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The goal of a world class education is to prepare students for the college or career path of their choice

Challenged by authors like Marc Prensky, Tony Wagner and Yong Zhao, Douglas County School District aspires to provide a world class education for all students. We believe our students are the future leaders of this country and perhaps the world. We want to prepare them to compete on the world stage for any college or career of their choice.

Or as Tony Wagner says, “…we want our students to be college, career and citizenship ready for the 21st century.”

What this means in education is that we must reinvent our curriculum – the knowledge and skills we teach our students, and the outcomes. We must reinvent our assessment systems, as well as the assessments themselves. We must reinvent our instructional strategies to make sure that learning sticks, or is sustainable, and engages all students deeply. We also know that in order to reimagine and reinvent teaching, learning and leading for the 21st century, we must align all support systems with this work.

DCSD started reinventing its curriculum in 2012. We did so by examining the academic rigor and cognitive complexity of Colorado state standards, common core academic standards and national standards against what we know our students will need for success in their lifetimes. We found that most standards are written at lower level thinking skills or lower level cognitive complexity. We also found that most standards are isolated fragments of learning disconnected from higher, more important concepts and skills. This is not best for our students.

Therefore, after reviewing the knowledge and skills most desired by today’s businesses and employers, our teachers worked to integrate the state and national standards to create a foundation or curricular floor. Next, teachers raised the cognitive complexity of our new World Class Outcomes, so that these integrated standards required higher order thinking skills and were aligned to the knowledge and skills our “end-users” desire most.

The newly invented DCSD World Class Outcomes coupled with EdLeader 21’s four Cs (creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking), key content, and 21st century skills that are taught where they make sense, compose the DCSD Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum (GVC) for the 21st century. While this is an excellent step forward, it is incomplete without the accompanying quality assessments that measure student mastery of the GVC.

This work is found under our System Performance priority.

DCSD has also created and integrated expectations for World Class Instructional Practices. These include choosing higher order thinking strategies that are at the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy, engaging digital native students via a focus on student voice and choice, personalizing learning strategies that are relevant and rigorous, and integrating world class tools. 


Achieving sustainable learning for the 21st century
-Preparing students to compete on a world stage for jobs that require a high level of creativity and innovation

Student showing off his presentation on a laptop, center, while people all around him pay close attention

Students from Mesa Middle School, Cherokee Trail Elementary, and Heritage Elementary dream big to create solutions for real world problems

CENTENNIAL— It’s not unusual for students to be tasked with the challenge of conceptualizing a solution to a real-world problem. However, some Douglas County students were challenged to elevate that task a few levels, developing a prototype of their solution and then presenting it to local business leaders they have never before met.

fourth grader on left, high schooler on right, using biotech tool to extract dna from leaves

Extracting DNA from tissue is not often thought of as an activity that a fourth-grader would engage in. While most students are just being introduced to genetics in their science classes at that grade level, Beth Thomas’ fourth grade science class at Redstone Elementary School in the Douglas County School District (DCSD) are learning to extract and code DNA from leaves, fish and other biological samples— and they are learning this from juniors and seniors in Rock Canyon High School’s biotechnology program.

Matt Bernstein, a molecular biologist and regional sales manager with Fisher Scientific, admits he had some preconceived ideas of today’s  students,  when he was invited to visit the biotechnology class at Rock Canyon High School.

Kids taking apart an old printer as part of a destruction and creation enrichment class

Left: Students in the "Invention by Destruction" enrichment class take apart old technology to create something new.

PARKER - French film and food, hipster handcrafts, sword-fighting and Zumba are just some of the more than 50 classes that Sierra Middle School is now offering through its new enrichment program— a program that school personnel credit for helping to build new relationships and unity at the school this year.

What began as Lockheed personnel helping out with Sagewood’s Robotics Days has evolved into a formal partnership. This school year, Sagewood is one of just three schools statewide, and the only school in Douglas County, to be an official Ambassador School for Lockheed Martin.

You may have heard about it or you may be seeing it yourself in your Douglas County school. For the last few years there has been a global emphasis on students learning how to code.

Many parents, though, do not understand what this means, or they are unsure how this translates to students who are as young as kindergartners. Does this mean that five year-olds are are now expected to communicate in ones and zeroes, or that they are expected to design the next Pokemon Go app?

This week is National Computer Science Education Week and schools around the world, including some schools in Douglas County School District, are participating in an event called Hour of Code.

Teacher Walter Barton sitting with group of art students at a table and talking them through their design sketches.

PARKER— The halls of Cherokee Trail Elementary School in Parker are lined with paintings, artistic tiles, sculptures, murals and other art installations created by students over the last twenty years. What a visitor to the school may not realize, though, is that every individual piece has a story behind it.

CASTLE ROCK-To walk through Mesa Middle School, it’s obvious that Spirit Week is in full swing; from the signs on the walls, to streamers in the halls, and the anticipation surrounding the dance at the end of the week. But the excitement doesn’t stop here. There are people across the world anxiously waiting to see what happens and how their lives will change thanks to the work done by Mesa students.

A modernized walking cane for the blind that verbally lets its user know when items are in their path, edible water bottles that are environmentally friendly, an app that provides information on why a flag at a DCSD school may be at half-staff on a particular day. These are just a fraction of projects Douglas County School District (DCSD) students presented at the first Student Innovation Expo on Monday, June 6.

Many Douglas County schools offer television or film programs. At some DCSD schools, these digital media students are calling the shots-- from budgeting, to screenplay writing, to storyboarding, to location scouting, interviewing, and more. Watch how the skills they are gaining--at every level of school-- are benefitting these students for their futures.

HIGHLANDS RANCH—Many people may not think of computer program coding and biology as being a likely fit for each other in the classroom. However, students are using their own code in Jason Cochrane’s biology classes at Mountain Vista High School to study why populations of local wildlife are declining.

PARKER-- For the past two years, Legend High School senior Josh Chapman has dedicated a week of his spring break to share his passion for STEM by teaching engineering, robotics, circuitry and 3D printing to younger children at his former K-8 school, Challenge to Excellence (C2E), a Douglas County public charter school.

Chapman brought to life a design of their choice for each elementary class.  The question was posed to each class: “What do you want to design?”  The answers ranged from a dog to Star Wars figures.

Students in DCSD are not just learning about reading, writing and arithmetic; educators are pushing them to engage in Higher-Order Thinking. What happens when this kind of thinking is put to work?

With an emphasis on World Class Outcomes, 21st century skills, authentic learning experiences and more, teachers are leading the way to prepare students for their futures. But are these new ideas? How does a teacher teach these skills? What is effect on students?

Students will have the opportunity to explore careers with more than 20 businesses and organizations during the annual Career Connect program.

Staying engaged in what’s happening now is hard for us adults. With such a distraction-heavy culture, it becomes really difficult to sit still for a few hours or more and truly listen, learn and be engaged.

Imagine what it must be like for kids.

I want for kids to be interested in school as much as the next person, but how do we ensure that they leave school with the understanding and abilities that will make them successful in the real world? Is the focus on real-world projects completely replacing reading, writing and arithmetic that we got in school?

This week, I visited with teachers and principals in District G, which includes the north and west regions of Parker.

I’ve heard the phrase “innovative classroom” several times in the five months since I began working with Douglas County School District. I have to admit, I do get a little skeptical in general when I hear the word “innovative.” 

Over the next two months, I will be hitting the road, going on a tour of classrooms in Douglas County, visiting with teachers, principals and students from each subdistrict, learning about the World Class Education taking place, and sharing the highlights of my experiences. My goal is to celebrate our community, our students, our teachers and our school district’s diversity of offerings, all of which contribute to Douglas County being a pretty great place to be.

A team from Rock Canyon High School have some big footsteps to follow. This week they learned that they have clinched Best in State and Best in Region during the Verizon App Challenge. Now the students hope to follow the lead of the school’s 2013 team, which went on to become national champs and released their app to the market.

Every student is unique, bringing his or her own strengths and challenges to the classroom. The Douglas County School District (DCSD) believes that educators must work to customize learning so that it is ‘one-size-fits-one.’

This week is Computer Science Week and Cougar Run Elementary participated in the largest global learning movement in history, Hour of Code. Over 185,000 schools across the world are participating in this movement, and100 million people will join Hour of Code to promote computer science in education. 

CASTLE ROCK—When you walk through the front doors of Meadow View Elementary, you can tell that something is different about the school.

Look forward, and you see a patchwork quilt made by the school’s students of their visual interpretations of a school lesson. Down one hallway is a tapestry of yarn that promotes how the students self-identify, such as “I am bilingual,” “I am an explorer,” and “I am full of good ideas.”

HIGHLANDS RANCH- The recent election gave students involved in Mountain Vista Media (MVM), Mountain Vista High School’s student-led media department, an authentic learning opportunity when they organized and coordinated their own candidate forum.

Why giving students voice & choice in classroom is important


Students from Mountain Vista traveled to Europe this summer to attend the “Education First Global Student Leadership Conference” in Davos, Switzerland with 1,600 other students from around the world. They prepared for the trip all last year by participating in a before-school class at Mountain Vista called Global Learning and Leaders.

CVHS students

CASTLE ROCK – A contingent of Advanced Placement (AP) science students from Castle View High School (CVHS) recently made the trek to Alamosa for an intense round of problem-solving and a test of their knowledge. They returned to Castle Rock with several affirmations of their abilities.

Later this week, construction will begin on an octagonal structure at Castle Rock Elementary (CRE) that will soon host fast-paced, high-energy matches of a sport that is gaining popularity in Douglas County — gaga ball.

CASTLE ROCK – Walking into the Castle Rock Middle School's library, you may instantly have the feeling that this isn’t your father’s Oldsmobile. While students are still dropping off overdue books, something is unmistakably different.

Cougar Run Elementary's SMART Team headed to Destination Imagination Global Finals

DENVER – As the school year draws to a close, many children may be imagining what they will be doing this summer. One contingent of kids, along with parents, teachers and sponsors, are focused on imagination itself - Destination Imagination.

Students prepare to launch weather balloon

MORRISON – Twenty-five students and Teacher Bob MacArthur spent the morning of Saturday, April 4 flying a balloon. All the way to an altitude of 63,044 feet - almost 12 miles above the mile high city.

A group of Chaparral High School fashion students brought fire and ice to the runway at this year’s Denver Paper Fashion Show. The school claimed the top award for students during their inaugural appearance at the competition.

This week during the second-annual iLab Innovation Capstone Symposium seventh-grade students at Mountain Ridge Middle School will once again be empowered to employ the knowledge and skills they’ve learned in the classroom to effect change in their community and around the world.

Market Day at Pioneer Elementary

PARKER – Students at Pioneer Elementary had an authentic learning experience of financial literacy by creating their own Market Day that would benefit their playground.


Chaparral High School Destination Imagination team

ENGLEWOOD – Seventy-five teams from schools in the Douglas County School District (DCSD) competed against their peers at the South Metro Regional Destination Imagination Tournament on March 14 at Englewood High School.

Middle school app designers win best in state

PARKER - DCSD’s Cimarron Middle School has been named the Best in the State of Colorado in the 2015 Verizon Innovative App Challenge. A group of seventh-grade students developed an app called “Destination Education.” The app is designed to help students investigate and retain math and science concepts.

Students prepare to examine ice core sample

CASTLE ROCK – For the students in Lisa Johnson’s and Kenny Harris’ 6th grade classrooms at Renaissance Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound Magnet School, the concepts of scientific method and date analysis might seem like a tall order.

Mountain Vista High School robotics entry

DENVER – The 2015 Colorado TSA State Conference was the organization's largest state conference to date, with more than 1,330 registered participants. The event was held Feb. 19-21 at the Denver Marriott Tech Center.

TRHS ProStart student preparing dessert

BEAVER CREEK, CO – The 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships was also the site of a world-class experience for students from the ThunderRidge High School ProStart program.

ThunderRidge High School Senior Brandon Lee

DENVER – Colorado Commissioner of Education Robert Hammond has announced that ThunderRidge High School senior Brandon Lee is one of the two students who have been selected as Colorado delegates to the 53rd annual U.S. Senate Youth Program.

Hour of Code at Castle Rock Middle School

DOUGLAS COUNTY – Schools observed Computer Science Education Week (Dec. 8-14) with an "Hour of Code."

When you look at a mosaic, up close, it can be hard to see a pattern. It isn’t until you look at the artwork as a whole that you get a true appreciation of how all of the little pieces of stone or glass come together. The same might be said of the Mosaic Collective, a new learning model launched at Castle View High School, which aims at empowering students to lead their learning.

Madison Turner

As the annual trek to college unfolded this year, a graduate from Legend High School could be found in the Acceptance Day Parade at West Point – a tradition that welcomes new cadets at the military academy into the “Long Gray Line.”

Nighthawk Man art

HIGHLANDS RANCH – For a moment you might have thought you were in Hollywood. In May, the glitz and glamour of the red carpet was on full display at the Wildlife Experience IMAX Theater in Parker as Rocky Heights Middle School students and parents gathered to celebrate the premiere of “Nighthawk Man.


fire scene

PARKER – For most students, getting real-life job experience while still in high school can be priceless. For the students in the Fire Science class at Rock Canyon High School (RCHS), this scenario recently became a reality.

Some of Douglas County School District’s most amazing teachers are being honored for the daily effort and skill they put in to creating a World-Class education for their students.

When you meet Katy Kollasch, Eldorado Elementary School’s new principal, it’s easy to be drawn in by her enthusiasm and passion. She may be small in stature, but she packs a big Panther punch.  Seriously—she kickboxes in her free time!

High school students are invited to attend the fifth annual Douglas County Youth Congress, an opportunity for our youth leaders to work with elected officials and other adults to address issues that affect the lives of Douglas County kids.The event, which will be held on September 16 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Colorado State Capitol in Denver, is open to all Douglas County high school students.

This week students at Ponderosa High School will have the opportunity to listen to and meet survivors from various atrocities in human history. The learning opportunity is part of a weeklong school-sponsored Human Rights Awareness Week, which aims at educating students about problems facing our world, as well actions they can take to help.

DENVER – A group of Douglas County teens looked at home underneath the dome of the state capitol, debating serious issues including hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking” and school funding. While they’re not state legislators yet, current-day leaders say it won’t be long before the students, representing all nine high schools in Douglas County, are leading the state.

Four Summit View Elementary and Mountain Vista High School students will be headed to Indiana in June to represent Colorado at the International Conference for Future Problem Solving.