Board of Education Update – April 23, 2018 Work Session

Coaching and Leadership in Service of Best First Instruction 

At the April 23, 2018 work session, the Board of Education heard about how the district is supporting great teachers and leaders in our schools — a 2017-18 Instructional Priority for making progress on our Denver Plan 2020 goals.

The board discussion focused on our current and future vision for coaching and leadership in service of best first instruction, including distributive leadership and the role of Instructional Leadership Teams.

You can read the full presentation, pre-reading and memo here.


Best first instruction is defined as culturally-responsive, data-driven teaching and learning that provides all students with joyful, rigorous and personalized learning, scaffolded to meet learners where they are and accelerate them to grade-level and beyond.

The Instructional Leadership Team (ILT) is a group of school-based leaders who establish and maintain instructional systems in service of increasing student achievement and improving teacher effectiveness.

The Distributive Leadership Model

DPS has adopted a distributive leadership model in which the principal shifts from the sole person driving change at a school to leading an ILT of other leaders in this work. The ILT establishes and maintains instructional systems and becomes the vehicle through which the vision of the school and all other instructional priorities are realized.

Through the opportunity to work as teacher leaders, and as part of the ILT, we elevate teachers from implementers of a school’s vision to leaders in creating and enacting that vision. We collectively support the development of strong leaders — including teacher leaders — to lead toward best first instruction.

As a result of high-quality and frequent coaching and feedback and high-quality collaborative data-driven planning, the quality of instruction delivered by all teachers dramatically increases. As result of improved instruction, students will make greater academic gains, putting us on track to achieve our Denver Plan 2020 goals.

Measuring Impact

The board received data showing that teachers who have been supported by a Senior/Team Lead for two or more years have statistically significant higher student growth scores compared to other teachers. In addition, teacher perceptions of ILT members — and specifically teacher leaders — are generally positive:

  • 91% of Senior/Team Leads are involved in decisions that affect their work, compared to 65% of other teachers.
  • 87% of Senior/Team Leads believe that they have the opportunity for growth and development, compared to 75% of other teachers.
  • 79% of teachers report that their team lead is successful at both evaluating teaching and coaching to help improve practice.

Voices From the Field

The board heard from educators in the field about what the distributive leadership model looks like at their schools, including:

  • Green Valley Elementary School Principal Blake Hammond and Assistant Principal Jennifer Buckland
  • Newlon Elementary School Principal Rob Beam, Principal Resident Vanessa Trussell and Senior Team Lead Brenna McEvitt

“Our ILT has created our vision and mission and, together, identified the three priorities we are focused on to get us there,” Hammond said. “My ILT is phenomenal and I wouldn’t be able to do it without them, and it’s because we are working together to drive student achievement.”

McEvitt talked about how the model has helped her grow and develop as a leader: “The coaching around my leadership has made my ability to coach other teachers so much more successful, so that those I coach are more effective in their work with students. So, it is truly distributed, from top to bottom.”