Opportunity Gap Cohorts

Danielle Harris, Ph.D.

Danielle Harris, Ph.D.

Program Manager, Culturally Responsive Education

Professional Learning Team



Interested in joining the 2018 Opportunity Gap Cohort? Click here to let us know. »
students walking at commencement

What is the Opportunity Gap?

In school districts around the country, there are disparities between the achievement of white students and that of other student groups such as students of color, English learners and students with disabilities, even though all these students have the same academic potential. This achievement gap has its roots in the lack of equitable opportunities for all students to succeed, or an opportunity gap. In DPS, we see this reflected in key indicators such as four-year graduation rates and third-grade reading and writing proficiency. In order to achieve our vision of Every Child Succeeds, we must eliminate gaps in opportunity and achievement for all our students.

The Professional Learning Team is committed to its role in making an impact on the Denver Plan 2020. Part of this goal is to close the opportunity gap and provide all students access to educational opportunities that allow them to achieve at the highest levels. The Professional Learning Team, in partnership with other DPS teams (CELT, ELA Whole Child, FACE and SEO) offers an Opportunity Gap Professional Learning Cohort focused on peer-to-peer learning for school leadership teams based upon a problem of practice for a targeted group of underserved students.

Opportunity Gap Cohort 1 (2017-2018)

Cohort I (Spring 2017 – 2018) kicked off in March of 2017 with Dr. Eddie Fergus, author of Solving Disproportionality and Achieving Equity: A Leader’s Guide to Using Data to Change Hearts and Minds, and faculty at New York University, joining our team to support our Opportunity Gap Cohorts with school-based strategic planning and team-designated activities.

Seventeen instructional leadership teams made the commitment to engage in data-driven collaboration; to examine school-based structures and practices; and to take action steps that will have the greatest impact on student success. School teams explored 3 types of biases and how bias is demonstrated in the existing educational structures: color-blindness, deficit thinking, and poverty-disciplining.

A Professional Online Learning Community supports this cohort in their ability to share best practices amongst schools, support data-based practices in-between school visits, and to explore common wonderings about equity across teams. Cohort 1 has launched problem of practice teams in the following areas:

  • Excellence for African-American Students — Focus on an underserved population of African-Americans
  • Excellence for Latino Students — Focus on an underserved population of Latinos
  • Excellence for All — Focus on an under-identified population of Gifted and Talented students of color

These teams are facilitated by the Professional Learning Team in partnership with CELT, and other central office teams, to provide time and space for participants to deepen research-based knowledge, explore best practices in action, and focus on student engagement and achievement for a targeted group of underserved students.

Using Improvement Science methods, grounded in continuous cycles of improvement and supported by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Cohort I school teams have engaged various research and investigation techniques including;

  • School-wide “Environmental Scans”
  • Classroom walk-throughs
  • Student and faculty Focus Groups
  • District site visits
  • Creating a year-long opportunity (AIM) statement
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