Turnaround Showcase at West Generation Academy Engages Business, Community and Education Policy Makers!
On April 29th, West Generation Academy and Generation Schools Network hosted a Turnaround Showcase on the WGA campus. Over 40 people from businesses, community organizations and education policy makers attended to hear how turnaround innovation in education has transformed WGA over the last 3 years.
Peter Sherman, the Executive Director of School and District Performance for the Colorado Department of Education, and Antonio Esquibel, the Executive Director of West Denver Network Schools for Denver Public Schools, opened the 3-hour event discussing the state and community needs for turnaround education and funding. Attendees then had the opportunity to look over West Generation Academy's data, analyzing its growth in academics, school culture, college and career readiness, and teacher satisfaction at one of DPS' historically most challenged campuses.
This was followed by 3 WGA students, Jesus Arredondo, an 11th grade student, Stefany Galiando Bernal, a 10th grade student, and Hyban Hernandez, a 10th grade student. They provided their perspective on dual enrollment classes that are college level and credit bearing classes they take while in high school, and the benefits of college and career readiness programs at WGA. The WGA College Readiness Coordinator, Yolanda Garduno, provided the context and background on these courses and their availability to all high school students.70% of WGA's students in grades 9-12 have already completed one or more college course. 92% of students who attempted these rigorous classes earned college credit.
Attendees were then given the opportunity to tour the school and participate in a mock advocacy class provided by Mary Cipollone, GSN's Director of Health & Wellness. These activities allowed the attendees to observe the innovative academic model in action and participate in a class that is part of both the WGA middle and high school daily schedules - advocacy. Advocacy is a daily class that allows students and teachers to connect for each day around their academic and personal/social goals. For many of the attendees, this was their first time understanding how advocacy provides both an academic and a non-academic connection between student and teacher.
Following the tour and mock advocacy class, a panel of community and corporate partners answered audience questions, providing further context for the importance of turnaround education in the Denver community. Panel members included - Aimee Charlton, Better Business Bureau Foundation, Gabe Trujillo, Colorado Uplift, Lee Becker, West High School Alumni Association, Lisa Flores, Gates Family Foundation, Pam Martinez, Padres y Jovenes Unidos, and Mia Martinez Lopez, West Generation Academy. This time also provided the audience with the learning opportunity to better understand the challenges educators face in turnaround settings. To wrap up the event, Rebecca Holmes, the Associate Commissioner of Innovation, Choice, and Engagement from the Colorado Department of Education, gave final thoughts on where education is headed and what can be learned by the successes of schools like West Generation Academy. Randy Nielson, Denver Public Schools, commented that the event included, "great stuff", and he is excited to see the graduation numbers for the first graduating class of WGA in 2016.
The event was a huge success in bringing so many critical faces together to review and celebrate WGA's successes. WGA Middle School Principal, Kurtis Quig, "loved the variety of individuals that were present", and is excited for the positive ripple effect this will have on WGA and similar schools in DPS.
Thank you to all who participated in the Showcase!