3 sites may close under new policy
Three low-performing Denver elementary schools are being recommended for closure under a new school district policy: Amesse, Gilpin Montessori and Greenlee.
Denver Public Schools announced on Thursday the recommendations for Amesse, in the Montbello neighborhood in far northeast Denver, and Gilpin, in the Five Points neighborhood in northeast Denver.
On Friday morning, the school district made public the recommendation for Greenlee in the Lincoln/La Alma Park neighborhood in west Denver.
West Early College, a high school on the West High campus, was also facing a possible closure recommendation due to poor school ratings and low test scores. But the district announced Friday morning that it will not be recommended for closure because its score on a recent school quality review revealed it was on the right track toward improvement.
The school board is scheduled to vote on the recommendations at its Thursday meeting.
The district is recommending that Amesse and Greenlee be restarted, meaning the schools would be closed and replaced by a model the district deems more likely to succeed. The recommendation for Gilpin is different: DPS staff is recommending it be closed at the end of the school year but not replaced because of low enrollment projections.
The district’s new school closure policy, called the School Performance Compact, was adopted by the school board last year. It evaluates low-performing schools using three criteria:
• Whether they rank in the bottom 5 percent of schools based on multiple years of school ratings and aren’t exempt from the policy because they’re in the midst of a significant intervention meant to boost performance.
• Whether they failed to show an adequate amount of growth on the most recent state tests.
• Whether they scored fewer than 25 out of 40 points on a school quality review.
Schools that meet all three criteria can be recommended for restart or closure. Though DPS has over the years closed dozens of schools for low performance, next week’s vote will be the first time the school board uses the new policy to make the decision.
While the criteria for Denver school closure recommendations is clearer than ever before, that hasn’t made this week’s emotional conversations at the three low-performing elementary schools facing that fate any easier, Superintendent Tom Boasberg said Friday.
“For school leaders and teachers, they care incredibly deeply about their schools and their kids and they’re very, very committed to them,” Boasberg said. “People have respected that there is a clear and transparent process at the intellectual level — and at the emotional level, they’re still very concerned about the changes.”
Amesse Elementary was “orange” this year on the district’s color-coded rating system, called the School Performance Framework. Orange is the second-lowest rating. In 2013 and 2014, it was “red,” the lowest rating. (There were no ratings in 2015 due to a switch in state tests.)
Greenlee was the same: orange this year and red in 2013 and 2014.
Gilpin Montessori was red this year, orange in 2014 and red in 2013.
All three schools also showed lower-than-average academic growth when compared to other Denver elementary schools on the most recent state tests taken last spring.
The percentages of students meeting or exceeding expectations on those tests were low, too. For instance, just 11 percent of fourthgraders at both Amesse and Greenlee, and 14 percent of fourth-graders at Gilpin, met or exceeded expectations on the state English test.
The school quality reviews were conducted in November by SchoolWorks, a Massachusettsbased consulting company.