The education landscape of the early 21st century is shaped by standards-based education reform, which encompasses the articulation, alignment and revision of standards for learners and educators, and the enactment of national and state legislation aimed at increasing student academic achievement.
Articulation and Alignment of Standards for Learners
The stated goal of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was for all K-12 students to achieve 100 percent proficiency in language arts and math by 2014. This ambitious goal required every state to define and implement standards for what students should know and be able to do. In 2009, Colorado revised all its state standards – including those for reading, writing and communicating – to ensure a coherent and aligned educational system from early childhood through higher education.
Revision of Standards and Expectations for Educators
National standards for educators are also currently undergoing reform. Critics disparage educator preparation programs for routinely failing to adequately prepare educators for their roles as teachers and leaders, and for failing to equip future teachers with the skills, knowledge and dispositions necessary to drive student achievement. In his October 2009 speech at Columbia University’s Teachers College, Education Secretary Arne Duncan called for revolutionary change in educator preparation programs, specifically noting the need to improve practicum experiences for pre-service teachers and to train teachers to use data to inform their teaching.
In keeping with this call for change, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), which accredits educator preparation programs, is preparing to release revised standards for teacher education by 2011. The new standards will reflect teaching as a research- and practice-based profession analogous to medicine or nursing – professions that require a solid academic foundation, clinical training, mentorship and ongoing professional development. Colleges and universities are already taking steps to align their programs to the spirit of the anticipated standards.
Recent and proposed legislation in Colorado promises to address the effectiveness of the state’s educators.
- House Bill 08-1223 requires that teachers be trained to effectively support children with literacy challenges including dyslexia.
- Senate Bill 10-191, passed by the state legislature in January 2010, requires CDE to conduct research on the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs’ training as evidenced by P-12 student achievement. It also makes student achievement a substantial part of the evaluation system for Colorado teachers and principals and creates an incentive-based “career ladder” system to recognize high-performing teachers.
- The Colorado Council for Educator Effectiveness, established in 2010, serves as a vehicle for
developing recommendations for teacher and principal evaluation and tenure.
National Legislative Reform for Literacy
The national literacy-related legislation that shapes the development of the Colorado Literacy Framework includes:
the Reading First Initiative (2002-2010), which implemented findings of the National Reading Panel’s review of K-3 literacy instruction research (NICHD, 2000).
the Reading Excellence Act (2001-2004), which targeted the improvement of K-3 literacy.
- the Reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (2004), which included a three-tiered approach to the early identification and support of students with learning/behavioral needs.
Recent data-driven, outcome-oriented legislation has further defined the national context for education reform:
- The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 (ARRA) provides funding to improve student achievement through school reform and improvement related to the following areas:
- Making progress toward rigorous college- and career-ready standards and high-quality assessments that are valid and reliable for all students, including English language learners and students with disabilities.
- Establishing P-20 college and career data systems that track progress and foster continuous improvement.
- Making improvements in teacher effectiveness and in the equitable distribution of qualified teachers for all students, particularly students who are most in need.
- Providing intensive support and effective interventions for the lowest-performing schools.
- The U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top (R2T) initiative, an incentive-based education reform program, brought the mission of the American Recovery and Investment Act (ARRA) to the states. Designed to promote progressive education reform in K-12 education, the program awards competitive grants to states that:
- Create the conditions for education innovation and reform.
- Implement ambitious plans in the four areas targeted in the ARRA.
- Significantly improve student outcomes.
- The blueprint for the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), released in March 2010, specifies that each state must develop a comprehensive, evidence-based P-12 literacy plan as a step toward high-quality education for every U.S. citizen.
- The Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 3288) was signed into law in 2010. This omnibus appropriations act will fund the U.S. Department of Education, among
other agencies, and will transform the Striving Readers program into a comprehensive literacy initiative.
The initiative will help struggling students from birth through grade 12 to build their literacy skills and will improve the integration of reading initiatives. The appropriation also provides formula funding to every state educational agency (SEA) to support the creation and maintenance of state literacy teams.
Colorado’s Literacy Legacy
As evidenced in the timeline of literacy initiatives below, Colorado has a history of valuing literacy: