What pace marks reform?

I’m grateful to Alan for the chance to contribute to this blog, even if the timing means my initial post is a self-referential link to this Op-Ed in today’s Denver Post.

The Post’s editors contributed the title and made a few edits for space. The deleted text was this: To draw even with the state on student proficiency within a decade, DPS realistically needs an increase in CSAP of at least 3 points every year. However as DPS has never made 3 overall points of progress in any single year, much less for 10 years straight, the chances are roughly equal to the Broncos winning the Beijing Olympics.

So whether one sees the recent DPS scores as a glass half-empty or half-full, Denver’s considerable talent, effort and money have produced, at best, incremental improvement. And it should also be clear by now that incremental improvement is not enough to provide another generation of Denver’s children with the educational opportunities they need.

My personal belief – not in the Op-Ed – is that reform undertaken at a slow pace is likely doomed to failure, and that the recent admirable gains from DPS can either serve as an accelerator to greater reform, or if taken as evidence that the current efforts are adequate, will soon be a historical blip.

For example, see this DPS press release about recent substantial improvements on the CSAPs. Just don’t miss that it is from August of 2005. History is a strong opponent.

My question is this: If one believes DPS is indeed making adequate yearly progress (sorry), is it reasonable to wait another generation or more just to equal to the Colorado average? If not, what should be done? I hope some of you will have ideas that eclipse mine.

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