Friday, Sept. 23, 2016
Celebrating Strong Progress, Focusing on Growth Gaps
"As encouraging and important as these growth numbers are, they are just one indicator of the progress and momentum in our schools. It comes alive more by visiting schools like Valdez and seeing and feeling the other signs -- the light in our students' eyes, the buzz in the hallways, the energy from the teachers and parents, and the belief in every child from the entire community."
Dear DPS Community,
We got more good news this week on the progress our students are making in the classroom. Following on the proficiency gains we shared earlier this month, which show our kids have made dramatic gains over the past decade, this week we received a second set of results from last spring's state assessments. And it shows that, when it comes to year-to-year learning gains, our students continue to outpace our suburban neighbors and the rest of the state.

Supt. Tom Boasberg
The results released this week focus on the academic growth of our kids. While the proficiency scores give us a "snapshot" of where students are at testing time, the growth scores are more of a narrative -- a look at how each student's learning has progressed over the past year, in comparison to other students across the state who started the year at the same level. That year-on-year growth is a more complete picture of what's happening with each student and inside each school.
And over the past year, our students and schools have again shown remarkable growth. For the fourth straight year, we had the highest (or tied for the highest) overall combined growth in English language arts and math among the state's ten largest districts. A decade ago, by contrast, we ranked dead last in growth in the state. This is cause for celebration, and I am so grateful for the dedication, the belief in success and the flat-out hard work by our kids and teachers that have made this progress possible.
I visited Escuela Valdez in Northwest Denver on Tuesday to thank our students and educators for their outstanding work. The dual-language school showed the most growth of all of our schools, and among the highest growth of all elementary schools in the state.

Click to watch students and staff at Escuela Valdez celebrate their academic progress on state assessments.
One reason Valdez is such an important example is the absence of growth gaps between students of color and Anglo students. All groups of students at Valdez made strong academic gains, and our students of color and those in poverty made more progress than their classmates and their peers across the state.
Yet, this is not true across the district or the state, where the average student of color demonstrated less academic growth than the average white student this past year. These growth gaps are deeply troubling.  Unless closed, these growth gaps will perpetuate and exacerbate the gaps in academic levels among our kids -- and the gaps in opportunity in our society.  And, even more troubling is that this past year in DPS saw a widening of our growth gaps among our students of color and white students. So, what are we doing to close these gaps?
Briefly, here are our critical areas of focus:
  • Ensuring our best teachers and school leaders are in our highest-poverty schools.
  • Ensuring our students get the personalized attention they need to meet their individual needs, in both academic and social-emotional supports.
  • Creating joyful, rigorous and personalized classrooms in schools where high expectations are set for all kids.
  • Ensuring students have access to quality early learning so early gaps are quickly erased.
  • Focusing on the importance of strong relationships with our families because of the vital role they play in the education of their children.
Finally, it is important to stress that as important as these growth numbers are, they are just one indicator of the progress and momentum in our schools. It comes alive more by visiting schools like Valdez and seeing and feeling the other signs -- the light in our students' eyes, the buzz in the hallways, the energy from the teachers and parents, and the belief in every child from the entire community.
That's what has driven our improvement over the past decade. And that's what will keep us moving forward -- eliminating the gaps that remain, giving every neighborhood a great school and ensuring Every Child Succeeds.

Pictured above: Students and educators at Valdez celebrate their strong academic progress.
Join Us for Our First Superintendent-Parent Forum of 2016-17!
Tuesday kicks off the district's annual Superintendent-Parent Forum series, where hundreds of families join district leaders and educators to learn more about initiatives impacting their children and schools.
Supt. Tom Boasberg at a recent forum.

The first forum of 2016-17 will focus on our #1 Denver Plan goal, Great Schools in Every Neighborhood, with a look at how DPS is supporting schools across our district as they strive to improve. We'll also answer questions about our 2016 bond and mill levy initiatives on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Please join us for the forum from 9:15-11:15 a.m., Tuesday, Sept. 27, at the National Western Complex, 4655 Humboldt St. Interpretation, meals and childcare for ages 3-12 will be provided at no cost to participants. Register online here. Please note: The forum also serves as our English Language Acquisition District Advisory Committee (ELA DAC).

After the forum, we will be offering an interactive session called  Engage Together in Building Great Schools, where participants will learn more about best practices of family engagement, communicating effectively in the face of conflict, and building inclusive communities in schools. This event is from 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and will include lunch.

For more information, visit the Family and Community Engagement (FACE) website at or email
Reminder about Security Protocols; Update Your Contact Info
As we settle in to another school year, please help ensure we can reach you quickly by updating your family's contact information with your school or in our Parent Portal. The safety of our students and staff is our top priority, and we strive to be pro-active in informing you about situations that impact our schools. 

Our goal is that you are hearing news about your child's school from us first, whether that is a letter home or -- in situations that are quickly unfolding -- via our social media channels ( Facebook and Twitter) and automated phone calls and emails.

Quick reminder: Do you know the difference between a lockout and a lockdown?

-- A lockout typically takes place when there is a safety concern that is not an immediate threat to a school. For example, police may be pursuing a vehicle in the neighborhood around a school and the DPS Department of Safety determines the school should enact a lockout as a precautionary measure. In lockouts, students and staff should remain inside the school building, and school activities may continue as normal with students and staff moving securely within the school. No one comes in or goes out of the building.

Lockdown -- A lockdown typically takes place when there is a safety concern regarding a potential threat to a school. For example, the police may be pursuing a suspect on foot and the suspect is on school property. A lockdown also will be enacted if there is a perceived threat within the school. In a lockdown, school business and classroom activities should cease, and everyone should be down, quiet and out of sight. 

Emergency information guides are available for families in EnglishSpanish, Arabic, Amharic, Burmese, French, Nepali, Somali, Russian and Vietnamese. Learn more.  

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