We know that our current education system must become more responsive in preparing agile learners. Major economic shifts – from shuttering factories, shrinking industries, and the emergence of artificial intelligence – challenge the 120-year-old school model into question. Colorado is going to need bold leadership to move our schools and systems.
In Colorado, for every 100 students entering high school only 34 of them will earn a postsecondary credential in 4 years. Overall, Colorado ranks 45th in the nation for on-time graduation from high school. The state cannot afford to ignore these stark facts and figures, which is why newly elected Gov. Jared Polis started off his State of the State address with a message to “every kid in Colorado.”
After thanking his new colleagues, staff, and predecessor, he swiftly moved into education. “If we want Colorado to be a place where every person can build a great life for themselves, where our economy can continue to grow fueled by a skilled workforce, then our schools need to provide students with the tools they need to succeed,” said Gov. Polis.
Gov. Polis proceeded to propose “the single biggest expansion of early childhood education in Colorado history,” through his full-day kindergarten proposal, addressing the teacher shortage, and reducing high school dropout rates. Released soon after his address, his proposed state budget earmarks $2 million for a “High School Freshman Success Fund” and funding full-day Kindergarten. His proposal calls for a 5.41% increase in education funding from 2017.
Colorado Succeeds is encouraged by the sense of urgency from Gov. Polis to improve the education system. In line with his comments as a candidate last year, the priority he is placing on education and making sure students are supported to pursue viable career paths helps us answer the big question: “What if Colorado Schools Were #1?”
The economic impact of a highly educated workforce is one Colorado cannot afford to lose out on. During this legislative session, we are supporting a policy that would remove barriers to scaling apprenticeship and other work-based learning in high schools by eliminating the seat-time requirements in school finance. The focus should be on outcomes, not inputs. Student mastery of skills and competencies matters more than seat time.
Additionally, working through Colorado’s Education Leadership Council (ELC) has been a top priority for Colorado Succeeds. In order to maximize impact, efforts to change the way schools in Colorado are preparing students must be accelerated. The success stories that we have found through our research on responsive learning environments led to a chair position on the ELC subcommittee “Responsive Systems that Produce Agile Learners” to better outline schools and programs that rise above as examples of learning in the Age of Agility. In agreement with Governor Polis’ vision, “We need to invest in proven programs that prevent students from falling through the cracks, and work with local communities to provide students the support they need to succeed in high school and in life.”
We will continue to work with Governor Polis to ensure the important work of the Education Leadership Council and our shared vision for improving education in Colorado remains a top priority. If we truly want to become the top state in education we have to continue to bridge the gaps: connecting education and industry, working with all policymakers, and partnering with advocates to ensure a quality education for all.