Category Archives: “A” School Profiles

A-School Profile: Hulstrom Options K-8

In this Q & A, Principal Steve Isenhour of Hulstrom Options K-8 writes about his A-school in Northglenn, Colorado.

Describe your school’s mission and illustrate it with an example from the classroom.

Our mission at Hulstrom K-8 is to provide our students with the foundation of excellent instruction, rigorous academics, and accelerated learning, with a focus on 21st Century skills, higher level thinking, and project based learning. We serve and meet the needs of advanced students, including those identified as gifted and talented, while supporting their unique social and emotional needs in a caring and nurturing environment.

Hulstrom students on the floor of the Colorado House of Representatives with Rep. Kevin Priola

Hulstrom students on the floor of the Colorado House of Representatives with Rep. Kevin Priola

We make learning an exciting, life-long, hands-on endeavor at all levels of instruction. Learners excel when they are rigorously challenged. We do this while developing critical thinking and problem solving skills, which are essential for future success. Our focus of 21st Century learning combined with our Bring Your Own Device policy has especially engaged students in new and relevant learning opportunities.  One of the strongest examples of this is the involvement and partnership our students have with the Colorado Youth Summit. The program allows our students to get out of the classroom and into the field to learn about history, archaeology, heritage tourism and preservation. They’re able to participate in experiential, applicable, and real life learning about history, documentation, presentation, etc.; all involving true historical sites in and outside of Colorado.

What are one or two ways that the team at your school meets students’ academic needs?

We do what is best for kids by individualizing and focusing on the specific strengths and needs of students. This way our students may accelerate when ready to move forward, or stay where they are until mastery has occurred. We also focus on the affective needs of the student. By doing this we proactively assist students with emotional struggles, but also empower students to understand their own emotional strengths and areas of need.

Name one or two characteristics, programs, or other detail about your school that makes it a special place.

Hulstrom students on a trip to Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site.

Hulstrom students on a trip to Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site.

Our students and parents constantly say, “Hulstrom is a family.” The size of our school and the ability for students to attend for nine years instills the feeling of family. Our students enjoy the challenging academics provided from a caring and tightly-knit family of teachers and staff. Having our Advanced Academic Program and our Gifted & Talented program provides options for students needing more than a traditional school can provide.

What’s the most frequently asked question from parents visiting the school – and how do you respond to it?

We are often asked how well we meet the affective needs of the students. Our staff is trained to meet the unique social and emotional needs of students, as well as any academic challenges students may need for success. Our staff is exceptional at understanding the relationship building and safety net the students require for ultimate success.

Where can parents go to learn more?

 

A-School Profile: Cotton Creek Elementary

In this Q & A, Principal William Kempsell of Cotton Creek Elementary shares some details about his A-school in Westminster, Colorado.

Describe your school’s mission and illustrate it with an example from the classroom.

Cotton Creek Elementary

Cotton Creek Elementary is dedicated to the educational success of each individual through a partnership among students, staff, and the community. We live this mission on a daily basis through the unique relationships fostered within our school. Our highly successful Special Education programs provide support for students in a manner that promotes least restrictive environment. We are also fortunate to have an extremely supportive Parent Teacher Association. Thanks to their fundraising efforts and collaboration with our school community, we have greatly increased the technology at Cotton Creek. Students now have new and innovative ways to access the curriculum throughout their day.

Each year, the school community develops a school-wide theme to promote a singular focus for the year and build community. Our theme for the 2014-15 school year is “Building Minds, Building Futures,” a message that students and staff chant and celebrate at the start of every morning.

KinderTechnology CCEWhat are one or two ways that the team at your school meets students’ academic needs?

At Cotton Creek, we offer ongoing, collaborative planning for teachers, closely looking at student data to monitor their progress. During weekly professional development trainings, teachers continue to learn and grow in their instructional practice. We carefully examine the Colorado Academic Standards to ensure that our units of study are closely aligned and meeting the needs of students in Kindergarten through Fifth grade.

Pumpkin Run CCEName one or two characteristics, programs, or other detail about your school that makes it a special place.

Cotton Creek is a neighborhood school that proudly serves students with a wide range of needs and abilities. We support students with significant needs through our structured learning programs. Students in these programs receive specialized instruction to increase their communication and social skills and their ability to access relevant standards based instruction.

We also have exceptional Music, Physical Education, Art, and Computer classes for all students. The specials team collaborates with classroom teachers on a regular basis to provide unique opportunities for students.

Cotton Creek offers two options for kindergarten to ensure students are learning foundational skills to prepare them for first grade. We have half day programs, as well as tuition-based, full day kindergarten.

What’s the most frequently asked question from parents visiting the school – and how do you respond to it?

We tend to get a lot of questions about the kinds of opportunities and learning experiences that we offer to meet the needs of students with a wide range of ability levels. In addition to the differentiated instruction occurring in the classroom, we have a variety of intramural clubs for students. From choir and art club to Lego Robotics and a variety of sports clubs, students are learning, socializing, and developing important skills both in and beyond the general classroom.

Where can parents go to learn more?

 

A-School Profile: DSST Public Schools

In this Q & A, Andy Mendrop of DSST Public Schools describes the charter management network, which runs many of the state’s top middle and high schools.

Describe your school’s mission and illustrate it with an example from the classroom.

DSST GraduatesDSST’s mission is to transform urban public education by eliminating educational inequity and preparing all students for success in college and the 21st century. We have a focus on being ready for college throughout our curriculum from 6th through 12th grade. Our students are required to pass rigorous courses, like pre-calculus, before graduating from DSST. They also participate in both an internship, which gives them an eye into the working world, and a senior project which asks them to research and write an extended paper on a topic before presenting it to a panel of adult DSST community members.

What are one or two ways that the team at your school meets students’ academic needs?

Our team uses ed. tech tools to assess and determine how each of our students are doing on specific skills. This helps our entire staff to determine what type of help each of our students need. Teachers work with specific students both during and outside of class to help them understand any skills they may have missed to help ensure that they continue to be successful and on track in their class.

Name one or two characteristics, programs, or other detail about your school that makes it a special place.

DSSTAll DSST schools focus on creating a culture of support for students to help them be successful at school. Every morning our students meet in a small group of roughly 15 students that meet with a teacher. This gives our students and parents a solid connection to our schools.

After our students meet their advisories they go to Morning Meeting. Morning Meeting is a time when our entire student body and all of our staff meet in one room as a community. The content of the meetings focus on our six core values, colleges and creating a strong community so that everyone can achieve their goals.

Our schools also focus on helping students to realize their academic potential through our one-to-one laptop ratio and educational technology.

What’s the most frequently asked question from parents visiting the school – and how do you respond to it?

DSSTWe are often asked “with your focus on Science and Technology do you also offer art classes, sports and extra-curricular classes?” Our response is simple: yes! We believe that a well-rounded education is important in order to have a successful academic career and a fulfilling life. Our schools offer sports, art classes and a host of after school clubs.

Where can parents go to learn more?

A-School Profile: University Park Elementary School

by Alisha Janes

Alisha JanesLisa Lynch’s first-grade classroom in University Park Elementary is timeless in the sense that many Americans would recognize it as similar to their own first grade classroom. The walls are covered in student projects, photos, and educational posters and the shelves are full of familiar books and activities. The desks each have tidy name tags carefully taped down across the top.

The lesson I observed in Lynch’s first grade classroom was a perfect example of a fairly traditional classroom lesson. She read a book aloud while the students sat near her feet on a carpet in the front of the classroom. As she read, the students helped by reading along with the predictable pattern of the story. The first graders also answered questions that related how reading this book could help them with a forthcoming writing assignment. After about 20 minutes, the students returned to their desks and completed a follow-up activity on their own. On paper, this lesson may seem commonplace, but in person, Lynch’s clearly has extraordinary teaching talent.

Prior to the start of the lesson, Lynch took a few moments to let students tell her about their weekends. She asked pointed questions that illustrated just how well she knew each student personally, checking in on a sick grandparent, and following up with students who had attended a play over the weekend. The students in the room were actively engaged in the lesson, but like typical first graders, needed to be reminded of the rules occasionally. Lynch’s way of dealing with this was so effective that you might not have noticed her corrections at all.

She also made noticeable efforts to continue to expand the students’ independence, telling one student, “You are responsible; you can do it.” The students were all actively engaged in the lesson and the objective of the lesson and how it related to skills the students were developing over time was obvious. These small yet important touches are likely what caused Lynch to be nominated and recognized as a distinguished teacher in 2013 by Denver Teachers’ Awards.

The timeless feel of Lynch’s classroom parallels the school’s teaching style; University Park Elementary’s instructional model can be summarized as well-executed traditional education. While the school has embraced new technologies and opportunities, the basic tenets of education at University Park remain relatively unchanged.

Though routines around the school may seem relatively straight forward, the academic results they achieve are not. University Park was ranked 116th out of 1009 elementary schools in 2013 by Colorado School Grades.

The school’s unique qualities include:

  • An incredibly diverse student population,
  • A partnership with the University of Denver, and
  • A wellness program that earned the school recognition as the healthiest school in Denver.

30-35% of the students at University Park have open-enrolled into the school, making University Park an available option to parents who are looking for an elementary school.

All in all, University Park Elementary and teacher Lisa Lynch are proving that more-traditional styles of education can be not only dynamic and innovative but also highly effective.

Alisha Janes is a fellow at Colorado Succeeds and is currently pursuing a Masters of Public Administration at the University of Colorado at Denver. Alisha’s previous experience include: coaching new teachers, teaching intervention lessons, and three years of teaching a Bilingual 5th grade class in Houston, TX.

A-School Profile: Altona Middle School

by Alisha Janes

Alisha JanesThe task of running a successful school, especially a successful middle school, is daunting. However, Joseph Mehsling, the principal of Altona Middle School, makes it sound easy. His leadership of Altona Middle School clearly prioritizes student achievement and rigorous instruction. The results are telling. Altona has earned an A+ for four consecutive years on Colorado School Grades.

Altona Middle School is located in Longmont and is a neighborhood school within the St. Vrain Valley School District. The school’s main focus is to ensure that students are prepared for high school, which it does by prioritizing literacy and numeracy. Mr. Mehsling notes that these priorities translate directly to the students’ schedules; students spend more than half of the school day in reading, writing, or math.

One thing that stands out about Mr. Mehsling’s leadership is that he has “high expectations in everything.” This motto is especially fitting when applied to the school’s pursuit of academic achievement. The front page of the school’s website iterates their commitment to standards-based education, noting that “Standards-based education is not a new fad, nor is it a reconstruction of past attempts at educational reform. Standards-based education is a system for teaching and learning that focuses on students becoming proficient in clear, measurable standards. For students and teachers in the day to day teaching-learning process, standards-based education means teaching and learning with the ‘end in mind’.” The parent/student handbook explains that even classroom tests are based on standards, ensuring that parents and students know exactly what skills a student has yet to master. The standards at Altona clearly reflect high expectations for what students will learn, as many 8th graders at Altona have already mastered Algebra I and are taking high-school level geometry.

Of course, the school’s success is not due to high standards alone. Mr. Mehsling accredits a great portion of the school’s success to the hard work of the school’s students and teachers. When asked his secret to finding and keeping great teachers, Mr. Mehsling says he simply looks for teachers who can do the job, will love doing the job, and fit within the schools culture of high expectations.

Besides its high level of academic performance, many parents and students are drawn to Altona’s musical offerings. More than 80% of the students at Altona participate in full-year band, orchestra, or choir. The school also offers a jazz band, pops orchestra, and show choir.

Altona Middle School was ranked 5th out of 503 middle schools in 2013 on Colorado School Grades, but you can bet Mr. Mehsling’s leadership and dedication has him gunning for a first place finish in 2014.

Alisha Janes is a fellow at Colorado Succeeds and is currently pursuing a Masters of Public Administration at the University of Colorado at Denver. Alisha’s previous experience include: coaching new teachers, teaching intervention lessons, and three years of teaching a Bilingual 5th grade class in Houston, TX.

A-School Profile: Bradley International School

by Alisha Janes

Alisha JanesDenver’s Bradley International School is a neighborhood elementary school that ranked 86 out of 1009 elementary schools on Colorado School Grades this year. I had the opportunity to join a tour for prospective parents at Bradley International School on December 19th. The tour was guided by Melissa Capozza, the school’s International Baccalaureate Coordinator, with Eric Demaria, a parent of two students at the school.

Bradley participates in the Primary Years Programme of the International Baccalaureate program (IB). It frames all the learning activities of the school community, encouraging international-mindedness and real-life learning with in-depth inquiries that go beyond traditional subject areas. Whereas the high school level of the International Baccalaureate Organization, the Diploma Program, provides a challenging curriculum and qualification that is recognized by leading universities around the world, Bradley incorporates the IB framework throughout its curriculum and school activities and frequently references the IB learner profile and mission statement.

The students’ memorable projects and their inquiry-based learning are striking parts of the IB program. For example, the third grade classes made green-screen videos with skylines from world cities, and a fourth grade class was putting a character from a book they had recently finished on trial, complete with a judge and a jury. Demaria, the parent assisting with the tour, mentioned that his two kids had been doing similarly creative research projects since kindergarten.

Another stand out characteristic of Bradley is a high level of parent involvement. Demaria described many ways that Bradley parents support the community including assisting the school with playground monitoring, helping out in the community garden, running after-school programs, and volunteering in classrooms.

From Young Authors to Garden Club and parent-led programs like Girls On the Run, it is clear that students at Bradley also keep busy with enrichment activities. There are few offerings that you will find at other area elementary schools that Bradley is lacking.

After visiting Bradley, it is easy to see how the school achieves such high student outcomes. The International Baccalaureate programs helps Bradley students push the limits of student achievement. This high standard along with the support of the Bradley community helps make Bradley International School another one of the great schools you can find on Colorado School Grades.

Alisha Janes is a fellow at Colorado Succeeds and is currently pursuing a Masters of Public Administration at the University of Colorado at Denver. Alisha’s previous experience include: coaching new teachers, teaching intervention lessons, and three years of teaching a Bilingual 5th grade class in Houston, TX.