By Lisa Berdie
Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? Though I generally prefer to think of life as a “continuous improvement plan,” I appreciate the social pressure to reflect and take stock of the past year, and set goals for the next one. Some things I’d like for myself in 2016: do more art, read more books, take a trip to go visit my grandmother.
At A+ we’ve also been taking stock. 2016 is poised to be an exciting year for us, beginning with the release of several reports we’ve been working on. You can expect some new reading materials coming soon on the state of Denver Public Schools (including our analysis of last year’s PARCC data), a look at 15 years of reform in Mapleton Public Schools, and a retrospective of arts education in Denver Public Schools.
Here are some teasers:
The State of Denver Public Schools
District enrollment is up, but the student body is starting to change. Denver is gentrifying and becoming a wealthier city. The biggest demographic changes have been shaping up in Near Northeast Denver and Northwest Denver where FRL rates have decreased 5 percentage points in the last five years.
How did Denver do on the PARCC? It performed significantly better than several urban districts across the country, and similar to Boston, Chicago, and Cincinnati.
15 Years of Reform in Mapleton Public Schools
The small district just to the north of Denver was perhaps an unlikely suburb to take on transformative education reform in the form of a massive structural change across the past fifteen years. Superintendent Charlotte Ciancio took the reins of Mapleton Public Schools in 2001 and created a vision of small autonomous schools to serve the changing and low-performing district.
Mapleton has seen progress since 2008 (a year after the comprehensive Skyview High School was fully phased out). Since the lows in all subjects of 2008, the percent of all students proficient in reading improved by 12.5 percentage points to a 53.5% in 2014; in writing the proportion jumped 9.3 percentage points to 37.5% in 2014, and in math, there was a 9.5 percentage point gain to a high of 37% in 2013.
On the PARCC results Mapleton continues to underperform the state; that gap is narrowest in 3rd grade English Language Arts. Interestingly, there is not a singular school that outperforms other Mapleton schools on PARCC. In fact, seven different schools represented the district’s top performer on at least one of the 18 tests.
A Retrospective on Arts Education in Denver
Over the last three years, Denver Public Schools has received – and spent – some $40 million of voter approved mill levy funds to improve and enhance arts education in the district. In this report we revisit recommendations from our October 2012 Arts Report, Envisioning Excellence, and explore the district’s progress.
Quality arts preparation is not accessible to all students; for instance, there are few pipelines in poorer parts of the district that help students access the conservatory program at Denver School of the Arts. Of all DPS students accepted into DSA, only 3% came from SW Denver schools, and only 4% came from FNE Denver schools.
Look for these and other findings in our upcoming reports. We’re looking forward to the conversation.