Two Colorado Districts’ Ideas of How School Should Work

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Most of us are used to the business concept of the disruptor – a company or idea that utterly changes how business is conducted, for the better. Think of how Amazon changed retailing or how Uber is transforming transportation.

We should look to embrace disruptors in our education system to rethink how education works. Too often our schools are stagnant, suffering from tight budgets and stale curriculum. Too often our kids burn out because they don’t feel connected to what they are learning or cannot see where it could take them.

At Colorado Succeeds – a coalition of business leaders committed to improving our state’s education system – we want our students to receive an education that prepares them for our workforce and provides them with the skills to help our economy thrive. We work to shine a light on disruptive innovation so it spreads to other schools. Among those successes are two Colorado school districts – Falcon 49, which fundamentally rethought the way schools operate, and St. Vrain Valley, which has transformed its approach to education.

Falcon District 49 near Colorado Springs has completely overhauled its operational management. Those of us in the business sector know that restructuring layers of management can be difficult but transformational. Traditionally districts are run by a superintendent, someone expected to be a gifted educator, a great executive and a strong leader. Falcon instead has three top executives – a chief education officer, chief business officer and chief operations officer. Layers beneath were removed; the education chief works directly with teachers.

Brett Ridgway, Falcon’s chief business officer, explains the approach as one where, “We are not telling schools what to do; they are telling us what they need. We are now their consultants, their resources.” Despite being among the lowest-funded districts in Colorado, Falcon thrives under the new system of student-based budgeting, where school leaders control how money is spent and per-pupil dollars follow children to their school of choice.

This piece originally appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette. To read the entire piece, click here.

Colorado Succeeds