Teton School District 401 serves nearly 1,800 students in the Teton Valley area, including students from Alta Wyoming and Swan Valley. With 225 staff of which 114 are certified teachers, counselors, and administrators, we work to provide a safe and exceptional learning environment where career and college readiness are the academic cornerstones of a relevant and progressive education. Here are a few highlights of your public schools:
First, full-day kindergarten was instituted in 2011, when the 4th and 5th-grade Rendezvous Upper Elementary School was created.
This was in response to increasing student enrollment and to best use our facilities, while adopting high academic standards (Idaho Core Standards), and preparing students to be successful in first grade. Parents always have the choice of a 1⁄2 day option for their child, but at that time, 85% of parents chose a full-day program. The following year that increased to 90%, and by year three, all kindergarten classes were full-day, (with some parents still choosing the 1⁄2 day program). Kindergarten and first-grade teachers will tell you the students are better prepared, in areas of academic standards that are higher now than in previous years, and social and behavior skills have also improved in those students. Full day kindergarten reflects the needs of our community and the value we place on a quality education.
Second, through the generous support of the community in the form of the plant facility levy ($400,000/year), and the supplemental levy ($3.1 million/year), our students benefit from smaller classes due to hiring more teachers and staff than the state funds.
As we strive to keep and retain excellent teachers and staff, we pay higher salaries than the state of Idaho provides. Students benefit from unique programs like Winter Sports (skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice-skating, Nordic skiing, etc.), the 5th-grade Expedition: Yellowstone! week long field trip, field trips to local areas of interest (Quake Lake, Mesa Falls, Craters of the Moon, Museum of Idaho, geology and snow-study analysis at Grand Targhee, etc.). Relationships with local nonprofits including Teton Science Schools, Friends of the Teton River, and the Teton Raptor Center also help us provide rich, educational experiences that are hands-on and teach students about where we live. These experiences help students connect their classroom learning to place-based education, projects and work that shows how they can apply their knowledge to the world around them.
Third, we strive to utilize updated and efficient technology in all our schools. Full Wi-Fi access for students and staff allows for a ‘Bring Your Own Device’ learning environment, with further upgrades planned at the elementary schools.
Online programming like Infinite Campus for students, teachers, and parents allows 24/7 access to grades, attendance, and communication with teachers. Updated phone and email systems are used through our high-speed network, reducing costs and improving efficient communication. Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education are becoming a regular part of students’ learning experiences. With the use of Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education, we are ensuring that all students are equipped with 21st-century skills as well as the knowledge of how to safely use technology.
Fourth, as we look at the disparity of student achievement based on either poverty, socio-economic status or ethnicity, the school district is implementing a Spanish Dual Language program in Kindergarten and 1st grade at Driggs Elementary for the 2017-2018 school year.
The benefits of this program are threefold: A) learning a second language (Spanish), B) improving students’ academic achievement, and C) fostering cultural appreciation and skill sets to better prepare students for their future in an ever growing dual-immersion society in our county. Parents have signed up their children, the staff is being hired, training is scheduled and the program is moving forward.
Fifth, recognizing the need for more support in student achievement, the district has restored the position of a district curriculum/instruction/assessment coordinator.
This position is to provide professional guidance, expertise, and support for teachers, principals, and staff, to continue our work of implementing higher academic standards, differentiating instruction utilizing high-quality assessments, using best practices with technology, and working to improve student achievement in a manner that will create sustainable changes in instructional practice.
Finally, our goal is not simply getting students to graduate, but to prepare them for careers and college.
Many students from Teton enroll in various programs after high school: vocational-technical trade schools, community college, public and private colleges and universities, military service or volunteering for a nonprofit or church. In order to have numerous choices when leaving high school, we strive to develop the skills in students to be creative, to communicate, to collaborate and to be critical thinkers. The world is no longer a place of memorizing facts, but one of analyzing information that is accessible so easily, and applying the knowledge and skills to create understanding, in a thoughtful and meaningful way.
Students in Teton School District 401 work hard every day. Their teachers guide them in that process. One can see elementary students creating presentations on wildlife in Yellowstone that they present in front of their class. Upper elementary students create science projects that are displayed for peers and shared through group presentations. Middle school students excel in coursework, music and service opportunities to their school and community. 50% of high school students participate in extracurricular programs. The THS class of 2016 had a graduation rate of 96.7%, the highest in the state of schools our size or larger! That class also earned 1,083 college credits in 4 years and were awarded scholarships of $1,747,475 for 95 seniors last year. The senior class of 2017 has been part of six 3A Academic Championship teams, in volleyball, soccer, basketball and softball.
We are proud of our students, teachers, and staff. Yes, we need to improve, and that effort is only realized with a supportive community that expects more from our schools and supports that important work by being involved.