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2019 Equity and Excellence Conference

Strengthening Opportunities for Historically Underserved Students: Effective Programs and Practices


The Federal Programs and Exceptional Student Services Units, in collaboration with the Office of Turnaround at the Colorado Department of Education hosted the fourth annual Equity & Excellence Conference on October 24-25 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Denver, Colorado. The theme for the conference was strengthening historically underserved students’ opportunities through effective programs and practices. The goal of the conference was to provide district and school leaders the opportunity to deeply explore and learn about the evidence-based practices in a collaborative setting, and walk away inspired to advance equity.

CDE encourages districts to assemble teams that represent LEA and school levels, and involve staff who manage or implement ESEA and IDEA initiatives. Teams should be no more than 4 people.

Who: District teams, including LEA and School Building Leaders, Federal Programs Directors, Special Education Directors

What: Opportunity for educators to learn, collaborate and grow 

When: October 24th & 25th, 2019

Where: DoubleTree by Hilton, 3203 Quebec St. Denver, CO 80207

The 2019 Equity and Excellence Conference purpose was to strengthen historically underserved students’ opportunities through effective programs and practices. Speakers and breakout presenters included school and district leaders with a developing or demonstrated record of effectiveness. The goal of the conference was to provide district and school leaders the opportunity to deeply explore and learn about evidence-based practices in a collaborative setting, and walk away equipped to advance equity.

Program Strands 

  • Strong Foundations: Setting the Groundwork for Success. In this strand, participants explored foundations of quality schooling, from stakeholder engagement to early literacy and strong school culture. New and existing evidence to implement these strategies effectively will be a focus.
  • All Means All: Supporting Diverse Student Groups through Instruction and Non-Academic SupportsIn this strand, participants explored academic, behavioral, and systemic strategies to effectively supporting diverse learners. From teacher equity to bullying prevention and robust health supports, participants will be equipped with strategies grounded in evidence.
  • Creating the Launch Pad to Postsecondary and Career Opportunities. In this strand, participants explored ways to strengthen secondary programs and interventions to accelerate student progress to and through postsecondary and career. From strategies to meet rigorous graduation guidelines to new models of schooling, participants will learn how to strengthen supports for students in the crucial years of high school.


Children studying


Dr. Margarita Bianco: 2019 Equity and Excellence Conference Featured Keynote

Dr. Bianco serves as Professor of Education, University of Colorado Denver. Her interest in special and gifted education was sparked by early experiences caring for, supporting and teaching young people with additional needs. She is the founder and executive director of Pathways2Teaching, an innovative pre-collegiate program designed to encourage high school students of color to enter the teacher workforce as a way to disrupt educational inequities.

Since earning a bachelor’s degree from William Paterson College, a master’s degree from Florida International University and an Ed.D. from Florida Atlantic University, the New York native has gone on to issue keynote speeches and author or co-author nearly 30 articles and publications and two training manuals on urban education, teaching pedagogy and development and effective practices for instructing students with learning disabilities or who are non-English-language learners, among other topics. Bianco is the recipient of several Excellence in Teaching awards at CU Denver, the Professional of the Year award from the Colorado Council for Learning Disabilities, the Floyd G. Hudson Outstanding Service Award from the Council for Learning Disabilities, and, most recently, she was selected as the 2017-2019 Timmerhaus Teaching Ambassador for the University of Colorado system.


Bill de la Cruz 

Bill de la Cruz is an inspiring leader who has been guiding individuals and groups through the process of personal transformation as a mediator and workshop leader for 30 years. Bill has been engaged in educational transformation since 1997 and has served as a School board member and Board President in Boulder, co-authored the CDE equity Toolkit for administrators and was the former Director of Equity and Inclusion for Denver Public Schools. He delivers keynotes and facilitates bias awareness and deconstruction workshops across the country with his Consulting firm De La Cruz Solutions. He developed his programs and workshops to support individuals and groups build self-awareness, enhance relationships and help foster positive, sustainable personal growth. Bill has been on his own personal growth journey for more than 40 years which inspired him to develop specific practices designed to help create positive, lasting change.

Bill is a recently published author with a book that is titled “Finding the Origination Point, Understanding Our Biases to Create a More Peaceful World”. 

Bill’s book supports people in normalizing the bias conversation to understand the experiential and emotional origination point of a biased experience or narrative. The origination point of our biases is the point of understanding and healing. Normalizing bias conversations allows us to talk about how our own experiences play a role in the disparities of outcomes for students, staff and families in our schools using a bias lens. Bill uses the processes in finding the origination point conversations to talk about disparities in academic, social emotional growth and discipline disparities in our schools. The Origination Point explores the connection of how individual biased experiences are transferred into organizational and systems cultures. Relational leadership is the thread that allows us to become more aware of the relational and emotional impacts of bias in building systems that are sustainable and build capacity in our schools, departments and communities.


Bill De La Cruz E&E

Katy Anthes, Commissioner, Colorado Department of Education

Named commissioner of education in December 2016, Dr. Katy Anthes is widely respected for her commitment to listen to diverse perspectives and develop solutions that are founded on productive middle ground. Keeping students’ best interests as her top priority, she focuses on providing high quality expertise and support to districts and educators working to enhance student achievement.

Dr. Anthes has been with CDE since 2011, serving as interim commissioner, chief of staff, interim associate commissioner for achievement and strategy and executive director of educator effectiveness. As the executive director of educator effectiveness, she led CDE’s efforts to support and retain highly effective educators in Colorado. In her previous position as a partner with the Third Mile Group, Anthes led and researched major education initiatives for state, district and national organizations on a variety of education issues and projects including; the Colorado School Leadership Academy Board, the Expanded Learning Opportunities Commission and as an evaluator for several district education programs across the state.

Anthes worked with numerous national education organizations at The Third Mile Group, such as the Council for Chief State School Officers, the National Governor’s Association, The National Commission for Teaching and America’s Future, American Institutes for Research, and many more. Upon being appointed Commissioner of Education, Dr. Katy Anthes became Colorado's first female commissioner in 65 years.



Katy Anthes


Melissa Colsman, Associate Commissioner, Student Learning Division, CDE

Melissa Colsman E&E 2019

Floyd Cobb, Executive Director, Office of Teaching and Learning, CDE

Floyd Cobb E&E 2019

Breakout Sessions: 

Strong Foundations: Setting the Groundwork for Success

  • Significant Disproportionality: Identification, Placement, And Discipline By Subgroup.
  • Stakeholder Engagement: Leveraging Parent, Community and Student Voices In School Programming
  • How Title IV Can Accelerate Your Improvement Strategies.
  • Colorado Multi-Tiered System of Supports in Schools
  • Scaling Up Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports in Colorado
  • Effective Strategies to Support ELD Programs
  • Colorado Academic Standards in Action in Preschool
  • Building basic literacy: Evidence-based programs that address significant reading deficiencies
  • Creating Instructional Non-negotiables
  • Cultivating a Strong School Culture: A case study of Centennial Elementary in Greeley 6
  • Leading for Transformation

All Means All: Supporting Diverse Student Groups through Instruction and Non-Academic Supports

  • Addressing Equitable Distribution Of Teachers (EDT) Gaps With Evidence-Based Practices: From Data To Talent System Solutions
  • Data Driven Instruction: Helping Teachers Support Diverse Learners Across Grades In High Achieving Schools.
  • Practical Application Of Title IX In K-12 Schools.
  • Beyond ACCESS 2.0: Using Data To Set Expectations For ELD Programs
  • 22 High Leverage Practices in Four Clusters: How Districts Can Scale And Implement Practices With a Demonstrated Record Of Success in Supporting SWD Growth
  • What Does Effective Co-Teaching Look Like?
  • Measuring What Matters: Using Formative Assessment Practices As The Key To Student Learning and Engagement
  • Bullying Prevention and Education Grant Program
  • Individualized Problem Solving Within Response To Intervention (RTI)
  • Understanding Chronic Health Conditions and Strategies To Address Them
  • Unconscious Bias: What Does This Mean and How Does This Show Up In Your Role As A School Professional?

Creating the Launch Pad to Postsecondary and Career Opportunities

  • Data Driven Practices in High School: Developing a Deeper Understanding Of Students to Accelerate The Path to Graduation
  • Student On-Going Achievement & Readiness (SOAR): How the Colorado Migrant Education Program’s Direct Services Provides Secondary Credit-Bearing Programs to Migrant Students
  • Collaborating With Adult Community Agencies
  • Dropout Prevention Programs that Work For Diverse Students, Including Highly Mobile
  • Ensuring Rigorous Capstone Programs
  • Measure What Matters: Colorado’s Collaboratively-Developed, Standards-Based Performance Assessment System
  • How Colorado’s New Graduation Guidelines Drive Equity in Student Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness
  • Bridging Research and Practice In Secondary Schools:  Strategy Design and Highlights from Alternative Education Campuses (AECs)

Past Conferences 

2017 Equity and Excellence Conference

To see materials from the 2016 Equity and Excellence Conference, email Michelle Prael at 

For Additional Information Contact: 

For Programmatic Questions, Contact: 

Jeremy Meredith 
ESEA Senior Consultant, Title II

For Logistical Questions, Contact:

Michelle Prael  
Program Support