Polis: Minnequa Elementary School’s dramatic turnaround is one of Colorado’s “great success stories.”

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Five years ago, Minnequa Elementary School was struggling to stay open. Today, the school is considered by the Governor of Colorado. Jared Polis To be one of the country’s “great success stories.”

Minnequa’s improvement in math since 2019 earned them the 2023 Governor’s Luminaire Award, $50,000 and recognition during Polis’ 2024 State of the State address. On Friday, Jan. 26, Polis walked into the Bessemer School District with a large aluminum container of food from Collette’s Catering.

Accompanied by Pueblo State Representatives Matthew Martinez and Tisha Mauro, the governor stopped at the school to talk to teachers and staff about the school’s success before serving them lunch.

Gov. Jared Polis, left, visits with faculty at Minnequa Elementary School on Friday, Jan. 26, 2024.

Gov. Jared Polis, left, visits with faculty at Minnequa Elementary School on Friday, Jan. 26, 2024.

“I highlighted the Miniqua in my State of the State address because they went from underperforming to top-performing in student achievement in math…We have a lot to learn, both in Pueblo and across the state, about what Miniqua has done so successfully,” Polis told the Leader Friday.

From 2018 to 2022, Minnequa improved the Mean Growth Percentile (MGP) from 35 to an exceptional 73.5 on the Colorado Scale of Academic Success mathematics assessment. Minnequa also improved its MGP in English Language Arts from 34.5 to 53 over the same time period.

In 2023, Miniqua received its second consecutive “Performing” rating – the highest rating achievable in the Colorado Department of Education’s School Performance Framework. Six years ago, Minnequa entered its sixth consecutive year of “priority improvement” or “transformation” — the two lowest possible rankings in the same framework.

Katie Harshman became Minqua’s principal in 2019. She began her career as a reading specialist at the school 13 years ago, and recalls how she fought to prevent the school from closing at a meeting five years ago. Since then, the school has committed to a “laser focus” on student achievement.

“We’ve strengthened the school culture, making sure this is a joyful place for kids to come,” Harshman said. “We focused on our instruction, making sure not only were we giving them strict instructions, but we were giving them opportunities for feedback.”

Governor Jared Polis visits with Bright Spot Award-winning Minnequa Elementary School math teachers on Friday, January 26, 2024.

Governor Jared Polis visits with Bright Spot Award-winning Minnequa Elementary School math teachers on Friday, January 26, 2024.

Polis told Chieftain that Minnequa’s math improvement can be attributed to various initiatives the school has taken, including professional development days on Fridays, collaboration between teachers at different grade levels, and the use of paraprofessionals.

Harshman also had glowing things to say about her teaching staff.

“If you don’t have good teachers who love kids, none of this is going to happen,” Harshman said. “From our teachers to our paraprofessionals, to our tutors, to the coaches, intervention specialists, walkers, district leadership – everyone had a hand in making this happen for the kids.”

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Pueblo Chieftain reporter James Bartolo can be reached at JBartolo@gannett.com. Support local news, subscribe to The Pueblo Chieftain at Subscription. Chieftain.com.

This article originally appeared on The Pueblo Chieftain: Colorado Governor Jared Polis celebrates the transformation of Minnequa Elementary School

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