This week the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) recognized 27 DPS schools with Performance Awards. The honors reflect the outstanding results achieved when our teachers and school leaders work together to help every student thrive.
Knapp Elementary earned the Governor’s Distinguished Improvement Award for its success demonstrating exceptional student growth. Knapp Principal Shane Knight attributes their success to “consistently strong instruction and refining what we do well.” This commitment to instructional excellence has helped Knapp accelerate growth for historically underserved student groups and serves as a positive example for our district.
Shane added: “We confer with kids every day on their reading and give them explicit feedback with discrete steps they can use to improve. We take that skill set, using coaching and problem-solving to help students improve their writing and math as well.” He credits leadership continuity and retention of staff as another key factor contributing to student learning.
Students use different words but also say their teachers make the difference. “Our teachers teach me what I need to know when I need to know it. The work is hard, but I can do it,” said one Knapp fifth-grader.
Empowering and affirming students is part of the design at Newlon Elementary, another school recognized by CDE. “We tell students that their culture, language and resilience are a strength. To succeed in adversity is an advantage, not a disadvantage,” said Principal Rob Beam.
I believe we need to focus our resources, energy and talent on leveling the playing field for our most vulnerable students. An essential step is to ensure all students -- particularly African-American and Latinx students -- have teachers and leaders who care about them and push them to succeed.
Both of these schools stand out among those honored because they each serve richly diverse student populations: more than half are English language learners; more than 90 percent are students of color; and more than 90 percent are eligible for free- and reduced-price lunch. In the DPS community, we must be relentless in our pursuit of excellence for all students. The teachers, specialized service providers, leaders, students and families of Knapp and Newlon are showing us that amazing things can happen when we challenge ourselves to do better, work harder and believe that together we can successfully unleash every child’s full potential.