Board of Education Update – December 10, 2018 Work Session

Three schools present improvement plans, support needs for 2018 School Performance Compact 

At the December 10, 2018 Work Session, the Denver Board of Education heard presentations from Compass AcademyLake Middle School and Stedman Elementary — three schools rated red, or Accredited on Probation, on the district’s 2018 School Performance Framework (SPF), and therefore under consideration for the School Performance Compact (SPC) this year.

The SPC is a policy adopted by the board in December 2015 that established a transparent and consistent policy to identify the most persistently low-performing schools, with the goal of ensuring that all students have access to high-quality schools that prepare them to succeed.

Policy changes offer additional options to restart, closure

Last June, the board determined that the original SPC policy guidelines would not be applied for the 2018-19 school year, based on its reflections on past learnings and community conversations about support and accountability expected in the coming year.

When developing the 2018-19 school year policy guidelines, the board wanted to focus more on school improvement planning, understanding the specific context of each school and listening to community feedback. In order to provide additional time for improvement efforts to show impact on academic outcomes, the board also developed additional options for schools beyond restart or closure.

Based on its review of the full body of evidence, the board will vote Thursday, Dec. 20 on one of the following options to dramatically improve the learning environment in these schools:

  • Two-year performance review cycle with one-year monitoring: School shows strong evidence of both a clear strategy and capacity for improvement, and the proposed plan requires time for implementation.
  • One-year performance review cycle: School has a clear strategy underway for improvement and some capacity to implement their strategy. There is mixed evidence of implementation.
  • Restart: There is no evidence that the school has the capacity to improve academic outcomes in the near future, and enrollment trends show that high-quality seats are needed to replace the school.
  • Closure: There is no evidence that the school has the capacity to improve academic outcomes in the near future, and there are existing schools in the area that will give students access to a higher-quality school more quickly.

Staff recommendations

Each school was required to share a written improvement plan, and the Portfolio Management Team provided individual data dashboards including academic, operational and school culture data, all available here. Portfolio also convened an evaluation committee that included internal and external experts and at least one community member from a school’s region to inform the recommended board actions, presented tonight:

  • Compass Academy — one-year performance review cycle
  • Lake Middle School — two-year performance review cycle with one-year monitoring
  • Stedman Elementary School — two-year performance review cycle with one-year monitoring

Board reflection on policy

After hearing presentations from each school and the corresponding staff recommendations, the board discussed the decisions before them and the evolution of the accountability policy.

With respect to preparing leadership at turnaround schools, “We started with the use of a Year Zero planning year for turnaround schools,” said Board Member Happy Haynes. “It was a very innovative practice coming from the charter sector that we were able to use with great success at our district-run schools, but it’s been somewhat ad hoc.” She said the district should consider using Year Zero more strategically in school improvement efforts going forward.

Board President Anne Rowe thanked the Portfolio Management Team, school leadership and community volunteers for their significant efforts to improve these schools. Commenting on how to re-create high performing schools, Rowe noted the acquired insights from the district’s charter management organizations, all but one of which started as single site charters. “What I think they learned the hard way and we learned from them is that replication is around values and structure and implementation, and an appreciation of the community you are serving [and not simply by trying to copy the exact model].”

Additional school reviews in January

A second set of schools — which experienced a “precipitous drop” in their SPF ratings, from either yellow or green in 2017 to red in 2018 — received more time to prepare improvement plans:

  • Collegiate Preparatory Academy
  • DSST: Cole Middle School
  • Girls Athletic Leadership High School
  • John F. Kennedy High School
  • McGlone Academy
  • STRIVE Prep – Excel
  • West Leadership Academy

In January, the board will hear school presentations, review the body of evidence and staff recommendations, and vote on a slightly different set of options to dramatically improve the learning environment in these schools:

  • Two-year performance review cycle
  • Two-year performance review cycle with one-year monitoring
  • One-year performance review cycle

Learn more about the SPC here.