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

August Newsletter: DPS Improvement, Good Enough?

School has just begun for many Denver students and we are excited as more schools are providing much needed extended learning time with longer days and a longer school year.

Last week was a good week for Denver with the latest TCAP (formerly CSAP) scores confirming that many of the schools DPS targeted for improvement are making great gains.

This is the first year that we have seen so many targeted schools show improvement on both “Median Growth Percentile” and on the percent of students at or above proficiency. The schools undergoing turnaround in far NE Denver, such as Green Valley Elementary and McGlone, stand out. It is still early but DPS should be congratulated on their success in starting to turn around schools in far NE Denver. You can read my blog post here.

Overall in DPS, reading is up 2.74%, math is up 1.57% and writing is up 1.92% from 2011. The Denver “Median Growth Percentiles” were also positive, with numbers ranging from 53% in math to 57% in writing (Average is 50). The average annual change in scores for DPS over the last five years has been 1.9% reading, 1.9% math and 1.8% writing.

This year’s scores are an improvement, but it is important to note that they are still very much in line with the slow positive trends for the last five years. We wish the district would put their TCAP scores in the context of their own goals of 3.5% improvement per year in every subject. TCAP growth scores should always be framed as the means, with proficiency at graduation being the goal, so that more students are prepared for work, college and life.

Our big question for DPS still remains: is slow and steady progress of 1% to 2.5% per year good enough? It is important to note that at the current 1% growth rate for 4th grade low-income students, it will take more than 40 years to match Colorado’s average fourth-grade reading score.

Can our kids wait? No, they can’t. We feel the critical first step will be an update of the Denver Plan, combined with regular evaluation of what is working and is not in order to accelerate improvement. The True North Report, released by A+ Denver and Donnell Kay Foundation, begins that conversation.

In addition to my recent TCAP commentary on EdNews, I also discussed Denver high schools and college readiness. You can read the article here. A+ Denver will be issuing comprehensive reports on high schools this year and hosting a meeting on high school improvement this fall.

Also please note there are a number of important community meetings this week to discuss the DPS bond and mill proposal that will be voted on by the DPS school board on August 23. You can see the proposed package by the CPAC committee here. Each meeting will take place from 6pm to 7:30pm at the following locations and dates:

Monday, Aug. 13 – Garden Place Academy
Wednesday, Aug. 15 – Morey Middle School
Thursday, Aug. 16 – Kepner Middle School

Finally, mark your calendars for a few events we are hosting in the coming month and watch for invitations. George Cigale, founder of will be coming to Denver to talk to us on Sept. 13th from 5pm to 7pm, location TBD. We also will be holding a back to school A+ Denver meeting for our members in early September to talk about accelerating improvement in DPS. Look for the date and location in the next couple of weeks.

Thanks again for your commitment to a great public education for all of Denver’s kids.