Meet the Finalists: Transformational Impact in a Middle School

The Succeeds Prize is back for the third year in a row, and every year we find more outstanding models of educators who are dedicated to adapting to the diverse needs of students in schools. The Succeeds Prize Awards are presented in two categories: Transformational Impact for a school and Excellence in Education for programs that help students develop essential skills.

We have traveled across the state with advisory committee members to tour schools that were identified through a robust investigation of Colorado School data. It was difficult to narrow down our top 9 finalists – 3 elementary schools, 3 middle schools, and 3 high schools – but now, we want you to get to know them.

Academy of Advanced Learning: In today’s world, the one-size-fits all approach to education can limit student growth. The Academy of Advanced Learning addresses the diverse needs of students using a unique personalized learning model, which has led to significant growth in MAP scores in just two years. “What stands out most is that the school engages learning coaches to help support advanced learners while allowing the core instructional staff to support learners who need more attention,” said advisory committee member Micah Gurard-Levin, Manager of Community Relations at Liberty Global.

The school also leverages a new employee value proposition to attract and retain talented educators not based on years in the system, but outcomes with students. They focus on teaching students Year 2030 competencies, emphasizing the importance of learning how to learn and think critically. The care and attention the staff exhibits for their students in an open teaching space demonstrates how a school can narrow achievement gaps and provide students with a first-rate education.

Altona student works on a computer coding project.

Altona Middle School: Altona Middle School has created an environment where students and teachers can fall in love with learning every day. Following the banners that spell out “The Altona Way,” you walk into a multi-functional space that can transform from the cafeteria to choir rehearsal space. Students can take courses beyond traditional electives including computer programming and robotics.

They are also encouraged to attack unique challenges by utilizing the design thinking process in the IDEALab – to prototype, empathize, reflect, and redesign. In the spirit of developing the whole child,  students are encouraged and supported in identifying and working towards solving global and local problems, such as the formation of their Green Team. 

“IDEALab, Cybersecurity, Malala Gala, and using the design thinking process across all disciplines really shows their innovative approach to bringing industry practices and real-world relevance to students.” – Justin McMillan, Principal of Casey Middle School and advisory committee member

McAuliffe International School: Students at McAuliffe International develop into thinkers who are not afraid to take risks or tackle difficult problems. Believing in the teacher as the unit of change, the school leverages a unique schedule and a distributive leadership model that maximizes student learning while providing educators with the time and opportunities they need to hone their craft and collaborate with one another.

Vision 2030 outlines the need for students to have a foundation of core academics, but also develop competency in areas that will encourage them to create brave new solutions. At McAuliffe, students are encouraged to embrace the productive struggle. Their mantra, “You DON’T need help. You DO need feedback,” is meant to build resilience and inspire students to dig deep into their own capabilities.  

To make additional opportunities outside of the classroom possible, McAuliffe has committed resources to roles focused solely on student enrichment and wellness. Advisory committee members were impressed by their choices – including hiring a Director of Fun, engagement in service-learning, and the ability to offer year-round mindfulness.

The Middle School Award in the Transformational Impact category is sponsored by DaVita. The winner will be announced in a live-reveal ceremony on September 19th at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Click here to register and learn more.

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