Setting a Foundation for Intentional and Equitable Student Learning

January 31, 2020

By Rebecca Holmes, CEI President and CEO

Last year, CEI worked with just over 50 Colorado school districts. The diversity of contexts across Colorado’s school systems is incredible, and we feel honored to be able to work with so many great leaders and in so many places across our great state. Over our 12 years as an organization, we’ve actually worked in over 140 Colorado districts, but there are some instances where a combination of relationships, opportunity, and breakthrough leadership come together for us to have really deep partnerships in a particular part of Colorado.

This month, instead of showcasing all of the work that happens across one region, we are offering you a deep dive into a particular instance of great work happening in one district. There are several places where we could highlight this level of partnership, including Cañon City, Archuleta, and Mesa County. If you spend much time with us, you’ve heard us talk excitedly about those places this year. This month’s newsletter, however, focuses on the combination of leadership and entrepreneurship emanating from Colorado Springs School District 11. I lived in this district myself years ago and am thrilled to be able to share with you a bit of what’s happening.

Situated in the heart of Colorado Springs, D11 has 55 schools and almost 26,000 students, with 57% receiving free and reduced lunch. This is a district in the middle of some real, positive change.

CEI’s first deep partnership with D11 began in 2013 with the Next Generation Learning Challenges personalized learning systems initiative. This effort was geared at designing and implementing personalized learning environments across schools, for the ultimate purpose of system-wide learning and impact. In 2018, we were fortunate to secure a three-year Deeper Learning and Diffusion of Innovation and Scaled Impact grant from the Hewlett Foundation. We designed our grant proposal to build on our school-level work by equipping district and school leaders with leadership and change management practices to provide aligned support in ways that strengthen and scale deeper learning practices in classrooms across the district – not just in a few early adopters.

Importantly, this approach to leadership and change management in D11 is intended to break through barriers to school level sustainability and scale caused by differences in engagement and expectation between central office and school level staff; to create “top-down” supports that enable “bottom-up” efforts to help align school and central office practices; and importantly, to help set a foundation for successfully achieving the district’s new strategic plan and graduate profile, with intentional and equitable student learning districtwide.

Please take a moment to review our January newsletter. Hear from D11 Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas about the role of leadership, read a fascinating interview with their new board member Darleen Daniels, and also hear from others who are at the front lines of much of this change.

We feel privileged to have played a small but central role in the D11 story and are eager to hear if you see parallels in any places you are moving forward this year. Enjoy!