Looking Back to Face Forward: Confronting Growing Gaps and Declining Achievement in Denver Schools

Report by Colorado Children's Campaign, The Piton Foundation
July 2005

Shift Research Lab   (Denver)

As Denver Public Schools enters a new era and its leaders begin setting a vision for the future of public education in Denver, the city is provided with a unique opportunity for honest reflection and thoughtful examination of meaningful data. With this opportunity in mind, The Piton Foundation and the Colorado Children’s Campaign have conducted an in-depth analysis of DPS’ performance over time on the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) test.

Overall, the analysis shows that DPS’ lowest income schools – those most in need of academic growth – have shown little progress on the CSAP since the test’s inception in 1996. While some CSAP gains have occurred, they have been disproportionately in the district’s highest-income schools. As a result, the achievement gap in the district has widened, despite a concerted effort over the past few years to narrow it. What we found, while not good news, holds some hope for the future, particularly if the district, and the city as a whole, can develop a long-range strategic plan that adopts practices that have begun showing results in other major cities.