Don’t Judge A School By Its Test Scores

Originally published in The Greater Park Hill News on Nov 2nd, 2019


Video Highlights Inequities In Park Hill

For nearly two years, Park Hill Neighbors for Equity in Education has been hard at work, listening, learning, illuminating inequities in our neighborhood schools, fostering discussions, drafting policy ideas, and creating fun events for all of our Park Hill students to enjoy.

While we have developed a deeper understanding of the issues facing our neighborhood schools, and we believe that it is possible to change policies to increase equity for all kids, we need more input from you.

As with any systems’ change, policies that affect equity in our neighborhood schools will only be effective if they are backed by our community. Many of our Park Hill neighbors have been reading our articles and columns in these pages, and participating in our events. There are still many more who are unaware of the current challenges facing our four Greater Park Hill elementary schools, including Hallett Academy, Park Hill, Smith and Stedman.

Thanks to PHNEE’s communications’ team, the process for sharing this information with friends, family, and neighbors has been made easier. Through a brand new, six-minute video, the inequities that affect our schools are outlined in a quick and easy-to-understand way.

The video addresses four main problems that affect our neighborhood schools: uneven school boundaries, unintended consequences of school choice, a flawed school rating system, and enrollment-dependent school funding.

Often, before a family moves into a neighborhood, the first question they ask is, “How are the schools?” In DPS, families can quickly look up a school’s color-coded rating on the School Performance Framework (SPF). Unfortunately, the SPF is based mostly on standardized testing which is a better indicator of the socioeconomic status of the school than of the actual achievement of individual students.

The school choice process that encourages families to choose highly rated schools can lead families to ignore lower rated schools and, even, send their children to a school outside of their neighborhood. In fact, last year, 700 Greater Park Hill children did just that, and over $2.8 million of school funding went with them.

All DPS schools receive per-pupil funding to pay for operating expenses, including teacher salaries, materials, and other resources.

When schools are at capacity (which is often impacted by the school’s attendance boundary) they are able to fill all staffing positions and offer more opportunities for field trips, specialized programming, even paraprofessionals or teachers of the arts. Such opportunities often bolster standardized testing scores, and can be alluring to future families and students, thus growing enrollment and leading to more funding.

Conversely, when fewer students attend a school, there’s less money for programming and supports, and less money to spend on marketing, thus making recruitment even harder and leading to fewer students enrolled. . . the cycle continues.

Imagine what the Greater Park Hill Neighborhood would look like if we broke that cycle; if it had four high-achieving, culturally diverse, thriving elementary schools that truly reflected our entire community.

That’s where you come in. We need you to talk to your friends and neighbors, to share with them the impact of implicit bias in schools, how school-choice affects school funding, and the economic benefit of having all of our Park Hill students graduate from high school.

We need you to encourage your friends to look beyond the School Performance Framework, and judge a school by more than its test scores.

Please visit to learn more, view our video, and offer your feedback. Then, share the video, and start a conversation with your own network of friends and colleagues.

Greater Park Hill needs you.  Your involvement will make all the difference.

Erin Pier is a mother of three, Stedman parent, and school psychologist at AUL Denver. She is an active member of the Park Hill Neighbors For Equity In Education, which works toward diversity, equity, and inclusion in all schools in the neighborhood. For more information, check out the group’s Facebook page at, or send an email to


Don’t Judge A School By Its Test Scores