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Denver Fellows Expand Focus to Include Literacy

Jan. 12, 2017

Once focused exclusively on math through small group instruction during the school day, the Denver Math Fellows – a Denver Public Schools (DPS) 2012 Bond-funded program – is now helping students get caught up with reading.

Watch the DPS Features: video on YouTube and Vimeo.

A couple of years ago, Valeria Marroquin –  an eighth-grade student at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College  – was as far from confident in math as Pluto is from the sun. And now, Marroquin feels quite differently.

“Oh yeah, it’s actually my favorite subject. I’m better at math than my other classes,” she said. “If I try really hard and put effort into my studying, I will be fine.”

Marroquin puts that effort in with an increased confidence that she credits to the Denver Fellows small-group instruction program. Through free tutoring that takes place during the school day, and within the school building, students have shown marked improvement in their math skills.

“We fundamentally believe that every child should have access to small group instruction as part of the school day to supplement their regular classes,” said Tim Johnson, director of the Denver Fellows program.

In an effort to expand that impact, Denver Fellows has expanded its focus to helping students in both math and literacy. The program focuses on the two major indicators to determine a student’s likelihood of graduating high school on time and their likelihood of succeeding in college without remediation:

  1. The student is reading at grade level by third grade
  2. The student is mastering algebra 1 by ninth grade

In return, the Denver Fellows is further closing opportunity gaps that often face many students across Denver Public Schools, particularly those students who need private tutoring instruction but whose families cannot afford it.

“For me, that’s my big motivation,” said Perrin Bischoffberger, a Denver Fellow who instructs math at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College. “My kids are getting a service they would normally not get if [Denver Fellows] were not here.”

At the core of the program is a heart for service from the nearly 300 fellows, like Perrin, who sign up for a service year with Denver Fellows. According to Johnson, many fellows who sign up treat the service year as a jump start toward a career in teaching.

“It is a year of service and an incredible sacrifice, and it’s incredibly challenging,” said Johnson. “But knowing that you are making a difference in the lives of kids is something that’s truly invaluable, and will stay with you for a long time.”

While the program has already given her confidence with math, for students like Marroquin it will make an even larger impact on expanding opportunities within her life after graduation.

“I want to be somebody in life,” she expressed. “My family… they didn’t go to college. They are having a hard time in life because they weren’t educated that much. I want to be an example to my sisters so we can help our parents when we grow up, and make them proud.”

For more information on the Denver Fellows, visit