You Be the Judge

On Monday, October 12, 2015 I submitted the Op-Ed piece below to The Denver Post.  The editors accepted it for probable publication the following Sunday, October 18.  I was cautioned not to make the piece too political.  I agreed because I believed the message of the failures would make the politics self-evident. My piece did appear but what the editors failed to tell me was:

  1. My offering would be part of a point/counterpoint presentation. The Post solicited a piece from a “reformer” without having the courtesy of telling me that was going to be the case;
  2. The title of my piece would be changed from “You Be the Judge” to “NO: Dismal stats provide the answer” and would part of the more argumentative format.

Three of seven DPS Board of Education seats are being contested this November.  Two of the seats are being held by incumbents who strongly support the status quo of the past ten years.  The third is an open seat where the “reform” candidate has filed a campaign finance report showing close to $100,000 raised, mostly from the national “reform” organization, Democrats for Education Reform. There is an enormous national push to make Denver’s board unanimous in its push to silence the public.  This is an all mail-in election.  Ballots must be received by 7 p.m. Tuesday, November 3.  If you care about the future of public education in Denver, and if you read the below article and think these data are unacceptable and this District is headed in the wrong direction and if you think the public should be welcomed in questioning some District decisions, here are your candidates:

Kristi Butkovich, District 1 , Southeast Denver

Michael Kiley, District 5, Northwest Denver

Robert Speth, At-large Candidate


We have ten years of data on education “reform” in Denver, Colorado. Three out of seven seats on the Denver School Board are being contested this November 3. (Really, the election starts mid-October since this is an all mail-in election and ballots will be sent out then). Here are some important Denver Public Schools data with which you should be acquainted before you vote:



  • ACT scores (the bar by which “reformers” cite college readiness) have remained stagnant with a slight drop to 18.3 in 2015. Twenty-one (21) is the number generally cited for college readiness i.e., no need for remediation. Twenty-six (26) is the average score needed to enter CU Boulder.
  • DPS graduation rate is 62.8%. The state of Colorado’s rate is 77.3%. The last available remediation rate stands at 52.4%
  • Academic proficiencies for Denver Public Schools students are:
    • Reading   54%
    • Math        47%
    • Writing    44%
  • Achievement gap INCREASES since 2005 based on economics – free and reduced lunch students and paying students:
    • Reading 7  percentage points from 29 to 36
    • Math 14 percentage points from 20 to 34
    • Writing 9  percentage points from 27 to 36
  • Achievement gap INCREASES based on ethnicity – white students and Black and Hispanic students
    • Reading 4 percentage points from 36 to 40.  The gap increase from 2013 to 2014 alone has been 2 points.
    • Math 3 percentage points from 34 to 37 points.  The gap between white and Black students is the highest at 47 percentage points. The gap between white and Hispanic students is 40 points. All gaps are widening, 1 point from 2013 to 2014.
    • Writing Less than 1 percentage point decrease to 42  percentage points between white and Hispanic and Black students but increasing since 2011


  • Resegregation of Denver Public Schools: Three-quarters of DPS schools are what the New York Times has termed “demographically homogenous.”
    • 65% of DPS schools have student bodies with over 70% students of color
    • 11% of DPS schools have students bodies with less than 30% students of color
    • 65% + 11% = 76%

The Sunday, October 11, 2015 Denver Post had even more unfavorable statistics.


  • Teacher Turnover: 22% per year. DPS is experiencing the highest teacher turnover in the metropolitan area.


  • Principal Turnover: 30% per year. Since Superintendent Boasberg took over in 2009 approximately 90% of DPS traditional schools have experienced at least one change in leadership.


  • Academic Innovation Office, a new department within Denver Public Schools which oversees charter and innovation schools, not traditional schools, has 54 directors, managers, assistant directors, with salaries totaling $5.3 million. Average salary: $100,000.


Finally, just last Wednesday, October 7, 2015, the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education, released a report/report card on the status of 50 urban school districts who have been actively engaged in education reform. Thirty-seven districts supplied enough achievement gap data to be evaluated. Denver Public Schools was dead last (37th) in both reading and math with gaps of 38% and 30% respectively. The average for the other districts was around 14 percentage points for each subject. As for graduation rates, Denver ranked 45th out of the 50 districts.


The Denver Plan 2020 emphasizes reducing the gaps and increasing graduation rates (Goals 3 and 5). Given the performance of the past ten years, is this a District going in the right direction to achieve this? You be the judge.


All data are from DPS, CDE, Chalkbeat Colorado, Denver Post.

If you wish to link to the published piece, here it is.

















Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s