The Ignacio School District improved its rating from the Colorado Department of Education for 2018, one of six low-performing districts in the state to earn an upgrade.
The ratings come in part based on students' performance on the Colorado Measures for Academic Success tests.
The Bayfield School District remains a performance district, the state standard for acceptable performance. All schools in the district earned the performance designation, but new Bayfield Superintendent Kevin Aten said Bayfield schools "can't rest."
"We are at performance, but we can do more," he said.
Colorado's school accountability system rates districts based on achievement on state literacy, math and science tests; on annual academic growth; and on postsecondary readiness as measured by graduation rates, dropout rates, scores on college entrance exams and enrollment in college.
In Ignacio, the district received an Improvement Plan rating for 2018, one step up from being listed as a Priority Improvement rating by CDE in 2017. The highest rating is Accredited with Distinction and the lowest rating is Turnaround. An Improvement Plan rating is the third of five tiers of accreditation ratings.
"We're moving in the right direction," said Ignacio Superintendent Rocco Fuschetto. "It's a big improvement from being a Turnaround district seven years ago."
The Turnaround rating is CDE's category for the state's most underperforming districts and schools.
In addition, Ignacio's elementary and middle schools improved their school ratings by one step, and Ignacio High School missed moving up one rating level by only three-tenths of a point.
"We're most proud of our growth. Not only our schools but our IEP (individual education plan) students, our minority students, our Native American students," Fuschetto said.
Ignacio students' Colorado Measures of Academic Scores results remain below state levels, but they show steady improvement.
Kathy Pokorney, curriculum and assessment director for Ignacio School District, said the district has been working with Generation Schools Network, a nonprofit group focused on transforming schools by offering learning opportunities, coaching and technical assistance to district teachers, principals and administrators about best practices.
The partnership allows everyone in the district to continually work to hone their skills to reinforce best practices, Pokorney said.
Teachers at each grade level are meeting once a week across subject areas to assess how each student is performing.
"We're improving our instructional strategies with the aid of data," Pokorney said.
At the high school, teachers work in groups to improve lesson plans and improve the vocational program, Fuschetto said.
"We try to meet the kids' needs wherever they are, and hopefully, they will grow from there," he said.
Aten said Bayfield students are "at a good place to start," close to state averages or at them for most performance indicators.
The district struggles with math, and efforts are being made to improve the curriculum, Aten said.
"The results (for CMAS scores) weren't a surprise to us. We're OK on literacy. We knew our struggles in math would continue," he said.
Bayfield elementary and middle schools are using a new curriculum in literacy and numeracy.
The elementary school is implementing curriculum with the assistance of Bridges in Mathematics, and the middle school is being aided by Discover Education.
Math questions in tests, Aten said, often are not based on discrete problems but are drawn from a student's ability to sense patterns and to find important math principles from a written text.
"You've got to pick the math out, and the only way to deal with that is to get kids talking about math at a very young age," Aten said.
In English, Bayfield is being aided by the American Reading Co. The district is spending $400,000 to provide tools offered by groups such as Bridges, Discover and American Reading to help teachers in the classroom, Aten said.
"We're finally getting the right tools in the hands of teachers," he said. "The one-and-done training doesn't work. We're willing to make investments that will help us improve throughout the year."