Originally posted on DenverPost.com, Dec. 19, 2011. Copyright © DenverPost.com
Read here. Written by Yesenia Robles.
The first report from a three-year study of Denver's innovation schools could lead to more in-depth research and more pointed work as the district grants innovation status to more schools.
"As with any good study, this study raises as many questions as it answers," said Van Schoales, executive director of the independent advocacy group A-Plus Denver.
"The power of this study is that it will be much easier to tease out how this tool has been helpful," Schoales said.
Innovation status, a designation under state statute, allows schools to have more autonomy with hiring, budgets and curriculum, and freedom from some union rules.
The research began in 2010 and is being conducted by the University of Colorado but is being led and paid for by a partnership of Denver Public Schools, the Colorado Education Association, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association and A-Plus Denver.
When the work began, there were eight innovation schools in DPS. There are now 21 innovation schools in Colorado, 19 of which are in DPS.
The findings outlined in the report — Crafting an Innovation School — suggest that most innovation schools have strong and positive school cultures.
In those that don't, principal turnover, high teacher mobility and lack of clear vision appears to be hindering the development of the type of culture thought to accelerate academic achievement.
"When the principal did not adequately support staff, or created an atmosphere of mistrust or negativity, climate indicators at the school tended to be more negative," the report states.
"The lack of a clear strategic vision was also present in schools which scored lowest on climate measures," the study said.
The report was presented Wednesday at Valdez Elementary, an innovation school in northwest Denver.
Henry Roman, president of the DCTA, said that while the first-year report is important, having a full three years of data is what will really identify important trends.
"It will help us identify what are the structures of support needed in these innovation schools to help make them successful," Roman said. "As we all know, it's not about a silver bullet, so we always need to strive by looking at the system to look at all the parts."
Valdez principal Peter Sherman said innovation status gives him and his staff a feeling of accountability for their success, but it is only a first step.
"I see innovation as another tool under my tool belt," Sherman said. "But we are the ones that have to make it happen."