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

Stay Sharp Newsletter: February 2017

v day stay sharp

A+ Updates

A BOLD New Report

Read The Outliers: The State of Colorado School Districts 2016 to see data on the state of academic outcomes for students in school districts across the state of Colorado. We created two versions of this ground-breaking report: one printable version with 32 pages jam-packed with data, and an expanded version with searchable district-by-district snapshots, so that Colorado legislators, superintendents, and parents can access data about their district with just one click! Want to jump to your district? Click here. Check out the media coverage in the Denver Post, Chalkbeat Colorado, the Durango Herald, and KREX 5/Fox 4. We are thrilled to see so many districts and high schools stepping up for kids throughout the state.

Upcoming Events

February will be quiet for A+ as we dig into research on English Language Learners and college success across Colorado, but look for several events in March to kick off your spring break!

News to Share

Time to reflect on Colorado’s teacher evaluation system (SB-191)?  

The long awaited Teacher Effectiveness Data from the 2014-2015 School Year arrived last week with remarkably little fanfare.  It has been seven years since SB-191 was passed. Who would have guessed that that there were fewer than 5 ineffective principals in all of Colorado or that most school districts had zero ineffective teachers in 2014-15? The Colorado educator core seems to reflect the kids of Lake Wobegon. Read more in Van and Lisa’s latest blog!

The Latest Stats Ver-datum

Thanks to the Colorado Department of Education we’ve started the year information rich with the release of updated data sets.  We’ll be digging in and making sense of this information throughout the coming months, but here are a few cursory observations to whet your appetite.

Graduation Rates for the Class of 2016 and extended graduation rates from previous classes:

  • The statewide on-time graduation rate inched up from 77.5% in 2015 to 78.9% in 2016.
  • Districts that made big improvements in on-time graduation rate since last year are as follows: East Otero R-1, Valley Re-3, Manitou Springs 14, Fort Morgan Re-3, Julesburg Re-1, and Mapleton 1. (note: these are districts with at least 100 students in the class of 2016 cohort)
  • Districts with the five highest on-time graduation rates for the class of 2016 are Lewis-Palmer 38, Gunnison Watershed RE1J, Manitou Springs 14, Cheyenne Mountain 12, and Eaton Re-2 (note: these are districts with at least 100 students in the class of 2016 cohort)

Final School and District Performance Ratings from CDE:

  • Four schools in the state received 100% of eligible points on the state’s School Performance Framework: Cherry Creek Charter Academy (Middle School), Aurora Quest K-8 (Elementary School), Ridgeview Classical Charter Schools (High School), and Aspen Community Charter School (Middle School).  
  • In Denver, 22% of all schools (excluding Alternative Education Campuses) received a turnaround or priority improvement rating. In Aurora, 35% of all schools (excluding AECs) received a turnaround or priority improvement rating. In 2012, 19% of schools in Denver (excluding AECs) received a turnaround or priority improvement rating; in APS, 20% of schools did.

October Count:

  • The number of students enrolled in Denver Metro Area districts rose slightly, and the proportion of students eligible for free or reduced price lunch stayed the same around 40.4%. The districts in the Denver Metro Area that experienced the largest decreases in proportion of students eligible for free or reduced price lunch were Mapleton (-4.1 percentage points), Denver (-1.3 percentage points), Boulder (-1 percentage point), and Westminster (-1 percentage point). Of metro area districts Englewood showed the fastest increase in proportion of students eligible for free or reduced price lunch (+9.3 percentage points).
  • Other districts that showed large increases in the proportion of students eligible for free or reduced price lunch include Montezuma-Cortez (+10.4 percentage points), Pueblo City 60 (+8.8 percentage points), and Harrison 2 (+7.1 percentage points).

APS Budget Woes

This year, Aurora Public Schools did not reach its projected enrollment. The less-than-anticipated per pupil funding, Colorado’s infamous “Negative Factor,” and APS’ dwindling reserves have all contributed to APS’ push to decrease the budget by $31 million. It should be noted that if the district were to retain the 5,353 students that live within the APS boundary who choose to attend a school in another district, the district would have another $50 million or more. After convening an advisory committee and hosting open houses in January, APS’ leadership team will propose a budget in April. In the meantime, Aurora community members had the opportunity to weigh in on some of the scenarios and ideas for cutting the budget developed by the advisory committee and APS staff. These decisions will not be easy, but providing a high-quality education for all kids should guide the decision-making process.  

3 Super(intendent) Spotlights

3 superintendents

In our latest report, The Outliers, we featured districts that saw success in the past four years. We brought three of those districts’ superintendents together to pick their brains about the secret to their success. Here are the highlights:

“I think the other piece is that policy, regulations are a set of guidelines. There still has to be that tinge of local control. How does this regulation work in your district and how does it best fit your kids? Not so rigid that every district feels like their hands are tied, like they don’t have the flexibility to make it best fit their kids. We don’t care what the kitchen looks like, just as long as the food tastes good.” –Frank Reeves, Superintendent of East Grand 2.

“Data reporting is incredibly time consuming. A lot of the data reporting we do, we spend a tremendous amount of time just collecting that data. That’s time that we could have principals working with teachers, and sometimes teachers working with kids. The data pipeline that was started long ago by the state that was going to gather all this data and make life so easy still doesn’t work that way. We end up submitting 80 reports a year to the state. It’s taking a lot of people’s time as well as money that we could spend elsewhere on our kids.” –Frank Reeves, Superintendent of East Grand 2

“I think if we’re going to be asking anything of our legislators is to maintain some level of consistency so that we can get to those data points that are really telling us how we’re making a difference in the lives of kids. If it’s change after change, year after year, I begin to question how we are determining our performance from a longitudinal standpoint. For my district per se, I can tell you that it does not help me to know my performance year to year. I need to see some longitudinal data, I need to begin by looking at some trend data–how we’ve been performing for the past 3 to 5 years? What’re some areas that we need to address? That’s very challenging to do when you have a change in standards, assessments, and accountability frameworks. No one wants to escape accountability, we just want to have true accountability. That will help us push kids forward.” –Dr. Andre Spencer, Superintendent of Harrison 2

“Our challenge is to learn better and do the work better. Again, if we’re going to be fixated on anything it is that we don’t go backwards on the really high-quality standards and assessments that we have. That we have continuity in terms of standards and assessments, and, of course, funding. We should not be the bottom 10% of states in the country. Although districts like Denver and East Grand have been able to pass Mill-Levies, there are other districts in the state whether they’re in Harrison or the San Luis valley or Commerce City that don’t have the property tax wealth to be able to pass Mill-Levies. And that is extraordinarily inequitable for poor kids in our state who don’t live in a district with high property values.” –Tom Boasberg, Superintendent of Denver Public Schools

A+ in the News

How Some Colorado Schools Are Finding Success with Poor and Minority Students, The Denver Post

Which Colorado school districts are outshining the rest — and which are falling behind? New report seeks answers, Chalkbeat Colorado

Latino, multiracial students make strides in academic growth in Durango schools, Durango Herald

New Data on Performance of Students from Different Backgrounds Released, KREX 5/Fox 4

Why Education is Essential to Our Democracy, Senator Michael Bennet on the floor of the Senate via Medium

A+ Colorado’s New Report Embraced on Both Sides of the Aisle, PIE Network Game Changers

DPS Named Top-Performing “Outlier” District, Denver Public Schools

Inside the rocky rollout of Denver Public Schools’ new school closure policy, Chalkbeat Colorado, Denverite

Hundreds of School Choice Supporters to Gather on the West Steps of the Capitol, Yahoo Finance


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