What is RootED’s overarching philosophy?
We believe that community-driven solutions hold great promise for promoting equity, quality, opportunity, accountability and autonomy in Denver Public Schools. To achieve excellence in public K-12 education, we must prioritize equity and close the opportunity gap for students who have been underserved. We believe the answer is not to move backward to the time before some of Denver’s public education reforms were made, nor to stay stagnant with the progress that has been made, but to move forward with a key focus on equity and quality. Any effort to maintain the status quo that has proven to leave a majority of students behind must be countered with an innovative and positive shared vision for the future. That shared positive vision starts with those who are most directly impacted by the education system.
What does RootED Fund?
RootEd funds the efforts of community-based organizations to address equity, quality, opportunity, accountability and autonomy in Denver Public Schools, including efforts to promote and inform school choice and create systems to improve school responsiveness. Because they have the flexibility to respond and adapt quickly to meet community needs, autonomous schools can be an effective strategy to address equity and opportunity gaps and improve the quality of public K-12 education.
Is RootED’s funding limited to Denver and Denver Public Schools (DPS)?
Yes. RootED funding is restricted to schools in DPS and community organizations who serve DPS families. Although some of the schools and organizations we fund do operate across the metropolitan area and/or statewide the work we fund is focused on Denver.
Who has RootED Funded?
What is the purpose of RootED?
RootED is a funder, convener, and thought partner working to ensure all Denver Public Schools students have access to a high-quality education that provides both academic rigor and authentically partners with the students, families and communities they serve.
Where does RootED funding come from?
Why are those funders interested in education in Denver?
Our funders are focused on improving public education and support RootED’s focus on a community-driven process with a focus on equity and quality. They see value in supporting an organization like RootED that is immersed in the Denver community, has the ability to develop authentic relationships, and has a deep understanding of all of the different elements of the public education ecosystem.
What does ‘quality’ mean to RootED?
A quality education provides students the tools to navigate systems, think critically, have self agency, and ultimately enjoy a life of self determination. Foundational elements are vital to accomplishing this goal, so we believe that students should be able to read, write, and do arithmetic proficiently. When this does not happen for kids, the aforementioned pillars will never be achieved. At present, the best way to measure whether or not our education system is providing these foundational skills is via standardized testing. However, we believe every student, family and community has nuanced needs and without solid understanding and intentional implementation of services that support the whole child, we are missing a core element of what makes up a quality education. Focusing on the whole child, and providing socioemotional support does not come at the expense of academic rigor. Rather, it is a prerequisite if we hope to fully garner the limitless potential of the students who sit in the classrooms of DPS.
Why does RootED support autonomous schools?
RootED supports autonomous school models because they have the flexibility to respond and adapt quickly to meet community needs. Autonomous schools can be an effective strategy to address equity and opportunity gaps and improve the quality of K-12 public education. We protect and enhance school autonomy by both ensuring that policies are in place to support and grow autonomous schools and that accountability mechanisms are in place to ensure quality and culturally responsive education for all students. Although autonomous schools are uniquely positioned to be responsive to community needs, they do so with varying levels of success. We have witnessed stagnation, and in some cases negative academic trends, in the autonomous school sector. We believe academic improvement will come from co-creation and stronger partnerships between the schools we fund and the communities they serve by way of collaboration with organizations who hold trust in and represent those communities. The autonomous schools that already exist must both perform academically and demonstrate their innate ability to be more responsive to their families and communities than their district counterparts. This requires effective measurement tools. As stated above, RootED is working with organizations to ensure academic outcomes are maintained and that families and community members identify the key indicators for these. We seek to ensure accountability for schools’ responsiveness to students, families and communities as well as for academic outcomes.
Why does RootEd Believe in school choice?
The needs of students vary widely and we believe that it is the right of families and students to choose the school that is best fit for their needs. Further, historically, low income neighborhoods had poorer performing schools. Choice affords options for families and students to choose schools that they believe will provide a higher quality education for their children.
You have done a bunch of work in the community, held focus groups, meetings, and funded organizations. You say you are informed by community needs? What have you learned? What have you done with what you have learned?
We have identified information needed that reflects teacher tenure, teacher demographics, and academic data disaggregated by income, race, and more. Data transparency and accessibility are essential for holding schools and systems accountable for student outcomes, and for identifying potential opportunities for growth and improvement.
Which neighborhoods does RootED work in?
RootED works in all regions of the City of Denver with a focus on areas that are serving historically underserved/marginalized students.
Questions RootED is thinking about:
- Do we have a collective definition of ‘equity’, ‘quality’, and ‘we’
- What information do parents and families use when they make school decisions for their students?
- How do we define quality to include other factors beyond test scores?
- How can the community hold schools accountable to meeting their needs?
- How do you effectively measure community responsiveness?
- How do schools achieve responsiveness while maintaining consistency given the fact that we recognize perceptions and needs are not static?