Spotlight Schools:

High-Poverty Schools That Are Raising The Bar

Discover what works! Dive into the first brief of our spotlight schools series highlighting 39 high-performing, high-poverty schools in Colorado. Explore the ties between school poverty and student outcomes, and discover how some schools are defying the odds to drive academic proficiency and growth.

The relationship between poverty and academic achievement is undeniable. It is a prevailing truth that low-income students continue to receive subpar access to educational opportunities, and these inequities have only expanded since the onset of the pandemic – directly impacting student outcomes.

Demography does not, however, always have to equal destiny. Some high-poverty schools are making significant achievements in either student proficiency, student growth, or both. This report looks at schools across the state of Colorado to identify high-poverty schools that are performing significantly better than their peers. 

This report seeks to prove that above-average achievement is possible even in our highest poverty schools. We examine how these “spotlight” schools have cultivated policies and programs to yield positive academic outcomes. 

Of the 300 Colorado elementary and middle schools in the highest poverty quartile, we highlight the 39 schools that have either achieved above-average proficiency rates or demonstrated growth by at least 10 points on the CMAS assessment in either math or ELA. 

While there is no single answer to fostering academic excellence, the leaders of the schools we surveyed and interviewed were largely aligned on the following core principles:

  • Data should be used as a “guiding light” to drive all decision-making, including but not limited to: guiding small group instruction and tutoring programs, tracking student progress, driving curriculum decisions, engaging families, and informing social-emotional learning;
  • Small-group instruction and tutoring programs should be used to provide targeted and personalized instruction, especially to students who are falling behind;
  • Evidence-based, high-quality curricula are essential, as is professional development to guide teachers on how to translate the content into effective instruction;
  • Cultivating a positive and inclusive school climate through social-emotional learning and whole-child development is a key prerequisite to academic excellence; and
  • Engaging families through community-building events, class participation, and organized attendance teams is essential to cultivating partnerships and reducing chronic absenteeism.

Stay Informed!

Colorado Spotlight Schools is the first report in our spotlight schools series. Stay tuned for additional reports featuring spotlight schools from other states.