Colorado

Opinion: Summit 54 grows up

In September of 2010, Tony Caine, a wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneur and options trader, invited a group of education policy experts to his adopted hometown of Aspen to talk about an idea he was hatching to help motivated, low-income students make it to and through a four-year college. I attended and wrote about that Summit 54 gathering and came away impressed by Caine's enthusiasm and spirit, but concerned that he was tying to create a new program in a field already crowded with organizations doing similar work with varied levels of success. Some of the other attendees I spoke with after the meeting felt much the same way; that Caine had the kernel of a good idea but might be wise to put his money behind an existing organization instead of creating something from scratch. During the meeting, Caine, now a youthful 54, invited people to be blunt with him when they thought his thinking was flawed. And they complied. It was hard at the time to tell whether  Caine was taking the advice to heart. In the fall of 2010, he had already invested a good deal of time and money into creating Summit 54. He'd even spent big chunks of the previous year climbing all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks. It's now clear that he did indeed listen. The evidence sits in a shopping center at the intersection of East Iliff Avenue and South Buckley Road in Aurora, where the gorgeously appointed and well-equipped CollegeTrack-Summit 54 headquarters was dedicated Thursday night. Gov. John Hickenlooper and Aurora Public Schools Superintendent John Barry were among those present.
Colorado

Does serving high-achievers well require segregation?

Colorado

Student growth percentiles and shoe leather

Editor's note: This piece was submitted by Damian W. Betebenner, Richard J. Wenning and  Professor Derek C. Briggs. Thumbnail biographies of the three authors appear at the bottom of this article. Bruce D. Baker recently published a critique of The Colorado Growth Model and its use of Student Growth Percentiles in his School Finance 101 blog (cross-posted on Education News Colorado).  In his blog, he both mischaracterizes the SGP methodology and the policy context.  Having participated in creating the Colorado Growth Model and leading the policy development associated with it, we thought it would be useful to clarify these misconceptions. In work over the past decade with over two dozen State Education Agencies (SEAs) to develop models of student growth based upon state assessment results, one lesson that is repeatedly learned is that data, regardless of their quality, can be used well and can be used poorly. Unfortunately Professor Baker conflates the data (i.e. the measure) with the use. A primary purpose in the development of the Colorado Growth Model (Student Growth Percentiles/SGPs) was to distinguish the measure from the use: To separate the description of student progress (the SGP) from the attribution of responsibility for that progress. There is a continuum of opinion about how large-scale assessment data and derived quantities can be used in accountability systems. On one extreme are those who believe large-scale assessment results are the ONLY “objective” indicator and thus any judgment about educator/education quality should be based on such measures. At the other extreme are those that hold that any use of large-scale assessment data is an abuse.
Colorado

From the publisher: EdNews site enhancements

Today, we are introducing some enhancements to the Education News Colorado website. As time goes by, we learn more about gaps in information that a site like ours can fill. We also study data from Google Analytics and elsewhere to see which of our offerings are most popular with readers. We’re committed to being responsive to what our readers want and need. Here is a list of what’s new on the site, all of it easily found through our new, secondary menu bar, which sits under the main menu bar, just below the EdNews logo: Easy access to databases. Our searchable databases of information on subjects including test scores, remediation rates, state ratings and drug offenses by schools are now grouped conveniently under a new heading on the secondary menu bar. Click on the EdNews’ databases item under the Data Center heading to find the list of databases. In-depth issues. Another new secondary menu bar item highlights a current education issue to which we’ve dedicated extensive coverage. This item debuts with a link to all EdNews stories on the Lobato funding adequacy trial. Timely topics. Here is the place to go if you want to sound like an education wonk. Read our CliffsNotes-like summaries and descriptions of complex education topics and you’ll be able to spout off on issues like those on the site today -- state testing, school funding and vouchers. Over time we will add additional topics pages. Do you have a topic in mind you’d like to see summarized in an accurate, objective fashion? Drop us a line. Easier access to education law and bill tracker features. The secondary menu bar now provides easy, one-click access to this popular and useful feature. The tracker allows you to read new education law and, during the legislative session, bills that are working their way through the system.
Colorado

Why won't DPS spread ELL success to innovation schools?

The following article was submitted to EdNews by Denver school board member Andrea Mérida. It is also posted on her blog While the politics of education reform swirl all around us, it’s important to keep clear on what works and what doesn’t. The good news is that the Denver Public Schools is actually doing very well in supporting a particular segment of our student population, English learners. The confusing part is that we seem ready to ignore that fact and follow a path that is completely divergent from real, lasting reform. The right path to close the achievement gap and provide opportunity for all Denver’s students is clear, and we would do well to heed the evidence. In 1999, the Department of Justice won a decision on behalf of the Congress of Hispanic Educators which asserted that the Denver Public Schools lacked adequate programs for students of limited English proficiency. DPS was ordered to allow parents to choose either full Spanish-language instruction, sheltered instruction (English with instructions in Spanish) or complete English immersion for their children (Click here to read those court documents). Around 35 percent of DPS students are classified as English language learners (ELLs). Not all these students come from Spanish-speaking homes; they also speak Vietnamese, Arabic, Somali, Nepali, and Karen/Burmese. Spanish-speaking students represent around 57 percent of DPS’ ELL population. The CSAPs taken in March 2011 show that “exited” ELLs, or those students who now are proficient enough to be placed in English-only classrooms, outperform district averages. Keeping in mind that these standardized tests are only an indicator of performance, these students also have surpassed Asian/Pacific Islander and Anglo students in many categories. These exited ELLs now take the CSAP in English. The following graphs show the percentages of elementary-aged ELLs scoring at or above proficiency in subjects tested by CSAP. ELLs outperform their Anglo counterparts in reading, writing and math and are very competitive with Asian students in science.
Colorado

From the publisher: Some random thoughts

Having stayed out of the fray for several months working on the business end of EdNews, I’ve gained some distance and perspective on the flashpoints that have been dominating the education reform debate. From a freshly detached point of view, a few things seem clear to me. In no particular order: *** Granted, it makes no sense to evaluate educators solely on how students perform on standardized tests, imperfect instruments at best. It makes even less sense, though, to escalate this to a generalized anti-testing frenzy, as some have done. Measuring progress and achievement is essential to improvement. So by all means, find some others measures to augment testing, and throttle way back on the test-prep and test-score obsession. But keep testing. *** Both “sides” in the reform debate like to use Finland as an example of a country that has solved the public education puzzle. On one side, advocates point out that Finnish teachers are unionized, effective and well prepared. They are a respected and admired pillar of Finnish society. Advocates on the other side point out that the teachers in Finland have had to clear some high bars to get into the profession. It takes more than a pulse and an inflated grade point average to get a Finnish teaching license. Until we can figure out how to make teaching a true profession in this country, and attract a larger number of highest caliber applicants, our education system will not match Finland’s results. What can we do to make teachers feel efficacious? How do we make  teaching a career as appealing as engineering, law or medicine? And then what do we do about current teachers who wouldn’t be able to clear the Finnish bar?
Colorado

Listen to Ravitch, Alter talk past each other

It's billed as a debate, but the 35-minute session featuring Diane Ravitch and Jonathan Alter Wednesday on a local talk show was more two people filibustering than anything resembling a true give-and-take. Host David Sirota didn't pretend to be a disinterested third party, coming down, as one would expect, firmly on Ravitch's side. Listen to it here. (Thanks to GothamSchools) Still, having the two on his program was a coup of sorts. The dust-up between them began when Ravitch wrote an op-ed last week in the New York Times, in which she questioned the "miracle" mythology around certain schools, including Denver's Bruce Randolph. Alter, a long-time Newsweek correspondent who now writes for Bloomberg News, penned a column accusing Ravitch of attempting to derail current reforms. He called her "the education world’s very own Whittaker Chambers, the famous communist turned strident anti-communist of the 1940s." Neither Ravitch nor Alter broke new ground, but they spent at least 10 minutes talking about Bruce Randolph. Ravitch, the hater of standardized tests, used test scores to build her argument that Randolph is an abysmal school, while Alter said based on growth data, Randolph looks more like the shining star President Obama, Michael Bennet and others have held it up to be. If you have no opinion on the matter, have a listen. I doubt you'll feel terribly enlightened or swayed by either Ravitch or Alter. If you come down on one side or the other, then you'll probably feel your champion scored a knockout.
Colorado

DPS' response to the credit recovery controversy

Editor's note: This post was submitted to Education News Colorado by Antwan Wilson, Denver Public Schools' assistant superintendent, office of post-secondary readiness. It offers the district's response to this blog post from EdNews Publisher Alan Gottlieb, and this article from Westword. I wanted to take this opportunity to address the concerns raised in recent media reports about the credit recovery at North High School. The issues raised in the report are very serious ones, and we are actively investigating the claims and reviewing our overall credit-recovery procedures.  Should we find violations of our guidelines or ethical standards or the need to implement clearer or stronger policies, we will take action to ensure the integrity and rigor of that program and all of our programs.  We certainly recognize that for our diplomas to have value, our programs must be - and be seen as - rigorous. In addressing the concerns about rigor, it’s important to take a minute to discuss the purpose of credit recovery and where it fits in our overall high school programs. To date, that investigation has determined at a minimum that there were serious deficiencies in following procedures and keeping records during the 2009-10 school year. First, a word on rigor.  Over the past several years, the Denver Public Schools has significantly strengthened the rigor of its high school programs. The district has increased the number of credits required for graduation from 220 to 240 (the highest in the state to our knowledge) by adding a fourth year of math and additional lab-science requirement, among other changes. We have nearly doubled the number of students taking and receiving college credit from Advanced Placement courses over the past five years, and we have also nearly tripled the number of students concurrently enrolled in college-level courses. The percent of concurrently enrolled students receiving As, Bs, or Cs in these college level courses (and therefore college credit) is over 80 percent. And these increases cross all racial and socioeconomic groups. Our district also has posted double-digit gains in math and reading proficiency on state assessments over the past five years. Our mission at DPS is to ensure that all of our students graduate high school and successfully pursue postsecondary opportunities and become successful world citizens.  This is an important mission in that it sets a high bar that requires that we implement a system district-wide that meets the needs of all of our students regardless of who they are, where they come from, or what their previous academic performance may have been. Aligning mission to Denver Plan This mission aligns with the 2010 Denver Plan goal of being the best urban school district in the country.  It says that we recognize and appreciate the diversity within our student population and the many unique needs of our students and we are making it our responsibility to construct a system that prepares all students for success in the college and career opportunities they seek. READ THE REST OF THIS STORY IN THE BLOG ARCHIVE
Colorado

From the publisher: "Juking the stats" in DPS

“Juking the stats. Making robberies into larcenies. Making rapes disappear. You juke the stats and majors become colonels. I’ve been here before.” -- a cop-turned-teacher in HBO’s series “The Wire,” when asked to boost test scores. Last week’s article in Westword about abuses in Denver North High School’s “credit recovery” program touched a nerve, and for good reason. It’s a textbook example of kids being used to make adults look better. There’s no reason to believe the problems detailed in Melanie Asmar’s story are limited to North. In fact I’ve received emails from people at other Denver high schools alleging similarly questionable practices. And the New York Times wrote a national story about credit recovery abuses in April. I’m sure most of the adults involved - heck, probably all of them – allowed and in some cases encouraged kids to cheat on credit recovery homework and exams thinking it was in the best interest of those kids. So many studies, after all, have shown that young people’s prospects improve significantly with a high school diploma. District leadership needs to do some soul-searching about whether the pressure exerted on high schools to improve graduation rates tacitly encourages school administrators to juke the stats to make themselves and the district look better. If the diploma has been watered down to the extent that the credential becomes meaningless, though, then every graduate of North High School is hurt by this extreme manifestation of the “pobrecito syndrome” (as in “oh, these poor babies’ lives are so hard we can’t expect too much of them.”) There’s also an element here of gaming the system for less altruistic reasons. Juking the stats doesn’t just happen in “The Wire.”  It’s exactly what happened in North High’s credit recovery program. For those of you who haven’t read it, here are the main points from Asmar’s story. READ THE REST OF THIS STORY IN THE BLOG ARCHIVE
Colorado

Video: First day of school in Denver

Colorado

Neighborhood school woos charter

Colorado

College students protest budget cuts

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