Metro Denver School Districts Ranked by Progress on Achievement Gaps

Last Updated by Burt Hubbard on

This is a district by district breakdown – for Colorado’s 20 most populous school districts  – of the achievement gaps between low income and other students, and between Latino and black students compared to white students. The analysis by Burt Hubbard of Rocky Mountain PBS News is based on standardized test scores last year and 10 years ago.

INEWS102-CentennialElem-Top20Districts-336x212.jpga fifth grade student works at Centennial Elementary School in Colorado Springs on Friday Nov. 20, 2015 where four years ago, less than halfJoe Mahoney/Rocky Mountain PBS

Today's report examines the large districts within the metro Denver region. Yesterday's post examined the largest districts outside metro Denver.

Metro area:

Denver Public Schools: The Denver school district in the past 10 years had the second highest gains in reading proficiency for its Latino students among the 20 districts and the second highest gains in reading proficiency for its black students among the five districts with significant black student populations. Proficiency levels for Latino students rose from 28 percent proficient to 41 percent while black student achievement in reading rose from 38 percent to 46 percent. However, the gaps with white students increased during the decade because white proficiency rates rose even faster. As a result, the district had the highest gaps for both Latino and black students, 42 and 40 percentage points respectively. The Latino proficiency level was the third lowest among the 20 districts and the black proficiency level was the second lowest among the five districts.

The same trend emerged for math proficiency. The district had the highest gains in proficiency levels for both Latino and black students over the past 10 years. But it also had the largest gaps between both groups and white students.

Low-income  student proficiency scores increased the most over the past 10 years among the 20 districts, gaining 16 percentage points in reading. But the gap widened with white students and was the largest among the 20 districts last year at 36 percentage points.

Aurora Public School District: The Aurora school district ranked in the middle of the largest 20 districts in terms of gains in Latino reading proficiency scores over the past 10 years. The percent scoring proficient rose 8 percentage points and the gap with white students fell almost 7 percentage points to 27 percentage points – 41 percent vs. 68 percent. Still that was the sixth widest gap among the 20 districts. And its 40.6 percent overall proficiency level for Latino students was the lowest among the 20 districts.  The percent of black students proficient or better rose 3 percentage points in the past 10 years, the second lowest gain among the five districts with significant black enrollment. The gap with white students only narrowed by one percentage point to 26 percentage points – 43 percent proficient vs. 68 percent.  The overall black proficiency score of 43 percent was the lowest among the five districts.

The district fared slightly better in math proficiency. Both Latino and black students saw proficiency levels rise by 8 percentage points over the past 10 years, narrowing both gaps by less than two percentage points. The Latino gap with white students was 22 percentage points – 32 percent vs. 54 percent– and the black gap was 26 percentage points – 29 percent vs. 54 percent, placing Aurora in the middle of comparable districts. As in reading, the Latino proficiency score of 32 percent was the second lowest of the 20 districts and the black proficiency score of 28.5 percent was the lowest of the five school districts with significant black student populations last year.

Aurora had the lowest reading proficiency scores for its low income students among the 20 districts – only 41 percent scored proficient or better last year. The gap with non-low income students was 23 percentage points, the 8th lowest among the 20 districts. It narrowed the gap by 2.5 percentage points over the past 10 years. It increased overall reading proficiency levels for low-income students by 5 percentage points during the same time.

Cherry Creek School District: The Cherry Creek district has made consistent gains in achievement for its black and Latino students and has closed the gaps with its white students.

In reading, the percent of Latino students scoring proficient rose 10.5 percentage points to 62 percent over the past 10 years. That is the third highest percent for Latinos among the 20 districts. The percent of black students scoring proficient increased almost 5 percentage points to 58 percent, the third highest among the five districts with significant black enrollment.

As a result, the gaps with white students narrowed. For Latino students, the gap fell more than 9 percentage points to 21 percentage points during the past 10 years. That was the third largest drop in gaps among the 20 districts and ranks in the middle in size of the gap. For black students, the gap fell 3.5 percentage point to 25 percentage points. That is 4th highest gap among the five districts.

In math, the percent of Latino students scoring proficient rose by 11 percentage points to 51 percent over the past 10 years. That was the fourth biggest increase in proficiency among the 20 districts and the third highest overall proficiency percent.  The percent of black students scoring proficient rose six percentage points to 41 percent proficient. The gain was the third highest among the five districts and the overall proficiency percent was the second highest.

Cherry Creek lowered the gap in math between Latino and white students by more than six percentage points over the decade and the gap between black and white students by about one percentage point. However, both gaps remained among the widest among the large school districts.

The district lowered its reading proficiency gap between low income and other students by 7 percentage points over the past decade, the sixth best improvement among the 20 districts. It now stands at 27 percentage points – 57 percent proficient vs. 84 percent proficient. The percent of low income students scoring proficient increased almost 10 percentage points over the past 10 years, the 8th highest increase among the 20 districts. The 57 percent reading proficiency is the seventh highest level for low income students among the 20 districts.

Brighton School District: The Brighton school district had the fifth highest improvement in Latino reading proficiency scores over the past 10 years among the 20 largest school districts, rising by 11 percentage points. The gap between Latino and white students fell by more than six percentage points to about 19 percentage points during that time – 56 percent vs. 75 percent proficient, ranking in the middle of the 20 districts. Last year’s gap was the 7th lowest among the 20 districts.  As a result, about 52 percent of Latino students were proficient or better in reading last year, also ranking in the middle.

The district did not fare as well in math proficiency scores for Latino students. Overall proficiency levels rose about 7 percentage points and the gap narrowed by only 2 percentage points over the past 10 years. That dropped the gap to 41 percent vs. 60 percent. That was the 7th narrowest gap among the 20 districts.  Overall, 40.5 percent of Latino students were proficient in math, ranking the district in the middle of the pack.

At 21 percentage points, the district last year had the fifth lowest gap between low income and other students among the 20 districts – 53 percent proficient in reading vs. 74 percent.  Low income student proficiency levels rose more than 12 percentage points over the past 10 years, the fifth highest gain among the 20 districts. But the gap between low income and other students only fell by 4 percentage points, one of the smallest gains among the 20 districts. The 53 percent reading proficiency score was only the 13th highest among the 20 districts.

Littleton Public Schools: The Littleton district had the second highest reading proficiency scores, 66 percent proficient or better, for Latino students last year among the 20 largest school districts.  Proficiency scores rose almost 10 percentage points over the past decade and the gap with white students fell by seven percentage points to about 20 percentage points – 66 percent vs. 86 percent, the 9th narrowest among the 20 districts.

The school district made similar gains in Latino math proficiency scores, raising them by more than 10 percentage points to 50.5 percent proficient, the fourth highest scores among the 20 districts. However, that only dropped the gap with white students by less than a percentage point – 51 percent vs. 75 percent proficient, the 7th highest gap among the 20 districts.

The district posted the second highest proficiency levels for low income students last year – 62 percent proficient in reading. It also increased low income student proficiency by 10 percentage points over  the past 10 years, the sixth highest gain among the 20 districts. The gap between low income and other students fell by 7 percentage points to 25 percentage points – 62 percent vs. 87 percent, ranking in the middle.

Adams 12 Five Star Schools:  The Five Star school district saw the percent of Latino students scoring proficient in reading rise 4 percentage points over the past 10 years. That was the fifth lowest improvement among the top 20 school districts.  As a result, it was one of only three school districts to see the gap between Latino and white students widen during the past 10 years. It increased a percentage point to 27 percentage points – 48 percent to 75 percent proficient. Only six of the 20 districts had wider gaps.

The district fared better in math proficiency among Latino students. The percent scoring proficient or better rose more than 7 percentage points to 38 percent and the gap narrowed by about five percentage points to 26.5 percent. Still, the gap was the 6th highest among the 20 districts and the overall percent scoring proficient was among the lowest.

The district was one of four out of the 20 districts to see the gap increase slightly between low income and other students over the decade – a 0.2 percentage point increase to 29 percentage points. That gap – 46 percent vs. 75 percent – was the 6th highest among the 20 districts. Overall proficiency scores rose by six percentage points over the decade, one of the smallest increases. And the 46 percent proficiency score in reading for low income students was the fifth lowest among the 20 districts.

Westminster School District: Latino reading proficiency increased by 4.5 percentage points in the past 10 years, one of the lowest gains among the 20 largest school districts. Overall 41.5 percent of Latino students were proficient in reading, the second lowest rate among the 20 districts. The gap between Latino and white  students fell 6.5 percentage points in reading, ranking in the middle of the 20 districts and now stands at 20 percentage points – 42 percent vs. 62 percent proficient, also ranking in the middle of the districts.

The district fared better in math proficiency gaps.  The gap dropped about four percentage points in the past 10 years. The difference between Latino and white proficiency rates is now 15 percentage points – 31 percent vs. 46 percent proficient, the third lowest gap among the 20 districts. However, the district has the lowest overall math scores among the 20 districts for Latino students with only 31 percent scoring proficient.

The district had the second biggest narrowing of the gap between low income and other students – 10 percentage points. The resulting gap of 15 percentage points in reading was the lowest among the 20 districts. However, the overall score of 43 percent of low income students scoring proficient was the second lowest among the 20 districts. Part of the narrowing of the gap was caused by a drop in proficiency scores for non-low income students.

Douglas County School District: The Douglas County School District has among the highest reading achievement scores for Latino students and among the lowest gaps with white students on proficiency levels. The district’s Latino students were 64.5 percent proficient in reading last year, the third highest rate among the largest 20 districts. The gap with white students was about 18 percentage points – 65 percent vs. 83 percent proficient, the sixth smallest. However, the district's progress in raising proficiency scores or closing the gap over the past 10 years has been flat. Latino proficiency percentages actually dropped less than half a percentage point and the gap narrowed by only a percentage point.

The district posted improvements with math proficiency scores. Over the last decade, levels rose about five percentage points to 52 percent of Latinos scoring proficient. That was the second highest percent among the 20 districts. The gap with white students fell three percentage points and now stands at 21 percentage points, the 8th lowest gap among the 20 districts.

The district was one of only 4 out of the 20 districts to see the gap between low income and others students in reading proficiency grow over the past 10 years –  by just under 1 percentage point to 56 percent vs. 83 percent proficient.  The gap last year was the 7th highest among the 20 districts. The 56 percent proficiency level for low income students ranked 10th among the 20 districts. Part of the reason for the increase in the gap was the school district’s absorption of a low income, online school, Hope.

Jefferson County Public Schools: Over the past 10 years, the Jefferson County district has increased Latino reading achievement scores by more than 9 percentage points to 60 percent proficient. That is the sixth highest percent among the top 20 districts. During the same time, the district reduced the gap with white students by six percentage points to about 23 percentage points. That is the 9th widest gap among the 20 districts.

Math proficiency has not risen as much or the gaps narrowed as much in the Jefferson County district. The percent of Latino students scoring proficient has risen by almost 7 percentage points to 43 percent. That is the 7th highest rate among the districts. But the gap with white students only narrowed by less than half a percentage point over the last 10 years and now stands at 27 percentage points. That is fifth widest gap among the 20 districts.

The district last year had a gap of 26 percentage points in reading proficiency levels between its low income and other students – 58 percent proficiency vs. 85 percent. That was the 10 highest gap among the 20 school districts. However, the gap fell by 4½ percentage points as proficiency levels for low income students increased by about 9 percentage points. The nine point gain was the 9th highest among the 20 districts.  The overall proficiency score of 58 percent was the fifth highest for low income students among the 20 districts.

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To read the broad story covering the 20 largest districts please click here. To see yesterday's ranking of large school districts outside metro Denver click here.

This report is part of Rocky Mountain PBS News’ ongoing project coverage, Race in Colorado. Standing in the Gap examines race in public education in the state. To learn more, visit rmpbs.org/thegap and watch the four-part documentary series on Rocky Mountain PBS.

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