A year-long community research initiative led through the PEACE Collective reveals that Brown, Black, and Indigenous students and their families in Denver Public Schools (DPS) care deeply about quality and equity in public education and envision a school district that offers equal access to everything that they need to thrive.
RootED Denver commissioned the study to examine and report the perspectives of students and families throughout DPS on what quality and equity mean to them. It found: “To be culturally responsive and just, the DPS system must acknowledge, account for, and address differential experiences and needs based on racial and socioeconomic injustice.”
The researchers, who mirror the ethnic diversity of the district, collaborated to determine how the inquiry would be conducted, and then finalized the questions to gain the most insight from the community.
Participants were recruited through community organizations that include: Colorado Youth Congress, FaithBridge, Project VOYCE, Transform Education Now (TEN), and Young Aspiring Americans for Social and Political Activism (YAASPA). YAASPA led the coalition in executing the study.
“Every student must get the resources, opportunities and skills that they need not only to survive but to thrive.”
Dr. Brenda Allen, University of Colorado Denver
This project is timely, in light of the district’s efforts to develop a new strategic plan, which involves community input and asks community members about characteristics of a DPS graduate, the meaning of educational equity, and actions the district should take to improve education for students.
“Wellness—physical and psychological—and family circumstances all play a role in student outcomes,” said Dr. Brenda Allen, one of the researchers who is Professor Emerita and former Chief Diversity Officer for the University of Colorado Denver and Anschutz Medical Campus. “If the school system isn’t intentional and specific about addressing these going forward, there is potential for continued intergenerational challenges and disparities. Every student must get the resources, opportunities and skills that they need not only to survive but to thrive.”
The report calls on DPS leaders to “take immediate action so that this generation of students, and subsequent generations, experience a quality, equitable education.” It makes ten recommendations, including ensuring consistency across and within DPS schools for equitable, quality education, and improving parent/family communication, support, and opportunities for learning and growth.
The report’s Primary Researchers included: María del Carmen Salazar, Ph.D., University of Denver, antwan jefferson, Ph.D., University of Colorado Denver, Brenda J. Allen, Ph.D., University of Colorado Denver, Howard University, Jesús Rodríguez, Ph.D., University of Colorado Boulder and Tracie Trinidad, MNM, University of Denver. Contributors included Janiece Mackey, Ph.D and Stacey Adimou.
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