New Pilot Program to Remove Barriers to Innovation Opens Application Process


DENVER – November 13, 2019— Building on research from the Colorado Roadmap to Work-Based Learning, Colorado Succeeds convened key education stakeholders in 2018 to better understand the barriers to innovation. The resounding response –cumbersome paperwork tied to student schedules in order to receive funding impacts a school’s ability to offer experiential learning, especially when partnering with community or industry partners on programming outside the classroom.

Known as seat-time requirements in Colorado’s school finance law, districts must demonstrate a minimum number of teacher-pupil instruction and contact hours in the classroom. A certain number of contact hours must be met to receive full-time funding. If documented hours fall under a threshold, the district receives less funding.

Tying school funding to how much time a student spends in a school building can limit the ability for districts to offer work-based learning opportunities that include instructional time at a business. Championed by Senator Jeff Bridges (D) and Representative Shannon Bird (D), and supported by Colorado Succeeds in the 2019 legislative session, Governor Polis signed a new option for districts called the Innovative Learning Opportunities Pilot Program (ILOP) into law on May 10, 2019.

“We believe learning happens everywhere – and that learning should be validated and valued by Colorado’s schools and districts,” said Kelly Caufield, Vice President of Government Affairs. “This work began with Vision 2030, looking at how we ensure that all kids have the opportunities they need to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow. We need to think about ways we can help students learn how to learn, not just what to learn and much of that can happen through partnership and experiences outside the classroom.”

This Colorado Department of Education pilot program:  

  • Allows participating districts to count the students enrolled in the experiential programs outlined in the district’s plan as full-time students, regardless of the actual amount of time the students may spend in the classroom.
  • Expected to free districts from tracking hours of students participating in the approved experiential learning program.
  • For the first year, five districts will be selected in an RFP from the Colorado Department of Education for the 2020-2021 school year.
  • Scales to include all districts by 2025 based on available funding.

“I am interested in applying for the pilot because it removes barriers to creating viable work-based learning opportunities for all students in Colorado. It aligns with the 2021 competency-based graduation requirements, and it will benefit the students and school districts of Colorado,” said Becky Harmon, Director of Special Education, Weld Re-3J School District.

The ILOP application for school districts is now available here on the Colorado Department of Education website. A letter of intent is due by 3pm on November 22.

Policies that remove barriers to education like ILOP are discussed in depth in the recently released series, “Agility Explained: Achieving Vision 2030 Through Policy.” The policy papers, released by Colorado Succeeds this month, explore additional policy ideas that rethink school funding, expand innovative high school models, and build more opportunities for rural communities.

“The world is changing at an unprecedented pace. It is important to create multiple pathways to success. When students can apply what they’re learning to their community and the world around them it gives them greater hope for their future,” said Caufield.

About Colorado Succeeds: Colorado Succeeds is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that brings together Colorado’s business leaders to make sure the education system works better and smarter for all the people of Colorado. We believe Colorado is the best place to live and work, and we want it to stay that way.


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