Peter Huidekoper, Jr., is a veteran educator and creator of the “Another View” newsletter.

It got our attention: Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan “Announces $3.5 Billion in Title I School Improvement Grants to Fund Transformational Changes Where Children Have Long Been Undeserved” (August, 2009).  When we learned a year ago that over $37 million of that would come to 16 of Colorado’s lowest-achieving schools, over three years, to help raise student achievement, we again took note.  Another year has now passed. How’s that going? Any positive news for those “underserved” kids?

One assumes the federal government is interested in seeing that the grants to Colorado, especially to Denver Public Schools and Pueblo City Schools, the two districts receiving most of these funds, ($14.8  and $12.9 million respectively over three years to turnaround six schools in each city) will be well used.

For $10 million, shouldn’t we expect better results?

One assumes the Colorado Department of Education is taking a careful look at how well year one funds, totaling over $10 million to our 16 struggling schools, have been used.

One assumes DPS (about $4.6 million this first year) and Pueblo 60 (over $4.2 million), especially, are taking a close look at how these funds have been spent and how well improvement efforts are going.

One assumes they are looking at a variety of measurements to gauge effectiveness and success.  For we all agree that in the complex effort to turn around or transform a low-performing school into a good place for students to learn and grow, there are many factors and variables to consider.

However, one also assumes that CSAP data, while just one of the many measurements, is considered an important piece of the puzzle.  So here are the 2011 CSAP achievement results—the percentage proficient and advanced—compared to the previous two years, and compared to the goals set by the schools (and/or districts) when they applied for the turnaround or transformation funds (these goals are found here).

Most folks will want to see growth scores too, and I am sure the state and districts will examine those.  But as I have written previously, let’s be careful not to exaggerate those 55 percent growth scores as great news.  The goal—yes?—is still proficiency.

Last winter a mid-year check on this effort from Public Impact included a warning:

Decades of research and experience in public education have shown that improvement efforts that focus on incremental improvements – such as curriculum changes, increased funding and professional development—rarely produce compelling success in schools that struggle to meet students’ needs year after year… CDE and other state leaders can help foster … dramatic efforts … by engaging in a focused and rigorous review process for schools’ improvement plans in future years, and closely examining each district’s commitment to success.

This is anything but that “rigorous review.”  It is perhaps an unsatisfactory but I hope useful first draft at what CDE, and both DPS and Pueblo 60, can do far more skillfully to see if this grant is proving effective.

And given how vital it is that we do this right, when results fall so short of our goals, we trust there are people asking a number of hard questions. At a minimum, that is my purpose.

Some might ask: Should we rethink this effort sooner rather than later?  Should we proceed to spend year two money much as it was the first year?  One assumes there are even leaders willing to say: For $10 million, shouldn’t we expect better results? Advocates for these “underserved” students who demand that we not spend another dime until we re-evaluate how to use these funds to truly “transform” these schools. 

See text following charts for notes — commitments, comments, and caveats.  I have tried to be careful with the data, and apologize in advance for mistakes in copying goals and scores from the CDE web site, or in my own math. 

DENVER PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Gilpin Elementary (was K-8 in 2009-10)—Now Gilpin Montessori School – Proficient & Advanced

Grade 2009 2010 GOAL 2011 RESULTS 2011   GAP Between goal  & results 2010 to 2011 Change
READING

3

32

32

45

X

4

23

30

35

18

-17

-12

5

15

39*

30*

35

+5

-4

WRITING

3

11

10

30

X

4

17

11

30

12

-18

+1

5

15

36*

35*

20

-15

-16

MATH

3

16

17

35

X

4

29

41*

36*

24

-12

-17

5

5

29*

30

30

same

+1

SCIENCE

5

0

7

5

-2

 

*Worth noting: 2011 goals were written before 2010 results were available. They were ambitious based on 2009 scores.

X  Insufficient number of students to be scored. 

Greenlee Elementary (was K-8 in 2009-10)  –  Proficient & Advanced 

Grade 2009 2010 GOAL 2011 RESULTS 2011   GAP Between 2011 goal  & results 2010 to 2011 Change
READING

3

46

42

58

34

-24

-8

4

29

26

46

28

-18

+2

5

33

24

45

29

-16

+5

WRITING

3

28

29

38

16

-22

-13

4

18

17

34

25

-9

+8

5

24

18

30

31

+1

+13

MATH

3

75*

47

80

28

-52

-19

4

29

38

48

43

-5

+5

5

22

19

30

35

+5

+16

SCIENCE

5

9

3

2

-1

*2009 score, which may explain the 80% 2011 target. But see 4th grade score in 2010.  Just half (38/75) still proficient. 

Lake Middle School (6-8)**– Proficient & Advanced

Grade 2009 2010 GOAL 2011 RESULTS 2011   GAP Between 2011 goal  & results 2010 to 2011 Change
READING

6

28

38*

44

36

-8

-2

7

22

34*

38

32

-6

-2

8

27

37*

40

37

-3

same

WRITING

6

20

24

32

32

same

+8

7

21.5

16

32

25

-7

+9

8

19

17

30

22

-8

+5

MATH

6

20

33*

32

46

+14

+13

7

14

14

30

19

-11

+5

8

17

19

30

27

-3

+8

SCIENCE

8

10

9

17

+8

*Worth noting: 2011 goals were written before 2010 results were available. They were ambitious based on 2009 scores.

**Lake began a new International School for 6th graders this past year; most 7th and 8th graders continued their previous program. The building also was home for a new charter school using the West Denver Prep model.

Rachel Noel Middle School – Proficient & Advanced

Grade 2009 2010 GOAL 2011 RESULTS 2011   GAP Between 2011 goal  & results 2010 to 2011 Change
READING

6

24

37

45

26

-19

-11

7

27

38

45

31

-14

-7

8

24

37

40

32

-8

-5

WRITING

6

24

26

45

22

-23

-4

7

32

24

45

24

-21

same

8

11

17

30

19

-11

+2

MATH

6

29

31

45

23

-22

-8

7

27

25

40

21

-19

-4

8

10

20

30

23

-7

+3

SCIENCE

8

7

14

16

+2

 Montbello High School

Grade 2009 2010 GOAL 2011 RESULTS 2011   GAP Between 2011 goal  & results 2010 to 2011 Change
READING

9

30

25

45

28

-17

+3

10

35

31

45

18

-27

-13

WRITING

9

15

6

30

14

-16

+8

10

15

11

30

6

-24

-5

MATH

9

6

6

20

9

-11

+3

10

4

7

20

5

-15

-2

SCIENCE

10

8

10

5

-5

ACT

11

14.7

15

15.7

 

North High School

Grade 2009 2010 GOAL 2011 RESULTS 2011   GAP: 2011 goal  & results 2010 to 2011 Change
READING

9

22

29

35

33

-2

+4

10

34

29

45

31

-14

+2

WRITING

9

11

11

30

19

-11

+8

10

17

11

30

9

-21

-2

MATH

9

6

9

20

12

-8

+3

10

3

7

20

6

-14

-1

SCIENCE

10

15

13

11

-2

ACT

11

15

15

16

 

PUEBLO CITY SCHOOLS

Freed Middle School – Proficient & Advanced

Grade 2009 2010 GOAL 2011 RESULTS 2011   GAP Between 2011 goal  & results 2010 to 2011 Change
READING

6

44

57*

53.6*

47

-6.6

-10

7

51

45

60.8

45

-15.8

same

8

44

51

68

34

-34

-17

WRITING

6

31

28

31

+3

7

38

30

36

+6

8

31

35

26

-9

MATH

6

32

28

46.1

37

-9.1

+9

7

27

15

40.3

23

-17.3

+8

8

16

28

49.4

20

-29.4

-8

SCIENCE

8

18

25

14

-9

*Worth noting: 2011 goals were written before 2010 results were available. They were ambitious based on 2009 scores.

 

Pitts Middle School – Proficient & Advanced

Grade 2009 2010 GOAL 2011 RESULTS 2011   GAP Between 2011 goal  & results 2010 to 2011 Change
READING

6

54

53

53.4

45

-8.4

-8

7

38

43

60.7

40

-20.7

-3

8

47

46

68

40

-28

-6

WRITING

6

36

23

36

+13

7

30

26

36

+10

8

31

33

26

-7

MATH

6

29

34

44.3

28

-16.3

-6

7

18

12

34.3

21

-13.3

+9

8

22

16

35.3

16

-19.3

same

SCIENCE

8

27

23

16

-7

 

Risley Middle School  – Proficient & Advanced

Grade 2009 2010 GOAL 2011 RESULTS 2011   GAP Between 2011 goal  & results 2010 to 2011 Change
READING

6

48

39

69.9

31

-38.9

-8

7

39.5

42

65.4

38

-27.4

-4

8

33

40.5

63.3

32

-31.3

-8.5

WRITING

6

35

23.5

25

+1.5

7

31

25

27

+2

8

20

27

25

-2

MATH

6

26

19

39.6

17

-22.6

-2

7

12.5

11.5

30.6

14

-16.6

+2.5

8

13

10

29.3

12

-17.3

+2

SCIENCE

8

17

8.5

20

+11.5

 

Roncalli Middle School – Proficient & Advanced

Grade 2009 2010 GOAL 2011 RESULTS 2011   GAP Between 2011 goal  & results 2010 to 2011 Change
READING

6

53

57

63.5

54

-9.5

-3

7

58

49

64.9

51

-13.9

+2

8

52

65*

60.1*

41

-19.1

-24

WRITING

6

36

42

42

same

7

54

34

43

+9

8

41

50

32

-18

MATH

6

38

46

50.6

57

+6.4

+11

7

37

20

46.7

33

-13.7

+13

8

33

33

42.3

21

-21.3

-12

SCIENCE

8

28

30

20

-10

*Worth noting: 2011 goals were written before 2010 results were available. They were ambitious based on 2009 scores.


Central High School – Proficient & Advanced

Grade 2009 2010 GOAL 2011 RESULTS 2011   GAP Between 2011 goal  & results 2010 to 2011 Change
READING

9

45.5

49

56

47

-9

-2

10

51

42

60

46

-14

+4

WRITING

9

28

31

32

10

26

24.5

27

MATH

9

6

12

18.7

8

-10.7

-4

10

4

5

15.3

7

-8.3

+2

SCIENCE

10

20

18

18

same

ACT

11

17

14.5

 

Youth and Family Services was the sixth Pueblo school included in the grant and in the funding, but achievement goals were not included in Pueblo’s application to CDE.

The Pueblo schools did not include specific goals for writing.  In its application to CDE for the Tiered Intervention Grant in April of 2010, the Pueblo City School’s narrative gave 62% proficiency as its overall target for 2012.  Its “ambitious schedule of improvement” stated that writing scores would climb by 13 points in 2010, by 12 points in 2011, and by 10 points in 2012 (p. 43).  As evident above, writing scores at these five Pueblo schools remained largely unchanged between 2009 and 2011.

Neither DPS nor Pueblo schools included goals for science. But it seems worth including here, and to wonder, sadly, why in so many of these schools low science scores in 2010 declined further in 2011.**

NOTES

  1. In applying for the federal funds, each school district had its school board president and superintendent sign on to a Certification and Assurance Form.  Part of that document reads:

”…school districts that accept 1003(g) School Improvement funding for the Tiered Intervention grant agree to the following assurances:

                  “To provide the Colorado Department of Education such information as may be required to determine

                  if the grantee is making satisfactory progress toward achieving the goals of the grant….

                  “To monitor and evaluate the impact of all Turnaround interventions.

                  “To submit to CDE an Improvement Plan for each identified school updated annually as a requirement

                   for securing the continued funding from year to year during the three-year term of this grant.”                   

  1. The Denver Public Schools’ proposal to the Colorado Department of Education in April of 2010 (http://www.cde.state.co.us/turnaround/downloads/DPSFullApplication.pdf), seeking funds from the Tiered Intervention Grant, stated:

“The Office of School Turnaround will ensure that the schools are implementing their plans with                 fidelity, will monitor whether the proposed interventions are, in fact, resulting in improvement, and will       course correct if the monitoring provides evidence of lack of fidelity or impact” (p. 14).

Under “A Plan for Dramatic Improvement” for each school, DPS also wrote the following in its section on “Evaluation Plan: Interim Target Goals,” where it gave a few estimated goals for 2011, 2012, and 2013, the three years the grant is to be in effect:

“According to the RFP the turnaround school will be judged successful in the turnaround efforts when the students it serves are performing at levels comparable to students’ average performance in low-poverty schools across the state.  Schools will be required to meet achievement levels in the core academic subjects that equal or exceed the average level for the state’s non-low-income students”

 (p. 20-Greenlee; p. 40- Lake, p. 64-Gilpin, etc.). 

  1. Pueblo 60’s application to CDE included this assertion:

 “Successful intervention programs require progress monitoring.  PCS will monitor progress toward the goals and objectives with both formative and summative assessments” (p. 12).

Caveat #1 – Thoughtful observers of school change, like Michael Fullan, believe that “implementation dip” is no myth, that as schools begin major reforms, results often suffer.  One must ask, however, after years of poor results, how can a school use $500,000 or more and produce results that are little better? In contrast, please consider the scores for new schools modeled on West Denver Prep and Denver School of Science Technology. Any big implementation dips there?

Caveat #2 – Some might look at the goals for improvement and say the schools felt compelled to set unrealistically high targets in order to be considered eligible for the grant. True?  Worth exploring. Of course we want significant change and improvement.  But “phony goals” do no one any good.

  1. As it was not until November 2010 that the plan for Denver’s Far Northeast community was written, and then approved by the Denver school board, it is unclear to what extent the $3,388,350 committed to Montebello High and $2,776,580 to Noel Middle over three years was spent during the 2010-11 school year.  (It is also not clear why these two schools were awarded over $5 million when their restructuring plans were months away from being articulated.)  DPS will no doubt track exactly what portion of the federal grant was spent by these schools year one, and how well those funds were used. But as CDE included the two schools in its grant a year ago, they are included here.

Finally, from the Don’t-you-think-we-could-have-seen-this-coming? department:

After Denver approved of the turnaround plans for West High School, Paul Teske, dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of Colorado in Denver, spoke of the skepticism in the educational community about the success of district-sponsored turnarounds such as that contemplated at West.

“Around the country,” he told Education News Colorado, “there are very few examples of a turnaround that is less than shutting it down and essentially starting a new school that has been shown to work.”

He’s backed up by a 2008 Center on Education Policy study that investigated school restructurings in five states and found that only 19 percent of the schools made adequate yearly progress based on 2006-07 tests” (“DPS’ West High next up for makeover,” June 29, 2011).