In school districts around the country, there are disparities between the achievement of white students and that of other student groups such as students of color, English learners and students with disabilities, even though all students have the same academic potential. This achievement gap has its roots in the lack of equitable opportunities for all students to succeed, thus making it an opportunity gap. In DPS, we see the desire to close the opportunity gap reflected in key indicators such as four-year graduation rates and third-grade reading and writing proficiency. In order to achieve our vision of Every Child Succeeds, we must eliminate gaps in opportunity and achievement for all our students.
The Professional Learning Team is committed to its role in making an impact on the Denver Plan 2020. The Professional Learning Team, in collaboration with CELT, offers an Opportunity Gap Professional Learning Cohort focused on peer-to-peer learning for school leadership teams based upon a problem of practice for a targeted group of underserved students. The Opportunity Gap Cohort is a differentiated and personalized Community of Practices for School Leadership Teams who would like to learn from peers in a coached, job embedded professional learning experience. Below is the current model that can be modified to respond to expressed needs and interests in continuous improvement.
The Theory of Action for the Opportunity Gap Cohort is that if school leadership teams engage in data-driven collaboration with peers and focus their learning on a targeted group of underserved students, school-based structures and practice will be transformed and will impact student success.
Below is our example through four stages of professional learning over the course of a year using Dr. Eddie Fergus’s work. Dr. Fergus, author of Solving Disproportionality and Achieving Equity: A Leader’s Guide to Using Data to Change Hearts and Minds and faculty at Temple University, along with consultants from Collaborative Equity Solutions, LLC, supports schools through site visits and cohort convenings. The PL Team, in collaboration with CELT, works with the Instructional Superintendents and their team partners to determine the best choice of an external equity partner and the course of action for this cohort experience based upon the schools’ focus.
Throughout the OGC experience, we leverage various research and investigation techniques including:
- School-wide environmental scans and classroom walkthroughs
- Site visits with district and consultant support
- Ongoing progress monitoring
- Ongoing professional learning on bias based beliefs and how to facilitate those conversations with staff
The first year of OGC focuses on root cause analysis and understanding what current systems contribute to existing disparities. Using various worksheets from Dr. Fergus’ book, school leadership teams will identify the systems and develop a plan to change them. Site visits throughout the year focus on deepening understanding of current systems through dialogue and examining artifacts.
The second year of OGC focuses on implementation with site visits tailored to observe the wellness of implementation. By seeing the work in action, Dr. Fergus and team will provide specific next steps for the school team to continue to refine their systems.
While OGC is designed as a two-year cohort experience, Culturally Responsive Education Team and Professional Learning Team recognize the need for continued support as schools undertake systems-level change. School teams can continue to opt into district supports.