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Q & A with David Singer, University Preparatory Schools

Thursday, April 11, 2019  
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Recently, Ben Lindquist, president of the League conducted a Q and A with League board member and executive director of University Preparatory Schools, David Singer.


Q & A with David Singer, University Preparatory Schools


Ben Lindquist (BL): What are your proudest accomplishments as a teacher and school leader?


David Singer (DS): I’ve had the privilege of leading our organization, which currently serves 670 children, for the last ten years. Below are a few accomplishments that I’m most proud of.

  • The children of former students I taught in high school are now a part of our elementary schools.
  • Our Steele Street campus, a full school turnaround in 2016-17, moved from the lowest performing school in DPS to ranking in the 91st percentile in one year.
  • Watching our 5th graders at our Arapahoe Street campus achieve 65% proficiency on the CMAS ELA assessment in 2017-18, proving what our children are capable of (nearly 25% ahead of the DPS average).
  • Watching our U Prep alumni thrive in a variety of public and private middle schools as they pursue their dreams.

BL: At our 2019 conference, the theme was “redefining quality.” Tell us about the students and families that University Prep serves. How do you believe that we should define quality for U Prep’s students?


DS: Our schools serve a diverse student population. Overall, roughly 86% of the children we serve live in poverty and more than 90% of our young people identify as students of color. Roughly 13% of our children have special needs and more than 30% are English Language Learners. Defining quality is about understanding the wants and needs of the families we serve, making a promise to deliver on those wants and needs, and then holding true to that promise.


Our families have a deep desire for their children to live full lives of opportunity and pursue their dreams. We are here to build a foundation that all of our young folks can stand on as they exit their elementary experience and move through middle school, high school, college, and beyond. Quality is about having the academic skills and knowledge, the strength of personal character, and the vision for future dreams to pursue all bundled into one when you leave our buildings.


BL: In an advanced sector of options, it is possible to evaluate the quality of our public schools on common and mission-specific indicators that take into account the different programs, learners and goals that schools have?


DS: Schools should be diverse and varied to match the needs of the learners they support and to match the vision that local communities and families have for what they believe children deserve. Ultimately, while schools could and should look different, there has to be a baseline set of expectations on what learners have mastered and how they demonstrate that mastery before they leave their public education. You have to be fully literate – able to read and interpret complex texts and make meaning for yourself. You have to be a critical problem solver - able to work through a complex mathematical problem and persevere to reach a logical solution. When we fail to equip all children across our city, our state, and our country with these baseline capacities and skills, we fail to prepare them for the realities of the information economy they’ll be entering.


BL: How critical do you think teacher pay and funding is for charter public schools?


DS: Issues of teacher pay and funding for the public charter sector is an issue of teacher pay and funding for public education in our state. More than half of our school districts are running on four-day school weeks. Our funding model at the state level continues to struggle to provide equitable dollars – appropriately matching resources to areas with the greatest needs. Overall, we have a public education funding challenge that is felt across all school types, regardless of governance model. And, until we change the size of our pie at the state level as well as how the pie is sliced and distributed, we will continue to see these challenges across the public education sector.


BL: What do you see as the primary benefits of charter schools for teachers and administrators?


DS: Every work environment, whether a charter school, a district-run school, a non-profit, or a business, needs to provide folks with opportunities to grow and develop as they pursue their professional goals. The primary benefit of charter schools for teachers and administrators is that they provide a wide range of mission-driven learning environments with a diversity of programmatic models, which means folks can find a “home” that really speaks to them and aligns with their values and beliefs.


BL: On March 1, you were elected to serve a second term on the League’s 13-member board of directors. What is one thing that you hope the League can accomplish during your second term?


DS: I am deeply hopeful that we can continue to improve the overall quality of our charter school sector across the state, ensuring every child who sits in a charter school seat receives the quality education they deserve.


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