Ian Render, a Sheridan Middle School math teacher, shows parent Nora Munoz, right, how one of the school’s new math programs, ALEKS, tracks student proficiency. Munoz and her children Gabriel Ortiz and Johanna Ortiz, who attend schools in Sheridan, visited with Render during the middle school’s literacy night.

The aim of end-of-year open house was to illustrate to parents the importance of literacy in all subjects — including math — and allow students to show off some of their work, including short stories and blog posts.

Improving both math and reading skills have been important goals throughout the district, which is entering year four on the state’s accountability clock.

Students at the middle school now begin each class with either dedicated reading time or a literacy problem that asks students to think critically about math, civics, or science.

Students who attended the event said they’re now spending between two and three hours a day reading and writing. And all sixth graders are now required to take two 55-minute math classes.

Math teacher Jamie Donaldson, who has taught middle school math at Sheridan since 2002, said the shift to more complex word problems and having students explain their answers in writing provides students with more applied skills and demonstrates to teachers their true understanding.

The Sheridan district is celebrating an 18 point jump in third grade state test reading scores, according to preliminary results released by the Colorado Department of Education this week. Scores for other subjects and grades will be released August.

“Reading in every class is just the culture of the district now,” Donaldson said.