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

Stay Sharp Newsletter: December 2016

Newsletter picture!

A+ Updates

Teacher Pay is ProComplicated
A+ recently hosted a follow-up event to our September report on Denver’s teacher compensation system,
A Fair Share. Over sixty classroom teachers and community members came together to discuss the current ProComp teacher compensation system and the A+ model presented in our report. Participants had the opportunity to hear from a panel of experts on their thoughts about the A+ model.

The bulk of the evening provided time for small group discussions on the model. Participants shared their feedback on the model and the current compensation system with representatives from DCTA and DPS. During the discussion there was a consensus that the current system is not working as intended, and there is a need to simplify the Denver teacher pay system. All feedback gathered from this event will be synthesized and shared with DPS and DCTA, and will also be available on our website.

While the feedback and perspectives were diverse, there was a clear desire from participants to engage in real conversations around these issues. We look forward to keeping you informed on teacher compensation changes in Denver, and future opportunities for you to engage in the process.

Stay tuned for a BIG report on the state of Colorado’s districts.
Ever wondered where you can find the best district for Latinx kids in Colorado? Or where students with disabilities have the best chance to graduate? Our report The Outliers will answer these and many other questions in January.

News to Share

Illuminating Policy Implementation in DPS
The Denver School Board’s work session this week was action-packed with discussions on the implementation of School Performance Compact (SPC) and the new Luminary Learning network (a nonprofit that operates four DPS innovation schools). The DPS board is expected to
approve the phase out of the first three schools (Amesse, Greenlee and Gilpin) under the new SPC, which requires the district replace the worst performing schools with new effective schools. While the board discussion this week primarily revolved around next steps for adults in the building, we hope to see bold proposals that focus on getting these students into high quality seats as soon as possible. For example, A+ has long advocated for families in any “Red” or “Orange” schools to be given priority for enrollment in any “Blue” or “Green” ahead of other students in the lottery (that would be revolutionary). We were also surprised the Board will allow West Leadership High School, which has struggled for years with some of the lowest scores scores in the state, to remain open. We wonder if this is a symptom of the moving targets DPS has set for school quality; you can see our recent reflection on DPS standards for schools quality and the SPF here.

The DPS board also engaged in a fairly tense discussion with DPS staff over expectations for how other DPS innovation schools might elect a different governance structure separate from the DPS central office and join the new Luminary Learning Network or form their own independent networks. As DPS Board member Barbara O’Brien said, “the Luminary Learning Network exists because the central office can be a wet blanket for talent in DPS.” We are thrilled that the DPS board and staff are engaged in working through the complicated questions about what central office provides schools, how to support real school autonomy, and how to create systems that allow schools to choose what they need to succeed. Clarifying the role of the central office as school authorizer and/or school operator will be critical to the future development of the district.

Clock is Ticking in Commerce City and Adams 14
The Colorado Department of Education (CDE)
rejected the Adams 14 request for an appeal on the state’s lowest rating and will be required to intervene in some way after July 1, 2017. This comes after years of low performance. A+ recently visited four of the Adams 14 schools and saw a number of promising practices. We were especially impressed with school leaders’ commitment to improvement and willingness to have difficult conversations about what improvement will entail. While it is clear Adams 14 is at least willing to have conversations about what interventions they will need to implement, there is a big question about what CDE and the State Board of Education are willing to do to create high-quality learning opportunities. Options for the CDE intervention include school consolidation with neighboring districts, new district management, allowing for charters to take over existing facilities, amongst others. In Colorado and nationally, A+ has seen successful improvement driven by several different strategies. What we have seen to be most important is a school or district improvement strategy that fits the capacity and needs of the community. We hope CDE will support and push Adams 14, and other districts and schools on the clock, to develop thoughtful and strong interventions.  

Be Heard on ESSA
Wondering how to lend your thoughts and expertise as Colorado develops its educational plan under the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)? The Department of Education is looking for feedback on the path forward and is opening surveys over the next two months for public comment. Currently open is a survey for feedback on the current Colorado Academic Standards. Look for a survey on which assessments Colorado uses to measure student achievement in January. We will keep you updated about opportunities to engage as the plan continues to come together.

America’s Leaning Tower of PISA
Programme for International Student Assessment, results for 15-year-olds from 72 countries came out last week: as in the past the U.S. is struggling, and ranks in the middle of the pack when compared to other nations. Our performance is a far cry from the countries at the top of the list, including Canada, Estonia, Germany, and Hong Kong. There was some good news in a sea of mediocrity for the USA showing that there was a significant improvement in closing our alarming achievement gap by income. The bigger problem is that as a country we will not be able sustain our remarkable economic success without having more students developing the skills required for today.

School Spotlight: Central Elementary School

A+ Colorado had the privilege of joining Leadership Commerce City on a series of school tours in Adams 14. Central Elementary School serves students on the Adams 14 side of Commerce City. As of 2014, when we last had official school performance ratings, Central Elementary School had spent three years on the state accountability clock. PARCC CMAS results for 2016 show 12.4% of students meeting or exceeding the ELA benchmark and 14.7% of students meeting or exceeding the Math benchmark. Central Elementary had median growth percentiles (MGP) of 37 and 38 in Math and ELA respectively, meaning that similar students were showing larger gains on PARCC CMAS.

Central Elementary School Principal, Shelagh Burke (pictured aboved), is not making any excuses for the school’s history of underperformance. This is her second year of leadership at Central Elementary and she is committed to making changes that will significantly improve student achievement. Burke is a Commerce City native, she graduated from Adams City High, her family still lives in the community, and she came up through the teaching ranks before entering school administration. Understanding that having a unifying vision,  cohesive school culture, and clear structures and systems are critical to school improvement, Burke has made some very intentional shifts in practices at the school.  For example, in classrooms, teachers are taking advantage of technology and have clear systems for technology use; the school environment is caring, and significantly more focused around having high expectations for student participation; there are more targeted supports for teachers as they implement data-driven instruction. We look forward to following how Burke’s leadership impacts student learning.

A+ in the News

What does Trump’s win mean for Colorado schools? Here are some good guesses. Chalkbeat Colorado, Denverite, Rocky Mountain PBS

Academics aren’t just a ‘white thing.’ Linking and Thinking on Education

What type of leader will Antwan Wilson be for D.C. Public Schools? Denver and Oakland offer clues. WAMU

Aurora school board raises red flags about bringing DSST charter to district, but signs off on continuing negotiations. Chalkbeat Colorado