Power is the ability to act and assert power: to act well requires information. So when information is withheld in a seemingly deliberate fashion with the intention to limit the ability of Denver’s families to act well on behalf of their children, something must be done. Transform Education Now (TEN) believes in the fundamental right for families, and communities, to have insight to information pertaining to the education of their children, their schools and their school district. And for this reason we have undertaken an effort to find crucial information about how our students are doing so they can act in their own best interests.
TEN recently submitted a Colorado Open Records Act request to obtain the academic data from districtwide interim assessments used to judge student progress towards Colorado’s Academic Standards. These are the academic standards that educators use as guidelines to ensure that, from year-to-year, students are making adequate academic progress and not falling behind. Simply put, the academic standards are what educators believe all kids should know so they can be prepared for the next steps of their academic journey.
These interim assessments help educators understand strengths and skill gaps in order to better tailor their day-to-day work to meet the unique needs of their students.
At TEN, we believe there is no more effective and passionate partner in the success of students than well-informed parents. We also believe that well-informed parents have the power to act on behalf of all students.
Two weeks ago, we shared academic data for elementary and middle school English Language Arts data and highlighted the dire reality of the continued impact of inequitable and unjust systems that have only been exacerbated by effects of the pandemic, remote learning and interrupted school. The gaps between Black and Latino students and their white peers are not new but are extremely troubling, highlighting the grim reality of separate and unequal school systems where the zip code of a family, a child’s skin color and collective average income of a community can be used to predict the educational opportunities afforded to entire groups of students.
Below are the results of the CORA request for interim math assessments.
As with the ELA results, there are massive academic gaps between students of different racial groups as well as regionally. 8th grade white students in the Southeast region, DPS District 1, currently represented by Direct Scott Balderman, are presently performing at a rate 49% higher than their Black classmates and 38% more than their Latino peers.
Additionally, the gaps between students are not the only troubling trend in this data. In Board President Sochi Gaytan’s district, no group of students, of any race, at any grade level has a majority of its students meeting grade level expectations. Black students in Stapleton, Montbello and Green Valley Ranch are significantly behind where we would expect them to be entering the final trimester of the school year. As many as 87% of Black students are not meeting grade level expectations, meaning they will not be ready for the academic work at the next grade level.
Here in the Northwest, where we are currently looking for new district leadership, the gaps are staggering. The gap between Black and white students in 6th grade is 72%, where we have zero Black students currently meeting expectations. What is the plan for students in D5? How are the applicants lining up to serve Denver families planning on addressing the academic needs of their students immediately?
Additionally, across the district we are clearly failing our Indigenious students. As a community, the Native families of Denver Public Schools know they have been and continue to be marginalized by this district, with multiple communities and multiple grade levels having zero students identifying as Native American meeting grade level expectations.
It is not simply that the academic data coming out of Denver Public Schools is alarming, it’s what the data represents. As of today, students across DPS are being ill-prepared for the next stage of their life whether that be college and career, high school honors classes or reading their first chapter book. We cannot simply work to get back to a pre-pandemic normal–what was only average–where only a fraction of Black and Latino students were being served by our school systems. We must do better.
We are in the midst of an educational emergency that is only going to get worse if we continue to ignore the problem. Use your voice and tell our leaders that our kids deserve better. DPS must immediately do the following:
Implement free, accessible extended learning opportunities and direct aid for all students, including summer-focused enrichment and academic support programing.
Provide tools and resources for families to leverage data and diagnostics to be able to support their children’s needs throughout the summer.
Provide a comprehensive update on the $200 million dollar Covid simuls spending and impact with a focus on successful academic interventions.
Immediately create regional crisis intervention teams, made up of educators, district staff, community partners and families to create regionally-specific academic intervention plans.