As the Stand for Children Colorado team prepares for some time off with family and friends, we wanted to take a moment and share with you some of our favorite news stories from the last year. Our communications team picked one story from each of the last 12 months that inspired us. These stories celebrate exciting achievements in Colorado schools, describe how educators are beating the odds and connecting with students, and elevate the voices of parents advocating for a great education for their kids. As we gear up for 2016, our team looks forward to standing with parents and teachers and advocating for policies that ensure all Colorado children receive an excellent education that prepares them for success after high school.
In January, it was announced that for the sixth year in a row, more students in Denver Public Schools are graduating on time and fewer students are dropping out. "Behind all of these numbers are inspiring stories of individual teens who have risen to the challenge to graduate high school ready for college and careers – sometimes overcoming major obstacles," Tom Boasberg, superintendent of DPS, said.
DPS celebrates continuing gains in graduation rate (9News)
In February, Denver Public Schools parent Arturo Garcia, described his experience visiting Washington, DC in support of the reauthorization of the nation’s education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, which recently was signed into law. Garcia says, “As an artist and a father of four, I can attest to the great benefit this law brings to my children and our family as a whole. To know that part of our tax money goes to an education system that monitors the achievement and the progress of our children through testing gives me as a parent the confidence to know that our public school teachers are performing their work well.”
One Parent’s Plea for Accountability (Education Post)
In March, we heard from at 25 year veteran math educator, Joanie Funderburk, who shared her experience developing Colorado’s new tests in mathematics. She says, “I learned that PARCC is built upon an evidence-based design: starting with the standards, identifying the specific skills and knowledge the standards require, then designing tests and items that align to those knowledge and skills.”
I’m a Colorado educator and I helped build the PARCC math exams (Chalkbeat)
In April, Denver teacher Kyle Schwartz sought to better understand her student’s lives by asking them a simple question: “what do you wish your teacher knew?” Schwartz shared the honest, and often sad, responses from her students under the #IWishMyTeacherKnew. An outpouring from other educators on Twitter caused the story to go viral and Schwartz appeared on Good Morning America and many other news outlets.
Students share what they wish their teacher knew (Huffington Post)
In May, the Denver Post did a 3-part, in-depth story about the implementation of new higher standards across Colorado schools. The series—Teaching to the Core -- takes a look at how the implementation of new standards and aligned tests is going from the perspectives of teachers, students and parents.
Ashley Elementary School in Denver reinvents itself in Common Core era (Denver Post)
In June we got a preview in to work Mesa County Valley School District 51 is taking on implementing performance based learning in 7 demonstration schools. “The demonstration schools will start with a few philosophical changes, develop a common vision and adopt some practices common in a performance-based system. That includes having students set learning goals, encouraging students to “take ownership” of their learning, and letting students know about a concept called growth mindset, which teaches that any student is capable of doing well in school,” according to the Grand Junction Sentinel.
After studying Lindsay, School District 51 starts its own system (Grand Junction Sentinel)
In July we learned about how the overwhelming majority of Arrupe Jesuit’s 370 students are Hispanic, and most enter the school several grade levels behind their peers. Despite tough odds, every one of Arrupe’s 2015 graduates was accepted to a college or university of his or her choice.
Denver’s Arrupe Jesuit defies the odds on educational excellence (Complete Colorado)
In August, we learned how the Colorado Education Initiative aims to increase the number of students, particularly low-income and underserved, who take Advanced Placement courses. Of the 34 high schools that participated in the initiative this year, 80 percent saw a surge in AP enrollment.
New push to increase enrollment in AP classes statewide in Colorado
According to a student, last year, students at George Washington High School bragged about two things: "the basketball team and the IB kids." This September article published by Colorado Public Radio emphasized that re-energizing teachers and parents has helped the school unify both academically and racially.
Denver High School, Plagued By Racial Divide, Tries to Reinvent Itself (CPR)
Tom Boasberg, Denver Public Schools’ Superintendent, shared in October about how equity is one of the district’s shared core values. Study after study has shown all kids benefit, in academics and as our future leaders, from diverse classrooms.
Boasberg: Integration still matters (Denver Post)
Chalkbeat’s November article highlighted the incredible leadership of Jenny Passchier, Colorado’s Principal of the Year. In an interview with Passchier, we learn about the evolving job description of a school principal, how she improved scores at Crawford Elementary, and the challenges of teaching refugee students — all while avoiding burnout.
In December, we loved reading about how Centennial Elementary in Colorado Springs has taken a comprehensive approach to improving student learning. They have narrowed their achievement gap to single digits in just 4 years. They lengthened the school day, are involving parents, dedicating two hours every morning to reading and writing, providing breakfast and lunch for all students, and setting aside special time for teacher development and planning.
Special School in a Tough Part of Town Demonstrates How to Get Job Done
(Rocky Mountain PBS)