05 November 2009

The State of Denver Public Schools Not Swell

A new school board is about to take office in the Denver Public Schools and the transitional item, finished by the last board, but subject to review by the new school board, will be how to deal with six troubled schools, three neighborhood schools and three charter schools. Those schools are: Lake Middle School, Philips Elementary and Greenlee Elementary and Northeast Academy Charter School, P.S. 1 Charter School and Skyland Community Charter School.

This highlights the fact that the board inherits a school district that has problems that need to be solved.

Almost 20 percent of seats in Denver's schools are empty, 53 percent of schools are on watch or probation and nearly 7,000 students in the city choose to be educated in places other than Denver Public Schools every year.

From here.

Likewise, "3,600 students drop out of DPS each year and that among the more than 7,500 who fall behind on the four-year graduation track, 42 percent are at risk of dropping out later." (Full report here.)

But, not all parts of the Denver Public School District have the same problems.

Holding On To Kids

One particularly interesting statistic in the Colorado system of widespread school choice is "capture" which measures what percentage of kids in the area attend DPS schools in that part of DPS.

In (predominantly Hispanic but gentrifying) Northwest Denver the capture rate is 80%, and "Denver has a net gain of 334 Westminster students. "

In (historically African-American and rapidly growing from new development) Northeast Denver, the capture rate is 82% and "Denver has a net loss of nine students to Commerce City and a net loss of 93 students to Adams 12 Five Star."

Far Northeast Denver (out toward the Denver International Airport) has lots of new suburban sytle development and a shortage of schools. the capture rate is 69%. "DPS has a net gain of 560 students from Aurora, net gain of 57 students from Brighton, net gain of 37 students from Mapleton."

In Southwest Denver, which has grown considerable more Hispanic and Asian in recent years and become less affluent, the capture rate is 63% and "Denver has a net loss of 1,156 students to Jefferson County and a net loss of 562 students to Littleton." Middle class kids that remain (far Southwest Denver has a reputation for being the City's "cop town", favored by protective service workers who want a suburban environment without having to fear residency requirements) often choice out to neighboring suburban school districts.

DPS also has a low 63% capture rate in Southeast Denver, the most affluent part of DPS, despite the fact that students in schools in this part of the city have the highest CSAP test scores. "Denver has a net gain of 356 students from Cherry Creek, a net loss of 1,138 students to Douglas County, a net loss of 191 students to Englewood and a net loss of 312 students to Sheridan."

Good academic performance does not imply high "capture" rates. Southeast Denver has by far the best academically performning schools in the District, 77% of students are in schools that meet or exceed expectations, yet it is tied for the lowest capture rate and sends a net 1,285 students to neighboring districts. In contrast, Northwest Denver's schools, which are the academically poorest performing in the District (with just 18% of schools meeting or exceeding expectations), has the second highest capture rate in the City and produces a net gain in interdistrict transfers.

Denver isn't primarily losing more students to parochial schools either. The decline in Roman Catholic K-12 enrollment in Denver has paralleled the decline seen in the public schools.

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