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

Commentary: Is Dougco ed war good for kids?

Originally posted on EdNewsColorado, July 11, 2012. Copyright ©
Read here. Written by Van Schoales.

Van Schoales, head of A+ Denver, weighs in on what he sees as a diminishing focus on quality education in Douglas County.

With all the drama about teacher unions and vouchers in Douglas County, it makes you wonder what the Douglas County teachers, administrators and school board members aspire to.

Is student achievement in Douglas County what it should be given the relative affluence of students?

Reading blogs and news stories in Education News Colorado, there are more references to the endless philosophical and political debates than to what Dougco schools expects from its students.

It would be really helpful to know what teachers and district leaders think about their student achievement. Is Douglas County doing well? Should the schools be doing better? And if so, how much better and how would we know?

I thought it might be interesting to compare Douglas County to other well-off counties and their highest performing high schools to get a sense of how Dougco stacks up in terms of educational quality in a national context. I would also like to examine other indicators, including student outcomes at all levels, but this a good starting point given the importance of high school for setting the trajectory for students in college and beyond.

I used the US News & World Report high school rankings to compare Dougco high schools to other well-off counties and their high schools. The US News analysis has some limitations, just as all ranking systems do, but provides a nice ballpark comparison of schools – particularly for suburban schools, since there is a focus on AP and IB participation and success rates.

Ideally, I would want to see national value-added data as students move from ninth to 12th grade, along with college matriculation data, to really understand the quality of a high school, but, alas, we have none publicly available now.

I have not worked in Douglas County but I was a teacher and administrator at Palo Alto High, Calif., (ranked #152) graduated from Wootton High in Montgomery County, Md., (ranked #93) and studied high schools for several decades so I have some familiarity with the culture and expectations found in upscale U.S. suburban high schools. The best high schools in this country are often more focused on getting the most kids into the most selective colleges rather than winning a state championship or getting great state test scores. Obviously, the test scores matter but they are not the end game for the best high schools. …

To read full report on the EdNews Colorado website click here