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Briefs: Super of the year, civics lesson

Sandra Smyser, the head of the Eagle County School District, has been named Colorado’s 2013 Superintendent of the Year by the Colorado Association of School Executives.

Smyser has led the 6,300-student district, which includes affluent Vail, since 2008. But the district also includes lower-income areas that are home to those who work in the upscale resorts so its poverty rate is 42 percent, slightly higher than the state average.

Smyser is credited with addressing achievement gaps in her district, particularly that between native English speakers and English language learners. Thirty-seven percent of Eagle County students are learning English.

To learn more about Smyser, see this news release. Smyser now becomes eligible to be named National Superintendent of the Year, a title that will be announced at the American Association of School Administrators conference in February.

→ A group examining civics requirements across the nation says Colorado ranks among the weakest of all 50 states.

“Students in Colorado schools must take only half a year of social studies or civics classes, and no test or community service activity is needed to graduate from high school,” says the report from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement or CIRCLE.

The group, based at Tufts University in Massachusetts, bills itself as “the preeminent youth research organization.”

Only eight states provide standardized tests specifically in civics or American government: California, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia, according to the report. Of those eight, Ohio and Virginia are the only ones that require students to pass that test to graduate from high school, although Maryland and Florida have plans to add such requirements.

Colorado has added social studies exams, to be given once in elementary, middle and high school grades, when new state exams roll out as early as 2015.

The report laments a shift in schools away from social studies after the passage of the federal No Child Left Behind law, which mandates testing in reading and math. Read more about the report in this news release.

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