Count off

On count day, a look at the ups and downs of Denver enrollment

PHOTO: Kate Schimel
Maxwell Elementary principal Nivan Khosravi greets students as they arrive. Several weeks into the semester, he still had new students arriving.

Schools around the state are keeping a close eye on attendance today as they prepare to submit the exact number of students they have to the state. For many Denver schools, that number is higher than it was a month ago, when school started.

Oct. 1 is count day, when the number of students in classroom seats on that day determines how much funding schools and districts will receive. In Denver, that count will likely show a continuation of an upward trend that started several years ago, with more and more students enrolled in Denver Public Schools. Last year, that trend resulted in Denver Public Schools beating out Jeffco Public Schools for the title of state’s largest school district.

But it’s already clear that the enrollment increase isn’t uniform across the city. Some schools have seen a steady stream of students arriving, even after school started. For others, the numbers of students district officials projected would enroll failed to materialize.

District estimates suggest that over 2,000 more students have enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade in Denver than official state counts last year. Preschool enrollment, a focus for the district, is still too in flux to estimate but last year, it helped boost Denver’s numbers above Jeffco’s.

But one pattern that has also emerged — and promises to create challenges for schools — is a large number of students enrolling after the start of the year. The number of students who enrolled after the first day of school district-wide almost doubled this year, from 750 to 1406.

Large numbers of students arriving after the start of school creates a tangle for teachers and schools, as they try and retrieve records and place students where they’ll learn best. Districts like Denver have tried to streamline their systems to make new student arrivals a faster and less disruptive process, but experts say it’s still a challenge both for students and schools to manage. It can take weeks for a student’s records to arrive and teachers often have to figure out a student’s abilities or academic history with little prior knowledge.

And some Denver school have seen a veritable flood of students. At George Washington High School, 37 new students enrolled between the first day of school and Sept. 11. Also high on the list was Place Bridge Academy, with 32 new students, and Eagleton Elementary, with 28 new students.

Explore our database of how many new students arrived after the start of the year at Denver schools in the past two years.

But some schools are facing a different challenge entirely — not enough students. At Manual High School, where an impending but undefined overhaul has thrown the school’s future into question, enrollment fell substantially below the district’s projections.

Just 279 students have enrolled in the school this year. That’s down over thirty percent from last year and is over 140 students fewer that district officials predicted. That drop led to a loss of roughly $262,000 in funding for the school, even after the district provided additional support to the struggling school. That means school leaders have had to cut four teaching position and a staff position.

Across the district, 31 teachers will lose their positions due to reductions in staff, based on enrollment. The district did not provide additional details on where those cuts took place.

Teachers, have you noticed lots of new faces in your classroom? What are the challenges of getting them incorporated in the flow of the classroom? Any tips for other teachers? Tell us at [email protected] or on Twitter @ChalkbeatCO. We’ll follow up with teachers’ responses and more on the challenges of getting new students up to speed.

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 [email protected]

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.”