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Website praises charter school accomplishment

11:34 AM, Jan 11, 2012   |    comments
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"To be number one, that's powerful," Libersat said.

She teaches math at the kindergarten through eighth grade charter school. Academic growth in her classes is literally off the charts at more than 80 percent.

"Some of the kids have 400 percent growth," Libersat said.

9News has partnered with ColoradoSchoolGrades.com to show parents a free, online tool which gives every public school in the state an easy-to-understand grade so they can make informed decision when it comes to school choice. ColoradoSchoolGrades.com gives Cherry Creek Academy an "A+" rating.

"Any school can be a high-performing school," Tim Taylor, spokesperson for ColoradoSchoolGrades.com, said.

ColoradoSchoolGrades.com was put together by 18 different advocacy agencies from around the state. The website translated data already collected by the Colorado Department of Education with an emphasis on academic achievement and growth.

"What we took were all of the inputs that the Colorado Department of Education already evaluates and already takes in, in terms of weights, the measures, what categories, what information they collect, and we just translated it," Taylor said.

Seventh grade student Aaron Waldron says he does feel like he attends the top middle school in Colorado.

"Yeah, I do feel like it because we're...getting pushed a lot," Waldron said. "Sometimes it's hard, but then the teachers help us a lot."

Principal Jay Cerny is proud to run a core knowledge school. That means teachers work on building a foundation of knowledge that students will use all the way through college.

"And, what it does it keeps any gaps from appearing in a child's record," Cerny said.

Cerny says all kids are taught to be one year ahead of their grade level.

"We have a culture here of high expectations, and we have a tremendous amount of rigor, and yes, there is homework here," Cerny said.

Students also go to school for 186 days a year, which is more than the rest of the district. This is one of the decisions charter schools can make because they act independently.

"It's got to be enjoyable, can't be rote memorization," Cerny said. "You've got to have some transitions in there, make it hands-on."

As a K-8 school, Cerny says students at Cherry Creek Academy are also more invested.

"It changes the culture of the school," Cerny said. "Little kids get to see what they're going to go into. By the time you are an eighth grader, you're a pretty strong leader here."

Waldron agrees the school treats students in a way that builds confidence and respect.

"They treat us like individuals here," Waldron said.

Cherry Creek Academy was founded by parents. So, parental involvement is a key part of their success.

"We ask for 40 hours per year per family," Cerny said.

Every family is asked to contribute parental service hours which Cerny says can equal about 10,000 hours per year, or the equivalent of having an additional four or five people on his staff.

"It's a very smart move," Cerny said.

Smart, because finances at charter schools are usually pretty tight. Cherry Creek Academy must pay its mortgage on a $3-million facility out of the money its gets from the state to teach students.

"Most teachers in the charter-school model make less money than the other teachers in the regular public school," Cerny said.

But, that doesn't stop teachers like Libersat from working hard to get the best of their students.

"It is a factor," Libersat said. "For me, it was more the atmosphere."

Libersat says when you create a tradition of excellence at a school like Cherry Creek Academy; it simply carries over year after year.

"We need to focus on students learning rather than teachers teaching," Libersat said. "You can do the song and dance and everything, but if kids aren't learning then you aren't doing your job."

If you want see how the ratings of every public school in the state of Colorado, visit www.coloradoschoolgrades.com.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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