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Denver's Collaborative Healing Initiatives Communities is helping bridge the achievement gap for students of color

Posted at 8:20 AM, Jan 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-11 10:20:52-05

DENVER — As students in the Denver metro area prepare to head back to classrooms for in-person learning, many educators and parents have expressed concerns that remote learning has widened the achievement gap.

The latest statistics from Denver Public Schools show white students score 40 points higher on standardized tests than Black students and 35 points high than Hispanic students.

But statistics never tell the whole story.

“Our students are excelling in areas that some others may not be because they have those opportunities to work with our instructors and take a break from all of that screen time. They also have an opportunity to talk back to the teacher and give feedback,” said Tanaka Shipp, the executive director of education for Collaborative Healing Initiatives Communities (CHIC), a nonprofit that helps underserved communities.

"We come in and really just focus on the whole child," Shipp said.

That includes planning breaks for students throughout their remote learning day and offering activities like painting and yoga.

Shipp said CHIC picks up where schools leave off by catering to social and emotional needs, facilitating conversations between students, teachers, and parents regularly, and removing any other roadblocks that get in the way of a student’s success.

“Some of the feedback we’ve received from parents was, 'My child’s computer isn’t working.' For us to hear that, we say 'OK, let’s figure out how to connect this parent with the school so we can get this student reengaged with their learning,'” Shipp said.

Shipp said the narrative that parents of color aren’t involved and that the achievement gap can’t be bridged is simply not true, because CHIC and other nonprofits have very active parents and their students are successful, even during a pandemic.

But it takes hard work, resources, and a willingness for school districts to work with organizations like CHIC to get it done.