Denver resident and community member, Mike Galvin submitted a question to A+ Answers. Mike asked, “DPS long term improvement trends appear to correlate with the gentrification of Denver neighborhoods. Have you controlled for demographic (economic class) change in any of your studies of schools that have improved, or for the overall change in DPS achievement?”
This is a key issue that Denver will need to continue to grapple with over the coming year as gentrification trends continue and accelerate. This question is very difficult to answer because it involves linking data from different sources which we cannot do easily. This is because as an organization we do not have access to student-level information which would be the best way to control for demographic change in a neighborhood. That information would need to be linked to Census data on neighborhood demographics. Mapping one dataset to the other to answer this question is unfortunately beyond our capacity at the moment.
Shift Research Lab has looked at some of the demographic trends in Denver which you can explore here. The first brief in our Denver’s Next Journey series looks at some of the enrollment trends district-wide (p.5) as well as some achievement changes over time by different demographic groups (p.7). However, as the question identifies, these are correlations, and determining the causal impact of demographics on achievement is a much more complicated question to answer with the data currently available to the public. We will continue to seek out creative ways to control for demographics in our work in the future to try to better understand the impact that changes in our community are having on changes in our schools.