Our DPS Weekly: On Equity and Integration

Sep. 16, 2019
 
Two Valverde Elementary teachers smile for a photo while seated in a library
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Watch the Valverde Elementary episode of our "Schools to Learn From" video series, featuring fourth grade teaching team Ms. Kay and Mery Suarez

Dear DPS Community,

 

Our schools have been the subject this week of two newspapers stories focused on integration — last Sunday in the Denver Post and just yesterday in the Washington Post. Both articles raise important issues and challenges around how housing patterns, school district policies, and family choices affect racial enrollment patterns in our schools.

 

And it’s an area where we have focused significant resources and attention, which has resulted over the past decade in more of our African-American and Latino students attending schools that are more diverse. As someone who grew up in the era of court-ordered integration in the 1970s and ’80s, I know firsthand of the benefits that can come from initiatives that prioritize racial diversity in school enrollment.

 

I also know firsthand that the community that I grew up in was not equitably resourced or prioritized by education and city leaders. So for kids like me, integration gave us a way to reach the education resources and instructional excellence that were not always available close to my family’s home.

 

Today in DPS, our sharpest focus is on equity. That means our highest priority is making sure that children and families in every Denver neighborhood have a good school close to home — one that has the instructional excellence and the resources it needs to remove any barriers that stand in the way of the academic success of its students.

 

We have a lot of work ahead. While we have made strong and steady progress across the city over the past decade, we still have inequities, opportunity gaps, and too many neighborhoods without the type of quality schools and instruction that we need to provide.

 

We also want to give our families an equitable and simple choice system to empower them to pick the best school for their child. And since 2012, when we moved to SchoolChoice, the common enrollment system for all of our schools, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of students of color whose families are actively choosing their school.

 

But what we hear most from families is that they want to start their search close to home. We welcome and encourage that, and we’re working hard to make sure the schools in every neighborhood are high quality.

 

And we’re seeing some success, at schools like Valverde Elementary School in Southwest Denver. The leadership and staff at Valverde have done exceptional work, backed by additional resources and support from the district. It’s one of several schools that we need to learn from, and I encourage you to watch these short DPS Features videos highlighting these high-growth schools. (We will be featuring more “Schools to Learn From” in videos throughout the school year.)

 

This is where our equity focus is the strongest and tightest: targeting resources and support to communities that have been underserved, to drive these types of improvements and help ensure that all families have a good school close to home.

 

Warm regards,
Susana