Frequent critic of DPS applauds latest test scores

Denver Public Schools have bragged about its standardized test scores for years. And for years - a non-profit dedicated to improving education has criticized the district's claims. Not this year.

DENVER - In classrooms around Denver, something is happening that has A+ Colorado and its executive director, Van Schoales, perplexed.

"Very impressed for the district results in Denver," Schoales said.

A+ Colorado is a nonprofit citizens group focused on improving schools. Under its old name, A+ Denver, the group issued reports over the years that have been lukewarm about how Denver Public Schools presents its academic growth based on standardized test scores.

"In the past, we've been very critical of the district in terms of the rate of progress," Schoales said.

While the district was celebrating in 2013, A+ Colorado released a report showing that the level growth was not enough.

"We pointed out that it was going to take about 40 years to get to their own goals," Schoales said.

Thursday, DPS celebrated its gains once again in the second release of test scores under the Colorado Measures of Academic Success test, CMAS and PARCC standing for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

"And, it confirms the fact that Denver has moved from the bottom fifth of school districts to now basically being about average with the state which is a huge change and improvement," Schoales said. 

He points out that DPS has more than 70 percent of students listed as low income compared to the state average of 40 percent. He says that means DPS has essentially twice the challenges, but has achieved the same result.

"We're still very interested in trying to understand the mechanisms," Schoales said. "How's that happened?"

In Palmer Elementary School in Denver, Jessica Dixon teaches second and third grade students together in e blended classroom. Palmer showed the greatest academic gains out of any elementary school in Denver. 

"We do a lot of personalization. So, we teach to every single student and where they're at," Dixon said.

She says technology and team teaching have been essential.

"We have to collaborate to be able to get to every kid," Dixon said. "We also need to make sure we know where are kids are at (academically)."

When she arrived at Palmer four years ago, she says the teaching philosophy was much different.

"When we first started out, we didn't really have a vision for our school," Dixon said. "So, when I came in it was like every teacher was working by themselves and we were all just planning our lessons and delivering those lessons."

Now, she says their hard work is coming to fruition.

"It's so great going home every day and knowing that what you did that day worked," Dixon said.

Schoales wants to find out what is working at Palmer and in classrooms across Denver.

"Whatever it is, we feel as if it's very real and substantial and very impressive," Schoales said.

If you to see how your school scored, click here: https://www.cde.state.co.us/assessment.

Copyright 2016 KUSA


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