DPS board prepares for new schools vote

Fewer than 5 percent of freshmen from two Denver high schools – North and West – are prepared for college four years later without needing remedial help once enrolled.

Nearly two-thirds of eighth-graders attending schools in far northeast Denver leave the area – and DPS altogether – for high school.

Virtually every elementary school in southeast Denver is at or over capacity as families flock to the area – but many students living there opt to go private.

Denver school board members spent nearly two hours Monday sorting through that kind of achievement and enrollment data as they prepare for a June vote on 11 new schools applications.

The data provides a regional analysis of need, by performance and capacity, as board members try to figure out which schools might fit where across the city. Any schools approved next month will be assigned to a region – a specific building location won’t come until November.

Board members don’t have to approve any schools and DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg said staff recommendations on the 11 schools at the June 17 meeting “will include a lot of no’s.”

Some board members requested more information and one, Andrea Merida, pushed for an emphasis on existing schools before opening new ones. “Let’s work with what we have first,” she said.

Boasberg countered that the two actions – improving existing schools while approving new ones – are not “in opposition.” “We don’t see that as mutually exclusive,” he said.

He pointed to an analysis of DPS high school freshmen enrolling in college four years later and the percentages, by school, of those able to jump into college coursework without remedial help.

East High School topped the list for traditional comprehensive schools, with a 30 percent rate of high school graduates able to enroll in college without remediation. West High School was at the low end, with 1 percent, and nearby North High fared little better at 4 percent.

“Those percentages are truly a crisis situation,” Boasberg said. “This is not just a high school issue. This is very much a feeder pattern issue. What it calls out extraordinarily, strikingly, is how much more work we’ve got to do to significantly, significantly increase these numbers.”

Click here to see the 59-page analysis and here for links to the 11 new school applications. What follows are highlights for each of the city district’s five regions:

Far Northeast

Demographic – Seven of nine neighborhood elementary schools are operating at or above capacity; DPS plans to open a preschool center in 2011 to relieve crowding and will include a new elementary in a future bond issue.

Choice – Only 57 percent of high school students who live here attend school here; of this area’s 8th-graders in 2009, 50 percent left the area for another DPS school and 16 percent left the district altogether.

Performance – Just 6 percent of Montbello High graduates are prepared for college without remediation; the district will apply for turnaround funds for Montbello and Noel Middle for 2010-11.

New schools applicants – Two charters – SOAR Elementary and Independence High School – want to move into the area, along with two performance schools – a replication of the Denver Center for International Studies, with a K-12 campus, and the Denver KEY K-8 school. Also, a KIPP middle school was approved for this area last year.

Near Northeast

Demographic – An elementary will open in 2011 and a middle school in 2012 to address rapid growth in Stapleton, with help from city and developer; DPS is expected to seek funds for a high school in a future bond election.

Choice – Just over 50 percent of the high school students in the Manual High boundary attend either Manual or nearby Bruce Randolph 6-12 School; about 250 more high school students leave the area than enter it.

Performance – Nearly one in four elementary seats are in “red” schools, those ranked the lowest on the district’s school performance framework; DPS applying for turnaround funds for Gilpin Elementary.

New schools applicants – Two performance schools – Denver British Primary elementary and Good Earth elementary – have applied to locate in the area, along with two charters – University Prep elementary and Janus International Academy K-8. Board also expected to receive proposal to locate a campus of the Denver School of Science and Technology at the Cole Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Demographic – Increasing growth in elementary grades in next two to five years could mean re-opening schools closed in 2008; that growth could help fill Skinner Middle, a school undergoing revitalization.

Choice – Number of sixth-graders living in Lake Middle boundary has doubled with implementation of new Lake International Baccalaureate and West Denver Prep charter at Lake campus; 55 percent of high school students living here choice out of area but options such as CEC Middle College bring more high school students in.

Performance – North and West are lowest-performing high schools in terms of graduates needing college remediation; area has the highest number of “red” seats – those in lowest-performing schools – in the city; DPS applying for turnaround funds for North.

New schools applicants – A charter, Praxis, wants to locate here to serve high school students with special needs and those lagging in class credits for their age; school is a replacement for P.S. 1 Charter.


Demographic – At least ten elementary schools in central part of area are operating at or above capacity; DPS projects need for up to 1,000 more middle school seats by 2015; Abraham Lincoln High School, a district center for native Spanish speakers, is overcrowded.

Choice – Despite crowding at Lincoln, the area’s other traditional high school, John F. Kennedy, has space; over 2,000 high school students living in the area don’t attend school here; DPS will open an alternative high school, Summit Academy, this fall.

Performance – Area has seen greatest improvement in performance of any region in the city; 2,000 elementary seats were “red,” the lowest-performing, in 2008 compared to 600 in 2009; one school in area, Munroe, remains a “red” school.

New schools applicants – A performance school, Eva Elementary, has applied for this area; district also deciding on long-term home for second campus of West Denver Prep charter middle school.


Demographic – DPS projects need for up to 1,000 elementary seats despite opening two new elementary options, Denver Green School and Denver Language School, this fall, when grades K-5 are projected to be at 104 percent capacity.

Choice – Despite crowding, elementary schools have among the lowest “capture” rates of resident children because of high concentration of private schools here; capture rates also low at high school grades, with enrollment dropping at Thomas Jefferson High by 8 percent in past three years.

Performance – No schools in the area are rated “red,” the district’s lowest ranking, though just 26 percent of seniors at Thomas Jefferson and 13 percent of seniors at South High enroll in college and are not in remediation the following year.

New schools applicants – None.

Nancy Mitchell can be reached at or 303-478-4573.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”