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Observations on DPS Framework news

It’s always a nice change of pace to see some good K-12 education news. Congrats and proper recognition are in order after yesterday’s revelation that a majority of DPS schools are in the green (“Meets Expectations”) or blue (“Distinguished”) on the district’s School Performance Framework. A few related observations follow:

  1. With each passing year of stellar marks that place them near the top of the Framework, the DSST and West Denver Prep charter franchises have affixed themselves in the pantheon of top-flight centers of learning for underprivileged students. Yet despite their well-deserved reputations, I’m sure their leaders are less interested in resting on their laurels than continuing to improve opportunities for the children who come through their doors.
  2. Ever since I was privileged to visit the high-poverty Cole Arts and Science Academy in November 2009, I have been encouraged by the school’s potential to make significant strides with its innovation status. Along with fellow innovation elementary schools Valdez and Whittier, this year’s SPF continues to build my faith.
  3. As someone not as closely attuned to the inner workings of Denver, I wonder if any (formal or informal) analysis has been done to show how traditional neighborhood schools like Steck, Beach Court and University Park elementaries continue to thrive, and what practical lessons their peers can glean.
  4. I have to ask how Prop 103 backers assimilate this news of DPS’ success given the district’s first real cutback in School Finance Act Per Pupil Revenue in 2010-11 (complete revenue and expenditure data won’t be available for months). Given economic and political realities, cultural trends and the district’s own recent tough budget decisions, we all should find hope in new examples of more efficient and productive K-12 spending that bear fruitful evidence of success.

DPS certainly has a long ways to go. But it’s encouraging to see the trend line of more schools meeting the mark as a result of hard work and thoughtful reform policies. The good news should inspire more positive momentum, as more schools seek to emulate the path of the increasing number showing signs of success.

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