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 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.


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