Ensuring Access to Great Schools for All Students

For information on innovation school renewal, click here.

DPS is committed to providing great schools for every student in every neighborhood, and our work is grounded in the following beliefs.

  • We believe that students and families thrive when they have high quality schools in their neighborhoods.
  • We believe that those who work closely with our students – teachers, parents, leaders and community members – should be supported and empowered to drive student learning.
  • And, we believe district leadership should support, oversee and hold a school’s performance accountable so students, leaders and teachers can thrive.

Through our family of high quality, diverse, autonomous public schools, including district-run traditional, district-run innovation, innovative management organizations (IMOs), innovation zones (iZones) and charter schools, we work to make these beliefs a reality – ensuring equity in school choice and accountability. This family of schools, sometimes known as a “portfolio” of schools, replaces a one-size-fits-all approach to education.

DPS’ Authorizing & Accountability team (A&A) helps ensure all our schools, regardless of governance type, serve all students, have access to all district resources, and are held accountable in equitable ways. We refer to this commitment to equity across our family of schools as the “Three Equities” that are described below.

Three Equities

Equity of Responsibility and Access means that everyone in our family of schools must offer equitable and open access to all students regardless of socioeconomic status, disability, home language, or other status and share an equal obligation in District-wide responsibilities, such as:

  • Access for students with disabilities. All schools serve an equitable share of students with disabilities, and numerous schools of all types operate center-based programs to serve students with more significant disabilities. Such service is an expectation for all schools.
  • Enrollment practices. All DPS schools use a common enrollment system, SchoolChoice, which helps to ensure families have equitable access to all schools in the city. In addition, all schools have common expectations around other enrollment topics, most notably how they will serve students who do not participate in the Choice process (i.e., those who move in mid-year).

Equity of Accountability refers to the shared accountability system that applies to all schools through the School Performance Framework and the School Performance Compact. This system ensures a common set of expectations for academic performance across our family of schools.

Equity of Opportunity means that the schools have equitable resources (most notably funding), support services from DPS and available facilities.

Innovation: Pause & Reflect

Read the report here.

Background: The state of Colorado Innovation Act allows schools to seek innovation status that provides autonomy in specific areas so schools can implement different approaches to serving students. In alignment to this statute, Denver Public Schools (DPS) adopted a Board policy in 2011 on innovation status that lays out a framework by which  schools can create innovation plans and seek innovation status through specific waivers. 

After more than 10 years of innovation schools in DPS, there are now 53 DPS schools with innovation status. This includes both district-run innovation schools and  innovation zone schools. Over this time period, schools have utilized innovation status as part of school improvement strategies, innovations zones have been created and expanded, and existing schools have developed innovation plans as a part of their school’s renewed plan and identity. While innovation status has become a part of the fabric of the family of schools in DPS, there have also been some tensions and questions around the rationale for schools gaining innovation status, practices surrounding innovation status, and the innovation waivers themselves. In Fall 2020, the Board passed
 a resolution establishing  a pause on new innovation schools, and the expansion of innovation zones, in order to reflect on the DPS Innovation policy and process. 

: With the Pause & Reflect process, the goal is to better understand the current state of innovation status in DPS, including:
  • Why schools seek innovation status
  • How innovation status supports district goals
  • What aspects of innovation status are most critical, and which can be changed
  • How innovation status impacts DPS’ role as an operator and authorizer

At the end of this Pause & Reflect process, the DPS Board of Education may elect to implement changes to policy or practice based on the information gathered.  
Large group of elementary students playing on a large set of monkey bars

Authorizing, Cultivating and Advocating for High-Quality Schools

DPS Family of Schools

We offer diverse school models and programs across our more than 200 schools that promote school empowerment and family choice.

Learn about our family of schools »

Giving Families Choice

We offer every DPS student and family the opportunity to choose the best school for them, and we create new schools as needed to ensure access to high-quality schools in every neighborhood.

Learn about SchoolChoice »

Empowering Schools

We develop and manage systems and authorize processes that provide flexibility and empowerment to the DPS family of schools.

Learn how we empower schools »

Assessing School Performance

Our schools are responsible for serving all students with excellence, so we track and measure school performance and hold each school accountable for its results.

Learn how we assess schools »