Our faculty and students work in and learn from schools and communities to address today’s complex public challenges in K-12 education, public policy, and more. Combining the expertise of our faculty, our communities, and our students we integrate research, teaching, and outreach.

Our commitment to social justice and educational transformation is interwoven into our partnerships in local schools and communities. These partnerships are concentrated place-based educational research and development in three initial Colorado communities: Lafayette in Boulder Valley, near northeast (NNE) Denver, and Northeast Colorado.

By locating our research, professional development, teacher preparation, community engagement and policy work in these communities and more, we look for synergies and concentrate our engagement work to help facilitate the university's goal to impact humanity.


2021-22 Place-based Partnership Projects

Building on Our Collective Strengths with McGlone Educators to Improve Writing Instruction for Latinx EBs

Mileidis Gort & Vanessa Santiago Schwarz
Region: Denver
CU Boulder Community Outreach & Engagement Programs Database Entry

In 2019, we established a research-practice partnership with educators at McGlone K-8 Academy in Denver’s Montbello region. Grounded in a social theory of learning, this partnership was conceptualized as a community of practice that included bilingual educators, district instructional leaders, and biliteracy researchers in exploring the potential for genre pedagogy to enhance writing instruction. Ten McGlone teachers (grades pre-K through five) and three district and school leaders participated in the partnership, which was designed to explore how professional development (PD) and collaborative planning for genre pedagogy impacts writing instruction for emergent bilinguals (EBs). Per the teachers’ request, we were invited to re-establish our partnership after a brief pause due to a shift in the administration’s priorities. Our expanded engagement will support ongoing PD grounded in genre pedagogy (including scaffolded curriculum alignment and lesson planning within and across grades) beginning in the summer of 2021 and continuing throughout the 2021-22 academic year. Our work will build on the successes of our research-practice partnership to collaboratively and responsively support  teachers in providing high quality writing instruction for Latinx EBs in Spanish and English across the early grades (K-3) and, in doing so, support the district’s goal of improving EB writing outcomes.

 

Collaborating on CollaboRATE: Partnering to Shine Light on the Racialized Experiences of DPS Teachers

Allison Atteberry, Mimi Engel, & Terrenda White
Region: Denver
CU Boulder Community Outreach & Engagement Programs Database Entry

The current Seed Grant project has grown out of an existing partnership, called the Teacher Workforce Collaborative (TWC), between DPS and three faculty at University of Colorado-Boulder (Atteberry, Engel, White). This faculty team shares a commitment to conducting research aimed at improving teacher working conditions, particularly for Black, Indigenous, and Teachers of Color (ToCs). The Seed Grant will enable us to support DPS in its redesign of the District’s annual all-teacher survey, CollaboRATE, to shed light on the experiences of DPS ToCs. Those survey responses will then be leveraged to identify school- and district-based factors that shape the differential retention and well-being of ToCs in DPS. This project contributes to our longer-term goal to sustain a robust partnership with DPS through which we collaborate to improve access to excellent teachers for children from minoritized populations.

 

Developing Critical Consciousness through Dialogue with our Neighbors: Uni Hill and SOE Partnership for Equity

Deb Palmer & Andrea Dyrness
Region: Lafayette/BVSD
CU Boulder Community Outreach & Engagement Programs Database Entry

The University Hill-CU Partnership aims to support equity by building spaces for critical inquiry and dialogue that center the needs, identities, and experiences of bilingual, transnational and minoritized students. The partnership brings together students and faculty from the School of Education and Ethnic Studies Department with teachers, students, and parents at University Hill Elementary, a Title I dual language school across the street from CU. At the heart of the partnership is a cultural mentoring program that brings together underrepresented students at CU with predominantly Latinx 5th graders at Uni Hill. Through a weekly after-school program led by CU students, we aim to: 1) build community and promote a sense of belonging, 2) reflect on and strengthen cultural identity, and 3) explore issues of common concern in our communities and community cultural wealth. We hope that through this new community, both groups of students will see their identities and experiences as resources for their education; Uni Hill students will begin to see higher education as both possible and meaningful for them, and CU students will see community engagement as a way to enhance their own educational experience. CU education researchers also partner with Uni Hill fifth grade teachers, and offer professional development for the entire faculty, to support teachers to leverage students’ community cultural wealth as resources for teaching and learning.

 

Equify: Building LGBTQ+-Inclusive Capacity in Greeley-Evans District 6 through University-District Partnership

Sara Staley, Bethy Leonardi, Brittni Laura Hernandez, and Jesse Tijerina
Region: Northeast/North-Central Colorado

This project aims to improve life and learning opportunities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ+) students, families, and employees in educational contexts in Weld County. Principal partners are A Queer Endeavor and Greeley-Evans School District 6. Currently, our university-district partnership is guided by two goals: (1) developing and testing professional development, instructional practices, and curriculum materials that foster safer, more equitable, LGBTQ+-inclusive learning environments and (2) investigating how best to support educator learning of practices that affirm gender, sexual, and family diversity. To support our goals, as well as to advance both research and theory, this award will allow us to develop strategies for extending professional learning for a range of audiences (e.g., parents/families, district leadership, school-based equity teams, teachers, and staff) as well as to engage parents and families in dialogue and education around what affirming gender and family diversity in looks like in District 6.

 

Integrating Standards-Based Literacy Instruction and Trauma-Responsive Pedagogies with Rural Elementary Educators: A Professional Development Partnership

Elizabeth Dutro and Olivia Cox
Region: Northeast/East-Central Colorado

In this project, CU Boulder teacher educators collaborate with eastern Colorado elementary school administrators and teachers in a professional development (PD) partnership that addresses two pressing needs in rural schools: meeting increased mandates for standards-based literacy instruction and enacting pedagogies that are responsive to students’ life experiences, including trauma. As educators begin to imagine recovery from COVID-19, these twinned priorities are imbued with even greater significance. Our project addresses the need to integrate standards-based literacy instruction and trauma-responsive pedagogies through co-design of a site-based professional learning opportunity. The PD will support teachers to collaborate in cycles of innovative literacy instruction, including co-planning and co-teaching of lessons, collective debriefs of practice, and support for individual instruction between sessions. Through its focus on literacy teaching practices that embed trauma-responsive pedagogies and are animated by local goals and knowledge, this project 1) attends to teachers’ immediate professional learning goals, 2) creates engaging, equity-centered literacy learning experiences for children, and 3) generates rich curriculum and instructional practices that participants can share with other teachers within and across districts in eastern Colorado.

 

From Players to Hackers: Creating Robust Learning ecologies that Privilege Video-game Play, Socio-political Critique, and Techno-structural Analysis

Arturo Cortez and Tiera Tanksley
Region: Denver

The objective of The L.I.T. (Learning, Ingenuity, & Transformation) Gaming Lab is to create a new learning ecology that centers young people’s everyday cultural practices, supports the development of critical racial analyses, and builds new relationships between high schoolers, undergraduate students, in-service teachers, and researchers. In addition, our research/community partnership will help the Youth Empowerment Broadcasting Organization (YEBO) support the claim, in line with previous research, that video gaming practices and the broader gaming ecologies that they constitute, allow for expansive learning opportunities for young people with the potential to develop critical civic literacies and to make connections to academic disciplinary work. Through intentional co-design, our collaboration will support YEBO in developing a set of practices that will help them accomplish their programmatic goals of strengthening ties with schools, while simultaneously building capacity for future projects that seek to create connections between in-school and out-of-school spaces. This social design-based experiment (Gutiérrez, 2016; Gutiérrez et al., 2017) engages in iterative cycles of inquiry by supporting young people and undergraduate students in examining their everyday collaborative video-gaming practices by drawing on insights from the learning sciences, critical race theory, and critical science and technology studies.

 


 

2020-21 Place-based Partnership Projects


Culturally Sustaining and Critical Civic Engagement with Latinx Youth
Charla Agnoletti and Enrique Lopez

Our objective is to merge two autonomous programs affliated with CU Engage, the Center for Community-based Learning and Research—Aquetza and Public Achievement (PA)—to create robust programming and scholarship that leverages the strengths of both programs. Our programming will incorporate Latinx cultural practices and historical identities as tools to address school and community based social justice issues, which we refer to as culturally sustaining civic engagement. In addition, we will expand programming for CU undergraduates and Lafayette high school youth across a calendar year. Aquetza is a 10-day summer program at CU Boulder for primarily Chicano/a high school youth across Colorado. PA is an undergraduate program that guides critical civic engagement with youth in Boulder Valley School District. We will work directly with Centaurus High School youth in Lafayette through the PA program who will serve as co-members in our project. Our interdisciplinary team, led by Dr. Enrique Lopez and Charla Agnoletti, M.Ed., brings together experts in education, Chicana/o Studies (Dr. Enrique Sepulveda), and youth-led civic engagement (Dr. Ben Kirshner). In concert with our program, our team will produce an ethnographic case study that documents the development of agency among youth participants. Our project advances our broader mission of strengthening CU Engage’s outreach efforts by creating a research-practice site where CU affiliates (faculty, staff, students) and community members can observe culturally sustaining civic engagement “in action” and receive training on incorporating similar programming in their projects or classes.

 

Partnerships with Rural Districts for Post-Pandemic Planning
Valerie Otero, Angela Bielefeldt, Bret Miles, and Jason Westfall 

In the Partnerships with Rural Districts for Post-Pandemic Planning project, CU Boulder faculty and staff from the Physics through Evidence, Empowerment through Reasoning (PEER Physics) project and from the Engineering Plus program are partnering with teachers, coaches, and administrators from the Northeast, East Central and Centennial Boards of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES) to generate knowledge and relevant practices that address the unique needs of the BOCES and inform the development and revision of the PEER Physics Suite. We plan to meet the immediate needs of teachers of science in rural Colorado through remote professional development, classroom tools and resources for teaching state of the art physics, and to build a regional cohort of science teachers for ongoing support. These high school science teachers are using the PEER Physics curriculum and participating in remote professional development where we are modeling remote instructional strategies and sharing remote learning resources that have been effective for our veteran PEER Physics teachers. We ultimately seek to build models for physics and engineering teacher preparation and development, which will prepare in-service and prospective teachers to act quickly in crises such as COVID-19, including more substantive remote science instruction and online physics-specific teacher preparation modules.

 

SCENIC: Science-Engineering Inquiry Collaborative In Rural Colorado
Joseph Polman, Daniel Knight, and Michael Hannigan

The Science-Engineering Inquiry Collaborative in Rural Colorado (SCENIC) project involves faculty and students from CU Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science and School of Education with teachers and students in multiple districts in rural Colorado, including the Northeast Boards of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES) area, Delta County, and Mesa County. SCENIC is a research-practice partnership focused on engaging youth in rural schools mentored by engineering students from CU Boulder in scientific inquiries with the help of cutting-edge environmental monitoring tools. The initiative supports the learning and developmental needs of rural K-12 students as well as CU students. The initiative provides rural K-12 schools access to engineers and environmental monitoring equipment they could not otherwise access. The initiative also provides CU Boulder engineering students an opportunity to engage in meaningful educational outreach work, and improve their own communication practices, which will be valuable in their future professional careers. The project also fulfills a research need—namely, to surface and better understand how interdisciplinary project-based learning involving high school youth supported by university students can serve rural high school sites in culturally responsive and sustaining ways. The project will support research and development on the learning and identity development of participating students at the middle, high school, and university levels, as well as research on the research-partnership practices and routines.

2019-20 Place-based Partnership Projects

Developing Critical Consciousness through Dialogue with our Neighbors: Uni Hill and SOE Partnership for Equity
Deb Palmer, Andrea Dyrness & Krishna Pattisapu

 This partnership brings School of Education (SOE) students and faculty together with University Hill Elementary School teachers, parents, and students to build more equitable spaces for teaching and learning. We focus on developing critical consciousness through dialogue, engaging in two primary activities: (1) Targeted professional development for and with teachers related to language ideologies in the implementation of their dual language bilingual education (DLBE) program. (2) A weekly after school cultural mentoring program for fifth graders, held on the CU Campus and directed by CU Boulder SOE students of color (elementary education majors and graduate students).

University Hill Elementary is a Title I school, part of Boulder Valley School District, serving 70% Latinx students/families, situated directly across Broadway from the Education building. They are currently undergoing significant changes to their model for instruction in their DLBE program. Together with faculty, parents, and children, SOE faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students of color, are working to understand what kinds of spaces support the development of critical consciousness and equity - and we are working to address needs articulated by the school’s principal and counselor and build connection at this diverse elementary school that is, quite literally, our neighbor in Boulder.

Accountability and Assessments in Small Rural School Districts
Terri Wilson, Ben Shear & Kendra Anderson

This project connects CU Boulder’s School of Education with district and teacher leadership in the Otis R-3 School District and other communities in Northeast Colorado. Our project builds on collaborative work undertaken with the Otis district in the 2018-2019 school year. Our previous project sought to describe how communities in Northeast Colorado have negotiated highly contested debates about standards and assessment. This year, we will be extending our work through a collaborative project with the district’s Teacher Leadership Team (TLT), helping them analyze assessment data to support the district’s accountability and improvement goals. Our project aims to work with teachers to consider the relative value of different types of student assessments, and to frame how such assessments might be used for district improvement and state accountability purposes. Key partners include members of the TLT (four teacher representatives, as well as the school principal and counselor) and two faculty members and two graduate students in the School of Education. As our project progresses, we hope to build relationships with neighboring districts to expand the scope of our collaboration..

Partnering with Bilingual Educators to Improve Writing Instruction and Outcomes for Low-Income, Latinx English Learners
Mileidis Gort, Molly Hamm-Rodríguez, Laura Hamman-Ortíz & Vanessa Santiago Schwarz

This project addresses the persistent achievement gap between Denver’s English Learners (ELs) and students whose first language is English by focusing on two malleable factors impacting the literacy achievement of low-income Latinx students who are ELs: the writing instruction they receive and their teachers’ understanding of bilingual writing development. Our project addresses these factors through a design-based collaboration with the Denver Public School (DPS) district that provides ongoing professional development (PD) support in writing instruction to bilingual educators and instructional coordinators. Our particular approach to writing instruction and development is grounded in genre pedagogy, a language-focused orientation that reframes writing as a vehicle for meaning-making rather than a set of discrete skills to be mastered. Genre pedagogy is especially effective for ELs because it clarifies the role of language in expressing different discourse patterns and demystifies academic writing. In the fall of 2018, we began a partnership with DPS centered on improving writing instruction for ELs. Funding from the SOE Partnership Seed Award enables us to build upon and expand our partnership to Denver’s Montbello region. Ultimately, we aim to collaboratively build local teacher capacity to provide high quality writing instruction for Latinx ELs and, in doing so, support the district’s goal of improving EL writing outcomes.

Building School-University Partnerships to Support Humanizing, Place-Based, and Community-Based Elementary Teacher Preparation
Jamy Stillman & Melissa Braaten

 This project aims to disrupt university teacher education’s longstanding failure to prepare effective, humanizing teachers for minoritized students. As part of broader efforts to redesign CU Boulder’s elementary program with emphasis on culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) teaching, we will work to build a mutually beneficial partnership with Emerald Elementary School in Broomfield, CO. The early stages of this project will involve deepening connections between classroom teachers, pre-service teachers, university-based teacher educators, and family/ community members in the Broomfield  neighborhoods served by Emerald  Elementary. In particular, through the collaborative design of shared teacher learning environments, we will develop structures and tools that can deepen educators’ understandings about and skills for equity- and justice-oriented teaching that are simultaneously place-based (i.e., for use in the Emerald Elementary community) and that can also be re-contextualized across future partner sites in Lafayette, Denver, and other local communities as our program enrollment and capacity to build school-university partnerships increase.

2018-19 Place-based Partnerships Seed Grant Projects

2018-19 Place-based Projects

This year's place-based seed grant projects plant the seeds of sustainable partnerships across Colorado communities.

Partnering to Improve Denver Public Schools’ Talent Management Team​
Allison Atteberry and Mimi Engel
Denver

Teachers are the most influential school-based factor for improving children’s outcomes. Yet a large body of evidence documents the inequitable sorting of teachers across schools. Districts are tasked with the challenge of recruiting, selecting, supporting, allocating, and retaining talented teachers. Moreover, they do so against documented social and market forces that work against the equitable allocation of teachers to historically under-served populations. Despite substantial research evidence on the teacher policies, a disconnect between research and practice persists. This disconnect has become a major focus of education research. The field has learned that developing strong partnerships with education practitioners is crucial for conducting high impact research. To build sustained, productive, and equal partnerships, scholars must build capacity, foster those early relationships to build trust, and build on early successes. This project supports the formation of an emerging Research Practice Partnership (RPP) with Denver Public Schools (DPS) focused on its teacher workforce. A robust RPP will build DPS’ capacity to answer key questions to strengthen its teacher workforce and has the potential to profoundly improve student outcomes. These lessons we can learn—and disseminate—in collaboration with DPS will be of great value to the field of education.

 

Teachers and Children Reimagine Literacy at the Literacy and Media Center
Bridget Dalton and Silvia Noguerón-Liu
Lafayette

This project aims to develop a Literacy & Media Center in an after-school setting at Lafayette Elementary. In collaboration with Principal Jackman, CU Boulder faculty will co-direct the center and serve as instructors of two literacy masters’ courses onsite on the topics of Digital Literacy and Literacy Assessment. In these courses, master’s students (who are practicing, certified teachers) will serve as tutors/facilitators of Center activities for Lafayette Students. The program will address mutual goals of innovation and improvement in professional development, technology integration, and literacy assessment. It will employ a design-based intervention research approach, working in collaboration with the school principals and teachers, master’s students, and participating children. An advisory board consults and provides feedback on center activities. The importance of digital literacies is reflected in recent updates of national standards for students and teachers, and meaningful technology integration is an urgent need expressed by teachers, schools, and districts. It’s especially urgent given news that the digital divide continues to exist not only in access to technology but in access to rich learning experiences where students design, compose, invent, and communicate about things that matter.

 

Parental Support for Math Development through Culturally Relevant Math Engagement 
Edd Taylor and Tameka Brigham, Family and Community Engagement for Denver Public Schools
Denver

This project is designed to support a pilot study and program investigating the relationship between cultural knowledge, definitions of mathematics, and racial identity within an African-American community. Through a partnership between the University of Colorado Boulder and the Office of Family and Community Engagement in Denver Public Schools, the study will investigate the ways in which definitions of mathematics that align with common reform practices, and mathematics reflective of everyday practices and cultural history, may be associated with greater perceived continuity between mathematics participation and African- American identities. In Phase 1, mixed methods will be used to collect data related to parental attitudes, interests, and supports for mathematics engagement. This data will be used to inform Phase 2, the design and implementation of five parent workshops to be held in the Green Valley Ranch and Five Points neighborhoods of Denver that make explicit connections between reform-oriented mathematics and African/African-American history.
 

 

Negotiating Accountability, Standards and Assessment in Small Rural School Districts
Terri S. Wilson, Michele S. Moses & Kendra Anderson (Otis R-3 School District)
Otis

In recent years, widespread resistance to testing has created a new and unsettled policy context for districts throughout Colorado. In the wake of opt-out activism, how might districts rebuild stakeholder trust and a shared vision for assessment and accountability? Our place-based partnership project connects CU Boulder’s School of Education with district and teacher leadership in the Otis R-3 School District and other communities in Northeast Colorado. Working collaboratively, our project aims to (1) develop a case study of how this community negotiated highly contested debates about standards and assessment over the last several years, and (2) to explore how this district and region might respond to the new landscape of ESSA-era accountability reforms in Colorado. Accountability reforms rely on assumptions about scale, comparability and cut scores that are often poorly suited to small schools, alternative education models and rural districts. We hope to draw on our work as a team to advance recommendations for how Colorado accountability policy might better respond to the unique circumstances of rural districts throughout the state. In doing so, our project aims to build high quality public deliberation by clarifying the values and claims at stake in persistent debates about standards and assessments.

 

Supporting STEM Education Partnerships
Jeff Writer, Julie Andrew, and Malinda Zarske, Engineering Plus instructor
Lafayette

The goals of this project are to evaluate the effectiveness of engineering activities in promoting equitable teaching strategies and to improve student understanding and success in science and mathematics. The proposed work builds upon existing partnerships with CU Teach, the College of Engineering, and local teachers in surrounding school districts (BVSD, SVVSD, Jeffco, Adams 12, DPS), and expands to develop a new partnership with the I Have a Dream Foundation (IHAD) of Boulder County, specifically focusing on working with middle and high school students from low-income families in Lafayette, as well as Longmont. Work with both teachers and students will continue through the academic year to identify perceived benefits from participating in both the professional development courses for teachers and the summer enrichment course for IHAD students. IHAD routinely collects data on their cohort both from the student, parent, and teacher perspective. CU Teach will work with IHAD to evaluate necessary data and inform us on areas that need to be strengthened, the merits of summer enrichment in STEM, and challenges for implementing in continued years. Data gathered and needs evaluated will help inform our research questions as we pursue continued funding to support our efforts.