Grant will help DPS take next LEAP

Superintendent Tom Boasberg says a new $10 million foundation grant will help continue the “path-breaking work” that DPS is doing with its LEAP evaluation system.

DPS news conference
DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg discusses new Gates Foundation grant. Behind him, from left, are DCTA President Henry Roman, McKinley-Thatcher Principal Alona Hastings and Slavens teacher David Weiss.

Boasberg announced the grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation during a Thursday news conference at North High School.

The grant follows an earlier $10 million Gates grant that the district used to ramp up its LEAP (Leading Effective Academic Practice) evaluation and teacher effectiveness system. That system launched in 2011 as a pilot in selected schools and was expanded to cover all schools in the 2012-13 school year.

In the upcoming school year, all Colorado districts must use state-approved evaluation systems for all teachers and principals.

Boasberg and Henry Roman, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, said the additional Gates funding will be used to strengthen elements of LEAP and help DPS build out the student growth component of the evaluation system. State law requires that 50 percent of teacher and principal evaluations be based on student growth as measured by annual statewide tests and by a wide variety of other assessments and indicators.

“Work remains to complete a quality implementation of the system across all schools,” Roman said. “We believe we have made great progress and finishing this important work will ensure that teachers have the feedback and support they need to be successful in helping students achieve.”

Boasberg said the new grant will be spent on:

  • Improved coaching of teachers and other professional development efforts
  • Leadership development for teachers
  • Additional training of the principals and 46 peer evaluators who observe and evaluate teachers’ work
  • Further development of the “multiple measures” of student academic growth used in teacher evaluations

“LEAP will be a much stronger system” with the improvements made possible by the grant, he said. Boasberg said much of the current and new grant money is used to pay for the staff time involved in training.

Both Roman and Boasberg acknowledged the importance of grant funding during a time of state budget cuts.

Roman said such support makes implementation of education reforms “more manageable.”

The superintendent, noting that DPS has lost $60 million in state funding over the last four years of budget cuts, said, “It would be extraordinarily difficult for us” to implement the evaluation system without the Gates grants.

Asked about the ongoing costs of the new system once the three-year grant ends, Boasberg said DPS will continue to run the program with “whatever the amount of money we have.” Part of the new grant will be used to study how the district can operate a sustainable system in the long term.

LEAP has gone through a number of key changes since the first version was launched. See this June EdNews story for a detailed look at the current state of the program.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.