Board of Education Update – Focus on Achievement, April 17, 2017

Final 2017-18 School Year Budget Proposed   

The Board of Education reviewed the final budget proposal for the 2017-18 school year. Chief Financial Officer Mark Ferrandino gave a budget process overview and said that, despite strong economic growth, the state’s budget pressures continue to impact K-12 education. He detailed the limits set by TABOR (the Taxpayers Bill of Rights) and the Gallagher amendment, and the resulting “negative factor” in which the state continues to withhold money from public schools throughout the state, including $91 million annually from Denver Public Schools.

Ferrandino also noted that the proposed federal budget, if approved in its current form, will have a severe impact on DPS with decreases to our highest need schools.

The budget for next year includes significantly more money to our schools, thanks in large part to the Mill Levy approved by Denver voters in November and additional dollars for our highest need students. The biggest increases next year will be for whole child supports, teacher leadership, technology and early literacy.

The board spent a significant amount of time discussing the additional resources the district is devoting to supporting students’ social and emotional health through the whole child. All told, the district is investing $33.5 million in student supports including psychologists, social workers, nurses, counselors and restorative justice coordinators.

As in past years, nearly all funds (96%) directly support students. Headquarters functions will decrease from 5% this school year to 4% next year. Of the $7,063 per student that is managed by school leaders, principals use 97% of their budgets to fund staff; overwhelmingly for instructional staff.

You can read the full presentation here. The board will vote on the budget in May.

DPS Develops Leadership Capacity through TLC, Instructional Leadership Teams

The Focus on Achievement session highlighted the successes and challenges DPS faces in ensuring great teachers and leaders for all students. Great teaching and leading are key strategies in achieving the Denver Plan 2020 goals.

Chief Human Resources Officer Debbie Hearty said the district is focused on three key levers to support and develop great teachers and leaders: educator diversity, strategic retention and building leadership capacity. Tonight’s session focused on the progress DPS has made in building leadership capacity through two key vehicles: Teacher Leadership & Collaboration (TLC) and Instructional Leadership Teams (ILT).

Teacher Leadership & Collaboration

TLC organizes schools around strong teams with the principal serving as a leader of leaders and Senior Team Leads guiding small teacher teams. At a TLC school, Senior Team Leads provide the teachers on their teams with one-on-one coaching, evaluation, and real-time feedback that helps improve teaching and learning every single day. Teachers have the opportunity for consistent support and development, which not only improves instruction but helps retain great teachers.

Instructional Leadership Teams

Hearty discussed how DPS is utilizing Instructional Leadership Teams (ILTs) to achieve prioritized district instructional goals at the school level. ILTs consist of the principal, assistant principals and other school leaders, as well as TLC Team Leads.

A strong ILT is the vehicle through which the vision of the school and all other instructional priorities are realized. Through setting the instructional vision, aligning instructional expectations and supporting the development of Team Lead capacity, ILTs increase the school’s focus on instruction and culture, create a common understanding of what high-quality instruction looks like and develop buy-in for team leads who have a voice on the ILT. Strong ILTs result in improved instruction and therefore improved student growth and teacher retention.

Leadership Development Leads to Results

Results from DPS surveys such as CollaboRATE and Talent Management surveys indicate the positive impact investing in TLC and ILTs has had so far, especially on improved instruction, teacher support and student growth. School Performance Framework growth data illustrates that a greater proportion of schools that have implemented TLC for at least 3 years were blue and green schools compared to the district average.

Principal Retention Up

DPS is seeing increases in in-district principal retention over time: from 81% in 2015-16 to 87% in 2016-17 and projected at 91% in 2017-18. Current DPS principals have, on average, seven years of school leader experience in the district and nine years of school leader experience overall.

Hearty credited the trend in principal retention to a multi-layered approach focused on increased support, autonomy and compensation. She credited TLC as a means of building capacity for school leaders, increased flexibility at the school level, and said the average total compensation for elementary school principals is higher in DPS than in surrounding districts (for secondary principals, where DPS has many more smaller and medium sized schools, DPS is in the top three metro area districts).

Panelists Share Personal Experiences

Two panels of teachers, teacher leaders and principals from spoke about how TLC and ILTs have shaped their schools and leadership choices. Voices from the field included representatives from:

  • Munroe Elementary
  • Farrell B. Howell
  • West Leadership Academy
  • North High School
  • Greenwood Academy
  • High Tech Early College

“As a Senior Team Lead, I’m really able to help our teachers to become stakeholders in our school mission,” said Allison Corbett, a Senior Team Lead at High Tech Early College. “The Senior Team Lead straddles the roles between teacher and observer and coach, and it engenders a lot of trust.”

“I once heard that education is changing from an individual sport to a team sport; and the work being done here with TLC and ILTs is proof of that,” said Board Chair Anne Rowe. “This is truly remarkable and you all are an inspiration. These are things we have been dreaming about as a district and you all are living it. Thank you.”

You can read the full presentation here and learn more on the TLC website.