Denver Public Schools says it's the fastest-growing urban school district in the U.S.

Categories: Education

Tom Boasberg.
Denver Public Schools is projecting that it will once again be the largest school district in Colorado, a title it hasn't held since the 1970s. With an estimated 88,208 students enrolled this year, up from 72,188 students ten years ago, DPS calls itself the "fastest-growing urban school district in the country." At a press conference held in a fourth-grade classroom today, Superintendent Tom Boasberg said the growth in enrollment is due to Denver's school reforms.

But will those reforms continue?

As we explained in our recent cover story, "Drawing the Line," next month's school board election could change the direction of DPS. Four seats on the seven-member board are up for grabs -- and about half of the nine candidates don't think DPS's aggressive reforms are working. If they win a majority of the open board seats, the district could undergo a shift in policy.
Melanie Asmar
Tom Boasberg speaks to the press at Montclair School of Academics and Enrichment.
Today, in a bright classroom full of attentive fourth-graders (and news reporters) at the Montclair School of Academics and Enrichment in east Denver, Boasberg credited teachers and school leaders for "driving the improvements we're seeing in the Denver Public Schools. And those improvements...mean that we're seeing thousands and thousands more families in Denver choosing the Denver Public Schools."

Attracting and keeping great teachers is "the number one priority" of the district's reforms, known formally as the Denver Plan, Boasberg added.

"Seven or eight years ago, at the start of the Denver Plan reforms, we had a status quo that wasn't working as well as it needed to work for too many of our neighborhoods and too many of our kids," he said. "And the Denver Plan reforms were aimed at challenging the status quo, changing that status quo, and bringing about the kind of changes necessary to improve our schools -- to focus first and foremost on attracting, retaining and developing great teachers, great school leaders. But it also meant being a much more decentralized and innovative and flexible system of schools."

Denver Public Schools
This chart, provided by DPS, shows the district's enrollment over the years. The asterisk is explained like this: "*Includes Early Childhood Education (ECE) enrollment, including community partner seats. These figures are projections and are subject to change upon final release of enrollment numbers by the state later this semester."
Montclair is a great example, Boasberg said. In 2009, it became the first school in the state to be granted innovation status, which means the school can request waivers from certain district policies. For example, Montclair can choose its own curriculum instead of using one dictated by the district, it can hire teachers whenever it needs to and employs teachers on a year-to-year basis rather than following the hiring-and-firing provisions in the teachers' union contract, says assistant principal Emily Zabroski.

Continue for more about today's DPS event, including another photo.

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Johnson Lori
Johnson Lori

Too bad graduation rates aren't increasing also

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