Measuring Equity

Denver to include equity in annual rating

Starting in 2016, Denver Public Schools’ school report card will include a new category: Equity.

And for the first time, non-white Denver students will be referred to as students of color rather than minorities on the district’s School Performance Framework. That category will be expanded to include Asian and multiracial students, who were previously included in a category with white students.

The idea is that including equity alongside the current three measures (Engagement, Growth, and Status) will spotlight gaps between groups of students within schools on the School Performance Framework, or SPF, and encourage schools to serve all their students well.

“In order to better align the SPF with Denver Plan Goals and to call attention to achievement gaps that exist within DPS, we’re proposing to add the equity indicator in 2016,” said Maegan Daigler, an accountability manager in the district’s Assessment, Research, and Evaluation department, at a meeting of the district’s board last night.

DPS uses the framework to inform decisions about everything from school closures to teacher compensation.

Increasing equity and closing gaps in achievement between students of color, English language learners, students with disabilities, and their peers is one of the priorities in the district’s Denver Plan 2020.

“It lifts it up and aligns to a lot of what we were talking about in terms of equity and working with students in our opportunity quartile,” Happy Haynes, the Denver school board chair, said of the change. The opportunity quartile refers to students in the bottom 25 percent of the district in academic performance.

The equity rating will be based on measures of differences between groups’ graduation rates, test scores, and growth, most of which are currently included in other sections of the framework. Schools will have to earn a yellow, the third-highest rating, in equity to be deemed a blue or green school (the two top ratings).

The changes mean a number of schools schools will have lower rankings than they do under the current system, according to officials. The district is temporarily removing schools’ overall ratings next year, due to changes in state standardized testing, but plans to reinstate overall ratings in 2016-17. (Read about other changes planned for the 2016 SPF in last night’s presentation to the board.)

Many schools’ scores on the SPF are already likely to drop next year: The district plans to give schools’ status — their test score proficiency percentages — a heavier weighting than in the past, which means some schools with lower overall test scores but higher growth will see their rankings go down. And schools around the state are expecting test scores to go down due to new, more difficult assessments tied to the Common Core State Standards.

At a meeting of the school board Thursday night, board member Michael Johnson raised concerns that changing the requirements will make it harder for the district to reach its goal of having 80 percent of students in schools in the two highest rating categories by 2020.

“We’ve raised the bar and moved the goalpost,” said Haynes.

“That’s worth considering,” said DPS superintendent Tom Boasberg. “But we’ve had discussion about the fact that status matters and we want to know how our kids are doing.”

Board members and officials said the idea is not to punish schools but to more accurately reflect what’s happening for all the district’s students.

Board member Barbara O’Brien said that the district needs to hold schools accountable as it plans to give more independence to individual schools. “They have to go hand in hand,” she said.

She said the hope is that information about achievement gaps will encourage schools to make changes. “We’re presuming that with better information, some schools are going to change what they’re doing to address that problem, that it’s not going to be static,” she said.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.