A Glimpse at New Schools: Math and Science Leadership Academy

After the Colorado Independent brought attention to Denver’s Math and Science Leadership Academy (MSLA) on Friday, I decided it was turn to shine the light on a brick-and-mortar school that is unique for one reason: no principal.

No principal, you say? That has to be good, right? When I throw spit wads at the kid next to me, whose office are they going to send me to? Right? Okay, okay, I can stop being goofy for a few minutes.

MSLA is not a charter school but an innovation school. The school’s founders had to ask for waivers from state law that would allow it to operate with two “lead teachers” instead of a principal. Teachers evaluate each other through a peer review system. Located in southwest Denver, it’s a K-5 elementary school with a “primary focus” on “science, technology, and mathematics.”

MSLA opened its doors this year to students in kindergarten through second grade. Parents who are interested can go to the school’s website for more information on admissions.

The Independent‘s description of the school is a little bit over-the-top, though, calling MSLA “the Colorado model” of reform. Anyone who spends much time on this site realizes the wide variety of innovative reform options going on around our state.

It’s also not entirely accurate to describe MSLA as a “union-run school.” While the NEA-affiliated Denver Classroom Teachers Association proposed and pushed the idea, in what way is the organization responsible or liable for the operation of the school? Because its “lead teachers” are DCTA members? Are other schools run by the administrators association? Are the “lead teachers” taking orders from union headquarters or a vote of the membership? If an MSLA teacher has a grievance, does the union represent her against the union?

Then again, in another sense, some people see many of the government schools as effectively union-run — though I’d like to think it’s not so common here in Colorado as some other states. In any case, I still have nothing but best wishes for MSLA students this year and beyond.

Other new schools featured: