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The Luminary Learning Network (LLN) is a new approach to education within the Denver Public Schools (DPS) system that provides greater autonomy for schools in the network enabling them to select educational models that they believe best accommodate diverse student needs and improve student achievement.

LLN is an independent 501(c)(3) jointly governed by community members, school representatives and DPS. This governing structure ensures autonomy, provides accountability (for individual schools and zone performance), and manages LLN schools.

Schools that join the Luminary Learning Network become part of a newly established Innovation School Zone. The Innovation Schools Act passed by the Colorado General Assembly in 2008 provides a path for schools and districts to design and implement innovative ideas and practices and obtain waivers from state and local policies and collective bargaining agreements. 

The proposal for the Denver Innovation Zone was developed in 2015 bringing together the best ideas for school regulation, systems design and autonomy. Founding school leaders partnered with the Gates Family Foundation to bring a proposal to DPS. This group engaged faculty, students and families throughout the process. The Gates Family Foundation enlisted the support of Empower Schools, an organization with expertise in developing in innovative zone models in Massachusetts, to provide strategic advisory support.

After meeting with DPS staff and board members to identify shared interests, including alignment to the Denver Plan 2020, the DPS Board passed a resolution in December 2015 asking LLN to submit an Innovation Zone application. In April 2016, that application was approved. The final approval for LLN came in June 2016 from the State Board of Education. There are currently four schools in the zone.

LLN significantly increases the ability of each member school to allocate resources and to tailor strategies and approaches to meet unique needs. This autonomy, coupled with LLN’s focus on accountability, will ensure schools accelerate student achievement.

A goal of the LLN financial model is to help create a more responsive support system within DPS, where the District receives additional feedback on the services it provides and how systems might be adapted to better meet school needs. Under LLN:

  • DPS reallocates funds to LLN schools in lieu of providing optional district services; LLN schools have the option of buying back some district services.

  • Schools determine the use of funds with guidance from LLN staff and the LLN board.

  • LLN will fundraise on behalf of schools in the Zone.