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Focus on Education - March 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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State Board Supports Assessment Legislation

On March 10, the State Board of Education voted to support House Bill 21-1161 to reduce the number of Colorado Measures of Academic Success assessments taken by students this spring if the U.S. Department of Education approves a waiver of the federal assessment requirements. The department plans to submit the waiver to the U.S. Department of Education as soon as possible after if the bill becomes law.

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CDE Learning Impacts and Opportunities Town Hall

CDE provided several opportunities recently for legislators to hear about COVID-19 Learning Impacts and Opportunities. The recording of the March 8 town hall conversation is posted here. If you have questions about CDE’s work on expanded learning opportunities or want to coordinate, please contact Jennifer Mello, contract legislative liaison, at 720-301-6137 or

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ESSER II Application Available

CDE launched the online application for districts to apply for their share of the $519 million in Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER II) funds. This is the federal legislation adopted in late December 2020.

ESSER II funds can be used for a wide variety of expenses related to the coronavirus pandemic, including purchasing cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment and educational technology, as well as activities already allowed under other federal education laws (e.g., ESSA, IDEA). ESSER II emphasizes measuring and addressing learning opportunity loss for at-risk students and safely reopening schools. All activities must be allowable, reasonable and necessary to prepare for, respond to, or prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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Binax COVID-19 Testing for Schools

To support in-person learning at Colorado schools, CDPHE is offering both the Binax At-Home COVID testing for educators and school staff as well as the Binax At-School testing program for students. Costs for both programs are covered by the state through the current school year.

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Holocaust and Genocide Studies

As part of the implementation of H.B. 20-1336 and the Colorado Academic Standards review and revision process, CDE formed a committee to provide recommendations for Holocaust and genocide studies for inclusion into the social studies standards. The committee anticipates making its final recommendations to the State Board of Education in June, and the board is required to adopt Holocaust and genocide studies into the social studies standards by July 1, 2021. During the 2021-22 school year, the social studies standards review committee will incorporate these standards into its revision recommendations. Each school district board of education and charter school will need to incorporate Holocaust and genocide studies into an existing course required for graduation beginning on or after July 1, 2023.

Social studies is one of five content areas currently being updated through the standards review and revision process. The other statutorily established content areas being updated this year include dance, drama and theatre arts, music, and visual arts. Three groups of content areas will undergo the review process over the next few years. The next group of content areas up for review will consist of comprehensive health, computer science, physical education and world languages. The final and third group includes English language proficiency, mathematics, science, and reading, writing and communicating.

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Comprehensive Early Literacy Grants

The state board approved $1,677,181 in Comprehensive Early Literacy Grants to 10 districts and one BOCES to help schools improve the quality of reading instruction. Grant funds supplement the READ Act and provide schools with funds to purchase evidence-based reading instruction materials, the Acadience Reading assessment for progress monitoring, literacy coaching and professional development opportunities for teachers.

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Federal Funding for Non-Public Schools

On Feb. 5, the Governor’s Office submitted Colorado’s application for the Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (EANS) grant, which will bring close to $28 million to provide emergency Coronavirus relief for nonpublic schools in the state.

Unlike the equitable services provisions under Title I and Title VIII, this program allows nonpublic schools to apply directly to CDE for funding. The funds may be used for “secular, neutral, and non-ideological” services and assistance, including sanitization, personal protective equipment, COVID testing, educational technology, and connectivity.

The EANS grant program was included in the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) II Fund under the recently passed Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act. Per statute, state education agencies will administer the EANS program and are required to prioritize services or assistance to nonpublic schools that enroll low-income students and are most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Update on In-Person Learning

As of a review of district websites in March, 170 districts are offering either in-person or hybrid instruction to elementary students. These districts serve 379,688 elementary students, or approximately 99% of Colorado elementary students. One hundred sixty nine districts, serving 471,922 students, are offering in-person or hybrid instruction for middle and high school students. This means approximately 99% of middle and high school students provide the option for either in-person or hybrid instruction. CDE continues to work with our partners in the Governor’s Office and the legislature to support efforts, including additional funding, mask distribution, and vaccines and COVID tests for teachers to further increase districts’ capacity for in-person instruction.

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