I decided to add to my recent articles about the Colorado State Board of Education primary in Denver after reading an article today in Chalkbeat Colorado, a national non-profit education news agency. In the article "8 struggling schools opt in to Colorado's new turnaround network." Ashley Jochim, research analyst at the Center on Reinventing Publication Education and one of the policy experts advising the states the following:
Stacey Jocim, CRPE
"But Jochim said the resources will only be fruitful if principals are allowed to adopt the best ideas, even if they run counter to district policies – something that could be a challenge when it comes to personnel, budget, and curriculum.
If Colorado stumbles, it won't be alone, Jochim said.
"We're not in a place where anyone has done [a turnaround network] right,"* she said.
*Bold added for emphasis. Link: http://tinyurl.com/okb5gdp
Since the beginning of the now-Senator Michael Bennet's term as DPS superintendent, Denver Public Schools administration has pursued an aggressive approach to public schools that includes firing and displacing teachers, closing schools, and privatizing public schools by putting control in the hand of private companies that use public and private funds to run those schools. Bennet hired Mr. Boasberg to be the COO of DPS by attracting him away from his position as the VP of Corporate Affiairs at a multi-billion dollar corporation (a background much like Bennet's). In addition Boasberg chooses to reside and Boulder and will not send his own children to the District he oversees.
DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg Boasberg and Senator Michael Bennet
What is Turnaround?
For a background on Turnaround, Turnaround is a status that is granted through US Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan's landmark education policy, Race to the Top. Much of Race to the Top included money to backfill the budgets of states, districts, and schools who were suffering devastating cuts during the Great Recession. Another component was school turnarounds to be funded under the School Improvement Grants. In order to receive funding for Turnarounds, a school must be in the lowest 5% of rankings on high-stakes standardized tests like CSAP, TCAP, and PARCC. The federal government promised $5 billion dollars over 5 years. It just happens to be that these schools are primarily.
US Secretary of Education, Arnie Duncan
There are 4 Turnaround models in the federal guidelines:
- Turnaround Model – Replace the principal and rehire no more than 50% of the school’s staff, adopt a new governance structure, and implement a research-based vertically aligned instructional program.
- Restart Model – Transfer control of or close and reopen a school under a School Management Organization (SMO) or school operator that has been selected through a rigorous review process.
- School Closure – Close the school and enroll students in other, higher-achieving schools.
- Transformation Model – Develop teacher/principal effectiveness (including replacing the principal), implement comprehensive instructional reform, extend learning and teacher planning time, create a community-orientation, and provide operating flexibility and sustained support.
Translated into normal English:
- Turnaround Model – Fire or displace at least half of the staff and the principal.
- Restart Model – Create a charter or give the existing school a privately-run and publicly-funded charter school.
- School Closure – No need to explain. See Chicago Public Schools or DC Public Schools.
- Transformation – Fire the principal and invest. Only model that doesn't fire and displace effective teachers.
DPS most commonly chooses the Turnaround model. This is not the case nationwide. Once again, I want to reiterate the quote that "We're not in a place where anyone has done [a turnaround network] right."
What does this mean for DPS?
According to this Colorado Department of Education website, DPS has used federal Turnaround grants at least 14 times over 3 years, receiving millions in federal money.
- Montbello High School (Close)
- North High School
- Noel Middle School
- Philips (Close)
- Rishel (Close)
- Skyland (Close)
- Charles M. Schenk
- Bruce Randolph
The list above does not include schools that went through a similar process called "Redesign". These schools did not qualify for the School Improvement Grants, happened prior to SIG, or are outside of the CDE reporting. This following list may be missing additional schools, but the redesign and closed schools that I can recall outside of the SIG grants are:
- Remington Elementary (Closed)
- Smedley Elementary (Closed)
- Horace Mann Middle School
- Del Pueblo Elementary (Closed)
- Wyman Elementary (Closed)
- Polaris (Closed)
- Manual High School (Twice: resulting in many students, predominantly of color, never graduating high school)
- Kunsmiller Middle School
- Grant Middle School
- Oakland Elementary (Twice: turned into SOAR Oakland charter school and then closed again)
- McGlone Elementary
- Green Valley Ranch Elementary
- Centennial K-8
- Fairmont K-8
- Ashley Elementary
- Smiley Middle School (Closed)
- Kepner Middle School (Coming in 2015-2016)
Denver Public Schools currently has two Turnaround networks of schools managed by their own Instruction Superindent, Deputy Superintendent, and support staff. The current networks are the West Denver Network (WDN) and the Denver Summit Schools Network (DSSN). They are in process of establishing a new turnaround network including Cheltenham Elementary, Columbine Elementary, Fairview Elementary, and Valverde Elementary. This network is flagged for Redesign or Turnaround if improvement is not made soon.
DPS has already redesigned or turned around 17 schools on its own and 14 more with the support federal money to aid their programs. This makes 31 schools in Denver where students were displaced, teachers and other staff were fired.
What is the result?
The Achievement Gap Is Growing.
Denver Public Schools consists of 77% minority students. 58% of those students are Latino, and 14% Black. As the District administration continues to fail to address the achievement gap, it continues to fail the majority of Denver students. Furthermore, these schools all predominantly serve or served students of color. Two of Denver's iconic schools that successfully served African American students, Montbello and Manual High Schools, have been tinkered with with little success. DPS eventually shut down Montbello and is trying to decide what to do with Manual. Similar Turnarounds and closures are happening at Latino schools like West High School and Kepner Middle School. Tom Boasberg has even admitted that while the achievement gap is shrinking statewide, it is getting worse in Denver,
"While we're seeing significant gains across all demographic groups, we are not seeing our gaps close and this is very concerning," Boasberg said. "As we move forward, clearly we need to improve the effectiveness of our efforts to close the achievement gaps."
Citation: "Latino students in Colroado Slowly closing gaps on achievement tests." Denver Post
- "Latino students in Colorado slowly closing gaps on achievement tests." Denver Post – http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_23861151/hispanic-students-colorado-slowly-closing-gaps-achievement-tests
- "At Denver's flagship high school, shocking achievement gaps and small steps forward." Chalkbeat Colorado – http://co.chalkbeat.org/2014/04/08/at-denvers-flagship-high-school-shocking-achievement-gaps-and-small-steps-forward/#.U8BVm_ldWSo
Massive Layoffs and Firings of Effective Teachers.
The vast majority of these schools implemented a process that either shuttered the school or required the staff to reapply for their jobs despite positive performance evaluations. The district is then able to displace or layoff teachers without any cause when they had been performing effectively.
- "Teachers Fight Back Against Denver Public Schools in Court." Westword – http://www.westword.com/2014-04-10/news/teacher-lawsuit-against-dps/
- "Colorado Teachers Challenge Mass Firings" – Courthouse News – http://www.courthousenews.com/2014/02/03/65049.htm
- "Denver Public Schools: Read the Story of Another Teacher Who Was Facing Unpaid Leave." Westword – http://blogs.westword.com/latestword/2014/04/denver_public_schools_senate_bill_191.php
- Reader: DPS felt I was disposable." Westword – http://www.westword.com/2014-04-17/news/letters-dps-ribed-teachers/
Fewer Teachers of Color in Denver Schools
- It is a well-known fact that Denver Public Schools is losing more teachers of color than they are attracting. According to Colorado Public Radio reported Jenny Brundin in an article in February 2014, only 4% of teachers in Denver are black while 14% of the student body is black. The gap worsens with Latinos with a 17% Latino teachers and 58% Latino students. Link – "Race Matters in the Classroom: Why are all of my teachers white?" http://www.cpr.org/news/story/race-matters-classroom-why-are-all-my-teachers-white
- "In Search of Black Teachers." Chalkbeat Colorado – http://co.chalkbeat.org/2011/05/03/in-search-of-black-teachers/#.U8BTZfldWSo
- "Minority Gap Between Colorado Students and Teachers Grows." Denver Post – http://www.denverpost.com/ci_17921299
Major Funding for Politicians (Democrats for Education Reform) and Republicans Who Support this Model.
- "Final tally for DPS School Board races." Chalkbeat Colorado – http://co.chalkbeat.org/2010/01/19/final-tally-for-dps-school-board-races/#.U8BXkfldWSo
- "Big Money, Bad Media, Secret Agendas: Welcome to America's Wildest School Board Race." The Nation – http://www.thenation.com/blog/164122/big-money-bad-media-secret-agendas-welcome-americas-wildest-school-board-race
- "Bigger money wins in school board." Chalkbeat Colorado – http://co.chalkbeat.org/2011/12/02/bigger-money-wins-in-school-board-races/#.U8BXJPldWSo
- "Denver School Board race steeped in politics." Colorado Statesman – http://www.coloradostatesman.com/content/993089-denver-school-board-race-steeped-politics
- "Schisms is Denver school board chalks up hefty donations." Denver Post – http://www.denverpost.com/ci_19101443
- "Denver, Douglas County school board races draw big bucks." Denver Post – http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_24325555/denver-douglas-county-school-board-races-draw-big
- "'Reform' candidates win local school board races." Colorado Statesman – http://coloradostatesman.com/content/994484-%3Freform%3F-candidates-win-local-school-board-races
- "Which DPS school board candidates are getting the big bucks from Texas billionaires?" Westword – http://blogs.westword.com/latestword/2013/11/dps_school_board_candidates_donations_john_laura_arnold_texas_billionaires.php
- "Denver Public Schools candidates backing reforms poised for wins." Denver Post – http://www.denverpost.com/election2013/ci_24461189/denver-public-schools-race-will-determine-fate-reform
"Big money . . . coming to a local election near you: Denver School Board races see lots of CA$H." Clean SlateNow – http://www.cleanslatenow.org/183616/big_money_denver_school_board_elections
Maybe this will help explain why the NEA's body of over 8,000 education employee delegates vote in support of a request to ask US Secretary of State Arnie Duncan to resign. School boards are getting more and more funding from national corporate and special interests that are working to privatize public education and bust teacher and other public employee unions (one of the strongest checks on corporations and Republicans).
We are now seeing this in Douglas County, Jefferson County, Big Thompson School District, and District 12 as well. It is time to get educated and get organized to preserve one of the major pillars of American prosperity.