Fall | Issue 2 | Date: September 23, 2020 
Funding Great Schools. Rooted in Community. 
Improvements to Remote Learning
As Denver students and families adapt to various forms of remote and hybrid learning models this fall, educators are hopeful that more effective curriculum delivery and modified scheduling will reap benefits for kids. It’s not surprising that schools see the value of smaller group instruction in the virtual space, as well as collecting frequent data on student progress.

KIPP Colorado Schools mixes live video instruction and asynchronous classes where students view recorded lessons by their classroom teachers, then submit work. Teachers and coaches review the work and discuss with students the same day in small groups. Strive Prep structures lessons similar to in-person instruction, and the lessons are recorded so students can engage with them on a family-friendly flexible schedule.

DSST Public Schools is sending home science materials so students can do their own experiments, guided by their teachers online. Some DSST teachers may invite students to participate in voluntary, in-person activities held outdoors and limited to small groups. 

For some families, the pandemic highlights how the public school system has failed their children. The Denver Independent School (DIS) is a newly formed K-12 umbrella school for home-based learners which received a RootED-supported COVID-19 Education Innovation Fund grant. The DIS Black Homeschooling Sustainability Initiative seeks to remove barriers preventing underrepresented groups from accessing their right to home-educate their children, and will determine over the next several months if students thrive academically and emotionally. Proponents of the initiative also seek feedback from families regarding the model's sustainability and students' educational outcomes. 

Schools have worked hard to ensure every student is connected, with devices, consistent Wi-Fi and access to age-appropriate platforms. They’ve also engaged in coaching sessions with caregivers to ensure students can stay on task throughout the day. It’s important as ever for families to engage in regular communication with teachers to track students’ progress.

Given all students’ strong desire for connections and authentic social interaction, some educators merge games and play-based lessons with learning objectives. And they host regular virtual gatherings to celebrate students and ensure learning remains joyful during this time.
A Creative Path to Peace
Helping students cope with pandemic-related stress
The pandemic has elevated feelings of isolation and anxiety in many students coping with disruptions to schooling and home lives. Academy 360 reports the most vulnerable group they observe are in the 9 to 12 year-old age range. The school has a 30-minute block every day devoted to Crew, a meeting for students to ground themselves as a community of learners. The daily sessions help ensure students feel supported by their peers, teachers and administration. 

The act of narrating positive behavior is aided by the ability to mute disruptions in virtual sessions, and teachers cover lessons for each other the same way they would in-person, when it’s necessary to use Zoom breakout rooms to have restorative conversations with students. It’s notable that some students prone to attention-seeking behavior in the past are less self-conscious in virtual class, and therefore more focused on their work. 

Academy 360 used a RootED grant to purchase outdoor shade structures and stadium seats to create outdoor classrooms as part of their return to safer in-person learning this month. Over the summer, the school developed a series of pathways on school grounds to provide additional ways for students to participate in physical activity with connections to learning. A key purpose is to connect restorative approaches to outside environments. The language on a specific peace path is tied to the Zones of Regulations curriculum. A dual pathway leads students experiencing conflict down a scripted path to help them come to a resolution. Academy 360 is also providing families with chalk and stencils to encourage them to create similar paths in their neighborhoods with chalk outside their homes.
Grantee Spotlight
American Indian Academy of Denver
The American Indian Academy of Denver (AIAD) launched this fall with an Indigenized STEAM curriculum for middle schoolers, focused on science, technology, engineering, art and math. “Indigenous people have been ingenious creators, scientists, and artists since time immemorial. AIAD capitalizes on these cultural strengths to provide our students with rigorous and meaningful learning opportunities...STEAM allows our students to engage in critical thinking while developing creative solutions to real world problems.” 

School started in August with remote programming for more than 100 students after several months of going into “basic needs” mode. Founder and head of school Terri Bissonette said she and her team wanted to ensure prospective students and their families felt supported and ready to join their new community when the COVID-19 pandemic hit hard last March. A series of Make it Indigenous webinars guided students through interactive math, Indigenous poetry and science via the study of traditional medicine, for example. Chef Ben Jabobs of the American Indian Eatery Tocabe led a class on cooking to celebrate American Indian culture through native-sourced recipes and ingredients. AIAD delivered Indigenous meals for families, and Empowerment kits to encourage children to get outdoors. The school also ensured families had access to information to manage during the pandemic.
Bissonnette shared that educators are laser focused on developing deep relationships with families and students, some of whom reported bad experiences at other schools. The principles of respect, relationships and responsibility are core to the school's mission and families are excited to see their children grow and learn in an environment where their cultural strengths are celebrated.
Congratulations to
The Succeeds Prize 2020 Winners!
Wyatt Academy Elementary School (pictured above)
Three RootED grantees were just selected to win the prestigious Succeeds Prize, which recognizes what’s working in Colorado’s public schools to deepen impact and support ongoing innovation. Applicants are reviewed by Colorado Succeeds staff and an advisory committee of education, business, and philanthropic leaders in Colorado. Topping three of the six categories were our grantees Wyatt Academy for Transformational Impact in an Elementary School, Beacon Network Schools for Transformational Impact in a Middle School, and The CUBE High School for Excellence in Technology Enabled Learning. Each winner receives a $15,000 prize and recognition via a televised event. We could not be more proud of the hard work of these educators.
We See You!
DPS Know Justice, Know Peace resolution
Although not a RootED initiative, we’d like to give a shout out to the incredible students at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College for their leadership advocating for the DPS Know Justice, Know Peace resolution, which will incorporate the contributions of Black, Indigenous, and Latino communities to the K-12 curriculum throughout Denver Public Schools. The Board of Education will take up the measure soon, which would revise the curriculum over the next couple of years. This is precisely the type of community-driven change we champion at RootED, and would like to see more of across the city. Recent national polling by the Southern Poverty Law Center found overwhelming support for anti-racism and multicultural programs aimed at reducing and preventing racism and extremism in the United States, including specific programs for public schools. Read more about the DMLK students in Denverite.
Dr. Brenda J. Allen, RootED Board Member
Exploring Race in 2020
As we strive to advance racial equity and school quality in DPS, we are fortunate at RootED to have the steady guidance of an outstanding Board of Directors, including Board Member Dr. Brenda J. Allen. Professor Emerita and former chief diversity officer for the University of Colorado Denver and the Anschutz Medical Campus. Dr. Allen has written extensively on social identity, implicit bias, inclusive leadership, and diversity recruitment and retention practices. She also recently led a workshop on Exploring Race Matters in 2020. The workshop addressed what race is, why race is relevant to everyone, and practices for addressing racism. Resources from the workshop are available here.

A key focus of Dr. Allen’s work is to strive for strategic, systemic, sustainable approaches to racial equity. Here's a list of recommendations for how to strive for organizational/institutional racial equity:

  1. Make anti-racism a priority.
  2. Take a strategic approach (SMART).
  3. Identify & implement best practices (e.g., Racial Equity Framework).
  4. Provide resources (e.g., budget, training, time).
  5. Require accountability from everyone.

Individuals can do their part by focusing on their personal growth and within their spheres of influence for systems-level change.  

  1. Take personal responsibility.
  2. Become more mindful.
  3. Educate yourself.
  4. Work within your spheres of influence.
  5. Cultivate cultural humility.

Dr. Allen’s Difference Matters website includes materials for educators, students, community groups, as well as anyone who personally wants to be enlightened on how our social identity differences matter. 
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