Colorado

DPS board prepares for new schools vote

Fewer than 5 percent of freshmen from two Denver high schools – North and West – are prepared for college four years later without needing remedial help once enrolled.

Nearly two-thirds of eighth-graders attending schools in far northeast Denver leave the area – and DPS altogether – for high school.

Virtually every elementary school in southeast Denver is at or over capacity as families flock to the area – but many students living there opt to go private.

Denver school board members spent nearly two hours Monday sorting through that kind of achievement and enrollment data as they prepare for a June vote on 11 new schools applications.

The data provides a regional analysis of need, by performance and capacity, as board members try to figure out which schools might fit where across the city. Any schools approved next month will be assigned to a region – a specific building location won’t come until November.

Board members don’t have to approve any schools and DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg said staff recommendations on the 11 schools at the June 17 meeting “will include a lot of no’s.”

Some board members requested more information and one, Andrea Merida, pushed for an emphasis on existing schools before opening new ones. “Let’s work with what we have first,” she said.

Boasberg countered that the two actions – improving existing schools while approving new ones – are not “in opposition.” “We don’t see that as mutually exclusive,” he said.

He pointed to an analysis of DPS high school freshmen enrolling in college four years later and the percentages, by school, of those able to jump into college coursework without remedial help.

East High School topped the list for traditional comprehensive schools, with a 30 percent rate of high school graduates able to enroll in college without remediation. West High School was at the low end, with 1 percent, and nearby North High fared little better at 4 percent.

“Those percentages are truly a crisis situation,” Boasberg said. “This is not just a high school issue. This is very much a feeder pattern issue. What it calls out extraordinarily, strikingly, is how much more work we’ve got to do to significantly, significantly increase these numbers.”

Click here to see the 59-page analysis and here for links to the 11 new school applications. What follows are highlights for each of the city district’s five regions:

Far Northeast

Demographic – Seven of nine neighborhood elementary schools are operating at or above capacity; DPS plans to open a preschool center in 2011 to relieve crowding and will include a new elementary in a future bond issue.

Choice – Only 57 percent of high school students who live here attend school here; of this area’s 8th-graders in 2009, 50 percent left the area for another DPS school and 16 percent left the district altogether.

Performance – Just 6 percent of Montbello High graduates are prepared for college without remediation; the district will apply for turnaround funds for Montbello and Noel Middle for 2010-11.

New schools applicants – Two charters – SOAR Elementary and Independence High School – want to move into the area, along with two performance schools – a replication of the Denver Center for International Studies, with a K-12 campus, and the Denver KEY K-8 school. Also, a KIPP middle school was approved for this area last year.

Near Northeast

Demographic – An elementary will open in 2011 and a middle school in 2012 to address rapid growth in Stapleton, with help from city and developer; DPS is expected to seek funds for a high school in a future bond election.

Choice – Just over 50 percent of the high school students in the Manual High boundary attend either Manual or nearby Bruce Randolph 6-12 School; about 250 more high school students leave the area than enter it.

Performance – Nearly one in four elementary seats are in “red” schools, those ranked the lowest on the district’s school performance framework; DPS applying for turnaround funds for Gilpin Elementary.

New schools applicants – Two performance schools – Denver British Primary elementary and Good Earth elementary – have applied to locate in the area, along with two charters – University Prep elementary and Janus International Academy K-8. Board also expected to receive proposal to locate a campus of the Denver School of Science and Technology at the Cole Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Northwest

Demographic – Increasing growth in elementary grades in next two to five years could mean re-opening schools closed in 2008; that growth could help fill Skinner Middle, a school undergoing revitalization.

Choice – Number of sixth-graders living in Lake Middle boundary has doubled with implementation of new Lake International Baccalaureate and West Denver Prep charter at Lake campus; 55 percent of high school students living here choice out of area but options such as CEC Middle College bring more high school students in.

Performance – North and West are lowest-performing high schools in terms of graduates needing college remediation; area has the highest number of “red” seats – those in lowest-performing schools – in the city; DPS applying for turnaround funds for North.

New schools applicants – A charter, Praxis, wants to locate here to serve high school students with special needs and those lagging in class credits for their age; school is a replacement for P.S. 1 Charter.

Southwest

Demographic – At least ten elementary schools in central part of area are operating at or above capacity; DPS projects need for up to 1,000 more middle school seats by 2015; Abraham Lincoln High School, a district center for native Spanish speakers, is overcrowded.

Choice – Despite crowding at Lincoln, the area’s other traditional high school, John F. Kennedy, has space; over 2,000 high school students living in the area don’t attend school here; DPS will open an alternative high school, Summit Academy, this fall.

Performance – Area has seen greatest improvement in performance of any region in the city; 2,000 elementary seats were “red,” the lowest-performing, in 2008 compared to 600 in 2009; one school in area, Munroe, remains a “red” school.

New schools applicants – A performance school, Eva Elementary, has applied for this area; district also deciding on long-term home for second campus of West Denver Prep charter middle school.

Southeast

Demographic – DPS projects need for up to 1,000 elementary seats despite opening two new elementary options, Denver Green School and Denver Language School, this fall, when grades K-5 are projected to be at 104 percent capacity.

Choice – Despite crowding, elementary schools have among the lowest “capture” rates of resident children because of high concentration of private schools here; capture rates also low at high school grades, with enrollment dropping at Thomas Jefferson High by 8 percent in past three years.

Performance – No schools in the area are rated “red,” the district’s lowest ranking, though just 26 percent of seniors at Thomas Jefferson and 13 percent of seniors at South High enroll in college and are not in remediation the following year.

New schools applicants – None.

Nancy Mitchell can be reached at nmitchell@ednewscolorado.org or 303-478-4573.

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede