More Denver students placed at top choice schools

Hundreds more Denver students earned a spot in their top choice school in the second year of the district’s streamlined SchoolChoice process but the number of participating families did not increase, district officials announced Wednesday.

SchoolChoice is a single application and simplified process that was unveiled in Denver Public Schools last year. The new process was introduced with the aim of making school admissions fairer for all families. Previously, each school had its own distinct form and process and well-connected families knew how to work the system.

More than 23,000 students — about the same number as last year — submitted forms this year for placement during the 2013-2014 school year. About 40 percent of the district’s students attend a school other than their neighborhood school.

District officials said about 78 percent of students entering transition grades (kindergarten, sixth and ninth grades) received their first choice, and 92 percent of transition grade students received one of their top three choices. All students received a place at their neighborhood school if they so requested. And 96 percent of students who listed five choices received one of those five. These numbers include students who live outside of the district and have the lowest choice priority.

Of those families who participated in SchoolChoice, 52 percent were Hispanic and 28 percent were white. Districtwide, 58 percent of students are Hispanic and 20 percent are white.

However, because of a shortage of early childhood slots, only 79 percent of families received a place in one of their top three choices in those programs. That left 249 families who didn’t get placed in any of their top five school choices. In total, 370 families did not get any of their top five choices, down from 393 last year.

Denver school officials pointed out that money from the bond and mill approved by voters in November will help expand early childhood offerings in southwest and far northeast Denver.

Students who participate in SchoolChoice are asked to rank their school preferences on a form and submit it no later than Jan. 31. Students have the option to list up to five school options, and then the DPS Office of Choice and Enrollment Services office matches students to a school based on availability.

In response to feedback from families, DPS next fall plans to have the SchoolChoice form available for submission online, instead of having to fill out and turn in a paper form.