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News release - State board approves $447 million for BEST program, largest amount ever

June 14, 2018

State board approves $447 million for BEST program, largest amount ever

Board OKs final revisions to Colorado Academic Standards

DENVER - The Colorado State Board of Education on Wednesday approved $447 million for 35 school construction projects across Colorado from the Capital Construction Assistance Fund for the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant program.

The 2018-19 award is the largest ever amount approved for the program that began in 2008. Approximately $85 million of the 2018 awards will be funded through cash grants provided by income earned from the Colorado State Land Board, marijuana excise taxes, spillover from the Colorado Lottery and interest on the assistance fund. Applicants will contribute $74 million in matching funds.

Another $190 million is through lease-purchase grants from the state. Financing will be repaid with future assistance fund revenues. Applicants will contribute $98 million in matching money.

School districts, BOCES, the Charter School Institute, charter schools and Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind may apply for the competitive grants.

The grants are intended for the improvement of health, safety, security and technology in public schools. Schools apply for the grants and the Capital Construction Advisory Board reviews applications, prioritizing them and submitting their recommendations to the state board for approval.

In all, 35 projects and five backup projects were selected for the 2018-19 cycle, including six charter schools. Highlights include:

  • Replacement of a junior-senior high school and renovation of an elementary school in Hayden RE-1 School District, $61.2 million.
  • Renovation and replacement of the Buena Vista High School and Middle School in Buena Vista R-31 School District, $50.9 million.
  • Replacement of Orchard Mesa Middle School in Mesa County Valley 51 School District, $39.9 million.
  • New preschool through 12th grade school in Kit Carson R-1 School District, $32.3 million.
  • A new school for Swallows Charter Academy, $20.1 million.

See a full list here.

Per statute, the state’s Capital Development Committee reviews and approves all projects recommended by the state board that are selected for lease-purchase financing. The committee is scheduled to vote on the board’s recommendations on Monday.

Board completes review and approval process for revisions to Colorado Academic Standards
The state board approved the revision of Colorado Academic Standards for comprehensive health and physical education; reading, writing and communicating; and science. These were the last standards to be approved in the standards review and revision process, which has been ongoing for more than a year.

State law requires the standards be reviewed and revised every six years beginning with the current review mandated to be completed by July 2018.

Revisions to the comprehensive health and physical education standards were approved with the addition of some amendments. However, the board decided against voting on a proposed amendment to the fourth-grade health standards that would have added the self-defense benefits of having weapons at home, in school and in the community.

For the science standards, the board approved the recommendation to adapt the Next Generation Science Standards into Colorado’s state science standards.

The department anticipates that final versions of all approved standards as well as an online searchable standards system will be available by early August. Districts will have two years to review and revise their local standards as needed to ensure that they meet or exceed state standards, with full implementation scheduled for the 2020-21 school year.

All final revisions, including amendments, are posted on the standards review and revision homepage.

Final determination approved for Manaugh Elementary
The board approved a final written determination for the pathway plan from Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1 to improve student outcomes at Manaugh Elementary School, which will include working with the University of Virginia to provide targeted professional development and ongoing accountability. Relay, a secondary management  partner, will also help the district provide deep instructional coaching for school leadership to implement the plan.

On July 1, Manaugh Elementary will enter the sixth year with a Priority Improvement or Turnaround Plan -- the two lowest ratings on the state’s School Performance Framework.

State law requires the board mandate specific actions to increase student academic outcomes for schools with more than five consecutive years of poor performance on the state’s accountability system. The Framework measures attainment on key performance indicators: academic achievement and academic longitudinal growth for all schools as well as postsecondary and workforce readiness for secondary schools.

Substitute teacher licensure requirements waiver approved
The board approved a waiver request from Falcon School District 49, allowing the district to establish its own substitute teacher licensure requirements to replace the state-issued substitute authorization. The district, like the rest of the state, is experiencing a substitute teacher shortage limiting educational opportunities for students and staff alike.

The district’s proposed replacement plan will require substitutes to meet standards that are comparable to the existing requirements for the state’s  three-year substitute authorization but would add additional training, evaluation and monitoring procedures.

Multi-district online school applications
The board denied the application for certification of a multi-district online school submitted by Huerfano School District RE-1 on behalf of Career Academies of America/Colorado P-TECH. The certification would have allowed the school to offer full-time online education programs and accept students from across the state, regardless of their home school district.

The application was denied based on concerns about the district's capacity to oversee the online school provider, Summit Education Group, while also implementing a sustainable improvement plan. The district just came off the state's accountability clock this year and still has one district school on the accountability clock.

The board approved an application from Pueblo County School District 70 on behalf of 70 Online for the same certification, having met the quality criteria for a multi-district online school.

Educator Talent rules approved
The board approved revisions to the rules for the Colorado Educator Licensing Act of 1991 to ensure teachers -- both those in educational preparation programs and working educators -- have at least the basic knowledge about teaching English language learners.

  • The rules require all educator preparation programs to ensure English language learner educator standards are fully taught and practiced, requiring at least six semester hours or 90 clock hours of training.

  • The rules include a one-time requirement for current professionally certified teachers with endorsements in elementary, math, science, social studies and English language arts  to demonstrate they have completed three semester hours or 45 clock hours of training in instructional strategies for English language learners over their five-year license renewal cycle.

  • Waivers from these requirements would be available to teachers in districts and charter schools authorized by the Charter School Institute with an average of 2 percent or fewer English language learners enrolled over the last three years.

Additionally, the board approved:

In other actions, the board:

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