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

August Newsletter: Keeping you informed about A+ Denver

Welcome back from summer break. School’s back in session, TCAPs are coming out tomorrow morning, a high profile school board race is gaining speed, common core is here, and taxpayers are considering whether to overhaul school finance.  Here’s what’s been going on at A+:

Board Watching

Depending on who you ask, DPS school board meetings are either fairly entertaining (in the same way that Jerry Springer might be entertaining) or complete snoozers. That said, the school boards in this country are responsible for spending roughly as much as the Department of Defense.

But as Roza points out in the article here, unlike DOD, decision making is decentralized, which means that the buck falls a lot closer to voters. This fall, we’ll do two things to increase voters’ ability to monitor the DPS school board. First, we will have a volunteer committee attending the board meetings and rating the board on its governance processes. Second, we will be publishing every vote dating back to 2009. Look fora url in your inbox soon.

Candidate Debates

This year instead of a traditional panel format, EdNews and A+ are co-hosting four district-specific debates. Eli Stokols, political reporter at Fox31 will moderate the events, which will be taped and broadcast live from a TV studio on:

  • Tuesday, Sept. 10 – District 4
  • Wednesday, Sept. 18 – District 3
  • Thursday, Sept. 26 – At-Large
  • Wednesday, Oct. 2 – District 2

Candidate Questionnaires

All of the DPS board candidates have completed a survey that reveals where they stand on many controversial school reform issues. We are compiling the results and will issue them within the next two weeks.

A+ Members

A+ Denver members, please mark your calendars for September 4th from 8-10 AM (Location to be finalized this week). We’ll meet with Superintendent Tom Boasberg and DPS school board president, Mary Seawell, and will review our 2013-14 agenda.

Early Childhood Education

In case you missed it, Denver Preschool program (DPP) released the first comprehensive evaluation of the city’s early childhood program. If you’ll recall, in 2006 voters approved the creation of DPP to increase access to quality preschool options for families. The results, as you may have seen here or read abouthere or here showed that 3rd grade students that participated in DPP had an average of 6% higher TCAPscores than similarly matched students that did not participate in DPP. In other words, DPP seems to be giving kids the leg up they need to start Kindergarten prepared.

Now that we know that the preschool programs that are part of DPP are doing well as a group, it’s time to take a closer look at which ones are having the largest impact on student learning in early elementary grades.

TCAP on Tap

TCAP scores come out tomorrow morning. There will be a dozen spreadsheets and thousands of rows of numbers… but some of the things we will be looking for are:

  1. Growth scores by school;
  2. How low-income kids are doing in literacy in early grades;
  3. How turnarounds (in Far Northeast and elsewhere) are performing now that the schools have had an influx of resources; and
  4. How the schools that have specialized programs like tutoring in place are doing.

A+ Denver will publish an analysis of these trends in “Start with the Facts II,” a two-year follow up look at how kids in DPS are doing.

National buzz

Common core:

There has been a great deal of buzz over the last week because NY released round one of testing data after switching to the Common Core. People are interested because NY is seen as a canary in the coal mine. Overall scores took a big dive, and schools (charter and district managed) that were doing little more than drill and kill did especially poorly. We predict that to do well on the assessments, Denver schools will need to emphasize writing skills. The tests will aim to measure whether kids can make coherent arguments – a shift from the rote memorization that other standardized tests have been criticized for.

Funding K-12, Amendment 66

Senate Bill 213 reallocates funding so that state dollars follow students based on their likelihood to need academic and social supports. It evens out some of the disparities between districts, and aims to give charter schools more equitable funding. The overhaul will also create a much more transparent school finance system (the most transparent system in the country) so that anyone can see where dollars are flowing – into which schools, programs, or classrooms. The question will be: can we take this information (the “ROI”) and reshape our system to support the strongest schools, programs and teachers?

We hope our friends and members will support Amendment 66 and will give time and resources to this effort.


A+ Denver