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

Candidates question A+ Survey

Originally posted on EdNewsColorado, Oct. 4, 2011. Copyright ©
Read here. Written by Charlie Brennan.

The A+ Denver education advocacy group has released results of a Denver Public Schools board candidate survey, but several candidates didn’t consider it a valid exercise.

The lone incumbent on the Nov. 1 ballot, Arturo Jimenez, declined to respond to any of 28 statements to which candidates were asked to assign a number, 1 through 5, indicating their level of agreement or disagreement.

Jimenez, who is running for a second four-year term representing District 5 in northwest Denver, also did not submit responses to a second section in which candidates were asked to rank their top three and bottom three priorities.

Jimenez wrote, “Due to the nature of your survey, unfortunately, I had to leave the questions unanswered. Education policy is not a collection of statements that can be boiled down to simple multiple-choice questions.”

Roger Kilgore, an at-large candidate, didn’t respond on 20 of the 28 agree/disagree statements. He also did not rank priorities.

“I am afraid that I could not respond to very many of your questions because the issues you raise do not lend themselves to multiple choice and ranked answers,” Kilgore wrote.

Another candidate who did not rank priorities was District 1 candidate Emily Sirota. At-large candidate Jacqui Shumway did so – but listed nine items as her top priority, five as number 2 and two as third.
Even a candidate who responded to most of the agree/disagree statements, at-large candidate Frank Deserino, didn’t seem happy about it.

“I believe that the questions here are nuanced in such a way as to make it difficult to provide a definitive answer, given the scale of 1 to 5,” Deserino wrote. “The result is that you can either answer to please A+ Denver and lie to yourself, or be honest but be seen as anti-reform, which in my case is simply not true.”

At-large candidate John Daniel could not be reached by A+ Denver to participate.
“I think it’s unfortunate,” Van Schoales, executive director of A+ Denver, said of some candidates’ reluctance.

“We said in our survey, and in our correspondence with candidates, that we understand this is more complicated, and if they want to explain why they put a ‘3’ on question seven, we would have been happy to publish why they said they put a ‘3’ on question seven,” Schoales said.

Sirota, and to a lesser extent, Shumway, took advantage of that opportunity. Sirota included 25 separate elaborations on her thinking.

Still, Sirota capped it off by writing, “Nearly every one of your 28 questions/statements is in multiple parts, yet your organization asks for one number to respond to each one. I do not find your method useful in demonstrating thoughtfulness on an array of important issues, and no number I can give appropriately describes my thoughts and opinions on these issues.”

The top priorities as ranked by those candidates who agreed to do so were:
Reward and assist schools piloting new forms of teacher evaluation.
Increase the level of accountability and intervention for low performing schools.
Expand the number of high performing district and charter schools.
Ensure that graduation rates are not inflated but are clearly tied to academic proficiency and achievement.
Provide better support for teachers.

A+ Denver is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization advocating for reform and increased student achievement in Denver schools. Its partners in the survey were the Urban League of Metropolitan Denver, Metro Organizations for People, Get Smart Schools, Colorado Succeeds and Padres & Jovenes Unidos.

Neither A+ Denver, nor its partners in the survey, is making endorsements in the board races.