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The Spark - April 2022
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This year has continued to be incredibly challenging for all of us in education, but it’s been heartening to see a return to many of our normal joys this spring. Our masks are coming off and we’re enjoying basketball games, musicals, school dances and just the simple pleasure of seeing our students’ smiles.
We’re returning to another routine this month with our typical state assessment schedule. Students in grades three through eight are taking our Colorado Measures of Academic Success assessments in English language arts and math while science will be taken in grades five, eight and 11. PSAT will be given to ninth and 10th-grade students and the SAT to 11th-graders.
State assessments may not be your favorite thing about being a teacher, but they are important to our educational communities, parents and students. They serve as the only common measurement – the only common test that all students take – to gauge how all students are doing on a shared set of high expectations called the Colorado Academic Standards, which were developed by Colorado educators to ensure students graduate with the critical thinking and problem-solving skills they need in our complex world.
Our standards and assessments let us know how we’re doing collectively on our work to build and maintain the very foundation of our democracy – our public education system. Because when every student in every school and every community receives a high-quality education, our communities will be stronger. Taxpayers fund education because we need all Americans to graduate from high school with the necessary content-based skills, as well as knowing how to think critically and engage respectfully with a variety of perspectives. Graduates need to be able to evaluate the information they are bombarded with daily to get to the bottom of what happened and what it means so they can productively engage in our democratic society.
That may sound like a grand way to describe the value of state assessments, but we need to know how all students are doing so that we can identify and deploy additional support and resources to ensure that all students – in every school and every community – receive a high-quality education.
As we watch a brutal autocrat attack the young democracy in Ukraine, I can’t stop thinking about how precious our democracy is. We cannot take it for granted. It must be nurtured and cared for by every generation, and the best way to do that is to ensure all students receive a high-quality education.
Thank you for your incredible work during another very challenging year in public education. I know it hasn’t been easy, and I know that many of you are weary. Please know that I see the hard work you put in for your students and families, and I am incredibly grateful to you not only for the knowledge and skills you build in your students but also for the important role you play in strengthening our communities and our democracy.
Congratulations to Stephanie Basile and Michelle Dillard, Colorado's latest recipients of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching are the highest honors bestowed by the U.S. government specifically for K-12 science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science teaching. The award recognizes teachers who have both deep content knowledge of the subjects they teach and the ability to motivate students to be successful in those areas.
Stephanie Basile teaches at STEM Lab in Northglenn, part of the Adams 12 Five-Star School District, where she serves as the K-6 engineering and computer science teacher. See Stephanie's full award profile here.
Michelle Dillard teaches at Ford Elementary School in Centennial, part of Littleton Public Schools, where she teaches fifth grade. See Michelle's full award profile here.
Recipients of the award receive a certificate signed by the President of the United States, a paid trip to Washington D.C. to attend recognition events and professional development, and a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.
The Colorado legislature has entered the home stretch with education legislation continuing to be an important part of this session. We picked out the most important bills being discussed that would affect Colorado’s public school teachers.
- HB 22-1126 Eligible Educator Classroom Expenses Tax Credit: This bill proposes to provide an income tax credit for eligible educators’ classroom expenses. It was approved by the House Finance Committee in early March and will move to the House Appropriations Committee next.
- HB 22-1202 At-Risk Student Measure for School Finance: This bill proposes to use a new measure to identify students who are at risk of below-average academic outcomes because of socioeconomic disadvantage or poverty in order to allocate resources through the state's public school funding formula. It also creates a working group to implement the new measure in the 2023-24 budget year. The bill has been approved by the House and has moved on to the Senate.
- SB 22-137 Transition Back to Standard K-12 Accountability: After the two-year pause in the state’s accountability system due to pandemics, this bill would provide a pathway to transition back to the standard state accountability system. The bill has moved through the Senate and will head to the House Education Committee next.
- HB 22-1220 Removing Barriers to Educator Preparation: This bill aims to remove barriers in educator preparation by creating a stipend program for student educators and establishing a portfolio option for educators to demonstrate professional competencies in their application for an initial teacher license. The bill has advanced out of the House Education Committee and is awaiting approval by the House Appropriations Committee.
- HB 22-1248 Extend School Leadership Pilot Program: This bill extends the School Leadership Pilot Program, which provides professional development for public school principals across Colorado. The bill was approved by the House Education Committee and will move on to the House Appropriations Committee next.
- HB 22-1295 Department Early Childhood and Universal Preschool Program: This bill creates and implements the new Colorado Department of Early Childhood and the state’s Universal Preschool Program, which was approved by voters through Proposition EE. The bill was approved by the House Education Committee and awaits approval by the House Appropriations Committee.
- SB 22-004 Evidence-based Training in Science of Reading: This bill would require each principal in a public school that serves kindergarten through third-grade complete evidence-based training in the science of reading. The bill was approved by the Senate Education Committee and has moved to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
- SB 22-070 Kindergarten Through 12th Grade Licensed Personnel Performance Evaluations: For purposes of educator evaluations, this bill would reduce the weight given to measures of student academic growth, provide more training for evaluators, and bring back educator evaluations in 2023-24. The Senate Education Committee approved the bill and it will now be taken up in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Do you know an exceptional colleague who should represent Colorado’s educators? Nominate them to apply for the 2023 Colorado Teacher of the Year award.
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.
This special teacher also gets to attend the following events:
- The National Teacher of the Year Induction, is an opportunity for the country’s teachers of the year to come together and understand their identities in their new roles.
- Washington Week, an opportunity to go to the nation's capital for recognition. Teachers will get to visit the White House and meet the president as well as attend the National Teacher of the Year gala.
- NASA Space Camp, where teachers participate in a version of astronaut training designed specifically for educators to take strategies and concepts back to their classrooms.
- College Football Playoff National Championship Game to participate in the College Football Playoff Foundation’s Extra Yard for Teachers event, which elevates the teaching profession by inspiring and empowering quality teachers.
To nominate someone, complete the brief online survey form with some basic information about the educator you're nominating. After a teacher is nominated, they are sent a notification and invitation to apply.
Interested in applying yourself? CDE will announce the release of the application process in the May edition of The SPARK. Teachers do not have to be nominated to apply.
Thank you to Denver 7 for supporting the Colorado Teacher of the Year program. Visit TheDenverChannel.com for coverage of the program, including the announcement of the 2022 winner, Autumn Rivera.
- Denver teacher surprised with the national award of excellence, Fox 31, March 17, 2022.
- Education groups take the first step to get school funding initiatives on the November ballot, Colorado Public Radio, March 3, 2022.
- This Colorado teacher is about to climb Mount Everest, Chalkbeat, March 22, 2022.
- Don’t forget the adults: How schools and districts can support mental health, Education Week, March 1, 2022.
Website features PD opportunities
CDE hosts a webpage to help educators find professional development opportunities. The page includes resources that are self-paced and can include online learning modules, archived recordings and more. There is also a search tool for upcoming opportunities, such as scheduled events, in-person training, live webinars and more.