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Denver’s first teacher-led school takes center stage at national conference

Educators look at innovative model for potential path to student academic success

WASHINGTON—February 14, 2011- As the Mile High City plays host to a historic education conference focused on union-school district collaboration, a national spotlight will shine on one of the host city’s own public schools that has turned traditional teaching on its head, while yielding some promising results for closing student achievement gaps.


Innovative Union-District Approach
Denver’s Math and Science Leadership Academy (MSLA), a teacher-led public school that uses collaboration as the cornerstone of its philosophy, is aimed at attracting and retaining the most accomplished educators to boost learning in this high-needs school.

With 60 percent of its student body identified as English-language learners and some 90 percent eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, teachers at MSLA have had their work cut out for them since opening in 2009.

The school’s teachers work together on everything from curriculum to peer review and professional development. Students are engaged in hands-on learning and service-learning projects, where they use knowledge gained in the classroom to conduct real-world, community-based projects. 

Educators are clamoring to work at the innovative school; more than 30 teachers apply for each vacancy. Early indicators show that the collaborative approach to teaching is paying dividends for its students. In fact, educators, administrators, parents and community members at MSLA credit the collaborative union-school district partnership for the school’s transformation.

“Real education reform is not about the blame game,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the 3.2 million-member National Education Association (NEA).  “When all the adults decide to come to the table and collaborate together, that’s when we’ll bring about real lasting, sustainable change for students.”

Lori Nazareno, one of the co-lead teachers at the MSLA, agreed collaboration is the key ingredient, allowing them to design the school to meet the needs—and provide a high-quality education—for some of the most disadvantaged students in Denver.

“The collaboration and creativity utilized by the district and association served to model some of the very 21st century skills that we are teaching our students,” said Nazareno, who is also a National Board Certified Teacher. “The school community at MSLA is a testament to what can be accomplished when all stakeholders work together in service to students, their families and the community.”

Historic National Conference
The Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) proposed the groundbreaking idea of a teacher-led school to Denver Public Schools. Now that partnership is taking center stage at a national conference that will focus on improving student achievement through labor-management collaboration. The event is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education in partnership with NEA, the American Federation of Teachers and other education organizations.

The union-school district team from Denver will be joined by Colorado Education Association President Beverly Ingle and DCTA President Henry Roman, and DCTA Executive Director Carolyn Crowder.  The Denver union-school district group is just one of more than 70 NEA affiliates participating in the Conference on Advancing Student Achievement through Labor-Management Collaboration.  An additional 47 of the attending affiliates are represented jointly by NEA and AFT.

“We thank the Department of Education for hosting a conference that will showcase union-district collaboration and success,” added Van Roekel.  “When unions and school districts share with others how they worked together for better solutions that help students succeed, we’re on to something.”

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2  million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.


CONTACT: Staci Maiers, (202) 270-5333,


Teacher-Led School is Making the Grade

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