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News Release - Expanded Learning Opportunities Commission Meeting

April 13, 2011

News Release

Expanded Learning Opportunities Commission To Meet Wednesday, April 20

Commissioners will deliberate and finalize recommendations for final report and ongoing work of initiative

With an eye on the how students today incorporate technology into their learning and their everyday lives, the Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) Commission will meet again on Wednesday, April 20, to finalize a broad vision for a student-centered education system in Colorado.

The meeting will run from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the offices of the Colorado Education Association, 1500 Grant St., Denver.

The ELO Commission is composed of legislators, district superintendents and representatives from higher education, community-based organizations and the lieutenant governor's office, among others. For nine months, the commission has explored the idea of imagining schools and classrooms without the traditional barriers of classroom walls, bell schedules and standard school-year calendars.

“A bold new vision for education must be imagined, described and embraced,” said ELO Commission Chair Elaine Gantz Berman, who is also a member of the Colorado State Board of Education. “The commission recognizes that technology is playing a greater role in the lives of young people and that students learn differently today than they did even five or 10 years ago. The way we think about classrooms and schools needs fresh thinking. Our collective expectations for producing top-notch high school graduates are unwavering, but we have to acknowledge that the learning process for students today continues to change, and does so quickly. Schools must keep pace in order to stay relevant and engaging.”

What if some students arrived at school early in the day and others arrived in the afternoon? What if part of a student's learning took place in libraries or at home on computers and through distance learning? And what if students could progress at their own pace, when they have shown mastery of a course, rather than having to sit through hours of class because other students have not yet grasped the material?

These are just some of the questions that the ELO Commission has discussed and debated. The April 20 meeting will begin with a virtual presentation from Michael Horn, co-author of “Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns.”

Horn will describe a vision of what public education could look like if walls, clocks and calendars are removed from the way schools and classroom schedules are designed.

The ELO Commission was created in 2010 by former Commissioner of Education Dwight D. Jones. The commission has met eight times to learn about both state and national models and best practices of student-centered learning and efforts to maximize the learning experience through creative and innovative community partnerships and the increased use of technology.

Commissioners have heard presentations from the National Center on Time and Learning, Generation Schools and others on such topics as blended learning, competency-based learning and dropout prevention.

In fall 2010, the commission embarked on a statewide tour to listen to educators, program providers, parents and others about the challenges and successes of expanded learning time and to discuss ideas for improving programs and strengthening community partnerships. Meetings were held in six locations with more than 200 participants. The commission also met with the Colorado Youth Advisory Council to hear the student perspective on effective use of the school day and resources.

At the April 20 meeting, commission members will reflect on what they have learned and discuss recommendations for the Colorado statewide vision that will be articulated in a series of products, events and online tools.

Commission Chair Berman said the premise for this work is that “all students learn differently. How would schools and learning need to be organized to be responsive to the different ways in which children learn? We want to expand the possibilities for every child and invite more partners into this work.”

The ELO Commission recommendations will be released in June as part of a report that will launch the next phase the ELO initiative, pilots of models and best practices in Colorado schools.

Purpose and Overview

Expanded learning opportunities seek to transform the educational experience to fully engage students in their learning, their passions and their interests. ELOs foster collaboration and partnerships among teachers, schools and community partners to effectively use the school day so that it is unrestricted by walls (blended and online learning), clocks (flexible school days), calendars (expanded school week and year) or tradition. By supporting ELOs, communities are providing more time and new ways for their students to engage in their learning, make connections within and across their community and to develop an active, successful citizenry.

The ELO Commission grew out of work initiated through the Supporting Student Success joint initiative of the National Governors Association, Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Council of State Legislators.

Membership

The commission is comprised of state legislators, practitioners, teacher union representatives, ELO practitioners and members of the Colorado Department of Education.

Current membership includes:

  • Amy Anderson, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Donnell-Kay Foundation
  • Greg Anderson, Dean, Morgridge College of Education, University of Denver
  • Linda Barker, Director, Teaching and Learning, Colorado Education Association
  • John Barry, Superintendent, Aurora Public Schools
  • Elaine Gantz Berman (Chair), Member, Colorado State Board of Education, District 1
  • Jill Brake, Director, Thatcher Learning Center, Commissioner, Colorado Commission on Higher Education
  • Shirley Farnsworth, Director of Extended Learning, Denver Public Schools
  • Helayne Jones, Executive Director, Colorado Legacy Foundation
  • Alyssa Lasseter, Director, Tony Grampsas Youth Services, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
  • The Honorable Tom Massey, State Representative (R), District 60
  • Linda Preston, Board Member, Colorado Alliance for Quality School-Age Programs
  • The Honorable Gail Schwartz, State Senator (D), District 5
  • Diana Sirko, Deputy Commissioner, Colorado Department of Education
  • The Honorable Judy Solano, State Representative (D), District 31
  • The Honorable Nancy Spence, State Senator (R), District 27
  • Jennifer Stedron, Executive Director, Early Childhood Leadership Commission
  • Ed Vandertook, Superintendent, Strasburg School District 31J

Charge

The charge of the Commission is to ensure that statewide policies support expanded learning opportunities within the ongoing education reform initiatives throughout the state.

The commission will gather input from around the state on ELO opportunities and challenges. The findings from this input will be used as the basis for the commission’s report on supporting new and expanded learning opportunities into education reform efforts in effective, measurable and sustainable ways.

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