New pilot to aid struggling Denver teachers

The typical process to get rid of a struggling teacher is often costly, lengthy, bureaucratic and nasty.

A teacher evaluation underway in a Denver Public Schools classroom. (EdNews file art)
A routine teacher evaluation – not part of the PAR pilot – underway in a Denver Public Schools classroom. / File photo

But a new pilot program in Denver is expected to make the process less expensive, quicker and fairer to both sides.

The school board is expected to vote next month on creation of the pilot program, dubbed Peer Assistance and Review (PAR). A memorandum of understanding supporting it has been signed by Superintendent Tom Boasberg and Denver Classroom Teachers Association President Henry Roman.

The program, which also must be approved by a majority of the 3,000 DCTA members, sets Denver apart from districts in Colorado. Similar approaches to dismissing or working to help teachers who aren’t making the grade are in place in Ohio and California. In Denver, teachers and administrators have been drafting language for peer review for more than three years. In a board conversation about it last week, member Happy Haynes called it an “extraordinary breakthrough.”

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Under the pilot, the principal and teacher must both agree to use the PAR panel, to be made up of three teachers selected by DCTA and three principals or instructional leaders selected by the superintendent. Teachers can still choose to follow the current Teacher Evaluation, Compensation and Dismissal Act process, including a hearing by an administrative law judge.

The pilot also will include a specially trained peer observer to help identify issues and provide at least 10 hours of coaching, modeling or other support during the 30- to 90-day process. Peer observer also will provide feedback to principals to help them decide whether or note to fire teachers or extend improvement plans.

“The entire process has several parts to it,” Roman said Monday. “Eventually, the principal, the teacher and peer observer get to present their findings…to the panel. It’s not the principal making the final recommendation or decision.”

If dismissal is recommended, the six-member panel hears evidence from the teacher, principal and peer observer to make a decision about the teacher’s employment.

If the panel is evenly split, the teacher gets more time to improve. If the panel is split the second time a teacher is reviewed, the principal’s recommendation takes precedence.

“There is a greater sense of fairness, given that you have peers reviewing all of it,” Roman said.

Boasberg said the new system demonstrates DPS’s “shared commitment to ensuring quality and accountability within the teaching practice.”

DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg
DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg / File photo

“We believe that the PAR process will provide a beneficial alternative to better support both principals and teachers through what can often be a challenging process, ultimately resulting in an effective teacher in every classroom,” Boasberg said.

Meanwhile, all Denver teachers will continue to receive feedback and support through LEAP (Leading Effective Academic Practice), the district’s system for supporting and evaluating effective teaching performance. LEAP uses multiple measures, including classroom observation by school leaders, peer observers, student-perception surveys, measures of teacher professionalism and multiple measures of student academic growth.

Teachers who are not meeting district expectations through LEAP can be placed on an improvement plan, which ultimately could lead to involvement in the PAR pilot. About 40 teachers currently are on improvement plans.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.