Winter | Issue 7 | Date: February 17, 2021
Funding Great Schools. Rooted in Community. 
Research on Equity and Quality in Denver Public Schools
RootED and the PEACE Collective (a coalition including Transform Education Now, FaithBridge, YAASPA, and community members) have teamed up with Drs. Antwan Jefferson, Jesus Rodriguez, Maria Salazar, Brenda Allen, Janiece Mackey and Sharon Bailey to conduct deep community research focused on quality and equity through the lens of student, alumni, and family lived experiences. This project seeks to understand: How do Black, Brown, & Indigenous families and students in DPS conceptualize quality and equity in education?

The group seeks to answer this by connecting with 150 - 200 individuals who have first-hand experience with the district to answer the following: What is the district doing to help your student succeed? And what should the district be doing?

Where did this work originate?
This work stems from the findings of the Family Decision Making report published by the Denver Journal for Education and Community which helped to inform the District’s Reimagining the SPF process. What we heard from both the report and in the District’s statements during the SPF review is a fundamental lack of understanding around how Black, Brown, and Indigenous students and families perceive what makes a quality, equitable, and empowering educational experience. 

The work, more particularly the process by which the work was conducted, led to deep conversations that cut through ideologically entrenched lines because it was grounded in the realities and lived experiences of those most impacted by the decisions being made. 

We recognize the District and the students and families served by DPS, are dealing with unprecedented challenges, including a Superintendent search and global pandemic. Now, more than ever, it is critical to understand how families and students see education and what they need from it. Their needs must outweigh politics.  

What do we hope the work will accomplish?
  • We hope the product of this research will help inform the District as it conducts its superintendent search, develops the DPS 2030 Strategy and the re-imagined SPF Dashboard process.
  • We also recognize that this work will likely lead to deeper inquiry and we are interested in what we learn and where this takes us. 
Grantee Feature
French American Academy of Denver
The French American School of Denver will be the city’s only free, non-profit public French language immersion school. And, when it opens its doors to students in the fall of 2021, the school’s educators hope to provide a learning environment for Francophones including African immigrants who have grown up speaking French at home. 

The school’s plan to emphasize equity, inclusion and culturally responsive education is generating excitement in communities, and Chalkbeat reports that the Denver Board of Education was impressed by research that shows the benefits of language immersion programs. 

“Language immersion programs have consistently been shown to address and improve achievement gaps,” says Angela Strange, co-founder and Board Chair of the school. “Children that are bilingual are more advanced readers in English, they score higher on standardized tests in English, and are more likely to graduate than their monolingual counterparts attending English-only schools.”
Watch the video below to learn more about the French American School of Denver.
Making Up for Learning Loss
Alarming new survey results show families are concerned that remote learning has resulted in academic losses and less engagement for Denver’s students. 

Among the notable findings in a Keating Research poll of 647 parents or guardians:

  • 65% say their student is learning less online.
  • 49% say their student frequently or occasionally misses or has a hard time understanding online lessons.
  • 48% say their student frequently or occasionally logs in for remote class but doesn’t interact or engage.
  • 17% (or one in six) say they have opted to homeschool their student, transfer their student to a private school or enroll their student in another school district.

Still, the survey noted, 64% of parents or guardians with students in Denver Public School are satisfied with the learning options the district is offering, with higher rates of satisfaction among parents or guardians with students in middle and high school. 

A separate survey conducted by Transform Education Now polled 650 Colorado families and found that only half think their students are prepared to advance to the next grade level. 

The surveys have prompted Transform Education Now and other family and student advocacy groups to create a call to action, asking the Denver Board of Education to develop a plan to better measure and communicate student progress to families; to find creative solutions to mitigate learning loss and provide better social-emotional supports to students; and to collaborate with educators, families and community members to develop a vision for equitable, quality, free public education.
We See You!
Black Leaders - past and present - are inspiring young voices
In celebration of Black excellence, Black History Month and the historic inauguration of Vice President Kamala Harris, eighth-grade students Aniya Turner, Aquina Marie Bowers and Carlos Robles have shared essays that honor the contributions of Black leaders.
These student essays remind us of the importance of resilience and visibility – and in these young learners, we see hope. 

Read Aquina’s, Aniya’s and Carlos’s essays.
Aquina Marie Bowers
Aniya Turner
Carlos Robles
Black Excellence Resolution Update
Salute to Highline Academy
Highline Academy, a public, non-profit charter school network, is making significant progress toward becoming an anti-racist organization and celebrating Black Excellence, and families have played a critical role in helping educators and students have authentic conversations about race and racism.

Highline’s educators participate in an anti-racist study group with a teacher-led anti-racist steering committee, and the Highline team is engaged in meaningful work to develop more inclusive environments for students and educators.
Engagement has been one of the program’s biggest successes, Executive Director Chris Ferris told the Denver Board of Education during a Focus on Achievement session in January. The network’s in-depth work provides opportunities for educators, families and students to talk about racism and racial identity in grade-appropriate curriculum.
Race has become part of the network’s everyday dialogue, whether in discussions about biases, selecting curriculum or educator evaluations, Ferris said.

Learn more about Highline's efforts.
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