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Dennison Elementary earns 2nd Blue Ribbon Award

Six Colorado schools were recently awarded the U.S. Department of Education’s prestigious Blue Ribbon Award. These schools represent outstanding academic achievement in Colorado and across the nation and share this honor with only 304 schools nationwide. These schools are symbols of high achievement and set the bar for academic progress and achievement as well, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

This year’s Blue Ribbon schools in Colorado are: Colorado Springs Christian Middle School, Colorado Springs; Dennison Elementary School, Lakewood; Douglas Elementary School, Boulder; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School, Colorado Springs; Orchard Avenue Elementary School, Grand Junction; and Pine Grove Elementary School, Parker.

Dennison Elementary School, a charter school, is the only Colorado school that has received the Blue Ribbon Award twice, both times for sustaining high achievement over time. The last time the received the award was in 2003. Earlier this week, EdNewsParent had a chance to drop by Dennison to meet with Principal Kathleen Krieger and a couple of teachers to get an inside look at what has made this school so successful over the years. (In the interest of full disclosure, the author is a Dennison alumnus). Watch this short video.

The Blue Ribbon Award is based on one of two criteria: The first is for schools whose students, regardless of backgrounds, are high performing. This is based on rankings of schools and their performance on standardized state assessments, or, in the case of private schools, the score at the highest performance level on tests referenced by national norms. The second way a school can be honored with the Blue Ribbon Award is if at least 40 percent of its students are from disadvantaged backgrounds and yet the school still improves its performance to high levels on state assessments or nationally-normed tests.

Teresa Karamigios, a third-grade teacher at Dennison, attributed the school’s continuing success to what she called “the three C’s.” These include consistency, curriculum, and community. She noted consistency between the grade levels in the methods and resources used for teaching, as well as with the building block curriculum of the Addison Wesley math program and the Open Court Reading System, which was first used at Dennison.

“The math program has a good balance of hands-on learning as well as pencil and paper. It is good basic instruction with a balance between number sense, algorithms, computation, and higher thinking,” Karamigios said.

The third C that is so highly valued at Dennison is the community. Parent involvement is huge at Dennison, along with support from the neighborhood.

“What we hope for is to give a great foundation with no gaps. When the same programs are used, and everyone is on the same page, you really keep the kids moving with the same high expectations at each grade level,” Karamigios said.

Dennison has exhibited high levels of academic success since it first opened in 1974. As with any successful program, the school has faced critics who accused the school of hand-picking top students. Joseph Adducci, the school’s art teacher, is one of the staff members who has been there the longest and noted that the school is at times “very misunderstood.”

There’s no doubt it’s a hard school to get into, but school leaders say there’s no screening of prospective students. Each year there are 88 available openings in kindergarten, and siblings of current students have priority, leaving about 40 actual openings each year. There are about 250 applicants for those spots. You do the math.

Planning for open enrollment

Listen to what the principal has to say about the choice process and what you need to do if you’re interested in sending a child to Dennison in this short video.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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