Monthly Archives: December 2013

3 Ways to Battle the Holiday Boredom

Happy FamilyAny break from school means an opportunity to spend some time relaxing and enjoying family. On the flip side, this time off can quickly lead to cabin fever. So, how can parents battle holiday boredom while also creating opportunities for academic growth during school holidays?

The key is to make the experiences and learning opportunities meaningful to kids. Some simple ways to do this are to focus on a child’s existing interests and offer choices so they can guide their own learning. Time off from school is a great time to help kids pursue their own interests and develop hobbies that can be their own sources of development and learning.

Boredom pops up quickly when activities get too repetitive. A school vacation is the perfect time to offer up some new learning experiences for your kids. Here are a few ideas:

1. Help you child develop a new interest by visiting a museum and following up on their favorite exhibits with a visit to the library.

2. Take advantage of extra time to be active outdoors by visiting a park, hiking trail, or other natural space.

3. Look online for inexpensive craft ideas, or turn their screen time into learning time by working together to learn a new skill. Check out this list of free winter activities in the Denver area to help spark ideas.

By using holiday time to help young learners further develop their own interests you can help them become more motivated and independent learners. Then when the next school break rolls around, they might already know how to cure their own boredom.

Not too pleased with your school’s grade this year? Here are 3 ways to start improving it

One of the reasons the Colorado School Grades coalition exists is to give parents the tools they need to choose as well as improve a school. If your school didn’t get a great grade, it’s not time to feel bad about it – it’s time to take action! We’re here to help. Here are a few simple ways to get started.

1. Contact your principal.

A great leader is one sign of a great school. Not sure how to connect with your school’s principal? Here are some tips for how to do so and a few questions you might ask.

2. Talk to your school board.

A lot of what happens at your local school is administered at the school board level. Colorado is a local-control state, meaning that school boards make a lot of important decisions that will affect your child. This is also an elected body, so they should be accessible to their constituents! Not sure how to reach out? We have a handy guide for that, too.

3. Understand your school’s accountability plan.

First thing first: does your school have an accountability plan? Probably! It’s the way the state and district tracks your school’s performance progress. Search on this statewide database, or ask your school board or principal for this important blueprint to your school’s improvement. Want to get even more involved? Every school has an Accountability Committee, comprised of parents. Ask your principal how to get placed on the committee and help hold the school accountable to its plan!






Happy with your school’s grade? Here are 5 ways to celebrate the good news.

Are you excited about how well your school did on Colorado School Grades this year? One of the best things about success is the ability to celebrate it. Here are a few ways to share your joy with the community.

1. Shout it out!

Tell your friends and family not just how well your school performed but also what that experience has meant for your child. Has there been one particular teacher, course or activity that has inspired your student? Share it at the dinner table, in passing at the park, or over Facebook.

2. Praise your principal.

A great school is a sure fire sign that there’s a great principal at the lead. Give him or her some public kudos for what a terrific job they’ve done this year. Not sure how to reach out to your principal? It’s always okay to email, call or ask for a meeting! Here are a few tips on how.

3. Spend more time in your child’s classroom.

Witness the great teaching and learning first-hand by spending more time in your child’s classroom. Whether you help out for an hour or come back every other week for reading time, a parent’s presence in the classroom can be a welcome for a teacher looking for volunteer help. Here are a few other ideas for how you can donate your time or money in the classroom.

4. Go tell your school board!

Your school board will appreciate an involved parent coming to testify during the public comment period about their child’s terrific school. They want to hear about the good work happening in their district – especially when it comes straight from the parents! You don’t need to schedule time with the school board – just show up on board meeting day and sign in for public comment. Not sure how? Here are some tips for how to reach out to your school board members.

5. Write your teacher a thank-you note.

What better way to highlight the stand-out contribution they’ve made to the school and the students than by celebrating a top school grade? A lot of us give gifts or write notes for our teachers at the holidays – add in a mention of congratulations and celebration too.





A-School Profile: Slavens K-8 School

by Alisha Janes

Slavens Alisha JanesK-8 School is a high-performing neighborhood school located in southeast Denver. I recently took a short tour of Slavens with the principal, Kurt Siebold, who was happy to show the school’s new expansion. The updated school features shiny-new additions, right next to the older and more-traditional buildings, in much the same way that instruction at Slavens incorporates the best of both new thinking and traditional thinking about achievement and learning.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the school’s STEM lab, where new computers in collaborative work stations are placed on top of the old gym floor. During my visit, the students in the classroom gathered around one station presenting completed projects from a computer coding program. Just before the class left, students shared what coding skills they learned and the entire class shouted “we are coders!”

Mr. Siebold credits the success of the school’s STEM instruction to more than just the high-tech content, noting that the lab facilitator has fully embraced an inquiry-based learning process that enables students to create their own learning within a supportive environment.

Slavens PhotoThis fits in well with the school’s culture of high expectations. Mr. Siebold points to a poster on the wall of the STEM lab, titled with only one word, “Yet.” He says this summarizes the school culture well because, even though students may not be able to do something yet, they can and will accomplish what they set out to do.

Upstairs, although the upper-grade classrooms feature a more traditional look with desks neatly placed in rows or groups, the students are all standing and waving their arms in unison. Mr. Siebold explains that this is a “brain break,” encouraged to get students up and moving at least every twenty minutes. This is a part of the school’s philosophy of fostering the development of the whole child, which includes PE daily for elementary students and every other day for middle school students.

Slavens also has been maintained a strong art program thanks in part to a culture of community support. The school benefits from several parent and community groups, which help maintain the enrichment programs for the whole child. The strength of this program is evidenced by the framed student art work that lines the hallways.

The overall atmosphere at Slavens feels comfortably like home. The school’s juxtaposition of traditional and new ideas produces strong outcomes, making this neighborhood school a great example of the high-quality neighborhood schools you can find on Colorado School Grades.

Alisha Janes is a fellow at Colorado Succeeds and is currently pursuing a Masters of Public Administration at the University of Colorado at Denver. Alisha’s previous experience include: coaching new teachers, teaching intervention lessons, and three years of teaching a Bilingual 5th grade class in Houston, TX.

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The Best Schools: Colorado’s A+ High Schools

 Colorado School Grades updates each year after the Colorado State Board of Education publicly releases the state’s school performance growth data. That happened last week, so we are thrilled to announce this year’s top schools.

Earlier this week, we recognized Colorado’s A+ Elementary Schools; yesterday, the A+ Middle Schools. 

And today, last but not least, the A+ High Schools. Congratulations!