19 November 2014

George Washington High School's IB Program Excels At Sending Low Income Students To Top Colleges

The Denver Public Schools is largely dismantling in the first two year (critically undermining its last two years) of its IB program, because of concerns about disparities between low income students who make up a larger share of George Washington High Schools non-IB program and more affluent ones who make up a majority of George Washington High School's IB program.

It is ironic, in light of this news, that this very program is actually more effective in sending low income students to top colleges in absolute terms than any other program in the state, and, it sends a very high percentage of low income student to top colleges relative to the percentage of affluent students who do so.

While the fact that the IB program at GW has successful graduates certainly owes a great deal to the fact that it selects only the most academically able students; academically talented low income students at other high school programs are much less likely to go on to top colleges at the vast majority of other programs in the state and in the Denver Public Schools, than similarly talented low income students in the GW IB program.

For example, low income students in GW's IB program are more likely to enroll at top colleges (44%) than more affluent students at Boulder High School (32%), the Denver School of Science and Technology (25%), or Denver's East High School (18%).  (More affluent students at GW's IB program are the most likely to attend top colleges (65%) than any of the other programs evaluated.)

This high level of success may have as much to do with the fact that the students in this program (which my daughter attends) are a tight knit group that reinforce each other's common educational goals and aspirations, as it does with the content of the coursework.

The Denver Public School district would be well advised to abandon its misguided efforts to overhaul this very successful program and to instead focusing on improving the programs in the district that are broken.

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