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.

2019-20 Place-based Partnership Projects

This year's place-based seed grant projects plant the seeds of sustainable partnerships across Colorado communities and encourage education faculty to explore creative and synergistic scholarship, teacher education opportunities and professional development, policy work, and community-engaged projects across roles and disciplines in geographic areas identified as a faculty for our intensive work.

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

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

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

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)

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

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.