These five Colorado schools won the nation’s top education honor

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Kevin J. Beaty
chalkbeat

By Erica MeltzerChalkbeat 

Five Colorado schools, including Denver’s most requested elementary school, have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as National Blue Ribbon Schools.

Blue Ribbon schools must have test scores in the top 15 percent in their state with no significant gaps separating students from different demographics, or have shown “extraordinary progress” in closing those gaps. A total of 349 schools nationally won the prize this year.

All of the Colorado schools recognized fall into the first category. No Colorado schools were recognized for closing achievement gaps.

All of the Colorado winners this year are district-run public schools. Public and private schools are eligible for the award.

Those recognized with the honors announced Monday are:

  • Swigert International School in Denver
  • Kendrick Lakes Elementary in Lakewood, part of Jeffco Public Schools
  • Willow Creek Elementary School in Centennial, part of the Cherry Creek School District;
  • Tavelli Elementary School
  • And Zach Elementary School, both in Fort Collins and part of the Poudre School District

“I am extremely proud of the success of these schools and the hard work being done by their staff, students and families,” Colorado Education Commissioner Katy Anthes said in a press release. “This award recognizes their dedication, compassion, and commitment to making sure every child has an opportunity to succeed.”

Swigert, in northeast Denver, was the most requested school in the 2018 open enrollment period. It follows the same International Baccalaureate program as McAuliffe International School, Denver’s most sought after-middle school. Both schools are part of a newly formed Northeast Denver Innovation Zone. Innovation zones have independent boards and more autonomy than traditional district-run schools.

Swigert is 75 percent white and just 6 percent of its student receive free- or reduced-price lunch, a proxy for poverty. In contrast, 24 percent of Denver Public Schools students are white and two-thirds qualify for subsidized lunches.

The other recognized schools also serve predominantly white and middle-class students, though their demographics are more in line with that of their districts.

The award recognizes the work school leaders and teachers do to create “positive environments where students can master engaging and challenging content,” Poudre officials said in a press release.

Tavelli launched a mobile classroom this year to combat “summer slide,” the loss of knowledge that occurs when students are out of school. An air-conditioned blue school bus took teachers, laptops, whiteboards, books, chairs, and markers to the neighborhoods the school serves.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.