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Filling a gap: Introducing the Mile High School Guide

Screenshot of the Ashley Elementary School page in the new Mile High School Guide

Debuting just in time for round one of School Choice in Denver Public Schools, the Mile High School Guide aims to help parents and caregivers choose a public school in Denver that best fits the needs of their child.

It provides detailed information about each school, allowing the community to view and compare academic information, student and teacher demographics, social-emotional supports, enrichment opportunities, parent survey results, and more.

The Mile High School Guide is funded and maintained by RootED Denver (a Boardhawk funder) and provides easily accessible information about public schools in Denver. Developed in response to the community’s call for transparency when seeking school information, the platform was created with input from a diverse group of parents, educators, community members, and advocacy leaders who initially collaborated in the DPS School Performance Framework (SPF) community design group.

“We were hearing a clear call from the community for transparency and comprehensive information about schools in DPS. Community partnership is one of our guiding principles at RootED and we felt compelled to step up for community and find a way to bring this to life. We also value collaborating with those with differing perspectives and this platform is a reflection of what many parents and educators were directly asking for,” says Pat Donovan, Managing Partner at RootED Denver.

Based on these initial conversations, RootED curated community engagement opportunities to seek the voices of those not typically heard in decision-making conversations, including monolingual Spanish speakers. In one instance, volunteers surveyed DPS families visiting a Montbello food bank to inquire what was important to them when choosing a school.

Karen Mortimer, one of the members of the DPS 2020 Reimagining the SPF Committee, provided feedback as the Mile High School Guide was being created.  “In August 2020, in partnership with our committee, the DPS board passed Resolution 4079 which tasked the district to create a new dashboard,” Mortimer said. “Our committee advocated strongly that a new DPS dashboard needed to share more holistic data about our schools – information DPS parents have been seeking for many years.

“The guide, which is still a work in progress, gives our community a foretaste of what it could be like for our schools to truly be able to share their broader story — stories that go beyond the sole source of data now publicly available: the State SPF.”

Ongoing input from the tools’ users will shape the platform’s development. Its creator said this would ensure that it evolves based on community needs and enables informed decisions for families.

The guide is unique because it pulls public-facing data from DPS, the Colorado Department of Education, and individual school websites to provide a more comprehensive picture of schools than most existing tools have.

RootED engaged in conversations with DPS leadership throughout the development process, and the district also partnered in responding to all CORA requests to gather additional information, including teacher demographics, school program offerings, student and parent survey results, discipline information, absenteeism, and more.

Mile High School Guide is just one step in what RootED expects to be an evolutionary process to improve transparency and equitable access to information in DPS.