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The Spark - November 2020
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Each year as Thanksgiving approaches I spend time reflecting on all of the people and happenings in my life that make me grateful. This year has been incredibly challenging and difficult for all of us, but I still have plenty to be thankful for:
- You. What I am most grateful for this year is that Colorado has such incredibly dedicated, hard-working and innovative teachers. You have learned so much this year in order to support your students in new ways, and I know you’ve worked tirelessly to overcome the challenges that came your way on a daily basis. I can’t thank you enough for your service to your students and their families.
- My Teacher Cabinet. These outstanding teachers take time every few months to share how things are going in their schools, which is when I hear their concern and worry for students’ wellbeing and for their teacher colleagues. Through their stories, I gain a better understanding of the challenges you face and how the state can provide more support and more flexibility to help you support your students.
- School and district leaders. They have worked day in and day out for months to learn how to support their school communities and put that new learning into action during this ever-changing environment. I know how hard it is to hear so many diverse perspectives and try to find the best solutions. I appreciate their leadership.
- Our students. My heart goes out to all of our students. They have missed graduations, proms, field days, concerts, assemblies and just the fun of being in school with friends. Yet children are so resilient. I’m grateful for all the students who keep trying even though they are lonely, and I’m more determined than ever before to ensure that our students get the education they need to succeed in school and in life.
- Our health care workers, scientists and all frontline workers. They continue to bravely persevere in providing care to the sick and developing new treatments and potential vaccines that can end this pandemic. And our front line workers continue to go to work in grocery stores, drive public transportation, and run our care facilities to name just a few.
- Emergency responders. The recent fires have been so frightening, and I know that many of our school communities have been seriously impacted. I’m so grateful for the fast work of our firefighters, community organizations and others who have fought the fires and supported all the displaced families.
- Parents. I know that parents have struggled to support their children through remote learning while doing their jobs -- sometimes more than one job. I know the stress has been intense at times.
- My staff. The staff at CDE have worked so hard to support districts and schools during this crisis. From the moment this crisis began in March and through all of these long months, they have worked long and hard to find resources, develop guidance and look for new ways to support your work.
During this Thanksgiving, my wish for all of you is … rest. I wish I could just press pause on the pandemic for a month, so we could all have an emotional, mental and physical break, even for just a short while. But in lieu of a magical pause button, my wish is that you all will be kind to yourselves during the break. Read a good book, connect with loved ones, enjoy the outdoors, and eat some good food.
A stakeholder group of education experts and community members has met for months to develop recommendations for the legislature on various important educational decisions that must be made due to the disruptions caused by the pandemic, including whether statewide assessments should be given in the spring and what to do about state accountability/accreditation and the educator effectiveness system.
Because state laws govern the state’s assessment system, accountability system and educator effectiveness process, lawmakers must make the ultimate decisions on what course the state will take. So far, the stakeholder group has developed several recommendations, which are still in draft form and could be adjusted before being sent to the legislature.
Here are those draft recommendations:
- Educators’ final evaluation ratings should be based wholly on their professional practice score for the 2020-21 school year only. This supports CDE’s announcement in the summer of 2020 that the department will not monitor or collect information from districts on Measures of Student Learning/Outcomes.
- PSAT/SAT/CoALT (emerging draft, not at consensus): Districts and schools should administer the PSAT to ninth and 10th grade students and the SAT to 11th grade students in spring 2021 as long as COVID-19 conditions allow students to be at least partially in-person at the time of testing.
- SAT Essay: If the SAT is administered in spring 2021, the essay portion of the assessment should be an option for students to select as needed or desired.
- CMAS/CoAlt Social Studies: CMAS/CoAlt Social Studies should not be administered in grades 4 and 7 in spring 2021.
- CMAS/CoAlt Science: CMAS/CoAlt Science should not be administered in grades 5, 8 and 11 in spring of 2021.
- CMAS English Language Arts, Mathematics: Still to be determined.
- Pause the school- and district-level performance frameworks and state accountability ratings for the 2021-22 school year, rolling over the ratings from 2020. Note: the 2020 ratings were rolled over from 2019 based upon the 2020 accountability pause. The stakeholder group suggests special considerations be granted to schools and districts on the accountability clock to allow them to move off of the clock if they can show improvement.
Additional recommendations are still under discussion and will be finalized at the next stakeholder group meeting from 1-5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10. The group will discuss CMAS ELA and math assessments and accountability reporting. The meeting will be streamed live.
CDE is providing training at no cost to K-3 teachers to satisfy a new legislative requirement that must be fulfilled by the start of the 2021 school year. Participants can sign up for a virtual synchronous or an online asynchronous option on the K-3 Teacher Evidence-Based Reading Training Requirements webpage.
In addition, CDE is working on a system for teachers to submit documentation showing they have met the training requirement. More information on that system is coming late this fall. Options for teachers to meet the professional development requirements in the READ Act can be found on the Teacher Training webpage.
Individual grants range from $1,000-$8,000. Once developed, the resources will be freely available on our National Geographic education website to support as many teachers and students as possible.
The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center is offering a free support line for educators who may be feeling stressed or just need someone to talk to. The line will staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week for all educators and school staff, including ECE, K-12 and higher education. A trained crisis volunteer will be available to listen and support you. Call or text to 303-724-2500. Click here to learn more.
Dr. Chris Rogers, medical director of Child & Adolescent Services at the Medical Center of Aurora and the current president of the Colorado Child & Adolescent Psychiatric Society, penned a heart-felt blog about the virtues of continuing to attend school during the pandemic even when times are tough. Read the blog entry here.
- Colorado teachers are working twice — sometimes three times — as hard when their students learn both in person and online, Colorado Sun.
- Colorado's older teachers face a crossroad: Risk coronavirus or retire?, Colorado Sun.
- Bringing biology to life: Vail Mountain School teacher earns Outstanding Biology Teacher award, Vail Daily.