01 May 2008

Denver and Aurora Public Schools Languish

Today, brought another round of external evaluations of Colorado's schools: third grade reading CSAP results and National Merit Scholarship award winners. The news wasn't great for the Denver Public Schools or the Aurora Public Schools (as usual).

On the CSAP, statewide, 71% of kids scored proficient or advanced on third grade reading. In the Aurora Public Schools the number was 47% and in Denver it was 51%.

The Rocky Mountain News offers some insight into the low 3rd grade reading CSAP scores in Denver and Aurora:

36 percent of the third-graders who took the 2008 CSAP exam [in Denver] still are learning English.

"So a lot of our students are taking these tests in a language they have not yet mastered," . . . Another 783 Denver students took the CSAP exam in Spanish. . . .

Across Colorado, only DPS and St. Vrain Valley School District had more than 80 students taking the Spanish exam.

In Aurora schools, which like DPS has a high Hispanic population, eight students took the Spanish CSAP. Paula Hans, spokeswoman for Aurora schools, said the district does not offer bilingual education.

So English language learners are taught primarily in English with some native language support. That makes them ineligible to take the Spanish version.

Thirty eight students statewide won National Merit Scholarships. But, none of them came from the Denver Public Schools (the one Denver winner attends Kent Denver School, a private school) and none came from the Aurora Public Schools (the two Aurora winners are in the Cherry Creek Schools).

The Denver and Aurora Public Schools respectively are among the biggest public school districts in Colorado. Both have a majority of students receiving free and reduced lunches (two-thirds in Denver).

On a different note, there are interesting plans being considered for the Cory-Merrill school campus in Denver, per an e-mail from my student's school:

The group working on making Merrill a middle school where more people want to send their children has come up with various proposals. One includes making an "ECE Center" with many ECE and Kindergarten classes at Cory, and grades 1 - 8 at Merrill. Another is Cory and Merrill as a ECE through 12th grade campus. You can get more information at www.cmccoalition.org. The final vote is scheduled for June 12th.

Currently, Cory is an elementary school and Merrill is a middle school. Both schools are located in an upper middle class urban residential neighborhood which Cory is more or less limited to, but Merrill's attendance area extends far beyond. Cory has programs including a gifted and talented magnet and a "twice exceptional" program for gifted and talented program participants who also have special education needs, and high CSAP scores, and has thrived under its current principal. Merrill does less well academically, mostly because its larger attendance area draws students from less affluent neighborhoods.

Both of the proposals described above by increasing the number of grades served by Merrill would effectively reduce its attendance area in a way that would focus more on its immediate vicinity, which is more affluent, and hence, would almost certainly improve Merrill test scores. The question is what would happen to the kids who currently attend Merrill and would be squeezed out in a reorganization.


Dave Barnes said...

Andrew wrote: "Merrill does less well academically, mostly because its larger attendance area draws students from less affluent neighborhoods."

"Less well"? Is that code for "in the shitter"?

I am about to watch my daughter graduate from university in 2.5 weeks. Our conclusion 8 years ago was that grades 6-8 were THE MOST IMPORTANT of her entire schooling. Now that she is finishing year #16, we still believe that.

Merrill is a failure.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

There is also the dropout problem at DPS.

FWIW, I don't share Dave's belief in the importance of middle school. By my reckoning, they're pretty much wasted years any way you cut it.

Michael Malak said...

I agree with Dave. Maria Montessori identified the ages 12-15 as the "second infancy", a time when the person goes through great changes. She coined the term "valorization" as the self-realization they need to go through to realize their place in the world.

It's not a time of intellectual development in the traditional sense. A recent book, The Science Behind the Genius, seeks to confirm Maria Montessori's observations with modern science, and indeed brain scans have revealed that the brain is rewiring itself during these years.

But from an emotional, sociological, and maturity standpoint, the 12-15 age range is a critical time. It is during this time that a person chooses which path to go down in life.