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The Spark - February 2023

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

Katy Anthes headshot during the Thanksgiving holiday message

Dear Educators,

I hope you are all doing well during these cold and dark winter days. I know that your jobs are incredibly demanding as you work hard to support your students while dealing with sometimes divisive issues in education. We are working hard at the Colorado Department of Education to support our educators and students, and I’m heartened by the progress we’re making on some longstanding issues in education. 

Until next time, please stay warm and remember that spring is almost here! 


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Colorado’s enrollment dips for the second time in three years

The Spark Photo for Enrollment Release Story

Colorado public schools reported a slight dip in enrollment this fall -- the second decline in three years after three decades of steady year-to-year increases.

Overall, from the October student count, Colorado schools posted a 0.37% decrease in enrollment this fall compared to 2021 with 3,253 fewer students in preschool through 12th grade. A total of 883,264 students in preschool through 12th grade were counted in Colorado’s public schools in October. In 2021, year-to-year enrollment increased slightly after a 2020 decline, which was the first decrease in statewide enrollment since 1990.

This school year, the largest declines are in kindergarten and in middle school years. Kindergarten enrollment declined by 2,373 students in October 2022, or by 3.82%. Middle school enrollment declined by 4,506 students or a 2.24% decline.

Among races and ethnicities, white students had the highest number change in the count with 7,673 fewer students in 2022 compared to 2021, a 1.67% decline. American Indian or Alaska natives had the highest percent drop with 4.65% fewer students in 2022 than in 2021.

A total of 8,674 students were counted as homeschooled this fall compared to 10,502 in 2021. A total of 30,799 students registered in online educational programs this year - 583 fewer students than in 2021 or a 1.86% decrease. 

Ninety-four of the state’s 178 school districts and seven Boards of Cooperative Educational Services reported drops in enrollment with 85 districts and BOCES reporting increasing enrollment.

Follow this link to access the complete 2022-23 school year student count information.


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Statewide four-year graduation rate improves

The Spark Photo for Grad Release


The four-year graduation rate for the Class of 2022 was 82.3% – a 0.6 percentage point increase from the previous year.

A total of 56,284 students graduated in four years, which was 442 more students than in 2021. The four-year graduation rate in Colorado has improved by 9.9 percentage points since 2010 when the state changed how the data were reported. Graduation rates also improved for students who finished in six and seven years.

State dropout rate

The state’s 2021-22 overall dropout rate is 2.2%. This is an increase of 0.4 percentage points from 2021 and the first time the dropout rate increased since 2015. In total, the state saw 10,524 students in grades seven through 12 drop out in the 2021-22 school year -- 2,232 more students than in 2020-21. A total of 48.1% of districts reported their dropout rates were higher in 2021-22 than in 2020-21.

Graduation Guidelines

The state’s Graduation Guidelines went into full effect in the 2021-22 school year. As part of their graduation requirements, school districts had the opportunity to provide multiple pathways for students to demonstrate what they know or can do upon graduation. Students could choose from a Menu of Options embedded in each school district’s graduation requirements to demonstrate their readiness for career, college and the military in both English language arts and math.

Tools to understand the numbers

CDE has created interactive tools and maps to better illustrate how the graduation and dropout rates look across the state.

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Mesa County Valley 51 School District designs a robust teacher mentor program using ESSER funds

The Spark Photo for Mesa 51 Teacher Training Story

This is the second article in a series about how ESSER grants are helping novice teachers through the Teacher Mentor Grant. This article will talk about work being done to prepare teachers in Mesa County Valley School District 51. 

Mesa County Valley 51 School District, which comprises the Grand Junction area, is using ESSER funding to develop a robust teacher mentoring program that includes a curriculum-based professional learning framework to help out its new teachers.

The U.S. government provided states $2 trillion from the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief – also known as ESSER – funds to help school districts recover from the impacts of the pandemic. 

Colorado earmarked a portion of the third round of ESSER funding, known as ESSER III, for a Mentor Program Grant to help ensure that novice teachers receive critical mentorship and coaching support so that they could better navigate the transition into the in-person classroom. 

Mesa 51 was one of 26 Colorado school districts to be awarded money from the state’s $9.5 million Mentor Grant Program. Mesa, specifically, received $520,284 for the two-year grant, said Danny Medved, director of professional learning for Mesa Valley 51 and the lead designer, with three others, on the district’s new teacher induction team.

“Our program is really three overarching parts, with the first being a targeted focus on alternative licensure and pre-licensure, and the second is using curriculum-based professional learning,” Medved said. “But that’s especially true for new educators. We’ve got to equip them to manage a classroom, but that’s only part of the challenge when you’re talking about long-term student engagement and teacher advocacy and success.”

Mesa 51 has identified 120 novice or first-year teachers, 35 of whom are on the alternative licensure track, and put what they are calling “lead content mentors” in place to work with them at all levels of education, including special education. The content mentors create a digital bank of content that can be used throughout the district for years to come. 

“That includes videos of themselves teaching and using high-leverage instructional practices, and then really unpacking things like, ‘Here's what I've learned as a veteran teacher,’ sort of the tips and tricks of the things a new teacher does or doesn’t want to do,” Medved said. “Then we look at how do we use these videos to better plan and engage students?”

The third prong for Mesa 51 has been working with the New Teacher Center, a national nonprofit based in California that partners with school districts to support and amplify educator effectiveness. 

“We’re having them evaluate our overall program, and especially our various mentorship roles,” Medved said. “They will consult with us this year and next, showing us the kinds of mentoring models that are out there, and mostly helping us improve and enhance what we have in place. The big piece with them is, we want to tap into their expertise on program evaluation and assessing impact.”

In addition to the three primary components of its program, Medved said that Mesa 51 is also developing a guiding coalition to support new teachers and their mentors – a Teacher Mentorship and Induction Programming Advisory Committee that starts this year and runs through the next. 

“We have our local university on that committee, as well as our professional learning and induction team, and then the New Teacher Center will actually help us facilitate that process as an outside partner,” Medved said. “Just to say, you know, where are we headed, what really works, what doesn't, what's redundant, and what and when do we need to add things to improve upon what we’ve started?”

Learn more about how Colorado is using its ESSER funding on the Colorado ESSER Report blog.  

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$5,000 annually available through Educator Loan Forgiveness Programs

Spark Photo Loan Program

The Educator Loan Forgiveness Program and the Temporary Educator Loan Forgiveness Program will each provide up to $5,000 annually to educators currently serving rural districts or teaching in hard-to-fill positions.

The Colorado Educator Loan Forgiveness Program recently extended its deadline to Wednesday, Feb. 15. The program is for educators later in their career who meet the following qualifications:

The Temporary Educator Loan Forgiveness Program prioritizes educators early in their career:

Prospective applicants can check eligibility on the CDHE website. Please share this information with your colleagues!


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READ Act training requirements updates

Read Act Training Photo for Spark

As a result of changes to the Colorado READ Act in Senate Bill 19-199 (PDF) and Senate Bill 22-004 (PDF), all K-12 reading interventionists and administrators must complete evidence-based training in teaching reading by Aug. 1, 2024. A reading interventionist is an individual employed to teach students in any grade and whose primary job duties include providing reading intervention supplemental to core academic instruction to students on READ Act Plans during regular school hours.

The Office of Elementary Literacy and School Readiness hosts monthly live informational webinars to provide updates on the READ Act training options and requirements.

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Additional news and resources

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Educator Preparation Program Search Engine

CDE launched an updated Educator Preparation Program Search, expanding filters to provide both potential and current educators and others detailed information on Colorado traditional and alternative preparation programs. This updated search engine is easier to navigate than the previous version and, with additional search fields, returns more applicable results.

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