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Spark - August 2023

The Spark. A newsletter filled with information and inspiration for Colorado teachers.

A video message to you from Education Commissioner Susana Córdova


Teacher shortage continues to grow in Colorado 

Photo of empty chairs for teacher storage story.

More than 9,700 teaching and special service provider positions needed to be hired for the 2022-23 school year, according to the recently released Educator Shortage Survey.

The figure equated to 15% of all teaching positions and 20% of all SSP positions across the state, which increased 5 percentage points for teachers and 4 percentage points for SSPs over the previous year, according to the annual survey that gathers facts behind the teacher shortage dilemma facing the state.

“Colorado, like all states in the country, has been wrestling with the teacher shortage issue for several years,” said Colleen O’Neil, associate commissioner for educator talent. “The disruptions caused by the pandemic have exacerbated the problem, creating even more urgency for the state. Teaching remains one of the most rewarding careers that anyone can do, but it is also difficult, and we must find ways to better compensate our teachers.

“We are encouraged by the programs created by the legislature to incentivize prospective teachers and hopefully draw more people to this great profession.”

Of the 8,294 teaching positions open in 2022-23, 9% or 722 positions remained unfilled for the school year. A total of 1,486 of the open positions were filled through a shortage mechanism, which can include granting of an emergency or alternative license. The previous year, there were only 440 unfilled positions.

A total of 257 SSP positions remained unfilled last year – an increase of 34% from the previous year. The most common shortages for SSP positions were school social workers, speech-language pathologists, school psychologists and school counselors. 

Additionally, 472 principal and assistant principal positions and 3,600 paraprofessional positions needed to be filled last year. Only 10 principal and assistant principal positions remained unfilled for the entire school year, and 22 were filled through a shortage mechanism. Of the 3,644 open paraprofessional positions, 570 remained unfilled – a number that increased by 178% from the previous year.

The top core positions that were left unfilled in 2022-23 or were filled by a shortage mechanism:

  • Special Education Generalist – 493 positions
  • Mathematics – 203
  • Science – 168
  • World Language – 57
  • Early Childhood - 53

Schools in rural areas have open teaching positions, which has been a consistent problem for the state. Colorado has developed several programs to address the teacher shortage issue, including funding opportunities for teachers who work in rural areas or hard-to-serve subject areas. Some of those funding opportunities can be found here: https://www.cde.state.co.us/educatortalent/fundingopportunities.

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Workforce initiative provides free tuition for college students pursuing teaching careers

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To address the teacher shortages impacting many schools and districts in Colorado, Gov. Polis, in partnership with the Colorado Community College System, recently announced the launch of Career Advance Colorado. Career Advance Colorado is a workforce development initiative providing free training for in-demand jobs, including jobs in education.

Starting this month, students who enroll in an education or early childhood education training program with one of the 19 community and technical colleges in Colorado will have their tuition, fees, course materials and other costs covered as funding is available. Students must apply for federal and/or state financial aid to enroll in Career Advance Colorado.

Career Advance Colorado is funded through House Bill 23-1246, which dedicated $38.6 million to fully cover enrollment costs for training programs in sectors with significant workforce shortages including construction, early childhood education, education, forestry, firefighting, law enforcement and nursing.

The Career Advance Colorado program builds off the state’s Care Forward Colorado program and will run concurrently as program funding is available.

 

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Loan forgiveness available for teachers or aspiring teachers

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Educators in Colorado with outstanding student loan debt are eligible for several upcoming forgiveness opportunities, enacted to alleviate the burdens of teachers and to encourage more people into the profession as well as bring teachers to rural areas that are experiencing teaching shortages.

 Here is a list of the few active forgiveness opportunities:

  • The ECE Loan Forgiveness Program provides up to $5,000 to eligible educators who are working full time for a licensed childcare center in Colorado and have existing federal student loan debt. The next round of loan forgiveness applications will open on Aug. 4. Click here for more information on the ECE Loan Forgiveness Program
  • The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program forgives up to $17,500 on Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans and Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans to teachers who have taught full time for five complete and consecutive academic years in a low-income school or educational service agency. Follow this link to learn about the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program.
  • The Colorado Rural Student Teaching Stipend provides up to $4,000 for teacher candidates to student teach for a semester in a rural school district. The stipends are from the Center for Rural Education and the Colorado Department of Higher Education. Recipients are expected to complete student teaching in a Colorado rural school district and then apply to and work in a rural school district. Follow this link to learn more.
  • The Rural Inservice Educator Stipend provides eligible recipients with up to $6,000 to offset costs associated with a qualifying program provided by one of Colorado’s institutions of higher education. Recipients must be employed in one of Colorado's rural or small rural school districts, provide evidence of full admission to an institution of higher education with a plan to study specified programs as well as be committed to continuing to teach in a rural school for at least three more years after receiving the award. Follow this link for more information

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Materials available to help teachers communicate with families about assessment results

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CDE created communications materials to help teachers talk with families about the soon-to-be released results of the Colorado Measures of Academic Success tests and the PSAT and SAT.

The materials include fact sheets that explain the purpose of the tests, how to use score reports to help students, and how the growth model can help determine how well students are growing when compared to other students with similar test histories.

The state-, district- and school-level results of the CMAS tests in math, English language arts and science and the PSAT and SATs that were taken last spring will be released to the public on Thursday, Aug. 17. School districts have had their own results since June and student score reports were delivered to the districts in July. 

 

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Rockies offering discounted tickets to teachers for Sept. 1-3 homestand

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Colorado Rockies and TEACH Colorado to invite all teachers, support staff, administrators and volunteers to a special educator night at the ballpark Friday, Sept. 1, through Sunday, Sept. 3. Each ticket purchased through this offer includes a $2 donation to TEACH Colorado. Discounted tickets are available through the Rockies webpage

For questions or for groups of more than 12, contact Ryan Tapp at 303-312-2443 or ryan.tapp@rockies.com.

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TEACH Colorado offers survey for prospective teachers

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CDE works with TEACH Colorado and other partners to bolster the numbers of teachers in the state. Recently, TEACH Colorado created a survey for districts to conduct to identify community members -- parents, alumni, etc.-- who may be interested in advancing their careers through teacher licensure and what challenges they face in doing so. Here is a community toolkit that includes sample emails, flyers and sample social media posts for districts to push out the survey. If your school or district is grappling with a shortage of teacher, ask your district leaders to participate in this survey.

Also, if you know anyone who may be considering becoming a teacher, ask them to take this five-minute survey that will help TEACH Colorado provide free resources for prospective teachers.

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Youth advisors needed for 2023-25 standards revision process

Photo of students needed for standards revision process.

Do you know some exceptionally capable young people who would like to help shape our Colorado Academic Standards? CDE is looking for youth advisors for the 2023-25 Colorado Academic Standards revision process. Every two years, the state is required to review and revise a portion of the Colorado Academic Standards. Recently passed legislation requires the state to include youth advisors in the standards review process. 

The next set of standards to be reviewed will include computer science, English language proficiency, physical education and world languages.  

Applications for youth advisors are available until Tuesday, Aug. 15. The youth advisors must be 14 to 19 years old and enrolled, attending or recently graduated from one of the following:

Youth advisors will serve a two-year term and may be able to serve more than one term. Click here for more information about youth advisors and the standards review and revision process.

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Presidential Award Opportunity

Image of STEM for PAEMST blurb.

Nominate an exceptional kindergarten through sixth-grade teacher for the Presidential Award in Engineering, Math, Science and Technology award. The application is open through Feb. 6. The PAEMST awards are the highest honors bestowed by the U.S. government specifically for K-12 science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and/or computer science teaching. The awards were established by Congress in 1983. The President may recognize up to 108 exemplary teachers each year. 

Awards are given to science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and/or computer science teachers from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Department of Defense Education Activity schools, or the U.S. territories as a group (American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and U.S. Virgin Islands). The awards recognize those teachers who have both deep content knowledge of the subjects they teach and the ability to motivate and enable students to be successful in those areas. Since the program's inception, more than 5,000 teachers have been recognized for their contributions in the classroom and to their profession. Check out Colorado teachers who won the 2022-23 awards -- Sidney Cerise and Erin Wahler-Cleveland

Monitor the CDE Science webpage or the PAEMST site for more information.

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Additional news and resources

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STEM resources available for teachers

Teachers, are you interested in more STEM classroom resources to support your work? If so, please look out for the Monthly STEM Resource highlights featured on the CDE STEM webpage.

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