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Colorado business leaders, including Jesus Salazar of Credera and Kelly Brough of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, support the Colorado Academic Standards because they raise the bar for our students. These higher standards will better prepare Colorado’s students for the rigors of college and the workforce, and ultimately strengthen our pipeline of homegrown, skilled workers.

But don’t take our word for it. Hear what the local business community has to say.

Check out this new video from our partners at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on the importance of high academic standards.

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Source: U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Cheryl Oldham is the Vice President of the Center for Education and Workforce at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

Another summer has come and gone and students across the country are getting acclimated to new teachers, new classrooms, new books, and new friends. The beginning of this school year provides us with an opportunity to look back over the past 12 months at the successes and the challenges as high education standards were implemented across the country. Despite what you may have heard, the 2014–2015 school year was an overwhelming success for high standards and, more importantly, for students being taught necessary skills to thrive beyond high school.

Much of the media coverage about the Common Core State Standards would make you believe that states are running away from the standards left and right. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, no states repealed the standards during their 2015 legislative sessions. That’s right. None. In fact, teachers are using the Common Core State Standards (or their equivalent in some states) in classrooms from coast to coast, and students are beginning to reap the benefits. (Read The 74 Flashcards: 20 Basic Things to Know About the Common Core)

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Kevin Knudsen is a professor of mathematics at the University of Florida

Math can’t catch a break. These days, people on both ends of the political spectrum are lining up to deride the Common Core standards, a set of guidelines for K-12 education in reading and mathematics. The Common Core standards outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. States don’t have to adopt the standards, although many did in an effort to receive funds from President Obama’s Race to the Top initiative.

Conservatives oppose the guidelines because they generally dislike any suggestion that the federal government might have a role to play in public education at the state and local level; these standards, then, are perceived as a threat to local control.

Liberals, mostly via teachers’ unions, decry the use of the standards and the associated assessments to evaluate classroom instructors.

And parents of all persuasions are panicked by their sudden inability to help their children with their homework. Even comedian Louis CK got in on the discussion (via Twitter; he has since deactivated his account).  (more…)

In a recent video from Real Learning for Real Life, Colorado educators discuss the role they played in developing our state’s new high quality assessment. Check it out!

 

Why is improving our education system important for businesses’ bottom lines? As Colorado business leaders know, it’s simple: Today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce. And a skilled and educated workforce is essential for U.S. businesses to remain competitive at home and abroad.

Cheryl Oldham, Vice President of Education and Workforce Policy with the US Chamber of Commerce, recently discussed this exact topic in a podcast from The Business Impact. During the interview, Oldham highlighted the importance of higher standards, accountability, and effective business engagement in our schools. Check it out.

Ik1AqEj4_400x400For as long as tests have been given, students have been dreaming up ways to get out of them. But parents usually saw through excuses and prevailed to keep kids in classrooms on exam day.

Not anymore.

As another school year begins, parents in pockets across the country, from Seattle to Long Island, are protesting what they see as excessive standardized testing. They are refusing to let their children take mandated statewide tests — an action in which anger has overtaken good judgment.

Granted, the tests required by the federal No Child Left Behind law aren’t ideal. In many places, a focus on test-prep has shortchanged more effective ways of teaching. But like them or not, the tests are the most objective measures of student progress and school performance. They shouldn’t be dumped by individual parents in political protest.

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shutterstock_106380011Former teacher Lisette Partelow is tired of hearing that the Common Core Standards inhibit teacher creativity and recently put pen to paper to let people know “it’s simply not true.”

In a recent piece in US News, Partelow explained how the standards were designed to allow for flexibility and creativity in the classroom. She shared several examples to demonstrate that the standards do not define what teachers should teach or how students should learn, rather, they focus on what students need to know. Take, for instance, the Common Core math standards, which are “less concerned that students master a single prescribed approach to getting the right answer” and instead emphasize students’ understanding that there are multiple ways to solve a problem correctly.

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Photo source: TigerSwan

Maj. Gen. James “Spider” Marks is the former commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center.

It might be strange to hear a retired Army guy commend the new system of standardized tests given to students from elementary to high school, but if there’s one thing military personnel know well, it’s how to measure achievement and progress.

Everything that an individual does, a unit does, even the Defense Department does is measured against a known and accepted standard. That is how we determine readiness and operational success. If our standards are off, the consequences of mission failure can be very serious.

So we take great care in developing our standards, take the time to ensure that everyone who will be assessed understands the benchmarks, and then devote effort to after-action reports to learn more about our strengths and our weaknesses.

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Photo By Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post.

Photo By Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post.

Crystal Gallegos, a Pueblo educator, recently wrote an op-ed for the Denver Post expressing her support for Colorado’s new academic standards. In her opinion piece, Gallegos explains how, until recently, students’ education was largely dictated by where they lived.

This is changing thanks to the Colorado Academic Standards, which set higher expectations for students “while ensuring that where a family lives, their income, or their race or ethnicity won’t determine the quality of education a child receives.” She explains how higher standards are essential to closing achievement gaps and making sure more Colorado students graduate prepared for college and career. This means that all Colorado students, from Dolores to Fort Collins, have opportunities to excel and reach their full potential. This also means that Colorado businesses in every corner of the state have access to the homegrown workforce they need.

As Gallegos says, the Colorado Academic Standards “represent a major step forward for education in our state.” By raising the bar and setting higher expectations, we can continue to drive improvements in student achievement and secure a stronger future for Colorado.

To read Crystal’s op-ed, click here.

 

In a new video from Real Learning for Real Life, Aurora teacher, Cassie Harrelson, explains Colorado’s new math standards and the benefits for teachers and students.

appleJoanie Funderburk is in her 25th year as a math educator. She has represented Colorado on several committees with PARCC and has been an active member of the Colorado PARCC Educator Leader Cadre since Colorado became a PARCC state in 2012.

As the students of Colorado take the first round of the new state tests for math and English, many debates surrounding testing, and these tests in particular, are heating up.

As a math educator for over 25 years, including more than 19 in Colorado, I hear comments and critiques of the tests that demonstrate fear and confusion around PARCC, the testing consortium at the core of Colorado’s new assessments.

I have had the opportunity to participate in several phases of the creation of the PARCC math tests, and each time, I learned more about the test, the expectations for students, and ways that teachers could support students in being prepared for the test. These experiences gave me confidence in these tests. I hope that by explaining my reasons for this confidence, I might help alleviate some of the stress teachers, parents, and students may be feeling.

Just days after Colorado became a PARCC state in August of 2012, I traveled with about 25 other Colorado educators to Chicago to the first convening of the PARCC Educator Leader Cadre. This group met approximately twice a year, and at each convening we had the chance to ask questions, give input, and provide feedback to shape what was important to each of our states. (more…)

ImprimirCheryl Oldham is the Vice President for Education and Workforce at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

The higher education community came together this week to show its continued support of high academic standards and aligned assessments in K-12 education. A joint statement from Higher Ed for Higher Standards, the National Association of System Heads, and the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association urges states to continue moving forward with college and career ready standards and aligned assessments.

Why is this important?

This is important because low standards in K-12 education have led to a generation of young people who believe they were prepared for life after high school when often they were not.

Let’s take a look at the data.

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The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel editorial board released this op-ed asserting the important role higher standards have played in the downward trend in remediation rates.

By The Daily Sentinel

Colorado’s move to adopt higher educational standards back in 2009 arose from an alarming number of high school graduates forced to enroll in remedial classes in college.

In the six years since, additional reforms led to more assessments, unfunded mandates and teacher accountability standards. Predictably, a backlash followed and this spring lawmakers passed a series of compromises aimed at reducing the testing load, but keeping high standards and accountability measures in place.

Meanwhile, the push for higher standards seem to be working. On Friday, The Sentinel’s Emily Shockley reported that the number of students enrolled at Colorado Mesa University who had to take remedial courses dipped from 36.2 percent in 2012-13 to 29.6 percent in 2013-14.

That’s encouraging. Any improvement is good, but it’s also a shame that nearly three in 10 CMU students have to pay tuition for remedial courses. These classes don’t earn students credit toward a degree but are necessary to get them up to speed for classes that do count. (more…)

6688778Troy Rivera, an English Language Arts teacher at University High School in Greeley, reflects on how the Common Core helped him raise the bar in the classroom and provide more rigorous instruction for his students.

By Troy Rivera

In the late 1990s, I can remember sitting in college-prep English class reading Shakespeare’s MacBeth. From the vocabulary sheets, questions, quizzes, and many more assignments to complete for this unit, I never really felt any learning occurring. I never felt challenged. I never really did any thinking. Now fast-forward 20 years.

The year is 2015. It’s a 9th grade level classroom. I’m teaching. Just recently within the past several years, our state standards took a shift and merged with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Expectations for our students shift. So, the question is, for the better, or for the worse? Before we answer that question, let’s review a few things.

As educators, we are responsible for making sure that our students are life long learners. Yes, I said it, life long learners. In order for our students to become life long learners, there is much work to be done. Our students look to us for the guidance, tools, skill sets, and knowledge on how to be successful upon leaving the classroom. We do accomplish this by providing the best education possible, for all. We set our own expectations, but we also have the expectations required for our students to match up with other student nationally.

When our state made the shift of merging CCSS into our current standards, this raised the bar for our students. By raising the bar, I was able to raise the bar in the classroom. Now, standards are expectations of what we strive for our students to be able to do in order to be productive citizens in the world. How we go about teaching, using the standards, as our map is our curriculum. Let me clear the air real quickly; standards are not curriculum, they are expectations.

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For the first time this school year, thousands of Colorado students took the PARCC test, also known as the Colorado Measures of Academic Success. Looking to learn more? Check out this new video from Future Forward to learn everything you need to know about our new high quality assessment. And make sure to visit our Quick Facts page for even more information on Colorado’s higher standards and more rigorous assessments.

Pamela Nortonby Pamela Norton

Denver resident Pamela Norton is the founder and president of Activate.

Leading up to the controversial Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing in Colorado last month, several friends said they planned to pull their kids from the test.

Other friends said their kids were pressuring them to do so. My child did try that tactic, but he knew I wouldn’t agree.

I told my friends to stay strong so they could learn from the data the test would provide. I asked, “How can you help ensure your children are getting the best education if you don’t know how they are doing compared to children in the rest of the world?”

For years, we have been living on “feel-good” subjective standards that gave some of us a false sense that our school is “blue-ribbon,” with the smartest and brightest students. We’ve had only subjective standards for K-12 ever since the testing conversation began in 1959. Since then, we’ve seen many failed government initiatives and programs, until we finally obtained a bipartisan solution six years ago.

Finally, after all this work and investment, the state has implemented the Colorado Measures Academic Success (CMAS) PARCC tests so we can provide parents, teachers and schools with a benchmark and real insights to ensure our children are competitive.

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By Vicki Phillips

If you watch William Anderson teach, or listen to him talk, two things become readily clear: William sets high expectations for students and he connects with students through assignments that are relevant to them.

WAndersonIn his 7th year in education, William is a teacher and the Social Studies department chair at the Martin Luther King Early College High School in Denver, CO.  He teaches two upper grade classes in ethnic studies and spends the rest of his time working with teachers, including observing, coaching and co-planning with them.

Denver was one of the first districts in Colorado to actively adopt the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  And, when asked about the CCSS, William doesn’t pull any punches: “We need to think about them in terms of curriculum, practice, units, and lessons.  They get framed as accountability but they are really instructional tools. They are about instruction.  We need to move the conversation from ‘here are the standards and here’s the evaluation’ to ‘let’s look at these standards and think about the lessons we are designing.’”

William continues, “In my classroom, I incorporate the Common Core into the curriculum and content I think is important.  We do a lot of critical reading and critical writing. And it works.  Any teacher can do it. The Common Core is really about pointing toward best practice.” (more…)

“It’s really important to have high standards for all students across the board, to truly prepare them for the workplace and for higher levels of education.” — Matthew Johnson, Denver 4th grade teacher

In this video from America Achieves, Colorado educators discuss the importance of high standards.

Curious to see the Common Core in action? This video shows how one second-grade class is using the standards to develop a deeper understanding of the Pledge of Allegiance.

This video explains how the PARCC test works, which is known as CMAS in Colorado.

The business community talks a lot about the importance of a “quality assessment.” Wondering what that means? Here are the pieces of a quality assessment.

What is a quality assessment?

by Paul Lingenfelter

Paul E. Lingenfelter is president emeritus of the State Higher Education Executive Officers association. He is now on the board of PARCC, Inc., a non-profit organization.

Earlier this month, higher education leaders in Colorado took a significant step to close the persistent gap between the number of students who enroll in college and the number who graduate.

Officials at the Colorado Department of Higher Education and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) on March 8 announced that Adams State University and Aims Community College will begin using PARCC, the state’s K-12 assessment of college and career readiness, to determine whether entering college freshman are prepared to take college level courses.

This makes Adams State and Aims the first colleges in the state and the nation to agree to use or validate PARCC as a college readiness assessment to determine which students need remediation.

Why is this progress? PARCC assessments, administered through high school and aligned with the requirements for success in college, provide feedback to students long before high school graduation. High school students and their teachers will know well in advance whether they are prepared or on track to being prepared for college-credit bearing courses. (more…)

Pamela Nortonby Pamela Norton

Denver resident Pamela Norton is the founder and president of Activate, mother of two, and has many friends with children across the Colorado school system.

Parents, teachers, and the larger community in Colorado are frustrated with the amount of testing in our schools. Unfortunately, to demonstrate this concern, some parents are threatening to pull students out of the statewide PARCC test. This dissenting voice should be heard, but the tactic of opting-out doesn’t solve the problem of over-testing. Instead, it reduces transparency.

I am a parent of two children, who were students at what I thought were high performing public schools. However, after my oldest graduated, I was shocked to learn that she didn’t have many of the skills needed to succeed in college. Since then, I also realized my son is behind in high school. How could a school be labeled as an A+ school yet still have 40 percent of its students needing some sort of remedial education? That doesn’t sound like an A+ to me. (more…)

Future Forward’s newest infographic tells how our country’s standards haven’t been up to par for decades — and how the Colorado Academic Standards and the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS/PARCC) fix that.

Are Colorado's students prepared to compete?

Do you believe in Colorado’s standards and assessments? Share out this icon on social media:

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koaColorado Succeeds’ Vice President of Policy Luke Ragland spoke to 850 KOA this morning about the importance of the statewide assessment. He debunks many myths about testing in this interview and offers some clear reasons why parents should opt in to the tests. Listen here:

Our partners at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have a new video out about the importance of high standards. View it here:

bill bennettby Bill Bennett, former U.S. Secretary of Education for Pres. Reagan and host of the nationally syndicated talk show, “Morning in America.”

The implementation of the Common Core State Standards has stirred up much controversy and debate. Some of this debate is healthy, particularly over how to develop rigorous, common standards and assessments. Also, the criticism of the federal government’s intrusion into a state-led initiative is a legitimate matter for distress. Increasingly, however, lies, myths, exaggerations and hysteria about what the Common Core means and does have dominated the “debate” and the real issues have been obscured. Dishonest critics have decided that the Common Core is a pestilence on the land and have so characterized it. It is not. (more…)