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September 2023 Spark

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

A message to you from Education Commissioner Susana Córdova

Portrait of Commissioner Susana Córdova

Photo of books for DonorsChoose story in Spark

A teacher displayed on social media the books she received from her DonorsChoose grant.

 

Hello Educators!

I hope that you are all settled into the new school year! This is a busy time of year, with new kids, sometimes new grades or content and all that goes into planning for success. First Lady Jill Biden says that teaching is not a job, but a lifestyle that permeates your whole being. I am so grateful that you have chosen this lifestyle!

I’ve been the education commissioner for a little over two months now, and although it’s been a very busy (and maybe a little hectic) transition, I am feeling optimistic about so many things.

To start with, CDE was able to provide $11 million in COVID relief funding for teachers’ classroom supplies. (You can read more about this in the story below). This funding went quickly. Teachers were able to apply for up to $800 in classroom supplies – $1,000 in total when fees and shipping costs are included. About 13,000 teachers applied and were awarded the grants in about a week and a half. We would love to see photos and videos of the materials in action, so please share how you will use your supplies on social media by tagging @codepted and using the hashtag #DonorsChooseCO. It will be so great to see how our teachers are putting this resource to use supporting students. 

I’m also feeling optimistic about our results from the statewide assessments taken last spring. Achievement in several grades and tests reached or came very close to reaching the percentage of students who met or exceeded expectations in 2019. This is good news, although there is still a lot of work to be done to fully erase the impacts of the pandemic and close the historic gaps in achievement between different student groups.  It is also worth noting that students across the state seem to be recovering better in math than in English language arts. This is a testament to the excellent work you have done to respond to the alarming drops in math achievement we saw in 2021 and 2022 and your support for students who missed out on important math learning during the pandemic. 

I was also very happy to see the progress so many schools have made on our accountability frameworks after a tough three years. According to our preliminary frameworks released last week, a greater percentage of districts and schools earned the highest rankings in comparison to 2022.

The preliminary frameworks – which take into consideration achievement and growth on assessments as well as postsecondary measures such as graduation and college matriculation – show that you all are doing great work supporting your students. 

As a former teacher myself, I know that we couldn't see this improvement without the hard work, creativity and compassion of educators like you. You have clearly done amazing work supporting your students in regaining ground following the pandemic. Yes, there is still work to be done, but I am incredibly optimistic about our future. 

Remember that you are not alone on this journey. All of us at the Department of Education are working hard to support you in achieving our common goal of ensuring all students receive a high quality education. We have lots of resources to support educators and administrators in this hard work. 

One of the resources that I’d like to highlight is at the end of this newsletter. It is a well-being support line for teachers operated through the University of Colorado’s School of Psychiatry. The support line is staffed from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays for teachers who need someone to talk to. It is a valuable resource that I encourage you to use if you need it.

Thank you for your unwavering commitment to education and for the profound difference you make in the lives of our students. Wishing you all a joyful and successful school year ahead!

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Thousands of teachers received COVID relief funding for school supplies

Spark Photo of DonorsChoose acceptance notice.

 

Thousands of teachers applied for and received classroom supplies through a special CDE initiative that allocated $11 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to help pre-K to 12th grade public school educators obtain classroom resources to address COVID-19 learning loss.

A total of 12,927 teachers were allocated $11.8 million in just over a week of the campaign that was a collaboration between CDE and DonorsChoose, a 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit, to empower educators to secure specific classroom supplies they need to support their students’ academic success. Each Colorado public school teacher received up to $1,000 in project funding from CDE, which included about $800 in materials after fees and other costs.

If your project didn’t get funded or if you were late to apply, don’t fret. Your project will remain available for any DonorsChoose donor to support. Officials at DonorsChoose say about 70% of projects that are posted get funded. 

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Resources to help teachers with AI

Spark Photo for piece on AI

 

In the short time since its first public release, artificial intelligence has already shown its potential to revolutionize the world, and classrooms are no exception. A recent survey by EducationWeek found that while 75% of educators believe AI skills should be taught to students, 87% of educators have received no training on AI instruction.

To remedy this, Code.org, Educational Testing Service, International Society for Technology in Education, and Khan Academy have partnered to provide free online training for educators. The first of six videos was released in mid-August and features Khan Academy Founder Sal Khan and CEO of Code.org Hadi Partovi in a discussion about AI issues in classrooms today. The subject then shifts into enhancing an educator’s knowledge of AI and its applications, including how the technology works, how it can be leveraged to revolutionize the classroom and responsible use of the technology in education.

“We are starting to get an early sense of the impact that AI-leveraged technology will have on our education system, and we know that it will be immense,” said Bill Kottenstette, CDE’s Schools of Choice Director. “Finding ways for teachers to learn about this quickly evolving landscape is critical – not only for their own professional growth but also to help our children make sense of these powerful new tools.”

By February 2023, ChatGPT had already amassed over 100 million users in just two months. Artificial intelligence is expected to revolutionize education and the workplace. One survey found that 73% of C-level executives want their company to embrace generative AI, and nearly half of businesses said they expect to hire more employees as a result of the technology, showcasing the need to train students to use AI responsibly and effectively.

Looking for more ways to see how AI is showing up in classrooms today? Edtech Insiders maintains a database of AI tools that are already being used by teachers, and a description of each tool’s purpose. Applications include assessment writing, flashcard creation, lesson planning assistance, and AI detection.

 

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Results from the state assessments show some improvement, but challenges remain due to lost learning opportunities during the pandemic

Assessment Release Image

Results from the 2023 assessments from the spring show gradual improvements in many grades and subject areas over the previous year with a few grades even performing better than their pre-pandemic cohorts; however, the scores also revealed continued deficits in many areas and for many student groups. 

Here are some notable highlights from the results of the Colorado Measures of Academic Success tests and the PSAT and SAT:

Read more about the release of the assessment and growth scores from the Aug. 17 news release.

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Preliminary school and district performance frameworks released, showing gradual improvement

Image for the Spark story on the frameworks release

A greater percentage of schools and districts earned higher marks on the preliminary accountability frameworks than in 2022, showing a gradual improvement occurring across the state since the pandemic.  

Specifically, 70% of districts earned an Improvement or higher rating compared to 2022 with 54% of districts. Likewise, 78% of schools earned a Performance or Improvement plan type in 2023 compared to 71% in 2022 before requests to reconsider.  

Overall, the number of schools and districts on the Accountability Clock decreased from 2022.   Unfortunately, there was an increase in the number of sites with Priority Improvement assignments, the second lowest measure.

Read more about the preliminary school and district frameworks from the Aug. 29 news release. 

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Computer Science Standards Update

Spark Photo for Standards Story

Based on the State Board of Education’s  guidance, CDE will move forward with minimal revisions to the high school computer science standards – which is the next section of the Colorado Academic Standards to come under the review and revision process.

The Computer Science Standards Revision Committee anticipates presenting a first draft of recommended revisions to the State Board of Education in November. A period of public comment on the proposed revisions will begin in mid-November and last until January. After the public comment period closes, the board will consider the revisions and possible amendments. A vote on the proposed revisions and current standards is anticipated in May 2024.

For more information on the Standards revision process, view the Colorado Academic Standards Review and Revision webpage.

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Apply now for Temporary Educator Loan Forgiveness Program

Spark Photo for Loan Forgiveness

The Colorado Department of Higher Education is offering loan repayment assistance on qualified loans for licensed K-12 Colorado educators and counselors, mainly for those early in their careers who serve in rural and hard-to-fill positions in Colorado. 

Applications are being accepted through the end of September. Those who qualify can receive up to $5,000 in loan forgiveness for a given year. The program is funded for two years. Individuals who continue to qualify may apply every year of the program for up to $5,000 in loan forgiveness annually.

Follow this link to learn more about the loan forgiveness program or to apply.

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Data breach at CDHE could include teacher info

Spark Photo for story on Data Breach

On Aug. 4, the Colorado Department of Higher Education notified the public of a cybersecurity incident that may have involved personal information. In June, CDHE became aware that it had been a victim of a cybersecurity ransomware incident and that certain data was copied from CDHE systems. A subsequent investigation revealed some impacted records included names and social security numbers or student identification numbers, as well as other education records. 

The review of the impacted records is ongoing. While the Colorado Department of Education’s data system was not impacted by this incident, we have been informed that some of the data CDE shared with CDHE was accessed. Please note the data shared between CDE and CDHE are shared in accordance with federal and state laws and are governed by appropriate data sharing agreements.

 Those who may be impacted may include:

 If you believe you are impacted by this incident, CDHE encourages you to sign up for 24 months of complimentary credit monitoring.

For More Information

We understand that members of the public may have additional questions. For assistance with questions regarding this incident, please call our designated hotline at 833-301-1346 between 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, excluding U.S. holidays  Additional information can also be found at https://cdhe.colorado.gov/

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Additional news and resources

book logo

Well-being Support Line for Teachers

 

The University of Colorado’s School of Psychiatry website for Colorado’s teachers includes a well-being support line for any teacher. Additionally, educators will find resources intended to help people cope with the stresses of their jobs including online modules and individual support sessions. The well-being support line is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. This phone line is available for venting, validation, problem-solving and finding resources. The number is 303-724-2500. The support line is also available via text. All other services can be accessed via this phone number, the website, or by emailing coloradoeducatorsupport@cuanschutz.edu.

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