As we continue our deeper dive series on the Denver Public Schools (DPS) mill levy proposal, we are going to focus on the third-largest investment: Ready for College and Career. As a refresher, DPS is requesting a $56.7 million mill levy from Denver voters, which amounts to around $10/month for the average homeowner in the city*. Of that total amount, $8 million will be invested in improving DPS’s on-time high school graduation rates and better preparing students for college classes.
In 2015, 72% of students who started 9th grade in a DPS school graduated on time. This number lowers to 65%, however, for students who started 9th grade in another district and later moved to a DPS high school. According to the Denver Plan 2020, the district has set a goal of increasing graduation rates among students who started high school in DPS to 90%. In order to achieve this goal, the district must increase graduation rates by 18% in the next four years. This may seem like a lofty goal, but DPS has already made large strides: between 2009 and 2015, the district improved graduation rates by 12%.
While it is incredibly important to boost graduation rates, it is equally important that students who graduate with a high school diploma enter a post-secondary program prepared for college-level courses or careers. Students who are unprepared are often required to take remedial courses. These classes are not only costly, but can also make it more difficult for a student to graduate on time, if ever. In the 2013-2014 school year, only 37.6% of students graduated from a DPS high school without the need for college remedial classes. The mill levy investment will help the district reach the goals of the Denver Plan 2020, which aims to double the number of students who are graduating from high school prepared for college.
In order to prepare students for college and career, DPS is transforming existing schools to be more rigorous, engaging, and aligned to post-secondary needs. The $8 million investment in college and career readiness will further DPS’s goals of improving classroom instruction, offering personalized learning and career planning, providing more college-level coursework, and aligning classes with college and career pathways. Students who feel engaged and challenged in dual enrollment courses and CareerConnect see higher graduation and post-secondary readiness rates.
*Denver Public Schools is also requesting voters to approve a $572 million bond, which will go toward building projects and infrastructure improvements. We will go into greater detail on the bond in coming weeks, but for high-level information, check out our blog here.