ESEA stands for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, passed in 1965 as part of the “War on Poverty” and reauthorized by Congress in 2002 as the No Child Left Behind Act. Early in the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Education invited states to request flexibility regarding specific requirements of NCLB in exchange for adopting rigorous and comprehensive state-developed plans designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity, and improve the quality of instruction.
“This is the first year of this recognition and we are one of only five schools to obtain this distinction throughout the entire state,” Pankow said. “Even though it is the middle school which has been recognized, it is a kudos to all of the elementary teachers who laid the groundwork, as well.”
Colorado earned its ESEA Flexibility Request (or waiver) from the feds in early 2012. The new ESEA High Performing Reward, issued by the CDE this year for the first time, recognizes schools that embody the rigor and commitment to a strong education reform system that earned Colorado the right to its NCLB waiver, as measured by a number of specific criteria spelled out by the state.
Other schools which received the award include the Cheyenne Mountain Charter Academy, Edison Junior-Senior High School, Northfork Montessori School and Pawnee Junior-Senior High School.
This is far from the first time the Ouray Middle School has been honored and recognized for excellence by the CDE. In 2010, the entire eighth grade class was one of the few in the state which was deemed to be “100 percent proficient to advanced” in the reading and writing portion of the CSAPs (the Colorado Student Assessment Program).
Two years later, in 2012, the school’s 7th graders earned some of the highest math scores in the state on standardized tests, with a full 75 percent of them earning scores in the “advanced” range, and the remaining 25 percent landing in the “proficient” range. Thus, the cohort as a whole again won the rare designation of “100 percent proficient to advanced.” Eighth graders had math scores that were similarly impressive with 67 percent of them in the “advanced” range.
Only two other schools in the state outperformed the Ouray Middle School last year in terms of longitudinal growth as reflected by these scores, according to Pankow.
For two years in a row (2011 and 2012), the school was a recipient of the Colorado Governor’s Distinguished Improvement Awards, given to schools that demonstrate exceptional student growth. The award is distributed annually to the top eight percent of schools in the state with the highest rate of longitudinal growth on statewide assessments; it recognizes growth in both math and language arts and is based upon the previous three years of performance of a cohort of students now in the ninth grade.
Meanwhile, the entire Ouray School District has been recognized for its excellence as well, having won the CDE’S coveted John Irwin School of Excellence Award and earning the rank of “accredited with distinction” by the CDE.