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

Stay Sharp Newsletter: January 2019

stay sharpEducation has roared in like a blizzard as the new year kicks off with a huge teacher strike in Los Angeles and Denver teachers on the brink of walking off the job. We are hopeful that Denver district leaders and DCTA (Denver Classroom Teachers Association) can come to an agreement before Friday. Teachers deserve to be paid far more than they are currently and the pay system should incentivize the recruitment and retention of teachers in the most challenging schools and classrooms. Read on for more information around the potential teacher strike, the launch of a research tool for the #EdColo community, a reissued report on which Colorado high schools are sending their students to college, and much more on the education beat…

A+ Updates

Nearing An Agreement Or A Strike?

Denver Public Schools and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) are staring down a January 18th expiration of the current ProComp agreement, and, potentially, a strike if an agreement is not reached. Where DCTA and DPS will land on the system design and overall amount allocated to teacher compensation are still significant question marks.  The decisions in particular about teacher incentives is likely to have a significant impact on where Denver’s most experienced and effective end up of teaching. Will Denver’s best teachers be incentivized to work in schools or classrooms that most need their support? Or will go back to system where there was little pay incentive to work with Denver’s students that are struggling the most? Read more about the potential strike in our blog

Which Colorado High Schools Are Sending Their Students To College?: A Seat At The Table Report Reissue

A+ kicked off 2019 with A Seat at the Table: Colorado Students’ Access to Top Colleges, a reissued report examining the important decision of where a child will attend high school as many families look for a school with a proven track record of sending graduates to a top college or university. A Seat At The Table takes a look at where Colorado high school students attend college over a period of 7 years finding while 57% of all Colorado students from 2009 to 2015 went on to a college program in the fall after they graduated from a Colorado high school, only 18% went to one of the country’s top colleges, a list that includes local schools University of Colorado-Boulder, Colorado State University, Colorado School of Mines, and the United States Air Force Academy. Additionally, massive gaps remain in college matriculation in Colorado along lines of income and ethnicity. The report digs into this and also highlights some Colorado high schools that are doing a tremendous job at ensuring their students access these opportunities, which research shows plays an important role in curbing growing inequality.

The reissue of this report is an important reminder that there are sadly many challenges in how Colorado is tracking and publicly reporting the connection between the K-12 education system and opportunities for students after graduation. We believe that families and communities have a right to know how schools do in preparing students for life after high school.

We look forward to the conversations this report sparks about quality colleges and universities, and which Colorado students are attending them. We hope Colorado can build upon information from this report, and become a leader in providing transparent information about access to quality colleges and universities for students.

A+ Launches Community EdData Hub, Promising To Serve As A Resource For Critical Research Questions About Education In Colorado 

A+ Colorado has launched the Community EdData Hub, an initiative aimed at helping various community groups and organizations answer research questions about education in Colorado that are important in their work with schools, educators, families, and students. At A+, we believe data and research play a key role in understanding and transforming education, and we have launched this initiative in hopes of providing local communities vital information and research to be the experts around what is, or is not working, for their students in schools. The Community EdData Hub will be used to empower organizations and individuals working with communities to understand and advocate for excellent educational opportunities.

“Climb Higher is excited to partner with A+ Colorado as we collectively strive to provide families across Colorado with essential data to advocate for their kids. We cannot have a real education discussion without groups that work directly with families. Having access to this information and the Community EdData Hub as a resource helps advance this vision.” – Reilly Pharo-Carter, Climb Higher Colorado

A+ Colorado has partnered with Climb Higher Colorado, Donnell-Kay Foundation, and The Denver Foundation to launch the Community EdData Hub. A+ will be providing these research analysis services at a significantly reduced rate including pro bono support on small requests. Visit the Community EdData Hub to submit a data request and learn more about guidelines and the types of data requests A+ Colorado will be taking in 2019.

Denver’s Next Journey: What Is Next For Denver Public Schools?

A+ Colorado is set to release 5 issue briefs covering Denver’s Next Journey in the next several months exploring big questions and big lessons over the past decade as Denver stands at an important crossroads with new leadership for the first time in a decade and major debate about progress towards “Great Schools in Every Neighborhood.”

A+ Colorado will partner with community groups on each brief release to ask the important questions about the future of Denver with overview of where we have been, where we are, timelines of major events and the big questions moving forward. A+ is also soliciting feedback from the entire Denver community on these questions. Share your thoughts here.

With a focus on equity and engagement, each brief will dive into various areas of education aimed at improving Denver’s current state of education for families and students. Denver’s Next Journey topics will include: school improvement, school choice, educators, measuring and communicating school quality, and governance and flexibility.

“Denver’s Next Journey will be an important conversation during a critical time in our city for students and families. We must start this journey with an acknowledgement of the significant challenges and obstacles and history of the District.  We are optimistic that with community input and support we will create better opportunities and outcomes for Denver students. A+ Colorado is committed to advancing this serious conversation across our city.” -Theresa Peña, A+ Colorado Board Chair & Former Board President of Denver Public Schools

A common history and a shared sense of questions moving forward, allows the community to be able to write the next chapter in education equity for all of Denver’s children. A+ Colorado is excited to advance a proactive and fact-based conversation about the crossroads of our education system and the next journey we must take together.

Sign up and share the A+ Colorado Newsletter to get updates and registration information for our culminating event on Denver’s Next Journey at the end of May.

News to Share

New Leadership, Big Ideas

A+ extends a warm welcome to newly elected state officials sworn in over the past two weeks. Big topics are on the docket during this legislative session and Governor Polis’ first six months will include (the interrelated issues of) school funding, a teacher shortage, universal access to full-day kindergarten, and the expansion of preschool. The first week saw 145 pieces of legislation introduced with 23 explicitly focused on PK-12, and another 5 focused on higher education. With a blue state house, a blue executive branch, and the rejection of statewide tax increases, constitutional tax limitations, and a real urban/rural political divide, there are big promises to address education, and other issues, and real constraints to do so. As with all policy proposals the devil is in the details. A+ will be keeping watch, and will keep you updated this spring.

Last week was the first week for new Denver Public Schools Superintendent Susana Cordova. Her first day was celebrated with fanfare at her former elementary school and was attended by two former Mayors. Her early celebration was immediately overshadowed by a threatened DCTA strike (see below). A+ Colorado welcomes Susana and we are excited about the opportunity she brings through her decades of experience in DPS and as an educator.  We look forward to working with her on a variety of issues, including our upcoming Denver’s Next Journey releases over the spring.

Adams 14 EMO Selection

Over the past few months, major events have been unfolding in Adams 14. In November, the state released it’s order putting the selection of an External Management Organization (EMO) as the next stage for the troubled district.  In response, the district accepted applications for organizations that are interested in serving in an EMO role and for community members to help build a criteria for selecting the provider. Over the next couple of weeks, the applicant pool will be narrowed and Adams 14 will be making a final decision by February 12th. Visit the district’s website to stay informed. Observers and participants of the process have been very impressed by the facilitation of Team Tipton, an outside organization providing engagement support to the district. Team Tipton conducted an external audit of community perceptions of Adams 14 in the summer/fall that showed massive community distrust and negative relationships.

Phase 1 of Blueprint APS Completed

Phase 1 of Aurora Public Schools’ Blueprint APS process wrapped up in December with a presentation to the APS School Board. The culmination of months of community feedback and stakeholder engagement resulted in the development of 5 scenarios on how the district can support the implementation of the current strategic plan: APS 2020. The final scenarios are: Aurora Scholar, Independent and Informed, Community Partner, Whole Child, and Global Citizen. The APS School Board will determine next steps on community engagement around these proposed scenarios. We look forward to learning more about the process for Phase 2 and the opportunities for the Aurora community to provide input on the direction of the district.

A+ Data Dive: Which school district has the highest average salary for teachers?

Last month you all asked us: Which school district has the highest average salary for teachers? A+ is here to deliver the answers to your questions around education in Colorado.

Here are the five districts with the highest average salary for teachers. A note on using average salaries to understand relative teacher pay. Average salaries are often more a measure of average teacher education levels and experience than of pay. The vast majority of school districts use a salary schedule defined by “steps and lanes” to determine teacher pay, meaning that teachers get more money for each year they teach (“steps”) and for having higher levels of educational attainment (“lanes”). The table below tells us that, on average, teachers in the following 5 districts have the highest pay in the state. However, it could be just as true that the average teacher in Boulder is more experienced and has a higher level of education than in any other district in the state– i.e. the average teacher in Boulder is on a higher step and lane than the average teacher in another district. (Also important, but different information!) What would be a better measure is to compare average salaries of similar teachers. For example, where does a 3rd year teacher make the most money? A 15 year veteran with two masters degrees? Unfortunately the state does not collect this data, making real salary comparisons all but impossible, at a significant detriment to advocates who would like to see better teacher pay across the state.

District Full Time Teachers Average Salary
Boulder Valley Re 2 1,717 $         75,220
Cherry Creek 5 3,115 $         71,686
Littleton 6 831 $         66,472
Adams 12 Five Star Schools 1,971 $         59,506
Westminster Public Schools 522 $         58,976

What type of Data Dive would you like to see in next month’s newsletter?

  1. How do Colorado’s teacher salaries compare to teachers’ salaries across the country?
  2. Which districts across Colorado offer AP courses, and are students enrolling?
  3. What percent of Colorado high school seniors fill out a FAFSA?

Supporter Spotlight

A+ Colorado would like to thank Sheridan Road Charitable Foundation for supporting the mission of A+ Colorado to sharpen public education by building public will and advocating for the changes necessary to dramatically increase student achievement in schools and districts in Colorado.

School Spotlight: Fairview High School (Boulder Valley Re 2) & Cheyenne Mountain High School (Cheyenne Mountain 12)

We know that access to a high quality college or university is particularly important for students of color, and students from low-income families. Two schools are doing a great job at helping both its low-income students and its students of color: Fairview High School and Cheyenne Mountain. While some schools are particularly successful at supporting one group of students to access top colleges, these two schools are unique in their work supporting students from different backgrounds. Indeed both schools ranked in the top 25 high schools across the state for sending their students qualifying for free or reduced price lunch, black students, and latinx students to top colleges and universities respectively. Keep up the good work!

Read A+ Colorado’s reissue of A Seat at the Table, to see which schools do the best job at giving its students a chance to beat cycles of poverty by providing access to high quality colleges and universities.

A+ in the News

Report: 57% of Colorado kids going to college, but only 18% go to top tier colleges, The Denver Channel

Half of all Colorado high schools don’t send majority of their graduates to a postsecondary program, report finds, The Denver Post

18 percent of Colorado high school grads go to a top college, Chalkbeat


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