Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 09:47:50 AM MST
( - promoted by Fong)
As adults, some of the best ways to teach kids is to model good
At Thursday's board meeting, you will hear the breathless and excited delivery of the statistic that "our graduation rate has gone up by 500 students in the last two years! " The presentation that will be made to the
board on Thursday, August 18 is here.
But I'm not so sure about that statistic.
Let me be clear. I am very proud of DPS' graduates. Our graduates are
achieving this milestone while faced with considerable pressure. Their
families support them in these turbulent economic times, often facing
foreclosure and transience. Most of them qualify for free and reduced
lunch, or in other words, come from low-income homes. A good chunk of
them come from homes in which English is likely not spoken much, if at
all. In short, our graduates are survivors, made of the same stuff as
scrappy French, Spanish and American pioneers in Colorado.
| Andrea Merida :: Let's stop the spin and start the real school reform
|Additionally, lots of credit needs to be given to their parents, who
provide for their kids under considerable duress, who insert themselves
into their students' education lives whether they themselves were
successful in school or not, and who show these young people the value
of hard work and a good education.
This is not to say that parents of students who take longer or who find
different paths or who don't even cross the finish line aren't any less
committed. They are still a valued part of the fabric of DPS, and often
these are the kids most hurt by large class sizes and weakened student
I would be remiss in forgetting the teachers and collaborative
principals that are also woven into this fabric. These are the ones
that got into this game because of love for kids and for our democracy.
These are the ones that bear the brunt of the whims of politicians that
dabble in education policy who mostly have never taught or have held a
teacher's or principal's certification. In spite of the roadblocks we
politicians keep throwing in front of them, in spite of the cowardice
in having a real discussion about what a good education actually costs,
and in spite of the scapegoating and blame game, they keep plugging
along, managing to make a difference in the lives of their students.
No, the real DPS heroes are all these people. So please don't interpret
what's coming next as any sort of disparaging remark about our
students, parents, teachers or principals that lead by collaboration.
On Tuesday, August 2, Superintendent Tom Boasberg released a
statement about a hike in graduation rates over the last two years.
Some of the numbers he cited caused me to dig a little deeper, given
the penchant for careless statistical reporting (see last year's post about fudging the
So I sent him an email, asking for clarification, on Thursday, August
4. To date, he has not even given me the courtesy of acknowledging my
email, nor has his chief of staff.
In the press release, Superintendent Boasberg cited a preliminary Class
of 2011 population of 3,373, and he said
this number represents an increase of 4% from 2010. This
statement seems to indicate that the Class of 2010 was 3,238 large.
However, when I look at the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) data
(this link downloads a spreadsheet),
"Graduation Rates For the class of 2010," it shows a total graduating
population of 2,634.
Now, I'm not a math whiz, but 4% of 3,373
is about 135. If I subtract 135 from 3,373, I get 3,238. This is the
number that appeared in the press release, but it shows a difference of
604 from CDE's numbers.
Further, when I look at our own numbers from DPS Planning (2009/10 Graduation and Completer Report),
we only graduated 2,634, which would
substantiate my calculations.
Planning is the DPS internal department responsible for statistics and
reporting, including what gets reported to CDE.
On top of all this, Boasberg cites that Abraham Lincoln High School
graduated 377, yet Planning shows 208. So I wonder which number is
correct. So I said in my email:
It appears that, while we are accurately reporting
our data to CDE via the Planning Department's reports, you are actually
reporting to the public something completely different. Would you
please justify this? Perhaps there's a subtlety that I'm not
understanding...I have been known to be obtuse.
Now, there is a twist here. The CDE recently changed the way it
calculates "graduates." For them, there is a distinction between
"graduate" and "completer," They say:
rates are calculated based on high school graduates only. A graduate is
a student who completed locally-defined requirements for graduation. If
a student is not considered a graduate by the local board of education,
then he/she is not included in the graduation rate calculation.
This would assume that the completer rate would be a larger number. If
you look at the spreadsheet, the completer rate is a larger number. So
maybe it justifies Tom Boasberg's number?
Completer Rates. Completer rates are calculated based on
all students who are graduates, plus those who are not considered
graduates but receive another certificate or designation of high school
It does not. It doesn't match. Why the discrepancy? Why report the real
numbers to CDE but tell the taxpaying public something completely
Why is this a big deal? Simply put, when we prevaricate, we are focusing more
on happy talk than in making that graduation or completer rate larger
and more meaningful. When we're not honest about the real situation, we
cheat kids of our best effort, and we waste your hard-earned tax
dollars that are the shared sacrifice for the good of Denver's kids.
In addition to fudging these numbers, Mr. Boasberg's statement chirps,
"... the increase in graduates is coupled with an increase in the rigor
of the district's college-readiness curriculum." And yet, Westword
recently broke the story of the scandal of how the administration of
North High School's credit recovery program has been fraught with
negligence and flat-out corruption, making a diploma from
North not worth the paper it's printed on. And worse, this credit
recovery system is being used throughout the district, even though we
have perfectly good contract schools like Life
Skills Center of Denver that could teach us a thing or two
about best practices.
I don't know about you, but I'm pretty weary of this type of
prevarication for no good reason other than to save face. It serves no
one, not students, teachers, parents, well-meaning central
administration staff, taxpaying public...no one except the
Superintendent. It hurts our kids.
Instead of focusing on spin, we should be expanding sensible, true, research-based
reforms, such as pre-K programs, full-day
Kindergarten, small classes, parent involvement,
strong,experienced teachers, a
well-rounded curriculum and evaluation systems
that go beyond test scores. We already have the body of evidence right
here in Denver that shows that when we invest in our
neighborhood schools, and when we work hand-in-hand with all
stakeholders, we make magic for our kids. It's happening
right now, without "reforms" that lead to privatization, and
unfortunately, in spite of the district's push to dismantle our
community hubs, the public schools.
This status quo has to stop. The spin machine has to stop. Anyone that
tells you that the current DPS administration is on the right
track is lying to you, and most of all, is
lying to our kids. Denver's kids need us to model the good behavior of
telling the truth. We owe Denver's kids that much, at least.
By the way, did you know I'm the
only school board member in Colorado with an active, outreach-focused
website? Visit my website at www.andreamerida.com, and sign up for the newsletter
or blog updates...and feel free to leave a comment or two. I
actually do answer.
Squarestate.net is owned by Open Communications Colorado, LLC. and is not responsible for the opinions expressed outside of our own.