Last October, the If Not Now Coalition released the first comprehensive report about the state of Aurora Public Schools. The report found that, while there were bright spots in individual schools, the district by-and-large was not providing the excellent education Aurora students deserve. A year after the release of the report, and with the release of new information about student achievement in Colorado, it is time to reflect on how the district is serving students, and whether the district has made progress toward fulfilling the coalition’s recommendations.
First, with the release of PARCC data from the 2015-2016 school year and the preliminary school performance rankings, it appears that APS’ overall achievement and improvement trajectory has remained unchanged. This year, APS’ median growth percentile of 47 in ELA and 46 in math indicate that students are not growing rapidly enough to close the achievement gap that exists between APS and the state. Generally, a median growth percentile below 50 indicates that a district is not make dramatic progress for its students which is especially important in a district like APS where only about 1 in 5 reported students met grade-level expectations on PARCC tests.
Here is a quick snapshot of recent student achievement numbers in APS:
The If Not Now coalition provided recommendations to the district of strategies to improve the measures of student achievement above. A year after the release of If Not Now: Transforming Aurora Public Schools from Failing to Great, it is time to reflect on the progress the district has made toward fulfilling the coalition’s recommendations. These recommendations, created with input from a coalition of statewide and Aurora-based organizations could dramatically improve the district’s stagnating student achievement and student growth statistics. This year’s review is a mixed bag: some great progress, but some recommendations where there has been little or no action.
We rated progress toward goals based on publicly available data, the content of board meetings, district communications, and discussions with Aurora-based community groups. The ratings are from 1-5 with a 1 indicating that there is no evidence of progress on the recommendation, 2 or 3 indicate that some progress has been made, a 4 means that the district has implemented the recommendation, and a 5 means that the district has exceeded the expectations as laid out in the report.
Over the next few days, we will be releasing our If Not Now progress report. If you need a refresher, If Not Now: Transforming Aurora Public Schools from Failing to Great made the following 8 recommendations:
- Develop a strategic plan that creates specific, bold goals for student achievement, as well as milestones, timelines, and strategies to reach them (the current plan does not include any of these).
- Establish a series of community engagement efforts in partnership with other community entities and activists to ensure that district plans and actions are informed and supported by the community. Engagement should inform the district’s strategic plan, school turnaround plans, transportation, before and after-school programming, and other community concerns.
- Provide families with an easy-to-understand school performance framework and indicators about the quality of their schools (for example using a color, letter, or number system) and communication in the families’ native language on the performance of their children.
- Build and create new schools that are replications of the nation’s best schools for serving demographically similar students (all school models, including high performing charters should be an important component of these efforts). The district needs exemplary schools and currently has none.
- Develop schools and refine curriculum, pedagogy, programming and community engagement to effectively educate the growing population of students who need more support including English Language Learners, immigrants, refugees, and students with disabilities. Partner with community groups, and replicate the practices and supports provided in schools like those of Place Bridge Academy’s Newcomer Center in Denver, CO; Columbus Global Academy in Columbus, OH; Newcomers High School in Long Island City, NY; and others.
- Leverage both expert and community voice to ensure school turnaround planning and actions are streamlined and likely to be successful.
- Work with the city of Aurora, Colorado and community partners to establish high-quality literacy-based full day Early Childhood programs and full day Kindergarten in all APS schools, especially those with high proportions of low-income families.
- Organize voter support of a new bond and mill levy to fund both the growth of the Aurora student body, and the changes that require additional resources.
 As it has 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.
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.
*Middle school math scores are not included here because it is not currently possible to determine the grade-level of students who took the math subject tests for Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II, Integrated I, Integrated II, and Integrated III. This lack of transparency and clarity makes the PARCC Math achievement data for middle school grade-level Math tests a potentially misleading statistic to share.
Find the rest of the blogs here: