Today’s rare and special eclipse inspired school children across the country to learn more about our sun, astronomy and science. It was a great way to start the school year, and a reminder that strong schools need only tap into the inherent curiosity of children to help them embrace learning. In the past several days, the assessment data that has come out from one such strong school, University Prep Steele St, has demonstrated just how rapidly children can learn in the right conditions. And it is awesome to behold.
University Prep is a public charter school in Denver and in August of 2016 they opened their doors as the restart provider to a community of elementary students in northeast Denver. These students got a whole new program, with new teachers and staff, without having to leave the building that had served as their school in the year prior. We changed the adults, but the kids stayed the same. And in just one year, the school’s overall performance has gone from the bottom to the top, quite literally.
On the state’s standardized assessment (PARCC), students showed the highest growth in the entire state of Colorado for math, and the highest growth among Denver elementary schools in English language arts. Student proficiency rates in math rose from 5% to 42% while rates in English language arts rose from 6% to 37%. All this with a group of students that predominantly live in poverty (90% qualify for free or reduced lunch) and many of whom are non native English speakers (70% and English language learners). For me, these results even eclipsed the eclipse!
On a personal level, I feel proud because this particular school restart is one that I helped put in place before I left Denver Public Schools in 2015 and today I have the good fortune to serve on the Board of Trustees at this outstanding public charter school. Kudos to the students at University Prep Steele St and many thanks to the hard-working staff who committed countless hours to building a world of opportunity for these children.
No. 1: This Denver turnaround school had the highest math growth in Colorado
EdPlex was honored to design and facilitate the Deciding to Found a Public Charter School workshop for educators in Las Vegas, Nevada in partnership with the Nevada Department of Education. This workshop enabled veteran teachers and instructional leaders to discuss the opportunities and challenges inherent to founding a new public charter school. A group of aspiring school founders explored topics including:
- What level of experience does it take to found a charter school?
- What are the unique opportunities and challenges of founding a public charter school?
- How can I address challenges in the start-up process?
The Kickstart School Restart group concluded their year-long program of cohort-based learning in our host city of Oakland, California. EdPlex developed and facilitated the program content for all the cohort sessions, including the topics for this final session:
- Setting performance expectations for schools in turnaround or restart
- Creating ways to apply existing accountability frameworks to turnaround schools more flexibly
- Prioritizing student growth data in holding schools accountable
Many thanks to Katherine Upton and the folks at the Fordham Foundation for profiling the School Restart work in their recent blog. We are excited to see several authorizers already diving into the resources available at www.schoolrestarts.org
For authorizers and agencies who are interested in getting support for their work to authorize quality school restarts, consider submitting an application to participate in the grant funded program, Kickstart School Restart. To download the application document, click Kickstart School Restart RFP Application.
More information can be found at www.schoolrestarts.org
A school “restart” can bring dramatic improvements to a chronically low-performing district or charter school—if it’s done well. Like other school turnaround strategies, the success of restart depends not only on the capacity of the school operator but also the degree to which key decisions are made in collaborative dialogue with the community in the authorizing process.
To address the important role of the process itself, EdPlex and Public Impact have released the School Restart Authorization Process Guide and accompanying restart resource database that provides practical, step-by-step guidance about what authorizers, school operators, and support organizations should consider when designing or refining a restart process. Based on the restart experiences of authorizers, school operators, education support organizations, and community leaders nationwide, the guide provides nine steps to a smooth transition:
EdPlex was pleased to support the development of a unique learning opportunity for school districts in Colorado that are supporting schools in turnaround. The Turnaround Leadership Academy, sponsored by the Colorado Department of Education, was rolled out in the 2015-16 school year. Learn more here: