African-American Equity Task Force

  • In response to the Dr. Bailey report on the factors contributing to the opportunity gap that exists for our African-American students and educators, the DPS Board of Education and Superintendent commissioned an African-American Equity Task Force in the fall of 2016.


    The African-American Equity Task Force was asked to develop and present a set of prioritized recommendations to help close the Opportunity Gap for our African-American students and educators. Led by Allen Smith, chief of the district’s Culture, Equity and Leadership Team, the task force was made up of more than 100 parents, educators and community leaders who received guidance from an executive council made up of leaders in Denver’s African-American community. The work was a significant time investment for community members. From surveys to community meetings — sometimes twice a week — the team dedicated themselves to finding ways to improve outcomes for African-American students and educators.

    While there is still work to do, the initial partnership effort marks a tremendous start toward providing culturally responsive instruction for students, improving engagement with families and ensuring equity for all.

    The Recommendations:

    The recommendations were presented and accepted by the Board of Education in June of 2017: Read the recommendations (.pdf)

    Since the adoption of the recommendations, five implementation teams have been created with the task of driving results toward each of the recommendations. Currently, these teams are collaborating with multiple departments and organizations to develop and prioritize actions that will lead to results. As of January 2019, accomplishments and progress on the recommendations include:

  • Overarching Recommendation

    Recommendation 1: The AAETF recommends that Denver Public Schools provide funding for the creation of an African-American Equity Team that will ensure the African-American Equity Agreement is upheld, effectively implemented and evaluated on an ongoing basis.


    • Hiring Leslie L. Juniel, Senior Program Manager of Equity Initiatives, as the lead.
    • Hiring Tiffany Gardner, Project Manager, to assist in the equity initiatives.
    • Creation of implementation teams who are developing, supporting and progress monitoring the work of implementing the recommendations. 
    • Announced members of the Wisdom Team and have begun to meet. This team will support the work around the recommendations, provide updates and elevate diverse voices throughout the community.


    • The Wisdom Team and implementation teams continue their work in driving results toward each of the recommendations to improve the experiences of African-Americans in DPS.

  • District and School Structures to Promote Equity

    Recommendation 1: We recommend that every school and department creates and publicly disseminates an Equity Plan that outlines both its commitment to equity and its plan to address inequity for African-American students and employees.

    Recommendation 2: We recommend that DPS adapt and expand the SPF Equity Indicator to integrate additional data that provide a more robust understanding of a school’s “equity performance.” This additional data is crucial for effective school-level progress monitoring and accountability related to equity for African-American students and other marginalized groups.


    • Under the leadership of the Professional Learning Team, the Opportunity Gap cohort completed its first year with 30 schools and will be continuing in the 2018-19 school year.
      • Though a partnership with Dr. Eddie Fergus, the Opportunity Gap cohort schools receive school-based support through
        personalized, differentiated activities based on their current problem of practice.
    • Required culturally responsive and bias training for new teachers.
    • The Culture, Equity and Leadership Team continues to offer values-based leadership programs to all employees to build knowledge, skills and abilities in communication, change management, building trust through relationships, bias-awareness and more. 
    • DPS Board of Education adopted changes to district discipline policy related to suspensions and expulsions in ECE – 3.


    • Designing equity plans to pilot for the 2018-19 school year. 
    • Developing a new Values-Based Leadership Program for DPS team members called DPS Leadership Equity, which will be offered three times during the 2018-19 school year.
    • Developing required professional development focused on bias and equity for school and district personnel.
    • Collaborating with the Culturally Responsive Instruction, Engagement and Communication team on the implementation of 2018-19 Opportunity Gap cohort schools.
    • Working with the Student Equity and Opportunity team to infuse equity work into trauma-informed practices, increase student supports and interventions.
    • Designing and developing a new skills training called Creating Equitable Outcomes Using Relational Leadership.

  • Culturally Responsive Instruction, Engagement and Communication

    Recommendation 1: We recommend that DPS develop and implement systems to support consistent and ongoing professional development focused on improving instruction, engagement and communication with African-American students, families and community members.

    Recommendation 2: We recommend that DPS ensure curricular materials are culturally responsive to African-American students.


    • Collaborated with the Culturally Responsive Education (CRE) working team and steering committee to create a working definition for the 2018-19 school year of what culturally responsive education is in DPS, as well as the mindsets, practices and key actions.
    • The CRE team is now fully staffed and consists of a Senior Manager, three CRE Professional Learning Specialists and a dedicated Project Manager.
    • Offering culturally responsive education workshops as part of the DPS Skills program to give central school-support team members opportunities to increase knowledge about this body of work.
    • Engaged three schools (George Washington High School, Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy, and Northfield High School) in a pilot program for Equity-Based Practices in Mathematics in partnership with the DPS Curriculum and Instruction Team. Math partners and school leaders attended our national “Learning Forward Community of Practice” to work with other districts to close the academic gap in mathematics.


    • Finalizing a 3 to 5-year plan for implementing culturally responsive education (CRE) within DPS.
      Engaging members of CRE working team and steering committee to identify the measures of success that will impact student achievement.
    • Collaborating with the Growth and Performance Teams to examine how the dominant culture’s way of measuring success impact African-American students and educators, and make adjustments where needed.
    • Connecting with other school districts across the country to determine what lessons we can learn while incorporating CRE within DPS.
    • Examining the challenge of having the capacity/critical mass of individuals to evaluate the impact of CRE work.
    • Partnering with Zaretta Hammond on her work related to culturally responsive teaching and the brain in 2018-19.
    • Approximately 45 schools and 100 educators have been nominated to join in a year-long professional learning cohort experience called the Culturally Responsive Fellowship. The fellowship kicks off in late July, with a two-day intensive learning experience.
    • The District Management Group (DMG) has been working with the CRE team to develop strategic, communication and implementation plans, which will be available in August.

  • Targeted Supports for Students

    Recommendation 1: We recommend that DPS develop and implement an African-American Equitable Access Plan that increases African-American students’ access to high value learning opportunities such as: Advanced Placement (AP), Gifted, Talented (GT/Honors), Concurrent Enrollment, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math (STEM/STEAM), CareerConnect, International Baccalaureate (IB), Middle Year Programming (MYP), student leadership and magnet programs.


    • The intersection between race and gender are now specifically called out in assessment data related to the READ Act. This data is important, as it disaggregates information to pinpoint the barriers African-American students encounter while trying to access high value and rigorous learning opportunities. This data also helps assist the development of supports for teachers to accelerate learning.
    • Increased college course offerings for 18-19 in areas identified as interesting to students (social justice, criminology, ethnic studies, women’s studies) in order to engage students who would not normally access courses.
    • Completed an analysis of 2018 PSAT/SAT results by race and gender. Identified gaps between student groups, schools beating the odds with students of color, and schools where stronger supports are needed for students of color. Results were presented to district leaders and work is underway to identify best practices and ways to replicate support strategies across schools.


    • The Department of Secondary Education and the Office of College and Career Readiness continue to work on mitigating barriers to enrollment in Concurrent Enrollment courses for African-American students. Next steps include partnering with Denver Online and Schoology to deliver Concurrent Enrollment courses online, and implementing a district-wide Accuplacer testing strategy with the goal of identifying more students prepared to access courses and improving pass rates.
    • Updated analyses using 2017-18 data on concurrent and AP access, with enrollment by race and gender underway, taking AAETF feedback on prior work into account.
    • Collaborating with the Gifted and Talented Team to evaluate how recent district and state changes to Gifted and Talented eligibility policies further impact African-American student access.
    • Identifying opportunities to engage district leaders in strategies for ensuring African-American students are prepared to graduate under the new graduation requirements for the class of 2021.

  • Community and Family Resources

    Recommendation 1: We recommend that DPS establish Community and Family Opportunity Centers (CFOs) that respond to and serve African-American students and families living in Far Northeast and Near Northeast neighborhoods.

    Recommendation 2: We recommend that DPS create school-level and district level Black Family Advisory Councils that give voice to the goals, needs and concerns of African-American students, families and community members.

    Recommendation 3: We recommend that DPS design and disseminate a supportive assessment and planning tool that assists African-American students and families in successfully navigating the school process at all levels, ECE through 12th grade.


    • The Mile High United Way Center for Family Opportunity (CFO) provided services to 31% or 175 individuals who self-reported as African- Americans. This is from the total of 567 individual participants during the CFO’s first year in the Far Northeast (FNE) location at McGlone Academy. 
      • Core classes most utilized by participants include GED, ESL and Workforce Development.
      • Free in-house childcare was provided during all CFO classes.
    • The office of Family and Community Engagement (FACE) has conducted five, Being Black at School (BBAS) sessions with a total of 34 participants engaging in these community-driven sessions. These sessions are comprised of students, parents, educators and community partners with the overall objective of deepening engagement between African-American families and their school communities.
    • Home Learning workshops were held in the Far Northeast to empower families to support increased literacy development in the home.
    • Held a community meeting at Manual High School with DPS Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent focused on the status of African-American students in the district and state.
    • The City of Denver collaborated with the DPS Family and Community Engagement Team (FACE) to support high school aged youth with job opportunities this summer through the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP).
      • Through SYEP, 54 Denver youth who self-reported as African-American, ages 16-24, were placed at local businesses and received summer work experiences. Additional youth are being enrolled through another portion of the program to support 9th grade Academy. Final participant demographic information will be available in September.
    • FACE has hired an additional African-American Community Engagement Regional Coordinator with teaching experience who will support the FNE community to provide ongoing case management and supportive services to youth in the community



    • The CFO is expanding services in the FNE to include John H. Amesse Elementary School, which will host the main office and continue to provide the same supports from the previous year. Limited services will be provided at McGlone Academy. There will be a new service with the mobile laundry truck that will be available for both campuses.
    • Research is ongoing to identify best practices for engaging African-American families.
    • Home learning workshops are being offered regularly to families in the Far Northeast at the CFO. Workshop content is aligned with the Colorado Academic and Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and district Student Learning Objectives (SLOs).
    • Over 280 youth received case management and wraparound services through a partnership with the City of Denver Office of Economic Development Workforce Services. These individuals are utilizing the employment pipelines and business partnerships solidified by FACE to expand the City of Denver’s network of employers throughout Denver.
    • Continuing to develop employment pipelines and business partnerships with the City of Denver's network of employers that support and assist families in obtaining employment.
    • The CFO is working with The Colorado Association of Black Professional Engineers and Scientists (CABPES) to develop a mentoring program for African-American students in the FNE.

  • Equitable Employment Practices and Work Environments

    Recommendation 1: We recommend that DPS create a district-led HR Task Force responsible for the development, implementation, and oversight of equitable recruitment, hiring, promotion, renewal, and compensation processes and practices.

    Recommendation 2: We recommend that DPS develop both systems and structures to attract and retain African-American educators.

    • Transparency among pay structures in DPS has improved through the creation of tools available to employees that show the salary range and grade of all positions within DPS.
    • Established an HR team to dig deeper into current processes and find where adjustments need to be made.
    • HR Team met with the Mayor’s Office of Children’s Affairs to align next year’s recruitment and retention strategies and metrics where possible.
    • HR Team is gathering data and anecdotal information from black educators who have applied to the district to capture their experience with application systems and interview processes for the 2018-19 school year.
    • Talent Acquisition, Teacher Leader and Collaboration (TLC), and Teacher Pathways are meeting regularly to make sure that goals around pipelines of future educators are aligned in the best way possible (for example- the EdConnect and Para-to-Teacher programs).
    • HR hosted an Employee Job Fair in the Far Northeast to support with school-based openings for the 18-19 school year.
    • Members of the Talent Acquisition, Teacher Pathways, and EdConnect teams presented to the Generation Teach Cohort to encourage involvement in the education profession by joining DPS in the future.
    • DPS hosted a New Educator of Color Welcome Event in early August to help new educators of color develop relationships and access supports like DPS Belong Groups, Reach One Mentoring, and other resources available to DPS employees of color.
    • Developed new structures to attract and retain African-American educators:
      • DPS Belong groups offer a place for team members with similar experiences and backgrounds to build relationships with others throughout the district.
      • Reach One Mentoring provides team members of color the space to build a greater level of trust, sense of belonging and support to grow and succeed within DPS.
      • Stay Conversations provide leaders and team members the opportunity to connect through meaningful dialogue and discuss what’s working well and what could be improved within their role.


    • Continuing to explore efforts currently underway across DPS that align with recommendations to ensure we are not duplicating efforts, but instead pooling resources and collaborating for greater impact.
    • HR Team identifying current supports, challenges and potential solutions for each stage of the DPS employee life-cycle.
    • Assessing the entire DPS career path (in addition to the employee life-cycle) to determine where barriers exist and what components need to be strengthened.
    • Finalizing the exit interview process.
    • Finalizing the proposition for educators of color as a recruitment tool. As a part of this work, the team is designing an infographic to illustrate how potential candidates can connect with DPS.
    • Partnering with the EdConnect program and leveraging recent research from the Colorado School of Mines to build a pipeline of current students into future candidates. This effort also includes conversations to help address the misconceptions about teaching.

Opportunities to Engage

  • African-American Education Network

    The purpose of the African-American Education Network is to provide African-American students, parents and families with a tool to help navigate PreK-20 education in Denver and beyond. Visit the website.

    EDUCA Radio Show

    Listen to Allen Smith and Leslie L. Juniel's radio show, Fridays at 10 a.m. The DPS Culture, Equity and Leadership Team hosts a weekly radio segment from 10–11 a.m., every Friday on EDUCA radio. Topics cover different aspects of DPS and take a look at how collaboration within our communities can help us further engage, inform and improve. Tune in: Fridays from 10–11 a.m. on 1090AM, or listen online at www.educadps.orgListen to past episodes here.

    Black Family Advisory Committee (BFAC)

    The BFAC is being developed to promote opportunities that empower African-American families, If you are a parent or know parents and family members who would like to be involved in the BFAC, please reach out to Dr. Sharon Bailey.

    Become an Equity Ambassador

    Are you interested in receiving updates about our progress, invites to events in support of equity and inclusion, and opportunities to provide meaningful feedback? If so, please complete the form to sign up as an Equity Ambassador. Sign up HERE