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Focus on Education - April 2021

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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Assessment Waiver Conditionally Approved

Following the passage of House Bill 21-1161, CDE submitted a waiver request related to state assessments for the 2020-21 academic year to the U.S. Department of Education (USED). Last week, USED conditionally approved Colorado’s plan for the state assessments students in grades three through 11 will take this spring, due to the unique circumstances Colorado schools and school districts faced as as a result of the pandemic.

Under the plan, schools and districts will be required to administer the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) assessments in English language arts to all students in third, fifth and seventh grades. CMAS math assessments must be administered to all students in fourth, sixth and eighth grades. Parents and caregivers who want to know how their children are progressing in both English language arts and math may have their children take both tests. While the USED approved Colorado’s plan to not administer the science assessment to fifth graders or in high school, eighth graders are required to take the science tests. It should be noted that Colorado's request was approved quickly, and to date USED has not received similar proposals from other states.

CDE has developed resources districts and schools can use to communicate the changes to families. All materials may be tailored to meet local needs. More materials will be added as they are updated.

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CDE Launches New eLicensing System

On Tuesday, March 30, CDE launched its new eLicensing system - Colorado Online Licensing, or COOL - that streamlines processes for educators applying for and renewing their Colorado educator credentials, reduces processing time and includes more automated notifications for users. The new system also includes increased options for district human resources personnel and improved features for Colorado's educator preparation programs.

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ESSER Distribution Update

CDE will distribute $16.8 million of the Elementary and Secondary Education Emergency Relief (ESSER) II state reserve funds to support students with the greatest needs. Created by Congress in December, some of the ESSER II funding set aside for state-level activities will go to school districts, BOCES and Tribes that received little or no relief funding in the earlier distribution of the 90% of ESSER II funding based in Title I allocations. CDE will reserve the remaining $35.5 million of ESSER II state reserve funding to support educator recruitment and retention efforts and extended learning opportunities for students who have experienced the greatest impact on learning during the pandemic. Additionally, CDE will distribute $3.6 million from remaining ESSER I funding for online courses and facility schools.

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Graduation Ceremony Guidance

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has posted guidelines for safely planning graduation ceremonies. The guidance allows for discretion based on best practice and provides information on how to implement the details that are not in policy or law. The guidance can be applied to both PK-12 and higher education.

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COVID-19 Tests for Schools

As a part of the state's effort to return students and teachers safely to school, CDPHE is providing the Binax At-Home program free of charge through the end of the 2020-21 school year. The program delivers BinaxNOW antigen tests to the homes of teachers, student-facing staff and eligible students. This initiative is a part of the state’s layered mitigation strategies to allow for safe in-person learning, including the School Mask Program and the prioritization of educators for COVID-19 vaccinations.

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EANS Applications Available

Non-public schools can now apply for their share of the $28 million in Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) Emergency Assistance to Non-public Schools Grant Program (EANS) funds available to Colorado through an online application.

The EANS grant program was included in the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) II Fund under the CRRSA Act. Per statute, state education agencies will administer the EANS program and are required to prioritize services or assistance to non-public schools that enroll low-income students and are most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Under this program, non-public schools can apply for these funds for “secular, neutral, and non-ideological” services and assistance that are in response to, in preparation for and or to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including sanitization, personal protective equipment, COVID testing, educational technology and connectivity. Applications from non-public schools are due on Monday, April 12.

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