School improvement plans get D11 board nod

Mitchell, Swigert to get academic overhauls

With the accountability clock ticking, three Colorado Springs School District 11 institutions will get academic overhauls under plans approved in January. The district board gave the go-ahead to improvement plans for the Galileo School of Math and Science, Jack Swigert Aerospace Academy and Mitchell High School.

But it did so only after delivering a stern message to the schools’ principals.

“Our students deserve the very best that we can bring to the table, nothing less,” board President Jim Mason told the administrators. “Our students are the only reason we are here.

“These plans will be executed to standard. We are going to improve student achievement at these schools, and we are going to do to it together.”

The Colorado Department of Education ranks schools’ performance on four levels: performance, improvement, priority improvement and turnaround.

Schools that receive a priority improvement or turnaround rating are put on so-called “performance watch.” If a school has failed to make the improvement or performance grade for five consecutive years, the state may step in to reorganize, convert it to a charter or even close the institution.

Galileo and Swigert, both middle schools, have both been on priority improvement status for two years, while Mitchell High School has been on priority improvement for three.

Mitchell High draws students from Southeast, and its plan is to take a multi-disciplinary approach to both improving academic performance and reducing absenteeism and dropout rates.

On the academic side, Mitchell is committed to improving grade-level proficiency in reading and math through after-school tutoring sessions, Saturday school and the use of the Learning Center, among other efforts. This also aims to reduce the number of Ds and Fs scored, while simultaneously increasing SAT/PSAT scores.

Mitchell currently has a 72 percent four-year graduation rate, with 4.2 percent of students dropping out of school entirely. Its goal is to increase the four-year graduation rate to 90 percent and slice the drop-out rate by at least half. The school works with a life coach who is tasked with stabilizing families in crisis, and the improvement plan calls for increasing home visits and family engagement for at-risk students.

At Southeast-area Swigert, 84 percent of students receive free or reduced-cost lunch this year, according to the improvement plan. The minority-majority school has a highly mobile population and about one-third of students speak a language other than English at home.

Like Mitchell, Swigert’s improvement plan addresses both academic performance and institutional culture.

Its scholastic plan is pinned on teachers reworking their lesson plans so they align with assessment standards. The vision includes regular assessments and weekly classroom visits from school administration. The principal will also conduct a weekly meeting with staff.

On the culture side, the school is committing to monitoring how students feel at and about the school, reducing chronic absenteeism and evaluating school discipline, among other factors.

The Galileo School of Math and Science, which is located on North Union Boulevard, is not in or bordering Southeast.

regan.foster@southeastexpress.org

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