Home Career A first look at Denver Public Schools’ new strategic plan

A first look at Denver Public Schools’ new strategic plan


A year into his tenure, Denver Public Schools Superintendent Alex Marrero is developing a new strategic plan to lead Colorado’s largest school district.

The plan, which Marrero calls a road map, focuses on three broad goals: improving the student experience, improving the adult experience for educators and families, and replacing “inefficient, destructive systems” with “fair, transparent systems,” according to a copy obtained. by Chalkbeat.

It also comes with a new catchphrase: Every Learner Thrives.

“If we are to realize our vision that every learner thrives, we must reframe education as a series of experiences that foster the sharing of ideas, the pursuit of passion, and the pursuit of equity,” the plan says. “It’s a DPS experience.”

Marrero said in an interview that he intentionally framed the plan as a fluid roadmap with goals to be met by 2026, rather than a rigid plan with annual benchmarks.

“This means that even if, God forbid, we find ourselves in a situation similar to the COVID-19 pandemic, we can still recalculate like a navigation system and still know where we want to be in 2026.” — he said.

Denver has been operating without a strategic plan since 2020, when a previous plan developed by then-Superintendent Tom Boasberg expired. Marrero’s plan comes as Denver prepares to welcome back about 90,000 students who have endured three school years disrupted by the pandemic, resulting in lost learning and lower test scores.

“We have a deep, deep hole to climb out of,” Marrero said.

The plan is based on a 100 Day Listening Tour Marrero conducted last year, recommendations of internal and external consultants, and goals set by the school board. Originally promised by early summer, the long-awaited plan was released to the district’s first leaders. A district spokesperson said it will be widely publicized in the next few weeks.

The pandemic has made the past few school years difficult, with educators reporting serious problems with student behavior, mental health and engagement in class. The plan aims not only to improve test scores and high school graduation rates, but also to increase participation in extracurricular activities and create a sense of belonging.

“I want our kids to look far beyond their district and block, and that can be in a variety of ways,” Marrero said.

Throughout the plan, the emphasis is on equity—closing academic gaps between student groups, expanding ethnic studies, hiring more faculty of color, and expanding access to culturally competent mental health services.

The plan calls for ongoing equity audits to improve district systems, as well as deeper community partnerships, competitive teacher pay and a more diverse workforce. It also calls for increased opportunities for students, such as more career and technical education, access to advanced coursework, and health and financial education.

And the plan aims for a 10-percentage-point increase by 2026 in a variety of areas, from student graduation rates to participation in parent-teacher conferences. Marrero has too a set of annual goals tied to one’s own assessment.

The plan revives the idea of ​​creation an information panel that allows parents to compare schools in more subtle ways afterwards Denver has abandoned its previous school ranking system and reverted to a government system that relies heavily on test scores.

The plan also calls for a clearer definition of how flexible different types of schools can be in meeting the district’s goals. Denver has long prided itself on its “family of schools,” which includes district schools, semi-autonomous innovative schools, and independent charter schools. With the departure from the policy of reforming education and a controversial discussion This spring, it was unclear how much autonomy building leaders have about innovative schools.

“We’ll all know in 2026 how far we’ve come,” Marrero said of the roadmap’s goals, “but I’m very confident we’ll get there.”

Below you will find a more detailed description of the plan. Within each of the three broad goals, Marrero laid out a set of more specific goals, strategies for achieving them, and ways to measure progress over the next four years.

Specific goals to improve the student experience include:

  • That students are on track for college, careers, and “life in a post-pandemic global society with an accelerated trajectory for marginalized students”
  • That they “feel a strong sense of belonging, receive emotional support at school and have the ability to advocate for themselves and justice”
  • For them to “grow and pursue their passions” such as athletics and art

Strategies to achieve these goals include:

  • Improving access for all students to rigorous courses and an engaging program
  • Improving academic programming in math and literacy, science and technology, humanities, ethnic studies, languages, and health and financial education
  • Expanding career and technical education
  • Accelerating student growth through specialized plans for students of color, multilingual students, students with disabilities, and other marginalized groups
  • Providing “culturally affirming mental health resources and support”
  • Supporting student-led affinity groups “to build a sense of belonging and social identity”
  • Making it easier for students to register and participate in extracurricular and extracurricular activities

To measure progress, the plan calls for Denver schools to increase by at least 10 percentage points the number of students who achieve on grade level, graduate within four to five years and graduate with college credit, apprenticeship or internship hours or an industry credential, all by 2026. The completion of four-year courses in the district in 2021 was 74%.

The plan establishes similar rates of progress for more students who earn a seal of biliteracymeaning they can read and write well in two or more languages, participate in “programs that support passion,” and report a sense of belonging in neighborhood surveys.

Specific goals to improve the adult experience include:

  • That every employee sees himself as a teacher
  • The district’s workforce “reflects the diverse identities of our students”
  • For families to participate in decisions that affect their children’s education

Strategies to achieve these goals include:

  • Countering the “narrative that treats difference as deficit”
  • Expand efforts to recruit and retain staff from marginalized populations
  • Pay employees wages at or above market rates
  • Improving community engagement, especially with families of marginalized identities

To measure progress, the plan calls for a 10 percentage point improvement by 2026 in the share of staff who report on district surveys that they feel supported, and in families who report that they feel informed about their students’ progress, among other measures. The district hopes to see a similar increase in the proportion of family members from marginalized families participating in parent conferences and district events.

The plan also calls for retaining more educators and hiring more staff with diverse backgrounds, with goals to be set next year. Although the majority of Denver students are students of color, the majority of Denver teachers are white.

The specific goals of changing district systems include:

  • Destruction, dismantling and reconstruction of unjust systems
  • Provision of resources and services is fair and transparent
  • Ensuring that the district is “recognised locally, regionally and nationally as a leader in the practice of equity and sustainable development”

Strategies to achieve these goals include:

  • Regular audit of operational and academic systems for equity
  • Expanding access to “clear and transparent information about the characteristics and performance of different schools” that goes beyond state-issued school rankings.
  • Developing a way to measure progress at the district, school, and classroom levels
  • Partnering with external organizations to meet community needs
  • Determining what flexibilities will be available to traditional school districts, semi-autonomous district innovative schools, and independent charter schools

To measure progress, the plan calls for an equity audit of 10 district systems by 2026 and aligning the district’s budget and school-level strategic plans with the district’s strategic plan.

The county also plans to open six community centers that will offer services such as mental health assistance, GED and citizenship classes, as well as meals and school supplies.

Melanie Asmar is a senior reporter for Chalkbeat Colorado covering Denver Public Schools. Contact Melanie at masmar@chalkbeat.org.

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