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Denver schools chief describes success

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Superintendent of Denver Public Schools Tom Boasberg spoke to a roomful of Albuquerque business and education leaders on Friday about moving from the lowest rate of student academic growth among major Colorado districts to one of the highest.

Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg (courtesy photo)

“Part of the work is making sure we learn from others,” said Boasberg, who was unanimously appointed as superintendent in 2009.

The Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, which hosted the event, was hoping Albuquerque could do just that by juxtaposing Albuquerque Public Schools and DPS.

The Denver district has more than 92,000 students and a graduation rate of 64.8 percent, according to its 2016 data. APS, which has 84,000 students in 142 schools, had a 2017 graduation rate of 67.9 percent.

“Among all large districts over 25,000 students, DPS had the second-highest growth from 2009 to 2013,” Boasberg said.

Boasberg presented an assemblage of statistics on its improvements. He said enrollment has grown 27 percent since 2005 and the number of graduates has increased 64 percent since then, too.

He also said his district is seeing the positive side effects of the Denver Plan 2020, a multifaceted initiative that looks to revamp schools with early childhood investment, fostering effective leaders and emphasizing culture among key themes.

Specifics Boasberg pointed to were a principal residency program, “a year-long job-embedded professional learning experience,” and teacher teams made up of specialists and assistant principals among others who aim to spur collaboration.

President of the APS Board of Education David Peercy said that teacher-team concept was something he found APS could imitate, saying “it’s possible” it will be implemented in the future. Overall, Peercy said he found Boasberg’s talk interesting but said APS has some of the same initiatives already underway.

“A lot of what we’re doing is similar,” Peercy said.

He said APS is working on putting together a data dashboard with similar statistics that were used to create Denver’s master plan. He also said APS has programs that mirror Denver’s “whole child” plan that aims to foster social and emotional health in addition to the education of the child.

Where Albuquerque and Denver differ, Peercy noted, is in funding. Several of Boasberg’s changes were funded with tax increases, which Peercy said were “very unlikely” to happen in New Mexico.

“Education is under funded here,” he said.