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DPS board prepares for new schools vote

Fewer than 5 percent of freshmen from two Denver high schools – North and West – are prepared for college four years later without needing remedial help once enrolled.

Nearly two-thirds of eighth-graders attending schools in far northeast Denver leave the area – and DPS altogether – for high school.

Virtually every elementary school in southeast Denver is at or over capacity as families flock to the area – but many students living there opt to go private.

Denver school board members spent nearly two hours Monday sorting through that kind of achievement and enrollment data as they prepare for a June vote on 11 new schools applications.

The data provides a regional analysis of need, by performance and capacity, as board members try to figure out which schools might fit where across the city. Any schools approved next month will be assigned to a region – a specific building location won’t come until November.

Board members don’t have to approve any schools and DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg said staff recommendations on the 11 schools at the June 17 meeting “will include a lot of no’s.”

Some board members requested more information and one, Andrea Merida, pushed for an emphasis on existing schools before opening new ones. “Let’s work with what we have first,” she said.

Boasberg countered that the two actions – improving existing schools while approving new ones – are not “in opposition.” “We don’t see that as mutually exclusive,” he said.

He pointed to an analysis of DPS high school freshmen enrolling in college four years later and the percentages, by school, of those able to jump into college coursework without remedial help.

East High School topped the list for traditional comprehensive schools, with a 30 percent rate of high school graduates able to enroll in college without remediation. West High School was at the low end, with 1 percent, and nearby North High fared little better at 4 percent.

“Those percentages are truly a crisis situation,” Boasberg said. “This is not just a high school issue. This is very much a feeder pattern issue. What it calls out extraordinarily, strikingly, is how much more work we’ve got to do to significantly, significantly increase these numbers.”

Click here to see the 59-page analysis and here for links to the 11 new school applications. What follows are highlights for each of the city district’s five regions:

Far Northeast

Demographic – Seven of nine neighborhood elementary schools are operating at or above capacity; DPS plans to open a preschool center in 2011 to relieve crowding and will include a new elementary in a future bond issue.

Choice – Only 57 percent of high school students who live here attend school here; of this area’s 8th-graders in 2009, 50 percent left the area for another DPS school and 16 percent left the district altogether.

Performance – Just 6 percent of Montbello High graduates are prepared for college without remediation; the district will apply for turnaround funds for Montbello and Noel Middle for 2010-11.

New schools applicants – Two charters – SOAR Elementary and Independence High School – want to move into the area, along with two performance schools – a replication of the Denver Center for International Studies, with a K-12 campus, and the Denver KEY K-8 school. Also, a KIPP middle school was approved for this area last year.

Near Northeast

Demographic – An elementary will open in 2011 and a middle school in 2012 to address rapid growth in Stapleton, with help from city and developer; DPS is expected to seek funds for a high school in a future bond election.

Choice – Just over 50 percent of the high school students in the Manual High boundary attend either Manual or nearby Bruce Randolph 6-12 School; about 250 more high school students leave the area than enter it.

Performance – Nearly one in four elementary seats are in “red” schools, those ranked the lowest on the district’s school performance framework; DPS applying for turnaround funds for Gilpin Elementary.

New schools applicants – Two performance schools – Denver British Primary elementary and Good Earth elementary – have applied to locate in the area, along with two charters – University Prep elementary and Janus International Academy K-8. Board also expected to receive proposal to locate a campus of the Denver School of Science and Technology at the Cole Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Demographic – Increasing growth in elementary grades in next two to five years could mean re-opening schools closed in 2008; that growth could help fill Skinner Middle, a school undergoing revitalization.

Choice – Number of sixth-graders living in Lake Middle boundary has doubled with implementation of new Lake International Baccalaureate and West Denver Prep charter at Lake campus; 55 percent of high school students living here choice out of area but options such as CEC Middle College bring more high school students in.

Performance – North and West are lowest-performing high schools in terms of graduates needing college remediation; area has the highest number of “red” seats – those in lowest-performing schools – in the city; DPS applying for turnaround funds for North.

New schools applicants – A charter, Praxis, wants to locate here to serve high school students with special needs and those lagging in class credits for their age; school is a replacement for P.S. 1 Charter.


Demographic – At least ten elementary schools in central part of area are operating at or above capacity; DPS projects need for up to 1,000 more middle school seats by 2015; Abraham Lincoln High School, a district center for native Spanish speakers, is overcrowded.

Choice – Despite crowding at Lincoln, the area’s other traditional high school, John F. Kennedy, has space; over 2,000 high school students living in the area don’t attend school here; DPS will open an alternative high school, Summit Academy, this fall.

Performance – Area has seen greatest improvement in performance of any region in the city; 2,000 elementary seats were “red,” the lowest-performing, in 2008 compared to 600 in 2009; one school in area, Munroe, remains a “red” school.

New schools applicants – A performance school, Eva Elementary, has applied for this area; district also deciding on long-term home for second campus of West Denver Prep charter middle school.


Demographic – DPS projects need for up to 1,000 elementary seats despite opening two new elementary options, Denver Green School and Denver Language School, this fall, when grades K-5 are projected to be at 104 percent capacity.

Choice – Despite crowding, elementary schools have among the lowest “capture” rates of resident children because of high concentration of private schools here; capture rates also low at high school grades, with enrollment dropping at Thomas Jefferson High by 8 percent in past three years.

Performance – No schools in the area are rated “red,” the district’s lowest ranking, though just 26 percent of seniors at Thomas Jefferson and 13 percent of seniors at South High enroll in college and are not in remediation the following year.

New schools applicants – None.

Nancy Mitchell can be reached at or 303-478-4573.

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