Watch replay of SE Denver school board race forum

We just have one question for Anne Rowe.  Stand for Children, the hedge-funded politics-instead-of-kids group that has endorsed her, points out problems with DPS, like the approximately 50% graduation rates and the problems our 3rd graders have with reading.  So, if Stand for Children says we need to change course, but Ms. Rowe keeps saying we should NOT derail from the path DPS is on…then, WHICH IS IT?

Are we on the right path or not?  Ms. Rowe, make up your mind.  If you’re this indecisive now, how can Denver’s families rely on you to make the tough decisions?

Friends of Education asks your help to evaluate Superintendent Boasberg

From our allies at Friends of Education:

The Denver Public Schools Board of Education has begun work on Superintendent Tom Boasberg’s annual review.  Here at Friends of Education, we thought we’d help the Board’s process along by giving you a chance to voice your opinion. We’ve created a survey online, and we would like you to take 2 minutes to fill it out.  The survey is anonymous.

Click here for the survey: http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/641920/Survey-of-Denver-Public-Schools

Feel free to forward this link to as many people you know who care about Denver’s schools.  Only one survey per computer is allowed.

Remember, it’s Our DPS, and we all have the right to voice our opinions about how we think our school district is being run.

Sincerely,

Nicolas Weiser, President

Friends of Education

Please go fill it out!

 

 

Merrill Middle School community fights collocation – you can help

From concerned parents and community at Merrill Middle School:

Merrill Middle School

Merrill is in jeopardy of losing valuable space for our middle school students.  Through the joint efforts of a group of Cory and Merrill parents, a master plan, which will soon be presented, is in the works for an incredible neighborhood community-oriented middle school right on our campus.  Having C3 move into the building and take away our computer labs, gym space, art space, outdoor space, etc., we will no longer have the opportunity to use our middle school building for its intended purpose, and we will not have the chance to implement our master plan into our campus.  The Merrill building, by today’s standards, holds much less than the 1,000 students DPS is trying to sell us, unless, of course, you are counting closets and bathrooms as classroom space.  Our children deserve better.  Our community deserves better.

We are working diligently to see that the location of C3 is not at Merrill, but elsewhere.  But we do need your help.  Please consider signing this petition (below).  Each signature counts. Thank you, and please pass along to others!!!!

Also, please join the Merrill community at the following two meetings:

  • Wednesday, September 14th at 4:30 p.m. – meeting with Tom Boasberg at Merrill Middle School.  Q and A session.
  • Thursday, September 15th at 6:30 p.m.- Denver School Board meeting at 900 Grant Street.

Your presence is important. P.S. – for more information on the new Merrill master plan on the Cory Merrill Campus, please contact kuolrees@aol.com.

A little background

DPS proposes collocating a new concept elementary school, called C3, in Merrill Middle School. As with the charter schools, this admission-by-application program would be available to students throughout the region and would not specifically alleviate southeast Denver’s elementary overcrowding problem. If placed at Merrill, the C3 will take up to 1/3 of the Middle School space, including the Computer Lab and Art Room, eliminating elective courses and cause overcrowding in the classrooms. It would also inhibit the community’s ability to expand the Middle School with neighborhood kids.

DPS is prepared to spend $750,000 to retrofit the building to accommodate a younger population of students, but fails to take into consideration how it will accommodate these students when they grow to middle school level.

Please sign and share this petition.  It’s only through this type of grassroots action that we can tell the DPS administration that we want our community-centered schools.

Here’s the petition:

Stand for Children: Advocates for kids or corporations?

by Ed Augden (retired Denver Public Schools Teacher, community activist)

This fall, Stand for Children (SFC), a national advocacy organization for “education reform”, will try to elect to the Denver Board of Education a slate of candidates –Happy Haynes, Anne Rowe and Jennifer Draper Carson – dedicated to reform (high stakes testing with rote learning to prepare for testing, teacher evaluation tied to student testing, privatization of public education and the same old authoritarian governance model).

Voters may want to know more about SFC – its board of directors, principal benefactors and donors and principal local supporters. While it began in Portland, Oregon as a legitimate child advocacy organization, unfortunately when wealthy donors became contributors, its mission changed to advocating for corporations and wealthy donors and against the interests of children, especially poor children of color.

A group of Chicago African American clergy recently met with SFC members and complained they seemed disinterested in students’ issues and more interested in promoting Waiting for Superman (a film that advocates for reform and bashes teachers’ unions as reform opponents). According to an article by David A. Love, Executive Editor of Blackcommentator.com, the film “…did not fly…” in Chicago.  While the clergy advocated for more school books, SFC lobbied the Illinois legislature for “union busting” legislation.

SFC’s national board of directors includes venture capitalists and private equity investors, no educators and no “grassroots” parents. Its donors and benefactors include Bain Capital, once headed by Mitt Romney. This same firm acquired a manufacturing plant in Indiana, fired its workers and rehired them at lower wages. New Profit, Inc., a private equity firm and SFC supporter, has ties to a firm that, according to Love, has been “…running Muammar Gaddafi’s PR campaign…”

Other wealthy benefactors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wal-Mart’s Walton Family Foundation and other organizations dedicated to privatizing public schools, breaking teachers’ unions and, in my view, perpetuating the status quo these reformers claim they want to change.

Locally, SFC supporters include Van Schoales, former head of Education Reform Now, and now executive director of A Plus Denver, another advocate of “education reform.” Rupert Murdoch paid his salary as head of Education Reform Now. A Plus Denver should be counted on as a supporting organization. Certainly, Tom Boasberg, Denver Public Schools (DPS) superintendent, whose sister, Margaret, was an original SFC board member, must be counted as a supporter.

Mentioning Boasberg’s name prompts another question. Why aren’t his children enrolled in DPS so they can gain from the “education reform” measures he’s instituted? Perhaps they could be enrolled at Montbello or North High Schools?
They might help integrate Kepner Middle School which has a 95 percent Latino enrollment.

If Stand for Children and other “education reformers” truly are serious about upgrading the quality of education for all students, they will demand that equity and justice be achieved for all students, not just the privileged and the lucky. They will demand that a comprehensive education be available at every neighborhood school that includes art, music, physical education and that the community be meaningfully involved in school governance.

Those folks familiar with Denver North High School since the 1970s know that problems at the school were prevalent since that time. Yet, various administrations either couldn’t find solutions to the dropout problem, to teenage pregnancy, drugs and on and on or they didn’t try. Nevertheless, those problems existed in the 70s, 80s and 90s. They didn’t suddenly emerge in 2007. The “redesign” that occurred that year didn’t solve any those problems. In fact, student achievement declined, the dropout rate increased and student population declined. The only period of measurable success since Joe Sandoval was principal in the 1990s occurred under Dr. Darlene LeDoux who was principal just before the “redesign,” the attempted quick fix.

To contend that this nation’s schools and DPS are failing is in 60s terminology, a “cop out.” Our nation’s public schools are a reflection of our society. If they are failing, it’s because we’ve failed as a society and as a community to hold ourselves accountable. Until that happens, “education reform” will be just another failure.

Inequity & Injustice in DPS?

by Ed Augden (community activist and retired DPS teacher)

According to the 14th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, all citizens are entitled to equalprotection under the law. If one group of citizens is treated unequally, then those citizens’ rights areviolated. Do inequity and injustice exist in Denver Public Schools?

Why is all this important to the average taxpayer who doesn’t have children in DPS? Schoolclimate is one factor that determines where a future business might locate. Future residents, who dohave children, won’t move to an area where the school climate is perceived to be unhealthy, or even ifthey do, may choose another school district (e.g., Jeffco). A healthy school climate contributes to ahealthy business environment.

Linda Darling-Hammond, in The Flat World & Education: How America’s Commitment to EquityWill Determine Our Future, makes the case that the achievement gap between poor students and theirpeers is growing as the nation’s ethnicity changes from majority white to a diverse nonwhite. Mostforetelling, is her contention that the fate of ethnic minorities will mirror the fate of the rest of thecountry. Without equity and justice, “education reform” is doomed to fail. Yet, the figures that Darling-Hammond presents document the increasing appearance of “apartheid” schools across the countryalmost or at 100 percent ethnic minorities, without any real political clout.

Approximately 1100 students were scheduled to enroll at Kepner Middle School in southwestDenver while there were to be approximately 370 students at Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP)Sunshine Academy at Rishel Middle School, a building of comparable size. Is Kepner overcrowded with ahigh concentration of ethnic poor while Rishel is underutilized? Regardless of intent, are students atKepner experiencing overcrowding with, likely, larger classes and a shorter school day? If so, isn’t thatinequity and injustice for students and teachers at Kepner? More ominously, is Kepner becoming an “apartheid” school?

Possibly the most glaring of DPS’ mismanagement and possibly inequitable and unjust policy isthe ignorance of the 2006 Harvard Civil Rights Study Project, “Denver Public Schools: Re-segregation,Latino Style.” The report concluded that since 1995 when court ordered busing for integration ended,DPS has become increasingly segregated due partly to persistent segregated housing patterns andthrough action, and inaction, of DPS. Minority students, especially African American and Latino, “…findthemselves in increasingly high poverty schools with weaker academic outcomes, such as lowgraduation rates.” It is the charge of the schools, according to the Harvard report, to provideopportunities that reflect the growing multiracial nature of the community. How have the currentchanges corrected or contributed to the conclusion of the Harvard report? Without even acknowledgingthe report’s existence, DPS administrators and the Board of Education contribute, in my opinion, to thesuspicion held by many community members that DPS is indifferent to the increasing segregation andisolation of students of color and poverty.

“Education reform” in DPS and across the nation seems to occur in urban schools with high concentrations of impoverished and disadvantaged students. Rishel and Kepner typify thatconcentration. As mentioned, Rishel’s charter school, KIPP, has less than 400 students. Kepner, on theother hand, also with a high concentration of impoverished and disadvantaged students, has anenrollment of approximately 1100. Thus, while a few hundred may benefit from fewer numbers,smaller class sizes, a longer school day and school year, Kepner’s students may be in larger class sizes, a shorter day and year.

While other high achieving nations (as measured by the Program in International StudentAssessment – PISA) assure equal funding, high quality teachers and teaching, challenging curriculum,etc., many “educational reformers” and elected officials, still contend that student achievementon standardized tests should be used to evaluate teacher performance and that unequal fundingshouldn’t matter. SB 191 is evidence of that thinking. Various reputable studies, including the 1966Coleman Report provide evidence that a diverse student (school) population is more significant studentachievement than “…is any school factor.” Student achievement is dependent upon a variety of factors,not just an excellent teacher.

The conclusion is clear. Parents with political clout succeed in gaining special treatment such asthose able to enroll their children in high performing and small exclusive charter schools such as DenverSchool of Science & Technology (DSST). Parents without political clout, such as Westwood parents,enroll their children at Kepner, low performing and large. For parents without political clout, “choice” is likely an empty promise.

SIGHTED: SE Denver’s mystery school board member

Guess what, southeast Denver?  Your missing school board member, Bruce Hoyt, has been found!  He was sighted at Anne Rowe’s party the other day!

Whew!  Hopefully he hasn’t adopted a short-timer’s mentality and will finally listen to constituents on the way out the door.

 

Term-limited southeast Denver school board member, Bruce Hoyt (center, white shirt and glasses)

Term-limited southeast Denver school board member, Bruce Hoyt (center, white shirt and glasses)

Rupert Murdoch paid Van Schoales’ salary, funded Education Reform Now

Rupert Murdoch is funding the One Chance Colorado campaign.

The Grand Poo-Bah of Corporate Irresponsibility, Rupert Murdoch

No, we’re not joking.

The New York Times reported on July 23, 2011, that:

Mr. Murdoch began to put his own money behind Mr. Klein’s efforts. At one point, he quietly donated $1 million to an advocacy group, Education Reform Now, run by Mr. Klein, bankrolling a continuing campaign to overturn a state law protecting older teachers, according to a person told of the contribution.

The story about Rupert Murdoch’s involvement with failed corporate education reform is here.

So, what does this have to do with Van Schoales?  Well, until very recently, he was the executive director of Education Reform Now, based here in Denver.  Van has now gone on to lead everyone’s favorite faux community outreach group, A Plus Denver.  His attack poodle, Myles Mendoza, also an employee of Education Reform Now, still works there and even recently gave a party to celebrate the victory of vouchers in Douglas County, CO.

A strange outcropping from all this is this hokey One Chance Colorado campaign that has magically appeared out of nowhere.  As the spoof site OneChanceColorado.info tells us, the partners in this pull-the-wool campaign are Stand for Children (led nationally by Jonah “It’s Not Really About the Kids” Edelman) Colorado, Colorado Children’s Campaign, Colorado Succeeds/BizCARES, Democrats for Education Reform-Colorado, Get Smart Schools, Education Reform Now (Murdoch money!), and A+ Denver.  Wow.

According to them, the solution for providing Colorado kids the chance to succeed is “(e)very child in every neighborhood deserves a school with great teachers and leaders who will renew focus on the fundamentals of reading, writing and math – today, not tomorrow. ”

So, in other words, you can kiss your whole-child curriculum good-bye.  No foreign languages.  No calculus or trigonometry.  No physical education.  No arts or music.  In short, if One Chance Colorado has their way, there will be nothing that colleges actually look for in entrance applications or nothing that scholarship review committees want to see.  DPS is 70% low income (free and reduced lunch).  So they won’t even have a shot at a great college education or even a scholarship because One Chance Colorado wants to only focus on what’s on a standardized test.

Is that the kind of education you want for your kids?  As Diane Ravitch said at the Save Our Schools march,

Regardless of their origin or neighborhood, all kids deserve the same kind of education that children get at Sidwell Friends (where the President’s children attend).

Heckuva job, One Chance Colorado!

 

 

Prepare for the future, and see all the various degrees available at Central Methodist University today.

Democrats and Educational Equity

by Ed Augden, Retired DPS Teacher and Community Activist

Alexander Ooms may be right in his viewpoint expressed in the Denver Post on July 25, that elected Democrats may now favor so-called “education reform.” At least, Democratic politicians in Colorado’s state legislature appear to favor a conservative approach to education or acquiesce to it. SB 191, for example, was sponsored by State Sen. Michael Johnston and supported by former State Sen. Chris Romer. This is the face of the Colorado Democrats on educational issues, one that adheres to amateur educators and ignores teachers and verifiable research. Johnston represents the leadership of the Colorado Democratic Party. While most middle class and poor families with school age children seek a neighborhood school that offers a comprehensive education, corporate Democratic legislators such as Johnston, often favor replacing neighborhood schools with charter schools that many students won’t be eligible to attend because they fail to gain entrance through a lottery system that is, by its nature, discriminatory. Further, they ignore studies concluding that, while the teacher may be the most important factor in a child’s life at school, the effects of poverty diminish that influence. For example, a malnourished child who starts school at age five, lags behind peers in vocabulary development andwithout extra help will never catch up.

Ooms further accentuates this growing gap between privileged and struggling or impoverishedDemocrats in his comments regarding the 2010 Colorado primary Democratic campaign betweenAndrew Romanoff and Sen. Michael Bennet. Romanoff was likely the candidate of those folks who work for a living while Bennet represented those who apparently believe that the best candidate is thewealthiest candidate. Perhaps Bennet won because he accepted contributions from PACs and wealthycontributors. Romanoff rejected PAC money.

Ooms also represents the dubious view that “reforms” are succeeding. He uses Lake Middle School as an example of this success. In reality, it is the International Baccalaureate program that is succeeding with approximately 400 students while West Denver Prep, a charter school appears to be struggling to reach 100 enrolled students. By the district’s standards, West Denver Prep at Lake is a failing school.

Most notably, Ooms ignores the failure of the “redesign” of North High School. With great enthusiasm and little study, the principal, who had instituted reforms that were succeeding, was reassigned and the faculty forced to reapply for their positions. Most did not and were reassigned.Within two years, student achievement declined, the dropout rate increased and the school population declined. Most importantly, students lost trusted teachers who were replaced by inexperienced andoften indifferent teachers. Not since, has the district acknowledged the results and, instead, will launch a similar effort in Montbello and Green Valley Ranch this fall.

Certainly, Mr. Ooms represents the prevailing viewpoint of “reformers” – high stakes, standardized testing (that causes increased stress among poor students), charter schools that enroll the privileged and the lucky and ignore those left behind in regular schools, and teacher evaluations that link teacher appraisal, retention and promotion to student test scores despite evidence that such an approach is flawed. This viewpoint appears to be based on personal opinion and anecdotal information and rejects any evidence that contradicts the false paradigm. Educational reform in other countries such as Finland contradicts that paradigm. Teachers are highly respected and their appraisals, retention or promotion are NOT linked to student test scores.

TFA founder vs. Diane Ravitch at Aspen Ideas Festival

This is a very interesting discussion between Diane Ravitch, author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System and education historian, and Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach for America.

Some of the basic issues keep coming up, about the effect of using inexperienced, uncertified teachers in our public schools.  But the most telling points made were from Wendy Kopp, who doesn’t seem to see a problem with building political leaders out of people that teach for two years, just as a stepping stone for something greater.

While it’s probably unfair to blame all the charterization, test mania and school co-locations on TFA, it’s strange how Kopp keeps alluding to childhood poverty as a side issue.

So why are the schools with the highest college-bound students and the lowest remediation rates often the most affluent?

We paraphrase Ravitch, “what I want for other kids is the same great education I want for my own.”

We want that, too.

Stand for Children chief dupes Illinois

Well, someone needs to ignore politics.

This video features Jonah Edleman, head of Stand for Children, presenting to the Aspen Ideas Institute.  He lays out how he connect the state legislature to strip away pension fairness for teachers (public workers), and how he tricked the media and public into not paying attention.

What does stripping away solid pension rights have to do with kids?  Does the Denver branch of Stand support this kind of action?

Denver teachers, you need to start scrutinizing your union leadership.  Capitulation like this means more standardized tests, less reasons to keep seasoned teachers in our classrooms, and kids lose.