Good Morning Friends,
This will be the last newsletter from A+ Colorado.
All good things must come to an end. A+ Colorado will be closing its doors at the end of June. We are proud of the many campaigns using data and research to improve public education in Denver and Colorado over the last fifteen years. It’s now time to leverage the advocacy and research work in new ways with like-minded organizations in the Colorado education ecosystem.
A+ Colorado’s work to improve public education has helped support remarkable, positive change in some spaces, incremental change in other spaces, and no change in too many educational environments. Education improvement and reform is a long, complex process that takes enormous perseverance. It’s important to pay attention to everyone affected by change, but the primary focus must always remain on students and families.
We are particularly proud of the roles that we have played over the years in supporting:
- Denver Public Schools to move from the lowest performing large school district in Colorado to being in the middle of the pack, with some of the best schools in Colorado (and the nation). This is just the start and there remains so much work for Denver to do to realize the promise of a quality education for all students.
- Efforts at the state to make sure school-level education data is available to families to better understand how schools in their community are performing. We have made progress but still have some distance to go in providing easy access to more information. For example, there is room for improvement in providing data on how different groups of students are doing in reaching our state’s academic standards, going on to college or getting a job.
- The “Outliers” work, highlighting where particular schools or school districts were working well for particular groups of students whether Black, Latinx, English Language Learners or Special Education students, for example. There are many schools and districts that are doing great work for students and need to be recognized. It’s also important to take these lessons to other parts of the state.
- Various reports and efforts over the course of the pandemic that raised questions about the services provided by school districts and the state for the most vulnerable students. We know that our work in providing research and information on what districts were doing (or not) in terms of academic, emotional learning supports, and mental health supports helped ensure more students received more support during this horrible crisis.
We are grateful to all of our supporters and partners over the years. We are particularly thankful for our founders, including U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and former Denver Mayor Federico Peña who realized that it is not possible to make significant change without strong community support and the best research about what is possible.
We are also blessed to have had the financial support of so many individuals and foundations over the years that include, Piton, Daniels, Gates Family, Rose, Denver, Dell, RootEd, Walton, Anschutz, Margulf, Donnell Kay, Carson, Wend and others. We also could not have done most or any of the work without the many partners that included Together Colorado, Padres & Jovenes Unidos, Faithbridge, Education Reform Now, Colorado Children’s Campaign, African Leadership Group, Transform Education Now, UC Denver-School of Public Affairs,Climb Higher, Denver Public Schools, Colorado Department of Education and many others. Last but not least, our A+ Colorado board chairs that steered the ship over the years, Federico Peña, Anne Rowe, Terrance Carroll, Mary Cronin, Theresa Peña, Anna Alejo, Steve Dayney and Amy Slothower.
We know the work to improve and ensure that Colorado public education lives up to the promise made to every Colorado student and family is far from finished. Unfortunately, we are in the midst of a difficult time for public education in Colorado with Denver Public Schools spiraling downwards along with far too many other Colorado school districts seemingly stuck. You can learn more about this here.
We know it is possible to create schools and districts that work for nearly every student. We see examples of these in Colorado and around the world. It will continue to take all of us to work together and not be distracted by other important challenges. Education can not solve all of society’s ills but it is the basis upon which everything else rests. It is fundamental.
So what’s next for us?
Many of us here at A+ Colorado are still working on what we will be doing and where we will each land in terms of work later in the summer but we would each love to stay in touch.
Our Communication and Development Manager, Edward Quiñones is currently looking for new opportunities in Education and Communications. As a former Dean of Students at DSST, Edward has vast experience in school leadership and is passionate about nonprofit and communications work.
Advocacy Director, Valeria Contreras, is seeking employment and wants to continue working in education. Valeria is interested and has experience in advocacy work, education policy, coalition building & organizing, community engagement, and or holistic family & student support.
Eden Morrison, Director of Research, is looking forward to using the skills she has gained at A Plus to continue to push for data driven solutions to improve equity and outcomes within the education sector.
Mary Willson, our director of communication, will be teaching English Language Arts at STRIVE Prep Green Valley Ranch this fall.
Van Schoales, the president, is in the midst of determining how he can best support educational improvement in Colorado while he is also helping to launch a new national non-profit focused on ensuring a quality education is a fundamental right for all.
Thanks so much for all of your support and feedback over the years and we wish you a great summer as the world opens again.