3 sites may close un­der new pol­icy

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Me­lanie As­mar

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.

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