Improve Jeffco Schools

A different perspective on the current state of Jeffco schools

Page 2 of 9

Jason Glass and Civil Discourse

Jason Glass’s recent blog post on Civility and Civil Discourse and his actions clearly demonstrate that he doesn’t like criticism – AT ALL!

First, he shuts down his Jeffco Generations Facebook group which provided a forum for discussion about all things Jeffco schools related. Then he publishes a blog which stated his “rules of engagement” on civic issues.

Yet, once again, his actions speak louder than the words he writes.

It’s nice of him to talk about civil discourse, except when he doesn’t follow his own “rules of engagement”. With a history of blocking Twitter accounts, suppressing Public Comment at Board of Education meetings and not publishing letters to the Board of Education, all of which are Protected Speech under the 1st Amendment, he has shown that he isn’t interested in civil discourse at all.

In addition, on numerous occasions, Glass CHOSE to not engage in IMPORTANT conversations on his now shutdown Jeffco Generations Facebook group. Glass decided that he just didn’t want to be involved in civil discourse on topics such as Jeffco schools reading proficiency, 5B Bond questions and District 1st Amendment violations. And when the questions and discussions got too uncomfortable, he just shut it down.

If Glass truly wants to shut down criticism and critics he needs to do just a few simple things:

  1. Deliver on his promises. Setting Academic Performance Indicators in Jeffco Generations and not trending toward those goals is not inspiring and justifiably leaves him open to criticism and critique. Meeting the stated objectives leaves critics nothing to criticize.
  2. Be fully transparent. Tell the whole story – All of the time. Don’t just tell part of the story as happened with 5B. Don’t allow staff to tell the Board of Ed that poor performances during Spring 2019 testing were expected. Fully own up to the short comings. Until that happens any and all criticism is justified.
  3. Finally, show some respect to the people with whom he disagrees. Condescendingly and disrespectfully calling people “trolls” clearly demonstrates he truly doesn’t want civil discourse if it exposes his short comings.

Yes, actions do speak louder than words.

Glass has spoken loud and clear. If he doesn’t agree with you he will shut you down by any means available. He has shown time and time again that he has no qualms about publicly shaming and labeling his critics and that he will shut down any available avenues for that criticism, even if that means violating individuals’ 1st Amendment rights.

Civil Discourse in Jeffco? Only if Jason Glass agrees with you.

Glass’s Yearly Evaluation – A Pat on the Back Instead of a Kick in the Ass!

With falling academic achievement and atrocious growth rates substantially below state averages, it was interesting, and troubling, to read the Board’s recent yearly evaluation of Jason Glass.

Most troubling was the Board’s evaluation on what I consider to be the most important metric of the evaluation: Standard 5 Instruction. The narrative of this standard states: ‘Your rating on this standard reflects the disappointing drop in the district’s growth data on CMAS.’ Glass was given an Overall Rating on this standard as ‘Professional’.

For the Board to state that the drop is ‘disappointing’ is nothing but an understatement. When overall District growth rates for both ELA and Math are 3% points below state averages and barely above the growth rates for Adams 14, a District essentially taken over by the state, I would think words such as unacceptable, atrocious, horrific, pathetic and kid damaging would be more appropriate. Is the Board serious about the most important responsibility of the Superintendent? Let’s call a spade a spade here – Jason Glass is failing in his primary responsibility – ensuring kids get an excellent education in Jeffco schools. Yet, the Board gave Glass an overall rating of ‘Professional’. What does that mean? At first glance, ‘Professional’ means to me that someone is doing their job in an acceptable manner. – not great, but not bad. How, when achievement and growth are so bad, can someone be evaluated as ‘Professional’? If I was evaluating someone and they delivered results this bad, you can bet that the BEST rating they would have earned would have been ‘Needs Improvement’, but unfortunately, that’s not the case in Jeffco, with this Board, led by Ron Mitchell.

The Ethics Standard review is also questionable, particularly the rating of ‘Exceptional’ – ‘Your commitment to high ethical standards continues to be a strength of your performance … This trust is built upon your honesty, integrity, and values.’ Was there integrity and honesty in the way that Charters were cheated out of 5B (and probably 5A) monies? Absolutely not! What about the fact that over $10M in 5B funding projects was not accounted for in the highly touted FlipBook? Were projects, like Trailblazer stadium renovation, being intentionally hidden? And what about Kris Schuh’s we ‘anticipated an implementation dip’ excuse he gave to the Board in an attempt to explain falling achievement and growth scores in September? Glass didn’t challenge or attempt to correct this obviously false statement. Or, Tom McDermott, telling the Board that 2019 PARCC data is ‘similar’ to 2018 data when that data actually shows a decline or the misleading statement that Jeffco’s results are higher than the state averages when they should be higher based on different FRL populations. Or even Matt Flores telling the Board that SAT scores have been stable, when they’ve actually been falling. Deception and deceit are rampant in Jeffco and Glass gets an evaluation rating of ‘Exceptional’? The Board has been duped. They really need to open their eyes and understand what is really going on with Glass and District staff.

It’s also interesting to look at the Recommendations the Board gave to Glass. You would think that Recommendation Number 1, the top recommendation, would be related to raising achievement and growth. No, not in Jeffco. Recommendation Number 1 is: ‘Continue to improve the negotiation process with JCEA’. Are you kidding me? That’s the Number 1 recommendation, not something related to educating kids? Is this because JCEA was able to out negotiate Glass and get an additional 1% raise that the Board hadn’t budgeted for? Or is this because of all of the letters the Board got, from teachers, about the negotiations? In the end, this only shows where the current Board’s priorities are – Adults over Kids, Teachers over Students. Shameful.

Recommendations 2 and 3 had nothing to do with education either – essentially more collaboration and dealing with the impending budget crisis.

Recommendation number 4 was also interesting: ‘Identify additional ways to measure student success.’ This is essentially telling Glass that if you can’t meet the state defined measures of academic success – which he can’t – then go out and make up your own criteria. Change the narrative from something you and the District are failing at to something new that you can say you’re succeeding at. How about one of Glass’s famous surveys with leading questions administered unscientifically using Survey Monkey? Yep, that should do it – something that only the Kool-Aid drinking true believers have access to and will complete, excluding those people in the District who may not have access to computers or for those people for whom English is a Second Language and who are currently being hurt the most by District’s failures.

It’s a shame. The Board’s review of Glass seems like a pat on the back when it really should have been a kick in the ass as kids continue to be failed by Jeffco schools.

Jason Glass Never Ceases to Spin, Deceive and Deflect from His Responsibility

I found Glass’s latest Advance Jeffco blog post (https://advancejeffco.blog/2019/11/08/breaking-down-the-2019-election/) regarding the election to be a carefully crafted spin on the election and his side-stepping of accountability for the state of education in Jeffco Schools and almost an implied threat to the new Board members..

On the most important topic of the district’s instructional philosophy Glass stated: “our board going forward will need to wrestle with the choice between following through on building an educational experience emphasizing real-life experiences or an approach focused on standardized test scores.“

This is just flat-out wrong and an attempt by Glass to distance himself from any accountability whatsoever.

Why can’t the District provide an educational experience emphasizing real-life experiences and ALSO ensure that kids have mastered the fundamental educational skills they will need to succeed in the world? This is NOT an Either-Or choice as Glass would like people to believe.

Let’s look at this from another perspective. Schools exist to educate students. Fundamentally, schools need to teach students to be able to read and do math (among many other things). As parents and taxpayers, how do we know if schools are doing their jobs? There has to be some form of measurement. To me, it is pretty simple, if kids are being taught what the state has determined they should be taught, then their test scores will reflect that. People can complain about tests and evaluations all they want, but isn’t that what real-life is about? Aren’t tests one of the real-life experiences that Glass is talking about? Aren’t sports competitions merely an evaluation? Aren’t corporations’ quarterly and yearly earning results really a measurement of how a corporation is doing? Don’t many people have some measurable objectives at their place of work? Is there a better way to understand the academic growth and achievement of our kids and a way to hold schools, and Superintendents, accountable than through the use of standardized tests? Can’t schools practice those tests and use those practice tests as a learning experience? I always found that I learned a lot when my test results were reviewed. And, even as Glass talks about this he himself put numerous Academic Indicators of Success, based on standardized tests, into the Jeffco Generations document he likes to talk about. Are those goals suddenly meaningless now that the indicators are trending in the wrong direction and he’s looking bad?

Glass is getting paid good money to ensure our kids get an excellent education. On a high, conceptual level it sounds great that real-life experiences should be part of the education process and that kids need more skills than just reading and math. HOWEVER, don’t kids first need those fundamentals as a foundation for Glass’s Deeper Learning? When only 50% of Jeffo’s students are reading at grade level and even fewer are at math grade level, I think that the emphasis, first and foremost, in Jeffco should be on those fundamental skills. In addition, have Glass and Jeffco defined what “real-life” experiences every student should have before graduating? Is there a measure or check-list of those? How will we as parents and taxpayers know if this effort is successful? There have to be definitions and measures of success, otherwise, it is just a bunch of meaningless words that are written on a fancy looking Powerpoint presentation.

Regarding the closure of neighborhood schools, I would like to know how many of these are K-5 schools that were put at risk of closing due to the moving of 6th graders to Middle School? Did the Board consider this when they made that decision? Making the K-5, 6-8 model decision should have come with the implied long-term support for the small(er) K-5 schools that the Board created.

The next part of Glass’s narrative was off-putting and disturbing to me, particularly his use of the terms “factions” and “divisive partisan politics”. Is it “divisive partisan politics” when people have different philosophies on improving education? Can’t, and shouldn’t there be, real discussions on philosophies of education and how to improve our schools? It might be one thing if the measurable results in the District were great, but the truth is, they aren’t. That means that there NEEDS to be open and full-ranging discussions, particularly since the path Glass is now taking the District is unproven and has so far yielded negative results. That’s not being ‘divisive’, that’s doing what’s best for our kids!

So, the real challenges before the Board members are how they do what is best for our kids and community. How do we as parents and taxpayers measure if Glass and the Board are successful (the number of positive social media posts don’t count)? How much longer do we continue to fool ourselves, or be fooled, into thinking that Jeffco schools are great when there are so many kids who are being failed? Shouldn’t proven and science based approaches be used in our schools instead of nice “sounding” philosophies that haven’t been proven anywhere else? In the tech field, people would call the path that Glass is leading us to be on the bleeding edge – usually not a good place to be.

Glass also expounded on Jeffco 1A with the same type of over-simplification he decried about people in categorizing the Board candidates. Glass wrote that 1A “would have allowed the county to keep (and not refund) $16.1 million in revenues collected over the formulaic cap set in TABOR.” However, that was only for the first year, as in the 2nd year that amount could have been $32M. That was only part of the deception of 1A, and it looks like Glass fell for that.

Glass continued his attempted deception of Jeffco readers with his comment regarding CC when he wrote: “As such, Jeffco Public Schools will begin making budget forecasts for next year and into the future without these incremental funds.”

Again, a misleading over-simplification. CC funds would have been variable. The amount, and even if there would be any available at all, would change yearly. You can’t really budget for that funding into the future if you don’t know if it will even be there.

It might be nice if every now and then Glass wrote about the real education issues in Jeffco instead of his continued pandering to the white, activist soccer moms whose kids can read. But, if he did that he would have to admit to his failure to make improvements and get more than 50% of Jeffco students reading above grade expectations. It’s obviously easier, and more financially rewarding, for him to talk politics than improve education.

It’s time to focus on students in Jeffco – Vote Miller & Applegate

Chalkbeat has recently reported on the fund raising gaps in the Jeffco School Board races

When I see contributions such as these I always wonder why they were made. Obviously the teachers’ unions see some benefit for the nearly $50,000 they’ve donated so far to Chavez-Lee and Schooley.

For the past 4 years, the Board has been controlled by 5 members who have accepted large amounts of Teacher Union money during their campaigns. The Board made it clear that teacher salaries are a priority and teachers subsequently have seen increases totaling 20%. To finance those increases we have seen department level cuts, a tax increase and a school closing.

However, over the past 2 years student achievement and growth are substantially down. 54% of 3rd graders don’t meet state literacy expectations. 65% of 6th graders don’t meet state math expectations. Overall District academic growth is below the state average. That’s atrocious! Kids are suffering – falling behind and never catching up.

So, while the current Board members have accepted union contributions and focused on raising teacher pay, they seem to have forgotten the real reason the school District exists – to educate students and prepare them for a productive life. Students don’t need more of the same.

It’s time to get some independent thinkers and voices on the school Board. The Board needs members who will make it their priority to focus on students and raising student achievement and growth, something that has been grossly lacking over the past 4 years. Miller and Applegate will bring that much needed diversity of thought and opinion into the Board room.

Students, not funding, should be the priority in Jeffco. Vote Susan Miller!

Recently Chalkbeat published the answers to nine questions they asked Jeffco Board candidates Susan Miller and Joan Chavez-Lee.

The bottom line is that Chavez-Lee is focused on state funding, while Miller is focused on students.

Chavez-Lee says that the biggest issue facing Jeffco schools is the ‘amount of money it receives from the state of Colorado’. Miller, on the other hand, says that Jeffco ‘needs to do a better job of preparing our children for the challenges they will face after graduation’ and highlights the large numbers of students who are not meeting state literacy, math and science standards.

The fact that 54% of Jeffco 3rd graders do not meet state literacy standards and are doomed to higher probabilities of not graduating from high school, being incarcerated and lower earnings is the biggest issue facing Jeffco’s students and Jeffco. Coupled with declining overall achievement and growth scores, we need to acknowledge that Jeffco has significant issues.

It’s imperative that we have someone like Susan Miller on the Board. While we can acknowledge that more funding would be better, we need someone who more importantly recognizes the magnitude and severity of the education problem we have. We need someone like Susan Miller who will put students, not state funding, first.

The Myriad Lame Excuses for Jeffco’s Disastrous 2019 Assessment Scores

The scores were bad, but the variety of excuses for the atrocious results seemed endless. Brad Rupert started the Board discussion by attempting to blame the scores on the 5A/5B vote. I just can’t comprehend how that vote would affect scores. Not only was the vote in early November, but how were the kids involved? If the kids weren’t involved, then what Brad really meant was that the teachers were so involved in the vote that they weren’t properly performing their jobs. Is that what he was saying? JCEA probably wouldn’t agree with that, but wasn’t it really an attempt at shifting blame – from the teachers responsible for the scores to … teachers?

Brad’s next attempt was to blame the scores on the shift to the K-5, 6-8 model. Yet, once again, under scrutiny, this attempt backfires. The Board promised the community that the move to the 6-8 model would be good for kids. Growth drops of 7 points in both ELA and Math and real drops of 3 / 4 points doesn’t seem like it was good for the kids. This excuse once again only highlights the poor operational aspects of the move. And, who should bear ultimate responsibility for these scores? Teachers? Isn’t that their job? But, certainly no one will ever mention them as having responsibility for the drop. And, how did this move affect the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th and 8th grade CMAS scores? What about the PSAT and SAT drops? Lame, lame lame, Brad.

The next attempt at an excuse was Kris Schuh’s “we anticipated an implementation dip” excuse. Really? The District “anticipated” a dip? If a good organization “anticipates” something, don’t they plan for it? Since there was no mitigation, that must make Jeffco schools not a very good organization. In fact, it doesn’t seem like Jeffco did any planning for the “anticipated” dip at all. The “additional planning time” seemed like a knee-jerk, desperation attempt to stave off legitimate Board questions on what the District was doing. In addition, Flores didn’t have an answer for what the District would be doing to help PSAT and SAT scores. ‘Anticipated’? It seems far from it. Flores also stated that scores should be looked at through the lens of the DUIP. Yet, the DUIP showed that scores would increase for the 2018-19 school year. That doesn’t support the “anticipated dip” excuse from Schuh. Someone wasn’t telling the truth – either the person who wrote the DUIP and didn’t include the “anticipated dip” or Schuh in making up the lame “anticipated dip” excuse.

To top the list of excuses, the District attempted to blame a dead teenager, Sol Pais, for the fact that 2 schools didn’t get enough students to school to take the tests. That’s 2, just 2 out of how many? 100+ schools? And Jason Glass really expects people to believe that?

Having bad results is one thing. Good organizations have solid, concrete and measurable plans for improvement. Jason Glass and Jeffco demonstrated their complete and utter incompetence by not having those plans, but instead only producing lame excuses and half-baked and wish-washy plans, with no realistic chance for success to the Board.

Unfortunately, the Board let Glass and his merry band of incompetents off the hook too easily.

It’s time for a change of Board members and Glass. With 5 years now as a Superintendent in Colorado, Glass needs to be put under a critical lens as he has no track record of improving academic performance in either of the two Districts he’s been in.

Jeffco’s 6th Grade Move to Middle School Debacle

Jeffco’s Board promised that moving 6th graders to Middle School would be good for the students, despite some studies to the contrary.

It wasn’t!

In fact, measured by test scores it was a debacle and the magnitude of the drops is just mind boggling.

CMAS Math Growth was down a massive 7 points while the number of students meeting state standards was down a comparable 4% points.

It was the same for CMAS ELA. Growth was similarly down 7 points and the number of students meeting state standards was down 3%.

The only people that could call this move a success would be the Jeffco Board of Education who cited the “success” of this move in extending Jason Glass’ contract 5 years.

I think the exact opposite. When you see scores drop like this it demonstrates to me that Glass doesn’t have the leadership or skills necessary to move the District in the right direction and his contract should be terminated. He completely embarrassed the Board, but more importantly he completely let down the kids he’s responsible for educating.

I feel the same way regarding the Board of Education. If they consider this a “success”, their definition doesn’t match mine. I want to see thinking, and results, that are student focused. By extending Glass’ contract the Board clearly demonstrated that they aren’t student focused and they too need to be replaced.

Strong Leaders Surround Themselves with Even Stronger Subordinates

I was a bit surprised when Jason Glass took over as Superintendent of Jeffco schools and he didn’t replace ANY of the top leadership. In many instances a change in top leadership is accompanied by the new leader bringing in some of his “own” people. I always wondered why no changes were made, with the exception of bringing in the all important Chief Communication Officer he previously worked with in Eagle, a year after he took the Jeffco position.

  • Did Glass consider the people who were already there to be superstars? It’s hard to imagine that given the weak academic results of the District.
  • Did Glass not have a network of people he trusted and believed in from past jobs? That’s a possibility given he came from Eagle.
  • Does Glass have the arrogance to believe that he could make the incumbents better in their jobs? That’s certainly a possibility.
  • Was Glass so weak that he didn’t want to get rid of the incumbents? Again, that’s a possibility.
  • Does Glass not trust himself to be able to hire better people? Again, another possibility.

The bottom line is that for nearly 2 years all of the incumbents remained in place. Eventually, the Chief Human Resource Officer left, Kevin Carroll retired and the Chief of Schools – Elementary was hired away.

The jury is still out regarding Kevin Carroll’s replacement (good riddance, by the way). However, the replacement for Chief of Schools – Elementary is a head scratcher.

Strong leaders surround themselves with strong subordinates. Glass’s appointment of Renee Nicothodes, who spent many, many years at Adams 14, is not confidence inspiring. With the state essentially taking over Adams 14, Renee has NO track record of making improvements. Could Glass not get someone with a better track record, or is he afraid of bringing in someone who might be stronger than he is? Either way, it is an indictment of his leadership and a blow to the kids and improvement in Jeffco.

Why Did Jason Glass Get a Sudden 5-year Contract Extension?

Why did Jason Glass receive a sudden 5-year contract extension? We don’t know the answer to that. We only know that it was discussed in Executive Session, put on the public Board meeting agenda and quickly and unanimously agreed upon.

During the Board discussion multiple Board members had reservations about the suddenness of the vote, in favor of more transparency. In fact, the District’s counsel, Craig Hess, recommended against taking a vote without providing more time for public comment.

However, Ron Mitchell was adamant on jamming through the extension that night, using the fact that the minimal public comment was sufficient.

In the end, using the passage of 5A/5B and the 6th grade move to Middle School (Edit: maybe the 6th grade move wasn’t as good as the Board wanted it to seem) as examples of the “good” work Glass has done the vote was taken and ALL Board members voted for the extension – transparency by damned. And just like that, without waiting to see the performance results from Glass’ 2nd year Jeffco is locked into a still unproven Superintendent for the next 6 years. Not a good strategy, if you ask me.

And finally, once again, Glass’s contract contained no performance incentives. The kids in Jeffco can only hope the unproven “transforming the task” and “Deeper Learning” will actually have a positive impact on education. Without studies and proven results in any other school district I remain skeptical.

Jeffco Continues to Attempt to Hide Full-Time Enrollment Numbers for 5B Charter Allocation

Enough is Enough, Jeffco!

In response to a CORA request asking for FTE numbers, by school, for every school in the District, Jeffco responded by writing:

At this time, our Subject Matter Experts only have the unofficial student count by school for the Charter Schools and can provide that to you at no cost. If you would like the FTE data for every school in the District they estimate the time necessary to research and retrieve that information to be 3 hours.

This is just a BLATANT attempt to make it difficult for me to get the numbers!

And, it’s outright FALSE!

Let’s look at this from another perspective. If Jeffco truly doesn’t have these numbers:

  1. How could they calculate the Charters’ share of 5B funding?
  2. How does CDE have the detailed, by school numbers?

The answer to the first question is easy – Jeffco couldn’t make the calculation! This makes Jeffco’s response to my CORA request extremely difficult to believe.

For the second question, I know that CDE has the same detailed numbers because I sent a CORA request to CDE with the identical question. And, guess what? CDE responded. CDE gave me, without a fee, the breakout of FTE numbers by school in Jeffco. Yet, for some strange reason, Jeffco doesn’t have those numbers readily. How does CDE have the FTE numbers, readily available, and not Jeffco?

The answers to both of these questions make it impossible to believe Jeffco’s response to my CORA request.

That leaves the question of WHY Jeffco would respond in the manner they did.

Everyone can have their own opinion on the reasons, but I’m going to believe that Jeffco is trying hard to hide something (and I know what it is, thanks to CDE, but more on that later) and their response was outright deception and obstruction of attempts to determine the truth.

« Older posts Newer posts »