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The Denver Public Schools’ Summit School Network (DSSN)
In November 2010, the Denver Public Schools (DPS) Board of Education approved a comprehensive turnaround initiative for the Far Northeast feeder pattern of Denver, a region of DPS that has suffered from persistently low levels of student achievement. In response to the Board’s mandate, DPS created the Denver Summit Schools Network (DSSN), one of the most comprehensive whole school reform initiatives that DPS or any district in Colorado has attempted. In the fall of 2011, ten schools began their inaugural year working with Blueprint to implement the five turnaround strategies. This implementation included the following activities:
1. Excellence in leadership and instruction
- New principals were identified, selected, and assigned to nine out of ten DSSN schools.
- DPS created an internal school turnaround leadership team to oversee the DSSN.
- Blueprint and the DSSN provided school leaders with guidelines, resources, and coaching to build effective instructional teams, utilize data to drive school improvement, and transform school culture.
2. Increasing instructional time
- All DSSN schools extended the 2011-12 school year by six days and the 2012-13 school year by seven days.
- All DSSN schools expanded their learning time (both by extending the school day and year) by approximately of 227 instructional hours (equating to 32 additional instructional days or 19% more instructional time).
3. Fostering a no-excuses culture of high expectations
- During the first week of school, each school focused part of the time explicitly on school culture where students learned about the expectations of them and of the school community.
- DSSN schools implemented new systems to increase attendance and promote positive behavior.
- All DSSN campuses intentionally fostered a college-going culture with achievement goals clearly and visibly stated throughout the schools so that the norm is that 100% of students will be ready to succeed in college and beyond.
4. Frequent assessments to improve instruction
- Interim assessments were administered approximately every six to eight weeks across DSSN schools.
- In 2012-13, DSSN schools will be incorporating professional development days for interpretation of data following each assessment for analysis and to identify action items.
5. Daily tutoring in critical growth years
- In 2011-2012, 75 Fellows served as full-time tutors in DSSN schools.
- The Fellows were selected through a rigorous screening process from a nationwide pool of over 650 applicants.
- All 4th, 6th, and 9th graders receive intensive math tutoring every day as part of their school schedule.
- At the elementary level, targeted students receive 45 minutes of daily math tutoring in 1:3 ratios. Secondary students receive 60 minutes of daily math tutoring in 1:2 ratios.
- Each school is staffed with a Fellow Coordinator to oversee the implementation of the program.
- Fellow Coordinators and Fellows receive training designed by Blueprint prior to the start of the school year. Throughout the year, Coordinators facilitate regular collaboration and professional development, curriculum support, observations and evaluations.