Board of Education Meeting Update – October 16, 2017 Work Session

Transportation Update 

At the October 16, 2017 Work Session the Board of Education heard an update on how the district is meeting students’ transportation needs and seeking input to prioritize those needs. The full report is available here.

“Right now, we have an equation that’s not balancing. On one side are the hopes, demands, expectations and legal requirements for transporting our students, and on the other side are the resources we have available to spend on transportation,” said Superintendent Tom Boasberg. “That equation is badly out of balance — and we want to see as many of our students get transportation, as efficiently as possible, and so that we can still maximize the amount of resources we are keeping in our classrooms.”

Mill Levy Funds

The presentation also included discussion of 2016 mill levy funds for transportation. Part of DPS’ $56 million mill levy proposal approved by voters in November 2016 is $400,000 set aside for improved access to education opportunities for high school students. Items in the mill levy proposal were generated by a 75-member citizens’ advisory group and approved by the Denver school board.

In 2017-18, while DPS continues to work with community partners on the broader two-year plan, the district has invested in bus passes for an additional 630 high school students at a cost of $273,000. The remaining $127,000 will be made available immediately for bus passes for approximately 370 additional high school students.

At the time the DPS board approved the mill levy proposal, DPS pledged to work with community stakeholders to develop a two-year effort focused on increasing access to high quality schools and educational opportunities for high school students.

“I was at the advisory group meeting where this $400,000 in additional funding for bus passes was discussed, and everyone there realized this was seed money to try to bring RTD and the City to the table to have a conversation about providing bus passes for transportation to students in Denver — not just to and from school, but to jobs and after school activities,” said Board Member Mike Johnson. “Our schools are terribly underfunded in this state and we can’t do this alone.”

DPS spends approximately $26 million annually to transport more than 31,700 students. This includes approximately $800,000 to secure RTD bus passes for nearly 2,600 high school students.

Great Schools in Every Neighborhood

In DPS, we know that students and families thrive when they have high-quality education choices. That’s why our top Denver Plan goal — Great Schools in Every Neighborhood — is to have at least 80% of DPS students attending a high-performing school by 2020. The Board of Education heard an update on how DPS is evaluating, supporting and holding ourselves accountable for reaching this goal. Click here to see the board presentation.

Checking School Progress

Just as our teachers do in their classrooms, the district relies on regular progress monitoring to determine how well schools are performing and how to help them reach their potential. The School Performance Framework (SPF) is a report card for schools, rating how well they support student growth and achievement and serve students and families. The SPF provides essential feedback for a school, helping it to focus on its strengths and make progress in key areas where improvement is needed. You can learn more about the SPF in this video.

On Thursday, the district released the 2017 SPF ratings. Key highlights include:

  • A record high number of schools achieved our top ratings, Meeting Expectations/Green or Distinguished/Blue, while the number receiving the lowest rating, Accredited on Probation/Red, has declined over time. Districtwide, the number of Green and Blue schools has increased from 64 in 2008 to 122 in 2017, reflecting a stronger set of high-quality schools for district families.
  • One-third of our schools increased their overall rating between 2016 and 2017, fueled partly by our students’ record growth in English language arts and early literacy. More than half our schools are now meeting district expectations in early literacy, compared to 30% a year ago.

Closing Academic Gaps

To emphasize our commitment to equity, we introduced the Academic Gaps indicator to ensure all kids are learning. We believe deeply that all children are capable of success, and that a great school is one that serves, challenges and supports all students well.

The Academic Gaps rating measures how well our schools are serving all students, particularly those — students of color, students in poverty, English language learners and students with disabilities — who have been historically underserved in our nation’s public schools.

Schools typically must meet or exceed district expectations in closing academic gaps to receive our highest overall SPF ratings of Meets Expectations/Green or Distinguished/Blue. In our first year, nine schools saw their overall ratings drop and will receive additional supports in closing gaps based on this indicator. Over half of all schools are meeting expectations or are Green on closing academic gaps with their kids. This graph shows the ratings distribution across schools on this indicator.

To learn more about the Academic Gaps indicator, see this video.

Supporting Our Schools

When schools do not meet expectations for academic growth and achievement on the SPF, DPS provides intensive support to help them get back on track.

The Tiered Support Framework helps DPS strengthen our district-run and innovation schools by investing the people, time and resources that all schools need to succeed. We want the process of prioritizing support to be consistent and transparent, so we base our levels of support — called tiers — on school performance data. The schools with the biggest challenges receive the most intensive support to help them meet their extraordinary needs.

Data shows intensive supports are resulting in better schools for our kids. Nearly 80% of district-run schools that have had intensive interventions since 2010 are performing better than the schools they replaced.

Holding Ourselves Accountable

Accountability is one of the district’s shared core values, which means it lives at the heart of all of our work. If schools are still not able to show improvement after significant support efforts over time, we believe that the students served by these schools deserve a major change in their learning environment. In this situation, a restart or closure may be needed to give students their best opportunity for success.

The  School Performance Compact sets out a clear process for how DPS will identify the most persistently low-performing schools. Under the policy, schools that receive the lowest performance ratings over multiple years are designated for restart (or, in the cases of very low enrollment, closure).

Based on improved results for those six schools on the 2017 SPF, only one school – Cesar Chavez Academy – is being designated under the Compact. In light of its performance and pursuant to the terms of  its charter school contract, Cesar Chavez will close at the end of the 2017-18 school year.

The six schools are Castro, Beach Court, Abraham Lincoln, West Early College, Math and Science Leadership Academy (MSLA) and Venture Prep. We applaud the work in these schools and believe it shows what’s possible when staff, families and community receive intensive supports and work collaboratively to ensure stronger futures for their kids.

The 2017 SPF results also identified additional schools that, without improvement on the 2018 SPF, will be subject for designation under the Compact in 2018. These schools will receive intensive supports to help them improve: Abraham Lincoln, Smith, Venture Prep, MSLA, KIPP Northeast Denver Middle School, Compass Academy Middle School, Hallett, Shoemaker, DCIS at Montbello and Lake International School.

Top Movers, Case Studies and Year 0 Schools

The 2017 SPF results were announced Thursday at Holm Elementary, which earned the district’s highest rating of Blue. Holm, which serves a student population rich in economic and ethnic diversity (84% students in poverty, 84% students of color and 48% English language learners), was also one of 18 schools to earn a Blue rating in closing Academic Gaps.

The board heard from Castro Elementary Principal Robert Villarreal, whose school had been identified for potential restart or closure, improved from Red, the lowest rating, in 2016 to Green, the second-highest rating in 2017. Castro was one of only three schools to move up three ratings in the past year.

Fairview Elementary Principal Antoinette Hudson and Trevista at Horace Mann Principal Jesus Rodriguez also shared their perspectives from schools identified as “top movers” in growth on the SPF.

A second panel of school leaders, made up of Jessica Ridgeway of Goldrick Elementary, David Singer of University Prep and Jesse Tang of Schmitt Elementary, discussed the benefits of the “Year 0” turnaround model. Through this model, new school leader get a full year — a year zero — to engage, collaborate and design the new school model with staff and community. All three district-run schools using the Year 0 model, Goldrick, Schmitt and International Academy at Harrington, were rated Green on the 2017 SPF.

Learn more about these schools’ progress and the Tiered School Supports that supported their efforts in this board presentation.