The Denver Post highlights a new report from a local non-profit regarding the poor performance of the Aurora public schools. The numbers are bleak and make the often criticized Denver Public Schools look positively competent and effective by comparison.
Only 55% of Aurora's public school district graduate (the state average is about 78%). Only about 40% of graduates go to college (the state average is about 57%). More than half of those who go to college need remedial work, and 67.3% of college attendees from Aurora Central High School need remedial work (the state average is about 38%). Only about 10% of Aurora public school district students graduate ready for college and attend college.
By comparison, about 27% of students statewide graduate ready for college and attend college, and about 16% of Denver Public Schools graduates graduate ready for college and attend college. The odds of students who attend college but need to do remedial work graduating with a college degree are quite low. Colorado, for what it is worth, is quite typical of the nation as a whole.
About 56% of students statewide are proficient or advanced in mathematics, compared to 36% of students in the Aurora public schools. About 69% of students statewide are proficient or advanced in reading, compared to 46% of students in the Aurora public schools
The fact that the Aurora public schools performs worse in absolute terms than the state average, in and of itself isn't in and of itself a cause of concern about the quality of education that its students are receiving.
The students at the Aurora public school face challenges far more serious than those in the state as a whole. About 40% of its students don't speak English as their native language and about two-thirds of students than the statewide average are poor enough to qualify for reduced or free lunch programs. It is an overwhelmingly majority minority district (about three-quarters of its students are Hispanic or black), which is correlated with poorer academic outcomes in almost every such school district in the United States for reasons that however problematic they are have little or nothing to do with what the teachers and administrators in this particular school district are doing right or wrong.
What is a cause for concern is that the Aurora public schools do a significantly worse job of graduating students with comparable challenges, and preparing comparable students who do graduate for college, than either Denver or the State of Colorado as a whole.
Students are still significantly less likely to graduate from the Aurora public schools, than comparable students in either Denver or the State of Colorado as a whole, when they have disabilities, when they have limited English proficiency, when they are economically disadvantages, when they are migrants, when they received benefits under Title 1, when they are non-white, and when they are gifted and talents. Homeless students in the Aurora public schools are less likely than the state average to graduate (although the graduation rate for homeless students in the Aurora public schools is a bit better than in the Denver Public Schools).
For example, about 95% of students in gifted and talented programs in the state graduate from high school, while only about 75% of students in gifted and talented programs in the Aurora public schools do. When large percentages of gifted and talented students (usually defined as the 98th percentile or better on standardized IQ tests taken in elementary school), are failing, something is deeply wrong with the opportunities and quality of education that the school is offering. About 30 high school senior aged kids from the Aurora public school each year who should be well prepared college students on a clear track to a good middle class life or better, are instead ending up as high school dropouts. A mind is a terrible thing to waste. The Denver Public Schools, in contrast, have programs that do an excellent job of serving low income gifted and talented students.
About 58% of students with limited English proficiency in Colorado graduate from high school, while only 41% of such students graduate in the Aurora public schools.
Likewise, those students who do graduate from the Aurora public schools are significantly less likely to attend college and significantly more likely to need remedial education than students graduating from other schools.
If the Aurora public schools were performing at levels in the vicinity of Denver or the State of Colorado with students facing comparable challenges, something like 15%-18% of Aurora public school students who graduate ready for college and attend college, rather than just 10%.
While the best team of teachers and administrators in the nation for a district this size with this mix of students would be hard pressed to match state averages in academic achievement, a merely par for the course and average team of teachers and administrators ought to be able to achieve outcomes more than 50% better on a host of indicators than the Aurora public schools is able to manage.
There is also no indication that the Aurora public schools is doing a particularly good job of preparing non-college bound students for the world of work, about 55% of students statewide and about 80% of students in the Aurora public schools. It is certainly failing the 45% of its students who fail to graduate. There is no doubt whatsoever that the life prospects of high school dropouts in the United States are almost always bleak. And, there are no signs that the 60% of its graduates who don't attend college leave with technical skills or have the academic competency of typical high school graduates who don't go to college in the state as a whole, or in neighboring Denver. The Denver Public Schools, in contrast, has a wealth of alternative programs who non-college bound students.
Recognizing that there is a clear problem, of course, doesn't mean that the solution is obvious. Almost surely, there are myriad specific problems and not one overarching problem that explains the whole picture. But, there is no doubt that dramatic change needs to be the order of the day in this troubled school district.