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

October Newsletter: Keeping you informed about A+ Denver

Your mail-in ballot will be arriving next week. As far as education policy-making goes, this is probably the most important ballot that will drop anywhere in the country. Two seemingly routine issues are being put up to a vote: the School Board composition and school finance. Here is why these issues are not mundane at all:

School board seats

Denver is leading the nation in education reform, and nearly every other city that has tried to be bold has succumbed to political pressure to revert back to the status quo. New York, Chicago, San Diego, and Philadelphia have all put their necks out, only to be bashed on all sides by entrenched interests and those weary of change. Denver has its neck out now.

As many national observers of urban school reform have noted, Denver’s policies and practices set it apart from other districts and have raised student achievement and lowered dropout rates. These policies have resulted in progressive early childhood programs, comparatively better school turnaround interventions, more parental choice, higher school accountability, a diverse array of school types and an emerging teacher effectiveness evaluation system.

Not all of the school board candidates believe these policies have been positive nor do they have clear plans for how else to dramatically improve achievement. A+ Denver has occasionally been a strong critic of the district, but the evidence clearly shows progress is being made (though far from enough). Now is not the time to reverse course, it is a time for Denver to reflect upon what is and is not working and revise accordingly.

A+ Denver is looking to the new school board to take on the tough issues and accelerate student achievement. The Denver Plan needs to be refocused and revised. DPS must graduate more students that are college and career ready. About 60% of our graduates are unprepared for college — which is unacceptable. This is hard work that cannot be remedied through technology or scheduling shortcuts. Last, DPS must learn from their own efforts and national examples to turn around the lowest performing schools more effectively.

We need you to use your vote to speak your mind. Last election, the SW Denver (district 5) seat was won by just 114 votes. If you are undecided or want more information about the candidates, please check out the BoardWatch Denver website for candidate surveys, recordings of debates, bios, and news articles.

This election could carry us forward or set us back several years.

School Finance Reform

Amendment 66 will change the way we distribute and account for education dollars.

The Center for American progress summarizes the bill here. EdNews Colorado also breaks down the bill here.

A+ does not believe throwing more funds at an outdated and largely ineffective system is good for anyone, and that is exactly what will happen if we don’t pass 66. We believe we need to incentivize rational budgeting over political budgeting – and that now, dollars aren’t always spent in ways that best serve kids. Using data to drive dollars is a pivotal step in re-creating a public education system where the vast majority of students graduate prepared for college, work and life. There is no greater lever for change than the way we choose to spend our money.

Amendment 66 will also allow more funds to follow students to their school of choice. We believe that if charters are providing an excellent education, they deserve to be treated as well as non-charters (as they are in Denver). This bill goes a long way toward funding parity to allow both kinds of schools to do their best work.

And finally, A+ supports 66 because it will provide early childhood and full day kindergarten – something many states have been doing since the 1970s. It’s time to bring Colorado up to date.

What we’ve been up to lately

DPS Debates 2013

Eli Stokols, KDVR Fox 31 political reporter, moderated four candidate debates. In case you missed any of the action, check out EdNews Colorado’s coverage of the debates or re-watch them on our new YouTube channel.

Tim Daly, The New Teacher Project (TNTP)

Tim Daly, President of TNPT and national thought leader on how to improve the teaching profession, led a discussion about what the data says about evaluating and coaching teachers. A huge thank you to the Gates Family Foundation for hosting the event in their downtown office space, and to Donnell-Kay and TNTP for their time. Check out our Facebook page for some pictures, and let us know if you want to be a part of follow-up conversations.

Visits to North High School and STRIVE Excel

New schools and school turnarounds are two of the most difficult and important strategies for increasing the number of high quality seats in DPS. After public battles about co-location, both school leaders reported that things are going well.

The schools share cafeteria time, and many STRIVE students play on North sports teams and are part of the ROTSI program. Each of the schools has different ways of approaching culture and curriculum but student engagement and the quality of teaching we saw at both schools was impressive.

Looking ahead

Mayors Tour – Thursday, Oct. 17th

Denver is the first stop on the Mayors for Educational Excellence Tour! Mayor Michael Hancock will be joining join Mayors Kevin Johnson of Sacramento, Angel Taveras of Providence and Julián Castro of San Antonio for the Mayors for Educational Excellence Tour (MEET) on a two-day tour through Denver Public Schools. Read more about the tour in Poltico, here.

The tour will culminate in a town hall reception the evening of October 17th. If you are interested in attending, please email Liz ( ASAP for more information.

Canvassing Day – Wednesday, Oct. 30th

Join us for an afternoon of canvassing for Amendment 66 with the Colorado Commits to Kids Campaign! We will be starting at 1pm and wrapping up at 3pm. Email Maggie ( to RSVP!

Worth Reading

Check out these articles if you haven’t seen them already:
Denver Public Schools election offers voters two paths from the Denver Post
Denver Public Schools says it’s the fastest-growing urban school district in the U.S. from Westword

Also, check out this DPS Powerpoint on district strategy that was presented at their work session.