Member Meeting Focuses on the Big Blur – A New Model that Blends High School with College and Career

Colorado Succeeds members and partners gathered earlier this month at the Denver Country Club to discuss a new education model gaining momentum both nationally and locally.

Joel Vargas, Vice President of Programs for Jobs for the Future and author of The Big Blur Report, and Dr. Mordecai Ian Brownlee, President of Community College of Aurora, spoke with Succeeds members about the ideology and the groundwork surrounding this new movement, the “Blur.”

Here are some key highlights from the conversation:

What is the Big Blur? 

JV: Only one in four high school students goes on to college and graduates in six years. We simply do not have an education system designed for today’s learners, nor one that meets the needs of business and industry. The big blur is the impatient provocation to the field – it’s not another patchwork – it must become the system. We propose an 11-14 grade system for 16 to 20-year-olds, co-designed with employers regionally, so pathways are aligned with industry needs.

What does the blur look like in Colorado? 

MB: Colorado needs to decide what we want. Do we want a system that meets the needs of today, or are we striving to capture yesterday? Systems will only do what they are designed to do; if we want to meet today/tomorrow, we need to reimagine our current systems. The blur is taking hold and the Colorado community college leaders are designing programs in tandem with business and industry.

JV: Path4Ward is a Colorado initiative that incentivizes young people that finish high school early to use the fourth year of high school and their public funding toward college or workforce training. About 70,000 recent high school graduates in Colorado are currently not working and not enrolled in a postsecondary option. We’ve got to catch these kids before we lose them.

How do we build change? 

MB: Our current system doesn’t work for everyone, we must better serve all types of learners, regardless of economic status, and responsibilities outside of school. Higher education institutions must be responsive to business and willing to re-evaluate curriculum to respond to economic demand. In fact, Aurora Community College is currently sunsetting 30 programs and redesigning forty others that don’t adequately serve the needs of the student or community.

JV: We have to learn from practitioners and early adopters. 20% of high schools in Texas are blur schools (P-TECH, T-STEM), and we can look at what policy conditions existed and remove barriers to make it easier for other states to replicate.

Colorado Succeeds believes every student in Colorado should graduate from high school with a diploma, a postsecondary credential with market value, and a high-quality career-connected learning experience. Through policy and advocacy, we work to ensure all of Colorado’s students have access to a game-changing education.

Visit our Resource Center to view impact briefs analyzing many of the programs currently focused on postsecondary credit opportunities and career-connected learning in high school. 

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