Board of Education Update – January 22, 2018 Work Session

Denver Mayor’s Youth Commission Proposes Seal of Equity

The Denver Mayor’s Youth Commission tonight proposed to the board a Seal of Educational Equity. The commission said a seal could provide an opportunity to create student-driven solutions to inequities they face in their schools. Schools could earn a seal for meeting six equity standards. See the full proposal here.

Culturally-responsive Education Pilots Highlighted

One of the district’s instructional priorities for this school year — and a key recommendation of the African American Equity Task Force — is to ensure culturally-responsive education (CRE) in our classrooms to help us Close the Opportunity Gap. This includes expanding professional development opportunities to improve culturally-responsive instructional practices, developing more diverse educator pipelines, and support and mentoring for educators of color.

At tonight’s Board of Education work session, Deputy Superintendent Susana Cordova explained how the district is leveraging learning from small school-based professional learning pilots to inform a districtwide strategy to expand CRE.

She discussed how math teams in grades 8-10 at Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy, George Washington and Northfield high schools are participating in a year-long, job-embedded community of practice to implement equity-based practices in math. The district also created an opt-in, peer-to-peer professional learning partnership with 31 school leadership teams to study a problem of practice for a specified group of underserved students with the intent of improving equity outcomes.

Board member Happy Haynes also credits the DPS Student Board of Education for leading the way in equity practices and CRE, and encouraged the district to take advantage of their expertise and experiences.

Board Member Carrie Olson asked how the work of Strengthening Neighborhoods, CELT (Culture, Equity and Leadership Team) and other initiatives align with CRE work.

The board also heard voices from the field about their participation in CRE pilots, including:

  • Mercedes Arrietta-Montoya, student, Emily Griffith High School
  • Sara Collyer, math teacher/senior team lead, Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy
  • Sheldon Reynolds, principal, Greenlee Elementary
  • Heidi Saunders, math partner, Elementary Network 2, Southwest Denver
  • Haley Todd, assistant principal, Emily Griffith High School

See the full presentation, including milestones for 2017-18 and supporting documents, here.

District Creates Aimlines for Early Literacy

Early literacy — which DPS defines as reading, writing, speaking and listening — is essential to building a strong Foundation for Success in school and in life. Research shows that students who are reading and writing proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to graduate.

The Colorado READ Act requires school districts to assess all students in grades K-3 in reading using an assessment approved by the Colorado Department of Education. These READ Act assessments are used to gauge students’ performance to understand how they are progressing toward early literacy goals and to help identify areas for improvement.

DPS schools can choose from DIBELS Next, i-Ready, Istation and STAR to assess K-3 students three times a year. These vendors each create their own “cut points” used by the state to identify when a student is significantly below grade level.

Because vendor cut points do not indicate whether students are on target to achieve third grade literacy, DPS created more predictive aimlines to help educators and families better understand where students are performing. This new, more rigorous expectation better aligns with grade-level expectations on CMAS (Colorado Measures of Academic Success).

“As we move to aimlines, it’s important for parents to understand the new expectations,” said Superintendent Tom Boasberg.

Haynes and Olson expressed frustration that the vendors aren’t providing the information educators need, and as a result, DPS is having to develop these predictive indicators.

This month, families of students in grades K-3 will receive a report explaining how their child is doing compared with the new aimlines.

You can learn more about the methodology behind how the aimlines were developed, as well as instructional, reporting and family supports here, and access a list of Frequently Asked Questions about early literacy and the SPF here.