"It is not ok to settle for ‘how things are.’ We have to work, together, to ensure that students are cared for, are loved and are as successful as possible. That is what equity means. It means meeting students where they are and helping them rise to and exceed their potential. It means that we need to understand that different students need different things and different support, and working together to ensure they have that. It also means holding all of us accountable.”
-TEN Parent Leader, Nathalie Perez, speaking to the DPS Board in December 2018
Denver Public Schools (DPS) currently has one of the largest achievement gaps in the country. If you are Latino, black, or if you’re working class, chances are that your educational experience looks dramatically different from students who are not. We as a country, and for many years as a city and district made it very clear whose education was most important to us and whose was education was not a priority. That status quo is unacceptable.
DPS has taken steps toward equity. They have started moving in the right direction with things like the Equity Indicator in the School Performance Framework measuring whether or not all kids are being served. They have begun to engage in what it means to support students in a changing housing market and how that affects schools, led by the Strengthen Neighborhoods Committee. Yet, we have not done enough. Our achievement gap persists. The graduation rate of Black males is projected to plummet to 26% this year. Nearly 71% of students are stuck in our lowest performing schools are Latino or Black.
In December, two of our TEN parent leaders gave testimony to the DPS Board of Education calling for even greater investment in the education of ALL children. They spoke not just to the journey of their own children but to the importance of ensuring all kids have an excellent education-- one that prepares them for success, honors their culture and voice and where every child can thrive with the help of supportive adults who believe in their greatness.
Our parent leaders outlined these four key actions that DPS needs to take to ensure every student has what they need to be successful:
Making sure that all schools and staff are engaging in ongoing implicit bias training.
Conducting equity audits to make sure that all schools are serving all kids.
Protect the equity indicator in the School Performance Framework, which holds all schools accountable for achievement gaps.
Commit to increasing access to high-quality public schools in all neighborhoods.
We are grateful that tonight, the DPS Board of Education put students first by acting on two of our four requests. We recognize their commitment to ensuring that your zip code will not dictate your opportunity or lack thereof. We also recognize that we have work left to do and are optimistic that the adults in this system will together to ensure that every child in every classroom is filled with love, learning and support. We will continue to stand with parents as they fight on behalf of all kids in Denver.
Lastly, we would like to thank Director Jen Bacon for her leadership on this critical conversation about student equity and student opportunity in this district. This is a first step toward what we hope will be a renewed commitment to addressing inequity in our district and ensuring that all children have access to an education that will prepare them for a lifetime of opportunity.