Pilot boosts Advanced Placement scores

A program at three Colorado Springs-area high schools has boosted student participation on Advanced Placement exams and shows that students can rise to the challenge of rigorous academic programs, officials of the Colorado Legacy Foundation said Wednesday.

Colorado Legacy Foundation logoFoundation officials announced the numbers of students participating in AP the number of qualifying exam scores rose significantly at Widefield, Mesa Ridge and Fountain-Fort Carson high schools last school year because of a program that encourages more students to take AP classes, provides training for teachers and coaching for students, and pays part of exam costs. The effort is particularly focused on the kinds of students who might not otherwise take the classes.

Among others things, the program provides monetary incentives for students and teachers. Students receive $100 per qualifying score, and teachers received $100 for each qualifying score by their students.

“The results in one year speak for themselves,” said Helayne Jones, Legacy president. Students who take AP classes and exams “have crossed the hurdle of taking more rigorous curriculum,” she said, adding that the effort “creates a school culture where all students are encouraged to succeed.”

The program is coordinated in Colorado by the foundation and is an effort of the Initiative for Military Families; the three high schools have significant numbers of military dependents. The effort is part of the larger National Math and Science Initiative, which advocates for wider student participation in pre-AP and AP classes, especially in math and science.

The Legacy Foundation, using a $10.5 million federal grant from the math and science initiative (see story), is launching a similar program this school year at 10 other Colorado high schools. An additional 20 schools will join the program over the following two years.

Student participation increased dramatically at two of the schools, but the percentages of qualifying scores dropped. The foundation reported these results from the three high schools:

  • Widefield – 240 exams were taken and there were 111 qualifying scores, or 46 percent of tests taken. In 2011, there were 46 exams taken and 26 qualifying scores, or 56 percent.
  • Mesa Ridge – 224 exams taken, 66 qualifying scores, or 29 percent. In 2011, 40 tests were taken with 22 qualifying scores, or 55 percent.
  • Fountain-Fort Carson – 159 exams taken, 79 qualifying scores, or 49 percent. This year was the first that AP classes were available at the school.

Jones said participation in AP classes has been shown to improve a student’s chance of college success, regardless of test scores.

The state accountability system requires schools have one of four ratings and accompanying improvement plans, based on their students’ achievement. All three schools have “performance” plans, the highest rating in the state, albeit one shared by nearly 70 percent of schools. Widefield and Mesa Ridge are in the Widefield district; Fountain-Fort Carson is in the district of the same name.

The 10 high schools that will participate in a similar program this year are Abraham Lincoln in Denver, Northglenn, Aurora Central, Arvada, Centennial in Pueblo, Central in Grand Junction, Fruita Monument, Grand Junction, James Irwin Charter in Colorado Springs and Vista Ridge, also in Colorado Springs.

Each school, and the ones that join the program later, will receive funding with three years. The foundation hopes to raise money to continue the programs for an additional two years.

Jones said she hopes that every Colorado high school eventually will have a program that brings more students in AP classes but acknowledged that would require state support.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.