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Denver superintendent honored for serving Hispanic students

Boasberg eats lunch with students at Cowell Elementary's Summer SLAM Program in 2016.
Boasberg eats lunch with students at Cowell Elementary's Summer SLAM Program in 2016.
RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post

The leader of Colorado’s largest school district, where 55 percent of students are Hispanic, is being honored by a group of school administrators for serving Hispanic students well.

Tom Boasberg, superintendent of Denver Public Schools, has been named the Hispanic-Serving School District Superintendent of the Year by the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents. The group will recognize him at a gala in Washington, D.C.

Boasberg has helmed Denver Public Schools since 2009. His nomination form notes that four-year graduation rates for Hispanic students have increased in the past 10 years from 30 percent in 2007 to 64 percent in 2017. The five-year graduation rate is 79 percent.

In addition, more Hispanic students are taking rigorous courses, the nomination form says. In 2007, Hispanic students took a total of 2,556 Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and concurrent enrollment college courses. In 2017, that number was 7,021.

His nomination form also says Denver Public Schools during his tenure “pioneered the seal of biliteracy for the state of Colorado.” The seal is meant to indicate that students are fluent in English and at least one other language. More than 400 Denver students graduated with the seal last year, and 26 of them graduated proficient in three languages.

“This award represents the hard work of educators throughout Denver Public Schools and I am honored to accept it on their behalf,” Boasberg said in a statement. “We have much work to do for our Latino students in front of us, but I am excited about the work we are doing and will do.”

In his statement, he noted the progress Denver’s English language learners have made on state literacy and math tests. They used to trail their peers statewide, but they now outperform them. National test data released this week shows that English language learners in Denver also outperformed English language learners nationwide in reading.

However, that same national test data showed that Denver has yawning achievement gaps between white and Hispanic students. The gaps in Denver were among the biggest compared to gaps in 26 other large, urban school districts around the country.

The data, from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, tests also showed that Hispanic fourth-graders in Denver scored 23rd out of the 27 urban districts in math, and 19th out of 27 in reading. Hispanic eighth-graders in Denver scored 18th out of the 27 urban districts in math, and 16th out of 27 in reading.

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