La Raza Report Finds 35 Opportunities to Improve DPS

By Kathryn White 

Denver Public Schools released a report March 19 intended — after decades of complicated twists and turns between the district and Latino community — to finally create an effective and sustainable strategy for addressing barriers and seizing opportunities for the success of Latino students and families.

A research team from The Multicultural Leadership Center, LCC, combined a historical analysis going back 100 years and student data going back to 2008 with lessons from 51 focus groups at 15 schools and a survey. In total, the project team reached over 3,500 DPS students, parents, teachers and staff, administrative leaders and members of community groups.

In the week following the report’s release, researchers met with groups of stakeholders who had provided input along the way, such as parents and principals, for in-depth conversations about their findings. 

Dr. Ramon Del Castillo, who has long been involved with efforts to improve the district’s approach to Latino students, and is an educator himself, played an active role in the project.

“I think they were pleased that somebody heard their voice,” Del Castillo said of the stakeholder gatherings. “For the longest time, Latinos in Denver Public Schools have been left without an effective voice to talk about those things that need to be changed.”

The report details 35 recommendations under the headings of district level, students, parents, teachers, school leaders and central office staff.

Among them, the district-commission La Raza Report calls for greater coordination between the district and nonprofits, Denver-area employers and the city. It calls for a culturally competent curriculum and teacher capacity to effectively deliver it. It calls for recruiting and retaining greater numbers of Latino teachers, and it asks the district to further explore what it described as a “brown ceiling,” where numbers showed fewer Latinos in high-level roles and where Latino study participants described curtailed professional opportunities and pressure to “act white” in order to advance.

Del Castillo said that Dr. Alex Marrero, DPS superintendent since 2021, will have to conduct his own assessment of the recommendations in order to determine priority areas and move forward with implementation.

Among the report’s findings, a lack of equitable resources for Latino students and schools stood out to Del Castillo.

“One example is a case where parents were talking about feeling vergüenza. Vergüenza, in Spanish, is the concept of shame,” Del Castillo explained. “Their kids would get their raggedy shabby basketball clothes on and go across the tracks, so to speak, to these big schools, and see all the resources that these schools had. And they’d ask the question, ‘How come we don’t have that?’”

Del Castillo added that in the focus groups he facilitated, he was struck by what he described as the “Latinization” of the district.

“You now have Puertorriqueños, Cubanos, people from Costa Rica, from Venezuela, people whose history and culture needs to be paid attention to,” he said. “I would hate for those groups to go through what we went through since the inception of Denver Public Schools. We had to dance to the master narrative. That’s going to change. And that’s positive, but we also have to be very vigilant that new groups are incorporated into a mix of new curriculum.”

DPS announced alongside the report that it would soon establish a Latino Student Success team and name a director to lead the district’s implementation of La Raza Report recommendations. A spokesperson for the district said, as The Denver North Star went to press,  that it hoped to name a director by the end of April or early May.

Last year the district initiated the Latine Education Advisory Council.

An executive summary, the full La Raza Report and in-depth supplemental materials can be found at

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