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

May Newsletter: Keeping you informed about A+ Denver

Dear Friends: 

As summer break approaches, Denver’s school board faces a busy season of new school deliberations and strategic planning. The planning will no doubt be influenced by recent disappointing results on 3rd grade reading TCAPs and college remediation rate improvement.

District Updates

3rd Grade Reading TCAP Scores 

Given the emphasis in recent years on early literacy through preschool investment, intervention programs, and the expansion of tutoring and afterschool programs, the small drop in reading scores in Denver was disappointing. Between 2011 and 2013, the percentage of kids reading at grade level grew from 55.7% to 60.5%. This year, it dropped to 59.6% instead of continuing to grow. Third grade reading scores are a particularly important indicator because up until third grade kids are mainly learning to read but starting around third grade, they are expected to use reading skills to learn other subjects.

If they can’t read, they risk falling behind in other subjects as well. It becomes increasingly difficult to catch kids up to grade level once they fall behind, so reading at grade level in the early elementary years is a critical milestone. Check out this data visualization that shows how Denver elementary schools did on 3rd grade reading relative to their poverty levels. See here (hover over each dot for school name).

College Remediation Rates

Denver’s remediation rates have dropped, an indicator that more kids are entering college prepared to do college level work. The rate for Denver fell from 60% to 52% for the high school class of 2012 (the state moved from 39% to 36%). This number is still far too high, but it is encouraging to see such a drastic change. The schools that have improved the most are Bruce Randolph, Abraham Lincoln, Manual and North. Fred Thomas and SW Early College both saw a notable rise in their remediation rates.

New Schools in June

Twenty-three new school applications were submitted to DPS this spring: 14 charter and nine district-run schools. This is exciting news. Among the applications are several expansions or replications of successful networks or schools (including Rocky Mountain Prep, KIPP, and STRIVE). Some new models are also up for consideration, including ROOTS, Southwest Denver Community School (a City Year proposal), and others.  Meanwhile, new schools approved to open in 2014 include two DSST middle school campuses, STRIVE Prep elementary, High Tech Elementary, and Highline Northeast.

The first year the RFP was issued, in 2008, five applications were approved.  Around 6500 new green and blue seats later, the school board will vote on which new schools to approve in June. Read the applicationshere.

As encouraging as it is to see so many applications, competition is growing for facilities. Ten years ago, there were dozens of half empty school buildings and conversations about whether the district should sell many of them. About thirty new schools – and thousands of kids – later, we are out of space.  Some partially vacant schools remain. However, there are 21 schools currently accredited on probation (red).

A+ Denver Updates

Our Latest Report: ¡Ya Basta!

Last week, we released a report on Southwest Denver as part of a collaborative effort with Latinos for Education Reform, Democrats for Education Reform, Padres & Jovenes Unidos, Stand for Children, and Together Colorado.

The report urges families to demand not just one or two new schools in Southwest Denver, but to address multiple schools that have been struggling for decades. Right now in Southwest, 84% of students are not proficient across all subjects and for every 10 students who start school in the region, only about one will be college- and career-ready by senior year. Without better opportunities, kids will continue to enter adulthood with far fewer prospects than students elsewhere in Colorado.

Save the date: Breakfast with Richard Whitmire

Join us on June 18th for breakfast with Richard Whitmire, a former USA Today editorial writer, to talk about his upcoming book, On the Rocketship: How Top Charter Schools are Pushing the Envelope.

More details to come. Register now!

Interesting Reads:

Tom Vander Ark devotes a blog post to education efforts in Denver over the last decade, highlighting a number of important developments. Read here.

A+ Denver