Groups ask DPS board to pause SPF committee work

A broad-based coalition of community groups has asked the Denver school board to pause the work of the committee focused on reimagining the district’s School Performance Framework until the COVID-19 crisis abates.

The 30-member Quality Schools Task Force had been edging toward a controversial decision to replace the Denver Public Schools SPF with the Colorado Department of Education SPF, which bases its school ratings on fewer data points. While the move to eliminate the Denver SPF would have saved the district $900,000 per year, the move seemed baffling, because the state more heavily weighs standardized test scores than does DPS. And since the committee members most opposed to the Denver SPF disliked the weight given test scores, leaning toward the state measures on its face seemed counterintuitive.

However, given the district’s tenuous financial position in the COVID-19 era, those savings may  seem tempting to school board members already skeptical about the district rating system.

The letter to the school board, on Stand for Children Colorado letterhead, was also signed by A+ Colorado, Advocacy Denver, African Leadership Group USA, Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy & Research Organization, Colorado I Have a Dream Foundation, DSST Public Schools, Highline Academy Charter Schools, Our Turn, Rocky Mountain Prep, Teach Plus, and Transform Education Now.

“Denver’s Tiered Support Framework is informed by the district’s SPF data and places a focus on serving our most marginalized students, working with each school to ensure it has what it needs to succeed. Given the stakes involved with any changes to the Denver SPF, the community should have the opportunity to weigh in before changes are made through a process that can certainly be viewed as nontransparent,” the letter says.

“…we have serious concerns with returning to the state framework, but we believe that this critical decision requires a wider community conversation that our community is
not currently positioned to engage in. We also understand there are projected budget cuts and the district will have to make tough choices. Nonetheless, we hope we can pause this conversation now and revisit how we measure what we value together after this pandemic.”

Here is the full text of the letter:

President Dr. Carrie Olson Vice-President Jennifer Bacon
Director Angela Cobián Director Tay Anderson
Director Scott Baldermann Director Reverend Bradley Laurvick
Director Barbara O’Brien
Denver Public Schools Board of Education
1860 Lincoln St.,
Denver, CO 80203

Dear Denver Public Schools Board of Directors,

On behalf of Stand for Children and the parents, students, and organizations signed below we respectfully ask that you pause the critically important work of the Quality Schools Task Force that is focused on “Reimagining the School Performance Framework.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated deep inequities for tens of thousands of Denver families and many of us are struggling to support our children with remote learning. Now we fear for our children’s future should the Board move at this uncertain time to adopt the state’s system of accountability.

The school district appropriately put community engagement efforts for its strategic plan (The Denver Plan) on hold during this pandemic. We ask that you do the same for the SPF, the essential tool that helps families understand how schools are serving our children. We appreciate the difficult work the task force has completed to date. However, we believe strongly that the community is not in a position now to engage and have a meaningful voice on the best path forward for defining quality schools. Denver’s Tiered Support Framework is informed by the district’s SPF data and places a focus on serving our most marginalized students, working with each school to ensure it has what it needs to succeed. Given the
stakes involved with any changes to the Denver SPF, the community should have the opportunity to weigh in before changes are made through a process that can certainly be viewed as nontransparent.

It will likely not come as a surprise that we have serious concerns with returning to the state framework, but we believe that this critical decision requires a wider community conversation that our community is not currently positioned to engage in. We also understand there are projected budget cuts and the district will have to make tough choices. Nonetheless, we hope we can pause this conversation now and revisit how we measure what we value together after this pandemic. We want to continue transforming
our Denver SPF to ensure it prioritizes equity and academic growth for all students but believe this transformation will not be successful unless it is created in collaboration with community. We want to engage more parents and students in this critical conversation, particularly our most underserved families and frankly, the conditions don’t exist to make that possible right now.

There is too much at stake to make such a dramatic change when our community is in crisis and fighting every day to meet its most basic needs. Please pause the work of the Quality Schools Task Force, and when all Denver families are in a better position to share their high expectations and plan for their children’s future, we can resume the work of reimagining a better Denver SPF.

Sincerely,
Amelia Federico, Student
Leilani Siens, Parent
Maria Castillo, Parent
Natalie Perez, Parent
Ruby Cardenas, Parent
Nallely Antunez, Parent
Antoinette Weed, Parent
Isabelle Melendez, Student
Stephanie Itelman, Parent
Tina Carroll, Parent
Papa Dia, Parent

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