PUEBLO — Colorado lawmakers have passed new legislation to pause the state's Accountability Clock for the second time due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While it's paused, low-performing schools will be unable to change their rating.
Risley International Academy of Innovation in Pueblo School District 60 has been on the clock for the last nine years.
"I really like being at Risley because I love how supportive the community, teachers, and staff are. Probably some of the best people I've met these past three years," said Dezrey Trujillo, Eighth Grader at Risley International Academy of Innovation.
After years on the Accountability Clock, Trujillo says the school has made significant progress in improving academic performance.
"In the past two years, I've noticed a big academic change where we have been beating the district on our A-Net and stuff like that," said Trujillo.
During their time on the clock, Principal Janelle Manes says they've focused efforts on improving curriculum and providing more resources for students.
"We are currently working with the University of Virginia to get supports in our building level as well as the district level. We have a closer relationship with the district through that process. We've also been working with Relay on our partial management and they've provided coaching to me as well as our leadership team. Then we have a two-partner math coach who's in our building today, but he usually comes from Denver to work with our teachers," said Manes.
They've also made big changes to the interior and exterior of the building.
"My teachers and team this summer spent a lot of time getting dirty, painting walls, and cleaning. We cleaned out some storage rooms, we redid all of the bulletin boards around the building, this room was remodeled. We wanted to have a nice place for us to be able to meet that really represented Risley so it was important to bring in the red and black, bring in the bears, and fresh paint all over the building," said Manes.
With help from the University of Virginia, Relay Graduate School, and the district, data shows they've made academic gains.
"We have seen a lot of improvements this year based on our data. We've seen an increase in staff attendance as well as a decrease in behavioral referrals. Our teachers have spent days and days preparing for kids to enter the building and practicing routines and procedures, really focusing on consistency for our students. I think that has contributed to the decrease in behavioral issues that we've seen," said Manes.
She says the pause has allowed them to utilize additional resources from the state.
"With us being on the clock and in this situation that we are in, we're actually able to receive a lot of supports that we wouldn't receive otherwise," said Manes.
Despite the pause, the Colorado Department of Education says schools will still have the opportunity to change their rating.
"The state may open up a process for the school or districts to present evidence on why they have progressed enough to change their plan type. That's something we're working with the field to decide, but ultimately it is up to the state board to decide what the perimeters are for that process, " said Lisa Medler, Colorado Department of Education.
She says the state understands the hard work schools have done to improve their situation.
"Risley is very important to me and my family because a lot of them have attended in the past and I want to continue that," said Trujillo.
While the state laws regarding the Accountability Clock are paused, there are still federal laws that still need attention. The department of education has submitted a waiver to the federal government to waive them. If approved, it would prevent any school or district from getting on the clock.