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The Impacts Of Choice

Helpful For Some, Other DPS Students Left Behind 

Choice season is upon us. From Jan. 15 to Feb. 15 at 4 p.m., families are invited to submit their School Choice form to Denver Public Schools to select the school that best fits their families’ needs. Results will be sent out in late March.

If you live in the Park Hill neighborhood, you have a guaranteed seat at your boundary elementary school – Park Hill Elementary, Smith Elementary or Stedman Elementary – depending on where you live. Hallett Academy and Odyssey are two other schools in the neighborhood. These schools do not have a boundary and one would need to apply via the Choice process.

If you are applying to Early Childhood Education (ECE) within any of those schools, enrollment is not guaranteed because of limited space. 

Roots Elementary will be closing at the end of this school year and is no longer a possible choice.

If you are applying to middle school, you have a guaranteed seat at one of six middle schools within the Greater Park Hill/Stapleton Middle School Enrollment Zone but not necessarily at the school closest to you or the one you prefer. The six schools are Denver Discovery School, DSST: Denver Green School-Northfield, DSST: Stapleton, McAuliffe International School, and William (Bill) Roberts. You must use the Choice system to select your preferences within these or choose from any other middle school within Denver. 

If you want to enroll in a high school, most of Park Hill is situated within the East High School boundary except for the strip between Monaco Parkway and Quebec Street, which is zoned to Northfield High School in Stapleton. Seats at those schools are guaranteed when you live within their boundaries. 

All DPS schools are open to all families and DPS encourages families to use the Choice system even when applying to neighborhood or boundary schools. 

For more information on DPS School Choice see http://schoolchoice.dpsk12.org

Is Choice equitable?

If you already have a child in DPS you likely received an email from our new Superintendent, Susana Cordova, in which she states: 

Started in 2011, SchoolChoice gives every family equitable access to the schools they think are best for their student, regardless of their background or address.

Choice is indeed a great tool to access schools beyond one’s boundary or to get access to schools within a zone. But is it really equitable? Do we all have the same access to all schools?

In a recent presentation to Park Hill and Stapleton residents, Andrew Lefkowits, head of Park Hill Neighbors for Equity in Education, asked the audience whether or not they had certain advantages when it came to school choice. Examples of such advantages are the ability to answer yes to some of the following questions: 

• Are you able to tour a school during your work hours?

• Did you research schools on a laptop or a smart phone?

• Were you able to access information in your native language?

• Is your housing situation stable?

• Can you drive your student to school?

• Will you contribute either financially or with your time to your school?

Lefkowits termed these advantages “the school choice privilege footprint.” 

Where there is privilege, there is no equity. 

“School Choice,” Lefkowits concluded, “concentrates privilege and is damaging to kids.” He added, “You’re not making this decision in a vacuum. It impacts the whole community.” 

The Choice system is set-up and marketed to value some schools over others mostly through the School Performance Framework that scores schools according to a color-coded system (for more on the SPF see the January issue of the Greater Park Hill News, at greaterparkhill.org). If some schools are advantaged, that means others start at a disadvantage. The children within those schools are also disadvantaged.

While we take full advantage of the choices offered, we also participate in a system that leaves others behind.  

Follow your values

Choice season is stressful and parents feel they face daunting decisions at this time of year. The wait to get into one’s preferred school can be excruciating. Lefkowits encouraged parents and guardians to calm down. “Most kids will do well in most schools.” 

When looking for a school, Lefkowits suggests parents enter the school buildings and ask questions about the things they value. 

If you value teaching experience, ask how many teachers in the building have more than five or 10 years of experience. Ask if the principal has ever been a teacher. If you value diversity, look at both the student population and the teaching and administrative staff for clues. 

Do you want a school that engages its neighborhood community? Look at the school calendar to see what school activities involve the broader community. Ask who sits on the Collaborative School Committee, a school’s governing body. Attend a CSC or PTA meeting. 

Ask about specials: art, music, physical education. Ask if the school has a library and a librarian. How often to the students go to the library? Can they take library books home?

The SPF rating will tell you how well students in that school do on standardized tests. Everything else is up in the air. If you have heard that school A is great while school B is horrible, commit to visiting the schools. Step inside the buildings and watch to see if parents and kids are smiling. Are they happy to be there? Would you?

The choices you make will impact your child and many other children as well. Follow your gut and follow your values.  

Editor’s Note: Lynn Kalinauskas is Education Chair for Greater Park Hill Community, Inc. In late January the Denver Classroom Teachers’ Association voted to strike over the pay structure for teachers. DPS administrators responded by asking the state to intervene. As of press time it was unclear whether the strike would move forward. For details on the pay structure being disputed, check out Kalinauskas’s June, 2018 column at this link: greaterparkhill.org/2018/05/teachers-seek-professional-compensation/


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