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DPS, St. Vrain among federal ‘i3’ winners

Updated — Denver Public Schools leaders celebrated their winning of a federal Investing in Innovation grant in a morning press conference, describing it as further proof the district is leading the country in education innovation.

“We know that we need to be willing to challenge the status quo, to innovate and to think differently if we are to drive higher student achievement growth and meet our goal of every student graduating from our high schools prepared for college and career,” Superintendent Tom Boasberg said in a prepared statement.

“The grant is a wonderful recognition of our leading role nationally in education innovation.”

The i3 grant award comes on the heels of the district’s winning of $10 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to improve educator effectiveness and another $8 million federal grant to expand DPS’ teacher residency program.

Read the full press release here, including quotes from DPS’ grant partners CU-Boulder and Padres Unidos.

Original story from Wednesday begins here:

The journal Education Week is reporting Denver Public Schools is among the 49 winners of the highly competitive Investing in Innovation federal grant contest.

DPS appears among the highest-rated of 1,698 entries for a portion of the $650 million in grant dollars. The district’s application seeks more than $25 million over five years for a project titled, “Collaborative Strategic Reading Colorado” or CSR-CO.

Also among the 49 is St. Vrain Valley Schools, which sought $3.6 million for focused interventions for Hispanic students and English language learners at Skyline High School and its feeder schools.

Scroll to the bottom to see each district’s summary project description.

DPS’ partners in the effort are the University of Colorado at Boulder’s BUENO Center and Padres Unidos or Parents United, an advocacy group for Hispanic students and their families.

Two schools, Martin Luther King Jr. Early College and Merrill Middle School, are the target sites in year one for a project that focuses on teacher training and parent engagement, said Susana Cordova, DPS chief academic officer.

Federal officials had scheduled an announcement for today but mistakenly unveiled the winners Wednesday on the department’s website. See the story “49 Applicants Win i3 Grants” by Education Week, a partner of Education News Colorado.

The DPS’ grant application states the project focuses on high-need middle school students who are English language learners or who have disabilities.

“When we looked at what we felt was going to be the most critical work for us to do with funding of this kind of magnitude, we really decided it made the most sense to think about strategies to improve our teaching and increase the outcomes of English language learners,” Cordova said.

“Part of our rationale for that is, first of all, it’s a very big part of our population and of our struggling population,” she said. “But additionally, the work that we will do to improve the performance of English language learners will improve the performance of all of our kids.”

Cordova said the effort starts with training at two schools – Merrill, a middle school, and MLK, a 6-12 school – and will build to include more secondary schools in a “phased rollout.” Additional schools have yet to be identified.

It’s unclear when the grant dollars will be distributed but Cordova said the district already has planned to begin work at the two schools this fall, win grant or not: “We’re very committed to the idea of collaborative strategic reading.”

Along with teacher training, the grant will help DPS hire more parent liaisons.

“It’s not enough for teachers to be implementing strategies in their classrooms, it really has to be about a whole school design and we need our parents as partners involved in the process,” Cordova said.

Federal education officials are expected to release more details during today’s official announcement. DPS also has scheduled a press conference this morning. The grant is one of the largest in the district’s history.

One unique aspect of the i3 grant is its requirement that winners secure a 20 percent “private-sector” match from a non-governmental agency such as a foundation. The winners have until Sept. 8 to meet that requirement.

DPS is working on those matching dollars while St. Vrain has secured its portion, according to federal documents. “We’re looking at different opportunities,” Cordova said.

Here are summary descriptions from each district’s grant application:


“Collaborative Strategic Reading Colorado (CSR-CO) is designed around the CU BUENO Center literacy intervention, Collaborative Strategic Reading, used successfully in linguistically diverse classrooms to address the linguistic and academic needs of ELLs and students with disabilities.

CSR-CO focuses on Collaborative Strategic Reading professional development for teachers in high-need middle school classrooms. CSR-CO also provides students with opportunities to work in small cooperative groups in which each student plays a role associated with effective reading comprehension (e.g. brainstorming, monitoring understanding and summarizing). CSR-CO is built on a foundation of reciprocal teaching and effective instruction features such as collaborative group work, interactive dialogue, and procedural strategies.”

St. Vrain Valley’s i3 project:

“Saint Vrain Valley SD is proposing a development project which is an exceptional approach to priority four through a multi-faceted comprehensive strategy to address the unmet needs for the targeted high-need students; specifically Hispanic and ELL students at Skyline High School and its feeder schools. The project will benefit 3,800 students.

Our proposed strategy is to provide students with a sequence of focused interventions to reduce the achievement gap and to make significant improvements. We have designed a system that brings focused supports and an augmented school year for elementary students to build a literacy foundation. The system then shifts focus on the Mathematics foundation in Middle School Students, with math labs and an augmented school year to build stronger mathematics skills.

At the high school level we provide students with a science focus through a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics certification track which provides students with an alternative in high school. We have designed supports in the program that brings Data-Driven Decision Making and Information Technology supports to bear throughout the K-12 system of the targeted schools.”

Nancy Mitchell can be reached at

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