DENVER (CBS4)– Thousands of Denver Public Schools students are not meeting reading standards. Fifty-eight percent of third graders sat for mid-year assessments and DPS data from those tests show kids of color are struggling the most.

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Thirty percent of white students are on track while just 5% of African American and Latinx students are.

DPS insists we shouldn’t read too much into the data, saying it’s not a comprehensive assessment, but Nicholas Martinez with Transform Education Now say it is a sign that far too many kids are not where they should be, “When we started crunching these numbers we knew it would be bad. This was shocking.”

Martinez says when 95% of black and brown kids in DPS have trouble reading, the district should be sounding an alarm. Instead, he says it buried the data and he had to file an open records request to get access.

“The fact this hasn’t been the number one topic of every board conversation, of every single opportunity that they’ve had to work with their senior staff is troubling to me.”

He says learning to read by third grade is critical because, by fourth grade, they should be reading to learn.

Tamara Acevedo, DPS Deputy Superintendent of Academics, says the district is concerned about the impact COVID-19 had on learning but she downplayed the mid-year reading assessment, “Are we concerned overall? Absolutely. This particular assessment is the concern more, not for the use it’s been intended for.”

She says the data is simply a snapshot in time that helps teachers make instructional decisions.

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Martinez says it’s a wake-up call, especially in a school district that says equality matters, “We know when students are behind it’s very, very difficult for them to catch up and so if we don’t act swiftly, if we don’t act decisively, these students learning progress for the rest of their academic career will be drastically impacted.”

Acevedo says DPS, which received $210 million in COVID-19 relief funding, has a robust plan to make up ground loss to COVID in reading and math, including additional tutoring and six weeks of full-day summer school, “Within that, we’ve aligned it to best practices in the science of reading and also best practices in terms of enrichment in STEM.”

One thing everyone agrees on is that the District can’t do it alone.

“We need to all be involved in this,” says Acevedo.

“I think this needs to be number one story that any of us talking about,” says Martinez, who wants regular academic progress reports without having to file an open records request to get the data.

While DPS insists the mid-year assessment is not predictive of reading ability, the spring statewide assessment does measure grade-level reading and last year’s test did find 95% of Black and Brown third graders at DPS could not read at grade level.

The test also found only 18% of fourth-graders were proficient in math.

Shaun Boyd