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Board Narrative

Students at Colfax Elementary smile for a photo.
School photoshoot at Colfax Elementary in May 2018

DPS Overview and Background Statement for Superintendent Search 2018
AUGUST 9, 2018

WHO WE ARE

A Diverse Family of Students

Denver Public Schools is a large, diverse urban school district with more than 92,000 students in 207
schools and almost 12,000 employees.

We are very proud of our diversity and believe it is one our greatest strengths. Students of color comprise the majority of DPS’ ethnically- and culturally-rich student population, which includes 55% Latino, 13% African-American, 2% Asian, 0.4% Native American, 5% multi-ethnic and 24% white students. Sixty-seven percent of students come from families that qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch benefits, and 33% are identified as English language learners, with more than 160 languages spoken at home.

The district has welcomed an increasing number of immigrant and refugee families. The Board of Education and superintendent have taken strong action, in collaboration with Denver’s mayor, to ensure a safe and welcoming environment for all students, regardless of immigration status.

While DPS has made real progress toward creating a diverse workforce of educators and school leaders, too many of our students of color still don’t have the opportunity to be taught by someone who looks like them. Our goal of achieving a workforce that more closely reflects the demographics of our student population remains one of our district’s top priorities.

A Diverse Family of Schools

DPS’ family of schools model includes a broad and diverse mix of school types, sizes and structures, including:

  • District-run schools serving three quarters of total students
  • Roughly a third of our district-run schools are innovation schools, where teachers, parents and school leaders come together on an innovation plan that meets the needs of their students and community; and
  • Public charter schools serving a quarter of total students.

We have benefitted from a high level of collaboration and shared learning among all our family of schools. All of our public schools – both district-run and charter – have come together to commit to equity of opportunity, equity of responsibility and equity of accountability for all schools. And, all of our public schools play by the same enrollment rules, with an emphasis on access for and service to our highest-need students – our students with disabilities, English language learners, low-income and transient students.

A unified choice system is used to manage enrollment and ensure enrollment equity for all schools in our family of schools, including charter schools. The district adopted a unified choice system after community organizations and parents pushed the district for more equitable access to DPS schools in 2011. A key part of the choice system has been the creation of community enrollment zones, in which district-run and charter schools all serve within shared boundaries, which are drawn to promote greater socioeconomic integration throughout all the schools in the zones.

Our Budget Philosophy

We target resources in order to ensure that funds are invested based on the needs of our students and that we maximize funding at the school level. We believe that those closest to our children – our teachers, school leaders and communities – know how best to spend their dollars to meet their kids’ needs, and they should have the flexibility to do so.

The Denver Plan 2020

Equity is the driving force for everything we do in DPS, as we strive to attain the district’s five overarching
goals:

  • Great schools in every neighborhood
  • A foundation for success in school
  • Close the opportunity gap
  • Support for the whole child
  • Ready for college and career

These five goals are outlined in The Denver Plan 2020 and were informed by an intentional and significant community engagement process that reached out to broad and diverse stakeholders. After 2020, we know that this work will continue with community voice informing the next iteration of the Denver Plan.

The Board

We are a diverse board; we have been DPS parents, and we have experience in the classroom, at the state capitol, with local community organizations and with the City and County of Denver. Most importantly, we have an unrelenting commitment to ensuring every child succeeds.

We believe in leadership driven by our Shared Core Values at every level of the district, informed by robust and authentic engagement of the community. We believe culture is as important as strategy; support goes hand in hand with accountability. The execution of our values and vision – that every child succeeds – drives the excellence and performance results that we relentlessly pursue as a district and community. We are committed to the early foundations for success through implementation of the Early Literacy 2020 Strategic Plan, as well as key initiatives such as Strengthening Neighborhoods and the African-American Equity Task Force.

We have a governance approach that is exemplified by a strong and close working relationship between the board and the superintendent. We have also built a strong senior leadership team that facilitates innovation in alignment with the board and community.

PROGRESS MADE

Since the inception of the Denver Plan in 2005-06, enrollment in DPS has grown by nearly 20,000 students, or 27%. DPS has had the top academic growth among large Colorado school districts for each of the past four years. This growth manifests itself in a significant narrowing of proficiency gaps with the state: in 2005, there was a 25% proficiency gap between DPS and the state in English Language Arts, and that gap is now down to 4%.

Our improvement efforts have spanned the entire K-12 system and beyond – from early childhood to career. Today, 850 more of our youngest learners are entering kindergarten ready to learn because of increased access to early childhood education. This past year, DPS graduated approximately 2,100 more students than in 2006; and the number of African-American and Latino graduates nearly doubled during that time, from 1,706 to 3,407. Over that same time period, drop-out rates declined by 60%, with 2,200 fewer students dropping out in 2016-17 than did a decade ago. Similarly, the out-of-school suspension rate has declined by 69% since 2007-08, meaning we are keeping more students in the classroom through graduation.

We have historically received strong support from our communities through the passage of bond and mill levies. This additional funding has been critical in an environment where Colorado’s education funding is among the lowest in the country.