The Goal: To learn how to replicate DU’s successful university-school district partnership.

The Morgridge College of Education (MCE) and Denver Public School (DPS) District played host to university educators from across the nation who were on campus to learn about the unique 16-year partnership developed by MCE’s Educational Leadership & Policy Studies (ELPS) department.

The study visit was sponsored by the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) and featured a three-day experience that included panel discussions with DPS leaders, ELPS faculty, alumni, and current students. The program is identified as one of the most successful university-school district partnerships in the nation. According to Dr. Susan Korach, ELPS dept. chair, there are several things that sets the ELPS program apart from other principal and leadership development programs.

“From the beginning of the program, we’ve been committed to leading differently. That means we’re not a program that focuses on static readings and classroom assignments. We believe in the power of experiential learning. That puts our students into very challenging, courageous spaces where they can bring about real, disruptive change.”

A hallmark of the ELPS program is the DU Ritchie Program for School Leaders. This cohort was originally created to address the need for highly competent and socially responsible school leaders; namely principals and superintendents. Today, graduates of the program refer to themselves simply as “Ritchies,” but their mission is anything but simple.

“Being a Ritchie was transformational to me. We are a cohort of souls that are serious about changing kid’s lives,” says Anthony Smith, graduate of the 4th Ritchie cohort and DPS Instructional Superintendent. “What Ritchie has helped us do is, first off, identify who you are authentically and how you lead from that. . . . How are you leading for change and what is the status quo for these kids you say your care so much about?”

Susana Cordova, DPS Deputy Superintendent, explains how the ELPS value-based leadership model impacts her daily work.

“I’m not going budge in this school or in any other school because I know what is important to me now and I know how to lead for what’s important to me. I know how to, in tough times, go back to what motivates me to take a stand. To say, ‘It’s not OK to lower standards’ . . . or whatever it is, because I know my values as a leader say the most important thing that I can be doing is to level the playing field for kids who only get that at school.”

Phrases like “leveling the playing field,” “challenging the status quo,” and “leading for change” are not just words for ELPS graduates, but rather commitments they are taught to embody while still students. So it’s not surprising that one of the highlights of the study visit included a trip to the Denver Green School (DGS), a DPS innovation school that started as a class project in ELPS.

Mimi Diaz and Craig Harrer, original founders of the school, were challenged to create their dream school as part of their ELPS course work. What exists today is a K-8th grade, high-achieving school in southeast Denver with a student population from 33 countries, speaking more than 25 different languages. A core value of the Denver Green School is sustainability – evident, not only in the on-campus community garden, but also through its shared leadership model.

Now nine years old, the Green School, has been identified as a “high performance,” “high growth” school, and a National Green Ribbon School award winner for the last seven years.

For graduates of the ELPS/Ritchie program, the results of such innovative leadership is not the exception, but rather the expectation of those who “lead differently” – and one of the key reasons the program was selected as a study site for the UCEA visiting professor team.

If feedback from the study participants is any indication, the ELPS leadership model will continue to drive educational change on a national level.

“What I learned at DU will inform how we prepare school leaders at the University of Texas at Austin,” said Dr. Terrence Green, assistant professor from the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy at UT.

Dr. Jada Phelps-Moultrie from Michigan State agreed, “I absolutely learned so much and was intrigued by this esteemed partnership . . . I too am excited how we can make so much of what was shared applicable to our own institution.”

Dr. Susan Korach, ELPS Dept. Chair, explains what makes the educational leadership program so unique.
Craig Harrer, ELPS PhD student, (R) leads visiting professors on a tour of the Denver Green School he helped create.
Culture Fest at the Denver Green School celebrates some of the 33 different countries represented in the study body.

Morgridge College of Education (MCE) had a robust presence at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) in New York City, April 13-17. More than 50 faculty and students presented papers, and four were recognized for Division and Special Interest Group (SIG) awards. AERA is a national community of education researchers, comprised of 12 divisions and over 155 special interest groups (SIGs).  The Annual Meeting serves as a forum for academic institutions, departments, non-university-based research institutions, and professional associations to share information about federal education research, and engage in shaping policy with regard to significant research issues. This year’s conference theme was “The Dreams, Possibilities, and Necessity of Public Education.”

MCE Award Recipients

  • 2018 AERA Division K Innovations in Research on Equity and Social Justice in Teacher Education Award: Maria Salazar, PhD, Higher Education Faculty
  • 2018 Shelby Wolf Literature SIG Outstanding Dissertation Award: Kimberly McDavid Schmidt, PhD, Assistant Clinical Professor
  • 2018 Leadership for Social Justice SIG Dissertation of the Year Award: Angelina Walker, EdD, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Graduate
  • 2018 Family, School, and Community Partnerships SIG Dissertation of the Year Award: Kayon Morgan, PhD, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Graduate

MCE Presenters

The University of Denver’s (DU) Morgridge College of Education (MCE) and Denver Public School (DPS) System celebrated 15 years of one of the most successful private college–public school partnerships in the nation with a reunion held at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, November 14th. The DU Ritchie Program for School Leaders, was originally created to address the need for highly competent and socially responsible school leaders; namely principals and superintendents.

In its 15-year history the innovative partnership has been credited with producing the majority of Denver’s public school leaders, including:

  • 82 principals
  • 107 assistant principals
  • 4 instructional superintendents

In the current 2017-18 academic year 38 principals and 71 assistant principals in DPS are graduates of the DU Ritchie program. Many of whom have the longest tenure in DPS, have successfully led turnaround efforts, and were the first to achieve innovation status in their school leadership.

In addition to recognizing such milestones, the commemorative event reunited program graduates, professors and mentors from across its 15-year history. Individuals instrumental with founding and sustaining the leadership program were presented with a custom piece of artwork created by West Leadership Academy 11thgrader Julian Urbina-Herrera, and his assistant principal Cris Sandoval, a 2005 Ritchie Program graduate.

Among those individuals recognized for their leadership and support:

Program founders:

  • Ginger Maloney, former dean, MCE at DU
  • Jerry Wartgow, former DPS Superintendent
  • Tony Lewis, Exec Director Donnell-Kay Foundation

Program Namesake:

  • Dan Ritchie, former DU Chancellor

Co-creators of the program:

  • Maureen Sanders, former director of leadership development, DPS
  • Dick Werpy, former DU professor
  • Susan Korach, dept. chair, MCE at DU

More information about the DU Ritchie Program for School Leaders is available here.

More photos from the event can be found on our Flickr album.

Morgridge College of Education Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) Department and Denver Public Schools have been invited to participate in the first Leadership and Education Development (iLEAD) initiative at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Erin Anderson, ELPS Assistant Professor; Sandy Lochhead-Price, the Director of School Leader Performance and Development at Denver Public Schools and ELPS EdD student; Amy Keltner, Deputy Chief of Schools at Denver Public Schools; Anne Whalen, Deputy Chief of Academic Strategy at Denver Public Schools and Susan Korach, Associate Professor and ELPS Department Chair attended the initial meeting in late October at the Carnegie Foundation in Stanford, CA.

The Carnegie Foundation launched the iLEAD initiative to enhance and extend the efforts of schools of education to incorporate Improvement Science methods and Networked Improvement Communities into their education doctorate programs. According to its website, iLEAD is designed to further the capacities of institutions of higher education (IHEs) and their local education agency (LEA) partners to enact systematic improvement efforts within their organizations and in partnership with one another.

Applications were submitted in early September and out of the eleven participants, nine are member institutions of the Carnegie project on the Education Doctorate (CPED) and seven are member institutions of University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA):

  • Fordham University and Mamaroneck Union Free School District
  • University of Virginia and Chesterfield County Public Schools
  • University of Maryland and Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS)
  • High Tech High GSE and High Tech High
  • Indiana University and Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation (EVSC)
  • George Washington University and Fairfax Country Public Schools
  • Portland State University and Newberg Public Schools
  • University of Denver and Denver Public Schools
  • University of Pittsburgh and University Preparatory School at Margaret Milliones
  • University of South Carolina and Florence School District One
  • University of Mississippi and Oxford School District

“We are honored to be a part of this learning community of IHE’s and districts,” said Korach. “We look forward to further our understanding and commitment to improvement science and networked improvement communities. This work will help us expand our capacity to support systems-level leadership development, prepare leaders to manage complex change, and sustain partnerships and networks with students, graduates and districts.”

Over the next year iLEAD participants will engage in four face-to-face meetings and online collaboration to:

  • Build leadership, technical, and social capacities for using improvement science in masters and EdD programs;
  • Integrate and enhance coursework related to improvement science and NICs in education;
  • Collaborate with other leading IHEs and the Carnegie Foundation on problems of
  • practice and embed that work into educational leadership preparation;
  • Strengthen relations with local LEAs by focusing on relevant and pressing needs; and
  • Contribute to and draw from a “Teaching Commons” resource-bank of exemplar courses and instructional resources for IHE faculty, programs, and participants.

There has been a substantial increase in the discussion of rural education in America. This conversation is particularly critical in states, like Colorado, where 80% of the state’s school districts are classified as rural. Add to that the diverse gifted student population, including those eligible for free and reduced lunches in these in these remote areas, and it’s easy to see why a major federal grant was awarded to identify and serve this underrepresented group.

R4R Researchers

University of Denver MCE researchers and the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) are moving into the third year of a $1.4 million Jacob K. Javits federally funded research project. Dr. Norma Hafenstein, Daniel L. Ritchie Endowed Chair for Gifted Education, is a co-principal investigator along with Jacquelin Medina, Gifted Director of the Colorado Department of Education. Dr. Kristina Hesbol, assistant professor of Education Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS), serves as Leadership Director. Year three research support of $80,000 is examining influences in identification of underserved gifted populations.

The project is called Right 4 Rural (R4R) and has been examining the diversity of rural contexts that encompass the vast disparities of economy between thriving ranches and desolate range, or rich productive farms and barren lands. Rural areas in the state of Colorado, in particular, have a significant percentage of students who are English language learners, Hispanic, Native American, and/or live in a climate of poverty situations.

The data collection process has included in-person and online surveys, face-to-face workshops and online webinar sessions with key participants from rural school districts across the state. Although the data collection and analysis is still ongoing, persistent problems of practice are emerging. They include the 1) Ability to identify GT students accurately and consistently, 2) Ability to increase school-wide awareness and knowledge of GT programs/process, and 3) Ability to provide consistent supports, follow-up services, and communication.

Researchers anticipate that results of the R4R project will yield increased rigor in the classroom, increase student achievement as it relates to higher level thinking, and increased identification of gifted potential in these underrepresented populations.

MCE doctoral students participating in this research project include Justine Lopez, Curriculum and Instruction, Rachel Taylor, Research Methods and Statistics, and Fayaz Amiri, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies.

The Right4Rural project reflects the University of Denver’s and Morgridge College of Education’s (MCE) long history of commitment to gifted education through service to gifted children, training of teachers to serve children’s needs, and support of doctoral research around giftedness.

The Right4Rural research team will be presenting at the Wallace Symposium of the Belin and Blank Center at Johns Hopkins in April 2018.

Three hundred forty-five miles from the University of Denver is the West End School District RE-2. Tucked into the southwest region of Colorado, West End Serves the communities of Bedrock, Naturita, Nucla, and Paradox, covers over 1,000 square miles, and serves approximately 250 total students. Providing education to the rural farming communities, the district faces challenges like any other school district; yet its isolated location brings with it a different set of obstacles when providing the best possible education for students and teachers alike.

Mike Epright, West End’s Superintendent, has made a push and a commitment to maintain quality education. According to West End’s website, the district does so “by providing elevated academic classes, vocational and technical training, and special education programs… Students throughout the district also have the advantage of excellent technology and the opportunity to obtain multiple college credits prior to graduation.”

The district also made a commitment to build capacity through the development of its educators by participating in the Colorado Department of Education Turnaround Leadership Grant Program. The Turnaround Leadership grant, as described by the Colorado Department of Education, “establishes and promotes leadership training specifically for the turnaround environment and is an integral part of Colorado’s state-wide strategy to improve the performance of students in the lowest-performing schools and districts in the state.”

The grant works in two ways: one grant is for the participant (e.g., West End School District RE-2), and one grant is for the provider (e.g., Morgridge College of Education). Together, the entities are able to provide training to educators who can then return to their districts with the tools they need to implement lasting, positive change.

In 2015 two worlds became one as the West End School District partnered with the Morgridge College of Education’s Education Leadership Policy Studies (ELPS) Mountain Cohort. Through this unique partnership, two educators from West End were able to engage in Morgridge College’s ELPS classes in order to expand their personal breadth of knowledge and enrich their district. This fall, another West End educator will join the 2017 Mountain Cohort.

Suddenly, 345 miles was not too far.

“Having the opportunity to develop and implement current research in school improvement, the West End School District has been able to benefit from having two ‘grow your own’ educators take part in the University of Denver’s Aspiring Leaders/ELPS MA Program,” said Epright. “Over the two-year commitment, these two leaders helped shape the instruction and assessment in the district and provided current professional development to staff which shaped a new program change to Project Based Learning.”

Hank Nelson, Morgridge graduate and Instructional Leader at Nucla Elementary School, agrees with Epright. “Participating in the ELPS MA Program was the most beneficial, fulfilling, and impactful experience of my professional career,” he said. “Not one experience failed to be valuable, developing my growth as a leader while indirectly providing a service to the needs of our district. This program made me into an equitable, adaptable, data-driven, innovative, inquiring, and action-research oriented leader.”

An action-oriented leader is exactly the type of leader Epright wants in his schools.

“…through hard work and cooperation, they set a vision of educating each student to the best of their ability,” he added. “I strongly recommend all rural districts reach out to the programming offered!”

The Morgridge College of Education is committed to addressing the needs of both rural and turnaround schools. With its constant adaptation to meet the needs of its students, Morgridge hopes to bridge the divide between distance and hands-on learning. Its Mountain Cohort specifically strives to create an opportunity for rural communities to invest in school leaders who were already part of those communities. In this way, turnaround leadership can organically occur.

The ELPS program, which earned a top 20 ranking in Best Education Administration and Supervision by the U.S. News and World Report in 2016, is now accepting applications for its Mountain Cohort for fall 2017.

The CASE Winter Leadership Conference, taking place Feb. 2-3, 2017, has a significant presence from students, faculty, and alumni from the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) department. Additionally, the Morgridge College of Education is a Bronze-level sponsor of the conference.

Congratulations to all ELPS faculty, students, and alumni presenting!

Faculty

Ellen Miller-Brown, Assistant Professor
Title:
Lessons from the Field: Fresh Research from Doctoral Candidates

Alumni

Dr. Tricia Johnson, Ed.D. Graduate, Vice President, Academic Affairs, Community College of Aurora
Title: Leading for Change: Developing Equitable College and Career Guidance Systems

Dr. Danny Medved, Ed.D. Graduate, Principal and Lead School Designer, Denver School of Innovation and Design, Denver Public Schools
Title: Enacting Vision and Navigating Change Case Study: A Technical Report to New School Designers and Stakeholders

Dr. Matthew Weyer, Ph.D. Graduate, Senior Policy Specialist, National Conference of State Legislatures
Title: The Every Student Succeeds Act and Redesignation: Implications for School Leaders

Students

Rana Razzaque, Ed.D. Student, Learning Partner, Social and Emotional Learning, Denver Public Schools
Title: The Enlightened Educator: Exploring the Influence of Mindful Self-Awareness on the Culturally Responsive Practices of Teachers

Lorna Beckett, Graduate Assistant and Ph.D. Candidate, University of Denver
Title: Predictors of Colorado Urban Principal Turnover

Co-Presentations

Rana Razzaque, Ed.D. Student, Learning Partner, Social and Emotional Learning, Denver Public Schools
Dr. Ellen Miller-Brown, Assistant Professor
Title: Leadership Matters: Leading for Civility, Cultural Responsiveness and Community Engagement


Dr. Doris Candelarie
, Clinical Assistant Professor
CJ Cain, M.A. Student
Theresa Gilbreath, M.A. Student
Title: Design Thinking for School Leaders

The Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Program (ELPS) offers a Mountain cohort option in its Executive Leadership for Successful Schools (ELSS) Certificate program. The cohort expands opportunities for educators and administrators to benefit from the program’s expertise and earn Certification for Colorado Principal Licensure. ELPS—which earned a top 20 ranking in Best Education Administration and Supervision by the U.S. News and World Report in 2016—launched the Mountain cohort in the 2014-15 academic year due to increasing interest from the region’s district superintendents.

Because the communities are far from higher education institutions on the Front Range and Western Slope, options for educators looking to expand their skills can be scarce. The cohort was created to address the unique needs of growing mountain communities and their schools, and to enable them to invest in school leaders who were already part of those communities. According to Assistant Professor of the Practice, Ellen Miller-Brown, Ph.D., the cohort provides a “high-quality, hybrid face-to-face and online program without the need for extensive travelling.” Face-to-face classes are held at locations in the high mountain region where the majority of the students reside.

Members of the 2015-16 cohort had great success; three graduates—Kendra Carpenter, Laura Rupert, and Robin Sutherland of Summit School District—applied for, and were accepted to, principal positions in their districts after completing the ELSS Certificate. Additionally, cohort members Hank Nelson and Clint Wytulka served as interim principals at their Nucla, CO schools during the program and were promoted to full principals after completion, and cohort member Will Harris was appointed the Education Technology Specialist in his Eagle County district school after completing the program.

The Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Department in the Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver has been selected to participate in The Wallace Foundation’s $47-million initiative to develop models over the next four years for improving university principal preparation programs and to examine state policy to see if it could be strengthened to encourage higher-quality training statewide.

The University Principal Preparation Initiative builds on 15 years of Wallace-supported research and experience about what makes for effective principals and their “pre-service” training at universities. The initiative seeks to explore how university programs can improve their training so it reflects the evidence on how best to prepare effective principals, and then to share these insights to benefit the broader field.

After a selection process that included site visits and assistance from experts in state policy and education, the foundation selected seven universities to redesign their principal preparation programs:  Albany State University (Georgia), Florida Atlantic University, North Carolina State University, San Diego State University, the University of Connecticut, Virginia State University and Western Kentucky University. In addition to working with local schools districts and their states, each university selected a partner program that was known for high-quality training to serve as mentor and support the redesign process.

Florida Atlantic University and North Carolina State University selected the University of Denver’s Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Department in the Morgridge College of Education to serve as their exemplary program partner.

­­The Wallace Foundation hopes the initiative can contribute over the long term to the development of a new national approach to preparing effective principals, one focusing on evidence-based policies and practices in three areas:

  • Developing and implementing high-quality courses of study with practical, on-the-job experiences.
  • Putting in place strong university-district partnerships.
  • Developing state policies about program accreditation, principal licensure or certification, and other matters (funded internships, for example) to promote more effective training statewide.

“We know from research that school principals require excellent training with high-quality, practical  experiences to become effective leaders—but most are simply not getting this,” said Will Miller, president of The Wallace Foundation. “Because many school districts don’t have the capacity to train as many principals as they need or to train future principals at all, the best way to reach more aspiring school leaders is through the university programs that typically provide needed certification. We are confident that the selected universities want to raise the bar for their programs, work in partnership with their local school districts and serve as models for other universities.”

The seven states in which the universities are located will receive funding to review their policies pertaining to university-based principal training and determine if changes—such as program accreditation and principal licensure or certification requirements—would encourage the development of more effective preparation programs statewide.

“The more we talk with education leaders no matter at what level of the education system, from state to university to district, the more we hear it is the right time to conduct a university-focused initiative like this,” said Jody Spiro, director of education leadership at Wallace. “We are seeking to learn how these seven universities accomplish their program redesign as an important first step in improving how principals are prepared for the demanding job of leading school improvement across the country.”

RAND Corporation will conduct an independent evaluation of the initiative over four years, with a final report in year five. The study will assess how the participating universities go about trying to implement high-quality courses of study and to form strong partnerships with local, high-needs school districts. A series of public reports will share lessons and insights and describe whatever credible models emerge so that other universities, districts and states can adopt or adapt the initiative work.

####

The Wallace Foundation seeks to improve education and enrichment for disadvantaged children and foster the vitality of arts for everyone. The foundation has an unusual approach: funding efforts to test innovative ideas for solving important public problems, conducting research to find out what works and what doesn’t and to fill key knowledge gaps – and then communicating the results to help others. Wallace, which works nationally, has five major initiatives under way:

  • School leadership: Strengthening education leadership to improve student achievement.
  • Afterschool: Helping selected cities make good afterschool programs available to many more children.
  • Building audiences for the arts: Enabling arts organizations to bring the arts to a broader and more diverse group of people.
  • Arts education: Expanding arts learning opportunities for children and teens.
  • Summer and expanded learning: Better understanding the impact of high-quality summer learning programs on disadvantaged children, and enriching and expanding the school day in ways that benefit students.

Find out more at www.wallacefoundation.org.

Professors in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) DepartmentDr. Ellen Miller-Brown and Dr. Doris Candelarie strive to impact and empower education leaders to release their “untapped potential.” On July 30th at the 46th Annual CASE Education Leadership Convention in Breckenridge, Colorado, they presented Releasing Untapped Potential: What Works for Equity Leadership alongside Jesús Rodríguez, school leader and Ed.D student, and Tracy Stegall, school leader. During this interactive session, the speakers discussed how they are working to build an intentional, inclusive, and collaborative culture with a growth rather than deficit mindset, and to ensure balance in their schools for educating the whole child. Attendees also had the opportunity to delve into common leadership challenges and apply innovative solutions to address them.

Focusing the discussion on the importance of equity literacy during their presentation, Dr. Miller-Brown commented, “While much is known about best practices in leadership for curriculum, instruction, assessment, systems design, and community engagement, little is applied or discussed about the impact Equity Literacy and intercultural competence in leadership can have on student success.” The ELPS Department, which was recently approved by the Colorado Department of Education to be a provider of Turnaround Leadership development, prepares leaders equipped to transform schools to release the untapped potential within their schools and communities.

Organized by the Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE), the Education Leadership Convention is the largest professional development event of the year for critical learning and sharing best practices with colleagues. This was the first year CASE offered a series of workshops on Equity Leadership, and following the success of this series, Drs. Miller-Brown and Candelarie have been invited to present on the topic once again at the CASE Winter Leadership Conference in February 2016.


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