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

February Newsletter: Keeping you informed about A+ Denver

What’s happening around town

Bouts over new state standards, tenure

Two issues at the heart of education tensions across the country are the Common Core and teacher tenure. Colorado, New York, and Los Angeles are all engaged in very public debates and lawsuits over these issues. We raise these issues again here (you heard from us about several related bills two weeks ago) because they are central to the conversation about how Denver moves forward.For now, thanks to you and our legislators, the bill to postpone the implementation of the Colorado academic standards (Common Core with additional Colorado-specific content), was successfully killed in the Senate Education Committee last week. A+ applauds the decision because the Common Core more accurately reflects international benchmarks for learning (the minimum for what kids should know at given intervals). Shying away from these higher standards may prop up test scores in the short term but doesn’t do kids any favors in the long run.

A note on Common Core and why they are controversial: Common Core are a set of standards (not curriculum) developed by a group of states with subject experts that are – by most accounts – higher than current standards for most states (including Colorado). While centrists on both sides of the aisle and even teachers’ unions (NEA says the standards “provide educators with more manageable curriculum goals and greater opportunities to use their professional judgment in ways that promote student success.”) think the standards are a good move, vocal opponents on the far left and right take issue with the new standards. Some on the left argue that the standards are too high (and thus challenge the status quo), and the Glenn Becks of the world associate them with fascism. The rhetoric is likely to heat up in the fall, but we’d like to encourage anyone who is interested to take a close look at the actual standards and assessmentitems before forming opinions, because there is a lot of misinformation floating around. Note, for example, that there will be no national book lists.

Teacher tenure

The second hot issue around the country is that of teacher tenure. As you know, Colorado’s HB14-1268 would roll back mutual consent and reinstate forced placement of teachers. The bill is still in the pipeline. Battles over mutual consent and other tenure-related issues are also underway in both California and New York. Specifically, Vergara v. California raises questions about LIFO (last in, first out). Typically, tenured teachers have been protected from layoffs by both forced placement and a policy that ensures that new teachers are laid off first. This raises some serious questions about what is best for kids, particularly if those new teachers are very effective. Here is a news story that reports the testimony of one award winning teacher who was laid off five times in nine years just because she was the last hired. Meanwhile NY Mayor Bill de Blasio is working to undo policies that ended the ‘dance of the lemons’ – which would reinstate forced placement.

Here on Grant Street

Denver Plan
A new strategic plan for DPS is expected by June. A+ Denver has and continues to advocate for realistic and measurable goals. If you would like to participate in a community meeting to share your ideas, see details below.In neighborhoods across the Denver, thousands of families are submitting their top school choices (round two starts March 3). A+ is leading a diverse committee of parents and educators that, in partnership with DPS and the University of Washington, will report on what schools families are demanding, how choices vary across the city, and how the process and school selection can be informed by parent preferences. Click here to see previous reports and here to read a recent blog post by Van Schoales on school choice.

Upcoming community meetings:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014, 6:00 – 7:30 pm
Merrill Middle School Cafeteria
Board Member: Anne Rowe, District 1Monday, March 10, 2014, 6:00 – 7:30 pm
Abraham Lincoln High School Presentation Room
Board Member: Rosemary Rodriguez, District 2

Tuesday, March 18, 2014, 6:00 – 7:30 pm
Hill Campus of Arts & Sciences Cafeteria
Board Member: Mike Johnson, District 3

Monday, March 3, 2014, 6:00 – 7:30pm
Smiley Middle School Campus Cafeteria
Board Member: Landri Taylor, District 4Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 6:00 – 7:30pm
Evie Dennis Campus West Commons
Board Member: Landri Taylor, District 4

Wednesday, March 12, 2014, 6:00 – 7:30 pm
North High School Cafeteria
Board Member: Arturo Jimenez, District 5

BoardWatch Denver Report Card

In August 2013, A+ Denver launched a project to monitor the effectiveness of the DPS Board of Education called BoardWatch Denver. The project was created to improve the governance practices of the Board in a way that will lead to better academic achievement for Denver students. Our 20+ volunteers rated the Board on its focus, role clarity, conduct, transparency, and competency for each monthly work session and regular meeting.August 2013 – November 2013 Report Card: Seawall Board

December 2013 – January 2014 Report Card: Haynes Board

To learn more or volunteer, email Maggie.

School Performance by Board District and City Council Seat
When we couldn’t find school performance information disaggregated by School Board Member District or City Council District, we decided to compile it ourselves.Click here to see how schools are doing in each School Board district and here for each City Council district.

Book Drive
We still need your used children’s books for the free library in the public housing office at 777 Grant Street. If you have books to donate, email
Cheers,A+ Denver