Pueblo’s Schools makes strong academic gains under GPS partnership

 Improvement at high school, elementary school in second year of turnaround effort – Middle school scores mixed; strong reading gains, math scores down

 Students at Pueblo’s Central High School made strong academic gains in the wake of a bold joint school turnaround effort by the Pueblo City School District and Global Partnership Schools, according to new test results released Wednesday by the state. Elementary school students under the GPS partnership also made strong gains.

The gains at both Central High and Spann Elementary beat the state average academic improvement in every subject area. The school district closed Spann at the end of the school year.

Results at the four middle schools in the turnaround partnership were mixed, with schools showing gains in reading but declines in math and writing. But two of the four GPS partner middle schools beat the overall state average for improvement, and five of the six GPS partner schools in Pueblo showed progress in at least one academic area, with the strongest gains noted in reading.

The scores are from the 2011-12 administration of the state test, known as the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program, or TCAP.

After two years of the turnaround partnership, district and GPS officials said Central High School is well on its way to becoming a strong high school. Central High, which had been troubled by academic problems for years before the Pueblo district launched its aggressive improvement effort with GPS, saw improvements in the percentage of students scored at proficient or advanced this past year in all four academic areas tested by the TCAP – reading, mathematics, writing and science. The Central High gains in reading, for example, were more than four times better than the state average gain.

Central High improvement beats Colorado average
Improvement in percent of students scoring proficient or advanced, from 2010-11 to 2011-12 school year

Colorado Central High
Reading Up 2 points Up 8.5 points
Math No gain Up 1.5 points
Writing Down .5 points Up 5 points
Science Up 2 points Up 4 points

The TCAP results showed 55 percent of Central High students scored proficient or advanced in reading, up from 46.5 percent the previous year. The Pueblo district average for high schools in reading was 61.5 percent, up from 55 percent in 2011-12, and the state average was 67.5 percent, up from 65.5 percent.

Two years ago, Central High trailed the district average in reading by 15.5 points, but now has cut that gap by more than half, down to 6.5 points. Writing scores at Central High zoomed up 5 points this year while the state average writing scores were declining.

“Our partnership with the great people at Central High and the Pueblo City Schools clearly is succeeding,” said Dr. Manny Rivera, chief executive officer of Global Partnership Schools, a nationally recognized firm that works with schools and policy makers to create learning communities to accelerate student progress, improve the instructional capacity of all educators, and create educational environments that prepare all students to succeed in the global economy and society. “We’ve worked with our partners at Pueblo City Schools to improve and align the curriculum, to train teachers to improve results in the classroom, and to improve the learning atmosphere at the schools. Together we are succeeding in making progress at Central High because all of us – the educators and students and their families – believe in the power and will of every student to learn. The teachers and staff and students at Central High deserve enormous credit for believing in themselves and working hard to shake off too many years of underperformance at the school and to start crafting a better future for kids. There is a lot of work left to do, especially in math performance, but everyone is committed to getting it done.”

The biggest job ahead in at Central High, as is the case at many Pueblo district schools, is in math achievement. Only 9 percent of Central High students met the standard in math, far too low, officials said. The state average achievement in math also is lower than in other subjects, with 35 percent of Colorado students scoring at proficient or advanced. The science scores are also still too low at Central, with 22 percent of students meeting the standard.

Just as it did with its one high school, the GPS partnership with Pueblo City Schools also produced strong gains at Spann Elementary. Spann students improved across the board, with an improvement in reading performance of nearly six times the Pueblo district average for elementary schools. Reading performance soared 11.6 percentage points at Spann, compared to a 2 point improvement across the rest of Pueblo City Schools and just a 1 point improvement statewide.

Of the four middle schools partnering with GPS, two – Risley and Pitts – beat the state average for total average improvement, and another middle school bested the state average improvement in two subjects. Three of the four middle schools saw academic gains in some areas. But GPS and district officials said they were not satisfied in math and writing performance, which dropped at the middle schools as it did statewide.

  • Freed Middle School students beat the state average improvement in reading and science. Freed reading scores were up 4.3 points, better than the 1 point gain statewide. In science, Freed scores were up 1 point while the state average held steady. Like schools statewide, writing and math scores declined at Freed. Freed students fell sixth-tenths of a point in writing, the same decline as the Colorado statewide average. Math scores fell sharply at Freed, down nine points.
  • Pitts Middle School students made more overall progress than the state average. Across all four subjects all totaled, the gain for Pitts students was 1.3 points, while there was no change in the performance of middle school students statewide on all test subjects combined. Pitts students beat the state averages by improving 6.3 points in reading, compared to the state average improvement of 1 point. As was the case statewide, Pitts students held steady in science. The school saw a slight decline in math, down seven-tenths of point, while the state average declined four-tenths of a point. Writing performance was down more sharply at Pitts, 4.3 points, while the state average fell six-tenths of a point.
  • Risley Middle School students beat the overall state improvement average. Risley reading performance improved by more than six times the state average, rising 6.6 points. Risley students held steady in science, just as the state average did. Math scores were down 3.3 points at Risley, and in writing Risley scores were down 2.7 points.
  • Roncalli Middle School was the only school in the GPS partnership that showed no improvement at all. Student performance on the TCAP declined in all four subject areas, including a big drop in math.