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

Stay Sharp Newsletter: October 2016

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A+ Updates

Missed out on our new website? No problem. We’ll give you a great excuse to check it out with…

BOLD NEW REPORT: Check out A Fair Share: A New Proposal for Teacher Pay in Denver, and let us know how you think teachers should be paid. Give us feedback here


News to Share

A Growth Mindset?
In the latest release of data, we have a sense of how much progress students show on state assessments from one year to the next (as it’s been two years since the last time we had growth data, here’s a quick reminder on how it is calculated: a student’s performance on the test is compared to her “academic peers”– other students who had the same test score she had the previous year, resulting in the individual’s student growth percentile.  Her student growth percentile shows whether she mastered more or less content than this group of students.  The median growth percentile is the average growth percentile of all students within the school or district).  

In the Denver metro area, Littleton posted impressive results in math (64), Denver did so in English Language Arts– showing the same growth Littleton did in the subject (54) which was higher than all other metro area districts on ELA.  Some Colorado Springs area districts also had notable results including Cheyenne Mountain (with a Math and ELA MGP of 61), Widefield (58 in Math), and Harrison (56 in ELA).  Other districts with at least 1,000 students tested around the state are also showing strong results for kids: check out Durango (ELA 62), Summit (ELA 59, Math 58), Fort Morgan (ELA and Math 58), Roaring Fork (ELA 56, Math 58), and Delta (ELA 56).  Unfortunately, districts facing year five on the accountability clock– Aurora, Adams 14, Westminster 50, Sheridan, Pueblo 60, Julesburg, Ignacio, Aguilar Reorganized, and Montezuma-Cortez– which have been some of the state’s lowest performing for years have continued to make little or no improvement even after millions in state and federal support for improvement.    

Schools Outside of the Box
In case you missed it, there was an important prize (and $10 million) awarded a few weeks ago to 10 new bold innovative high school designs by the XQ Super School Project
. We think these schools, and likely hundreds of others, will be important to follow since there remains so little true innovation in high schools across the country where  most kids are still just herded from one 50-minute lecture block to the next for four years. We were particularly excited by Summit Elevate, where students will be able to take advantage of  a partnership with the California College of the Arts and Oakland Unified School District; and New Harmony High, one that builds a unique and focused learning community from a barge in Louisiana. While we were disappointed that there were no Colorado finalists, we hope this award can catalyze exciting work to remedy the lack of quality options for so many Colorado students.

State of the Art
We were excited to learn that DPS has just added a new feature to their website that shows what arts are offered at what schools. This is an important first step toward ensuring that quality arts education is accessible to all DPS students, but, as our report from this spring showed, there is still much more to do. Read our report on Arts Education in Denver!

Making Sure Every Student Succeeds
The newest federal education legislation ESSA provides many opportunities to rethink how to improve our state’s public education.  How we take advantage of these opportunities could move us forward, but also present risks to go backwards.  ESSA is significantly less direct than NCLB in how states must address low performing schools and districts.  A+ Colorado is concerned that the Colorado Department of Education will not use the flexibility of ESSA to strengthen current efforts to improve our lowest performing schools and instead will move towards a more hands-off approach to these schools and districts. Remember, there are nearly 70,000 students currently stuck in our lowest performing schools that have little chance of being prepared for work or college.  Most will not read, write or do math at grade level without some serious interventions now. What will CDE do to ensure that students that are stuck in Colorado’s worst performing schools in districts like Pueblo 60, Adams 14, Aurora, Denver and elsewhere have a shot at a quality education?

Putting Candidates to the Test
Aurora’s Resident Leadership Council (RLC) hosted a candidate forum for the District 6 State Board of Education race. The forum was simultaneously translated into five languages and candidates heard testimony from several Aurora residents before answering questions posed by the RLC. About 100 people heard from candidates Debora Scheffel and Rebecca McClellan who shared their visions for Colorado education and spoke specifically about how they would address the challenges facing Aurora Public Schools. Stay tuned for our voter guide covering all state board districts/candidates.


School Spotlight

Check out some schools that have shown big gains for students both in getting more kids to grade level proficiency and in showing year over year growth! These are two important, but distinct, measures of student learning.


Note: This graph shows schools that have made progress on two separate measures of student achievement: proficiency and growth.  Proficiency shows the percent of students within the school who have reached the proficiency benchmark– in this case, who scored a 4 or 5 on the PARCC assessment.  Growth (MGP) on the other hand looks at how students in the school are progressing compared to last year, regardless of whether they met proficiency expectations.  The two measures, while based on the same assessment, tell us very different, but important, information about how well schools and districts are serving students.

A+ in the News

Lessons Learned from 10 Years of Denver Public School’s Teacher Compensation System, Bellwether Education Partners

Five ways to improve Denver’s teacher pay system, spelled out in new report, Chalkbeat Colorado

Data privacy worries shield thousands of Colorado test scores from public scrutiny, Chalkbeat Colorado

Bonus Pay System For Denver Teachers Needs Overhaul, Report Says, Colorado Public Radio
Frequent Critic of DPS Applauds Latest Test Scores, 9News