Student Equity & Opportunity: Eliminating Barriers, Accelerating Academic Growth
At the October 4, 2018 Focus on Achievement meeting, the Board of Education heard an update on how changes to the Student Equity & Opportunity (SE&O) division are playing out in DPS schools thus far this school year.
Associate Chief of SE&O Eldridge Greer started the meeting asking board members to share what school culture practices they were impressed by during the first six weeks of the year. Board members shared a number of stories, many of which focused on how impressed they are by our students’ ability to articulate their own vision for their education and advocate for the accountability they expect.
“SE&O is all about removing barriers to student success, and also creating opportunities of hope and agency for students to be active participants in what their lives look like,” Greer said, introducing the division’s priorities and strategic plan. The presentation included updates and bright spots from the Gifted and Talented, Special Education, Suicide and Bullying Prevention, Whole Child and Discipline Reform teams.
2018-19 Strategic Improvements
“Last year, we heard loud and clear from our schools that, in order to accelerate opportunities for kids, they needed more resources to support students,” Greer said.
As a result, the district has improved direct students supports by increasing full time supports in elementary Affective Needs Centers and mental health supports across the district. This year, 101 schools increased their mental health staffing, with 177 schools now having at least one or more full time mental health employee(s).
SE&O has also worked to streamline central supports by adding one special education instructional specialist dedicated to each network of schools to serve as the key point of contact, increased behavior technician supports from seven to 15 full time employees, and launched a deployment platform to increase timeliness and quality of customer service.
Voices from the Field
A panel of SE&O and school-based staff spoke with the board about their experience with the changes made this school year.
“When I came to Hallett at the beginning of last year, we were in a state of crisis. Students were a product of trauma and experienced further trauma as a result of severe staff turnaround in our building,” said Dominique Jefferson, principal at Hallett Academy. “SE&O has been instrumental in the work we’ve been able to do. We were able to secure a dean of culture, restorative practices coordinator, three days of a social worker, three days of a psych intern and two special educators full time to support children to get what they needed. I cannot say enough how responsive the team was when we needed help the most.”
“When I came to Beach Court four years ago, there was one day of the specialty areas we needed: social work, psych, gifted and talented,” said Leah Schultz-Bartlett, principal at Beach Court Elementary. “But through the way things have been restructured, we are one of the 177 schools that now have a full time psychologist, and it’s made a world of difference. Having her in the building, she is part of our school community — people are more comfortable because they know her. We also have a full time restorative justice coordinator and she’s been instrumental both for the adults and kids in our building. We increased gifted and talented to four days a week and now have a robust program. We have really shifted with this team to a very asset based approach that is really working.”
Department of Social Work & Psychological Service Manager Meredith “Mary” Fatseas and Behavior Strategies Manager Michael Sykes talked about how their teams are supporting schools.
The District Crisis Recovery Team (DCRT) is made up of 63 social work and psychological professionals employed buy schools throughout the district who volunteer to assist other schools in crisis. “When a school is beyond their capacity to handle a situation or perhaps the staff are impacted, as well, the team deploys to consult with and support the school in need,” explained Fatseas.
When schools are in need of additional behavioral supports, the Behavioral Strategies team sends behavior technicians out to the school to work on site to help coach, train and model how to work with students. “We build authentic relationships, learn about their vision and strengths, and then partner to support them in building their capacity to improve behavior,” said Sykes.
Schultz-Bartlett added her perspective as a school leader: “It repairs the relationship between the child and the adults in the building, as well — and that’s the real success of this support.”
Whole Child Goal Statement Finalized
Greer also shared with the board the finalized goal statement for the Denver Plan 2020’s Whole Child goal: “By May 2020, 90% of DPS students will report receiving strong or excellent Overall whole child supports.”
DPS is committed to providing equitable and inclusive environments where we ensure students are Healthy, Supported, Engaged, Challenged, Safe, and Socially and Emotionally Intelligent. DPS is leading the nation in focusing this level of effort and attention around Whole Child supports because research shows it will not only improve academic outcomes, but is critical to achieving our vision that Every Child Succeeds.