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Report: DPS still doesn’t make the grade, despite effort for improvement

Originally posted on Denver Post May 22, 2012. Copyright ©
Read here. Written by Karen Auge.

Despite years of effort, an infusion of resources and some improvement, Denver Public Schools “is far behind and not rapidly making the grade,” a report by a consortium of influential education non-profits and advocates concludes.

The report by the Donnell-Kay Foundation, Stand for Children Colorado, Together Colorado and A+ Denver, criticizes the district’s much-touted improvement blueprint, The Denver Plan, for not setting its bars high enough.

And, in a diversion from the prevailing conventional wisdom, the report takes issue with the Denver Plan’s goal of providing all kids access to Kindergarten.

The report calls that “a worthwhile initiative,” but, citing what it says is considerable overlap with the city’s voter-approved preschool program, concludes “we would prefer to see DPS strengthen the subsequent 12 years students spend in its schools rather than expand its scope in areas already covered by capable institutions.”

In general, the report, called “True North: Goals for Denver Public Schools,” faults The Denver Plan’s goals because they, “lack rigor structure and consistency.”
The authors write that DPS should be among the state’s top achievers in academic growth, rather than falling roughly in 6the middle.

“While DPS is above average at all levels, given the considerable resources and attention on improvements over the past several years, the district should do better,” the report states.

Instead of the district’s five improvement goals, the report’s authors would substitute two:

• Academic achievement

• Equal access to quality schools for all students

One measure they suggest for academic achievement would be raising DPS students’ scores on the ACT test.

The ACT is a standardized test taken by all Colorado 11th graders, and used as an admissions yardstick by many colleges. The state sets goals for ACT scores; currently DPS students meet that goal only in reading, but fall 1.6 points short in English and one point short in math.

The institute also proposed lifting the standards DPS uses for determining which schools meet expectations.

DPS’ own school report card, as outlined in the Denver Plan, rates schools based on the number of points they achieve on seeral growth and achievemtn meansures. If a school meets 50 percent of those, it is ranked “meets expectations.”

The authors argue that’s much too low and a threshold of 70 percent would be more meaningful.

Karen Augé: 303-954-1733 or