Academics and Research / News

Ritchie Program for School Leaders recognized through Wallace Foundation grant to Denver Public Schools

The University of Denver’s Ritchie Program for School Leaders has worked with Denver Public Schools (DPS) since 2003 to prepare education professionals for the “principal pipeline” in the district. DPS recently received a $12 million Wallace Foundation grant to support continued growth  in school leadership programs. The grant will be spread out over the next five years.

The New York-based Wallace Foundation selected DPS from 90 candidates nationwide. The funds will be applied to retool and revise the Ritchie program to align with the DPS principal framework and to integrate the work into the full-time residency for Ritchie students.

The Ritchie Program was co-created by DU and DPS. It has 130 graduates, 50 percent of whom serve as principals or assistant principals and 25 percent of whom serve in other leadership roles throughout the district.

The Ritchie Program provides DPS and other Colorado school districts a framework for immersing students in reflective, experiential, project-based learning that prepares them to meet the challenges they might face as a principal. Each school year, cohorts of 15 to 20 Ritchie Program interns work alongside veteran DPS principals to receive on-the-job training, mentorship and support while they take courses toward their principal certificate through DU’s Morgridge College of Education.

“There is a seamless connection between the coursework and the practice in the schools. Ritchie interns are immersed in the day-to-day activities of a school principal, allowing them to impact school improvement and practice leadership skills,” says Susan Korach, a DU assistant professor and Ritchie Program facilitator.

“Through the investment in this program, we will be able to strengthen our students’ engagement with real leadership working within a large urban district like DPS,” Korach continues. “Not only will the Ritchie students and program benefit, but we will be able use our learning to further provide a rich laboratory for ongoing research about the connections between leading, teaching and student learning.”

Morgridge College Dean Greg Anderson sees the partnership as “a powerful demonstration of our commitment to serve the public good” and notes that DU is “very excited about this opportunity to deepen our nine-year partnership with DPS in preparing committed and capable school leaders for the children and families of Denver.”

Morgridge has developed several teacher and school leadership preparation programs with DPS and other school districts in Colorado, including the Ritchie Program partnership with Adams 12 Five Star Schools, Aurora Public Schools Leadership Program, Executive Leadership for Successful Schools, Denver Teacher Residency, Teacher Education Program, Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program and Boettcher Teachers Program.

“For the past decade, Wallace and its partners have helped identify objectively what it takes to shape a principal who can improve teaching and learning, especially in troubled city schools,” says Will Miller, president of the Wallace Foundation. “We have now selected exemplary urban districts that are well on their way to putting in place the training and support necessary to have enough effective principals for all of their schools.

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