Dear DPS Community:
In neighborhoods all across our city, thousands and thousands more Denver families have made the choice to send their children to Denver Public Schools. As a result, we have become the fastest growing school district in any city in the country. And for the first time in four decades, the Denver Public Schools–with more than 88,000 students–is projected to again be the largest school district in Colorado in terms of enrollment.
I want to thank our teachers, school leaders and support teams for their work in driving the improvements in our schools, which are in turn driving this enrollment boom. With the improvements, our schools are attracting and keeping families that formerly did not choose DPS.
The trend is striking and marks a remarkable paradigm shift. For decades, we saw parents in our country’s urban areas move out of cities in search of a better education for their children. Now, however, we see thousands and thousands of families staying in Denver or coming to Denver because of our schools–because our schools in Denver can offer their children the best possible education.
Six years ago, after years of enrollment stagnation, we were forced to close schools because we had too many school sites and not enough kids. Now, thanks to the 20% jump in enrollment during the last six years, we have reopened every one of those closed school buildings and are adding capacity throughout the city to meet the demand – from Brown Elementary in Northwest Denver to the new Pascual LeDoux Academy in Southwest Denver, from Hampden Heights in Southeast Denver to Green Valley Ranch in Far Northeast Denver, from McGlone Elementary in the Montbello area to the new Isabella Bird school in Stapleton.
“When we as parents make choices about where we send our children to school, I think the first thing we are looking for is outstanding academics, and that’s what we find here,” said Scott Esserman, a parent of two students at Montclair School of Academics and Enrichment in East Denver. Montclair has seen a 56% enrollment increase since 2008 and is a vivid example of the boom we are seeing in many neighborhood schools throughout the city.
I am also very appreciative for the support of our community. In our partnership with the city of Denver, we are fortunate to be part of a very healthy civic cycle, in which DPS is benefiting from the city’s growth and DPS’ improvements are helping to drive that growth.
While the overall growth in the quality of our schools is the primary driver of enrollment growth, there are several specific factors that play important roles:
Middle Schools Grow Enrollment
Since 2008, middle school enrollment in DPS has grown by 3,162 students, or a 21.8% increase. To compare, during the five-year period from 2002 to 2007, middle school enrollment declined by 1,300 students, or an 8% decrease.
Since the launch of the Denver Plan, we have placed an emphasis on strengthening our middle schools and offering families more high-quality middle schools. The significant improvements in our middle schools have, in turn, driven very strong enrollment gains and reversed a pattern in which DPS used to lose many students between elementary and middle school.
Decline in Drop-Out Rate
A second driver has been the decrease in our drop-out rate. Since the start of the Denver Plan in 2005, DPS has cut its dropout rate in half, resulting in 2,000 fewer students a year who drop out.
More Seats for Young Students
A third driver of increased enrollment has been our expansion of Early Childhood Education opportunities. Since the introduction of the Denver Preschool Program in 2008 and aided by the early childhood investments in the 2012 Mill Levy, DPS has expanded its total preschool seats by more than 1,400. Importantly, these funds have also allowed DPS to dramatically increase full-day preschool offerings.
Regional Growth in FNE & Stapleton
Finally, population increases in the city, and especially in Stapleton and Far Northeast Denver, have also driven increased enrollment. In the last three years, DPS has welcomed nearly 1,000 new students from Stapleton alone. Forecasts show that DPS can expect about 1,900 more students in Stapleton in the next five years.
While this is very encouraging news, we still have much work ahead of us. Our biggest challenge ahead is closing our achievement gaps. Every one of our students–no matter their background or zip code–comes with innate ambition and talent, and we recognize and cherish the potential and dreams of each of our students.
So I thank our families for putting their children’s education and success in our hands. It is perhaps the most important choice a parent can make, and at DPS, we are committed to doing everything we can to help each and every one of our students reach their potential and achieve their dreams.