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The SPARK - February 2019

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

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Photo of Commissioner Katy Anthes interacting with preschooler

Dear Teachers,

Thirty years ago, our legislature had the foresight to create the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP), providing high quality early education for our state’s most vulnerable children. Today, data on graduation rates, reading rates and elementary retention have proven that CPP has made a positive impact on the lives of thousands of children.

I was incredibly honored to have the opportunity to celebrate CPP’s achievements at a beautiful new preschool building in Englewood a few weeks ago.  Gov. Jared Polis even joined us to celebrate the program’s impact.

The Englewood School District has taken what we know about how young children learn, and built an environment at the Englewood Early Childhood Education Center at Maddox that is truly designed to nurture learning through play and exploration. Its enchanting indoor playground served as our backdrop as we announced the first-ever set of longitudinal data connecting increased high school graduation rates with children funded through CPP 13 years earlier.

I’m proud to serve in a state that had the foresight to invest in building strong foundations for children three decades ago.  CPP was designed to serve children from ages 3 through 5 who have at least one risk factor that could derail their future success in school. Today, the program is looked at nationally as a model for increasing equity in our system, and our data on its impact should be a huge point of pride for all of us in the Colorado education system.

I am so grateful to all the teachers, parents, administrators, policymakers and legislators who have believed in and worked hard to support this program for the last three decades. My thanks to you for building a strong foundation for our children.



Photo of the Capitol for The SPARK

As teacher pay continues to dominate the news cycle, many people wonder why tax revenue generated by marijuana sales hasn’t provided more relief for school districts’ tight budgets.

The answer is both simple and complex. But it comes down to how voters and the legislature decided marijuana tax revenue should be dispersed. 

Tax revenues generated from medical and recreational marijuana sales goes to school construction and some education-related grant programs that work to prevent bullying, boost school health centers, improve early literacy and discourage dropouts.

In total, marijuana tax revenue that came to the Colorado Department of Education for the 2017-18 school year was $90.3 million. This pales against the overall state K-12 education funding of $5.6 billion for that year.

Here is how that money breaks down:

Other education-related legislation:

  • Voters in 2012 approved Amendment 64 for legal marijuana sales, promising the first $40 million in excise taxes to be reserved for school construction. That will change this year to be 90 percent of the excise taxes or the first $40 million, whichever amount is greater.
  • In 2014, the legislature created the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund that is funded by recreational and medical marijuana tax revenue. That fund has fueled grant programs offered through CDE:
    • The School Health Professional Grant
    • The Bullying Prevention and Education Grant
    • The Early Literacy Grant
    • The Student Re-engagement Grant

Districts are hesitant to put that money into salaries, which are permanent fixtures while marijuana funding is unpredictable. As The Denver Post reported in a recent article: “Much of the reason why marijuana tax dollars have not been targeted toward teacher salaries is the mercurial nature of the funding stream. Raises dependent on marijuana sales would be as precarious as the funding itself.”

A small percentage of marijuana tax revenue goes to something called the State Public School Fund, which will be one of the sources for the state share of total program funding through the School Finance Act beginning in FY 2019-20. While a large portion of total program funding is spent on salaries and benefits for district employees, the marijuana funding does not necessarily represent an increase in funding districts receive through the School Finance Act.

Find out more about how marijuana money is distributed for education programs on this webpage.


Image of devices used for vaping

Youth vaping has become a big health concern and officials are looking to schools to help students understand the dangers and discourage young people from smoking and vaping.

Colorado has the highest percentage of young people vaping in the country at 26.2 percent of high-schoolers, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is almost twice the national average of 13.2 percent. The increase in youth vaping is so alarming that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has declared it an epidemic.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment wants teachers and other adults to have the most reliable information about vaping to help explain the factual concerns about the activity. The department has put together a resources page with facts, support groups for youth seeking to quit the habit and videos of doctors.

One of the strategies to discourage youth from getting involved with smoking and vaping is to implement a tobacco-free school policy. The nonprofit Rocky Mountain Center for Health Promotion and Education has put together a Tobacco-Free Schools Policy Checklist Toolkit with tools and strategies for developing and implementing comprehensive policies and guidance to enforce tobacco-free school policies. You can find that toolkit here.

In addition, RMC Health also offers the Second Chance program, which is a web-based tobacco education program for middle and high school youth who have violated a tobacco policy at school or in the community. It is intended to help students think about the role that tobacco plays in their lives and move them to quitting.

Finally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration produced posters that can be displayed at schools that discourage smoking and use of e-cigarettes. The posters, which also address the potential health consequences of e-cigarette use, are available for download or for print via the CTP Exchange Lab. Download or order the posters for your school or classroom here.


Image of grad cap for graduation rates and enrollment

Every year in January, the Colorado Department of Education releases some vital data about schools – showing last spring’s graduation rates and this fall’s enrollment rates.

The information is used in a variety of important ways.

For example, graduation and dropout rates inform the state’s accountability system, which annually gives schools and districts ratings based on three categories of performance: average scores on state assessments, progress students make in their achievement on assessments from year to year and postsecondary readiness.

The last component specifically looks at graduation and dropout rates in secondary schools as well as average scores on the SAT and matriculation into college. These factors represent how well the schools are preparing their students for college and the workforce.

The Class of 2018’s graduation rate increased to 80.7 percent, which was 1.7 percentage points higher than the previous year for the four-year graduation rate. It was the highest rate since 2010, when the state changed how the rate was reported. The rate has steadily increased 8.3 points since 2010.

Minority students’ rates are also improving. The four-year graduation rate for minority students is 75.3 percent, which is a 2.2 percentage point increase from the previous year.

In addition, the state’s dropout rate is 2.2 percent, which is an all-time low. In total, the state saw 10,180 students in grades seven through 12 drop out last year, which is 241 fewer than dropped out the previous year. You can read more about the graduation CDE’s press release.

You can get more information about graduation rates here, including finding the rates of your own school.

You can get more information about the dropout rate here.

Enrollment data is also used for an important function, determining the funding each school gets under the Public School Finance Act of 1994. Every October we have the Student October Count, which is based on a one-day membership count in every district to determine how many students are actively enrolled and attending classes in the district on that day.

The 2018-19 October count was Wednesday, Oct. 3. Ultimately, this information will determine the per-pupil funding that the district will receive.

This year’s count showed the smallest increase in the statewide enrollment numbers in nearly 30 years. Colorado’s pupil membership grew only 0.1 percentage point from the previous year – adding a mere 1,256 preschool through 12th graders for a total enrollment of 911,536 students.

The top 15 school districts – mostly along the Front Range – contain 67.1 percent of the state’s school children. Conversely, 132 smaller school districts, each with fewer than 2,000 students, have a total of 66,380 students, or 7.3 percent of the total enrollment.

You can find all of this interesting enrollment information on a news release about the pupil membership announcement.

You can also delve deeper into the data by following this link.


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Parents Page Image

State assessments are right around the corner, so the Colorado Department of Education has created some resources to help you answer questions you may get from parents and students.

It is important to emphasize for parents that statewide tests are just one measure of a student’s academic progress. The state summative assessments are designed to be point-in-time snapshots of what students know and can do in core content areas. 

Below are some resources that provide information about the tests:

Need-to-know information, such as length of each test, can be found on the CMAS At-a-Glance fact sheet and on the PSAT & SAT Overview webpage.

Materials to help explain what the state does with the test results:

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book logo

CDE has created a resource to help teachers find professional development opportunities over the summer. In the comprehensive search tool, you will find such courses as “Collaboration: It CAN be learned” and “Pushing the Sage off the Stage and Putting the Learner First,” facilitated by CDE’s own Becky Russell – an instructional specialist/school library consultant.

Access the PD Tool.


Colorado's Stories of Promising Practices

District 49 makes early literacy a priority and uses resources from the READ Act to improve reading in the early grades. Learn more.

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