Report states reform efforts in Denver, Aurora lacking

4:48 PM, Apr 11, 2013   |    comments
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KUSA - A group of community leaders called A+ Denver launched a comprehensive study into whether or not reform efforts in urban schools are working as well as district leaders are claiming. The report shows that despite targeted funding more students are not ready for college.

"The problem is, is that most of the kids, more than half of the kids at both school districts are not prepared for college," said Van Schoales, chief executive officer of A+ Denver, in the report.

The report is entitled "Denver and Aurora High Schools: Crisis and Opportunity." It looked at college remediation rates, enrollment in Advanced Placement courses, and ACT scores.

"We thought it was time to reflect on all the work that's been done in these school districts," said Schoales.

While graduation rates are increasing, the report states that more students need remediation when they get to college. The numbers in recent years for both Denver and Aurora hover close to 60 percent remediation rate, according to the report.

Plus, while Denver reports that more students are taking AP tests, the passing rate of these tests remains extremely low at 37 percent, according to the report.

"We have one high school where less than 2 percent of the kids passed the AP test," said Schoales.

But, Denver Superintendent Tom Boasberg says what's important than passing percentage on the AP tests are the raw numbers.

"We have tripled the number of students taking the test and we have tripled the number of students passing and getting college credit," said Boasberg.

Boasberg recognizes that remediation rates remain high, but he has a different take on why those numbers suffer even after six years of aggressive school reform under "The Denver Plan".

"The kids from six years ago who weren't even graduating from high school are now graduating from high school and going to college and having to have remediation," said Boasberg.

He says it is better for students to go to college and take review courses, than not go at all.

But, he says the district is focused on lowering that remediation rate of above 50 percent.

"That's too high," said Boasberg. "I think that goes to the quality and the rigor of the academic program we have for our students."

Aurora Superintendent John Barry does not agree with the findings of the report. He says the report does have some merit, but he says the measures used in the study are antiquated.

"I think the reforms are making great progress," said Barry. "But, if we use 20th Century measures, it's not an accurate reflection."

Barry says the report does not reflect on the increasing number of Aurora students taking college courses while still in high school. He says it does not depict the growing number of dropouts who are returning to APS to get their GED's or diplomas.

"A lot of this are lagging indicators," said Barry. "We are not seeing the true benefits."

Schoales says the superintendents are just doing what superintendents are supposed to do.

"We see this in school districts around the country in which school districts have a tendency to accentuate the positive," said Schoales.

Schoales says the point of the report is to spark a serious conversation about whether or not the reform efforts are really working.

"Do we need to think about different grade configurations? Do we need to talk about how teachers interact with kids?" said Schoales. "We are saying that we need to stop and say, let's be honest."

If you want to read the entire study, visit: http://www.aplusdenver.org/_docs/HighSchoolFinal4.11.13.pdf 

Boasberg says no matter what criticisms the report may point out, schools have improved under the reform efforts.

"I do think the last thing that we want to do is to go back to the status quo that existed before the reforms when we were graduating 30 percent fewer kids," said Boasberg.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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