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February 14, 2011 06:37 AM UTC

DPS Parent: The Denver Plan is a failure, Mr. Boasberg

  • 56 Comments
  • by: DefenseDenver

February 12, 2011

Dear Superintendent Boasberg,

When I opened The Denver Post this morning and read about the 52% graduation rate in DPS, I was stunned.  We have had The Denver Plan for six years now, and all we can manage is a 5% improvement in our graduation rate?  Particularly when this “improvement” is due to nothing other than a “lowering of the academic bar” to make DPS numbers look better than they are?  Proof of this is in the increased remediation rate to 55% of our DPS graduates who attend college.  That is outrageous!

It is time to fix our schools, starting with the high schools.  By “fix” I do not mean closing the schools and replacing them with charters.  

 

Find six excellent principals, or pairings of competent assistant principals with smart business people, (not those from education corporations), and put them into the failing high schools:  Manual, Montbello, North, West, Lincoln, and possibly Kennedy.  That leaves only five decent high schools remaining to serve the students in DPS:  East, GW, TJ, and South.  How can you spend six years not addressing the most pressing problem in DPS, that three fifths of our traditional high schools are failing their students and the remaining two fifths are struggling to competently serve all of their students?

I am tired of reading quotes from you in the paper which frequently contain the following words, “we are very concerned,” and “it speaks clearly to the need…”  Clearly, the DPS Administration knows what is wrong.  Quit being “concerned” and do something constructive.  Parents, teachers, and school administrators have turned around many DPS neighborhood elementary schools in the past decade.  Even some of the middle schools have been turned around or are making significant progress.  If the community can do it, surely 900 Grant with its wealth of human resources should be able to accomplish the same feats on a much larger scale.

Bill Gates is an accomplished businessman.  He has yet to prove himself an esteemed educator.  Gambling our kids’ education with a bet on corporate America seems very shortsighted.  “Rolling up one’s sleeves” and getting to work is a time-tested method of success.  We Westerners still have that quality in our fabric.  We would embrace that type of effort.

Sincerely,

Kristen T.

A DPS Parent & Graduate

P.S.  While writing this, I received your e-mail letter to the DPS Community.  Your “spinning” of the story is, in fact, quite misleading.  What truly is important is the quality of the DPS high school graduate.  I would like to see a true measurement of the academic level of our graduates as demonstrated by results from the ACT or SAT.  With remediation rates as high as 55%, one has to infer that our students are not as prepared for college or a career as they once were.  Tragically, this truth is never told.

________________________

We at DeFENSE know what works.  It includes:

  • Building trust among school leaders, teachers, and students. A four-year study of over 400 Chicago elementary schools found that higher levels of trust in a school community is associated with higher levels of growth in student achievement. When members of a school community support one another, listen to and respect input from all levels, and work together toward common goals, students show greater achievement gains.
  • Collective leadership. School communities led by principals who meaningfully involve teachers, parents and community members in making school-wide decisions are more successful than those where the principal makes decisions without others’ input.
  • Reducing class sizes. Smaller class sizes have been linked to benefits as wide-ranging as increased student achievement, reductions in the achievement gap, greater effort and engagement among students, reduced health care costs, and more.
  • Read more at our “What Works” page.  Thanks for reading.

    Comments

    56 thoughts on “DPS Parent: The Denver Plan is a failure, Mr. Boasberg

    1. A lower graduation rate is better, as long as they’re more prepared for college?

      Bullshit.

      Instead of “building trust” or “collective leadership”, how about doing your job?

      There is no evidence that smaller classes do anything to help students.  In fact, larger class sizes (fewer, better teachers might be just what the doctor ordered).

      Hey – if I donate money to you on your page, where does it go?  Whose bank account does it go in?  How do I account for it on my taxes?

      Assholes.

      1. But on this I agree with him 100%. What DD proposes is the same old approach that has failed for 40 years. The Denver Plan may also be failing, but that means we try something else, not return to the failed policies of the past.

        1. The success stories and data are all there, even in the report from Donnell-Kay and the CDE.

          Try asking parents in Montbello if they felt collaborated with.  

      2. how do you explain this?


        Rhee faces renewed scrutiny over depiction of students’ progress when she taught

        Former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, known for her crusade to use standardized test scores to help evaluate teachers, is facing renewed scrutiny over her depiction of progress that her students made years ago when she was a schoolteacher.

           

        There were no separate results for Rhee or any other Harlem Park teacher. The study also noted that many students at the struggling Baltimore school were not tested.

           But the results were presented in enough detail to raise questions about whether any single class could have made strides of the magnitude Rhee depicted on her resume.

           Rhee said she taught second grade for two years, then third grade in 1994-95. In that year, Rhee said, her class made a major leap in achievement.

           The study found that third-graders overall at the school made gains that year in reading and math. But they finished nowhere near the 90th percentile. (emphasis added).

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/

        http://www.dailykos.com/story/

          1. and to boot, it turns out that Michelle Rhee’s definition of discipline is duct tape.

            http://www.washingtoncitypaper


            Rhee had poor class management skills, she said, recalling that her class “was very well known in the school because you could hear them traveling anywhere because they were so out of control.” On one particularly rowdy day, she said she decided to place little pieces of masking tape on their lips for the trip to the school cafeteria for lunch.

            “OK kids, we’re going to do something special today!” she said she told them.

            Rhee said it worked well until they actually arrived at the cafeteria. “I was like, ‘OK, take the tape off. I realized I had not told the kids to lick their lips beforehand…The skin is coming off their lips and they’re bleeding. Thirty-five kids were crying.”


            Unsurprisingly, Rhee tried to walk back a bit from that story:

            Rhee said in an e-mail Friday that the students’ mouths weren’t covered. “I was trying to express how difficult the first year of teaching can be with some humor. My hope is that our new teachers will bring great creativity and passion to their craft while also learning from my own challenges.” Still, it’s difficult to imagine a DCPS instructor, first-year or tenth-year, surviving the masking tape stunt without suspension at a minimum.

            Yeah, that’s… maybe not the type of example DCPS wants Rhee setting for young teachers.

            1. You’re never going to convince me that Rhee isn’t a warrior and a hero in trying to educate our kids.

              The biggest indicator of that?

              These BS union hit pieces against her.

              I’d prefer to ‘pull a Manual’ on the entire public education system.

              Fire everyone, de-certify the union, start from scratch.

              1. I’d prefer to ‘pull a Manual’ on the entire public education system.

                Fire everyone, de-certify the union, start from scratch.

                no doubt, your concern is only on the teacher side of the equation, the cost of tenure, the power of the teacher’s union etc…

                but, you, like many other Republicans don’t ask the question about the actual students who were never accounted for after Manual’s closing.

                How many did not come back to school?

                Did not graduate?

                Lost any chance to go to college?

                Added another layer of people to the Unemployed?


                Sure, you have simple solutions… but no answer to the problems those solutions bring.

                  1. What were the graduation, drop out, and transfer rates in the five years before Manual closed?

                    And how many of those dropouts and transfers were never accounted for before closing.

                    See, since Manual closed bad things have happened to some people. So Boasberg must be bad and Easley must be recalled.  Honestly- have the Av’s won the Cup since Boasberg? Before Boasberg, the Broncos won a pair of Superbowls. After…?  

                    1. The school was completely closed for a year.  Then it was reopened as three different schools, but only one year at a time and by application only.

                      They were able to skim the students they wanted off the top, making any subsequent data skewed.

                      If, instead, they’d closed the school and made sure every one of those kids landed in the same or better school, then there’d be no issue.  But for Pete’s sake, you don’t make things WORSE.

                      “Bad things have happened to some people.”  Is that only ok for other people’s kids?

                      Changing out a school’s students is not school reform.

                      1. If we left people like you in charge and shut down the system totally, we’d only graduate 30% fewer minority students.

                        Please forgive me if I don’t want to take the metaphorical ride in your car any more.

                      2. It’s not ok even though it’s other people’s kids.

                        Instead, I was making a different claim; that the way you and others present the results it” only because Manual closed that any students were lost or didn’t graduate.  And the situation at Manual suggests that some students would have been unaccounted for, and not graduated even if it has stayed open.

                      3. The position needs clarification, you’re right.  There should be NO excuse ever for kids being unaccounted for.  And you are right that there were dropouts before the closure.

                        The point is that DPS should not have made it worse, all for an experiment.

                      4. I’m persuadable, but the data, such as it is, is mixed.

                        I can think of several reasonable reasons the DPS (and any other district) could have students who become unaccountable.

                        Family moves away from Denver, kid goes with.  Kid shows up in another school district which chooses not to check in with DPS.   How should DPS  track that?

                        Kid drops out- moving back and forth between parents or other adult homes, none paying attention to his absences. Until the kid goes to jail or gets a job and just stops being a part of DPS as a student  at all.  How do you want DPS to track that?

                      5. And the scenario you point is really plausible.  But for 200 kids?  The biggest high school in the district has nearly 2000 kids.  It would be an issue if 10% fell off the grid.  Wouldn’t it be a complete breakdown of the system if they all of a sudden couldn’t account for 10% of the student body?

                        What happened in the aftermath of the closure is bad.  If DPS really cares about its kids, they should have had a process in place to move those kids to an equal or better school.  There should have been an orderly process to make things better, not just shut things down.

                        And the worst part of this?  The district doesn’t seem to have learned it’s lesson.  The same mess is happening for the kids in the Montbello area.

                        For example, no one in the district, not the board or superintendent, has made any moves to fix the situation at Rachel B. Noel middle school, one of the schools in the hostile takeover.  The district is opening an arts magnet in half, a KIPP charter school in the other half.  Sounds like good options, right?  What they don’t tell you is that these schools are only taking one grade at a time.  So next year’s 7th and 8th graders are being scattered to the 4 winds, EXACTLY as happened at Manual.

                        What’s the plan to make sure these middle schoolers, fragile and all, are ending up in a same or better school?  We’re talking about approximately 200 kids again.

                        The answer is that there’s no plan.  And the school’s board representative?

                        Silent.

                      6. How do you cite any data at all if the kids fell off the grid?  It doesn’t affect the outcome of the data in any way other than shrinking the pool of kids.  

                1. Neither the Gates Foundation nor DPS did a study of what happened to the “guinea pigs” of Manual.  A local Denver paper did.  The students did not fare well.

                    1. EVidently Bennet had a cousin at the New Yorker and this article was the result.  It does NOT track what happened to all the kids who had been at Manual when it closed.

                      Yes, I have a source. No, I can not post it here….hint. hint..hint.

                      One way to check it out would be to go the DPL website and check the newspaper archives for Denver publications…I think it was sometime in the spring of 2009/

                      1. Just not in the main text of a front-paged diary. I think people are extra-cautious partly as a joke at DP’s expense, but the site rules are not actually that strict.

                      2. You can link to DPL.  Or not.

                        I know what it says – unless it is really a different evaluation of the data from pre and post closure.

                      3. Am I correct:  If I can find the link to the story, I can post the link from DPL?

                        The data is from post closure.

              1. read it folks, you’ll see.

                If you don’t know by now, get schooled.

                Public Education is under attack.

                In states like Colorado, we have this kind of debate, where Democrats argue among themselves about these kind of ‘necessary changes’ while Republicans like Laughing Boy chime in on the ‘Right Side’ of the argument.

                While in Republican leaning states, the assault is much more direct.

                http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schoo

                Get Schooled

                Teacher tenure under attack by new GOP governors

                11:44 am February 1, 2011, by Maureen Downey

                The New York Times has a good wrap-up on the assault on teacher tenure by GOP governors – and Democrat Michelle Rhee.  What makes this issue so volatile is that polls show parents do not support tenure, but it remains important to many teachers.



                Georgia teachers do not have unions or the full-blown tenure as exists in union states, but they enjoy greater job protections under the law than most employees. Here, once teachers sign a fourth contract with a school, they earn “tenure.” Their contracts  are supposed to be renewed unless the system can show reason why they should not, and those reasons have to meet the threshold set in the law.

                And in neighboring Wyoming?

                http://billingsgazette.com/new

                For the Democrats reading here, ask yourself,

                why are all the ‘up and coming’ democrats also school reform ‘leaders’ that also happen to get their funding from Republican outfits, either directly – like Anschutz to Bennet or indirectly, like Anschutz who funds Walden media which produced ‘Waiting for Superman’?

                http://www.schoolsmatter.info/



                Philip Anschutz and Walden Media: What Kind of Agenda?

                The Republicans are always after Social Security, Medicare, and yes, Public Education. Now, they have some corporate Democrats, funded by big money, willing to do the same.

                Will you Democrats here, do the same?

                1. Education is a disaster.  Public or not.  Don’t you want to fix it?

                  I would think that the first step would be to take it out of the hands of the people that have ruined it, eh?

                  I have kids.  I could care less who’s in charge, as long as my kid learns.  That’s not happening now.

                  1. Education is a disaster because it has been under constant assault from Republicans.

                    Now, Republicans are being joined by a handful of money backed democrats to help with the attack, and Republicans feel like their worn out arguments make sense.

                    They do. If you can afford private school.

                    1. When’s the last time Republicans had a majority on the DPS board?  Probably back when they graduated kids in the 60s.

                      I will work an extra job to put my kids in private school if I have to rather than leave them at the whim and will of awful people like Merida.

          1. And the “facts” are making good points.  

            Fact 1: There are massive cost inefficiencies and educational deficiencies within the structure of K-12 education, built up over decades and crying out for correction.

            Did you know that only about 50% of every dollar intended for students actually makes it out of the DPS central administration building?  It’s top-heavy with bureaucrats and political appointees.

            Fact 2: For that reason, the deep spending reductions now forced upon us can actually set the stage for the most dramatic improvements in learning performance we have seen in decades.

            The collaborative school reform we talk about actually shouldn’t cost any extra money.  It’s really just about realigning decision-making and creating transparency and teamwork.  All hands rowing the boat in the same direction and all that.  In fact, the DPS parent that wrote the letter we posted has first-hand experience with that.  She was part of the Hill Middle School revitalization team of parents.

            Fact 3: There are countless examples of schools, systems, states, and countries doing much better with much less.

            This one is actually a little silly, especially when you factor in the cost of administering standardized tests.  It tries to compare Finland to the USA, and yet Finland has only a 5% child poverty rate, as opposed to us at 20%.  So there’s no need to pay extra Title I funds, for example, because the kids are not showing up poor and hungry.

            And by the way, Finland’s teachers are nearly 100% unionized.

    2. I thought that graduation rate would be lower, not higher.

      Is this accounting for the change in the way that Colorado counts hs graduation in 2005?

      Nationwide the graduation rate is down over the past six years.  But DPS is up 5.  How?

      Also, the most glaring numerical thing that leaps out of the data is the racial graduation gap.  Nationwide,  white and Asian students graduate in the high 70% or low 80’s. Hispanic and black students are in the 60’s.   Why?

      If that national trend was applied to DPS, what graduation rate could reasonably be expected?

      I’m all for universal publicly well funded education.  I’m for all equal opportunity.  

      But outcomes, good or bad,  are not always strictly a result of the administration and leadership, good or bad.

      You think Mr Boasberg is doing a bad job – but I do not understand your proposed solution.  Nor do I understand how DPS has been obstructing the community all these years that numbers have been declining.  When was DPS doing great? What happened?

      1. If you look at the linked article, it shows that of the kids making it to 12th grade on time, 52% of them are graduating.  This is actually no change from a couple of years ago.

        There is another measurement that’s coming out, and that’s of kids that are not graduating on time.

        Basically, the quality of the diploma is no longer as strong.  In fact, DPS has lowered lots of graduation requirements, like eliminating the foreign language requirement, because supposedly Colorado universities don’t require foreign language to get in.  

        So, long  answer short, there are a few more kids graduating because it’s so much easier to graduate.  There’ll be a story up soon on the DeFENSE website about how at Montbello and other schools, the teachers are being ordered to give 54% and not 0% when students fail to turn in assignments, all in an effort to prop up the scores.  These are not high expectations.

        Also, DPS’ students are around 40% English-language learners.  The CSAP is English only after 3rd grade.  Because of the intensity of the test-driven curriculum, it’s really difficult for these kids to keep up, and many get frustrated and drop out.

        Not sure if the data is sliced this way, but it would also be interesting to see what happens with Title I/low-income kids.  That’d be a good piece to put up too.

        No, it’s not always about the administration or leadership, though strong leadership takes care of other problems.  A good leader will eliminate ineffective teachers if that’s the problem in a school.  

        Here’s an example of really bad leadership (and by extrapolation, the bad administration that allows it to persist), again from Montbello: http://defensedenver.com/2011/

        It’s not just coincidental that it happens to be one of the most struggling high schools in the state.

        1. Before these “reforms” happened.

          Please stop trying to act like if you maintain your power that it will somehow be better for anyone other than you.

          Andrea.

          [Allegedly].

    3. Sen. Johnston always talked about proper funding being the second part of the equation once reforms were in place. I know you don’t agree with those reforms, but do you think P-20 funding might be an area that either side of the reform debate might be able to agree on?

        1. Thats all! For chrissake, the Governor’s budget plan is about to announce hundreds of millions of dollars of cuts to K-12 and higher education tomorrow and all you have to say to that is, “Yes”?

          School funding has a much more tangible effect on class sizes, teacher pay, preparedness and effectiveness than recalling Nate Easley will ever have!

          If your group is really committed to making a real and felt effect on public education, please say more than “yes”! Let me know what you are doing!

          You wrote thousands of words rehashing bad blood about 3 years of DPS history, but you have a one word response to HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF CUTS?

          Please, pretty please, convince me that your group’s work isn’t just about settling political scores and is about helping DPS kids. Because, as you can see with today’s front page article, it is becoming increasingly hard to see how your group is dedicating it’s time towards providing tangible improvements to the education of DPS students.

          1. See for yourself.  Right now the problems facing DPS kids have more to do with structural and governance issues.  

            Funding alone isn’t going to fix those problems.  The blowup of Manual was actually funded by the Gates Foundation and not the state.

            Not sure what the frustration is all about, but it appears that you’re trying to have an honest conversation about public education, which is very appreciated.  Thank you.

    4. Or can I call you Andrea?

      Either name, here’s my big concern with what you are peddling – you are not offering an alternative. Going back to the old failed system isn’t acceptable. It’s very easy to find fault with an existing system, but how about you offer an alternative.

      And please don’t say more money and smaller class sizes – both have been shown to have little to no impact.

      1. Some of you have a real fixation with trying to hang a whole movement around one person’s neck, even though two videos have been posted, clearly showing (a) public outcry and (b) a group of organizers identifying themselves as DeFENSE.

        But your snide comment really shows that opposing opinions are making you cranky.  The links have been posted.  You’ve been invited to read them, and now you come back making the same tired point.  It’s obvious you didn’t read the links.

        Now, can YOU post any research that shows smaller class sizes don’t work?  

        1. Not about whether they work or not, it’s about whether they are a one size fits all solution. In the same way that I don’t think anyone is really saying charters are a cure-all, neither does what you’re advocating really make a difference. And it REALLY doesn’t provide any sort of a solution for the problems school districts face from constrained funding.

          But here’s an article with some research for ya anyway:

          http://www.usatoday.com/news/e

          1. All we’re saying is that the top-down, one-size-fits-all, undemocratic approaches to school reform are not working.  Some proof is in DPS’ remediation rates.  

            We’re saying that even just Denver alone has lots of examples in which a collaborative reform approach DOES work and IS transforming schools.  It doesn’t have to be the “hostile takeover” model, because that’s precisely what’s not working.

            The research linked above gives you another 10 examples from around the country.  That information points to what really is making a difference.  Just take a second to go through it.

            And yes, we don’t fund schools enough, especially here in Colorado.  But at the very least, let’s fix the way we actually run the schools we have with the money we have.  

            It’s really just basic things.  Here’s one example: let the teachers teach what’s actually on the test.  The 9th grade CSAP tests on Algebra and Geometry.  Yet, the DPS math curriculum for 9th grade is Algebra only.  So guess what happens when kids go to test in math?

            Now, if DPS would allow teachers and parents to chime in and be willing to adjust as requested, imagine what kind of test results just that tiny bit of collaboration would get.  But because of No Child Left Behind, and because of the top-down approach pushed by Broad Foundation-trained superintendents, this isn’t allowed to happen.  Case in point, Tom Boasberg.

            Were you watching the last couple of school board meetings?  When the board minority members asked him how he was going to respond or adjust to the state’s new second-to-last rating of DPS, he said he was staying the course.  They’re broadcast on Comcast channel 22, if you’re interested.

            Now, class size reduction is not a panacea if all of the other structural things are not fixed.  But the Project STAR report in Tennessee, just released at the end of last year, says that you get more bang for the buck if you focus it on the primary grades.

            Check that out here: http://www.heros-inc.org/class

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