High Quality Claim 1

  • DDES students have improved in their ability to create high quality work

    High quality final products have always been a point of pride at DDES.  Even in our first year, second grade students created “Six Word Memoirs” which are featured in the Models of Excellence collection.  However, as we looked back on student work over the past four years, we’ve identified distinct improvements in students’ ability to create work that meets the range of expectations within our definition of quality.  We’ve used the EL Education Quality Work Protocol to determine our areas of strength and need as we strive for continuous improvement.  In general, we’re proud of our commitment to craftsmanship.  DDES student’s have always created final products that are beautiful and professional.  We are currently working on supporting students to create high quality work for both final projects and in class assignments.  Our focus is to help students apply the learning that is scaffolded in class to a variety of contexts, which indicates deep understanding of the standards.  


    We would consider “artistic craftsmanship” to be our greatest strength during our first two years as a school. DDES students created beautiful, accurate art to accompany their academic work.  In all grades, students were also exposed to skills related to creating scientifically accurate drawing.  In 2013, kindergarten students created insect puzzles that included beautiful and accurate scientific drawings with accurate labels.  












    Our pendulum has swung from an emphasis on accurate and precise art to increased craftsmanship in other skills such as writing, answering text-dependent questions, and supporting thinking with evidence.  School-wide, there are consistent examples of explicitly teaching skills of feedback, critique, and revision to teach students to create multiple drafts.  Most teachers start this process with scientific drawings and eventually apply it to the writing process.  We increased both our ability to teach and our student’s ability to demonstrate multi-faceted craftsmanship.  We monitor craftsmanship during the learning process rather than just on the final product.  We have also created craftsmanship expectations for art, writing, speaking, and presentations.  

    The third grade burrow project combines scientific drawings, a process of criteria-based critique, feedback, and revision cycles, and evidence-based writing.  This project from 2016 emphasizes craftsmanship in the learning process and in both art and writing.



    During our first two years, final products were not consistently used as a culmination of the learning within the unit or expedition.  Instead, many final products were created once students were already nearly through with the expedition.  Some products served more as an exciting closure to the unit of study.  


    We have leveraged our learning about writing curriculum to create final products and projects that act as motivational drivers for the work students do throughout a unit.  Students have opportunities within the unit and final product to demonstrate interdisciplinary skills and evidence-based drawing and writing.  

    In 2015, second grade students created a “Uniquely Denver” guidebook for other kids in Denver to get to know their city.  This project is a good example of one that was executed with craftsmanship and for an authentic audience.  However, it was only reflective of the final unit of learning in the study of Denver History.  

    This year, 5th graders created “Why Vote” Public Service Announcements to culminate their study of American History.  This product represents the work and learning that happened throughout the entire unit.  Students knew from the beginning that they were building their knowledge banks to create high quality PSAs, and were motivated to collect the information they’d need to meet the final project’s criteria.  The PSAs synthesize what students learned about American history, government, and groups of Americans impacted by the right to vote over the years.  This level of complex synthesis requires deep thinking and learning.



    Creating final products for authentic audiences has been our greatest area of growth.  While we’ve always prioritized products that represent students’ original, creative thinking, they often presented their work to their parents at student-led conferences or celebrations of learning.  

    Determining the audience for student work has been a slow, time consuming process, but has definitely impacted the quality of the products and students’ motivation.  For example, in kindergarten, students sell bee buttons attached to opinion pieces about why people need to save the bees to pedestrians at an outdoor mall.  Second graders share their opinions about the cost and impact of Denver’s public transportation options to passengers at light rail stations.  Our fourth graders created climate change stories that were posted on the “Kiribati Keepers” website and shared at the Alliance Center, a sustainability work hub.