Denver Public Schools choice begins January 5. Here is the important information to know:
- Choice forms are due by 4pm Jan. 29, 2016.
- To research schools, DPS enrollment guides with information about all schools are available online at http://schoolchoice.dpsk12.org/enrollment-guide/.
- Round 1 Choice forms are available beginning Jan. 5, 2016, at any Denver Public School, online at schoolchoice.dpsk12.org, or through the parent portal. DPS recommends online application as it streamlines their processing of the forms.
- Ranking priorities on the choice form: Students who wish to attend an assigned boundary school can simply put that one school for their first choice. Students in an enrollment zone should enter all five choices, including at least three zone options.
- Paper forms can be turned in at any DPS school, at a Choice & Enrollment Services Office at 3131 N. Eliot St., or at 4800 Telluride St. Building 5. Online forms are submitted through the DPS Parent Portal.
- By Friday, March 18, 2016, DPS will notify students of school assignments.
Principals’ Responses to Questions
What do (will) you do to ease the transition from elementary to middle school?
Denver Discovery School, Kristen Atwood—Denver Discovery supports our new 6th graders by offering home visits to our incoming sixth grade families where student’ future advisors visit families to begin building relationships with student and parents. Denver Discovery staff meets with the fifth grade teachers of our incoming students so that we start with an understanding of students from an academic perspective. This combination of springtime prep work gives us a picture of a student from the three most important sources: their parents, their educators, and themselves. We also bring our sixth grade class back before the start of the school year with all the staff and Owl Ambassadors to acclimate them to our systems and the middle school experience. Finally, we take our entire 6th grade class on an expedition to the mountains which serves as an excellent catalyst for creating and cementing friendships between students.
DSST: Conservatory Green, John Clark—We believe that a small, values-based community will help students succeed at each stage of their educational experience. DSST offers a highly supportive culture for all students, regardless of background. From their first day, students will have an advisor who they will meet with daily, and go to for academic and personal support. This advisory model will also allow students to meet and get to know their peers as friends and community members. Teachers and advisors will work closely with parents to ensure a positive transition to middle school.
DSST: Stapleton, Jessica Heesacker—Our advisory structure pairs a teacher with a small group of students. Advisories allow students to develop lasting friendships with members of the community and work closely with a staff member who becomes an advocate for their success. The advisor is in constant communication with parents. Above all, DSST is committed to developing well-rounded students in a positive (and fun!) environment.
McAuliffe IB, Kurt Dennis—All sixth-graders attend a two day orientation where they learn organization, time management, and study skills. Students receive support in managing the social and emotional challenges they sometimes experience when transitioning to middle school.
William Roberts K-8, Erik Cohen—Roberts offers an orientation day for all Middle School students; it is a mixture of fun, teambuilding and expectation setting. We build upon this foundation with on-going collaborative activities in the classroom, morning meetings and community-wide activities. Our small size supports our philosophy that social and emotional growth are essential in supporting the whole child.
How do (will) you deal with issues that go beyond what the teacher can handle in the classroom (homework, discipline, needs for extra personal support)?
Denver Discovery School, Kristen Atwood—Denver Discovery has built an incredible support team for our students including a full time school psychologist, a Dean of Students, two special educators, and an interventionist. Students who need social-emotional support always have several doors they can knock on. Advisors help students think about their organizational skills and Denver Discovery School students are resources for one another, showing compassion and leadership toward one another whenever help is asked for.
DSST: Conservatory Green, John Clark—We will have high expectations for our students that will be met with a high level of support from teachers and the community at large. Each day, students will meet with their advisory, a teacher and a small group of students, which is designed to keep students on track with their daily assignments and encourage social connections. Our teachers are committed to supporting students before and after school with tutoring or extra support, to assist students in their personal development.
DSST: Stapleton, Jessica Heesacker—DSST: Stapleton has high expectations for all students, and those expectations are coupled with high support from the entire community. This support comes from the student’s advisory group, which is the front line for any academic or behavioral challenges a student might face. Teachers and administrators offer before- and after-school tutoring daily for all students, and genuinely spend time to get to know each student to ensure they have success at DSST.
McAuliffe IB, Kurt Dennis—We have very high expectations and place a great deal of emphasis on systems and accountability for both students and staff. Positive relationships and a strong school culture allow us to deal with issues proactively when they arise.
William Roberts K-8, Erik Cohen—We have a very structured environment that allows for students to develop self responsibility with many support systems in place including gifted and talented, reading and math intervention, study hall, academic prep and leadership development unique to the E-8 model.
What do you do to accommodate students who move at a pace faster or slower than the group?
Denver Discovery School, Kristen Atwood—Every one of our teachers here at Denver Discovery School is well-versed in differentiation in the classrooms so we can have classrooms with students who need additional support as well as those designated Gifted and Talented where every student is challenged. Small group instruction allows for extension opportunities keep fast paced learners engaged while allows students moving at a slower pace to remain in the classroom with other Discoverers. We also provide math and literacy intervention courses for those who need even more help.
DSST: Conservatory Green, John Clark—We work hard to ensure that every student is challenged and constantly growing to reach their full potential. Our teachers differentiate their lessons every day to meet the individual needs and abilities of students, and push them to do their best. DSST: Conservatory Green will offer an advanced math track. While all middle school students will be on track to take calculus in high school, students in the advanced track will have an opportunity to take a second year of college-level math before graduating. DSST schools welcome students of all ability levels.
DSST: Stapleton, Jessica Heesacker—Every school in the DSST network has a growth mindset, meaning we work hard to ensure that every student is challenged and constantly growing to reach their full potential. At DSST: Stapleton Middle School, teachers differentiate their lessons daily to meet the individual needs and abilities of every student and push them to do their best. The technology DSST uses in the classroom allows teachers to provide extra support to students who need it, and additional challenges to students who excel.
McAuliffe IB, Kurt Dennis—In mathematics, students are grouped based on their level of mastery. In all other courses, teachers differentiate their instruction to meet the needs of all learners. Students below grade level in literacy or math receive additional support through intervention courses.
William Roberts K-8, Erik Cohen—Our teachers differentiate within the classroom. We have a strong collaborative model in which teachers co-plan and co-teach with our interventionists and GT teacher. Our flex block schedule delivers the core curriculum in 90- minute segments to all students with alternating 45-minute classes that are individualized to each student. This individualization resulted in our being named in the top 1% of Colorado schools for middle school academic performance growth.
What is special about your school that makes it a place where kids learn, grow and thrive?
Denver Discovery School, Kristen Atwood—DDS celebrates the individual. Each child is unique and we make sure that as a staff we know each student well so that we can best develop them into self-starting leaders. Our parliament of owls celebrates each other at Morning Meetings and encourages one another to achieve their very best.
DSST: Conservatory Green, John Clark—DSST: Conservatory Green will have an authentic literacy experience. Our school will first build a culture of reading, where students are encouraged to enjoy books, and are given time each day to focus on literacy. In conjunction, students will also be taught literacy skills, which include rigorous text-dependent analysis and questioning. As a STEM school, we will focus on computer programming. Currently, in the United States only 10 percent of our schools focus on computer science, leaving up to 1 million jobs vacant each year. We will give students access to the skills they need to develop as computer programmers.
DSST: Stapleton, Jessica Heesacker—As a science, technology, engineering and math school (STEM), DSST: Stapleton Middle School has a focus on creative engineering and a unique partnership with the University of Colorado Boulder and Lockheed Martin. While DSST is a successful STEM school, we are also dedicated to providing a strong liberal arts education. Writing, reading, and social studies are subjects that students attend every day, along with math and science.
McAuliffe IB, Kurt Dennis—The “extras” are what set McAuliffe apart. In addition to field trips, outdoor education, community service and enrichments, McAuliffe has the most robust offering of course electives and athletics of any middle school in DPS.
William Roberts K-8, Erik Cohen—Our small community allows for teachers, administrators and staff to know our students and their families. Classroom instruction activates cognitive thinking resulting in our students receiving a greater depth of content knowledge and ability to articulate and apply their learning in real-world settings. We emphasize a positive school culture of inclusiveness – all students can participate on all athletic teams, school trips and clubs and leadership opportunities. As an E-8 school, we have a unique opportunity for our Middle School students to be mentors and role models to our younger students on a day-to-day basis.
Are there areas in which you expect change in the future?
Denver Discovery School, Kristen Atwood—Next year we will finally be a full 6-8 middle school so we anticipate tweaking systems to accommodate a larger number of students but most of our change is that which we can’t anticipate. Denver Discovery School’s trajectory academically is set on rigor and excellence but our specials curriculum, our sports teams, and our clubs are all student driven so the many programs we offer will expand and change as our students ask.
DSST: Conservatory Green, John Clark—The biggest change will be the addition of an 8th grade program this coming year and a High School program, beginning with 9th grade, after that. While we are always adapting and changing practices based on what is best for our students, there will not be any large systematic or programmatic changes that we can foresee in the future.
DSST: Stapleton, Jessica Heesacker—DSST Public Schools is always adapting and changing practices based on best practices, and what will help students grow in the classroom. At this time, we do not foresee any large systematic or programmatic changes.
McAuliffe IB, Kurt Dennis—The move to the Smiley Campus allowed McAuliffe to continue to grow and meet student demand. Smiley’s 630-seat auditorium, two gyms, historic library and 19 acres of playing fields meet the needs of our diverse programming and allow us to continually expand our offerings.
William Roberts K-8, Erik Cohen—We are excited to announce we have completed the first phase of our drive to a comprehensive STEAM education lab that will supplement the many things we are already doing in our classrooms. We expect to have Phase I of the lab ready for the 2016-2017 school year. We are a constantly evolving school with the flexibility to change quickly. This year, we introduced Advanced Drama/Dinner Theatre, Service Learning, a GT enrichment, Food Truck Wednesday, Bobcat News and the list goes on. We have an active Middle School Advisory Committee that supports us with new programs and activities.
What is your philosophy on teaching your curriculum? What is the balance of teacher-directed and student-directed learning, project-based learning, or other approaches?
Denver Discovery School, Kristen Atwood—Denver Discovery School’s philosophy is rigor, routine, and relevance. Connections between abstract ideas and the real world should be bridged for students in order for deep metacognition to solidify. Learning should be 70 percent student centered; teachers directly instruct between 15–20 minutes per lesson and the rest is facilitation. Our emphasis on Interdisciplinary Learning (an IB component), Service Learning (an IB component), expeditionary learning, and service learning (an IB component) create a balanced, whole child approach to education.
DSST: Conservatory Green, John Clark—At DSST, we do not use textbooks or workbooks to drive instruction. Instead, our teachers will use common core or school-based standards to design their curriculum. While we hold teachers accountable for teaching those standards, we also believe they need freedom in order to meet students where they are on their educational path and push them as necessary. We believe that learning should be student-centered, meaning that students should constantly work in ways that require exploration and inquiry with a teacher as their guide.
DSST: Stapleton, Jessica Heesacker—We allow our teachers to drive instruction and they work together closely to share best practices; always exploring new ways to bring lesson plans to life in the classroom. Our teachers use school-based standards as a guide for content and skills-based instruction, rather than prescriptive off-the-shelf curriculum. This approach allows DSST to differentiate lessons in order to challenge students at all levels.
McAuliffe IB, Kurt Dennis—Students learn by doing. The majority of the learning at McAuliffe is student centered, but facilitated by the teacher. Teachers use interactive technology to supplement their curriculum and to individualize the scope and pace of student learning.
William Roberts K-8, Erik Cohen—We use several curriculums and instructional approaches to differentiate our instruction. We embrace the inquiry model of learning in which teachers facilitate student learning in a manner that captures creativity, collaboration, communication and curiosity.
What is your favorite memory from this past school year?
Denver Discovery School, Kristen Atwood—One of the ideal moments this past year was when we took our kids for the annual trip to the woods. We were having a morning celebration meeting and sitting in this prairie below Longs Peak. A child said to another, ‘I have been in middle school with you now for six weeks and I sit near you in science, but I didn’t know who you were. This camp experience allowed me to know who you are, and now I have 100 new friends.’
DSST: Conservatory Green, John Clark—My favorite memories always center around our end of trimester award ceremonies. While we do a lot to celebrate our students on a weekly basis, including weekly awards and shout-outs, these end of the trimester celebrations truly recognize the immense value that our students bring to our community.
DSST: Stapleton, Jessica Heesacker—Once a month we have what is called ‘Ubuntu,’ which is African philosophy that means ‘I am, because we are.’ During this time, groups of students from sixth, seventh and eighth grades combine and spend time building community and having a lot of fun. Some activities that students do at this time might be a scavenger hunt competition, creating human pyramids in the commons, discussing the history and purpose of selfies, discussing the importance of community, and many, many more things.
McAuliffe IB, Kurt Dennis—Last year we had our first large-scale musical production. It was really fun and impressive to see how powerful musical theater can be in a school. To have kids who have never sang solos in front of 500 people is really powerful. The great thing is that every kid has the opportunity to participate because there are large casts and multiple productions. We heavily invest in the arts here.
William Roberts K-8, Erik Cohen—My favorite memory is when we did a Halloween Trick-or-Treat street, where the middle school students hosted a trick-or-treat for grades K-2. It’s amazing to see how much our middle school students embrace leadership and their place as role models in the school.”
Tell us about yourself.
Denver Discovery School, Kristen Atwood—I am pleased to announce that this will be my 19th year working in Denver Public Schools. My husband, Tom, and I have two beautiful children and a foster dog named Earnest. We love hosting gatherings of family and friends and watching new connections form.
DSST: Conservatory Green, John Clark—I graduated from the University of Notre Dame where I earned a BA in English and a MA in education. For two years, I worked for the Alliance for Catholic Education, which serves under-resourced parochial schools in Denver. I joined DSST: Stapleton Middle School in 2010 and taught eighth-grade English for two years. This year, I was one of three people selected to the first cohort of Associate School Directors at DSST. This role has been instrumental in providing leadership in instructional support, school culture and parent outreach. I have been married to my wife, Megan (who is currently a law school student), for three years. In my free time I enjoy reading, skiing, the outdoors, and watching Notre Dame football.
DSST: Stapleton, Jessica Heesacker—Here is a little about me:
- Went to college at Univ of Nebraska Lincoln
- Majored in secondary education
- Did Americorps in Chicago after college (program called City Year) working with elementary students who were reading below grade level and ran an after school program and did service projects on the weekends
- Worked on the west side of Chicago for 5 years following Americorps as a teacher and assistant principal
- Received my masters degree in school leadership from Concordia in Chicago before moving to Denver
- This is my 6th year with DSST – Stapleton. Started as a 7th grade teacher, became the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, then the Associate School Director, and then now in my second year as Director
McAuliffe IB, Kurt Dennis—My wife, two daughters and I have lived in Stapleton for more 12 years. Shelby works at Swigert and the girls go to school there. We enjoy commuting on our bikes together when the weather allows. I speak Spanish and taught English as a Second Language for eight years before becoming a principal.
William Roberts K-8, Erik Cohen—I have more than ten years of experience as an educator and administrator in the high school and middle school settings. While completing my doctorate at The Ohio State University, I was the founding principal of an innovative, charter Middle School with an emphasis on STEAM and experiential learning. My passion is working with students; I believe all students have the innate capacity to be successful, take pride in their culture and shape the world around them. I believe it is our job as educators to support, nurture and guide them in this journey.