African-American Equity Task Force

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.

Task Force Updates

Since the adoption of the recommendations by the Board of Education in June of 2017, 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 April 2018, accomplishments and progress on the recommendations include:

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. 


  • Creation of the Wisdom Team is underway. This team will advise and work side-by-side with the AAETF implementation teams to ensure the recommendations are effectively implemented and evaluated on an ongoing basis. This committee of 8–12 members will be comprised of community members, DPS staff and students who participated in the AAETF and/or have experience in related work.

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.


  • 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. 
  • The implementation team held an initial meeting in collaboration with the Strengthening Neighborhoods committee to discuss and identify specific factors to include in the equity measure.


  • Collaborating with the Culturally Responsive Instruction, Engagement and Communication team on the implementation of 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.
  • Initial discussions on the design and development of equity plans.

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 draft working definition of what culturally responsive education is in DPS.
  • Hosted a Performance Dialogue session with the DPS Senior Leadership Team and the Extended Leadership Team to share progress of work and solicit feedback.
  • 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.
  • Recruitment process has begun to hire a learning specialist and a project manager to join the team.
  • Including the voices of students and teachers on the draft definition of CRE.
  • Examining the challenge of having the capacity/critical mass of individuals to evaluate the impact of CRE work.
  • In addition to the two CRE Professional Development Units (PDUs) currently offered, two more classes will be available within the first quarter of 2018.

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.


  • 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.

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.


  • Currently more than 250 families have accessed the resources available at the new, fully staffed, Mile High United Way Center for Family Opportunity (CFO), located at McGlone Academy.
  • Established a Being Black At School (BBAS) council comprised of students, parents, educators and community partners with the overall objective of deepening engagement among African-American families and their school communities. The BBAS council will operate as a pilot at the Mile High United Way Center for Family Opportunity (CFO) at McGlone Academy for the 2017-18 year.
  • Home Learning workshops were held in the Far Northeast to empower families to support increased literacy development in the home.


  • Customer satisfaction surveys are being completed with all CFO participants and data will be available at the end of the year.
  • 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).
  • 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.

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.


  • Established an HR team to dig deeper into current processes and find where adjustments need to be made.


  • Continuing to explore efforts currently under way across DPS that align with recommendations to ensure we are not duplicating efforts, but instead pooling resources and collaborating for greater impact.
  • Assessing the entire employee life cycle to determine where barriers exist and what components need to be strengthened.
  • Gaining clarity on where candidates, specifically teachers, are interviewing to understand potentials barriers.
  • Developing exit interview process.
  • Developed a draft value 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 of teaching.

Opportunities to Engage

African-American Equity Task Force Community Meeting

Join us on June 12 from 5:30–7:30 p.m. for the AAETF community meeting. Community members are encouraged to attend to learn about the progress and contribute their voice. Register online.

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.

ED Talks

Join DPS for a speaker series focused around diversity, equity and inclusion. Open to DPS team members, families and the community. Learn more.

Equity Boot Camp

Build skills and deepen your ability to infuse equity, inclusion and culturally responsive practices into your work during this one-day program. Open to DPS team members, families and the community. Learn more.

How to Stay Involved

Sign up as an Equity Ambassador to receive updates about the task force progress, invites to events in support of equity and inclusion, and opportunities to provide meaningful feedback.

Sign Up » Receive updates on equity initiatives within DPS

The Dr. Bailey Report

Responding to concerns from our schools and the community, DPS commissioned Dr. Sharon Bailey to report in detail on the experiences of our African-American educators and to listen to their perspectives and concerns about how our African-American students are being cared for and educated. In response to this report, the DPS Board of Education and Superintendent commissioned the African-American Equity Task Force in the fall of 2016.

Read the executive summary »
Read the full report »
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