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December 2017

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

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Katy Anthes

Dear teachers,

Hello! Let me introduce myself. I’m Katy Anthes, and I am your commissioner of education. Before I say anything else, let me thank you for all you do for our state’s children. You are the bedrock for our success as a state, nation and community by developing the next generation to be active, supportive, engaged citizens. We all know student success depends on having a great teacher in the classroom. We also know we ask you to do so much, and we can never show you enough gratitude.

When I took on this role as your commissioner about a year ago, I pledged to work with teachers, support them and find new ways to build up the profession. Since then, supporting educators has become one of the Colorado Department of Education’s key strategic goals. We understand your success means success for our students, and we want to support you in every conceivable way.

One of the things I’ve noticed is we don’t have any way to communicate directly with teachers - and you are the linchpin of our successes as a state! We offer this newsletter as a way to keep you up to date on the state-level issues and happenings involving teachers. In this edition, we have articles about my new Teacher Cabinet, the process of reviewing and revising our Colorado Academic Standards, and the plan for addressing our troubling educator shortage.

We hope to keep you informed about the implementation of major policies and legislation that involves teachers as well as other important state-level developments. We also want to highlight good work being done by teachers around the state.

If you’d like to keep getting the SPARK each month, please click here to continue receiving this newsletter. If not, we understand and always invite you to visit our website to get information at your pace and interest level.

We also want to hear from you. Please let us know what you want to hear about, what interests you and how we could provide information to make your job better. Please email any comments or thoughts to CDE_Communications_Office@cde.state.co.us.

Thank you, again, for all you do. Keep up the great work!

Katy

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Teacher of the Year 2017 Christina Randle

Christina Randle, Colorado's new Teacher of the Year, said her lifelong love of teaching and learning began when she was quite young.

Randle, who teaches first-graders at Soaring Eagles Elementary in the Harrison School District, has vivid memories of being a toddler and accompanying her mother when she would volunteer in her older brother's classes.

"When we would leave, my mom would work with me in workbooks until I was able to have my own 'real' homework," Randle said.

When she started to attend school, Randle found herself drawn to helping other students learn.

"One time I would even bring stickers to encourage another boy in my class to work hard and complete his work," she said. "I feel such satisfaction being able to help others. That, combined with my love of learning, made my career choice obvious."

Randle, who obtained her bachelor's degree in English with an emphasis on teaching from the University of Northern Colorado and her master's degree from Grand Canyon University, has been a first-grade teacher for 14 years in Harrison School District and at Soaring Eagles for 10 years. She was selected to be Colorado's Teacher of the Year for 2018 because of her passion for teaching, dedication and collaboration with her peers and commitment to engaging parents in their students’ learning.

She is known for helping out her colleagues across the district in implementing curriculum and is regarded for how she keeps her students' parents updated on their progress, sending pictures, texts and short messages.

"Teaching is the most exhausting, challenging, rewarding career," she said. "You have the ability to make a difference every day, which is actually part of the challenge -- every day matters. Undoubtedly, the relationships I am able to build and maintain with my students and their families is my favorite thing about teaching. I adore my students and my heart smiles when I hear from them even after they leave elementary school. I take pride in their accomplishments and love to watch them grow into productive adults. I also love the unpredictable nature of the job. Every day presents new challenges, new accomplishments, and new memories. Even lessons that have been taught before can reveal different outcomes each time. There is always something to learn and improve, and I thrive on that constant challenge."

As Teacher of the Year, she will automatically be Colorado’s entrant into the National Teacher of the Year competition. She’ll represent the entire profession in Colorado and get many professional development opportunities. She will get to go to NASA’s Space Camp for a week and will be part of a ceremony with all of the nation’s Teachers of the Year at the White House.

The application for the 2019 Teacher of the Year will be released in the spring. Learn more about the Teacher of the Year program.

 

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Teacher working with students.

Colorado's vexing teacher shortage problem has not escaped the attention of legislators or state leaders, prompting legislation in 2017, a series of town hall meetings across the state in the summer and a detailed report that was delivered to legislators on what can be done to address the problem.

The report identified that rural districts have the largest problem in recruiting and retaining teachers, especially in "hard-to-serve" subject areas such as special education, math and science. More than 5,000 teaching vacancies occur every year across the state, and an estimated 100 positions go unfilled every year.

The report, produced by the Colorado Department of Higher Education in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Education, outlined recommendations for recruiting and retaining more teachers in a strategic plan (PDF) and complementary report (PDF).

Titled “Colorado’s Teacher Shortages: Attracting and Retaining Excellent Educators,” the strategic plan (PDF) focuses on four key goals: improving educator retention, increasing teacher compensation and benefits, attracting talent to high-need areas and producing more graduates from educator preparation programs. State officials also recommend enhancing the perception of teaching through a statewide marketing campaign and consideration of more career exploration opportunities for high school students interested in education.

The strategic action plan was informed by the accompanying report “Teacher Shortages Across the Nation and Colorado: Similar Issues, Varying Magnitudes,” which looks at national and state trends. Although the educator shortage has affected all areas of the state, Colorado’s 147 rural and small rural districts have felt it most acutely, and some schools have struggled to fill key positions for years, according to the report.

One of the most revealing findings in the study was the disparity in salaries between Colorado urban/suburban and rural school districts greatly impacts hiring and retention for rural school districts that offer lower salaries. Ninety-five percent of Colorado rural school districts offer salaries below the cost of living in their respective communities.

Although Colorado sees about 5,000 educator openings each year, the supply has not kept pace with demand. Enrollment in and completion of educator preparation programs have declined by 24 percent and 17 percent respectively since 2010, and nearly a third of Colorado educators will be eligible for retirement over the next several years. Compounding these trends, Colorado loses approximately 16 percent of new classroom teachers within the first five years of teaching, the report says.

Many of the recommendations would require community and education partnerships, such as expanding “grow your own” educator or teacher residency programs, while some could be implemented on a state level. Noting the large number of districts that offer average salaries below the cost of living, state officials suggested exploring minimum salaries at or above their cost of living and establishing incentives for educators who teach in hard-to-staff districts and content areas, including STEM and special education.

The recommendations in the report grew out of feedback heard during a series of 13 town hall meetings held throughout the state and attended by more than 400 participants as well as an online survey that drew nearly 6,500 responses. State officials also met with about 100 participants involved with different education groups.

Read the full report (PDF) and a summary of the strategic action plan (PDF).

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Teachers collaborating during a Commissioner's Teacher Cabinet Meeting

The Commissioner's Teacher Cabinet met for its second meeting at the Colorado Talking Book Library in Denver on Nov. 10, providing feedback on the educator shortage strategic action plan and about the proposed revisions to the Colorado Academic Standards.

During a breakout session, educators also shared their thoughts on assessments, accountability and standards - topics of interest they identified at their initial meeting. As part of the exercise, teachers discussed why these areas are part of Colorado's education system, what changes they thought could be done to improve these areas and what policy changes were needed for a systemic change.

The cabinet was created to provide Commissioner Katy Anthes valuable input by teachers on education policy. The group of more than 20 teachers will meet quarterly with Anthes, acting as a sounding board for the implementation of state education policy as well as a source for brainstorming solutions to some of the challenges facing today’s educators, such as raising achievement among all students, supporting low-performing schools and increasing the number of people joining the teaching profession.

More than 170 teachers applied for cabinet spots with 20 teachers being chosen. The cabinet is comprised of teachers from all regions of Colorado, from both charter and traditional schools, various grade levels and ethnicities as well as from rural, suburban and urban schools. Educators will serve two years on the panel.

View a list of the teacher cabinet members.

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Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) Mountain shield

More than 1,500 people shared feedback on proposed revisions to the Colorado Academic Standards during the feedback window that ended in early December.

State law requires Colorado Academic Standards to be reviewed and revised every six years, and the first revision is due by July 2018. For more than a year, the process has been underway with committees, surveys, comment periods and close examination of the grade-by-grade expectations in 10 content areas, English language proficiency standards and the development of new voluntary high school computer science standards.

All feedback received will be organized and posted the week of Jan. 8, 2018, which is the same week all review and revision committees will be conducting their fourth meetings. The feedback will be used to assist the committees in determining what additional revisions are needed prior to making recommendations to the Colorado State Board of Education. Anyone interested in providing additional recommendations is encouraged to send feedback via email to: standardsreview2018@cde.state.co.us.

The review and revision committees have created resources, including summaries and complete lists of the proposed revisions, that can be accessed on the public feedback resources page and will remain available for public access until committees develop final recommendations and provide updated summaries. Final committee meetings will occur the week of February 19, 2018, and final recommendations will be brought to the State Board of Education for approval beginning in the spring of 2018 and ending on or before July 1, 2018.

For more information, contact Karol Gates, director of Standards and Instructional Support, at gates_k@cde.state.co.us or 303-866-6576.

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