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.

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

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 support 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. This, in turn, has the potential to profoundly improve student outcomes. We believe the 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

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 and is inadequately addressed in current teacher in-service and professional development; in particular, ways to evaluate tools and best practices to align technology use with instructional goals. The need is especially urgent given recent news that the digital divide continues to exist — not 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

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.


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

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. Critically, data gathered and needs evaluated will help inform our research questions as we pursue continued funding to support our efforts.