A+ Colorado is encouraged by the legislative efforts to update the accountability clock
A+ believes that a deeper challenge than the accountability policy structure is a lack of political will to intervene in even the most dramatic circumstances
A+ Colorado calls on the Colorado legislature, our Governor and the state board of education to enact policies to better support students, and more importantly act on behalf of these students so that they have greater educational opportunities.
A+ Colorado is encouraged by the Colorado legislature’s consideration of HB18-1355 to update Colorado’s school and school district accountability system to better ensure that all of Colorado’s students are receiving a quality education. It is critical that the Colorado State Board of Education and Colorado Department of Education (CDE) have authority and tools to better support students in low performing schools and districts.
While this accountability bill is a step in the right direction, it masks the real problem in school improvement in Colorado. Our deeper challenge is a lack of political will to intervene on the behalf of students in the lowest performing schools. Over 80,000 students attend Colorado’s lowest performing schools this year. This is a crisis which will have long term consequences for many Colorado communities given the rising expectations for graduates in terms of knowledge, skills and habits in today’s job markets. The vast majority of these students will not be prepared for work or any post-secondary education, even though more than 70% of jobs in Colorado will require a post-secondary degree. We must do far better for kids trapped in schools where policymakers have known for years that the systems serving them are not doing right by families and communities.
How many years will it take for the state to aggressively intervene on behalf of kids? Solutions will look varied across the state, but regardless of the turnaround strategy deployed, it is more than a plan to act-it is action. For example, the state can ensure local districts implement a different school model that is responsive to student needs. Or the state can ensure other organizations with proven track records can operate and provide alternative options to students in low-performing schools. These examples of the pathways set out for districts and schools by legislation are only as meaningful as they are high-quality, relevant, and implemented with boldness. Even if CDE gets the increased tools and resources this bill proposes, there is no policy solution for a lack of political courage.
Turning around a failing school is enormously difficult, but it is possible with the right supports and accountability. We have seen it work in a number of schools in Colorado and around the country, including through CDE’s turnaround network. Yet as a state we must continue to get smarter about and more responsive to what works. This will require state and local leadership who demand fundamental change. School and district-wide turnaround can take root only when system leaders recognize the need for change, and work with communities to make those changes. It is critical the state and districts support families to know how their schools are serving students and what can be done to better support learning. Turnaround will not be successful when districts lack structural capacity support or, worse, deny the problem to their communities.
A+ Colorado calls on the Colorado legislature, our Governor and the State Board of Education to enact policies to better support students, and more importantly act on behalf of these students so that they have greater educational opportunities. We are appealing to Colorado policymakers in the legislature and at the State Board to use every tool available to ensure that all students have a quality public education. We cannot afford to lose another generation of Colorado students because of a school, a district, or our state’s unwillingness to make the changes necessary to support students. It’s time for the Colorado Department of Education to do more than ask a school district to write one more improvement plan.