Board of Education Update – Work Session, February 13, 2017

Continued Prohibition of Diet Soda in Schools Recommended

Under DPS Board Policy EFEA: Nutritious Food Choices, school beverage sales must satisfy the minimum nutrition standards for beverages adopted by the State Board of Education. In September 2016, the State Board of Education lifted the ban on the sale of diet soda to high school students, changing the Colorado Healthy Beverages Policy effective Nov. 14, 2016. This change allowed diet soda to be sold to high school students in DPS school cafeterias and vending machines.

DPS has worked diligently over the past five years to ensure that all students have access to healthy and nutritional school meals, both in and out of our cafeterias, including in vending machines, at school celebrations and fundraisers. In addition, the district has prioritized the social, emotional and physical health of our students in our Denver Plan goal to support the Whole Child.

As such, the DPS Health Advisory Council recommends the Denver Board of Education update Policy EFEA: Nutritious Food Choices to continue the prohibition of the sale of all soda, including diet soda, in all DPS schools.

Read the full recommendation and revised policy here. The board is expected to vote on the recommendation at its meeting Thursday, March 16.


School Performance Compact Update: Changes Considered 

On the heels of its first year implementing the  School Performance Compact (SPC), the Board of Education discussed possible changes to improve the policy going forward.

The Criteria

The goal of the SPC was to create a transparent and consistent policy to identify and designate for restart or closure the most persistently low-performing schools, to ensure that all students have access to high quality schools that prepare them to succeed. The three criteria currently under the SPC are:

  • School Performance Framework ratings over multiple years
  • Student academic growth in the most recent year
  • Results of a School Quality Review (SQR)

Stakeholder Feedback

Portfolio Management Executive Director Jennifer Holladay informed the board of stakeholder feedback about the policy. Key areas of concern included the subjective nature of the SQRs; the short nature of the timeline for decisions, which made community engagement efforts extra challenging and resulted in confusion for families; and a strong sense that the current year’s SPF rating should play more of a role in decisions.

The board briefly discussed the district’s suggestion to establish a clear cut point on the School Performance Framework as the main element in the policy. Currently, the policy considers the lowest-performing 5% of schools by their average SPF rating over multiple years. Holladay said stakeholders felt the use of the bottom 5% in place of a clear performance threshold undermined the policy’s transparency and made it hard for schools to predict whether they might be designated under the policy. Using a percentage also means a school’s potential for eligibility is based on how other schools perform. Holladay suggested the district could instead “define persistently low-performing” as a school with back-to-back red SPF ratings, or a red rating in the most recent school year and a red or orange rating in preceding years.

School Quality Reviews

Board members spent the majority of the meeting discussing whether to make changes to how the district uses the SQR in restart/closure decisions. Options included removing the SQR from the SPC altogether; shifting the timing of the SQR to the spring as an informative tool for school improvement planning and context for SPC eligibility; and maintaining the timing but converting the SQR to one piece of a body of evidence, rather than the third and final step in the policy.

“I’ve seen firsthand how SQRs are used in school planning and the tremendous value they added: at Centennial Elementary where the principal walked through results at multiple packed community meetings … and walking into the West Early College principal’s office full of flip chart paper as she really aggressively engaged with the SQR results for improvement purposes,” said Board Member Lisa Flores. “And I look at the utilization [of the SQRs] within the context of the SPC, and instead of talking about where those schools received lower ratings and need to focus their attention, we are instead talking about how close they are to a score of 25. We have moved away from the conversations we need to be having.”

School Supports and Community Engagement

Board President Anne Rowe agreed, saying she was disappointed with the repercussions of the SQR being used as an accountability tool in the SPC. “I’m still left with the question that other board members have asked about where the tiered supports fit into this. When we have a school that is stuck for four and more years without improved results, I need context about what are the resources and interventions, and community engagement with families and the board to ensure we understand what efforts we have made.”

The board stressed its concern around better ensuring communities understand where their school is in the process, what is to come, and what actions and supports a school leader has chosen to improve so that families are not surprised if their school comes under consideration for restart under the SPC.

“Tough Decisions”

Board Member Barbara O’Brien expressed concern about the policy becoming so rigid that the board doesn’t have the flexibility to make case-by-case decisions.

“We should never use a policy or formula to substitute for us making tough decisions,” said Board Member Happy Haynes. “At the end of the day, we vote anyway. The problem is that the transparency we want to achieve erodes if we consistently make decisions that are contrary to the policies we’ve set forth.”

You can learn more about the SPC and its role in creating Great Schools in Every Neighborhood at Read the full board presentation here.


Two Schools Recommended for Early College Status

West Early College and the Denver School of Innovation and Sustainable Design (DSISD) are being recommended for early college status, a state designation that ensures a student who successfully completes the curriculum will have completed either an associate’s degree or 60 credits toward the completion of a college degree.

The Office of Postsecondary Readiness identified these schools as prime candidates for becoming Colorado Early College High Schools because of their demographics, concurrent enrollment and career tech pathways, as well as their potential for academic growth and expansion.

Greta Martinez, assistant superintendent for postsecondary readiness, said this is part of a strategic plan to bring additional DPS high schools forward for early college status because the model enables more students, particularly low-income and minority students, to experience rigorous high school and college coursework that leads to improved outcomes.

Read the recommendation memo and draft resolution here.


Innovation Renewals Recommended for 13 Schools  

The Portfolio Management Office recommended renewal of innovation school status for 13 schools:

  • Ashley Elementary
  • Isabella Bird
  • McAuliffe International
  • Swigert International
  • Cole Arts and Science Academy
  • Green Valley Elementary
  • High Tech Early College
  • Oakland Elementary
  • Vista Academy
  • Denver Center for International Studies (DCIS): Montbello
  • Godsman Elementary
  • West Leadership Academy
  • Trevista at Horace Mann

All schools were recommended for the full-term renewal of three years except Ashley and Oakland elementary schools, which had some declines in student outcomes that warranted a shorter-term two year renewal.

Established under the Innovation Schools Act of 2008, innovation schools are managed by DPS but waive certain requirements of state education laws, collective bargaining agreements and/or district policies. School leaders write detailed innovation plans to request the flexibility they need to best serve their students and families. Common waivers requested by innovation schools include modifications to the curriculum, schedule, calendar and hiring practices of the school.

DPS includes innovation schools in our district to help us reach our Denver Plan 2020 goal of ensuring great schools in every neighborhood. We support innovation schools’ efforts to design and implement creative, forward-thinking ways to improve student achievement. DPS has been a local and national leader in innovation schools: 40 of the 62 innovation schools in Colorado are in DPS.

The detailed recommendation is available here. The board is expected to vote on the recommendations at its meeting Thursday, Feb. 16.


Graduation Competency Menu Recommended to Live in Regulations Rather than Policy

As the district rolls out its new graduation requirements for the Class of 2021, the implementation team is recommending changes to Board Policy IKF-R to remove duplication between documents. Specifically, the menu of options for demonstrating competency is likely to change each year; thus, the recommendation is that the menu be removed from the policy and placed into the regulations document.

Read the full recommendation and revised policy here. The board is expected to vote on the recommendation at its meeting Thursday, March 16.