‘Excellent’ adventure for Holmes, Howbert on 2006 state SARs
Bristol posts its best reading, math scores

       Three Westside schools made notable strides in the recently released Colorado School Accountability Reports (SARs).
       Based on Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) testing last spring, both Holmes Middle School and Howbert Elementary vaulted from their previous “high” Academic Performance rankings to “excellent,” with Holmes gaining the additional distinction of being named a John J. Irwin School of Excellence for scoring among the top 8 percent of middle schools in the state.
       Bristol Elementary rose from a “low” ranking in 2005 to “average” by posting its best-ever reading and math scores since the CSAPs began in 2001. And, because most of the schools' students scored better than they had in 2005, Bristol earned a “significant improvement” mark in the SARS calculations.
       (Other Westside schools had varying results. But local administrators caution against drawing too much of a conclusion from smaller schools' scores. If just one teacher with one class falls short in some way, it can have a profound effect on a small school's totals.)
       The SARs show two basic types of benchmarks in grades 3 to 10 for each public school in the state - Academic Performance rankings based on all its students who took the CSAPs, and Academic Growth based on comparing students' scores with the previous year. The more students who score proficient or advanced (meaning they have a good grasp of math, reading and writing for their grade level), the better a school does. Schools rank lower if they have more students who score partly proficient or unsatisfactory. A school's performance ranking possibilities are low, average, high and excellent. The growth possibilities are significant improvement, improvement, stable, decline and sigificant decline.
       At Holmes, the school increased its proficient/ advanced scores over 2005 from 81 to 85 percent reading, 72 to 79 percent in writing and 65 to 74 percent in math.
       Only two middle schools in the Pikes Peak region scored higher, and only 29 in Colorado. In other statewide statistics, Holmes ranked sixth for middle schools of less than 500 students, and first for those that have between 24 and 34 percent Title 1 (lower-income) students.
       Principal Brenda LeBrasse lauded her teachers for their overall effort, particularly with individual students. “It is about having a system in place and making it work with all the teachers working together to help kids succeed,” she said.
       Howbert has recorded a “high” ranking ever since the CSAPs began, but last year garnered a “significant improvement,” with scores of 80 proficient/advanced in reading, 68 in writing and 83 in math. Those scores jumped again this year to 88, 77 and 89, respectively. Surrounded by several Westside elementaries using “magnet” programs to attract students, Howbert is more of a traditional neighborhood school, chiefly serving the Pleasant Valley subdivision, with only about 10 percent permitting in this year, according to Principal David Morris.
       Morris is new at Howbert, but during his first semester he has come to appreciate his staff's efforts. “They have the ability to take individual students from where they are to where they want them to be,” he said. “I've seen that in every classroom.”
       He also has reason to look forward to the future. His third grade had the highest reading scores in the area, and he likes the way his kindergarteners are preparing.
       At Bristol, the improvement came in reading and math. Reading went up from 50 percent proficient/advanced in '05 to 66 percent in '06. Math rose from 39 to 66 percent. There was a drop-off in writing, from 39 to 32 percent.
       “We've got some really good teachers, and they work really, really hard,” Principal Steve Ferguson said. “They take work home on weekends, stay later in the day, and take extra training.”
       He echoed a theme that LeBrasse and Morris had separately stated - that sitting on their laurels is not an option. “The way I look at it, we're moving ahead, now let's keep this going,” Ferguson said.

Westside Pioneer article