Colorado education official: Reform is in the works
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
EL JEBEL ” Colorado is focused ” if a little haphazardly ” on education reform right now.
So said Marcia Neal, the Western slope representative to the Colorado Department of Education board, on Tuesday night while speaking to a small audience at the Eagle County Community Center in El Jebel. The Pitkin County Republicans organized the event.
“It’s a really great time, politically,” Neal said. “Because for the first time, both parties are agreed that we need reform.”
To begin with, said Neal, Gov. Bill Ritter’s P-20 Education Council is tackling a rewrite of the state standards.
“The first set of standards were a mile wide and an inch deep,” she said, explaining the state’s new mantra is “fewer, clearer, higher.” Soon, she expected new assessments to replace the current CSAP testing ” and hinted at the possibility of an exit exam.
Meanwhile, she said, the state is attempting to align high school and college instruction.
“That’s a rather interesting process because they don’t talk to each other a great deal,” she said.
Neal also discussed the six pilot programs, including one in the Roaring Fork School District, currently trying to close the achievement gap between Spanish-speaking students and Anglo students.
Calling the achievement gap between native speakers and immigrants a problem across Colorado, Neal noted that in many communities, it is a relatively new problem.
“Fifteen years ago, many communities didn’t have large immigrant populations,” she said.
Neal rounded out her descriptions of state reforms by discussing the new Schools Act, which allows schools to apply for waivers from state laws by submitting an “innovation plan,” the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) teacher preparation program, and “a few dropout programs.”
Then she explained that even more change is in the works.
Neal was particularly excited about a concurrent enrollment bill that would create a statewide procedure to allow all high school students to take classes at community colleges.
Another bill, she said, would create a pilot teacher identification program. The program would allow a teacher’s record ” including the test scores of her students ” to follow her to any Colorado school district, and determine her pay.
Neal also discussed the school transparency bill ” which would require school districts to post their spending online ” and Ritter’s plan to implement all-day kindergarten for all kids, which fell victim to this year’s budget cuts.
In fact, said Neal, she worried that Colorado might be too ambitious.
“Many of them are good ideas, but I worry we have too many of them,” she said.
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