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

Stay Sharp Newsletter: March 2019

stay sharpSpring has officially sprung and the days of bomb cyclones are hopefully behind us. Before many of you head off for spring break, take a minute to catch up on the latest A+ and education news!

A+ Updates

What Will It Take To Have Great Schools In Every Neighborhood?

A+ Colorado has released School Improvement, the second brief of a multi-part series, titled Denver’s Next Journey examining the school improvement endeavors made by Denver Public Schools to advance education for all students throughout the last decade.

Denver’s Next Journey: School Improvement offers the opportunity for a fact-based, community dialogue about the experience and outcomes of turnaround initiatives by Denver Public Schools while looking ahead at what we can do to ensure great schools in every neighborhood for students and families.

Just The Facts: DPS has opened and closed many schools across governance types.

With far too many students in schools where improvement is urgent, Denver’s Next Journey: School Improvement finds the impacts of turnaround work in the district mixed and examines these various efforts to assist with struggling schools including:

  • District-run Interventions,
  • New and Autonomous Schools,
  • and School Closure and Restart.

The next brief in Denver’s Next Journey will be released in early April focusing on School Choice & Access, continuing to dig into areas which have impacted educational outcomes while analyzing the history and the current state, and discussing what possibly lies for Denver Public Schools’ community.

What’s the Impact of Arts Education and Why Have it for All?

Join Colorado Governor Jared Polis, A+ Colorado, Denver’s Arts and Venue, and Colorado Business Committee for the Arts, for a discussion on arts education. Moderator Rick Griffith, design director at MATTER, invites you to McNichols Civic Center Building April 3 for the Arts Education for All Forum to hear from the National Endowment for the Arts, local, state and national experts on the impact and importance of arts education. This event is free and open to the public, but registration is limited. RSVP today, spots are running out!

Super School, Super Cool: XQ Institute Hosts Event to #ReThinkHighSchool

XQ Super School Live hosted a sold out show at The Ogden Theater to showcase a night of high school drama full of stories, confessionals, gratitude, and multimedia adventures that celebrate the everyday heroes transforming America’s high schools. A+ Colorado was selected to serve on the host committee and as a beneficiary of the event, and the evening did not disappoint. There were interactive pieces of the event including a multimedia school bus sharing various pieces of data on the state of education in Colorado. Schools from various communities throughout the U.S. were highlighted for their unique take on the classroom experience. The audience heard personal stories from dedicated educators and and witnessed presentations from students who were passionate about rethinking education in unique ways. The event culminated with the option to network and hear from other educational activists, with a slight push to get informed and engaged in the upcoming school board elections this Fall.  

How We Evolve Education

The second annual event from A+ Colorado, How We Evolve Education, was nothing short of a success bringing together 200 of the brightest educational activists in Colorado under one roof. Didn’t get to make it this year? See what you missed, and save the date for next year’s educational bash on 2/21/20.

News to Share

Community EdData Hub Partners with the African Leadership Group for release of Your Community, Your Schools

The African Leadership Group (ALG), in partnership with the Community EdData Hub, an initiative by A+ Colorado, released its first-ever report to serve as a guide for families whose children attend Aurora Public Schools (APS). Your Community, Your Schools: A Call for Partnership in Aurora Schools was released during the African Leadership Group’s celebration of International Women’s Day, in a room full of over 100 attendees. ALG’s event celebrated the impact of women not only in Colorado but highlighted the contributions of incredible women from countries all over Africa.

The report finds that while APS has made slow improvement over time, only 1 in 4 elementary and middle school students are meeting expectations in English language arts, and 1 in 5 are meeting expectations in math. Additionally, racial and income-driven achievement gaps are especially concerning with only 1 in 10 black or African-American and Latino students meeting expectations in math compared to 1 in 3 of their white peers.

Your Community, Your Schools examines Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, and Southeast regions of Aurora with an emphasis on answering and understanding:

  • Who is in our schools?
  • How are students learning in Elementary and Middle school?
  • Are students making academic progress each year?
  • Finding different communities in the data
  • How are our students doing in high school and beyond?
  • How has APS supported struggling schools?
  • An action guide beyond report cards for families, the community, and APS

Your Community, Your Schools calls for action from Aurora Public School to be more open with the community in how its schools are serving students with the hope that every school will commit to hosting community meetings so that families and community members can share an open dialogue on how students are doing and create a space for conversation and opportunity for improvement.

Learn more about ALG’s experience with the Community EdData Hub here.

Right to Know: Transparency Week

Last week was national transparency week, celebrated in statehouses around the country.  Here in Colorado, we need to ask tough questions about the state of data transparency. Unfortunately, too many questions that families and communities have about data in Colorado we are not able to answer. The Right to Know coalition worked last summer to ensure that the 2018 data release was as open as it has been in years.  However, previous years data releases are still not open and showing data that we need to know to understand how students are performing. This is a major equity issue for Coloradans, as the data is disproportionately affecting our ability to see groups by race or ethnicity in schools.  Check out the A+ Colorado memo on the current problems in our state data system and sign up for the Right to Know campaign for more information.

Adams 14 School District in Commerce City Continues Struggle

Only 15% of Adams 14 third grade students were reading at grade level last year.  Appropriately the Colorado Department of Education is intervening to ensure all of Commerce City’s students can read and have a shot at a quality public education.  The challenge is how to best support school improvement in the context of Colorado’s strong local control laws and the lack of education turnaround experts that have the capacity to do the work and are supported by the Adams 14 community.   

This challenge was highlighted last week at the meeting of the Colorado Department of Education when Mapleton School District, Adams 14’s neighbor and the finalist for becoming the education management partner for Adams 14 was grilled on their plans for how to turn around the district by the Colorado State Board of Education. There are no doubt many advantages for Mapleton being manager in terms of their understanding of the community and their experience in leading change but their remains a lack of specificity in the plans of exactly how they can turn schools around in Adams 14.  

As we have reported earlier, Mapleton itself has made progress on student achievement but still has much work to do to support most of their students to meet state expectations. We hope that CDE, Mapleton, and Adams 14 can work closely together to ensure that there are experienced experts on school turnaround managing several of the Adams 14 schools. The design of this intervention will not only have a lasting impact on Commerce City students but will set the precedent for how CDE will intervene with Colorado’s lowest performing school districts. The State Board is smart to ask tough questions and encourage partnership – and any potential partner should welcome the discussion over how to ensure that Adams 14 can achieve more than 15% reading proficiency and ensure students are successful in life.

A+ Answers 

How has Early Childhood Education improved in Denver Public Schools over the last fifteen years and how can families and community members become more actively involved so that the gains and/or challenges that are being seen are equitable across all groups of students?

Denver Public Schools faces severe access and equity issues when it comes to Early Childhood Education (ECE). Two key programs the City of Denver has to help families access ECE programming are Head Start and the Denver Preschool Program (DPP). Both help families, although the support they offer still fails to meet the demand for ECE slots. In particular, this inequity is aggravated by geographical limitations, leading to childcare deserts which follow familiar economic and demographic lines. This is a complex topic with a lot of information so click here to read our full response and check out our other graphics.


A+ Answers is a community-driven research and reporting project, where we answer your questions to empower community conversations about education in Colorado.

Help A+ Colorado research questions that matter to you, so we can help you make informed decisions about education in Colorado.

Ask The Next A+ Answers. Get in contact with us!


School Spotlight: Northfield High School

A+ Colorado recently had the opportunity to visit Northfield High School, Denver’s newest comprehensive high school. Northfield has grown significantly since opening in the Northfield neighborhood in 2015 as an “IB for All” school. The school continues its IB model which requires all students to take IB Language and Literature as 11th and 12th graders with the option to opt in to the full IB Diploma Programme.

This will be the school’s first year with graduating seniors and enrollment has surged since the school first opened. Northfield is a boundary school for the Stapleton development and parts of Park Hill but also holds back 35% of its seats for students in the Far Northeast enrollment zone which includes Montbello and Green Valley Ranch. In its first and second years, 50% and 55% of students qualified for free or reduced price lunch respectively, a number that has dropped to 42% in the most recent year.
In addition to the IB program, Northfield also offers several CareerConnect pathways in Business, Engineering, Information Technology, and Biomedical Sciences (one of the most popular). Regardless of the courses students choose to enroll in, school leadership believes that a strong foundation in the framework of International Baccalaureate which values inquiry, will stand to benefit all students after they graduate.

We’re looking forward to seeing what comes next for Northfield’s first senior class!

A+ in the News

As the Denver district and teachers union battle over pay, the public has its say, Chalkbeat

Striking Denver teachers reach tentative contract agreement, Liberation News

Denver Teachers Flexed Their Union Power For Pay. They Say Reform Is Next, CPR

Study shows big disparities among Colorado high schools sending students to top colleges, Fox 31

Where do Colorado’s online school students end up? Lawmakers want to know., Chalkbeat

Mixed results after more than a decade of school improvement efforts in Denver, report says, Chalkbeat

Upcoming Events

Wednesday, April 3 | Arts Education For All Forum | 4:00 PM @ McNichols Civic Center Building

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