Nisley proves brain power

Nisley Principal Curry Newton, center, wipes a tear as the children and the staff of the school give her a long ovation. The school was honored as a Title 1 Distinguished School of the Year, one of two in the state. Nisley received $5,000 to spend at its discretion. Assistant Principal Crystal Stephenson, left, and Deb Lamb, former assistant principal, flank Newton.

Nisley Elementary adopted a credo five years ago that all students can achieve great things, regardless of background, socio-economic status or learning challenges.

It’s that attitude, according to Nisley Principal Curry Newton, that helped the school’s minority students and students who receive free or reduced-price lunches due to economic need pack in more than a year’s worth of learning growth on their Transitional Colorado Assessment Program tests this spring, as did their peers. An increase in TCAP math and reading scores at the school year over year in 2013 helped the school earn a Title I Distinguished Schools of the Year award.

Nisley is one of two schools in the state to receive the award this year; the other is Swink Elementary in Swink. The two schools were selected from among more than 600 Title I schools in the state. Title I schools are those where more than half the student population qualifies for free or reduced-price school meals. Nearly four out of five Nisley students meet that qualification.

Nisley students, staff and supporters from the District 51 School Board, the state and District 51 administration gathered Tuesday morning at a school assembly to celebrate and unveil a banner that champions the school’s win. Keith Owen, deputy commissioner of the Colorado Department of Education, presented school leaders with a check for $5,000 Newton can spend as she pleases. After the assembly, she said she will consult teachers before deciding how to spend the money.

The award will be added to Nisley’s list of accolades, including Colorado School of Excellence Awards the school received in 2010 and 2012. Newton said she hopes to get a third excellence award this year. She said getting staff to collaborate on problem-solving and encourage students focus on getting into college from a young age has helped students raise their scores.

“Our ultimate goal isn’t TCAP, it’s to become a lifelong learner,” she said.

Owen said the distinguished Title I school award is a difficult one to get and said students and staff should be proud to earn one.

“These types of awards don’t happen by accident,” he said.


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