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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Denver Schools are Revolting. And I’m Not Talking About CSAP Scores.

A quiet revolution seems to be building in some Denver area schools--schools that want to be freed from the bureaucracy of the overblown administration and the dictates of the teachers’ union. And, best of all, they are doing it for the kids--only this time it isn’t a funny catch phrase used to point out the obvious manipulation of politics and events with teary-eyed tots in hopes of doing something like banning the bomb so that the children will never again be hugged with nuclear arms. Or something like that.

Anyway, this revolt started a few weeks back with another school that wanted to free itself from the bonds of the district in hopes of creating a better school where kids could excel. I’m not sure what I think of their plans--I’m haven’t seen a real road map, if you will, of what they are trying to do. I like, though, that they recognize that schools need to be able to deal with their neighborhoods, their kids, their parent, and their issues with more agility than a giant district can provide.

Eighteen northeast Denver schools are seeking to build an autonomous school zone — freeing them from union and district rules they say are bureaucratic barriers to improving student achievement.

Principals from several of the schools met Monday with 50 community members and educators at Montbello High School to outline the proposal, which will be presented this month to the school board.

Principals from the 18 schools want to create a “zone of innovation,” giving them control over their budget, the educational program in the schools, staffing and incentives.
They want their own human resources department, a budget support office and an enrollment center to help schools balance populations — sending more students to schools with empty classrooms and alleviating crowding in others.

“We’re talking about putting an umbrella out here to make sure our kids get help,” said Ruth Frazier, principal of Greenwood School that serves kindergartners to eighth-graders. “We’ve come together as a region. . . . This zone is to create a new operating system.”

The move is similar, in parts, to autonomy agreements and waiver requests being sought by other Denver schools.

I would like to hear more about their plans--why they think they can do better, what the changes would mean functionally, and how it will work in relation to things like budget and support issues--but I like the trend. Moving away from bureaucracy might well mean more efficiency and smarter choices for the schools and their students.

Hooray for Denver’s revolting schools!

Read the rest.

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What is the girl’s opinion?  Whatever it is, I agree with her.  Just let me know so I can be clear what I espouse. (No, I’m not being sarcastic.  I have the full expectation that she could and would persuade me with whatever argument she wished to make, so I’ll just skip those steps and take her position automtically).

on Feb 13 2008 @ 11:38 AM

She shifted districts, so I’m not sure she even knows much about it right now. I’ll ask her about it tonight and come back with a report.

See? I can do my homework when I have to.

on Feb 13 2008 @ 11:51 AM

Denver must be a rich school district, where they would be able to get a decent part of the budget to accomplish their goals.

Never would work where every school tries to improve their funding by getting every Federal grant they can find. Like one school getting a grant to buy microscopes for their science class and some schools getting big grants, because of their demographics. So when the school board tells you they spend the same for each student, you know it’s BS.

on Feb 13 2008 @ 04:11 PM

My school DSST in Denver School District is the model for all the complaints.  It seems that the school, which gets kids in a lottery and must have a racial balance, takes kids and will have 100% college placement for the first senior class.  Couple that with CSAP scores that are in the top two or three in Colorado without “teaching to the test” and you can see why these schools want out.

on Feb 13 2008 @ 06:12 PM

I don’t know the current principal at Montbello, but previously Montbello has had utter disasters for principals that the parents would nonetheless defend just because of their race.  Hopefully the current one is more competent because the school needs to put behind political correctness and buckle down.

I’m not holding my breath however.

on Feb 13 2008 @ 10:08 PM

Not only will it not work, it will fail in an almost miserable way.  I’d bet the farm on it.  That said, it’s about freaking time the schools in DPS started standing up against DPS itself.  They are some mighty fine schools (my old one, for example) and those little ones often end up on the chopping block for budget cuts and closures.

Dude, I could go on all day about this, but its, um, your blog.  I have my own. I may run with this next week if you don’t mind.

on Feb 14 2008 @ 09:23 AM

From the evidence I have (which seems reasonable, since I also participate in an education blog*), Colorado in general, and the metro area in particular, have some of the best-developed charter school systems in the country.  Education choice is working just the way that advocates claimed it would.

In particular, if you look you can find a charter school with a decent record and a curriculum that meets your kid’s needs more easily here than nearly anywhere.  And this has had an effect on traditional public schools as well.

Two years ago, when my son was about to enter 1st grade, we received an advertising circular from our local school district that explained the differences between the in-district elementary schools and made it very clear what the enrollment processes and deadlines were.  In the end, we went out of district, because none of the in-district schools had what we wanted, but the very fact that they are being forced to compete on quality and service can be nothing but a good thing.

All that said, DPS is still something of a disaster, but messes that big take time to clean up.  This sounds to me like another step in the right direction.

* http://kitchentablemath.blogspot.com/

on Feb 14 2008 @ 11:16 AM
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