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School Models

DPS believes in the power of flexibility as a strategy to help us achieve our ambitious Denver Plan 2020 goals.

This means we:

  • Empower schools through flexible, school-based decision-making, including the use of resources.
  • Expand high-quality school choices in all communities through differentiated supports for existing schools, new school strategies, turnaround efforts and strong accountability systems.
  • Provide schools with opportunities to innovate and create environments that best meet the academic and social/emotional needs of their students, including expansion of personalized learning environments.
Two elementary school girls reading a book

Flexibility types

  • Access to Student-Based Budgeting
  • Selection of use for most funds directed through Tiered Support Framework, as applicable
  • Universal Flexibility
  • Curriculum
  • Professional Learning
  • Assessment
  • Small Group Instruction
  • All flexibilities available to district-run schools
  • Option to budget on actuals
  • Other areas available under the Innovation Schools Act, i.e. Human Resource waivers
  • All flexibilities available to district-run and innovation schools
  • Access to Student-Based Budgeting Plus (SBB+)
  • Ability to pool resources across school sites
  • Use of executive principal
  • All flexibilities available to district-run, innovation and IMO schools.
  • Group together with like schools, with own support and oversight structures.
  • All flexibilities available to other schools
  • Access to per-pupil, with buy-backs of charter and SPED fees
  • Other areas available under the Charter Schools Act

Pathways to empowerment

To provide schools with the opportunities to create truly flexible school environments, as directed by the Innovation Schools Act of 2008 and Charter Schools Act, DPS offers a number of pathways for schools to gain autonomies through pursuing individual school innovation status, innovative management organization status, innovation zone status or charter school status.

The Innovation Schools Act of 2008 defines an Innovation school as “a school in which the local school board implements an innovation plan.” Innovation plans that are in the best interest of pupils, the District, and the community are approved for a three-year period. In addition, Board Policy ADE establishes principles and standards for the development, approval, and implementation of Innovation schools seeking to improve academic achievement.

The innovation school design process requires that a school seeking Innovation status develop a written application meeting all statutory requirements in addition to undertaking a consent process with specific stakeholders.

For more information, and to access the innovation school application, contact Angie McPhaul, Senior Manager of Authorizing.

Innovative Management Organizations, or IMOs, are a distinctive DPS network structure that organizes two or more schools together to support the implementation of shared educational models under an Executive Principal. The shared purpose of the IMO is to ensure effective implementation and support for the educational model at all schools in the IMO.

For more information, contact Angie McPhaul, Senior Manager of Authorizing.

Already existing innovation schools may pursue organizing into an innovation zone for shared learning. Innovation zones are a structure established under state statute for innovation schools that share common interests to create their own network or “zone.”

Starting a new iZone

Creating a new innovation zone:

  • Innovation Zones with Governance Innovations: This type of zone operates separately from the district network structure and is overseen by an external organization and its board. This board is responsible for support and oversight of the member schools, although the district maintains ultimate legal responsibility.
  • Innovation Zones within District Network Structure: This type of zone would allow schools the opportunity to organize around common interests, while remaining within district networks and reporting structures. Some additional autonomies would be available to these schools, but many decisions would still be made by the district.

Joining an existing iZone

There are currently two existing innovation zones with governance innovations:

  • Luminary Learning Network (LLN): The district’s first iZone is designed to empower school leaders and teachers with the autonomy needed to design and run excellent schools. The LLN currently has five member schools.
  • Northeast Denver Innovation Zone (NDIZ): The district’s second iZone is designed to empower innovation schools in Northeast Denver to collectively leverage flexibilities, resources, and human capital in order to deliver an excellent education to students in schools that are committed to inclusivity. The NDIZ currently has four member schools.

At this time, neither iZone is accepting applications to join. However, when iZones are accepting applications, interested schools will have their readiness assessed by the iZone and DPS, which will also consider the iZone’s capacity to take on additional schools.

For more information, please contact Maya Lagana, Senior Director of Portfolio Management.

DPS charter schools are public, independently operated schools. Each charter school board has a contract with the DPS Board of Education that outlines their operating terms, including performance goals, program elements, and required compliance with State and Federal Requirements. In Colorado, charter schools are operated pursuant to the Colorado Charter Schools Act. All DPS charter schools are nonprofit organizations.

For more information, and for all interested applicants, please visit our Create New Schools page or contact Angie McPhaul, Senior Manager of Authorizing.