Activists detect some progress in Denver Public Schools since a 1994 student walkout dramatized concern over poor Hispanic achievement.

Teacher training for the bilingual program is improving. Plans are being developed to reach goals related to achievement, community and family involvement, increasing the number of Hispanic teachers, providing greater emphasis on science and math in high schools and programs for pre-schoolers, according to the Latino Education Coalition, a group of organizations working to improve Hispanic performance.

In September, the coalition initiated a Mexican cultural and history education project similar to the annual Black History Month, celebrated each February.

Adrienne Benavidez, co-chairwoman of the coalition, said the coalition will propose to the school board a formally designated ”Latino Heritage Month” from mid-September to mid-October to coincide with Mexican Independence Day.

In May, Rita Montero became the first Hispanic elected to the school board in 12 years. Montero’s goals include stronger bilingual education and equitable allocation of money when busing ends next fall.

Superintendent Irv Moskowitz has won praise from some Hispanic leaders for tackling Hispanic achievement. Hispanics make up nearly half of Denver’s 64, 000 pupils.

Hispanics this year had lower reading and math composite scores than Anglos, blacks and Asians in the second, fifth and 11th grades.

But Moskowitz is criticized by others for not pushing hard enough.

”I would give him a ‘C-minus,’ and I’m a high grader,” said Ramon Del Castillo, co-chairman of the Latino Education Coalition. ”In my opinion things have moved at an incremental basis. We haven’t seen a giant victory yet.”

That type of victory would include a new elementary school in crowded northwest Denver, Del Castillo said. That is unlikely with the district facing a budget shortfall next year.

Del Castillo also is disturbed that Hispanics are underrepresented on school governing committees.

”In general, Latinos have lost faith in the system,” he said.



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