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

Stay Sharp Newsletter: September 2019

As we transition from the first days of school to October Count we have a lot to catch up on including a brand new report focusing on DPS Teachers and newly launched resources to help voters dig into the data on Denver students before the upcoming school board election. As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with a piece from one of our very own, we also release resources translated into Spanish to help families navigate #EdColo. All of this + more within this packed edition of the Stay Sharp Newsletter.

A+ Updates

Teachers are the single most important in-school factor that impacts students. What investments has DPS made?

A+ Colorado has released Investing in Teachers, the fifth report in the Denver’s Next Journey series, exploring how Denver Public Schools (DPS) has tried different strategies to support educators including the evolution of Denver’s compensation structure, developments in teacher evaluations, diversity initiatives, and other professional development supports and programs.

Investing in Teachers finds that despite millions of dollars invested over the past decade in these initiatives, the impact these have had on educators and students isn’t necessarily clear.

Read the full report to find out what we do know about Denver’s educators and the initiatives taken to support those who work tirelessly for our students.

A+ Colorado launches School Board Election Resources (en Inglés y Español) to help voters understand what is at stake for students and families in Denver

With only 35 days left before the Denver School Board election, A+ Colorado releases district specific resources in English (y Español) which dive into how Denver Public Schools are serving students.

These unique community resources compile holistic data, to hold candidates accountable to their voters and to the community they serve, specific to each board district where a seat is up this election. Get the resources before November’s election here.

What defines a Latina? It’s complicated

Latinx make up ⅕th (21.5%) of Colorado’s population. But, Latinx students make up ⅓rd (305,940 students) of Colorado’s student population. It’s imperative that we talk about this diverse group beyond Hispanic Heritage Month, which takes place from September 15 – October 15.

Identity is a public thing that is “read” and private thing that is experienced, all at once. This is what makes it meaningful and important. The challenge lies in using one term that groups culture, language, and race as a catch-all.”

A+ Colorado’s research director, Laura Valle Gutierrez reflects on her experiences growing up in Colorado as a Puerto Rican woman in her moving piece, What defines a Latina? It’s complicated.

What is a good school in Colorado? And will Denver set a standard to ensure that students can read?

Discussions have been swirling at the state and district levels about school data and accountability over the last few months.

These discussions cut to the core of whether Colorado has a standards-based education system and whether the state will ensure that schools are accountable for supporting students to reach these standards. We know that standards matter from decades of research that setting expectations make a huge difference for student learning.

Does Colorado have a standard for what students should know and can do in reading, writing and math? And will the state of Colorado hold school districts accountable for these standards?

Will the Colorado accountability system go beyond labeling schools that are in the lowest 5-8% of academic performance?  Should the accountability system identify schools that are making the biggest difference for students?

What’s good enough for our kids? Read Van Schoales full blog on Denver’s standards to ensure that all students can read.

News to share

Tenemos un problema de transparencia en Colorado. 
We have a transparency problem in Colorado

Las familias y las comunidades tienen el Derecho a Saber. 
Families and communities have a Right to Know.

In May, The Colorado Right to Know Coalition, a bipartisan group comprised of over 20 organizations, released a Report Card that rates how easy it is to see and understand how Colorado kids are doing. The Report Card addresses where the state, which includes the Colorado General Assembly, the Governor, and the Colorado Department of Education, falls short in education transparency.

The report card is now available in Spanish in hopes to push a conversation which will allow for additional momentum to address these concerns.

As an organization that places tremendous value on transparency, data-driven decision-making, and equitable student outcomes, A+ Colorado supports the work of the Right To Know Coalition to help ensure that all Coloradans have access to important academic performance data about schools and districts in the state.

Ver La Calificación Rubrico para la Coalición Derecho a Saber.

District Spotlight

The Roaring Fork School District has been leading a number of innovative efforts to improve student outcomes with a focus on instruction, socio-economic student integration and efforts to recruit/retain great teachers.  

ICYMI- The Washington Post recently highlighted some of Roaring Fork School District’s work on building more racial and economically integrated schools with an analysis finding that while some school districts have incorporated initiatives to have schools represent their communities’ population, segregation within metro-area public schools is still a huge issue nationally. 

While the article takes a broad look at districts across the United States, the article zooms in on the Roaring Fork Valley and Denver here in Colorado to illustrate the integration trends found in newly diverse and historically diverse districts across the country.

The Roaring Fork area has dramatically increased in diversity over the past two decades, the district has intentionally pursued policies that would lead to more integrated schools. The district has recently developed a new district-charter compact that will enable greater integration of all of the schools. Roaring Fork charter schools have been disproportionately white and non-low-income compared to district operated schools.  

However, historically diverse districts like Denver have seen integration move in the opposite direction, as court-ordered busing was discontinued and the district returned to a model of neighborhood schools reflecting segregated housing patterns endemic to the city.

Van Schoales, President of A+ Colorado was interviewed for the article: “We have unequal housing, segregated housing by design and by law. After busing ended, [school] boundary lines were drawn, and they reinforced the existing housing patterns.” 

We know that integrated schools have a huge impact on student performance, while there are also additional benefits to learning at a school with a diverse student body, outside of test scores, including improving areas within sociocultural learnings. A+ Colorado is committed to shedding a light on the impacts of segregated schools through our data analysis and will continue to push for policies that lead to a more equitable system for all Colorado students.

A+ Answers

Who are Colorado’s Emerging Multilingual Students?

As we approach the year anniversary of our Many Languages, One Future report release, and celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, in this month’s A+ Answers, we highlight emerging multilingual students, students who make up a large amount of the growing number of Colorado students. These are students who speak a language other than English and are learning English through targeted services in public schools.

As a state, we invest over $56 million annually in supporting these students, yet relatively little is known about which systems are best serving them. Here is what we do know:

  • 14% of CO students are emerging multilingual students
  • 66% of these students are in Metro Denver,
  • 81% of these students qualify for free or reduced priced lunch.
  • Spanish is the primary home language for 83% of Colorado’s emerging multilingual students, followed by Vietnamese (1.6%) and Arabic (1.6%).

See the full A+ Answers here.

Upcoming Events

Oct. 23 | Back to School Night: Schooled on Denver School Board 

A+ Colorado will be partnering with other community organizations for a “candidate forum with a twists” Join All In Denver for this unique forum to learn more about the 2019 Denver School Board Candidates.

Nov. 7 | A New Foundation for Accountability: What is Quality & Who Decides?

Colorado’s current school accountability system provides insight that is designed primarily for state and federal policymakers. Join us for a day focused on how to reimagine a system built with educators and families as its primary users, while also providing the data that is necessary to inform those responsible for oversight of Colorado’s education system.

Feb. 21 | Save the date: A+ Awards + Celebration

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