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The Spark - June 2022
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Another busy and challenging year is ending, and I can’t thank you enough for your hard work and perseverance through it all.
My most sincere wish is for you all to have a restful and rejuvenating summer doing the things you enjoy with people you love.
I’ll be taking a short break to enjoy some time at the lake with family, friends and my pup Twyla, but the summers are always a very busy time at the department. All the new policies enacted by the legislature need our attention, so we will be immersed in implementation. You can read more about the major education-related bills that passed this year in this newsletter.
Many of you have shared with me that educator shortages made this year especially challenging as you had to fill in for open positions while managing all of your normal workloads. I know it’s disheartening to see your fellow educators leaving the profession, especially those who are new to their careers. I want you to know that efforts to recruit and retain quality educators continue to be among my top priorities – with a special focus on increasing the diversity of our teaching workforce.
I’m excited about the results we’re seeing from our partnership with TEACH Colorado. You can read more about this work in this edition of the SPARK, but I wanted to highlight that in just the past year TEACH Colorado’s educator-coaches conducted more than 1,400 advising calls with potential teachers, and more than 10,000 people expressed an interest in teaching.
Another piece of good news comes in the form of Senate Bill 22-1220, which will offer loan repayment assistance on qualified loans for licensed K-12 educators and counselors, mainly for those early in their careers who serve in rural and hard-to-fill positions in Colorado. The new law is intended to help address Colorado’s educator shortages by removing some of the barriers to educator preparation. You can learn more about that program in this issue of the SPARK as well.
I’m also pleased to report that the 2022-23 budget signed by Gov. Jared Polis places significantly more money into K-12 classrooms. The $36 billion spending plan includes a record high investment in public education, with more than $5 billion in state money going to K-12, a 7.5% increase over this year. Average per-student funding will go up 6% to $9,560.
We still have a way to go before education is fully funded in Colorado, but I’m pleased that we are making progress toward this goal. I know that this was a difficult and long year, but I hope you will head into the summer knowing that we are working hard at the state level to increase and diversify our educator workforce and provide you with the support you need to ensure all your students receive a high-quality education.
Thank you for all your excellent teaching this year, and for the caring and love you pour into supporting your students.
Have a great summer!
Respondents to this year's Teaching and Learning Conditions in Colorado Survey said they thought their school was a good place to work and for students to learn. But teachers said the lack of planning time and professional development continues to be the biggest challenges.
Educators earlier this year took the TLCC survey, which documents perceptions of the teaching and learning conditions in schools. Statewide results were released publicly on May 11. Some of the most noteworthy results from the first iteration of the survey since COVID-19 include:
- Eight out of 10 Colorado educators agreed that, overall, their school is a good place to work and for students to learn.
- Three-quarters agreed (50.8%) or strongly agreed (23.6%) that they would have access to the support they need if they were concerned about their mental health.
- Most respondents expressed concern over the impact social isolation has had on their students.
- Almost every school staff respondent agreed (22.9%) or strongly agreed (75.8%) that they valued being a trusted adult for students in their school and felt adequately prepared to support their students' social-emotional well-being.
- Respondents expressed their concerns over increases in learning gaps, insufficient support at home and decreases in student emotional well-being.
- Nine out of 10 school staff (92%) consistently agreed that their school is a safe place to work.
- About 81% were comfortable working in their school given the safety and health protocols currently in place
Lack of time and professional development opportunities remain the biggest challenges, according to the survey.
- About 41% of respondents say they do not have adequate time to prepare for their primary duties.
- Half reported they were not given enough time to determine the effectiveness of new initiatives such as curriculum, assessments and instructional approaches.
- Half of the teachers said they do not have enough time to analyze and respond to student assessment data.
- Nearly 45% of respondents perceived the effectiveness of professional development might not be assessed regularly or should have been assessed more regularly.
- Areas of professional development that are considered the most beneficial are supporting students experiencing trauma, learning more about the social-emotional needs of all students and teacher’s content areas.
For the 2022 administration, surveys were sent to 91,413 eligible educators and school personnel, 46,088 of whom provided valid responses, yielding an overall response rate of 50.4%. The number of respondents grew by 23% this year from the previous 2020 statewide administration (37,536) and 30% from the one in 2018 (35,475).
Districts and schools that met the participation requirements received their results at the beginning of May. All results can be viewed by categories and compared by subgroups. Find complete information and resources on the TLCC website.
Even before the pandemic, finding enough teachers to fill many open positions was a struggle, but the stresses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have made the problem even worse.
That is where TEACH Colorado – Colorado’s first tech-driven initiative to recruit teachers – has come in handy. The program provides potential future teachers with free support, including one-on-one coaching and licensure guidance from current educators, profiles of Colorado’s teacher preparation programs and school districts, application fee reimbursements, and scholarships. TEACH Colorado meets aspiring educators where they are, especially during the pandemic: online, on their phones, and on social media.
A 2020 poll by the National Education Association found that 28% of educators said that the COVID-19 pandemic has made them more likely to consider an exit from teaching.
This potential shortfall of educators would only compound preexisting teacher shortages throughout the country. In Colorado, before the 2019-20 school year and months before the pandemic shut down in-person classes, Colorado schools reported having 7,242 open teaching positions.
In 2020-21, about 13% of all teaching positions remained unfilled. These shortages are even more acute in Colorado’s rural districts and hard-to-hire subjects like science, math, and special education. And those numbers are most likely higher this year. Meanwhile, the state’s educator workforce remains far less diverse than Colorado students.
TEACH Colorado is working to build more diversity in the workforce as well as connect teaching candidates with schools in areas that have critical needs.
In the past year, the initiative’s educator-coaches conducted more than 1,400 advising calls with potential teachers, and more than 10,000 subscribers expressed an interest in teaching. More than 1,000 TEACH Colorado subscribers went on to apply to a teacher preparation program during the 2020-21 school year. What’s more, the applicants that TEACH Colorado supported in the past year were much more diverse than Colorado’s current teaching workforce: 28% of TEACH Colorado-supported applicants identified as people of color (as opposed to 13% of Colorado’s current educators).
Ladorris Troche is one of those success stories who benefited from TEACH Colorado. Growing up in Denver, Troche had never considered that she would be a great educator – even though she regularly babysat and worked with kids at her church. Ladorris’ interests were myriad; she wanted to be a pharmacist, a court reporter, a paralegal, and a social worker. But, thanks to TEACHColorado.org, she discovered her true calling.
Coincidentally, she started her journey in the same month that everything shut down – March 2020.
“I was confused and didn’t know the route I wanted to go,” Ladorris said. “I didn’t know if I had to go back to school to get my teaching license. I found TEACH Colorado and signed up with a coach so I could get more information based on my history.”
After speaking with Tanya Sadler, a veteran elementary educator and licensure expert, Ladorris decided to pursue her master’s degree and teaching license through Relay Graduate School of Education. She appreciated the school’s focus on race and equity and was excited to join a program that prioritizes inclusion. After one year as a Teaching Fellow with KIPP Schools, Ladorris completed her master’s program as a lead preschool educator at Columbine Elementary, in the heart of her hometown.
Ladorris believes that intentional recruitment is the key to growing and diversifying the teacher workforce. “It can be so confusing,” Ladorris said. “Having a coach helps people who want to teach establish a clear idea of where they want to go, the goal they have, and how to get there and maneuver between all of the teacher preparation programs.”
TEACH Colorado was not born in a vacuum. The initiative is a multisector effort of philanthropies, government leaders, and nonprofit organizations, all equally committed to recruiting more talented, diverse teachers. Excitingly, Colorado’s work to elevate the teaching profession doesn’t stop there. Several laws signed during the 2021 and 2022 legislative sessions focus on teachers, including creating a new pathway for adjunct teachers and a new concurrent enrollment opportunity for high-school students interested in teaching; providing some rural teacher preparation program participants with up to $10,000 to pay for tuition, and giving stipends to student teachers.
Ladorris, now ending her first year in the classroom as a lead teacher, is determined to create a warm, equitable classroom for her preschool students. When she was a student, Ladorris did not have teachers who looked like her. Most of her teachers were white and had a limited understanding of Ladorris’ background and culture. “They came from a place of not understanding,” Ladorris explained. “As a teacher of color, I’ve seen and experienced inequity. That’s what pushes me to be the best educator possible.”
Like so many of us, Ladorris believes that elevating and diversifying the teaching profession is paramount to building an equitable future for all students. “It’s very inspiring as a young child to have a teacher who looks and acts like you, has the same experiences, someone who came from the same community like you,” she said. “It helps kids believe, ‘I can do that, too.’”
Do you have students interested in teaching? Click here to access a TEACH Colorado toolkit designed to encourage aspiring teachers to join the profession. The toolkit includes a future teacher nomination form, a flyer for high-school students, unique resources for aspiring educators, and information to help loved ones support the future teachers in their families!
Want more information on TEACH Colorado or are curious how your district (including non-licensed staff members and students) can benefit? Contact TEACH Colorado’s senior program manager Annette Konoske-Graf at email@example.com.
The deadline for the READ Act evidence-based training in teaching reading is Monday, Aug. 1. Educators who teach literacy to K-3 students must submit proof of completion by Monday, Aug. 15.
Using the Colorado Online Licensing system is the most efficient way for licensed teachers to submit their documentation. Unlicensed teachers should fill out this Google form to start their submission process.
Please note that the READ Act training requirement is not mandatory to maintain a teacher’s license status in any way. The benefit of adding the READ Act training designation to an educator’s license is that the proof of completion will stay on the educator’s Colorado credentials for future years as they may change grade levels, schools or districts.
The 2022 legislative session finished up with many successful bills that could impact teachers in Colorado, including legislation to help bolster the teaching ranks, requirements for principals to complete evidence-based training in teaching reading and moves to restart the state’s accountability system.
Major Bills for Educators that Passed in 2022
- HB22-1220 Removing Barriers to Educator Preparation – Creates two stipend programs to support student teachers and candidates for teacher licensure. The bill also requires CDE to adopt alternatives for teachers to demonstrate content knowledge that meets state licensure requirements, such as portfolios in addition to content exams.
- HB22-1248 Extend School Leadership Pilot Program – Continues and makes permanent the school leadership pilot program, which provides leadership training to school principals.
- SB22-004 Evidence-based Training in Science of Reading – Requires elementary school administrators and reading specialists to be trained in scientifically and evidence-based reading instruction. Encourages directors of public libraries to work with CDE to offer evidence-based training to librarians working with early grade readers.
- SB22-137 Transition Back to Standard K-12 Accountability – Provides a transition back to the accountability system for schools and districts. No school or district can come onto the accountability clock or advance on the accountability clock. Directs state resources to schools and districts based on their current academic needs. Allows a way for schools and districts to show academic progress, in addition to the state accountability measures.
- SB22-069 Learning Disruption Effect on Teacher Evaluation – Restricts the use of the Colorado growth model for student academic measures, as a component of licensed educator performance evaluations for the 2022-23 school year.
- SB22-070 Kindergarten Through Twelfth Grade Licensed Personnel Performance Evaluations – Makes changes to performance evaluations for K-12 personnel including requiring that student academic performance make up 30 percent of a teacher's or principal's evaluation starting in the 2023-24 school year.
The Colorado Department of Higher Education has two new educator loan forgiveness programs open.
The Temporary Educator Loan Forgiveness Program is for K-12 licensed educators and counselors working and living in Colorado. The application closes on Wednesday, June 15. To apply, educators should submit the initial interest survey. Then they will receive a link to fill out the detailed part of the application within 72 hours. If they previously submitted an interest survey, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to have the link re-sent. Applicants are eligible for up to $5,000 in loan forgiveness annually. This is a 2-year program. Applicants must re-apply in the second year to be considered for an award in that cycle. Learn more about how to apply and the eligibility requirements.
The Early Childhood Education Loan Forgiveness Program is for educators and early childhood mental health consultants. Recipients can receive up to $5,000 in federal student loan forgiveness annually. Priority will be given to those early in their career and bilingual professionals. The first round of applications closes on June 15. This is a two-year program. Applicants must re-apply annually to be considered.
Application instructions and a checklist of information can be found on CDHE's website. Additionally, financial wellness support, including help navigating the Federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, counseling to find the best student loan repayment strategy for your situation and more, will be made available free of charge to up to 3,000 program applicants. To apply, fill out this form. For questions, please email ECEeducatorfunding@dhe.state.co.us.
Visit the CDHE website for additional information on both programs.
Are you the next exceptional educator who will represent the teaching profession in the state? Apply by Wednesday, June 29, to be the 2023 Colorado Teacher of the Year. Applicants don't have to be nominated to apply.
Each year, the Colorado Teacher of the Year Program honors an exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable and skilled K-12 classroom teacher to represent the entire profession in the state. The selected teacher will automatically become Colorado's nominee for the National Teacher of the Year competition. The national program is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers. Visit the National Teacher of the Year program webpage for more information.
The Colorado Teacher of the Year receives many professional development opportunities and, along with the country’s other teachers of the year, is honored at a special ceremony at the White House and gets the opportunity to go to NASA’s Space Camp. The teacher also becomes a member of the Colorado Education Commissioner’s Teacher Cabinet.
- Colorado teacher evaluation system is set to change
June 1, 2022, Chalkbeat
May 10, 2022, Golden Transcript
May 16, 2022, KOAA
May 2, 2022, Denver Channel 7