Board of Education Update – Focus on Achievement Session, February 2, 2017

School Performance Framework Purpose, School Experience and Proposed Changes

At the February 2 Focus on Achievement session the Board of Education discussed the intended purpose of the district’s School Performance Framework (SPF), heard how it is being experienced in schools and contemplated proposed changes for next year.

SPF Purpose

The SPF, first issued in 2008, was primarily intended to serve as a management tool to assess overall effectiveness of schools by providing a body of evidence related to student growth and achievement, as well as additional engagement factors. It was also intended to address the need for mandatory school accreditation ratings, to inform financial incentives associated with ProComp and to provide useful information to parents to inform enrollment decisions.

Accountability, Research & Evaluation Executive Director Grant Guyer explained that, over time, the SPF has been used for a number of other important purposes, such as assessing progress on the Denver Plan 2020 goal of Great Schools in Every Neighborhood, informing which tier of supports schools will receive and as a critical component of the School Performance Compact policy.

“The goal is to have a tool that can be used to evaluate the quality of our schools regardless of whether they are district-run or charter schools, and regardless of the model,” said Superintendent Tom Boasberg. “And in our role as an operator of schools, this is an incredibly important tool to provide information to our schools that enables them to improve.”

“We are trying very hard to find the balance between something that is simple and easy to understand and something that is complex enough to comprehensively capture school performance,” Guyer said.

School Leader Experience with the SPF

A panel of school and instructional leaders shared with the board how they use the SPF to drive improvements for their students:

  • Ryan Kockler, Montclair principal
  • Ken Burdette, Park Hill Elementary School principal
  • Renard Simmons, DC21 principal
  • Jen Hanson, South High School principal
  • Kimberlee Sia, KIPP Colorado principal
  • Randy Johnson, Instructional Superintendent and Executive Director of Postsecondary Readiness

“Having a comprehensive evaluation of a school is really hard to do,” said Kockler, from Montclair. “I deeply believe in the value of the SPF: it holds schools accountable in many ways. … The disconnect in the value comes from when we feel like we are driving one way and aligning our school improvement strategies to it, and then the goal posts are shifting. It felt a little like that this year.”

Hanson, from South, agreed: “The intent is to drive outcomes in our schools, and I believe strongly in that. But the measurements need to lead to actionable outcomes and I need to have confidence that the data is accurate.” She said she is constantly tracking performance in her school and she is sometimes unable to replicate SPF data or it doesn’t mesh with what she is seeing in her building: “I want the measurements there, but I want them to be right.”

Johnson, the instructional superintendent, said schools are progress monitoring year-round, but the SPF is a once-a-year report. He said it makes it difficult to find the right tools that track where the SPF score will be: “Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a live SPF where you can monitor in real time throughout the year what your rating will be?”

Proposed Changes to the 2017 SPF

Boasberg presented changes proposed to the 2017 SPF in response to feedback:

  • Simplify the SPF: DPS will eliminate two enrollment measures, eliminate continuously enrolled growth, eliminate participation rate on annual parent survey and implement a minimum threshold for the remaining percent positive measure in order to simplify the SPF.
  • Growth for Spanish Assessments: DPS will add a CSLA (Colorado Spanish Language Arts) growth measure in order to incentivize schools to administer the appropriate test and include all students in growth metrics.
  • Weighting of CMAS: DPS will decrease the weight of CMAS on elementary and high school SPF to ensure the weight assigned is more proportional to the number of grade levels tested.

Additional changes are proposed to the Equity indicator. There are four different CMAS gap measures on the SPF. In the coming 2017 SPF, three changes will be made to make the measures more equitable across schools and to prioritize high performance for all student groups.

You can read all the proposed changes in the full report here.

School Performance Compact Update 

Portfolio Management Executive Director Jennifer Holladay informed the board of feedback her team has sought out around the School Performance Compact policy, including input on school-based supports, designation criteria and process implementation. The board will hear recommendations related to improvements to the SPC process for 2017 at its Feb. 13 meeting.

“I want to figure out how our tiered supports are factored into the SPC,” said Board Member Happy Haynes. “I want to consider what those supports look like, about our evaluation of how those supports worked or didn’t work, and for that to be part of our consideration when we make these decisions.”

Board Member Lisa Flores agreed: “What’s the efficacy of tiered support? And more concretely, we put a lot of time and energy and resources into turning around Gilpin and Trevista with tremendously different results. As a board, it’s been hard to track why that is.”

Board Member Mike Johnson said he agreed with his colleagues and wanted to see the Tiered Support Framework evaluated based on its effectiveness.

You can learn more about the SPC and its role in creating Great Schools in Every Neighborhood at

Call for New Quality Schools Released; Timeline Adjusted

Each year, DPS releases the Call for New Quality Schools to announce where new schools are needed, review new school applications to make sure they meet standards for quality and select the school that best fits the needs of the community. The 2017 Call document and more information about the specific needs identified in the Call are available here.

DPS is always looking for experienced leaders and educators with a vision for new schools to serve Denver’s students. Learn more about the application process here.

Timeline Adjusted to Obtain Additional Community Input 

At its December 12 meeting, the board directed staff to convene community stakeholders and define their priorities for selected restart providers in the areas of school culture, leadership and teaching. The community priorities will be used in restart contexts as the primary indicators for the criteria category of “Enrollment Demand and Community Support” required by board policy.

DPS held focus groups at Greenlee and Amesse on Jan. 17 and 18. While turnout was low, DPS is now gathering additional community input by attending events in impacted schools, at area ECE centers and in community hubs. In addition, DPS is placing calls to families who have chosen other schools to further understand their interests for a high-quality boundary school. The timeline for the Call process has been adjusted to allow for this additional gathering of community input.