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Focus on Education - December 2020

Focus on Education: CDE's update for legislators

Focus on Education is a monthly newsletter for Colorado legislators on critical issues affecting K-12 education and CDE’s progress implementing state and federal policies.

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COVID-19 Policy Implications Stakeholder Group Recommendations

The COVID-19 Policy Implications Stakeholder Group released its final recommendations on Dec. 2. No consensus was reached on whether the Colorado Measures of Academic Success tests in mathematics and English language arts should be administered to the state’s third through eighth graders. The group did agree that schools should administer the PSAT and SAT to the extent that local health orders allow and that CMAS tests in science and social studies should be canceled in the spring. Finally, the group also agreed that the calculation and publication of school and district performance frameworks should be paused for the 2021-22 school year.

Review the COVID-19 Policy Implications Stakeholder Group Final report (PDF).

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Statewide Needs Assessment Results


CDE and CEI reported the results from the October School District Community Needs Inventory. Colorado School Districts say they are experiencing critical staff shortages -- from substitute teachers, bus drivers and janitors to special education and classroom teachers – as they struggle to maintain operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the results from the survey. When it comes to educational support needs, while students’ mental health continued to be named as a top student priority, slightly more districts identified K-3 reading loss as a top student priority at this time.

This was the second needs inventory administered during the pandemic to update Colorado's understanding of challenges facing schools and districts as they work to sustain and enhance support for students, staff and families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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READ Act Teacher Training

The State Board of Education provided educators an additional six months to complete the teacher training required by the READ Act. Kindergarten through third-grade teachers will now have until Jan. 31, 2022 to complete their training requirements on evidence-based reading instruction. 

The board directed districts to communicate the requirement to all K-3 teachers by Dec. 1, 2020, and ensure teachers meet the new January 2022 deadline. Districts, BOCES and charters that do not meet the requirements will be ineligible for READ Act funds for the 2022-23 school year.

Teachers have various avenues for completing the requirement, including a no-cost option provided by the Colorado Department of Education.  For more information about the training requirement, check out the CDE website.

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Back to School Working Group

Governor Polis recently announced the formation of a back-to-school working group to help plan the safe return of students to classrooms in January 2021.

The working group consists of teachers, other school staff, superintendents, elected school boards, charter school leaders, health officials and parents. The group will share perspectives and feedback with the governor, Commissioner of Education Katy Anthes and key public health leaders about school reopening.

The group held its first meeting on Nov. 25. For a list of group membership, read the governor's press release.

Note: Unlike other state agencies, CDE reports to the elected State Board of Education rather than the governor. Given the relevancy of the Governor’s Back to School Working Group, we felt it would be helpful to include this information, but CDE is not the lead agency.

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RISE Grantees Announced

Gov. Jared Polis announced the first round of Response, Innovation, and Student Equity (RISE) Education Fund awardees, which includes several school districts, the Charter School Institute and Centennial BOCES. The funding from the $32.7 million RISE fund supports high-needs school districts, charter schools and public institutions of higher education to address the learning challenges related to the economic, social and health impacts of COVID-19.

The second round of RISE applications are due to the Governor’s Office by 5 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 19.

The RISE Fund is an initiative of Gov. Police, and his office is administering the grant application and disbursement of the fund.

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Safe Schools Reopening Grant

CDE is reviewing applications for a one-time $15 million grant funding opportunity for school districts, charter schools and BOCES that are struggling to return to in-person learning and need additional resources to safely reopen when possible. Funding for the Safe Schools Reopening Grant comes from federal Coronavirus Relief Funds allocated to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment that have not yet been spent. CDPHE redirected funds to support public safety and health of school personnel and students. 

Applications for the Safe Schools Reopening Grant were accepted from districts and BOCES that operate public schools on behalf of any school, including charter schools. CDE will announce awards in early December and funds must be spent by Wednesday, Dec. 30.

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Updated Public Health Orders and Outbreak Guidance

On Nov. 12, Governor Polis provided superintendents and school leaders with recent findings concerning school outbreaks and virus mitigation in school settings. 

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment CDPHE also updated  decision-support tools for educators to aid them in determining who needs to quarantine after an exposure in the classroom or school setting. The update is based on outbreak data and stakeholder input and is intended to result in schools being able to maintain staffing and remain in-person to a greater extent. For a list of detailed changes, visit the Archived Latest Updates: 2020-21 Planning Framework and Toolkit webpage.

For more information, visit the CDPHE guidance on cases and outbreaks webpage.


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