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Aurora Public Schools

Aurora Public Schools: Achieving Excellence

Kendall Conners

With constant improvement and community collaboration, Aurora Public Schools strives to be the best school district in Colorado.
Aurora Public Schools

Established in 1882, Aurora Public Schools is one of Colorado’s largest and most diverse school districts. To teach every student within a safe environment the knowledge, skills and values necessary to enter college or a career and become a contributing member of society who flourishes in a diverse, dynamic world – is the mission that Aurora Public Schools abides by, which has helped it achieve great success throughout the years.


Currently, APS is comprised of three child development centers, 27 elementary schools, four P-8 schools (pre-school to eighth grade), six middle schools, one college preparatory academy (sixth – eighth grade), four comprehensive high schools, three pilot schools, one technical college, one gifted and talented K-8 school, six charter schools, one online high school, one home-school support program and one P-20 (pre-school through graduate studies) school.


All APS high schools offer college courses to high school students. The P-20 campus, which is a unique concept to APS, as well as the rest of the nation, offers a seamless education that begins in preschool and could end with masters and doctorate courses as well.


“We had 25 students last year who graduated from high school with diplomas in one hand and associates degrees in the other through courses they took while in our school system,” says Superintendent John Barry. “And in all of our graduations last year, 75 percent of our students had taken at least one college course and passed.”


Vista 2015


“Currently, we’re centered on our strategic plan, which is called VISTA 2015,” says Barry. “The plan focuses on accelerating student achievement and closing the achievement gaps. And embedded in that strategic plan is our vision to graduate every student with a choice to attend college without remediation.”


VISTA 2015 is APS’s continuous improvement plan that reflects the school district’s dedication, determination and collaboration to prepare students for success in life after graduation. VISTA 2015 exemplifies APS’s commitment to transforming the school district into the best school district in Colorado, as well as maintains and enriches its obligation to its students, staff, parents and community.


This strategic plan outlines APS’s goals and objectives for future growth, and each of those goals or objectives falls under a category – people, achievement, community or environment (PACE).


“This isn’t just a nice document that we like to show around to people, we monitor it monthly and make sure that we are in line with our goals,” says Barry. “And just to give you an example, we finished our previous strategic plan, VISTA 2010, last year and in four years we accomplished 93 percent of what we set out to do in five years. So that’s quite an accomplishment and we hope to have that same success with VISTA 2015.”


Through this strategic plan, APS has teamed up with the various groups and organizations in the community to align economic and educational initiatives to address the Colorado paradox and create a talent pipeline for industry and business.


Community Workforce Planning Team


The Colorado paradox is that Colorado has the second highest percentage of adults with college degrees in the nation, but ironically ranks 47thin the percentage of high school graduates who go on to college. Colorado imports most of its educated workforce and APS is committed to changing this.


APS has teamed up with more than 30 groups and organizations throughout the community and created a five-year plan that aligns APS Academic and Career Pathways with industry demands and postsecondary requirements.


Through this collaboration, called the Community Workforce Planning Team (CWPT), APS and the community have created four academic and career pathways: health sciences, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), business, and arts and communication.


Each of these pathways has partnerships with various organizations, such as the Anschutz Medical Center for the health sciences pathway. Through these partnerships, APS has the ability to give students real-life experience outside of the classroom.


“We need to make sure we’re offering opportunities for our kids who are growing up within the state of Colorado,” Superintendent Barry says. “So through this Community Workforce Planning team, pathways program and our P-20 concept, we are aligning academic and economic development and targeting the Colorado paradox.”


These pathways, which begin in elementary school, provide countless benefits to students. Academic and career pathways increase student achievement because students are motivated through practical, relevant learning in their areas of career interest. Through these pathways, students develop academic, technical and workforce readiness skills that prepare them for life after high school graduation.


In addition to preparing students for college and the workforce, these pathways also offer students the opportunity to earn industry certificates, college credit and even associate’s degrees.


“These pathways give students the chance to explore different fields and career pathways, gives them motivation and gets them excited about the professions they can be aligned with,” Barry says. “And if we truly want to be globally competitive, then we have to partner together as a community to give our students real-life experiences and get them excited about their future professions.”

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