When Colorado passed the first-of-its-kind Innovation Schools Act in 2008, observers knew that the law was primarily tailored to transform the most challenging campuses in Denver Public Schools (DPS). And so it largely has played out. No one else has matched the 24 DPS schools who have taken advantage of the Act’s process to transform existing public schools by setting them free from many state laws, board policies and bargaining provisions.
But if the state’s second-largest and most heavily urbanized district takes a look in the rear view mirror, they may begin to see a different district creeping up behind them: Falcon 49. Now, in one sense, Falcon cannot catch up, because there aren’t even 24 schools in its boundaries. But as a share of schools with officially approved innovation status, the El Paso County district is now clearly past DPS and behind only tiny Kit Carson, with its only two schools recognized under the Innovation Schools Act.
Two months after granting innovation status to six Falcon schools, on Wednesday the Colorado State Board of Education unanimously approved innovation plans for two more Falcon schools–bringing the total to eight. In addition to the positive potential unleashed by achieving freedom through the waiver process, at least one of the schools also tackled an ambitious reform:
…teachers at Evans International Elementary School will now be considered probationary, with their status subject to performance, not based on tenure. This aspect of the plan received buy-in from staff, an effort to create a collaborative environment for educational excellence.
“The state Board of Education approval of our innovation plans is exciting for our zone, as our plans show the commitment we have to our students, staff and community,” says Sean Dorsey, Sand Creek Zone innovation leader. [emphasis added]
A few months ago, a disturbing story of alleged teacher financial misdeeds in Adams 12
highlighted the further need for tenure reform in Colorado. This week, we take hope in the fact that at least some teachers and school leaders outside Denver are willing to tackle the reform locally. Perhaps it will provide momentum and a springboard to further changes at the state level.