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

Stay Sharp Newsletter: April 2017

stay sharp

A+ Updates

We Started with the Facts

On March 22, A+ brought together community leaders for the release of Start With the Facts: Aurora Public Schools 2017, our latest report on the progress of student achievement in the district. After our 2015 report, If Not Now, the district took on some aggressive reform efforts, including the creation of its first ever innovation zone of schools. This report marks a year and a half worth of A+’s engagement with community groups, board members, and district staff. At the event A+ District Advocacy Director Liz Reetz explained her personal connection to the work as a first generation college student and Latina, and her vision that the opportunity to be successful in college be the norm– rather than the exception– for APS students. Rich discussion ensued, with a focus on how to ensure access to good schools is more equitable. Check out the report.

We Got Schooled by Dr. Emdin

A+ partnered with the Denver Public Schools Imaginarium team to host a talk with Dr. Chris Emdin at the History Colorado Center on Wednesday, April 5th. Dr. Emdin touched on themes from his most recent book, New York Times bestseller For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood and the Rest of Y’all Too. His talked concluded several days of visits to DPS classrooms and offered some pointed advice for those in attendance on the work that needs to be done to make our public schools truly work for all students.

april chris emdin

A+ In the Works 

A progress report for Denver Public Schools will hit the stands later this month. Stay tuned!

DPS report

News to Share

We’re #1! We’re #1!

Denver has once again received accolades from Brookings as being the #1 school district for school choice in America. We applaud Denver’s work to create a single application for all schools, a school performance framework that provides a color code on school quality and new school authorizing that focused on school quality rather than governance type (charter, district or innovation). Denver has done remarkable work over the last decade to improve but still has much work to do. Denver still has far too few quality seats for all families to choose from and low-income families still do not have access to many of Denver’s best schools because they are walled off in Denver’s most exclusive neighborhoods.

DSSTeaser? (Potentially) Coming Soon to an APS Near You!

Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST), one of the highest performing schools in Denver and Colorado, is now being considered for two new campuses in Aurora. We are thrilled to see DSST and the APS administration working together, as DSST can offer a school model that Aurora students cannot currently access.That said, APS needs to build out transparent school authorizing processes to ensure the district provides students the best schools whether they be district-run, innovation, or charter. There are 163,000 underserved students in the Denver metro area who currently have few quality options that will prepare them for career or college. Creating one off charter deals for new schools in Aurora, even if they are high quality charter operators, is no way to do quality school authorizing.

Colorado’s ESSA, Still Not a Plan for Every Student to Succeed

On the docket at this week’s State Board of Education meeting is the approval of Colorado’s ESSA plan (essentially, how the state intends to meet the requirements set out by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act or ESSA). When the Colorado Department of Education released the draft plan A+ provided feedback and was one of 24 signatories to a letter from the Equity in Colorado Coalition. We highlighted where we felt the plan fell short in a) reflecting the state’s expectations for what every student should know and be able to do; and b) ensuring communities, including families, educators, advocates, and policymakers, understand what is working—and not working—for students. As the State Board takes up the plan this week, we hope that, in particular, board members discuss how amendments to the state’s plan can increase transparency about school and student performance with specific attention to the areas CDE needs board direction to make any changes.

Spotlight: Aurora Academy

Aurora Academy
Courtesy of Aurora Academy

A+ Colorado recently visited a Core Knowledge school, Aurora Academy, a school model hoping to replicate in Denver. Started in 1986 by professor E.D. Hirsch Jr., the Core Knowledge model is based on the founding value that all students should have access to a rich content, or knowledge-based, curriculum before entering high school. One of the distinguishing features is the coherence and sequencing of curriculum from PK-8th grade and the focus on building content knowledge year over year in math, science, language arts, history, and the arts. Core Knowledge has been shown to work well, but it like any other model requires a great leadership team and committed thoughtful teacher cohort.

While the Core Knowledge school proposal to replace Greenlee Elementary school was somewhat problematic, and was recently withdrawn from DPS’s new school application process, we believe there is a need for a more diverse portfolio of school models for Denver students, including models like Core Knowledge, Montessori, Expeditionary Learning, Waldorf, etc. There is very limited access to Core Knowledge schools in Denver in spite of there being a number of nationally recognized Core Knowledge schools in Colorado.  

A+ in the News

Start with the Facts: A+ Colorado Shines a Light on Underperforming District, PIE Network Gamechangers

Aurora schools chief accuses district critic of exploiting students, Denver Post

New report bemoans state of education in Aurora, but superintendent begs to differ, Chalkbeat Colorado

DC, CO, MD, LA: ESSA Action This Week, PIE Network Game Changers

Does Colorado’s state education plan fall flat? Some who helped write it think so, Chalkbeat Colorado

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