Dear Members and Friends:
Whether you are having Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish or canned jellied cranberry sauce (or both, as a few of us will) on Thanksgiving, A+ Denver wishes all of our friends, supporters and readers a restive Turkey Day filled with lots of rich calories and conversation.
We figured if you needed a break from football or your annoying uncle, we’d give you a few A+ Denver updates.
Going to College?
As many of you know, families are in midst of college application season. Last week we released the first report on Colorado students’ access to elite colleges in Missing the Bus: Colorado’s Elite College Access Gap. While there are few surprises in the report (zip code and income still mostly determine where you go to college), the gaps by income for many schools and districts are remarkable. Low-income students are 12 times less likely to attend the nation’s best colleges than non-low income students. There were a few bright spots with a few schools in Denver and other districts like Boulder sending a much higher number of students to colleges like Smith, Stanford, Colby, Colorado School of Mines and UCLA. Check out the article here, today’s editorial in the Denver Post, and several recent NY Times articles on college applications and what these schools are doing to boost their reputation.
What’s a Good School?
Last month, A+ Denver worked with about a dozen partners to send a letter to the Denver School Board asking for an update on the district’s School Performance Framework (SPF). While we have not yet received a formal response, we have heard that many senior administrators, including Superintendent Boasberg, agree with much of our critique. We are thrilled to know the Denver School Board has appointed Board member Barbara O’Brien to lead a committee to review issues with the current SPF and provide recommendations to the DPS staff and Board for consideration. A+ Denver will work with the committee to improve the SPF so that we know a good school is, in fact, a good school, and not just one that has shown some growth but still has few kids at– or coming close to– meeting grade level expectations.
SW Denver Schools, Getting Better?
As you may have seen, DPS is now beginning to step up on a number of issues related to our call to improve the quality of education in SW Denver. There is a new transportation plan and the board just approved a number of new schools to be located in SW Denver including Compass and Rocky Mountain Prep. These are important first steps. We are hoping the district makes some wise investments to improve and turnaround a number of low-performing elementary schools in the next month, and we will continue to keep you updated.
Can Anyone Improve a Low Performing School?
Denver Public Schools, most districts, and the Colorado Department of Education continue to struggle with how to best turnaround low-performing schools. The latest report from Peter Huidekoper on Denver and the state’s failure to turnaround these schools is more than depressing, it’s a crisis. You can see our three previous reports on this work here. Colorado has spent more than $63 million of federal funds, with a significant chunk going into Denver, with unfortunately very few positive results to show. There are some successes in cases where schools were phased out and replaced. Yet, in nearly all of the other schools, achievement has improved very little or not at all. Colorado and Denver need to stop throwing money at schools with little capacity to improve. Better planning and stronger leaders must be in place before the state, or anyone else, invests in improving the schools that most need help. A+ Denver will continue to work with the Colorado Department of Education and Denver Public Schools to ensure that we do more to learn from what is and is not working on school turnaround. The good news is that there are examples of successful turnaround efforts, where key ingredients include great leaders and school systems ready to respond with best practices at the center of their work.
It’s Almost School Choice Time
Last, the first round of the Denver school choice window will open on December 15th, when all Denver families will be asked to choose which public school neighborhood, magnet or charter they wish to enroll in for the 2015-16 school year. You can find the DPS School Choice Enrollment Guide here. Look for several reports from A+ Denver on how the school choice system has been working for Denver families in the coming month.
Have a great Thanksgiving holiday. We look forward to working with all of you to make public education serve all of Denver’s kids.