Today’s rare and special eclipse inspired school children across the country to learn more about our sun, astronomy and science. It was a great way to start the school year, and a reminder that strong schools need only tap into the inherent curiosity of children to help them embrace learning. In the past several days, the assessment data that has come out from one such strong school, University Prep Steele St, has demonstrated just how rapidly children can learn in the right conditions. And it is awesome to behold.
University Prep is a public charter school in Denver and in August of 2016 they opened their doors as the restart provider to a community of elementary students in northeast Denver. These students got a whole new program, with new teachers and staff, without having to leave the building that had served as their school in the year prior. We changed the adults, but the kids stayed the same. And in just one year, the school’s overall performance has gone from the bottom to the top, quite literally.
On the state’s standardized assessment (PARCC), students showed the highest growth in the entire state of Colorado for math, and the highest growth among Denver elementary schools in English language arts. Student proficiency rates in math rose from 5% to 42% while rates in English language arts rose from 6% to 37%. All this with a group of students that predominantly live in poverty (90% qualify for free or reduced lunch) and many of whom are non native English speakers (70% and English language learners). For me, these results even eclipsed the eclipse!
On a personal level, I feel proud because this particular school restart is one that I helped put in place before I left Denver Public Schools in 2015 and today I have the good fortune to serve on the Board of Trustees at this outstanding public charter school. Kudos to the students at University Prep Steele St and many thanks to the hard-working staff who committed countless hours to building a world of opportunity for these children.