Two items have crossed my desk over the past 24 hours that require coverage.
The first item involves a report just out from the University of Washington’s Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) (Creepier than CREEP), the Center that awarded Denver Public Schools a bronze medal for being third best in the nation at implementing reform strategies. The study released today paints a very different picture as it cites Denver as the district with the largest achievement gap in reading and math based on socioeconomics out of ALL OF THE 50 URBAN DISTRICTS STUDIED for the past three years. That’s right. Denver Public Schools is dead last in closing the gap between children living in poverty and those not. Even the “reform” funded, “reform” supporting online newspaper, Chalkbeat Colorado, had a difficult time putting a positive spin on these findings.
“Of all the cities, Denver had the largest achievement gaps in both math and reading between students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch and other students – 38 percent in reading and 30 percent in math over three years studied. The gap nationally was about 14 percent….The report… paints a largely discouraging picture of U.S. urban education, especially when it comes to hard-to-serve students.”
The CRPE report provides information that is extremely important for public education nationally. It is even more important to Denver voters at this time because there is a school board election rapidly approaching (All mail in ballot election. You must vote by 7 p.m., November 3, 2015. Ballots go out mid-October), and three candidates are strongly supporting continuing the direction this District is going. The current Board president and at-large candidate Allegra “Happy” Haynes, touted her work for the past four years, and cited the DPS strategic plan, Denver Plan 2020, with its focus on reducing the gap, as a reason to re-elect her. In a debate October 5, 2015 she said, “I believe this is the progress we’ve made under my leadership and that of my colleagues.” This gap has increased in all three academic areas for the past ten years of “reform” and this progress has landed this District at the very bottom of the heap regarding one of the five tenets of the Denver Plan 2020 – the newly named Opportunity Gap. Call it what you will – opportunity or achievement – the reality is the gap has increased between economic (Free and Reduced Lunch and paying students) and ethnic groups (white students and students of color). After ten years of focusing on reducing this, the exact opposite has occurred. Isn’t it time for a change? Robert Speth, parent not politician is challenging Ms. Haynes for this at-large position.
The other incumbent running for re-election, Anne Rowe from District 1 in Southeast Denver, also continuously cites her work on the Denver Plan 2020, again focusing on reducing the gap. I will be honest here: The Denver Plan 2020 taken in its entirety is long on platitudes and very, very short on how to achieve its goals. For the most part, the solutions seem to involve doing more of the same. What is the definition of insanity? I say – and if you really care about public education in this country you should, too – enough is enough. I am going to use a “reform” phrase: NO MORE EXCUSES! “Reform” is harming our children. “Reform” is failing to provide our students with a real 21st century education. Kristi Butkovich is challenging her with a campaign based on collaboration, community and commitment to kids. The third seat being contested is an open one because current member and neighborhood school advocate Arturo Jimenez is term limited. Michael Kiley, parent, is the candidate with a voice for strong neighborhood schools.
The second piece of information to be shared is this: The Academic and Innovation Office (see Another Reorganization at DPS) just released the individual salaries for all 54 Directors, Managers, Executive Directors and Chiefs for this department. The grand total: $5,347,738.96. ($4,754,846.27 and $592,892.69 from grants) That is correct. $5.35 million in salaries for 54 people for an average of just under $100,000 per position. The highest salary is that of the Chief Academic and Innovation Officer at $178,955.32. The average starting teacher salary in Denver Public Schools is $39,000. I will do the math for you. At $39,000 per teacher this district could be hiring 137 more teachers. Now, we pretty much know the past ten years have been a failure in almost all aspects of educating our children and respecting out communities’ wishes. At the same time we pretty much know individualized attention, smaller classes, an enriched curriculum, more professional educators, attention to the non-educational needs of our children, particularly those who live in poverty and those who speak English as a second language, can produce well educated students. Just ask the guys in charge why their parents sent them to private school. This is just one department, but it is one that has grown exponentially as the Denver Public Schools continues to struggle with its main responsibility: educating Denver’s children. It is also the department that houses most of the managers charged with improving the education of Denver’s students.
So, I ask you, when is enough enough? We have more national proof that what Denver Public Schools is doing is not working. We have overwhelming local proof of the same. Enough is Enough!