These posts are the opinions of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of A+ Colorado.

A+ Stay Sharp: Response Digest

A+ Colorado has shifted our work to focus on responding to the education needs within the state while continuing to provide data-driven information and advocacy to support the community. In the coming weeks, we will be providing weekly news and updates, partner resources, and stories worth spotlighting.

News to share

Guidance for School Districts Amid New School Reality 

In a local control state like Colorado, each school district is responsible for creating its own distance learning program, and educators will be working with students in a totally new way. Guidance from the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) can help district administrators and educators understand the expectations for distance learning, and connect people to learn quickly about what is and isn’t working to best serve students.

CDE’s recently released resources are intended to provide guidance to schools and districts facing an enormity of challenges due to COVID-19. The policy guidance includes a pause in all 2019-2020 state assessments (CMAS), however the state is still weighing options on a solution for administering the SAT and PSAT, which are meaningful for high school students’ applications to colleges and for scholarship funding. This is the right decision as testing is not only impractical, but much less important than meeting the needs of students and families while they try to continue learning. The task of communicating the importance of student learning to families will be a difficult but important one for schools and districts to consider in the coming weeks as remote learning is rolled out. Additionally, the state has cancelled the assessment requirements for spring K-3 READ Act and Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) Results Matter.

Guidance for schools and districts also includes no accountability assessments for schools for the 2020-2021 school year. This means schools will operate off of their 2019 ratings next school year and will not receive a 2020 performance framework rating or plan.

Graduation requirements and ceremonies are still being considered by Local Education Providers (LEPs). Graduation is a huge accomplishment for seniors, especially first-generation graduates and students of color. Unfortunately, Governor Polis has asked schools to not hold graduation ceremonies and to begin thinking through ways to celebrate this huge occasion in a student’s life.

The state has also provided instructional learning guidance for: how to obtain a waiver from instructional time requirements, considerations for alternative learning plans (equitable access, special education and related services, English learners, student and staff well-being and data privacy and online learning platforms), and information about possible approaches and resources.

Now more than ever, it is apparent that school is so much more than just a learning environment for students. It is a place of community, and where many students (41% of Colorado students) rely on meals. CDE offers information for districts on guidance around emergency feeding including funding options and how to apply to become a site for food distribution. There is also information for students and families on access to meals while schools are closed including a list of meal distribution sites. Lastly, the state attempts to address transportation issues districts may face, but only shares they will allow for an extension on the annual school bus inspection requirements.

It will be important to monitor this guidance from CDE in the coming weeks as schools and districts shift their work to meet the needs of their students.

Supporting Emerging Multilingual Students

In its initial guidance the Colorado Department of Education reminded school districts that they must “make every effort to provide support to English learners to allow them to access academic content.” It cannot be overemphasized that emerging multilingual students are guaranteed equal access to school instruction. Multiple school districts, including Adams 12, Denver, and Westminster have agreements with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice that provide additional guidance and requirements around supporting multilingual students .

Schools and districts are trying to figure out exactly what that looks like in distance learning settings, from scheduling English language development blocks, to providing resources and activities in home languages. In the wake of a fairly silent administration at the U.S. Department of Education around how to support emerging multilingual students, there is an opportunity for the state to build on expertise to provide guardrails and expectations for school districts for everything from how to scaffold instructional supports in distance environments to how to build a body of evidence for reclassification for students who are ready to exit programming, and to share learnings from schools and districts. There are bright spots around the state and now more than ever is the time to share best practices so that all emerging multilingual students are supported during the next weeks and months

Spotlight: The New Teacher Project Supports Students with Diverse Learning Needs 

The New Teacher Project, a national nonprofit focused on supporting schools and districts, recently produced a list of resources that can be utilized in supporting English Language Learners during the COVID-19 crisis. These resources include guidance on technology to keep in touch with students; language considerations while approaching distance learning; and activities that support continued literacy and language development for ELL students.

A+ Updates

Join the A+ team!

A+ Colorado is hiring a Vice President of Policy and Research. We are looking for a teammate who is as passionate as us about using data to improve public education.

See the full job description and how to apply here. We will be accepting applications through April 6th.

What we’re reading, watching, and listening to…

Katie Martinez Whittle, Director of Communications and Engagement

Reading: Educated by Tara Westover
Watching: Little Fires Everywhere and just finished Hunters
Listening to: Donald Glover’s 3.15.20, and Conviction by Denise Mina
Cooking: Tacos of all sorts

Want A+ Colorado news delivered to your inbox? Subscribe!