It might be tempting to despair after a January report from the Colorado Department of Education showed Steamboat Spring School District had fallen from second to seventh place between 2014 and 2016 in a listing of the top school districts in the state.
But when we consider the number of independent variables that enter the school rankings equation, the fact that Steamboat remains in the Top 10 districts in the state and the numerous accolades and awards the district continues to garner, we feel confident in saying our local school district still has plenty to be proud of.
Steamboat Springs School District’s state performance ranking dropped five places — from second to seventh — between 2014 and 2016.
Despite the dip in ranking, which encompasses a number of variables, the Steamboat Springs School District remains near the top of Colorado school rankings and continues to outperform districts in other resort communities.
First, the variables.
• The test is not the same. Colorado transitioned to a new standardized test for 2016, meaning the 2014 rankings, which were based on the older exam, cannot be directly compared to the 2016 rankings when the test materials were changed.
• The students are not the same. School makeup itself is a fluid concept. Class composition changes year to year, meaning the 2014 and 2016 exams evaluated different student cohorts, again, belying direct comparison.
• The districts and their communities are not the same. Individual communities and their constituent districts have individual and diverse characters, and according to Marty Lamansky, Steamboat Springs School District director of teaching and learning, these differences invalidate any attempt at apples-to-apples comparisons.
But perhaps most significantly, a growing movement critical of student over-testing may have prompted many parents to opt out of having their children sit for the standardized exams last year. Indeed, the results show Steamboat saw less than 95 percent participation in two or more subjects, a fact Lamansky said may well have skewed the results.
Considered alone, these variables would hardly be enough to dismiss Steamboat's test-score drop-off as an anomaly, but they come with additional evidence that Steamboat schools are still on the right track.
Even with the dip in placement, Steamboat remains in the top 4 percent of all Colorado school districts, a fact Lamansky called “outstanding.”
Steamboat also retained the state’s highest level of accreditation in 2016, earning the designation of “Accredited with Distinction,” and it continued to outperform most other resort school districts.
And, Steamboat continues to garner honors and awards
During the 2015-16 school year, Steamboat Springs Middle School, Soda Creek Elementary and Strawberry Park Elementary were honored with the John Irwin Award, given to schools that demonstrate academic excellence though time.
Soda Creek and Strawberry Park — joined by North Routt Community Charter School — were awarded the Governor’s Distinguished Improvement Award for exceptional growth through time.
And, the district as a whole earned the English Language Proficiency Act Excellence Award, the second time it has been so honored.
Of course, performance dips should be monitored to detect worrisome trends, but we’re convinced any alarm bells would be premature at this point.
Steamboat Springs School District remains a solid, top-performing school district, and we’re proud to call it our own.