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Survey finds DPS exodus driven by remote learning woes

An online survey of Denver Public Schools parents released January 26 shows that nearly one in six families have pulled their student out of DPS because of dissatisfaction with the remote learning environment.

The poll, conducted by Colorado-based Keating Research in the second week of January, surveyed about 650 parents of K-12th grade students in Denver. Of those parents, over two-thirds feel their student is absorbing less class material online than they were in person, and all said their students are engaged with a teacher for less than four hours each day.

“Fifteen hours a week of academic instruction is not enough time. That’s not enough time to call it a full school year,” said Ariel Smith, cofounder of Transform Education Now, one of several parent groups that helped come up with survey questions.

The survey also showed the majority of parents of DPS students in remote classrooms feel their child doesn’t interact with the teacher or their classmates enough, or at all, and that they have trouble understanding material. Some also feel the amount of distractions for their student at home is just too high relative to in-person school.

The 17% of parents who said they’ve taken their child out of DPS remote learning have chosen either homeschool programs, private schools, or different public school districts.

“We know families. We’ve talked to them, and they’re struggling,” Smith said, “and they need more support than they’re getting.”

Some 75% of parents who transferred their child to a private school are in the upper income stratum of DPS parents, making more than $75,000 per year. About half (49%) of the transfers to private school are from white families.

Parents were significantly more likely to transfer kindergarten children to private school (18%) than high school students (2% transferred to private school).

Many more Hispanic (11%) and Black (9%) parents decided to homeschool their child instead compared to white (2%) families.

Keating Research conducted the poll for the parent groups Stand for Children, African Leadership Group, and FaithBridge in addition to Transform Education Now. These organizations have publicly called on the DPS board to address the concerns highlighted by the survey results.

“We have been telling the stories of individual families over the last nine months, and we have not seen DPS take the actions we need them to take,” said Kristin Franke, the parent of a preschool student.

“We need a plan to assess student progress, we need support for parents making choices that work for their families, and we need additional resources to support the learning that is happening at home.”

The parent groups’ call to action demands three main things from the DPS board: transparent communication of student progress, a plan to make up for lost learning time, and a locally common definition of high-quality, equitable public education.

The groups have also asked that DPS publicly respond to those calls by Feb. 16, which is the day the DPS “school choice” period ends.

“Perhaps with this research, our elected officials will finally listen to us and develop a plan,” Franke said. “Our children are suffering.”