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Report seeks better DPS data to evaluate reforms

Originally posted on, Dec. 1, 2011. Copyright ©
Read here. Written by Yesenia Robles.

A new report complied by a coalition of local nonprofit groups is urging Denver Public Schools to press for better data and to evaluate reforms more closely.

“There’s a challenge in terms of getting good data, and having publicly available data, but we know enough to know where the trends are,” said A-Plus Denver’s executive director, Van Schoales. “What we don’t know is what’s working well and what’s not. Until we know that — from outside the school district’s perspective — we’re flying blind.”

A-Plus Denver partnered with Metro Organizations for People and the Colorado Children’s Campaign to produce the report, “Start With the Facts,” released Wednesday.

Of six recommendations made by the report, five focus on creating better data systems — from better tracking of students who aren’t tested through Colorado standardized tests, to making sure the data are clear and available to the public.

While the report restates previously released data about DPS showing faster-than-average growth, the gains have not been enough to show better achievement than state averages.

“People are working really hard — that’s clear — but we should not fool ourselves into thinking that kids will be at 80 percent proficiency in reading soon,” Schoales said.

A-Plus Denver board member Federico Peña, who spoke at the event where the report was presented, said it is the speed of improvements that is not acceptable right now.

Schoales and others at the event said the need is for a thorough evaluation of the district’s strategies — including literacy interventions, the teacher pay-for-performance system or new schools — to determine what about them is helpful in order to replicate the helpful strategies and dump the useless ones.

“We’re probably never going to have perfect data,” Peña said. “But DPS ought to have better data with a billion-dollar budget.”

Though evaluations are also costly, Schoales said it’s a needed investment.

“These are programs we are spending a lot of resources on,” Schoales said. “So it’s also really expensive to not have evaluations.”

Yesenia Robles: 303-954-1372 or