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Challenges to Implementing Innovation and Accountability in Denver

Elizabeth Micci and Katherine Merseth

  • Format: PDF
  • Case Code: KC37CHA
  • 20 pages


  • Format: Permission to reprint
  • Case Code: KC37CHA
  • 7 pages



Superintendent Tom Boasberg sought to address tensions between a robust charter sector and the district’s traditional schools by crafting and gaining agreement to an innovative district charter collaboration agreement that became a model for other districts across the country.  The compact addressed concerns related to funding, admission of students to charter schools and accountability for all schools.  The compact embraced equity for all schools regardless of governance model.  

Boasberg also crafted a novel management strategy of supporting both the improvement of existing schools within the DPS and the encouragement of innovative new models of schooling.  He created separate offices within the central office organizational structure that supported both of types of schools.  His theory of action was that by encouraging both types of schools, he would be able to close the persistent achievement gap that had existed in Denver for years.  

The district also implemented a School Performance Framework that not only included the current test results of a campus, but also considered its rate of improvement and parent and student satisfaction measures. 

As enrollments began to decline, the strategy as well as the School Performance Framework came under pressure when decisions were being made about the opening of new schools, restarting failing schools and outright school closures.  Deciding which schools to close and whether charters networks or the district would be granted new schools in their place fostered significant angst within Denver neighborhoods.  Tensions and feeling of competition between traditional schools and charters, intended to be minimized by the compact, began to grow.  

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