Innovation Schools and School Zones

The state legislature passed the Innovation Schools Act of 2008 (Innovation Act) to encourage creativity and innovation by giving greater autonomy and managerial flexibility to school leaders. [C.R.S. § 22-32.5-101 et seq.] Recognizing the ultimate responsibility for controlling instruction continues to lie with the local school board, the Innovation Act strongly encourages a local board to delegate to each of its schools a high degree of autonomy in implementing curriculum, making personnel decisions, organizing the school day, determining the most effective use of resources and generally organizing the delivery of high-quality educational services.

A school’s designation as an innovation school will affect its autonomy. A group of schools within a school district that share common interests, such as geographical location or educational focus, or that sequentially serve classes of students as they progress through elementary and secondary education, may jointly submit to their local school board a plan to create an innovation school zone. The Innovation Act prescribes specific steps that must be followed to seek designation as an innovation school or school zone, including providing evidence that a majority of the administrators and teachers employed at each school consent to designation as an innovation school or school zone.

The board may also initiate or collaborate with one or more schools to create an innovation school or school zone, which may include the entire district. Through policy, the board can establish its desired focus areas for innovation schools and any limitations the board believes are necessary. An increasing number of districts and schools are seeking innovation status as a means to obtain more flexibility and waive burdensome and expensive state mandates.