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Celebrating Strong Progress, Focusing on Growth Gaps

A Note from Superintendent Tom Boasberg:

Dear DPS Community:

We got more good news this week on the progress our students are making in the classroom. Following on the proficiency gains we shared earlier this month, which show our kids have made dramatic gains over the past decade, this week we received a second set of results from last spring’s state assessments. And it shows that, when it comes to year-to-year learning gains, our students continue to outpace our suburban neighbors and the rest of the state.

The results released this week focus on the academic growth of our kids. While the proficiency scores give us a “snapshot” of where students are at testing time, the growth scores are more of a narrative — a look at how each student’s learning has progressed over the past year, in comparison to other students across the state who started the year at the same level. That year-on-year growth is a more complete picture of what’s happening with each student and inside each school.

And over the past year, our students and schools have again shown remarkable growth. For the fourth straight year, we had the highest (or tied for the highest) overall combined growth in English language arts and math among the state’s ten largest districts. A decade ago, by contrast, we ranked dead last in growth in the state. This is cause for celebration, and I am so grateful for the dedication, the belief in success and the flat-out hard work by our kids and teachers that have made this progress possible.

I visited Escuela Valdez in Northwest Denver on Tuesday to thank our students and educators for their outstanding work. The dual-language school showed the most growth of all of our schools, and among the highest growth of all elementary schools in the state.

One reason Valdez is such an important example is the absence of growth gaps between students of color and Anglo students. All groups of students at Valdez made strong academic gains, and our students of color and those in poverty made more progress than their classmates and their peers across the state.

Yet, this is not true across the district or the state, where the average student of color demonstrated less academic growth than the average white student this past year. These growth gaps are deeply troubling. Unless closed, these growth gaps will perpetuate and exacerbate the gaps in academic levels among our kids — and the gaps in opportunity in our society. And, even more troubling is that this past year in DPS saw a widening of our growth gaps among our students of color and white students. So, what are we doing to close these gaps?

Briefly, here are our critical areas of focus:

  • Ensuring our best teachers and school leaders are in our highest-poverty schools.
  • Ensuring our students get the personalized attention they need to meet their individual needs, in both academic and social-emotional supports.
  • Creating joyful, rigorous and personalized classrooms in schools where high expectations are set for all kids.
  • Ensuring students have access to quality early learning so early gaps are quickly erased.
  • Focusing on the importance of strong relationships with our families because of the vital role they play in the education of their children.

Finally, it is important to stress that as important as these growth numbers are, they are just one indicator of the progress and momentum in our schools. It comes alive more by visiting schools like Valdez and seeing and feeling the other signs — the light in our students’ eyes, the buzz in the hallways, the energy from the teachers and parents, and the belief in every child from the entire community.

That’s what has driven our improvement over the past decade. And that’s what will keep us moving forward — eliminating the gaps that remain, giving every neighborhood a great school and ensuring Every Child Succeeds.

Best,
Tom


Read the full Our DPS Weekly newsletter online: Celebrating Strong Progress, Focusing on Growth Gaps