“We are extremely proud of what we have accomplished so far and honored by the nomination from the Colorado Department of Education,” said Melisa Rewold-Thuon, Avon Elementary school principal. “During the next few months, we will be focused intently on our instruction and student growth in order to continue excelling and working toward attaining 'National Blue Ribbon School' status.”
To be nominated, schools have to demonstrate academic consistency. In Avon Elementary School’s case, that included significant improvement.
That data is gleaned from the school's performance on standardized tests. Rewold-Thuon is bilingual and smiles as she tells you about her school in both English and Spanish.
Between 2009 and 2010, Avon Elementary saw its standardized test scores shoot up more than any other local school by far. In 2009's Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) scores, only 39 percent of Avon Elementary School's third graders were proficient readers. When the 2010 scores rolled in, 73 percent were proficient. Just 16 percent of the school's students were native English speakers when they took that 2010 test. The last time CSAP scores were that high at Avon Elementary, the student body's ethnic makeup was almost the exact opposite of what it is now, she said. Of the 39 Avon Elementary students who took the CSAP in 2010, only four were native English speakers, Rewold-Thuon said. Even though CSAP offers a Spanish version, very few Avon Elementary students used it. They took the test in English, and 73 percent scored as proficient or advanced.
It really does take a village, she said. The Vail Valley Foundation and the Youth Foundation provide tutoring and after-school athletic programs, along with music and dance programs, Rewold-Thuon said.
We address the second factor above by providing “Extended Learning” through our PwrHrs After School programs. Working closely with the schools in our district, our staff and volunteers work side by side with teachers (whom we pay a livable wage for their work outside of normal school hours) to provide after-school academic and enrichment programs to children that need the help the most.
A summer-school program is an important component of Extended Learning. The school system has no money for summer programs, and “summer slide” (a well-measured decrease in student proficiency due to the lack of academic and social stimulation during the summer) is a fact of student life, especially for lower-income students, who do not have the resources to attend summer camps, or travel on vacations like many of their higher-income peers do. This year-round approach amounts to an extra 30 days of school for children in these programs!
The results of Extended Learning can be impressive. At Avon Elementary School, for exam CSAP scores (the statewide measurement tool) prior to this program were in the 51 percent to 53 percent proficient range in both reading and math. After a full year of this program — which included six weeks of summer school for these students — CSAP scores climbed into the 68 percent to 69 percent range, about the state average. And this was after one year of the program!
Avon Elementary, on the strength of its principal, teachers, educational tools and support available from the school system, coupled with our support, has moved from “turnaround” status to “performing” status in the eyes of the state school system.
This is but one of the programs that a combined Youth Foundation-Vail Valley Foundation offers.“ -Steve Coyer, co-chairman of the VVF’s Youth Foundation.
The 2012 National Blue Ribbon Schools will be named and honored at an awards ceremony in Washington, DC in September.