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CU Denver - DPS Collaborative

Research Collaborative Aims to Help English-Language Learners

The School of Education & Human Development (SEHD) and Denver Public Schools (DPS) are demonstrating the power of academic teamwork through a formal CU Denver–DPS Research Collaborative now completing its first year. The first joint research project of the collaborative was designed to find school-wide practices supporting the achievement of English-language learners. A group of 13 SEHD faculty and three DPS researchers used mixed methods to identify and study schools that were having exceptional success serving these students. The eight schools that surfaced based on jointly developed criteria were:

  • Abraham Lincoln High School
  • Bruce Randolph School
  • Bryant Webster-Elementary School
  • Force Elementary School
  • Goldrick Elementary School
  • Math and Science Leadership Academy
  • Merrill Middle School
  • West Denver Prep, Federal Campus

Analyses of the multiple case studies revealed that exemplary English-language acquisition (ELA) schools shared a coherent approach to data use, instruction and professional development that was informed by a “language lens.” These schools valued language knowledge and language development as school-wide strengths and responsibility responsibilities. For them, language development was integral to their students’ learning, not something to be fixed prior to learning. 

Currently in DPS, more than 26,000 students are in the process of developing the English-language skills needed to succeed in school. Spanish is the primary language for 15,246 (87 percent) of these students, while other common languages include Vietnamese, Arabic, Somali, Nepali and Karen/Burmese. The Research Collaborative continues to work on ELA issues, building on the initial study by looking at classroom practices, family engagement, school leadership and approaches to assessment. 

Susana Cordova (MA, Administrative Supervision and Curriculum Development with a license in Educational Administration), chief academic officer at Denver Public Schools and member of the DPS Research Collaborative Advisory Board, believes that this research work shows great promise for meaningful changes. “Because of the nature of the relationships within the group, there is increased emphasis on really using the research to inform future decisions that will impact teaching and learning in our classrooms. We also are committed to continually revisiting the research, using it as a touchstone as we work on future case studies and initiatives.” It is the hope of the team that this research will ultimately inform the instruction that goes on at the University of Colorado Denver—instruction for new teachers and seasoned teachers as well as school administrators on how language and literacy are best taught and learned. And, the research will also feed into school district support systems for DPS students.

The team plans to report on their work annually, with a final report expected in three years’ time.
“One of the things that makes this collaborative such a success is that everyone on the team is committed to the same social justice work embodied in the School of Education’s core values,” said Cordova. “Enthusiasm and passion run deep in our meetings. We are all extremely dedicated to helping our ELL students succeed.”

Links to Research Reports:

Cross-Case Analysis Report


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