Barone students look forward to testing

MEEKER I When standardized testing comes to Barone Middle School, students look forward to learning active and hands-on skills like archery, knitting or building model rockets.
This week, Barone Middle School students will take the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program (TCAP) standardized test in the morning and then go to TCAP Academies in that afternoon to learn active and hands-on skills.
TCAP is a state-mandated test for basic skills in reading, writing and math. The TCAP will be replaced next year by the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS), which is based on common core standards.
“It is a great opportunity for students to get experience and learn some new things,” said Jim Hanks, the principal of Barone Middle School. The TCAP Academies have been offered for at least the last six years, he said.
The TCAP Academies are organized and taught by teachers and community members. There are nine TCAP testing sessions in the mornings, with two 1-hour and 40-minute sessions each day except Friday. The afternoon academies offer two sessions, each an hour long, that allow students to pick from school-based activities such as marching band, reading and yearbook in addition to activities like knitting, archery, model rockets, braiding crafts, roping, cribbage, geocaching and sports skills.
“It is a good opportunity to learn something different from teachers and community members,” eighth-grade teacher Kris Casey said.
District Accountability Committee (DAC) President Georgann Amack teaches braiding crafts at the TCAP Academy. In addition to braiding crafts, she has recently learned to knit thanks to her daughter, who had learned during a previous academy. Amack said her daughter always looks forward to TCAP week.
“People should know the positive things that happen every day in our schools,” Amack said.
This has been a big year for the DAC. In February, a fiscal advisory team was formed with 21 community members responding to a web survey implemented after Meeker School District (MSD) Superintendent Mark Meyer declared a fiscal emergency in January.
The DAC and fiscal advisory team have met several times to discuss budget concerns. Typically, it meets twice per semester.
In a report presented by Amack at the March 4 meeting of the Meeker Education Board, the DAC identified the following priorities: 1) pass a new mill levy override, 2) develop great teachers and staff, 3) look into adjusting transportation, 4) continue to offer electives and 5) develop other revenue streams.
The DAC studied specific cuts to be recommended to the board but kept running into negative impacts on individual kids. At the end of the day DAC wanted what was best for all students.
School and district-level advisory committees are required under MSD policies and federal and state law. The DAC and accountability committees for the elementary, middle and high schools meet to review curriculum, review budgets and recommend improvements. The principal at each school is part of the committee.
School-level committees should have seven members. including the principal, one teacher elected by other teachers, three parents elected by a vote of parents, one member designated by an organization recognized by the school and one business person appointed by the principal.
No more than three members of the committee should be school district employees or their families, and members can serve from two to four years. There are some variations in practice, such as the high school committee having students, and, typically, board members are not elected.
Interest and effectiveness of the accountability committees “has its ups and downs, but they do a lot for our kids,” said Principal Hanks. Hanks has organized the Barone Middle School accountability committee and the DAC for the last six years.