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


October 2015 Newsletter

By matter

Dear Members and Friends, 
Just as back to school routines are settling in, big changes are already taking shape for next year. Read on to learn more about our latest report, school board races, and school facility decisions.
If Not Now… Why We’re Talking about Aurora Public Schools
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A+ Updates
People often forget there are twice as many low-income students in the school districts surrounding Denver than in DPS itself, and most of these students are struggling and underperforming. Because all kids should have access to a great public education, A+ joined the If Not Now Coalition, a group of seventeen organizations working in Aurora and around the state, to shed light on the performance of Aurora Public Schools, and to start a conversation about how to improve them. The Coalition released a report on the state of schools in the district and hosted a forum with Aurora School Board Candidates. As we’ve seen through our work advocating for students in Denver, we believe there is great value in increasing transparency and having public dialogue about school performance and district plans to improve them.  As a Coalition we are excited to continue to engage with Aurora district administrators, school leaders and staff, community members, families, and students to learn more about Aurora’s schools and classrooms, and the vision for students.
Rethinking District Design
We recently hosted Paul Hill from the University of Washington and the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) to discuss his latest book, A Democratic Constitution for Public Education. Teachers, administrators, and advocates came together to discuss what a new vision for public school districts could look like and how they might function. Highlights include how more control might be shifted to the school level, limiting the role of school boards, and what a transition to a more balanced governance model could mean for school operations and student achievement.
PARCC Scores (finally) on the Horizon
Results from last spring’s PARCC test, which measures student performance against the Colorado Academic Standards, are due out in November.  Keep your eyes out for a report from us after the Thanksgiving break that looks at Denver’s performance on the test, and how the district is progressing against the Denver Plan goals.
School Board Races Heating Up
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Ballots have been mailed and voters are now deciding who will represent NW and SE Denver and the city at-large on the Denver Public School Board. A+ organized a series of live debates for each district race as well as compiled side-by-side candidate surveys. To watch a recording of the debates or to read more about your candidate choices, visit our elections page.
Jigsaw Puzzle in Southwest Denver
After years of advocating in Southwest Denver, A+ supports the DPS Board’s tough but important decision to increase the number of high-quality seats in the region. Last week the DPS Board put its new Facility Allocation Policy to the test as it faced the decision of where to place a slate of new middle schools.
The Board faced a conundrum: four new schools approved to operate in Southwest Denver, and two facilities-the Henry building (Henry World School is being phased out), and co-location at Lincoln High School (where enrollment hasdeclined substantially in the past five years). Emotions ran high on all sides of theissue, from those advocating for the new programs, to those arguing against co-location at Lincoln.
Ultimately, the Board, weighing the need for high-quality seats against the reality of limited space, decided to co-locate Compass Academy in the Lincoln High School building, and to co-locate Bear Valley International School and a new DSST middle school at the Henry facility. The decision-making process raises important questions about the benefits and limitations of co-location and the implications for the Lincoln and Kennedy feeder patterns at large.
Standing in the Gap
Rocky Mountain PBS is hosting a television and outreach program that explores the re-segregation of Denver Public Schools and stimulates community dialogue around the achievement gaps in public education. There are two more public screening events on November 11th and December 15th. A+ has participated in the first two events and we strongly recommend anyone working in education in Denver to explore the series and attend one of the community screenings. We’ll be hosting our own event in January- keep an eye out for more details.
SchoolSchool Snapshot
Spreading Roots

A+ recently visited Roots Elementary, a new charter school in Northeast Denver. Roots hopes to redefine the traditional classroom model, opting instead for a personalized menu of learning activities for students each day. As part of this, the role of the teacher is transitioning from traditional whole group instruction to focus on small groups and individualized coaching.
This shift in instructional roles has proved a learning curve for Roots school leaders and staff as they begin to discover some of the shifts in mindsets and professional development that need to accompany such a dramatic shift. Success in this new school model could provide Denver students and families with an alternative choice for elementary education.
We want to hear from you!
Educators across the metro area are doing great things, and we want to hear about it!  At A+ Denver we’re always on the look out for excellent programs in all schools. We’re particularly interested in:
  • Opt-in/out decisions for district services
  • Physical education
  • Teacher leadership and distributed leadership
  • Teacher evaluation and compensation
  • Turnaround strategies
  • Community engagement
To share your approach with us, email Hayley at hayley@aplusdenver.org.

Cheers,

A+ Denver