Reaches “accredited” performance rating, received John Irwin Award, high graduation rate
By Cayla Vidmar
There’s a lot for new Gunnison Watershed School District superintendent Leslie Nichols to celebrate in terms of academic performance for the district. In a recent announcement, the district highlighted receiving a Colorado State Board of Education performance rating of “accredited” and a significantly above-average graduation rate, and the Crested Butte secondary school being awarded the John Irwin Award.
“The district’s increased performance can be attributed to curricula that are better aligned with state standards, and the expansion of services through our Pathways Program,” says Nichols. The school district has ranked 38th out of 178 districts in the state, with a score of 69.6 percent, which is up from 64.6 percent in 2016.
Another highlight of the school district is the 97.1 percent six-year high school graduation rate that “far exceeds the state’s average of 84.8 percent,” says Nichols, who attributes this to the personalized attention students receive from kindergarten through graduation, which she says, “makes a big difference.”
Nichols also says the Pathways Program is another reason the graduation rate from both the Crested Butte and Gunnison high schools is so high. “That has been an incredible program in capturing students and providing some alternative paths to reach graduation through online course work or through career or technical curriculum, [and] has a positive impact on kids getting all the way to the finish line,” she says.
The Crested Butte Secondary School was recognized for exceptional academic achievement over time with the John Irwin Award; it also won the award in 2011 and 2016. The entire Crested Butte Community School received the award in 2012, 2010, 2008, 2007, 2005, 2003 and 2002.
Nichols recognizes that testing and academic performance achievements are just one piece of the puzzle on a successful school district, “but an important one. When it comes down to the question, ‘Are we doing a good job?’ I do believe standardized tests help us reflect on that question because they are standardized and they’re a measure for us.”
Education is of course complex, Nichols says, but it “works best when we have positive relationships with others,” and these metrics show just how positive the relationships are that students have with educators and faculty.