Here at Stand for Children Colorado, we are closely following the conversations around the “Reimagining the School Performance Framework (SPF)” in Denver Public Schools. As part of that work we are listening to the community in both our in-person organizing with parents and online. You may have seen the first in a series of blog posts by a parent leader we have worked with, Leilani Siens.
As we have heard from parents and community members after the first blog post, I thought it would be helpful to share Stand’s perspective on the SPF and this process. While the SPF is technically a tool created to help the district identify support needs at schools, we also know that parents use it, too. Parents want to be a part of the process of helping their school succeed and they use the SPF to understand how their child’s school is performing and where support is needed. For others, SPF is used as part of a process to make decisions about whether a school is going to be the right fit for their child. Ultimately, it gives parents a look under the hood of a school to see what is and isn’t working—and we believe parents deserve that access.
Our top priority has always been making sure parents have useful information about their child’s school. The process to “reimagine” the SPF is one we wholeheartedly support. The current SPF is complicated – there are too many measures in it and we are concerned it causes more confusion than achieving the goal of providing transparent information. It is time to evolve and improve.
Some are discussing a move to the state accountability system. We don’t believe that simply adopting the state system will work either for a variety of reasons. First, it doesn’t place enough emphasis on looking at how we are serving ALL students. We will not achieve equity for our students if we lose that important information. We also think the state’s bar is lower and we are not in the business of lowering expectations for our children. We believe DPS set out to create an SPF that prioritized equity and growth, but over time the system got too complicated and potentially too punitive.
We don’t want to get stuck in a conversation about which is better—the DPS version or the state version. Instead, we want to think big with community and create a system that values what parents value and that is useful to teachers, principals and district staff. We want to truly “reimagine” a tool that prioritizes equity, gives understandable and transparent information to families, and serves as a way to identify needed resources for schools. Let’s see what parents want to know about their child’s school. Let’s listen to what educators and the community think we should be reporting on and what schools should be held accountable for. Let’s be willing to think outside the box and create an SPF that works for DPS students and families.
The Reimagining the SPF Committee has been doing a lot of work and learning on this topic, and we appreciate their commitment. In addition to this work, we hope DPS and the committee will take time to hear from DPS families and create a local SPF system – made FOR Denver Schools BY Denver citizens.