Michael Hancock launches Denver Education Compact to help improve public schools

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After spending the morning with W., Mayor Michael Hancock (who the former president said was classy), launched his Denver Education Compact, a committee of big brains set to tackle the city's school system, which graduated just 51.8 percent of students on time last year. Hancock, who spoke a lot about education on the campaign trail, said today he hopes the compact will help change that and other shortcomings within Denver Public Schools.

"This is not a place for debate. This is not a place for ideology," he said, addressing the more than twenty business and education leaders seated at long tables in a room lined with books at the City and County Building. "This is a place for action."

The compact will eventually be led by Theresa Pena, who has served on the DPS school board for eight years, four of them as president. Pena is term-limited; when her time on the board ends in November, she'll take over as head of the compact.

DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg is a co-chair of the compact, as is Donna Lynne, the president of Kaiser Permanente Colorado. Like any good initiative, the compact needs a catchphrase, and it has adopted one that is at least alliterative if not original: that Denver needs to educate its children from "cradle to career."

Today's two-hour meeting was spent mostly on introductions and presentations by Boasberg, Eileen Piper, CEO of the Denver Preschool Program, and Beth Bean, director of research for the state Department of Higher Education. The presentations highlighted the good and the bad in each of the three systems. For example:

DPS -- Good: Dropout rates decreasing. Bad: Poor students still performing worse on tests than middle-class students.

Denver Preschool Program -- Good: Four-year-olds who attend preschool scoring better on tests. Bad: Shrinking funding means less ability to provide money to families to pay for preschool.

Higher Education -- Good: More high school students taking college courses. Bad: Lots of DPS students still must take remedial classes in college.

The group also heard from Jeff Edmondson, who runs a national "cradle-to-career" initiative called the Strive Network. Edmondson helped start a similar compact in Cincinnati in 2005, which led to his work with Strive. He told the leaders that Denver is "well-positioned" to have its compact make a difference. "You're already way ahead in this process," he said, referring to reforms DPS has adopted on its own, in addition to the fact that the superintendent of schools is willing to sit at the same table with the mayor to figure out further actions. "Denver has got more potential than anywhere."

Flip the page for a complete list of Denver Education Compact members. Lara AlKarim, senior at South High School Jill Barkin, JP Morgan Chase Christine Benero, Mile High United Way Tom Boasberg, Denver Public Schools Kelly Brough, Denver Chamber of Commerce Cedric Buchanon, BBVA Compass Mario Carrera, Entravision Communications Linda Childears, Daniels Fund Robert Coombe, University of Denver Pat Hamill, Oakwood Homes Michael Hancock, Mayor of Denver Walter Isenberg, Sage Hospitality Anna Jo Haynes, Mile High Montessori Helayne Jones, Colorado Legacy Foundation Steve Jordan, Metropolitan State College Donna Lynne, Kaiser Permanente Christine Marquez-Hudson, Mi Casa Resource Center Terry Minger, Piton Foundation Cliff Richardson, Community College of Denver Daniel Ritchie, Denver Center for the Performing Arts Tony Salazar, Colorado Education Association Landri Taylor, Urban League of Metropolitan Denver Kent Thiry, Davita Corporation Jerry Wartgow, University of Colorado Denver

More from our Education archive: "Jennifer Draper Carson, Arturo Jimenez's stand-in clash at DPS board candidates forum."

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