Gypsum school earns $10K grant
GYPSUM, Colorado – Friday was crazy hair day, crazy hat day and retake day for school pictures at Gypsum Elementary School.
Somehow, Principal Mitch Forsberg and the crew made it all work out, all while accepting a $10,000 check for being one of only two Colorado elementary schools to narrow the so-called “achievement gap” between students above and below the poverty line.
All told, 623 Colorado elementary schools were eligible. Two made the grade, Gypsum Elementary and Heritage Elementary School in Pueblo.
Schools were eligible if at least 40 percent of students qualified for free or reduced lunches – a measure the state uses to gauge a school’s poverty level. Also, at least 30 percent of students had to be minorities.
At Gypsum Elementary, 64 percent of students qualified for free or reduced lunch and 71 percent of all students are Latino.
To win a grant, funded by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, 90 percent of students have to score at least partially proficient on reading and math on Colorado’s CSAP tests, the Colorado Student Assessment Program.
Of Gypsum Elementary’s 340 students, 96.6 percent scored that well, according to the Colorado Department of Education.
Trish Boland of the Colorado Department of Education was at Gypsum Elementary Friday morning to present the award and the massive $10,000 check.
“Give yourselves a pat on the back,” Boland told GES students during a Friday morning assembly.
Hundreds of happy students reached their arms and hands around to their backs and did exactly that.
“This honors everyone. You’ve worked hard the last couple years,” Boland told the students.
In 2009, poverty-level students were 8.89 percentage points lower than non-poverty level students, said Judy Huddleston with the Colorado Department of Education, who was also in Gypsum Friday morning.
In 2010, that disparity dropped to 4.45 percentage points.
But that’s not because the higher achievers are slacking, said Forsberg. They’re also improving.
“We moved everyone up, and moved the bottom up more,” Forsberg said.
It’s the school’s laser-like focus on literacy, said Boland, aimed at kids who don’t have that kind of literacy background in their homes.
“It helps them catch up, and that’s very, very difficult,” Boland said.
Forster said lots of things contribute, beginning with the school’s focus on reading intervention – breaking students who struggle with reading into small groups to work on their problem areas.
Vail Daily Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf contributed to this story
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