These posts are the opinions of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of A+ Colorado.

A+ Stay Sharp: 10.7.20

Good morning, Colorado. We’re on the other side of October Count – which will be a historical record of the number of children engaged with education during COVID-19 – although it will be averaged by a district’s enrollment in recent years according to the CDE.

Denver Public Schools receives an average of $7,400 in per pupil operating revenue from the state, making up 85% of the district’s funding. (This state per pupil funding doesn’t include district supplements. In 2018-19, DPS expected to spend $10,500 per child). Did you know that according to the US Census, the average funding per pupil nationwide in 2018 was $12,612? In short: The current funding system for education in Colorado is failing students.

As you get your ballots this week, there are several measures that directly affect Colorado school funding. We’ll be putting out a comprehensive education election guide next week which will include A+’s position on measures and info about the State Board of Education election, plus an informational webinar about the State Board race. This will be a guide for you to use while filling out your at-home ballot, or to check out before you head to the polls on Nov. 3.

Save the date | Webinar: Voting on the State Board of Education: Why it matters

  • Oct. 21, 4:30 – 5:30 p.m.
  • Submit a question about the State Board and sign up here.

In this week’s Stay Sharp newsletter, you can find:

Research, reporting, and writing

Read parent testimonies submitted to State Board // Transform Education Now

Today, we are featuring some important work which Transform Education Now is engaging in on behalf of Colorado’s students. 

Yesterday, parents of Denver Public Schools students were scheduled to read testimonies into public record during the State Board of Education meeting. During the meeting, the Board Liaison did not to read parent testimonies into public record, “a move that attempted to erase the voices of families concerned about their students’ learning,” said TEN.

“Remote learning is not working, parents need more, they need more consistent, and clear information, they need support ensuring that their children have the chance to learn, and they need additional resources for their kids.  That includes mental health support.  It is not normal for our kids to be in front of a screen, away from their teachers, separated from their friends, they need our help and your commitment to ensure that they will be supported, cared for and have the opportunity to be successful.  We need your leadership, it is your responsibility to serve the needs of kids across our state and now more than ever we need courageous leadership to do the hard things for our kids.” – TEN parent advocate Rosemary Alfaro

Read all five testimonies here.  

Yesterday, Nicholas Martinez, co-founder and executive director of TEN published an op-ed in BoardHawk, “Remote learning has failed most children. Districts must pivot now.

“We are in touch daily with scores of families throughout the metro area. The failure of remote learning is pervasive. It is not something happening in isolated pockets. It affects almost every public school family, especially those without resources to find alternatives,” he said.

Here are a few quick vignettes, published by TEN: 

  • We know families who report that their student is marked present if they text their teacher, which means they are receiving no direct instruction.
  • We know families reporting less than three hours of instruction a week from their schools.
  • We know families who are reporting no remote instruction while in quarantine, in districts where students are back in person.
  • We know parents report busy work and YouTube videos as assignments that are not aligned with grade level expectations. They can check on their students’ learning goals here.
  • We know parents who have retreated completely from school and are homeschooling or in pods without any academic programming support.
  • We know parents who are paying $1,200/month for childcare because they are essential workers who are still working while school is not in session.
  • We know parents who have six or more children attempting remote learning in their home, with limited devices and internet access.
  • We know parents with students with individualized learning plans who are confident that their student is not receiving the services that they are legally entitled to.
  • We know parents who do not speak English who are unable to access their students’ instructional materials to support their student.

ICYMI: Do we know how many Colorado students aren’t engaged in learning? // A+ Colorado

A+ Colorado has been engaging in work related to attendance since it became clear that there is an accountability gap as districts opened this fall. We thank Gov. Polis for highlighting the importance of student enrollment to limit the learning loss students will experience from the disruption of the school year in Wednesday’s press conference. 

In the article “Do we know how many Colorado students aren’t engaged in learning as October Count starts?,” we report on:

  • Gov. Polis’ message to Colorado: Please enroll your child in school.
  • Info about October Count, including what CDE is doing for funding allocations.
  • How other groups are engaging with the issue of attendance, including Stand for Children Colorado, Transform Education Now, Rocky Mountain Prep, Atlas Preparatory, and more.
  • Research from A+ about how many children aren’t engaged in school, and notes from Van about what this means for Colorado students.


Hot takes
Musing, questions, and ideas from this week in education.

Musings from A+’s president, Van Schoales and Director of Communication and Engagement Mary Willson. 

Denver Public Schools are actively reopening, with ECE already in-person, and K-5 moving to in-person learning from now to Oct. 21, according to their reopening plans.

A+ is in support of students being phased back into school, as the evidence is overwhelming that younger students are simply not receiving a high quality education remotely, despite the extreme hard work on behalf of teachers and educators. (More than a month ago, we published an article in support of opening in-person.)

For secondary DPS students, starting Monday, orientation begins for grades 6-12, and they will begin a mix of in-person and remote learning. However, reopening plans are far from a “normal” school experience. “All middle and high schools will provide a minimum of 10 hours of in-person learning for students who have opted in, but the use of that time can vary by school,” according to DPS.

Last week, Chalkbeat reported that even with schools opening, many students are choosing to stay learning virtually, and even if they want to go back, most will only have access to a few hours of support a week, and no in-person classes.

“It’s largely because the district has placed strict limits on in-person interactions between students and teachers in an attempt to minimize the spread of COVID-19,” writes Melanie Asmar.

All DPS high schools, other than East High will only be providing in-person support for a few hours a week, not classes until at least late December. At East High, students will have access to six hours per week of in-person classes, “thanks to a new block schedule the school put in place at the start of the school year in anticipation of such a situation,” Chalkbeat reports. 

A+ asks: With DPS being the most conservative districts in their reopening plans, what opportunities and learning measures are secondary students missing out on, with no end in sight for remote learning for thousands of students? 

Phasing in in-person learning for DPS elementary students is the right move, but what about older students?

We don’t have an update on the The Denver Public Schools Board special vote in the coming weeks related to the DSST Middle School at Noel Campus high school expansion, as it has been postponed. Read about the vote in BoardHawk’s article, “DPS board poised to reject DSST Noel High School,” which references the 2019 report from A+ Colorado, “A Seat at the Table.”

Working for the students
News, dispatches and highlights from organizations working tirelessly to improve public education in Colorado and beyond.

Colorado Colleges Free Application day | Colorado State Department of Education 
Tuesday, October 13 is free application day for all 32 public colleges and universities throughout Colorado. This day marks the end of Colorado Applies Month, a campaign designed to increase the number of students who participate in the application process, and directions for each institution can be found here.

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