Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) Ph.D. student Isaac Solano was selected by the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) as a 2016-2018 Jackson Scholar. The Jackson Scholars Network provides students of color with opportunities for professional development, mentorship, and networking in order to elevate their careers in educational leadership.

Solano is thrilled to become a Jackson Scholar, saying that “various scholarship organizations have made it possible for me to continue my education up to a PhD. I am just so grateful for the unwavering and constant support I have from my DU family.” Solano’s mentor for the program is Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig of California State University, Sacramento.

Solano will participate in professional development and networking opportunities designed to enhance his doctoral experience. He will represent the Morgridge College of Education (MCE)—along with fellow MCE student Rana Razzaque, 2015-2017 UCEA Jackson Scholar—at the UCEA Convention in November.

About the Jackson Scholars Program

The UCEA Barbara L. Jackson Scholars Network began in November 2003 after a vote of the members of the UCEA Plenum. The two-year program provides formal networking, mentoring, and professional development for graduate students of color intending to become professors of educational leadership.

UCEA facilitates the development of a robust pipeline of faculty and graduate students of color in the field of educational leadership. As a result, Barbara Jackson Scholars and Alumni enhance the field of educational leadership and UCEA with their scholarship and expertise.

Several Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) alumni, all of whom lead schools in DPS, are banding together to create an “innovation zone.” Chalkbeat Colorado reports that this zone will consist of several innovation schools which already operate in Denver. Innovation schools are defined by the high level of autonomy given to school leaders. This autonomy allows leaders to create unique and effective learning environments.

Ashley Elementary School became an innovation school in 2013 after principal Zach Rahn (MCE class of 2010) was hired as part of a turnaround effort. Since then, Ashley has seen progress in academic achievement as well as in school culture. Rahn strives to “inject joy into each day” at Ashley Elementary.

The Denver Green School is co-led by MCE alumna Prudence Daniels and serves students in K-8. This innovation school has its own produce garden, where each class tends a plot. The school uses solar panels for energy, providing unique learning experiences for students.

The Cole Arts & Science Academy, which is led by MCE alumna Jen Jackson, has focused heavily on early literacy. The school’s Kindergarten through third-grade currently ranks among the top in the state for literacy.

The leaders of these three schools – along with the leader of Creativity Challenge Community – are seeking the creation of this innovation zone, governed by a new nonprofit organization. This proposed zone will provide the innovation schools with even more autonomy, further allowing them to meet their separate needs while sharing in the common goal of promoting individualized learning. It’s all about “going from good to great” says Rahn.

The ELPS program specializes in training individuals capable of implementing positive change in the institutions they lead. Graduates like Rahn, Daniels, and Jackson learn to apply their skills, transforming low-performing schools into effective learning environments.

The department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) at the Morgridge College of Education hosted a colloquium on November 30 that focused on the challenges and experiences of turnaround schools in the greater Denver area. The event featured a panel discussion between principals of current turnaround schools as well as district administrators working with turnaround schools.

The colloquium’s panelists, all of whom have graduated from, or are current students of, the Turnaround Success Program, included:

  • Peter Sherman, Executive Director of the District & School Performance Unit at the Colorado Department of Education
  • LaDawn Baity, Instructional Superintendent and former principal of Trevista at Horace Mann
  • Ivan Duran, Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education, a graduate of Denver Public Schools, and a current EdD candidate at the Morgridge College of Education
  • Nick Dawkins, principal at Manual High School
  • Lisa Mahannah, principal at Oakland Elementary
  • Julie Murgel, principal at DCIS Montbello
  • Jésus Rodríguez, principal at Trevista at Horace Mann and current doctoral candidate at the Morgridge College of Education

The panelists held a discussion about the realities of providing leadership in turnaround schools and the many factors, internal and external, which can contribute to a school requiring turnaround services. Pre-conceived notions about communities, the difficulty of providing adequate mental health services, and disparities in low-income and disadvantaged communities all contribute to a lack of student success.

Culture was an important theme of the discussion; panelists talked about how important it is to create a structure and provide high expectations and accountability to change students’ perceptions of learning.

A second, and significant, theme of the evening was innovation. The ability to innovate varies between each school due to differences in priorities. Despite this, panelists all agreed that having the ability to take initiative to get results in schools is of the utmost importance.

After the panel discussion, attendees engaged in a design thinking activity in collaboration with the Daniels College of Business. Jennifer Larson, a student at the Daniels College, led a brief presentation describing design thinking – the experience of “how” rather than just “what,” and asking “what if we?” or “why can’t we?” – in relation to solving a challenge. The activity included participants breaking out into groups to learn from each other about unique experiences with challenges in their educational work.

Susan Korach, the ELPS Department Chair, closed the event by asking what the audience heard and did not hear from panelists and fellow participants. Attendees noted that they did not hear discussions about test scores or practicing for assessments, nor did they hear pessimism or excuses from their colleagues about the work they do. They did hear an emphasis on relationship-building in their communities, honesty about equity and oppression, and hope and optimism regarding the future.

Suzanne Morris-Sherer is the current principal of Thomas Jefferson High school in the Denver Public School district. Morris-Sherer spent six years working as the principal of Side Creek Elementary in the Aurora Public School district after receiving her Principal Licensure from the Morgridge College of Education’s Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) Ritchie Program.

In her three years at Thomas Jefferson, Morris-Sherer has drastically raised the status of the school. She tells her students that they “need to aspire to achieve”. By changing expectations placed upon the students and staff, she has been able to create an environment that gives the support and inspiration needed for success. “I just love seeing their potential… [Thomas Jefferson High] is truly the hidden jewel I always say it is”, stated Morris-Sherer, who has worked with the students and staff to incorporate curriculum aimed at developing life skills.

Watch the video below to experience the change at Thomas Jefferson High School.

This post is part of a series of stories recognizing MCE graduates during National Principals Month.

Capture

Crystal River Elementary School

Matthew Koenigsknecht is the newly appointed principal at Crystal River Elementary in the Roaring Forks School District. Inspired by six years of teaching in Denver Public Schools (DPS), he began his pursuit of a Principal licensure and Masters in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the Morgridge College of Education. Koenigsknecht completed a year as a Ritchie Principal Intern at Harrington elementary School in DPS, and has already begun applying his education at Crystal River Elementary. Aspiring leaders in the central mountain region can access the same principal preparation experience through the Mountain Cohort of the Masters in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program.

Koenigsknecht has developed three strategic priorities for his school: to identify and have fidelity to a mission and vision for the school; to implement high-quality instruction driven by data and supported by professional development and coaching; and, to develop a strong culture for students and staff by increasing their capacity.

Crystal River has successfully implemented the first initiative through Matthew’s leadership. He attributes a great deal of his success to the rich environment and support that the Richie program provided him. “Everything I learned at Ritchie was applicable and really great preparation for the work we are now doing… They taught me to have a vision and every day they stressed the importance of values-based leadership” stated Koenigsknecht.

This post is part of a series of stories recognizing MCE graduates during National Principals Month.

The Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) program at the University of Denver’s Morgridge College of Education in partnership with the Daniels College of Business (DCB) has been named by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) as an identified provider for the School Turnaround Leadership Grant Program. The University of Denver Turnaround School Leadership Program is a tiered system of leadership development that includes the ELPS MA program for aspiring turnaround leaders (Turnaround Fellows) and a professional development program (Turnaround Leader Success Program) for existing principals, principal supervisors, district staff, and other stakeholders. Districts, charter schools, and the Charter School Institute can apply to CDE for funding to have eligible teachers, principals, and district staff participate in this comprehensive program that will prepare and support leaders to improve the performance of students in the lowest-performing schools and districts in Colorado.

ELPS, a frequent recipient of national awards and grants for its efforts in innovative and effective school leadership preparation, already provides a foundation for turnaround leadership competencies through the certificate programs: Executive Leadership for Successful Schools (ELSS) and the Ritchie Program for School Leaders (Ritchie). The collaboration with DCB will build on this foundation and deepen competency development for the turnaround environment through the additional coursework of the ELPS MA with a focus on entrepreneurial, re-culturing, business, and innovation leadership. The Turnaround Leader Success Program will provide an additional layer of support for building leadership capacity throughout schools/districts.  The ELPS-MA program is a 2-year, 7-quarter program; students are eligible to apply for CO Principal licensure at the end of their first year. The Turnaround Leader Success Program will be customized to meet the unique needs of participating districts/schools and the work of the Turnaround Fellows.
By increasing partnerships with school districts, charter schools, and the Charter School Institute, the program will focus student learning on the unique needs of low performing schools. Specifically, those of special education, low-income students and their families, and English language learners; developing leaders ready to make a difference in the community.

“Part of being a school leader is building systems and empowering staff to transform schools to meet the needs of all students,” explains Dr. Susan Korach, researcher in leadership preparation and co-creator of the Ritchie and ELSS cohorts at the Morgridge College of Education. Korach, along with the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) faculty, attended the biannual Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE) Educational Leadership Convention this July in Breckenridge. The Convention brought over 1,000 principals, assistant principals, superintendents and school leaders from across the state together to engage in workshops, seminars, and professional development to share ideas, research findings, and stories with the mission of improving Colorado schools.

Many current MCE students and ELPS program graduates were presenters at the 2013 CASE conference, speaking on their experiences as school leaders and how they’ve come to ignite change within their schools and educational organizations. Nelson Van Vranken, MCE alum and Principal at Hanson Elementary School, and his leadership team presented on their school’s recent transformation. In 2009, Hanson was identified as one of the lowest performing schools in the nation, based on student growth and performance data, but in 2012 ranked in the highest performing TACP category. Van Vranken attributes much of his schools success to his training at MCE: “The Ritchie cohort fully prepared me for the challenges of urban school reform. Through our reform efforts, we gathered data to build a clear vision for the school, then focused on creating a school culture that supports learning. In all of this, our goal is centered on lasting change, so our biggest learning is in front of us. It was powerful to have the opportunity to share the lessons we have learned through our work with colleagues from around Colorado. ”

Morgridge College of Education is a “Friends of CASE” sponsor because the two organizations share the vision and commitment to helping improve Colorado schools and districts. Dr. Korach elaborates, “We want to create more partnerships and support leadership work throughout the state. Supporting CASE is an opportunity to help MCE have a broader prospective of leadership, expanding our support, programming and relationships from mainly urban districts to rural areas.”

Through the ELPS program at Morgridge College of Education, students work InContext within their schools and educational organizations while developing their leadership and professional skills. “We intentionally prioritize adding value back to the schools and educational settings in which our students are working;” Korach states, “through the Ritchie and ELSS InContext learning opportunities, though each capstone project at the masters level, and through the doctoral courses and research projects, our students are serving as active change agents in our schools and our community.” ELPS students are encouraged to be members of CASE to continually further their educational leadership development and collaborate with other educational leaders.

Morgridge College of Education offers Certificate (Ritchie and ELSS cohorts), Masters, EdD and PhD programs in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. Typical students in the ELPS programs have anywhere between 3-20+ years experience as an educator, however, a smaller number of students come from outside of the field of education. The Ritchie Program for School Leaders is a district partnership cohort with Denver and Adams County School Districts, while the ELSS cohort utilizes blended online technologies in district (Aurora and DPS) and regional cohorts with InContext opportunities for the integration of coursework and internship. Both Ritchie and ELSS consist of 4 quarters of coursework, focused on school-based inquiry projects, and a 300+ hour integrated internship to meet the requirements for principal licensure and evaluation. Upon completion of a Ritchie or ELSS cohort, graduates must pass the PLACE principal exam for state licensure and receive approval from Colorado Department of Education. Both cohort options immerse candidates into practice of real situations in real schools, resulting in a unique learning experience that retains a high hire rate for assistant principal, principal, or educational leadership positions. Many Ritchie and ELSS graduates continue with 15 hours of coursework at MCE to receive their Masters. The ELPS EdD and PhD programs support educational leaders with aspirations of being superintendents or getting involved in district level leadership and policy making. For more information on any of the ELPS programs, please contact the Office of Admissions at morgridge.du.edu/contacts.


Copyright © 2018 University of Denver. | All rights reserved. | The University of Denver is an equal opportunity affirmative action institution
X