Board of Education Update – May 10, 2018 Work Session

LEAP: Defining Excellent Instruction and Investing in our Teachers

At the May 10, 2018 Work Session, the Board of Education received an update on LEAP (Leading Effective Academic Practice) — the district’s performance management system for teachers — which defines excellent instruction in DPS and invests in our teachers’ growth and development.

What is LEAP?

LEAP was designed by teachers, school leaders and members of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) for the purpose of defining excellent instruction and providing clear expectations for what great teaching looks like. It’s now a key lever in achieving the Denver Plan 2020 goals, and is integrated into school and district culture. We use it to establish consistent and high expectations to inform coaching, support, retention, hiring and performance decisions. It helps ensure teachers know what to expect and how to get support. It provides teachers with continuous opportunities to grow their practice, and ensures all students have access to an excellent educator in every school.

Why We Invest

We know the greatest lever for improving student performance is investing in our teachers and leaders. According to the Gates Foundation, “The quality of classroom instruction has a greater impact on student outcomes than any other in-school factor.” LEAP helps us leverage a common definition of what great teaching looks like, and communicate about the skills that make teachers most effective across the district.

Voices from the Field

Board Member and former teacher Carrie Olson joined peer observers Marne Gulley and Silvia Curiel-Torres to discuss with the board their experiences with the LEAP performance management system.

“There’s no easy answer to how we evaluate and grow teachers,” said Olson, and invited board members to shadow a peer observer one day next school year. “We believe the best way for the board to understand all that goes into teaching is to spend time with teachers as they interact with students.”

You can read the full presentation here.

Call for New Quality Schools Applicant Presentations, Recommendations 

The Call for New Quality Schools — “the Call” — is how DPS announces, authorizes and places new schools in the district. The Call has three purposes. It is:

  • public document, which DPS uses to announce the need for new schools to serve changing enrollment and capacity needs and to replace persistently low-performing schools.
  • quality review process, through which DPS evaluates the quality of proposals for new schools, engages with communities and supports the Denver Board of Education in making decisions about which schools to approve or deny in a public vote.
  • placement process, through which approved schools compete for placement in a district facility under the Facility Allocation Policy, and are placed by the board in a public vote.


Successful new schools — and quality applications — are formed through collaborations between families, community members and exemplary school leaders who design rigorous programs tailored to student needs. Three new school applicants presented to the board at the work session:

  • DPS Exemplar Early College High Schools, grades 9-12 with access to college courses through grade 14 (district-run)
  • Beacon Network Middle Schools 3, 4 and 5, grades 6-8 (district-run)
  • American Indian Academy of Denver, grades 6-12 (charter)

You can view the applications here. The applicant presentations are available here.


The District Accountability Committee’s Great Schools subcommittee presented its recommendation to approve DPS Exemplar Early College High School and Beacon Network Middle Schools, and approve with conditions the American Indian Academy. You can read the committee’s rationale here.

The district’s Portfolio Management Office, which runs the Call, gave an overview of the quality authorizing process and their staff recommendation to approve all of the applicants with standard and school-specific conditions, with Beacon Network Middle Schools and DPS Exemplar Early College High Schools being approved for up to three schools each. You can view the full board presentation with rationale for the staff recommendations here.

Watch this video and visit the website to learn more about how the Call works.