For 10 straight years DSST Public Schools has celebrated having 100 percent of its graduates earn acceptance to college. This year, as a finalist for the 2018 Broad Prize for Public Charter schools, the network could have 250,000 more reasons to celebrate its positive impact on all of its students.
Along with finalists Uncommon Schools and Achievement First, DSST was chosen based on it’s work to help students — particularly students of color and students from low-income backgrounds — achieve significant academic gains and college readiness.
DSST’s CEO Bill Kurtz called the honor a “reflection of the incredible work of our students, staff and community, year over year.”
Throughout the years, DSST has proven itself as a great option for Denver families seeking a high-quality public school education. With 13 schools across Denver, DSST serves approximately 5,300 middle and high school students, with dozens more on waiting lists. More than 80 percent of DSST’s students are students of color, and two-thirds qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.
But what’s most impressive is that the closer students get to college, the more prepared they seem to be in comparison to their peers across Colorado. This year, DSST: Stapleton High School saw Colorado’s highest average SAT score for White students, Black students, and for students eligible for free or reduced price lunch. At DSST: Green Valley Ranch High School, Black and Latinx students achieved the #2 and #6 average SAT scores in the state while students who qualify for free and reduced price lunch held the #2 average SAT score. And, with its first graduating class this year, DSST: Cole’s seniors graduated holding the state’s #3 average SAT score among Black students and #4 average SAT score among students eligible for free or reduced price lunch.
Why is DSST making such impressive gains among all of it’s students? Bill Kurtz would say it’s because he planned for DSST to be a place that would serve all students with distinction. In an interview with Education Post Executive Director, Peter Cunningham, Kurtz said:
DSST has some of the most equitable enrollment practices in the country, holding seats for late-arriving students, accepting mid-year entrants and back-filling grades. We also have committed to run special education centers for children with severe disabilities in all of our schools—serving nearly every disability in Denver Public Schools. Lastly, we serve an equal number of English-language learners, as does the district as a whole.
In order to continue serving all students exceptionally, Kurtz believes three themes must stay at the forefront of his team’s work:
- Equity of outcomes for all students, not just equity of inputs.
- Continual creation of intentionally diverse schools.
- Development of school environments that build students’ civic values.
Indeed, these are the inputs that have resulted in senior acceptances to Columbia, Stanford and Yale. These are the commitments that motivate leaders to open new schools. These are the promises that inspire students to belong and be themselves, with no regrets.
With any luck, the announcement of this year’s 2018 Broad Prize winner could offer DSST $250,000 to continue the path forward in each of these areas from this decade to the next.
This year’s winner will be announced June 18 at the National Charter Schools Conference in Austin, Texas.
Photo credit: DSST Public Schools