Denver

Over the past decade, the locally elected school board in Denver has given educators more freedom to meet the needs of the students they serve. These changes have led to incredible results across Denver: traditional, innovation, and charter schools in the city now outperform similar schools across the state.

In 2008, students in Denver achieved far below state averages and less than half graduated from high school.

In English Language Arts proficiency, Denver performed 22 points below Colorado’s state average.

63%

Statewide

41%

Denver
-
0
pts
below state average

In Math, the gap was 19 points

56%

Statewide

37%

Denver
-
0
pts
below state average

The graduation rate was only

Beginning in 2005, the Denver school board partnered with two superintendents, Michael Bennet (later Democratic Senator from Colorado) and Tom Boasberg, to create one of the most innovative public school systems in the country.

1

The city developed Innovation Zones, which allowed district principals to build their own non-profit organizations; district leaders also expanded the number of students attending high-quality charter schools.

2

The city created a unified enrollment system that provided families with transparent information and enrollment access to all public schools in the city.

3

District leaders built a school improvement plan that identified which schools should be expanded and which ones needed more support or intervention.

4

Denver Public Schools increased instructional training and support for teachers. The district also provided incentives that rewarded the best teachers and encouraged them to go to the schools where they were needed the most.

In 2019, Stanford researchers found that Denver students grew more than similar students from across the state.

Charter Schools

+ 0 %
estimated days of learning in ELA
Innovation Schools

+ 0 %
estimated days of learning in ELA
Traditional Schools

+ 0 %
estimated days of learning in ELA

Over a decade since reforms began, student learning gains continue to increase across all public schools

The graduation rate increased substantially.

52%

2018

70%

2019
+
0
point increase

Despite this progress, there is still work to be done. Denver schools still lag behind the state of Colorado as a whole in student proficiency levels, and there continues to be a performance gap between middle-income and low-income students.

Read a former Denver Superintendent’s assessment on how to continue the important work of improving the City’s school system.