is key. 

“My daughter still talks about the meaningful relationships she built with her educators,” she said. “Focusing on those relationships will make (the plan) even more successful.” 

As well, testing and observations will lead teachers to what needs to be changed during the school year when goals aren’t met. Student and staff surveys will also guide teachers, showing what needs to be changed. 

For elementary schools, Bassoff said that teachers have focused more on emotional support for their students, which took away from academic rigor. She said teachers need to focus more on academic standards.

Jamey Lockley, district 2 director, said she sees a big need for professional development in elementary schools and a decrease in teacher absences. 

In response, Grace Taylor, principal of Northstar Elementary, said that teachers have been given more planning time. As well, student behavior improved since last year. 

Federal Heights Elementary Principal Grant Underwood said student behaviors also improved.

“When I go into a classroom and it’s well planned out, there is a loving adult, it’s an engaging class andit has follow through and accountability, the student behaviors seem to dissipate,” he said. “That’s what I’m focused on and seeing results.” 

Executive Director James Scott said he’s hopeful and commended the Adams 12 schools for their culture. 

“School culture is usually the first thing you need to make sure is in place. I’d say in the vast majority of these schools, that’s a strength,” he said. 

Adams 12 Five Star Schools, performance,

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