Perspective: To improve schools, listen to students, parents and teachers
Denver teachers are set to strike on Monday. We are fighting for a contract that would allow us to afford to live in Denver and continue teaching the students we love. Our current fight is also part of a larger movement for democratically-controlled public schools, free from corporate interests. It’s time to come clean about a decade of failed policy in Denver Public Schools and take on the interest groups behind this failed experiment.
We were dismayed to hear that The Denver Post, along with some of the city’s political elite, have chosen to oppose teachers’ right to strike. Again and again, these groups have chosen to stand against the best interests of Denver students. Again and again, the corporate-backed reform policies championed by Denver elites have failed our students. The young people we work with every day are the future of this city, and we won’t stand by while our leaders sell them out.
Corporate-backed policies — like merit pay, high-stakes testing and school choice — have chipped away at our schools for too long. Ten years into the school reform experiment, Denver’s achievement gap has only grown, further disadvantaging poor and working-class students of color. The reforms have done nothing to expand opportunities for these students. They have done nothing to make teaching a sustainable career in our city.
Education reformers claim to care deeply about low-income and minority students. But their actions speak louder than their words. Policies backed by The Denver Post, powerful voices like Federico Peña and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce have led to the closing of 48 neighborhood schools with rich histories and generations of graduates. These schools have been replaced by charters and co-located schools. The fact is, closure of neighborhood schools not only has failed to improve student outcomes, it has denied a generation of young people stable, comprehensive schools. It also has cost taxpayers untold millions as a result of ballooning administrative overhead.
Denver doesn’t need to look far to find strategies that actually work. Decades of data on school integration and recent findings on community schools have shown their powerful ability to improve outcomes for students of all backgrounds. Parents know their kids, teachers know their students and research shows results — let’s use this expertise to improve student achievement.
Denver teachers are ready to strike for the schools that our students deserve. The whole city is watching, and now is the chance to stand on the right side of history. We urge The Denver Post, community leaders and all political parties to work with us — teachers, parents and students — to ensure that all Denver students have access to a world