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Press Release: Start with the Facts: Strengthening Denver Public Schools’ Education Pipeline

News Release
Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Media Contact
Christine Rafanelli, Communications Director
Colorado Children’s Campaign
Office: (303) 620-4544, Cell: (720) 281-8175
Van Schoales, CEO, A+ Denver
(303) 725-1151


Start with the Facts Report Examines Student Achievement and Growth, Barriers to Success

and Strategies for Improvement

Across all grade levels and subject areas, Denver Public Schools’ (DPS) students are making steady gains in academic achievement, but student outcomes remain below state averages for each grade and subject area, according to Start with the Facts:  Strengthening Denver Public Schools’ Education Pipeline, released today by A+ Denver, the Colorado Children’s Campaign, and Metro Organizations for People (MOP).  The report looks at key transition points for DPS students from 2005 to 2011 in order to assess outcomes and trends in academic achievement and growth as students move from preschool through K–12 and into college. In addition, the report identifies potential barriers to student success and recommends strategies for improvement.

“In order to effectively evaluate student achievement in Denver, we must start by taking a hard look at the data,” said Chris Watney, President and CEO of the Colorado Children’s Campaign. “We hope the information provided in this report is just the first step towards identifying and implementing the right strategies that will allow all DPS students the opportunity to reach their full academic potential.”

Among the primary findings:

  • Enrollment in DPS schools has increased. But, compared to other large school districts in the state, DPS has the highest number of students choosing to enroll elsewhere.
  • Data indicate that gaps in school readiness between lower-income children and higher-income children participating in the Denver Preschool Program are minimized by the end of the preschool year.
  • Between 2005 and 2011, DPS 4th graders overall made progress in each subject area. But, higher-income DPS students improved faster than their lower-income peers, widening the achievement gap.
  • Among DPS students, 8th graders made the greatest overall improvement in the percentage scoring proficient or advanced between 2005 and 2011. Both higher- and lower-income DPS students improved faster than students statewide in all subjects.
  • Since 2005, the percentage of DPS 10th graders scoring proficient or advanced has increased in all subjects for both higher- and lower-income students, outpacing gains in state averages. But proficiency levels drop across all subjects between middle and high school for both higher- and lower-income students.
  • DPS on-time graduation rates have increased slightly, from 46.4 percent in 2009 to 51.8 percent in 2010, while annual high school dropout rates have decreased substantially from 11.1 percent in 2006 to 6.4 percent in 2010.
  • ACT composite scores have improved from 15.4 in 2005 to 17.6 in 2011, outpacing growth at the state level.  And, the number and percentage of DPS students going to college have improved.  But the number and percentage requiring remediation in college have also increased. Denver Public Schools’ n

“While we do see positive gains in overall performance for most grades and subjects, the achievement gaps and college remediation rates are increasing for DPS grads,” said Van Schoales, CEO of A+ Denver. “We are making progress, but is it fast enough and deep enough to not leave most of Denver’s students behind?”

The report provides several recommendations aimed at helping policymakers, education advocates, educators, parents, and students better understand the progress of DPS students.  For example, the report suggests tracking the performance of all students in the Denver Preschool Program using a common statewide tool like the Results Matter program, giving equal weight to student achievement scores and student growth scores when reporting on student performance, and including information on each DPS high schools’ on-time graduation, college enrollment, and remediation rates on their school websites and providing parents with that information.

“As we discuss the data in this report, it’s critical to keep in mind that what’s really at stake here is the future of our students and our state,” said Karla Loaiza, Board Chair of Metro Organizations for People (MOP).  “Where we see progress, let’s celebrate, where we see disappointing trends, let’s figure out what’s not working and make adjustments.”

To access the full report, visit


The Colorado Children’s Campaign is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization committed for over 25 years to creating hope and opportunity for all of Colorado’s kids. Backed by an extensive, statewide network of dedicated child advocates and the most trusted data and research on child well-being, the Children’s Campaign champions policies and programs that improve child health, early childhood learning and development, and K-12 education.  For more information, please visit

The mission of A+ Denver is to harness the power of Denver’s civic leadership to build public will and advocate for the changes necessary to dramatically increase student achievement in public education in Denver. They are an independent, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization working to bring the power of Denver’s citizens to the effort of school reform. For more information, please

Metro Organizations for People (MOP) was founded in 1979 with the mission of empowering ordinary people to strengthen and transform their communities through community organizing. MOP trains volunteer community leaders, through a membership base of congregations and schools, to re-weave the web of relationships in community so that they can effectively work together across race, class and language barriers to rediscover a common good leading to a higher quality of life for our families, children and neighbors. For more information, please visit