The Denver Schools of Science and Technology (DSST) has earned the Succeeds Prize for Transformational Impact in high school education in recognition of its deep commitment to forming students’ character, 9News reports.
Local business leaders, educators, Colorado’s last three governors, and 9NEWS established the award to recognize innovative teachers across the state. A sum of $137,000 was awarded with the hope the winners will share their best practices with other schools.
“We all pick each other up,” DSST junior Elias Williams said, “but I feel like the teachers we have here too really, really care about us and our futures.” That care is intentionally designed into the school day with the use of morning meetings that establish relational connections among teachers and students that extend beyond normal classroom learning. The network has six core values which, they say, “are truly embedded in everything we do.” This is why they can truly claim to be a “values-driven organization.”
Ninth-grade math teacher Michelle Ford said the purpose of the morning meetings is to make the students feel like part of the community and to help them see themselves in the lessons taught. She stressed the importance of motivation and the belief in one’s ability to do anything. “You just have to make up your mind to do it,” she said.
Charter schools and charter networks such as DSST seize the opportunity to clearly define the vision and ethos of their schools. When that vision is more expansive than high school graduation and college admission statistics, the impact—like at DSST—can be significant. Dr. Patricia Maloney studied charter schools around the United States for the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture’s School Cultures and Student Formation research project. She notes that “character education in charter schools is sometimes fraught with the potential for, and reality of, racial tension, in that most charter school teachers in America are white and middle class, while their student population is generally predominantly nonwhite and lower on the socioeconomic scale.” The DSST has skillfully navigated the challenge of building a values-driven charter school network and is now garnering recognition for its achievement.
The highlights of Dr. Maloney’s research on charter schools will appear as a chapter in The Content of Their Character, which features the work of 10 research teams across the United States. That work is available for pre-order now with free shipping and a deep discount.