Board of Education Update – June 7, 2018 Focus on Achievment

New Grad Requirements Take a Competency-based Approach

Accessibility, rigor and preparation emerged as themes critical to the success of the district’s new graduation requirements, according to district leaders.

Beginning with the Class of 2021, students will have to fulfill three components to be eligible for graduation:

  1. Complete an ICAP (Individual Career and Academic Plan)
  2. Complete required coursework
  3. Fulfill competency demonstrations in English, math or career readiness through the competency menu of options, which includes a range of exams, courses and a Capstone Portfolio option.

Tonight, the district zeroed in on the DPS Capstone Portfolio option, which provides students with an opportunity to demonstrate required competencies in English and math, or career readiness. Through the Capstone Portfolio, students build a portfolio of work throughout their high school experience to show what they’ve learned and how it applies in the real world. This approach allows students and educators to monitor progress over time, and get valuable feedback as they fine-tune their portfolio.

With the introduction of Capstone Portfolio, the district is ensuring all students– regardless of pathway options, such as attending college, entering a training program for a specialized career certificate or joining the workforce or military after graduation– have access to a competency menu option to graduate prepared for their career and postsecondary education.

“The Capstone Portfolio was designed with the idea that learning is the constant, and students have authentic ways to show demonstrations of mastery that they’re capturing in a digital portfolio,” said Mark Muenchau, director of Competency Based Learning.

“We often talk about the high school experience based on our own school experience. The kids that are going to be talking about their high school experience 10, 20, 30 years from now, they’re not going to have the same stories we do. Thanks for being out in front, it’s a lot to take on,” said board member Lisa Flores.

Voices from the Field

The new graduation requirements present exciting opportunities and challenges for schools. Tonight, the board heard from school leaders who shared how they’re implementing new graduation requirements:

  • Jen Hanson, South High School
  • Michelle Wright, Florence Crittenton High School
  • Ana Mendoza, West Early College

“I’m excited about the flexibility that the Capstone Portfolio option affords us at our school,” said Michelle Wright, principal at Florence Crittenton High School.

“The Capstone Portfolio is a holistic approach and it has buy-in from both students and teachers,” said Ana Mendoza, principal at West Early College.

“At South, every kid will do a Capstone Portfolio, because it is an amazing demonstration of their learning that will support them no matter the choices they make,” added Jen Hanson, principal at South High School.

More information on graduation requirements and the Capstone Portfolio option available here.

More Students Reading at Grade Level

 Early literacy is fundamental to building a strong Foundation for Success in school and in life. In DPS, it is defined as reading, writing, speaking and listening.

Approved by the Colorado Department of Education, the Colorado 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. Results from 2017-18 were shared in the board meeting, with the following highlights:

  • Percent of K-3 students on aimline increased 6%, from 39% in spring 2017 to 45% in spring 2018.
  • African-American and Latino third-grade students saw their largest increase this school year. More gaps are decreasing between groups of students. This year, we saw a decreasing gap with our students of color, English Language Learners (ELLs) and low-income students.
  • Fewer students in K-3 are reading Significantly Below Grade Level (SBGL) by spring 2018 than last year, down to 13% from 15%.

Deputy Superintendent Susana Cordova noted, “We’re seeing more growth during the year which will contribute to greater year-over-year growth as well.”

Read the full report here, and access a list of Frequently Asked Questions about early literacy here.

Applicants Present Plans for Innovation Schools

Our primary goal in the Denver Plan is “Great Schools in Every Neighborhood,” and a critical strategy in achieving that goal is providing as much flexibility as possible to our schools so that they are best able to serve their students’ unique needs.

Managed by DPS, innovation schools waive certain requirements of state education laws, collective bargaining agreements and/or district policies. Tonight, applicants presented their innovation plan proposals, including:

“Our vision is really student agency– that ability to not have our students rely on environments changing for them, but for them to have the ability and agency to adapt to different situations– and we get there through talent development,” said Sheldon Reynolds, principal at Center for Talent Development at Greenlee.

After a thorough review, DPS staff recommended that the board approve all three schools’ applications for innovation status. Staff determined that all three schools’ innovation plans met the standards of the school quality framework (which considers teaching, leadership, education program, school culture and governance) and demonstrated sufficient staff, administrator and CSC support in accordance with board policy. Read the full staff recommendations here.