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DPS board candidates turn in A+ Denver surveys; watch debates on EdNews

As the race for open seats on the Denver Public Schools board heats up, the education reform advocacy group A+ Denver has released the results of its survey of where candidates stand on issues like teaching and learning policies, school choice, and the district’s overall strategies for improvement.

Across the city, nine candidates are vying for four open seats. The election will in some ways serve as a referendum on the reform efforts of Superintendent Tom Boasberg, whose work emphasizing teacher accountability, expanded school choice and new school structures is currently supported by a majority of the board.

Along with the survey, A+ Denver is hosting a series of debates with the candidates in each board race; EdNews is co-sponsoring the debates along with KDVR Fox 31. You can watch the debates here on our site. The first debate, between the candidates running for District 3 in central Denver, will be held Wednesday night.

As expected, the surveys reveal some clear divisions between candidates who support Boasberg, including current board member Landri Taylor, and the superintendent’s critics, including at-large candidate Michael Kiley and central Denver’s Meg Schomp.

For example, here’s how candidates view the district’s overall reform efforts. While most of the candidates say that the current pace of progress is not adequate to meet the needs of students, the group as a whole is far more split on whether the district’s current leadership under Boasberg is moving in the right direction:

Among other interesting takeaways from the survey:

  • The strongest agreement among all of the candidates exists among questions of school accountability. Nearly all of the candidates said they supported holding schools accountable for boosting student achievement, that ACT scores and college remediation rates should be included in how schools are judged and that all schools should be held to the same standards.
  • Candidates were least likely to stake out a strong position on issues of school choice and type. Michael Kiley, who is running for the at-large seat, and Roger Kilgore, who is running in Northeast Denver’s District 4, declined to answer any of that section’s survey questions, which included whether charter schools should have equal access to district facilities and whether neighborhood schools should be allotted more resources per pupil than charter or innovation schools. Four out of the nine candidates declined to answer a question about whether they would support a proposal that would allow students to attend any school in the district regardless of where they lived. (All five of the candidates who answered that question — at-large candidate Joan Poston, both candidates in southwest Denver, central Denver’s Michael Johnson and northeast Denver’s Landri Taylor — said they would support such a proposal.)
  • There was also quite a bit of disagreement among the candidates around issues of teacher tenure. Two candidates, Joan Poston and southwest Denver’s Rosario C de Baca, responded that teachers should receive tenure after three years of effective teaching, while southwest Denver’s Rosemary Rodriguez, Johnson and Taylor said they disagreed with that statement. At-large candidate Barbara O’Brien, Kiley, Schomp and Kilgore all declined to answer that question.

See the full survey and the candidates’ responses to it here. And here is the schedule of the A+ Denver candidate debates, which you can watch here on EdNews through a live-stream:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013, 7-8pm: District 3
Thursday, September 26, 2013, 7-8pm: At-large
Wednesday, October 2, 2013, 7-8pm: District 2
Wednesday, October 9, 2013, 7-8pm: District 4

Have questions that you’d like to see the candidates answer during the debates? Submit them here.

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