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Closing the Gap: Success in School Empowerment Strategies

Denver Public Schools has the third largest achievement gap in the country. At the large comprehensive high schools, in our city, students are receiving unequal educations that result in only some prepared for college. At George Washington High School, only 3 out of 10 black students are meeting college ready expectations on the 2019 SAT whereas 8 out of 10 of their white peers are. At East High School, 4 out of 10 Latinx students and 4 out of 10 Black students are college ready, whereas, 9 out of 10 of their white peers are. As we begin school on August 12, we owe it to our children to identify clear and actionable ways to close opportunity gaps throughout the city.


As a part of this promise, we have to assess what is working.


What is working? Giving communities back the power over their schools.


We know that schools where school leaders and teachers have control and power over decision making are making more rapid growth than their district managed peers, who have to conform to bureaucratic district programming. At a DPS Board of Education Focus on Achievement session on exploring innovation, the Principal of DCIS: Ford noted how her autonomy allowed her to adopt a phonics curriculum after her third graders were not on grade level. Her ability to adapt and respond to the needs of her community are why those kids will be reading on grade level by the time they enter middle school, forever changing their educational trajectory.


We know that when schools are given the freedom to adapt and respond to the communities that they serve, they can accelerate student progress.


The Center for Research on Education is conducting a series of studies examining school performance across selected U.S. cities.Their latest report, City Study 2019: Denver, shows bright spots for Denver Charters and Innovation schools looking to close achievement gaps.

Findings we wanted to highlight:


Overall:

-Students in Denver posted stronger learning gains compared to the state average gains in both reading and math throughout the 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17 school years.

-Black students are making more progress toward grade level at Denvers’ Charter and Innovation schools compared to their peers at District run schools.

-Latinx students are making more progress toward grade level at Denver Charters and Innovation schools compared to their peers at District run schools.

-Compared to the state average of students living in poverty, Denver students living in poverty overall make greater learning gains in both reading and math.


The report compiled and explored data that compared the charter, innovation school, and traditional public school sectors to each other, by using performance data from 2013-14 to 2016-17. Performance is defined as how much academic growth students made from one year to the next.The performance of students in Denver is benchmarked to the state average, accounting for student characteristics.



TEN will host members of CREDO will be joining education leaders for a more in depth walk through of the data and findings in August. If you are interested in learning more please contact Ariel Smith at Ariel.smith@transformeducationnow.org.