Our DPS Weekly: Measuring Progress in Our Schools

Oct. 29, 2016

A Note from Superintendent Tom Boasberg:

Dear DPS Community,

For our kids, education represents their very best hope for a bright future. Our nation’s recovery from the Great Recession hastened the shift to a knowledge-based economy: One report found more than 95% of jobs created since then have gone to workers with at least some college education while those with a high school diploma or less are being left behind.

Now, more than ever, we know the path out of poverty demands a strong education. And yet today, only one in three students from low-income households nationally is likely to attain a postsecondary credential. Gaps by race loom large: among the nation’s 24 to 29-year-olds, just 22% of blacks and 15% of Hispanics have a bachelor’s degree compared to 41% of whites.

We as a country, and as a school district, must do better for our kids if we are to significantly improve these numbers and transform lives. And we must do so with an unflinching focus on what’s working — and what’s not.

Thursday, at Trevista Elementary in Northwest Denver, we shared the results of the DPS School Performance Framework or SPF, which highlights how our schools are performing in those areas our community has told us are the most important, including closing opportunity gaps for our kids of color and increasing the college and career readiness of our graduates.

This year, 50% of our schools received our highest ratings of Distinguished and Meets Expectations — Blue and Green respectively on our ratings “stoplight.” This includes Trevista, a school whose teachers, families and students have worked extraordinarily hard to achieve its highest-ever rating of Green this year.

“We are so excited and happy to celebrate the remarkable growth our students have shown in recent years. This is the result of pure hard work and dedication from everyone,” said Trevista teacher Jessica Mullins. ” Most importantly, we celebrate our kids who show us on a daily basis the possibilities for their futures.”

Thursday’s celebration included a number of other schools making strong progress, including Fairview Elementary, University Prep – Arapahoe, Collegiate Prep Academy, DSST: College View High School and Respect Academy. And, we noted that overall, we saw this year a significant decrease in our Distinguished or Blue schools as a result of the fact that this year’s SPF is based on the new CMAS state assessments, which are significantly more challenging than the previous CSAP/TCAP state assessments.

The SPF is intended to be, first and foremost, an information resources for our parents, our teachers and our school leaders, shining a light on what’s going right in their schools and where there is room for improvement. This allows our school communities to focus on strategic plans to improve and to prioritize their efforts and resources.

The SPF also sets the quality bar that is our definition of how we define which schools are excellent, good, fair and in need of significant improvement. This bar is and should be high, for it must align with the bar students have for themselves and parents have for their kids – that our graduates are truly prepared for college, career and life.

Our SPF has been recognized nationally as one of the most comprehensive, balanced and thoughtful measures of school performance in the country. We focus on our students’ academic growth from year to year and include indicators such as parent engagement and early literacy, since we know students who read on grade level by grade 3 are four times more likely to graduate high school.

This year’s SPF may look a little different for some communities. It reflects our state’s transition to more rigorous academic standards and new assessments designed to measure student mastery of the more complex skills needed to achieve college and career readiness. Because of this change in state tests, the SPF includes only one year of growth data rather than the traditional two years of data. Having only one year of growth data may result this year in slightly more ups and downs in SPF ratings for individual schools, particularly for our smaller schools with fewer test-takers.

There is another vital change on the 2016 SPF, and that is a focus on equity. For the first time this year, our schools are receiving an overall equity rating based on how our schools are supporting students in poverty, students of color, English learners and students with special needs. The equity rating is determined by looking at existing measures in the SPF regarding performing of those students. We are combining those existing measures into an overall equity rating to emphasize high expectations for all students. For the 2017 SPF, our intention is that a school must be performing well on this equity rating before the school can receive an overall rating of Blue or Green, our highest ratings.

At DPS, the desire to make a difference, to change the trajectory of the kids we serve, drives the work we do every day. It’s why we became teachers and school leaders, reading specialists and math tutors, operations leaders and special educators. The equity indicator is one more reminder that the hallmark of a great school is one that serves all of our kids well.


Learn more about how DPS monitors, supports and holds schools accountable here . The site also is available in Spanish.

Read the full Our DPS Weekly newsletter online: Measuring Progress in Our Schools. .