CSCS Recognized as School of Opportunity

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MTT News's picture
Michelle Phillips

BOULDER, CO–Clark Street Community School (CSCS) has hit the gold standard in receiving the national recognition as one of seven schools in the country to become a School of Opportunity (SOO) in 2019. The designation honors schools that foster learning environments for students and provide research-based learning opportunities for all students. The initiative, started by the University of Colorado Boulder’s National Education Policy Center, includes only 45 schools around the country, which receive either gold or silver recognition. CSCS achieved gold.

CSCS Principal and founder Jill Gurtner said, “It is a significant honor to receive the recognition because the Schools of Opportunity criteria are so well aligned with our mission. The National Education Policy Center created the Schools of Opportunity recognition in order to raise up the practices of schools who were redesigning educational experiences for students so that EVERY student in our schools achieves at high levels and is well prepared for success. This has always been what Clark Street Community School is all about and we are very excited to be able to join forces with other schools, researchers, and policy makers around the country to further this work.”

She said the school was nominated for the designation by UW Madison Associate Dean for Education, Julie Mead, and Doctoral Student, Julie Kalio in November 2018. A series of applications was then submitted to show that the school was meeting the criteria set forth. Gurtner said that gold level asks that the school meet six of 10 criteria.

CSCS chose the following:

• Broaden and Enrich Learning Opportunities

• Create and Maintain a Healthy School Culture

• Use Multiple Measures to Assess Student Learning  

• Support Teachers as Professionals

• Provide Rich, Supportive Opportunities for Students With Special Needs

• Enact A Challenging and Supported Culturally Relevant Curriculum

Schools must also show evidence that it is engaged in the first two criteria: Broaden and Enrich Learning Opportunities and Create and Maintain a Healthy School Culture. Gurtner said research on learning is clear and that schools must be safe and supportive, allowing students to take part in risk learning.

“We are all aware of the stress our students face in schools due to physical threats to their safety as we hear about these far too often.  What may not be as apparent to those not in schools on a regular basis and those who do not belong to historically marginalized groups is the stress that a deep history of systemic oppression causes many of our students in our schools. This history, along with a significant narrowing of focus in our schools on measurement and criteria for success that honor efficiency and competition over deep, meaningful learning have resulted in schools where many of our learners are far too stressed to deeply engage in learning, Gurtner explained.

She said that fostering an inclusive and healthy learning climate takes ongoing work and commitment. This means forming partnerships within the community and through intiatives like SOO. One of these partnerships is with the Mastery Transcript Consortium, which helps develop competency-based transcripts to translate this work into college admissions, though Gurtner added that CSCS had been pretty successful in working through the college admission process. 

“We look to continue to develop and strengthen our partnerships as we believe our students and our community is better served when we support the connections,” she said. “We are very excited about this work.”

She credits the Middleton Cross Plains Area School District with its forward-thinking approach to education and serving all students. “The Middleton Cross Plains Area School District has made a significant commitment to fostering our innovative work as part of the district’s focus on ensuring that all of our classrooms and our schools are places where students love to come to school every day, adults love to come to work, and everyone thrives.”

Gurtner said the community values education and schools as a place of opportunity for all students. “We hope that the work we are doing at Clark Street Community School can continue to play a role in strengthening the efforts of the school district and our community to make these dreams reality. Over the past eight plus years, there have been countless individuals and organizations that have supported our work,” Gunther stated, and added that the recognition is for everyone that has been a part of this researched based learning environment.

There will be a celebration in honor of the SOO designation on June 7 a t 12:30 p.m. The event will be held at CSCS after students Presentation of Learning that morning beginning at 8:30 a.m. The community is welcome to attend, and tickets can be acquired at:


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