By Donna Magee

Across our nation there are countless numbers of schools that the term “under-resourced” aptly describes. Kepner Middle School in Denver Public Schools (DPS) probably fits the definition as well as most. With a population of nearly 1,000 students (making it the largest middle school in DPS), 90% receive free or reduced lunch, 94% are Hispanic, and approximately 40% are second language learners. Students at Kepner face many challenges and student achievement is a focus.

In the middle of the 2006–07 school year, Kepner began working with us to implement the Payne School Improvement Model (PSIM). Through the dedication and persistence of two Framework certified trainers, Jackie Arriaga and Carrie Olsen, as well as the interest and commitment of Principal Frank Gonzales, technical assistance was brought to the campus. While Jackie and Carrie trained the teachers in the Framework for Understanding Poverty and Learning Structures curricula, I provided an overview of the Meeting Standards training, and teachers received the background they needed to begin implementing the strategies. Through the openness and willingness of the staff, progress was definitely made with the technical assistants, who provided content-specific training in the four core areas, as well as in non-core areas, in the second semester of that year. So much progress was made that Kepner was recognized as a Pro-Comp Distinguished School based on the academic achievement of the students.

As the school has continued to work with us, we would like to recognize Jack Thompson of the Kepner Educational Excellence Program (KEEP), a nonprofit organization that supports the school in numerous ways, including providing funding for continued professional development with aha! Process. We are so excited about the staff and its commitment to work with students on a daily basis to help them build their resources and improve their achievement. For more information about what is happening at Kepner, watch the video and visualize the endless possibilities that exist for your school, your staff, and your students.

If you face challenges meeting AYP and working with your sub-populations, contact us. Let’s talk about customizing a professional development plan that is specific to the needs of your staff and students. Let’s work together to improve our schools! I look forward to hearing from you.