University Prep Achieves Highest Growth in Test Scores in Colorado

“I got really frustrated telling kids who were 14, 15, 16 years old they could be anything they wanted to be, but we had missed the opportunity to provide them with a crucial foundation,” said Denver Superintendent Tom Boasberg. Something drastic had to be done to provide students with a stronger baseline for learning while catching them up to grade-level proficiency. And one charter school was able to do just that.

University Prep – Steele Street posted the highest growth in Colorado in math and the highest growth in Denver in reading. These results are particularly surprising because just one year ago, the school came under new management due to significant academic underperformance.

“It was particularly striking how strong growth was among our highest need students,” said Boasberg.

University Prep took over operation of a long-struggling Pioneer charter school. When comparing scores from this school year to Pioneer’s scores from the previous year, Steele Street posted a single-year increase of 31 and 36 percentage points of students who met or exceeded expectations in Math and English state tests, respectively. University Prep believes in intensive teacher training, something they credit for their students’ success.

Year Zero, the transition year, was a pivotal moment for the school and its students. Andrew Cahalan, one of the teachers who stayed for the transition, was skeptical of the new leadership and how effective the intensive coaching would be for teachers.

From day one, the skills from the intensive were a positive change for Cahalan, and even more so in Year One of University Prep’s sole operation of the Steele Street campus. In August of Year One, Cahalan’s fifth grade students were on a second and third grade level for math and reading, but by October they were working at grade level.

Mercy Jaramillo was a parent of two children attending Pioneer during the Year Zero transition, and, like many people, was skeptical of the leadership change. But to her surprise, both of her children “flourished” under the new teaching strategies.

University Prep has been permitted to take leadership of four more charter schools in the Denver area. The charter school network continues to turn around struggling schools in underserved areas, proving their point that “poverty is not destiny.”



All photos credit: The 74 Million