In a promising sign for advocates of greater school autonomy, a dozen low-performing Colorado schools granted innovation status are showing a dramatic improvement in a short period of time.
A Chalkbeat analysis of a state report on innovation schools — which were given flexibility to develop their own calendars, curricula and budgets, and hire and train teachers outside union contracts — has found that a dozen improved enough between 2014 and 2016 to avoid state-ordered improvements.
The quadrupling of schools that improved — most of them run by Denver Public Schools — could bolster backers of giving schools greater decision-making authority, an experiment playing out at school districts across the nation.
Any school, not just those with poor quality ratings, can apply for innovation status. Last year, the DPS school board approved the formation of the Luminary Learning Network — a new innovation “zone” of four schools created with support from the Gates Family Foundation — granting them even more freedoms, including much more control over how they spend the state funding attached to their students.
“The zone helped drive some important changes through real dialogue about how we unbundle and allocate funds,” said Denver Superintendent Tom Boasberg.