Board of Education Update – May 14, 2018 Work Session

Exploring Innovation in DPS

New Innovation Zone Applications Forthcoming in June

At tonight’s work session, the Board of Education discussed innovation zones and how Denver Public Schools is working to learn from and scale best practices from these pioneering new organizations.

What is an Innovation Zone?

Established under the Innovation Schools Act of 2008, innovation schools are managed by DPS but waive certain requirements of state education laws, collective bargaining agreements and/or district policies. The Act also makes it possible for groups of schools to submit a plan to create an innovation school zone, or iZone. The schools must share “common interests, such as geographical location or educational focus.”

An innovation zone application must first be developed and approved by the staff of all the schools in the iZone, then by the DPS Board of Education and finally by the State Board of Education. The DPS board must review iZones every three years, and also approve which schools are permitted to enter the Zone.

DPS approved its first iZone, the Luminary Learning Network — comprised of Ashley Elementary, Cole Arts & Science Academy, Denver Green School and Creativity Challenge Community — in 2015. It currently remains the district’s only iZone.

Getting to Great Schools through Innovation

Our primary goal in the Denver Plan is to achieve “Great Schools in Every Neighborhood,” and one of the key strategies to achieving this goal is to provide as much flexibility as possible to our schools so they are best able to serve their students’ unique needs. We believe iZones build on our culture of innovation and ability to pioneer creative, thoughtful new ideas that improve student achievement.

Superintendent Tom Boasberg explained: “We want for talented educators who have great ideas to have the opportunity to try those ideas, learn what works and what doesn’t, accelerate our rate of improvement and allow the district to learn from best practices.”

iZone schools have greater autonomy to differentiate their educational models, focus more resources on educational programming and streamline administrative responsibilities. The exciting new strategies they develop become important learnings that can be shared with other DPS schools, raising the bar across the district and helping ensure that Every Child Succeeds.

New iZone Applications Forthcoming

Two new iZone applications will come to the board for approval in June:

  • McAuliffe International, McAuliffe at Manual, Northfield High School and Swigert International are proposing the Near Northeast Zone.
  • Denver Center for International Studies at Ford, High Tech and Montclair elementary schools are proposing the Empower Zone.

Valdez Elementary School will also ask the board to approve its joining the Luminary Learning Network.

You can read the full presentation to the board here, and read more about innovation schools (including a list of all DPS innovation schools) here.