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Middle schoolers in Spanish class at Denver's Slavens K-8 in 2016.

Middle schoolers in Spanish class at Denver’s Slavens K-8 in 2016.

Five Colorado schools win national honor for high performance

Three Denver schools, along with one school in Boulder and one in Centennial, have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as National Blue Ribbon Schools.

Blue Ribbon schools must have overall test scores in the top 15% in their state, and the test scores of certain groups of students — students with disabilities, for example, or students learning English as a second language — must be in the top 40% in their state.

Schools can also win for showing “extraordinary progress” in closing test score gaps between different groups of students. All of the Colorado schools recognized fall into the first category. No Colorado schools were recognized for closing test score gaps.

Nationally, 362 schools were recognized this year. The five Colorado winners include a mix of district-run and charter schools. Public and private schools are eligible for the award.

The three Denver winners are Bradley International School and Slavens K-8, both district-run schools, and DSST: Byers Middle School, part of Denver’s largest charter network.

Also recognized this year: Lois Lenski Elementary School in Centennial and Summit Middle Charter School in Boulder, which was that district’s first-ever charter school.

Bradley International School, an elementary school in southeast Denver that follows the International Baccalaureate curriculum, is also home to the 2019 Colorado Teacher of the Year. Fifth-grade teacher Meg Cypress won the award in part for her “big, fun projects.”

“We celebrate the hard work of these schools and the positive impact on our students, educators, parents, and communities,” Colorado Education Commissioner Katy Anthes said about all five winners in a statement. “I know teachers and staff have worked incredibly hard to support their students and make sure they all have the opportunities to succeed.”

At Bradley, 64% of students met expectations on the state’s literacy test this spring, compared with 43% of students in Denver Public Schools and 46% statewide.

At DSST: Byers Middle School, 78% of students met expectations in literacy. At Slavens, 88% of students did.

Test scores often are closely tied to student race and family income. The three Denver winners serve a student population that is more affluent and more white than the district average.

For example, while about 65% of Denver Public Schools students qualified for subsidized school meals last year, a proxy for low family income, only 6% of Slavens students, 34% of Bradley students, and 44% of DSST: Byers Middle School students qualified, according to district statistics.