Aurora Public Schools, Aurora, Colorado
Challenge: With fewer than half of students graduating from high school within four years, Aurora Public Schools was identified in 2010 as one of the lowest-performing districts in Colorado.
Initiative: Communities Organized to Reach Excellence, a school reform framework, covers the key areas essential to increasing district and school staff capacity: turnaround leadership, budget flexibility, talent management, charter authorization, innovation status, physical space, philanthropic relationships and community engagement. The district uses communities of practice to facilitate collaboration, analyze work and develop solutions. A timeline is set to implement improvement strategies for schools that continue to struggle. The district also performs education audits to improve performance.
Impact: Graduation rates have increased 15 percent over the past four years, and the dropout rate has improved to a 12-year low of 2.5 percent. In 2017, 30 of the district’s schools earned “Performance” ratings—the highest in the state’s accountability system.
Advice: Every district needs to consider its unique context while developing a reform plan. Staff, parent and community buy-in of that vision is also crucial for student success.