Measuring Equity

Denver to include equity in annual rating

Starting in 2016, Denver Public Schools’ school report card will include a new category: Equity.

And for the first time, non-white Denver students will be referred to as students of color rather than minorities on the district’s School Performance Framework. That category will be expanded to include Asian and multiracial students, who were previously included in a category with white students.

The idea is that including equity alongside the current three measures (Engagement, Growth, and Status) will spotlight gaps between groups of students within schools on the School Performance Framework, or SPF, and encourage schools to serve all their students well.

“In order to better align the SPF with Denver Plan Goals and to call attention to achievement gaps that exist within DPS, we’re proposing to add the equity indicator in 2016,” said Maegan Daigler, an accountability manager in the district’s Assessment, Research, and Evaluation department, at a meeting of the district’s board last night.

DPS uses the framework to inform decisions about everything from school closures to teacher compensation.

Increasing equity and closing gaps in achievement between students of color, English language learners, students with disabilities, and their peers is one of the priorities in the district’s Denver Plan 2020.

“It lifts it up and aligns to a lot of what we were talking about in terms of equity and working with students in our opportunity quartile,” Happy Haynes, the Denver school board chair, said of the change. The opportunity quartile refers to students in the bottom 25 percent of the district in academic performance.

The equity rating will be based on measures of differences between groups’ graduation rates, test scores, and growth, most of which are currently included in other sections of the framework. Schools will have to earn a yellow, the third-highest rating, in equity to be deemed a blue or green school (the two top ratings).

The changes mean a number of schools schools will have lower rankings than they do under the current system, according to officials. The district is temporarily removing schools’ overall ratings next year, due to changes in state standardized testing, but plans to reinstate overall ratings in 2016-17. (Read about other changes planned for the 2016 SPF in last night’s presentation to the board.)

Many schools’ scores on the SPF are already likely to drop next year: The district plans to give schools’ status — their test score proficiency percentages — a heavier weighting than in the past, which means some schools with lower overall test scores but higher growth will see their rankings go down. And schools around the state are expecting test scores to go down due to new, more difficult assessments tied to the Common Core State Standards.

At a meeting of the school board Thursday night, board member Michael Johnson raised concerns that changing the requirements will make it harder for the district to reach its goal of having 80 percent of students in schools in the two highest rating categories by 2020.

“We’ve raised the bar and moved the goalpost,” said Haynes.

“That’s worth considering,” said DPS superintendent Tom Boasberg. “But we’ve had discussion about the fact that status matters and we want to know how our kids are doing.”

Board members and officials said the idea is not to punish schools but to more accurately reflect what’s happening for all the district’s students.

Board member Barbara O’Brien said that the district needs to hold schools accountable as it plans to give more independence to individual schools. “They have to go hand in hand,” she said.

She said the hope is that information about achievement gaps will encourage schools to make changes. “We’re presuming that with better information, some schools are going to change what they’re doing to address that problem, that it’s not going to be static,” she said.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.