CSAP (in advance)

Students across Colorado finished their CSAP exams last week; results will not be distributed until late summer.

Of course, most articles about the CSAPs are written after the results are public, where most people dissect the numbers and look for data that supports/refutes specific arguments — often ones to which they are already attached.  And expect the usual carping about the CSAP itself (although the protests seem to have died down overall). So, well before the results are known, it’s worth asking what to look for — well in advance of the actual data.

The following is my list for DPS; I’m also interested in the perspectives of others — comments please!

1.  DPS Academic Growth – The district has seen encouraging news recently on enrollment (helped both by an expansion of preschool/kindergarten, demographic trends and the economic climate) and lower dropout rates.  What has been unclear is academic progress.  The district has spun the results positively — for example, pointing out where the DPS increase beats the State.  Unfortunately, this is easier to achieve when you have a low base: a 2 point bump starting at a score of 47 (overall DPS reading) is a little easier than starting at a score of 68 (overall state reading).  So when the 2010 CSAPs come out, start here: how much real academic growth has the district achieved?

2. District turnarounds: Cole/CASA, Trevista/Horace Mann, Gilpin – The lynchpin of the 2007-2008 DPS reform efforts that closed several schools promised invigorated programs at these campuses. Give each the benefit of a transitional year, and the next round of CSAPs should show if these schools are on the right track.  So far, the data (again, transitional year) is mixed at best. Cole and Gilpin remain Accredited on Probation on the DPS School Performance Framework, while Trevista is Accredited on Watch. None of these schools has shown more than about the median growth score on the Colorado Growth model.  The ability of these schools to change their trajectory will say a lot about the District’s possibilities of improving schools from within. A poor showing will be further evidence against the efficacy of an incremental approach.

3. Charter ExpansionsWest Denver Prep, DSST — The platform schools for DSST and WDP were ranked first and second on the DPS School Performance Framework.  The ability of these two schools to maintain their high academic standards while they grow is a critical test.  Both will now have results for a second school (DSST’s middle school; the WDP Harvey Park campus).  The results at these locations will say a lot about future expansion and their ability to reach even more families — and both organizations currently maintain substantial waiting lists.

4. Program Expansions: Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy — KCAA was in some ways modeled (or at least sold) as a similar program to the successful Denver School of the Arts, but without the same selective admissions process and with the hope of attracting a student body similar to the neighborhood they serve.  A first-rate principal was recruited from a top magnet elementary school, and the initial enrollment numbers seemed strong. If the program can show clear academic growth while serving their local community, it could open the door for a similar attempts with different district programs, and a movement to spread successful magnet programs to different demographic groups.

One of the schools that I wish we would be able to track is the Math and Science Leadership Academy. I have long argued that this school — developed and run by DCTA teachers — has more potential to change urban education in Denver than any other single effort.  It is very much to the credit of the school leadership to take the challenge of urban education head-on.  Yet far more important than the efforts of adults, of course, are the results with kids. MSLA is only K-2 this year, and won’t have scores.  A good eventual showing in academic growth would give these efforts considerable credibility.  Teachers built it, let’s hope the results come.

So, don’t wait until the scores are in.  What else?

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