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

A+ Stay Sharp: 8.20.2020

Colorado students have begun what will be an unconventional school year. Teachers and school leaders continue to demonstrate adaptability as they return to school, with some schools being fully online, others pursuing hybrid models, and some in-person learning throughout the centennial state. This week’s Stay Sharp newsletter includes a tool that has monitored 22 Colorado school district budgets in wake of COVID-19, and a recent op-ed reflecting on the status of equity within Denver Public Schools.

A+ Updates

Outliers highlight

COVID-19 has presented a complex decision for many families related to school choice. Colorado’s open enrollment process allows students to shuffle schools and districts, a trend that has been exacerbated by the pandemic and the evolving needs of individual students and families. Enrollment patterns provide valuable insight to administrators and policy-makers and play a role in determining school district’s budgets. Our Outliers report includes several dashboards which allows readers to see district enrollment patterns throughout the state and provide insight on various student populations.

Is the Denver Public School Board no longer focused on ending inequality? 

Denver Public Schools, like nearly every large school district in America, faces enormous opportunity gaps across a range of education matrices. White and non-low income students have sometimes two, three or even far greater chances to achieve grade-level proficiency, receive a seat in a quality school, or follow a viable path to college or a quality career. School districts have worked with families to address these gaps, and DPS leadership ought to lean into family conversations in order to establish safe and quality learning opportunities with a focus on equitable student outcomes. Read more here

School opening dates

Two large Colorado school districts went back to school this week. Cherry Creek Schools and Douglas County Schools both started their school years with hybrid learning options, allowing some students the opportunity to be back in a classroom for the first time since this spring. Other large metro area districts including Denver Public Schools, Aurora Public Schools, and Jeffco Public Schools will start the year remotely next week. All eyes will be on these districts as parents, policymakers, teachers, and students wade into a highly politicized school year and see if schools can balance student needs and school health through their various models.

SPF Vote by Denver School Board 

The Denver Public Schools Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the School Performance Framework this Thursday. This board has stated the importance of community input and the community provided recommendations to the reimagining SPF committee. It is time the board listened to community. For background, here is how Denver has communicated with the public on school quality. Families have demanded for years that Denver provide more relevant information about schools and now the DPS board has an opportunity to act on the desires of the community.

A+ In the news

President of A+ Colorado, Van Schoales recently discussed the need for equity and safety with the Colorado Sun within the context of students returning to school this fall. Van also spoke about the importance of balancing improvements in both literacy and math skills as improvements in one subject area can come at the cost of progress in another academic area. Vice President of Policy and Research for A+ Colorado, Stephen Fusco, was recently interviewed on the most important factors that influence a child’s educational development. Read the full article here for more information on measures of education quality, school and district finance, and early childhood education.

Education & COVID-19: What’s next? The Biennial of the Americas coffee chat

The Biennial of Americas is hosting an online coffee chat to discuss education and the impact of COVID-19 across the Americas. This chat will feature panelists that include former international education ministers, education policy directors from international foundations and more. Tune in to Facebook Live this Friday, August 21st for an engaging discussion on what’s next for the future of education. 

The School Accountability Committee (SAC) Planning and networking meeting

The Colorado Department of Education will host two virtual convenings of leaders who facilitate SAC’s in their school to share strategies, challenges, and goals for the 2020-21 school year. On Tuesday, Sept. 1 join Rural Leaders from 1-2:30 p.m. – by signing up here, and join Urban/Suburban Leaders from 3:30 -5 p.m here.

COVID-19 District budget decisions tracker

The Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University recently released a tool that tracks how school districts across the country have grappled with finance decisions while navigating the economic fallout from COVID-19. This tool includes 22 Colorado school districts, and provides information on their enrollment, district actions taken, budget trimming, salary reductions and more. 

Unified improvement planning guidance for 2020-21

A short overview of guidance is available to schools and districts to support improvement planning within the context of COVID. This guidance includes flexibility and suggestions for identifying performance challenges; target setting; action planning and more. Detailed, comprehensive guidance will be released within the coming weeks. For additional information, visit the UIP general resources site.

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