Progress ongoing

Posted

Editor's Note: This is the last story of a three-part series highlighting what is on the horizon for Mapleton Public Schools. The district's reformation eight years ago and the overhaul of the Skyview Campus were the focus of the other stories.

After restructuring its schools and overhauling its Skyview Campus, Mapleton Public Schools is not slowing down its mission to ensure that each student is empowered to achieve his or her dreams.

District officials still have a long checklist of goals — including adding school days, increasing the number of years between kindergarten through second grade for students who need it, launching an attendance campaign and strengthening parent engagement.

Board of Education Co-Chairwoman Norma Frank said since she became a part of the board in 2003, the conversation always returns to the district's mission and figuring out how to support educators in holding high academic standards for all, removing obstacles that impede a student’s success and building meaningful academic relationships.

"Mapleton is an innovative and courageous school district with families, teachers, leaders, partners and community members who will stop at nothing to make sure the needs of every student are met," Frank said. "I expect to see even more of that in the next 15 years."

Increased school days

Students may not embrace the idea of increasing the number of school days, but educators in Mapleton say they feel it is necessary for academic success.

“We believe that providing our children with additional days in the learning environment, coupled with robust fieldwork and cultural experiences, helps them to make great strides in closing the achievement gap and avoid summer learning loss,” said Superintendent Charlotte Ciancio.

The district has added five student days to the 2013-14 school year for a total of 170 days. The goal is to increase the days by a total of 20; the implementation schedule depends on funding.

“Adding a single day of student contact costs the school district close to $200,000,” Ciancio said.

Last year the district came in 17th out of hundreds of applicants for the federal Race to the Top grant, said Deputy Superintendent Jackie Kapushion. The program only had enough money to fund 16 programs.

The district has been working diligently to position itself higher for this year's grant cycle.

"We're very committed to extending learning time for our kids," Kapushion said, adding that even if the district does not receive the grant, student days will be increased, just not as quickly.

Primary Program

Some babies walk as early as 6 months, some don't get their footing until closer to 17 months. And that is not a bad thing.

This is the comparison Whei Wong, chief communications officer for Mapleton, makes when explaining the district's new Primary Program.

Some students do not grasp the skills taught in kindergarten through second grade in just three years, especially if they did not go to preschool. With the Primary Program, the K-2 experience lasts four years instead of three.

"It's not a re-do of the year before," Wong said, explaining that the program simply gives students more time to learn before advancing to the next grade level. "Third-grade success is an early predictor for high school success."

Standardized testing begins in third grade, and a child who struggles academically may have a loss in confidence.

The district piloted the program at one school three years ago and has expanded it to all schools for this school year. Teachers at each school identified students who may benefit from the program.

Attendance campaign

Chronic absenteeism is a problem many districts face, and Mapleton is no different.

"For students to be successful in school, they must be in consistent and regular attendance," Wong said. "The research shows that students who exhibit chronic absenteeism as early as kindergarten have higher rates of high school dropout than those who consistently attend."

The district will launch an attendance campaign to educate students and parents on the importance of regular school attendance. Wong pointed out that the learning environment provides children critical support for not only academic development, but also for social and emotional development.

"Chronic absenteeism is habit forming and significantly impacts achievement and student success later in their academic career," she said.

Parent Engagement

For some Mapleton schools, the traditional parent-teacher conferences will be replaced with Academic Parent-Teacher Teams meetings. These teams are part of an effort to strengthen parent engagement.

"Parents and teachers will work very closely together to look at a child's data and progress," Wong said. "Parents will be given the tools necessary to understand the data, and support grade-level learning at home."

One of the schools piloted the program last year, and it was expanded to other sites, thanks to state grant funds, Frank said.

"This program really focuses on building relationships between schools and families by engaging parents in their child’s academic development, and showing parents how they can promote and support academic success at home," she said.

New elementary school

Although specific plans are not hammered out yet, the district is preparing to open a new school to accommodate the new housing development in southern Adams County.

Midtown, at 68th Avenue and Pecos Street, is a 184-acre development that will feature 1,300 single-family homes. It is slated to be completed in 2016.

“We surmise in the next year or two, we may have to open a new school, likely an elementary," Kapushion said.

The district has identified a potential site in the district, but the development does have land set aside for the construction of a new school. The school will probably be one centered around performing arts, Kapushion said.

“We’re hearing from our community that they would like (a performing arts) focus for students at a younger age," she said.

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