• June 21st, 2024
  • Friday, 08:13:12 PM

New Research Seeks Community Insights on Equity

Dr. Jesús Rodríguez


A new research initiative—expected to be finalized and released this summer—seeks to understand how Black, Brown, and Indigenous families and students in Denver Public Schools (DPS) conceptualize quality and equity in education.


A preview of the research reveals how parents and students appreciate the importance of individualized attention, regular communication, rigorous coursework, a culturally relevant curriculum, and strong mental health supports as key elements of a high-quality education.


I’m excited to be collaborating with an outstanding team of scholars to conduct this critical research, including: Drs. Brenda Allen, Sharon Bailey, Antwan Jefferson, Janiece Mackey, and María Salazar. We are working with the PEACE Collective (a coalition composed of Transform Education Now, FaithBridge, YAASPA, and various community members) and RootED Denver to hear from individuals in the community who have first-hand experience with DPS – whether they attend traditional, charter or innovation schools in the district. The overarching questions being asked of the participants are: What is the district doing to help you (or your student) succeed? And what should the district be doing?


Transform Education Now (TEN) Parent Fellow Dina Puente stresses strong communication and personal relationships with educators at her daughters’ schools as essential to their academic success. Puente’s kids attend KIPP and STRIVE-Prep public charter schools. “They have always been there for my children. But that goes on my part too, being a parent who is always reaching out to them and being involved, calling, texting, sending emails.”


On the question ‘what should the district be doing to help your child succeed?’ parent and research participant Alicia Biggs said increasing the recruitment and retention of teachers of color is essential. “When you go to a school like Hallett Academy or Martin Luther King Early College, or some of our other schools led by people of color, they hire teachers of color and those teachers stay,” said Biggs, who is also Director of Diversity Equity and Recruitment at Northeast Denver Innovation Zone. “How do we get teachers of color to stay?  If we don’t figure this out, we’re never going to have diverse educators staying in those schools where they are most needed.”


“I think DPS needs to listen. How can our kids be successful in their school work if their mental health isn’t 100%?”
Dina Puente, Transform Education Now


Puente, who lives in far northeast Denver, said students today are in desperate need of mental health support to process what’s happening in the world. She is especially concerned about the alarming spike in neighborhood gun violence and gang activity in her community, and its impact over the short and long term on children. “Mental health supports are needed out here. I have seen over the last three years the changes that have happened out here in this area with the young people,” Puente said. “I think DPS needs to listen. How can our kids be successful in their school work if their mental health isn’t 100%?”


“This equity-driven research is essential for the development of a community-based definition of quality teaching and educational equity. This process allows us to hear silenced voices and identify Black, Brown, and Indigenous community needs and desires. It is the voices of historically marginalized communities that should guide the Denver Public Schools and their equity initiatives moving forward,” said University of Denver Morgridge College of Education Professor Dr. María del Carmen Salazar.


“We recognize the district and the students and families served by DPS are dealing with unprecedented challenges, including a global pandemic and installing a new superintendent. Now more than ever, it is critical to understand how families and students see education and what they need from it. Their needs must outweigh politics,” says TeRay Esquibel, PEACE Collective member and Executive Director at Ednium: The Alumni Collective.


We hope this research will help inform the Board of Education as it prepares to install a new superintendent and as it develops the DPS 2030 strategy as well as the Re-Imagined SPF dashboard process.


“The most important aspect of this project is hearing directly from students, family members, and alumni,” said Dr. Brenda Allen, author and retired Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Colorado – Denver. “Their perspectives on equity and quality are crucial for developing strategies for student success.”


For more information on the PEACE Collective and the Equity Research Project, please contact Dr. Janiece Mackey, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Young Aspiring Americans for Social and Political Activism (YAASPA) at janiece.mackey@yaaspa.net.



Dr. Jesús Rodríguez is a former Denver Public School teacher, principal and instructional superintendent. He is current Executive Director of the Bueno Center for Multicultural Education at the University of Colorado in Boulder.



Read More Commentary: ELSEMANARIO.US