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Two New Columns Bring Us Back to Reality in Jeffco Public Schools

It’s time to cut through the fog. Pieces of misinformation about the Jeffco school board have become so rampant that, even with your low-beams on, you’re bound to run into one or two of them. To deny the concentrated campaign of union field-tested talking points has been effective at increasing the numbers and volume of the opposition would be to deny reality. Just like it would be to swallow the talking points whole.

As this new Townhall column by Colorado’s own Mark Baisley reminds us:

Ever since losing their stronghold over Jefferson County, frustrated union operatives have made a habit of disrupting every public school board meeting, looking for any opportunity to sabotage the reforms being advanced by the newly elected members. Last week, the union distracters jumped at what they saw as a chance to embarrass the board. In response to a plan to reassess AP American history curricula, a group of disgruntled teachers incited students to join them in a walkout. The protest accuses the new board of censoring American history.

Oh yes, there’s so much more to the story. The outrage expressed by certain high school students in the form of walkouts during the school day — a lot less interesting on a Saturday, apparently — barely conceals union leaders’ 10-month war against the school board they don’t control, as well as the sickouts they didn’t officially “organize.”

Not to mention, the whole “censorship” theme was built around a fairly sketchy idea of what’s actually taken place in the district. A better understanding of the biases in the AP U.S. History framework would help. So would a clearer idea of what the school board has actually voted to do.

Which leads us to the second column, by Jeffco Students First executive director Sheila Atwell. Summoning the memory of a movie made long before my time, she explains Jeffco’s failure to communicate. Based on official record requests, the school district’s prior practices around community curriculum review ranged from vague and secretive at best to non-existent at worst. The best aspect of her piece is that it brings us back to the overlooked bottom line:

For at least the past decade, 20 percent of Jeffco’s third graders have not scored proficient on reading tests, and yet they are moved into fourth grade. Most education experts agree that it is nearly impossible for children to catch up if they miss this milestone. Fifty-five percent of 11th graders do not score career or college ready on the ACT in math or reading, while 61 percent are ill prepared in science.

What is worse, the neighborhood middle and high schools for children in the 80232 and 80214 ZIP codes receive F grades, according to Colorado School Grades. At Jefferson High School, 98 percent of the 10th graders are NOT proficient in math according to the 2014 TCAP scores. Jeffco is not providing their most at-risk students with quality school options, and it is simply unfair to hide behind scores at our best high schools that make the overall district rating appear to be at or above the State average.

Once upon a time, the current Jeffco school board voted unanimously in support of some important district-wide achievement goals. They ought to be at the forefront of the conversation. And given what you’ve just read, they also ought to be just the beginning.

My assignment for you is to read these two columns, absorb the information, and think about them critically. Ask yourself what is really going on in Jeffco. Like the Board, hate the Board, don’t care one way or the other? Fine. But at least find the clarity to inform your opinion with authentic facts and information. What a service that would be to public education!