I’ve updated this post with the answers and source links, which follow the questions below:
Last week I moderated a mayoral forum on education at KIPP. The candidates were, I thought, quite good – there was a suitable range of opinion, and almost everyone was willing to take a stand on some of the more controversial recent issues (including SB 191 and the DPS turnaround efforts in Far Northeast Denver).
As part of the forum, I reflected that my first memory of watching a debate as a kid was seeing a group of candidates asked “what is the price of a gallon of milk.” I thought this was a pretty good question – not just because as a kid I thought milk was still cool, but I also intuitively understood that this and similar queries were a way to see if candidates walked in the shoes of normal citizens and understood the simple, concrete realities of daily life.
So, as the moderator, I wanted to come up with equivalent questions — what are the basic statistics that mayoral candidates (and indeed all stakeholders) should know about Denver’s K-12 public schools? What is the price of a gallon of milk in education?
Below are the questions I asked the candidates (who overall I thought did quite well); I’ll post answers to them in the next few days [Update: answers provided]. Some of these questions are more detailed and nuanced than the price of milk, and several were covered in recent news articles in the days leading up to the forum, so perhaps consider the line of questioning to include current events.
I invite other questions (or answers) in the comments (and if EdNews has video of the candidates for this segment of the forum, would be great to post).
1. How many schools in DPS? How many total students? What is the student to employee ratio?
– There are 162 total schools, however 11 are “alternative” (i.e. often not facilities-based) so the number most people use is 151;
– As of October 1, 2010 (count day), there were about 80,000 students (precise number is 79,423);
– The student to employee ratio is 6:1 (13,087 employees – note that this includes transportation, maintenance and similar activities)
Source: DPS website
2. Over the past five years, has DPS proficiency in CSAP core subjects (math, reading, writing) gone up, down, or stayed the same? If up or down, by how much?
– Overall proficiency over the past five years has increased by about 8 percentage points, from 33% to 41% (note that this is not a weighted average by grade population.)
Source: CDE CSAP scores (although one has to do the math)
3. In 2010, what percentage of 3rd graders were proficient in core subjects? What percentage of 10th graders were proficient in core subjects?
– Third grade proficiency in core subjects was 45%; 10th grade proficiency was 32%.
Source: CDE CSAP scores via schoolview
4. What is the remediation rate for DPS high school graduates who go to college?
– Fifty-nine percent of DPS graduates who go on to college require remediation.
Source: Denver Post
5. What is the average teacher salary? What is the starting teacher salary? How many days per year do teachers work?
– Average teacher salary is $52,845; starting teacher salary is $37,551; there are 184 contract days for DPS teachers.
– If one were to “normalize” teacher salaries over a full year, using a comparison of 245 working days for full-time, year-round employees, the average teacher salary would be $70,460 and the starting salary would be $50,068.
Source: DPS website, DCTA Master Agreement 8-1
6. What percentage of DPS students “choice-out” of their assigned school?
– Roughly 45% of DPS students choice out of their school of assignment.
Source: Locating Quality and Access (IFF Report)
7. What is the “on-time” graduation rate (the percentage of 9th graders who graduate four years later) for DPS high schools?
– On-time graduation rate is 53%.
Source: DPS website
8. What percentage of DPS students dropped out of school last year?
– The DPS drop-out rate is 7.4%, or roughly 5,800 students each year.
Source: DPS website
9. What is the overall percentage of free and reduced lunch (“FRL” – a measure of poverty) students in Denver? In 2010, what what was the percentage of FRL students in the top-ranked category (“Distinguished”) on the School Performance Framework?
– Seventy-two percent of DPS students qualify for the federal Free ad Reduced Lunch program; about 25% of students in DPS’s “Distinguished” schools qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch.
Source: DPS website, my analysis of the SPF