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EDITOR’S NOTE: There are several Internet sites that track students’ educational progress in Colorado. Schooldigger.com is just one of those. The figures in this story have been confirmed through local school officials, but the Herald Times will continue to check other sites as well.
MEEKER I According to Schooldigger.com, Meeker High School is ranked 84th out of 339 high schools in Colorado, making it the highest-ranking school in TCAP out of the Meeker Re-1 School District schools, and money might be the reason.
Between the three schools, Meeker High School spent a total of $8,372.79 per student in comparison to Barone Middle School with $4,912.49 and Meeker Elementary School, which spent an average of $3,562.99 in school year 2012-13.
These costs factor out school maintenance and administration, representing only the money spent to teach students.
“Meeker High School is a half million dollars over budget; Meeker Elementary comes in just under budget and Barone Middle School comes in right at budget,” Meeker High School Principal Dr. Kim Ibach said prior to this week’s news that the district is looking at a budget shortfall of more than $1 million.
How money may affect student performance may be best illustrated by 2013 TCAP scores in particular grades as ranked on Schooldigger.com.
For example, while MHS was in the upper quarter of all high schools in Colorado, Barone Middle School ranked No. 128 out of 418 middle and junior high school in the state, placing it in the upper third. However, Meeker Elementary School was ranked No. 415 out of 887 elementary schools in the state, spending less than half the budgeted amount per student compared to the high school.
The scores that decided the rankings are based on reading and math. The elementary scored an average of 71.7 percentile in math and 74 percentile in reading; Barone Middle School scored an average of 59.7 in math and 77.6 in reading; while the high school, though it is the highest ranked, scored a low of 39.6 in math but a high of 81.4 in reading.
Meeker High School is ahead of many of the surrounding schools, including Rifle High School, which ranked No. 226, Moffat County High School ranked No. 186, Hayden High School ranked No. 199 while Rangely Junior/Senior High School ranked No. 215.
Meeker School District is looking at a “projected” $1.1 million deficit, according to a Nov. 18 email to the teachers from district Superintendent Mark Meyer.
Education may face tough cuts, Dr. Ibach said. She compared the cost of those cuts to cutting back 14 teachers and one principal (which is close to the equivalent of the entire Meeker High School teaching staff.)
Although a decision has not yet been made regarding what specific cuts will need to be made within the district, there is concern among high school students that taxpayers might look at the amount the high school receives and call for most cuts to be made there.
“You are learning right brain, left brain activities, your hopes, desires and dreams are developing, and the average high school student needs more activities,” said MHS junior Paige Jones, an athlete and artist. “Extracurricular activities are important. Funding for FFA, FBLA, sports, agriculture, shop and other non-core activities actually helps us engage and explore.
“It is important for the high school to maintain funding or even increase funding to ensure we accelerate learning,” Jones said. “We’re getting ready to go out into the real world. We need to have the kinds of classes that help us choose what we’re going to be.”
“Well, look at the richer states,” Ibach said, trying to explain how money relates to education.
Wyoming spent a total of $19,238 per student in kindergarten through senior year in 2010, according to the Edgar E. Casey Foundation. Unlike Colorado, Wyoming has 72 high schools. The area school in the top quarter of Wyoming’s scores, Little Snake River High School in Baggs, which is rated 18th in that state, outscored Meeker High School with scores of 76.5 in math and 82.3 in reading.
On www.teacherportal.com/salary /Colorado-teacher-salary, it states that Colorado teachers earn a starting salary of $32,095 and on www.teacherportal.com/salary/Wyoming-teacher-salary, it is reported that Wyoming teachers earn a starting salary of $43,053.
“A lot of people believe that wealth positively influences student success,” Ibach said. “Case in point, Natrona County (Casper area)in Wyoming spends more than $10,000 per year per student, however their graduation rate remains in the low to mid 70s. However, Meeker High School for the past five years has graduated in excess of 90 percent.”
By Calvin Shepherd