DPS receives $10 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

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DENVER -- Denver Public Schools is looking to address the race and income gap in college readiness with a $10 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The district says for the class of 2018, college enrollment rates for black students were 15 percentage points lower than those of their white peers. Latino students' college enrollment rates were 21 percentage points lower than white students'.

The district hopes to change that with the new funding.

“This will ensure historically marginalized students are prepared to graduate on time and ready for career and college,” said Veronica Figoli, president and CEO of the DPS Foundation.

The grant will help leaders at 10 schools research and identify barriers, test solutions and make change. They will be looking at specific issues at each school.

“They might be things like attendance and coming up with solutions to attendance issues. There might be failure rates in ninth-grade math -- that tends to be a real gate keeper -- and coming up with solutions to how we can get more students to pass ninth-grade math,” said Superintendent Susana Cordova.

For example, at CEC Early College in Jefferson Park, 95 percent of students are people of color, 80 percent qualify for free and reduced lunch, and 77 percent are English language learners. The graduation rates are high, but the principal says there are issues she wants to understand.

“Half of our male freshman right now are failing at least one class. We've already put some steps in place, and that number has greatly reduced,” said Jamie Lofaro, the principal.

The funding allows leaders from different schools to collaborate and seek out real input.

“We really have to be more deliberate about talking to students, educators, families in our schools about what they perceive the barriers to addressing that challenge are,” said John Albright, the DPS student engagement director.

It also gives them the opportunity to be culturally responsive, improve graduation rates and prepare students for the changes to graduation requirements coming for the class of 2021.

The district will initially roll the plan out in 10 schools this year, with a full rollout planned for all 38 district-run schools in the next five years.

The 10 schools include Thomas Jefferson, CEC Early College, Emily Griffith, Bruce Randolph, Martin Luther King Jr. Early College, DC 21, North, South, West Early College and Kunsmiller.

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