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Case Study: Improvement Planning Efforts at U Prep

About the Case Study

In the Summer of 2021, CDE launched a Case Study with University Prep, a Denver-area public charter network, to follow the implementation of U Prep's Acceleration Plan after the educational disruptions of Spring 2020 and the 2020-21 school year. This plan outlines U Prep's vision for the 2021-22 through 2023-24 school years, the adjustments that U Prep is making to their systems and structures to accelerate student learning, and the intentional application of ESSER funds to support recovery efforts. Throughout the case study, this website will be used to host resources, updates, outcomes, and insights that emerge in the course of the case study, as well as a final report at the conclusion of the study. The goal of the case study is to examine the development, implementation, and impacts of an acceleration plan on student outcomes, after a significant and community-wide learning disruption. This website aims to share this learning with the field as it develops.


About University Prep

University Prep is a public charter network operating two, tuition-free elementary schools in Northeast Denver. Building a foundation of skills, knowledge and character, U Prep’s mission is to educate every child for a four-year college degree and a life of opportunity. Serving students in kindergarten through fifth grade, U Prep not only works to establish an unbreakable educational foundation, but engages deeply with families, working hand in hand to ensure the limitless potential of each child is discovered. 


University Prep's first campus, U Prep - Arapahoe St., was founded in 2011 and launched using a slow-growth approach, meaning it started with Kindergarten and 1st grade only and then grew by one grade level at a time each year. In the 2020-21 school year that campus served 364 K through 5th grade scholars. The network's second campus, U Prep - Steele St., was founded in 2016 as a turnaround of a historically struggling Denver-based public charter school named Pioneer Charter School. It opened with 226 students across all grade levels, restarting the entire school in a single year, and as of 2020-21 served 363 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.


Scholar Core Values

  • Pride: We take pride in everything we do.

  • Responsibility: We own our words and actions.

  • Enthusiasm: We celebrate ourselves and each other.

  • Perseverance: We believe the struggle makes us stronger.


Adult Core Values

  • Educate Our Scholars: Scholar achievement comes first

  • Serve Our Families: We make a promise to every family we serve. We do everything we can to uphold our promise.

  • Serve Our Team: Our mission cannot be achieved alone. We are always team players.

  • Walk the Walk: We hold our scholars to the highest expectations and accept nothing less from ourselves.

  • My Child: Our schools are places where we would be proud and honored to send our own child.

Arapahoe Street

Steele Street

Three Pillars of the Acceleration Plan

Grade Level Is Grade Level

All scholars get access to grade level content regardless of their level of performance.

Looks like….

  • We continue to run core curriculum (WW, CKLA, Eureka, Amplify)

  • We continue to run critical grade level assessments (CBAs, ANET, DIBELS).

  • Significant investment in teacher content knowledge development to support more effective instruction.

  • Scholar progress is always reported in terms of proximity to grade level.

Rapid Acceleration

We deliver moderate to significant interventions through additional staffing and a variety of targeted supports so that children get what they need when they need it, especially in the upper elementary grades where we have a shorter window prior to middle school.

Looks like...

  • Small school model (K-1, 2-3, 4-5). K-1 operates as normal, 2-3 with moderate intervention and 4-5 with significant intervention. Daily schedules vary based on small school.

  • Tutoring and summer programming enacted for all at risk 4th and 5th graders.

  • 1 additional hire to support 2nd - 3rd grade at each campus, and 2 additional hires to support 4th - 5th grade.

  • Universal screeners and pre-module assessments administered to gauge unfinished learning and make adjustments to scope and sequence accordingly. Use of data is intensified to better meet scholar needs throughout the school year.

Family and Community Partnerships

Partnerships with our families will improve outcomes for scholars. Families are genuine partners who play an active role in their child's "catch up." Communication between home and school is more robust than ever. We share openly and honestly with families about scholar performance in relation to grade level.

Outreach looks like...

  • Home Visits w/ all new to U Prep families and 4th/5th grade families

  • Grade level kick-offs to start the year.

  • Back to school night

  • Meaningful touchpoint with each family within the first two weeks of school.

  • Quarterly University Nights

  • Monthly newsletters

Communication looks like….

  • Meaningful monthly touchpoints with each family (at minimum)

  • Quarterly report card conferences for all children (4 formal meetings over the course of the year) 

  • Ongoing, consistent, conversations with families of at risk scholars.