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THE SPARK - December 2018

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

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Photo of Education Commissioner Katy Anthes by Christmas Tree.

Dear Educators,

I have a special request for all of you this holiday season. Please take care of yourselves during your break. Rest, relax and have some fun!

During the school year you are taking care of everyone else – your family and your students. During your winter break, I hope you give yourself the gift of rest. Sleep in, read a book, go for a walk or do whatever relaxes you. Give your body a break from your go-go-go schedule.

Have some fun! Learning is serious work, and I know you are driven to serve your students, families and colleagues. Take some time to bring joy into your life. Binge-watch some TV, read a lighthearted book, see some movies, go ice skating, build a snowman. Do something that brings a smile to your face!

When you head back to your classroom in January, your students will need you at your best. And you can’t give them that unless you are rejuvenated. So rest up, have some fun, and head into January ready to support your students.



CMAS and CoAlt High School Social Studies Assessment Deferred for Spring 2019

The Colorado Measures of Academic Success social studies assessment for high school students has been deferred by the Colorado Department of Education for this spring, in part because of the recent adoption of revised academic standards.

The CMAS/CoAlt high school social studies assessment has not been given since 2014 when 12th-grade students took the assessment. Given the revisions to the social studies standards approved by the State Board of Education last spring, waiting to move forward with this assessment will provide time for thoughtful consideration of district and stakeholder priorities before assessing 11th-grade students for the first time.

However, the CMAS/CoAlt social studies assessments still will be administered on a sampling basis to approximately a third of the state’s fourth- and seventh-graders this spring.

Additionally, fifth-, eighth- and 11th-grade CMAS/CoAlt science assessments will be administered as scheduled.

Colorado's official testing window for all spring 2019 CMAS and alternate assessments will be April 8-26. For more information about the purpose of state assessments and a schedule of all assessments, check out this handout created with parents in mind.

Coming soon! Computer science grant for teachers

Elementary school teachers in Colorado will have the opportunity to attend free professional development in computer science and receive a $250 stipend in 2019.

Colorado is trying to catch up to the demand for more college graduates with degrees in computer science by focusing on the state’s K-12 classrooms. Offering free training for elementary school teachers is one of the investments in teacher training intended to increase computer science learning opportunities for students.

The goal is to help kids develop interest in this high-demand area and ultimately encourage more students to pursue careers in the promising field of computer science.

Next month, CDE will announce the details behind the professional development, which is being offered in partnership with the Colorado School of Mines. The training sessions will be offered across the state with at least one training session per region. In addition, participating teachers will qualify for a $250 stipend.

Training sessions will be held in Fort Collins, Sterling, Limon, Lamar, Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Parachute, Dillon, Durango, Alamosa, Trinidad, Steamboat Springs and Denver Metro.

Teachers will have a second option to participate in computer science training if their school district chooses to provide professional development directly for its teachers. School districts will have the option between two organizations that meet the requirements for computer science training for elementary educators, BootUp and mindSpark Learning.

Both training options for teachers are part of the Computer Science Teacher Education Grant Program, which, thanks to a collaboration between the state legislature and the Colorado State Board of Education, received $500,000 this year specifically for the elementary school level.  

For updates in January and additional information, visit the Computer Science Grant for Teachers webpage.


Icon graphic for Personal Financial Literacy

With more young people falling into deep debt to pay college costs, education officials understand the necessity of teaching K-12 students about personal financial literacy.

CDE has compiled a host of free instructional resources about personal financial literacy on its website, ranging from sample curriculum, activities, online tools and lesson plans provided by personal finance organizations.  The site also includes professional development opportunities available for teachers.

“Regardless of education level, students are going to need skills in financial literacy,” said Alyssa Wooten, personal financial literacy education content specialist at the Colorado Department of Education. “No matter what industry or level of education, they will have to pay bills and they will have to understand insurance. The idea is to allow them to learn in the classroom rather than through personal life mistakes.”

Studies have shown that college students who were required to take a personal finance course in high school took out fewer private loans, received more money from federal subsidized loans and carried lower credit card balances while in college.

Next spring, the state will offer workshops for teachers on personal finance and how to teach it at locations around the state.

Workshops are scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for the Denver-metro area on April 6, Durango on June 13, Windsor on June 18 and La Junta on June 21. Click here for more Information on the workshops or to register.  Teachers unable to attend the workshops can access the workshops through CDE’s online learning platform. Within the workshops, there will be breakout sessions on how to interpret the standards for each grade level. Each participant will receive a $100 stipend for attendance at the end of the day. And travel stipends of $50 are available for teachers traveling more than 75 miles to attend the class.

Fewer than 20 districts in Colorado have a personal financial literacy component in their graduation requirements. Recently, St. Vrain Valley School District added financial literacy to its requirements after students made the request to the local school board.

“We were offering financial literacy within our government class, but students didn’t feel like they were getting enough financial literacy,” said Jenny Pettit, K-12 social studies coordinator at St. Vrain Valley School District. “Students are realizing what does it mean to get a scholarship to pay for college or what does it mean to get a credit card. They see the value in getting more information in a stand-alone class.”

Teachers created the curriculum and received professional development from Economic Literacy Colorado, a nonprofit that specializes in teaching young people about financial literacy. The teachers also received more content-related assistance from economics Professor David Aske from the University of Northern Colorado.

“It’s great. The teachers love it,” Pettit said. “They feel very supported. A lot of work went into the curriculum. It is very varied. There are a lot of hands-on activities and tons of simulations. The teachers took all of the personal financial literacy standards and devised the curriculum around those.”


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Graphic with photos of each book for voting for One Book Colorado program

A penguin in space, penguins who love colors or a belligerent pug dog named “Pig.”

These are the characters in three children’s books nominated for the One Book Colorado program – an annual program that gives away 75,000 copies of the same book in English or Spanish to every 4-year-old in the state.

Teachers, students of all ages, parents, families and community members are invited to help select the book. Visit to vote for your favorite title:

  • Penguinaut! by Marcie Colleen
  • Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey
  • Penguins Love Colors by Sarah Aspinall

Anyone can cast a vote on the program’s website until Tuesday, Dec. 31.

Teachers are encouraged to have their class visit to see Colorado leaders read the selections and vote on which selection they think should win. Notable figures reading the books include Colorado Education Commissioner Katy Anthes and Governor-elect Jared Polis.

After the winner is announced on April 8, families can pick up a free book for their 4-year-olds until April 22 at any Colorado public or military library or in a Denver Preschool Program classroom.

The privately funded program began in 2012, modeled after the successful Preschool One Book, One Denver program. Both programs stem from the idea that providing young children access to books promotes early literacy skills and helps families serve as their children’s first and most important teachers.


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