DENVER – When the state released scores from the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program tests or TCAPs, it offered a glimpse into how students are faring at schools around Colorado. It also gave Brian Dale and Vernon Jones Jr. a chance to fire back at the district.
"We felt we had spent the last two-and-a-half years developing and implementing a program that we knew would take time," Dale, former principal at Manual High School, said. "The results are finally coming in that what we were doing was working."
Dale started a new strategy at Manual High School in 2011 with Jones as his assistant principal. They launched a program that provided an experiential learning experience with students working with community groups, business, and even travelling across the country as part of their lessons.
"There were great things going on," Jones said.
But, in January Dale was fired mid-year. Jones was later terminated in June. They say for one main reason.
"Flat improvement on TCAP," Dale said.
Last week, Dale says the TCAP results from the 2013-14 school year show a different story. Looking at growth, the number of Manual students rated as proficient or advanced grew an average of 21 percent in reading, 57 percent in writing, and 176 percent math.
"I think the whole program started to work," Dale said.
But, if you look at the proficiency rates individually, it tells a different story. The total number of student proficient in reading is just 30 percent. In writing, only 16 percent of all students are proficient. In math, the total number of students rated as proficient is just 5.4 percent. Despite the fact that these numbers are an improvement, they are still very low compared to other high schools around Denver.
"Proficiency gains are proficiency gains," Jones said. "You have to celebrate that. There are young people that are increasing in their proficiencies."
Dale acknowledges the overall scores are low. But, he says it shows that his school was moving in the right direction.
"We agree that the school is not anywhere near as where it should be," Dale said. "That's why we put together a 10-year plan."
Over the years, Manual High School has seen a lot of changes. It has been a struggling program that has been officially shut down and reopened twice since 2006. Over history, some community leaders cite race as a factor as to why the district continually changes programs creating instability.
"I do believe that people who are brown and black, who are poor are disenfranchised by this district," Jones said.
Denver Public Schools offered this written statement, "One of our Shared Core Values at DPS is accountability. All professionals at DPS are accountable for our performance and impact on student growth and achievement. We're working closely with (new) Manual Principal Don Roy and the Manual community to drive the improvements in academic performance that the students at the school need and deserve."
Jones and Dale want their jobs back. They say they deserve a fair shot to finish what they started.
"Disgruntled, yes, I'm definitely disgruntled," Dale said. "Being terminated for doing the right thing goes against everything I believe in."
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