Superintendent Tom Boasberg says a new $10 million foundation grant will help continue the “path-breaking work” that DPS is doing with its LEAP evaluation system.

DPS news conference
DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg discusses new Gates Foundation grant. Behind him, from left, are DCTA President Henry Roman, McKinley-Thatcher Principal Alona Hastings and Slavens teacher David Weiss.

Boasberg announced the grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation during a Thursday news conference at North High School.

The grant follows an earlier $10 million Gates grant that the district used to ramp up its LEAP (Leading Effective Academic Practice) evaluation and teacher effectiveness system. That system launched in 2011 as a pilot in selected schools and was expanded to cover all schools in the 2012-13 school year.

In the upcoming school year, all Colorado districts must use state-approved evaluation systems for all teachers and principals.

Boasberg and Henry Roman, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, said the additional Gates funding will be used to strengthen elements of LEAP and help DPS build out the student growth component of the evaluation system. State law requires that 50 percent of teacher and principal evaluations be based on student growth as measured by annual statewide tests and by a wide variety of other assessments and indicators.

“Work remains to complete a quality implementation of the system across all schools,” Roman said. “We believe we have made great progress and finishing this important work will ensure that teachers have the feedback and support they need to be successful in helping students achieve.”

Boasberg said the new grant will be spent on:

  • Improved coaching of teachers and other professional development efforts
  • Leadership development for teachers
  • Additional training of the principals and 46 peer evaluators who observe and evaluate teachers’ work
  • Further development of the “multiple measures” of student academic growth used in teacher evaluations

“LEAP will be a much stronger system” with the improvements made possible by the grant, he said. Boasberg said much of the current and new grant money is used to pay for the staff time involved in training.

Both Roman and Boasberg acknowledged the importance of grant funding during a time of state budget cuts.

Roman said such support makes implementation of education reforms “more manageable.”

The superintendent, noting that DPS has lost $60 million in state funding over the last four years of budget cuts, said, “It would be extraordinarily difficult for us” to implement the evaluation system without the Gates grants.

Asked about the ongoing costs of the new system once the three-year grant ends, Boasberg said DPS will continue to run the program with “whatever the amount of money we have.” Part of the new grant will be used to study how the district can operate a sustainable system in the long term.

LEAP has gone through a number of key changes since the first version was launched. See this June EdNews story for a detailed look at the current state of the program.