Staff, Parents Discuss Falcon Innovation: Ideas Emerging as Promise Remains Strong

I began the week by telling you about the series of “Innovation Conventions” going on in Falcon 49 — a school district serving about 15,000 students east of Colorado Springs. (Background: Check out District 49’s innovations page and the links it contains, especially the open letter from the Board, the iVoices podcast interview and the op-ed by Ben DeGrow.)

An article from yesterday’s Colorado Springs Gazette by Kristina Iodice highlights the latest “Convention,” this one hosted at Falcon High School for 100 staff and parents from the Falcon Zone. A couple of my Education Policy Center friends were there to listen in and observe the process unfold.

Falcon HS Innovation

Falcon Zone assistant superintendent Mark Carara welcomes the audience of staff and parents to the March 16 Innovation Convention at Falcon High School

So what does the process look like now? In the Falcon Zone, staff and parents have come up with a lot of ideas to share, many with merit and some that raise genuine concerns about where the money will come from. Some of the ideas fit the bill of needing waivers from the State Board to implement, but many can be done entirely with local initiative. Already, stronger lines of communication have been opened up between parents, teachers, administrators and board members. According to local sources, the most enthusiastic engagement and detailed proposals are coming from the Vista Ridge Zone.

For those all across the Falcon school district, a new book has just come out that looks like fertile ground for truly innovative ideas:

Harvard Education Press has just published Customized Schooling: Beyond Whole-School Reform. The book, edited by Bruno Manno and [Rick Hess], is an attempt to pull together a bunch of sharp thinking on how we get past just trying to “fix” schools–or to merely give families a choice between school A and school B–and how we start to think about using new tools, technologies, and talent to transform the quality of teaching and learning.

As one would expect at this point, the precise direction of Falcon’s innovation plan is not crystal clear. The goal remains securing Innovation status for the district by the coming fall. What exactly the proposed waiver requests will look like remains to be seen. Yet the promise and the attainable goal of downsizing central administration and empowering the separate zones is more efficient, more productive, student-focused operations. While most eyes are on Douglas County (and rightfully so), Falcon 49 deserves its own share of attention.