It’s hard to believe that the school year is almost over.
My first year in Durango has been a rewarding experience. This year has been marked with a lot of changes – some required by law and others required following an analysis of our student data. We are a district rich in history and full of pride. While we have a lot to celebrate in our accomplishments, we still have a lot of work to do.
This year, we have embarked on a critical initiative to create common formative assessments (CFA) that will provide teachers with authentic assessment tasks to track student content mastery throughout the year. These will allow teachers to adjust instruction immediately for students struggling as well as for those who already have mastered the content.
Some of these assessment tasks will be secured and used to consistently measure student learning about common topics from across the district. In other words, a student taking Algebra I at Escalante Middle School will demonstrate mastery in the same way as a student taking Algebra I at Durango High School.
Having authentic assessments will ensure that a clear set of expectations exist and that all staff members are supported in achieving common learning outcomes. More information about CFAs and the new assessment models is available on our website through a Powerpoint presentation. I encourage you to watch the presentation to gain a better understanding of what assessments will look like in our district in the coming years.
We have implemented changes and systems to address critical learning gaps within our student populations. Students who fall into the achievement gap – which in our district includes minority students, economically disadvantaged students and students with special needs – continue to underperform compared with other students. An increased emphasis is being placed on supporting these subgroups and helping them realize their potential.
The identification of a disability in a student in no way excuses low performance. A student who is disabled learns in different ways, and it is our job as educators to identify the appropriate path and ensure that every child achieve to his or her potential.
Programs that have limited students at our high school are being discontinued, and Durango will match student need with appropriate programming by qualified teachers. Our elementary and middle school programs have accomplished this goal, and we now seek to align efforts at our high school.
Despite false statements made by some outgoing staff members, this responsibility will not shift to regular classroom teachers, unless they truly are the best professional to support that student need. The high school is staffed with seven highly qualified special educators who each have unique strengths. This change in structure will come with special training and supports being offered to targeted staff members before the start of school next year.
While the year has been marked with change, it has been one where the real character of Durango educators has been demonstrated. Where weaknesses have been identified, our staff members have stepped up, rolled up their sleeves and sought to find solutions. Not every tough decision that must be made is expected to be welcomed with open arms by all, but I’m thankful to have a team strongly committed to always working with the end goal of providing the best in educational opportunity, rigor and challenge for all students. I thank them as well as our community for your continued support, and I look forward to your higher level of engagement and partnership with us as we begin another year.
Daniel Snowberger is the superintendent of the Durango School District. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.