Moskowitz Won Many Battles

Literacy skills improve but problems remain

Irv Moskowitz declared poor reading the enemy.

During his five years as superintendent, Denver Public Schools won some battles and literacy skills went up.

The war continues. Reading remains a top challenge for the next superintendent.

Other issues for the new boss include:

* Boosting achievement overall and with minorities in particular. Ten of 11 grades improved on standardized tests last year. But only four grades scored above the national average.

* Black and Hispanic students consistently score 20- 30 percentage points lower than their Anglo classmates.

* Just over half of Hispanics graduate. Hispanic students make up half of the district’s 66, 000 students.

* Improvement on new state standards. Last year, only 19 percent of fourth-graders passed the writing test and 32 percent passed in reading. Forty-six percent of third-graders passed the reading test. These are some of the lowest scores in the state.
* Better relations with Hispanic families and neighborhoods.

* Sensitively carrying out a new bilingual program that stresses learning English over mastering two languages.
* Finding better ways to educate students from lower-income homes; they make up two-thirds of the enrollment.

* Improve efforts, particularly in low-income areas, to reach out and get parents involved in education.

* Making school governing committees more relevant to their schools. The committees are active in only two-thirds of the 111 schools.

* Maintaining programs for higher-achieving students such as the gifted and talented.

* Keeping millions of dollars flowing for teacher aides and other support for reading instruction.

* The emerging trend of parents wanting kindergarten through eighth-grade schools instead of separate middle schools.

* The growing desire for longer school years or at least a year-round calendar.

* The need for more arts education.

* Managing the construction of nine new schools, major improvements to two dozen and projects at many others paid for by a $305 million bond issue passed in November. Voters also approved a property tax hike of $17 million for classroom programs.

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