Progress, But Opportunity Gaps Remain

Sep. 2, 2016
Superintendent Tom Boasberg visits students and staff at Palmer Elementary.

A Note from Superintendent Tom Boasberg:

Dear DPS Community:

There’s been a lot of growth in Denver’s schools over the past decade. Since the original Denver Plan was launched in 2005 to transform and improve our schools, Denver has seen greater enrollment growth than any other major U.S. city, our kids have shown greater academic progress on state assessments than students in any other major Colorado school district and we’re seeing record numbers of DPS seniors walk across the graduation stage each spring. Those are all important and encouraging signs of progress.

One big question that remains, however, is: How well are we preparing our students for success after graduation?

Now that we’ve raised our academic standards to a higher bar, we’re getting a truer sense about how our schools and our kids are doing on state assessments: the Colorado Measures of Academic Success or CMAS, which assess the kind of problem-solving, critical-thinking skills that our kids need to succeed in college and career.

In both math and English, we saw an increase in the percentage of our students who meet or exceed expectations in the 2016 results. In English, the percentage of Denver students meeting or exceeding expectations rose to 36%, up 3 percentage points from last year. And in math, the increase is 4 percentage points, up to 29%. Click here to see our 2016 CMAS results.

I am very grateful to our teachers and school leaders for all their hard work that has helped us close the gap between our students and their peers across the state. In 2005, Denver Public Schools trailed statewide averages by about 25 percentage points in both English Language Acquisition and math. A decade later, DPS has reduced that figure to four percentage points in both areas.

During this last decade, DPS students and schools have consistently outpaced their peers across the state in their year-to-year academic growth. Strikingly, for each year students are in DPS schools, they gain ground on state averages, with DPS seventh- and eighth-graders exceeding state averages in math and coming within one percent of state averages in language arts. Nevertheless, we are acutely concerned that, despite the progress, large majorities of our students are not demonstrating grade-level mastery in either subject, as that mastery is critical for their success later in college and career.

In addition, our major area of focus going forward is erasing the gaps that are not yet closing — the gaps in achievement between our white students and our African-American and Latino students. Like in many other cities across the country, our achievement gaps remain unacceptably wide. And while they are generally referred to as “achievement” gaps, we see them more as “opportunity” gaps, because they are the result of decades of educational inequity and lack of access to quality schools in communities of color. We’re working hard to change that.

Our Denver Plan 2020 stresses our commitment to offer great schools in every neighborhood that include quality preschool programs and support the whole child. In doing so, we will erase opportunity gaps and get all our kids ready for success in college and career.

That’s what we mean by our vision of Every Child Succeeds. That’s the challenge ahead. And I look forward to working together with the Denver community to build on the progress of the past decade and make that vision a reality.


Read the full Our DPS Weekly newsletter online: Progress, But Opportunity Gaps Remain