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Coalition: DPS sending parents wrong message on quality schools

Those are the feelings a broad coalition expressed in a letter sent to the Denver Public Schools Board of Education Tuesday.

The two-page letter takes aim at how DPS evaluates its schools. Known as the School Performance Framework, or SPF, Denver uses a variety of data to determine which schools are making the grade and which aren’t. Schools are rated from red, probation, to blue, distinguished.

As part of its new strategic plan, Denver hopes to have 80 percent of its schools rates as blue or green by 2020. Currently, about 60 percent of schools meet that threshold.

But, the coalition said, the way DPS is determining those ratings is flawed. Among the coalition’s concerns is how DPS officials over-value data that shows much students learn year-to-year rather than how proficient they are.

“Growth gives the public a false impression that things are moving in the right direction,” said Kristi Butkovich, executive director of the Denver Alliance for Public Schools, in an interview. “Things are not moving in the right direction. The district has been stagnant.”

The coalition also highlights how not all high-performing schools are equal, nor are they closing a stubborn achievement gap between their white students and their students of color.

Superintendent Tom Boasberg has long defended the district’s use of student growth as a major factor in determining a quality school.

“This is a very important issue for our school community and we look forward to having a series of robust community conversations about it,” Boasberg said in a statement.

Last spring the district’s school board heard a presentation on the possible changes to the SPF. It’s unclear what the district’s next steps are, but the coalition, in the letter, said they want the conversation to start by November’s end.