East High School in Denver

(Photo: CPR)

A handful of Denver’s most affluent public schools have undertaken an experiment over the last two years, designed to tackle one of Denver Public Schools' thorniest problems: the segregation of schools by income level.  

More than two-thirds of the district's students qualify for free or reduced lunch, a measure of poverty, but that percentage varies dramatically by school. With research showing that students tend to do better in integrated classrooms, DPS established the Strengthening Neighborhoods Initiative to promote socio-economic integration.

In the pilot program, seven affluent schools agreed that, once they had met the requirement to enroll children from their neighborhoods, they would give priority in the choice process to low-income students. Six elementary and K-8 schools participated, as did East High School. Results have been mixed, says Chalkbeat reporter Melanie Asmar, who wrote about the program recently. She spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner.