No matter our race, background, or zip code, we all want our neighborhood schools to be well-equipped to ensure our children can live fulfilling lives. However, parents of children in the Denver Public School system are not given enough information about their children’s education to make an assessment regarding the success of our schools. Community members are proposing new changes to the School Performance Framework by asking for more in-depth reports from school officials.
Four Together Colorado leaders – Sharon Battle, Rosario Mendoza, Karen Mortimer, and Shirley Richard – each wrote opinion pieces about the current ranking system, discussing the need for change.
What is the SPF?
The School Performance Framework – or SPF – measures success and acts as a “report card for the schools,” assessing factors like attendance and test scores. Since 2008, DPS has used a color-coded system, ranking the schools as red, orange, yellow, green, and blue (with red being the lowest and blue being the highest). Each year, DPS shares a new SPF rating with schools, letting them know which schools are ranking as red/orange and could be at risk of closing down.
Parents, community members, teachers, school leaders, and administrators formed the ReImagine the SPF committee in an effort to change the ranking system. The committee decided upon three recommendations:
- Replace the existing SPF and cede to an already existing school rating framework run by the state to fulfill the state and federal requirements regarding school accountability.
- Create an online dashboard to inform the public about whole child measures, including school climate, culture and additional academic measures not captured in the state’s framework.
- Launch a continuous improvement cycle to support schools.
All recommendations are essential for improvements in transparency and equity. Parents will be urging the Board to vote yes August 20 on all three recommendations from the ReImagine the SPF Committee.
Together Colorado leaders have been involved in this decision-making and have been vocal about the potential for change. Below are some of the things they had to say:
Sharon Battle is a DPS parent, serves on the District Accountability Committee, is a Board Member of Together Colorado, a member of our Core Leadership Team, and a leader of our organizing committee in Montbello, Advocates for Children of the Far Northeast. She wrote a Boardhawk editorial entitled, “Information is power, and the only path to equity.” Battle writes that it’s important to have as much transparency as possible with information about everything from the library, arts, transportation, electives, and capacity for enrollment.
“If we’re ever to achieve true educational equity in Denver, schools must provide information in the most transparent manner possible. The new dashboard that is being proposed to complement reporting by the state, and replace the current Denver SPF, holds promise for providing the types of information that will make it easier for families to navigate schools and support our kids’ success…
It would be a mistake for the Board of Education to vote for reliance on only the color-coded state performance framework, and not move forward with the dashboard and improvement cycle…
As it writes the next chapter on school performance the DPS board must elevate the voices of parents and empower them with the types of information they find useful to help their children thrive.”
Rosario Mendoza is a DPS parent, member of Together Colorado’s Core Leadership Team, and a leader of our organizing committee in Montbello, Advocates for Children of the Far Northeast. She wrote an Op-Ed for El Semanario, “Let’s Usher In a New Era Of Transparency in Denver Public Schools.”
“I am concerned that some are asking the board not to implement the dashboard. To support our children, it is necessary that parents have information about what is happening at school, and without the dashboard we will not have access to information to be able to advocate…
The dashboard will help us achieve equity in public schools. It will inform us if there are adequate resources in all schools… It will have data on teacher turnover, training, opportunities for professional development, and other key data for parents, students, and teachers…
How will we know that the disciplinary measures taken against our children are fair without access to data on suspensions and explusions? It is critical that every student feels safe and not denigrated.“
Karen Mortimer is a DPS parent, served on the ReImagine the SPF Committee, and is a leader on our organizing committee in Montbello, Advocates for Children of the Far Northeast. She wrote an opinion piece for the Denver Post, entitled “Denver schools shouldn’t be pitted against each other, but parents still need school performance information.” Mortimer writes that the lack of information is not only harmful in that it doesn’t create a full picture, but that it creates an oversimplified and negative impression of the schools.
“The recommendations for a dashboard and improvement cycle are intended to paint a more robust picture of each school. These are not intended to be punitive or add parameters for triggering state and local accountability requirements. Rather than fuel competition, our hope is that it will promote collaboration and mutual responsibility between schools, the district, the superintendent and board. The dashboard will repudiate the rankings of schools that fed the mindset that ‘we are better’ and ‘they are less.’”
Shirly Richard is a retired DPS teacher, member of the ReImagine the SPF Committee, and a leader on our organizing committee in Montbello, Advocates for Children of the Far Northeast. Her piece for Westword is entitled “Information Is Critical in the Drive for Equity at DPS.” Like Mortimer, Richard writes the current system is harmful to the image of Denver schools and creates a negative impression and even negative effects.
“The color-coded school report cards were ‘weaponized’ — used by DPS to determine which schools should be closed. In our community, school after school was shut down and reopened as a charter or innovation school…
With so many schools labeled ‘orange’ and ‘red,’ our children began to believe they were not good enough. The punitive nature of the SPF was demeaning to our students and also to our teachers and community…
The committee was clear that Recommendations #2 and #3 are intended to drive transparent information sharing that paints a more robust picture of each school’s performance and for the school district to work with schools in support of continuous improvement…
I urge fellow Denverites to contact the Board of Education to support the Reimagine the SPF committee recommendations. The community has the power to drive the conversation about school quality and prioritize the measures we believe hold the greatest promise for establishing true equity in education.”
Content Update (as of Aug. 27) — The Denver School Board voted 6-1 to approve the ReImagine the SPF Committee’s recommendations. 10 parent leaders from Together Colorado gave public comment, as well as parent leaders representing other schools and organizations. The Together Colorado parent leaders who participated are as follows: Karen Mortimer, Stacy Johns, Sharon Battle, Angela Tzul, Blanca Vallejo, Lily Magaña, Araceli Martinez, Maria Rojas, Roni Turner, Rosario Mendoza.
We at Together Colorado are constantly amazed by the influence of our leaders, and we are so thankful they took the time to civically engage and help improve the transparency in our community. Thank you to these four highlighted leaders for also sharing their opinions and highlighting the importance of these changes, and a huge thanks to Together Colorado organizer Adrienne Aguirre Deshaies for her work with this act of civic engagement.