Aug 1, 2023 - Education

Study finds "pervasive" segregation in Denver Public Schools

Illustration of two people divided by a school notebook, one black student pointing one while the white student looks up with arms on her hips

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

In Denver, white students attend majority-white and higher-income schools, despite being a minority in the district.

  • And Latino students and English learners go to schools where the majority of students live in poverty.

Driving the news: The alarming trend is evident in a new study that shows Denver schools remain solidly segregated by race and income despite decades of efforts to integrate the system.

  • The study considered schools segregated if student population demographics diverged 20% or more from the district's average.

Why it matters: The disparities significantly impact educational outcomes and opportunities for students, such as graduation rates and selection for gifted programs, our education reporting partners at Chalkbeat write.

By the numbers: More wealthy schools report graduation rates 10 to 40 percentage points higher than poverty-prone schools, the study found.

  • More than half of the students in the gifted and talented track attend schools that are white and higher-income.

What they're saying: "These findings indicate that school segregation is a pervasive problem in Denver Public Schools," study authors Kim Carrazco Strong of The Bueno Center for Multicultural Education at the University of Colorado Boulder and Craig Peña of the Latino Education Coalition write.

The other side: "While many factors led to this outcome we are not without blame. It is time for DPS to take a look in the mirror and see if any of our own actions may have contributed to the re-segregation of our schools," Denver superintendent Alex Marrero told Chalkbeat in a statement.

Context: The district's students are roughly 25% white and 75% students of color.

  • Just over 50% identify as Hispanic or Latino. A third of all Denver students are learning English.
  • About 63% qualify for free- or reduced-price lunch.

The big picture: More than half of the Latino students and English learners were enrolled at segregated schools based on race and income, researchers reported.

The bottom line: The study didn't offer solutions to the problem, but made clear that attending integrated schools leads to better outcomes for students.

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