Rankin: Improving educational opportunities together

Joyce Rankin
Across the Street

I received a letter from a student asking to limit the amount of testing required in high school. He was holding the federal government responsible for what is wrong with the school system. I hear from many adults but not usually from students. We need to resist federal control and put responsibilities at the state and local level. I want to share a little information about federal involvement in education and the role of the State Board of Education.

The stated mission of the federal government is to promote student achievement by raising educational excellence and ensuring equal access for all students. Working to improve the outcomes of students and raising awareness of the educational challenges also are part of the aspirations of the federal contribution, along with disseminating the latest information on what works in teaching.

Education is primarily a state and local responsibility. At the elementary and secondary level, 87.7 percent of the funding comes from non-federal sources while 10.8 percent of the funding comes from not only the Department of Education but also other federal agencies such as the Department of Agriculture’s school lunch program and the Head Start program under the Department of Health and Human Services.

The basis for education in Colorado involves standards, curriculum and assessments, and it’s important to understand the differences. Standards are concisely written descriptions of what students are expected to know at a specific stage of their education. They can be found for each grade level and subject area on the Colorado Department of Education’s website ( The curriculum is the content or lessons taught in the classroom. Curriculum, determined by the local school district, can include books, materials, presentations and lectures used in a course. Tests and assessments are the proof or level of mastery of the material that has been taught. Tests can be either nationally or locally created. Some nationally created test scores are used for college entry.

The Colorado State Board of Education does not make laws. The Colorado General Assembly — representatives and senators — are the only people who can make laws in Colorado. The State Board of Education is responsible for promulgating rules in order for local districts to follow the laws. They also select the commissioner of education, distribute federal and state funds, regulate teacher licensing and many other duties defined in the Colorado Constitution.

It’s very important to understand differences between federal and state government.

I believe Colorado should have high-quality standards that match the needs of Colorado students. We also should disseminate the maximum of responsibility and control to our local school boards and community. The Colorado Department of Education is the resource to help in this support. Together we can improve the educational opportunities for our students.

Joyce Rankin of Carbondale sits on the Colorado Board of Education. She also works as a legislative aide at the Capitol for Rep. Bob Rankin. The Department of Education, where the State Board of Education meets, is located across the street from the Capitol.