D60 Determined To Improve Academic Achievement

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Pueblo City Schools is focusing on academic improvement. This, after being ranked as one of the lowest achievement districts in the state. The superintendent says it's a major wake up call.

The district is now officially on "turnaround status", a designation by the Colorado Department of Education.

The measuring system not only rates schools by their academic scores but weighs heavily on how much students grow each year, among other factors.

District officials say they now have a call to action. They already have improvement plans in place for each school and for the district as a whole.

Superintendent Maggie Lopez says this is a great challenge for the district, but also a time of great opportunity.

"We have had issues with low achievement for several years now, it's not new information. But we are a point now where it's a fork in the road. It's a great opportunity for us to look at ourselves, for us to say there are no excuses for low achievement," said Lopez.

Last year the district was close to hitting "turnaround status" so they have already been putting measures in place to correct it. Lopez says they are taking an in-depth look at what's happening in the classroom with instruction and how they can better help students learn.

"If a student scores at this level, what does that mean in terms of what needs to change in the classroom, in order for achievement growth to occur," said Lopez.

The goal of the district is to target the root causes of low achievement and then find the best way to turn that problem into a solution.

The district has professional learning committees where staff meets regularly to look at the data and look at instruction in the classroom and how it's impacting students.

Lopez says with the improvement plans they will be asking the questions, "How are kids doing? What evidence do we have that growth is occurring? What needs to happen differently in the classroom?"

Lopez believes it's a task that will require great commitment, sacrifice and dedication. Something she says the district is ready for, and hopes the community will hop on board.

"Really come together as a community, as a team of community, staff, parents, children and look at how we make our schools a place of excellence for teaching and learning and that's how we will be able to turn that achievement around," said Lopez.

Lopez encourages the community to get involved and volunteer their time to read to a student or help them with math.

She says the proposed realignment plans that have drawn so much attention goes hand in hand with working towards improving academic achievement.

Lopez says the plans not only look towards academic improvement but help with recurring budget problems.

"We are a district that is not resource rich. Even something as simple as books we have a challenge purchasing. We have not had a regular textbook adoption program in many years," said Lopez.

She says the district is looking at all the resources they do have and want to find the best way to use them in order to serve the students and improve achievement.

"What we know is we have to do business differently. What we know is we have to find that level of high achievement and high performance for our kids that is going to require change." She adds, "We know change is hard but we also know for our district and for our children, change is necessary."

If the district doesn't improve academic achievement in five years the state could restructure it or even close it down.

Seven schools in the district were placed on "turnaround status" including four middle schools, two elementary schools, and one K-8th school.

Because of this the entire district was place on that low status. But that doesn't' mean every school in the district performed at a low level. 10 were at the highest level or under "performance plan", 8 ranked under what's called "improvement plan", and 10 under "priority improvement".

This is a new ranking system by the Colorado Department of Education; only three years old. They consider a number of different factors. Not only do they calculate CSAP scores from year to year, but 50% of students must show growth.

The report shows a snapshot of the school's level of attainment on academic achievement, growth, growth gaps, and postsecondary readiness.

For more information about the ratings visit www.schoolview.org.

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