Innovation Alert: Glenwood Springs Schools and Students "Moving On" Up?

I’ve been to Glenwood Springs before with my parents. It’s a neat place, with the caves and the rides and, of course, the hot springs. But this has got to be the first time I’ve blogged about it here. The local Post Independent reports that the Roaring Fork School District looks like they are about to forge ahead with something quite innovative:

At tonight’s meeting, principals and teachers from Glenwood Springs and Sopris elementary schools, Glenwood Springs Middle School and Glenwood Springs High School, as well as district officials, will all be on hand to explain the concept and answer questions.

Called “Moving On,” the new levels approach to student placement is the next step in district’s ongoing effort to adopt a standards-based learning model.

The standards approach is intended to ensure that students achieve a certain degree of proficiency in a subject area, primarily reading, writing and math, before they move on to the next level.

I like the name “Moving On.” It’s somewhat easier to grasp than the common lingo: Standards-Based Education. It fits the long-term trend of moving to more customized learning for individual students. I like the concept for the Doogie Howser-like potential it would provide me. The challenge to making this kind of major transition lies both at the state level — where testing and funding systems will need to be revamped — and at the local level.

Roaring Fork isn’t the first school district in Colorado to the gate. Westminster District 50 just outside Denver is in its second full year with its learner-centered SBS program in place. While I did have a few nice things to say about it after my Education Policy Center friends took the tour last May, I later raised some significant concerns about the implementation.

If you look at the latest Colorado Growth Model data, the results aren’t terribly encouraging. The Crown Pointe Academy charter school still outshines the entire surrounding Westminster School District in boosting student learning in reading, writing and math. Not far behind are Sunset Ridge and Metz Elementary — two of the three schools my Education Policy Center friends were taken to on their tour — but the rest are lagging. This observation tells me just how important school-level leadership and teacher buy-in are. It just might make all the difference.

jeffersonsWith about 5,200 students, Roaring Fork is a little more than half Westminster’s size. The mountain district also has no union bargaining agreement, unlike its urban/suburban counterpart. There may be other differences, too. Roaring Fork leaders and teachers certainly should take notice of what’s working and what’s not in Westminster as they get “moving on” — hopefully, moving on up to a deluxe school system at 6,000 feet above sea level!