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Dreams Within Reach: A North Star to Graduation … and Beyond

Jan. 17, 2020
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Watch this video about our graduation rates, and learn more with these reports by CBS4 and Fox31.

Dear DPS Community,

This week, we celebrated the success that we’ve seen across the city in ensuring more of our students reach the graduation stage. Over the past six years, we’ve increased both the number and percentage of students graduating on time and in four years. In 2014, our “on-time” graduation rate was 62.8%. For the Class of 2019, that four-year rate has now increased to 70.9%, which means hundreds more of our students are receiving their diplomas and taking the first step toward a great future.

There is no more important work we do for and with our families than preparing all of our kids to be ready to chase their dreams after high school. And I’m so grateful for and energized by the talent and dedication of our students, educators, and counselors as they team up in that mission.

We gathered on Tuesday at North High School to celebrate the progress we’ve made and recognize the schools doing exceptional work. At North, students see the value of completing high school, even before they start there as students. The school arranges visits for eighth-graders to spend some time on campus and see what it’s like to be a North Viking. And then they are supported in the critical transition to high school with a freshman seminar class to help them understand academic expectations and the skills they’ll need to develop in order to graduate ready for their careers and college.

North High School Principal Scott Wolf’s team has created a culture centered on the academic promise and needs of every student. “I believe in each and every one of our students,” Scott said, “and it’s just amazing that when you set those high expectations, they all find a way to reach them. With that intentionality of support, our students are able to cross that finish line ready for the future. Crossing that finish line starts right now.”

What’s really remarkable to me is watching North students learn in-demand professional skills through the DPS CareerConnect internship and apprenticeship programs. Because CareerConnect is able to connect kids with jobs, they’re actually going into businesses and working in day-to-day operations in fields like audio production, software engineering and web design. Imagine being able to experience real work in high school as you figure out what you’re interested in pursuing as your career. It’s both grounding students in the real-world relevance of their education and motivating them to explore career paths.

North students are also being lifted toward success after high school through the school’s focus on our concurrent enrollment program, which allows them to take tuition-free, college-level classes — and earn college credits — while in high school. This connects students firmly to college, gets them a head start on a degree, and saves them money on tuition costs — all very important college-completion supports.

North is leading the way to sharpen our focus on equity. The overall, on-time graduation rate for the Vikings’ Class of 2019 is 85.9%. For Latino students it was 86.5%, and for students who completed our English Language Learner program, the graduation rate was an impressive 93.9%!

And we have made gains across the city. More of our students of color are graduating on time. The on-time graduation rate among DPS African-American students has increased from 62.4% in 2014 to 68.3% this year, and over that same time the graduation rate for Latino students has risen from 58.2% to 68%. At Tuesday’s celebration, we recognized many of the high schools across Denver that are doing such great work with our students. Click here for a full list of those schools.

The equity challenge that lies ahead of us is to keep building on that progress. To intensify our resolve and focus. To strengthen our support, targeted to the students who need it most. To set the bar high for ourselves and for all of our children. And most importantly — as Scott said — to believe.

Warm regards,