Clifton school gets $2.6 million to boost scores

Clifton Elementary School will receive $2.6 million in federal grant money to help the school improve student performance.

Colorado Education Commissioner Dwight Jones announced Tuesday approval of the school’s plan for improvement, a requirement for receiving Title I School Improvement grant funding. Clifton and 19 other Colorado schools were selected to receive portions of $37.7 million in federal funding because the schools had some of the consistently lowest scores on Colorado Student Assessment Program tests.

The school’s 60-page plan includes:

64 days of additional coaching for teachers.

Bonuses of $1,500 a year for certified staff and $500 a year for classified staff as an incentive for educators to stay at the school.

Expansion of outreach activities, such as developing homework packets for parents and hosting more events at the school to engage parents.

Sessions for teachers in each grade level so they can discuss test data.

Andy Laase, School District 51 executive director of elementary schools, said the district already spent money in anticipation of the grant funding. The district paid Clifton Elementary School staff five days of pay to return to school a week early this fall for professional development and training.

Even before there was money to rely on, the school’s teachers began sharing ideas more and toeing a hard line on achievement with students last year, Laase said. Laase believes that’s why median growth on CSAP math tests for Clifton students improved from the 16th percentile in 2009 to the 66th percentile in 2010. In reading, growth went from the 43rd percentile in 2009 to the 68th percentile in 2010, and writing growth moved from the 30th to the 51st percentile in those years.

“Clifton has made some really big gains already,” Laase said. “(The grant) just helps us accelerate the pace and get more resources in there.”

The school will implement the plan this year and the two following school years and receive more than $821,000 each of those years from the grant fund. Laase said the school will continue to work on improvement after spring 2013, using Title I funding, which goes to schools where at least two out of five students qualify for free or reduced meals.

Laase said he’s happy with the school’s growth but that there is room for improvement in the percentage of students scoring proficient on CSAP exams.

“The gains we made in one year were wonderful, but we have to continue that for quite a while to get where we want to be,” he said.


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