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It Takes a System: A Case Study of Denver Public Schools (DPS)

Redesigning a District For Equity and Excellence

Over the last decade, Denver Public Schools (DPS) became one of the fastest-improving large districts in the country—achieving significant improvement across all student subgroups. Unlike many city districts, DPS included charter and innovation schools as integral parts of their system and improvement strategy. DPS’ journey demonstrates how much progress a school system can make when it strategically balances urgent action with the time required to do it right. This case study explores how the district accomplished this by redesigning each part of the system and focusing on continuous improvement at all levels.

Through more than a decade of partnering with urban school districts nationwide, we've seen an array of challenges but also beacons of hope. Drawing from this experience, we've identified conditions and practices that enable districts to achieve significant improvements in student and school performance. We distilled these insights into School System 20/20. This case study is part of a series where we track the transformation journeys of leading districts in the context of School System 20/20. We examine how and what they have changed to better align resources with their priorities and achieve impressive results.

Our first case study, "Back from the Brink," examined the rapid, encouraging progress of Lawrence Public Schools, located in the Boston area. The second case study, "The Rewards of Perseverance," examined the power of a systemwide focus on students, teachers, and leaders in Aldine Independent School District, located near Houston, Texas.

Executive Summary: It Takes a System: Redesigning a District for Equity and Excellence (PDF)

Full Case Study: It Takes a System: Redesigning a District for Equity and Excellence (PDF)


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