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Re: “PARCC won’t solve our testing problems,” Feb. 6 guest commentary.

Michael Mazenko notes that the argument for PARCC tests is not “evidence-based.” Neither is the argument against — we haven’t even administered the test yet.

Where is the sense in spending countless hours and dollars on a new, high-quality test that seeks to solve so many of the problems associated with old standardized tests, only to trash it all based on speculation (mixed with a little politics and fear)?

I was one of the educators from Colorado involved in the development and review of PARCC test items, and I spent considerable time making sure it aligns to the standards and uses authentic text and real-world problems to cultivate a rich and engaging learning experience. While we will likely need to refine and tweak it, it’s still a good test.

The law requires us to have an assessment in place, so if we pull out of PARCC, the alternative is to start from scratch. That alone should convince naysayers to at least stay the course until we have that “evidence.”

Jessica Moore, Longmont

This letter was published in the Feb. 15 edition of The Denver Post.


Standards & Assessments Task Force PresentationThe Standards & Assessments Task Force, also known as the HB1202 Commission, finished its work last week with a presentation to the Joint House and Senate Education Committees at the Colorado General Assembly. The business community was represented on the task force by Donna Lynne from Kaiser Permanente and Luke Ragland of Colorado Succeeds.

Read the full recommendations by clicking here.

Or get up-to-speed with a few highlights from Colorado Public Radio.

Major General James “Spider” Marks gives powerful testimony as to why military families deserve consistent, high-quality education standards.

Jandel Allen-Davis

Jandel Allen-Davis

By Jandel Allen-Davis and David Beal

In the health-care and insurance industries, we depend on evaluation and feedback from our customers and patients to help us provide better products and services. Similarly, our employees use input from supervisors to mark and monitor progress, celebrate wins and identify areas for improvement.

In much the same way, parents and educators need accurate feedback about the critical knowledge and skills Colorado’s students are acquiring throughout their education. Now more than ever, we need to know that our students are prepared for college and career.

Unfortunately, we’re not sure at the moment. By 2020 in Colorado, 74 percent of all jobs will require some post-secondary education. Right now, only 22 percent of Colorado’s students will complete a two or four-year degree program. Simply put, if we stay on this track, Colorado’s kids will not be ready for Colorado’s jobs. This is why we are a part of Future Forward Colorado, along with a coalition of business organizations statewide, to show support for higher expectations known as the Colorado Academic Standards, which include the Common Core in English and math, and aligned assessments. (more…)

Country’s problem of unequal education is too important to be sacrificed to partisanship.

I’m no stranger to the full-contact sport of politics. But to this day, it still irks me to see how easily a thoughtful and painstaking approach to fixing real problems can be hijacked by shortsighted, sometimes cynical decisions made for nothing more than political gain. Our political system has an amazing and at times frustrating tolerance for this kind of trade-off, which is rooted in the assumption that given enough time and information, voters will eventually make the right choice. There are some issues, though, that demand more urgent attention, especially when the remedy is within our grasp. Fixing this problem is too important to be sacrificed on the altar of politics. (more…)


Understand the Colorado Academic Standards, which include the Common Core in English and Math, through the lens of football.

Football Infographic explaining colorado curriculum

Bob Tointonby Bob Tointon

Ask any of Colorado’s business leaders and they’ll tell you — the success of their company or organization depends on the knowledge and skills of their employees. Whether we’re in manufacturing and distribution, like Phelps-Tointon, or any other industry thriving in Greeley’s booming economy, we rely on a workforce that is up to the challenges of the job today and can adapt to the challenges that will come tomorrow.

It is no wonder, therefore, that the business community has a vested interest in education. That’s why I work closely with Greeley-Evans School District 6, and there is a lot of good work happening there. Despite these successes, our education system as a whole is in need of an upgrade. (more…)

Front Porch Colorado Academic Standards

Read this local article about the Colorado Academic Standards. An excerpt:

For this Front Porch article, we wanted to go beyond the politically charged national controversy and glean a deeper understanding of the CCSS and their impact on our neighborhood schools. So we turned to area experts. We spoke with State Sen. Mike Johnston (D-Denver) and convened a discussion group consisting of Denver School Board member Landri Taylor (District 4), principals Marcia Fulton (Odyssey), Liz Tencate (Swigert), Jill Corcoran (Westerly Creek); and fifth-grade math, science, and social studies teacher Marie Gruber (Westerly Creek). Our conversations revealed not only the complexity of and the controversy surrounding the CCSS, but also the promise this educational revolution holds for students.

rmp teacher austen kassingerBy Austen Kassinger, 2nd Grade Teacher at Rocky Mountain Prep

I was determined to make Mrs. Hall’s list. Our tough fourth-grade math teacher was infamous for her sharp comments — “You look like a lost ball in high weeds” — as well as her annual prize to the few students she deemed worthy of A’s: a trip to the movies. The previous year, my older sister had gone to see “Godzilla,” which frightened her to tears, thereby giving her a taste of what the rest of Mrs. Hall’s students endured over the course of the year. Born with a fiercely competitive streak and accustomed to doing well in school, I knew that I would make Mrs. Hall’s A list.

That is, until we started long division. I struggled through the page of problems Mrs. Hall assigned for homework, erasing again and again as I tried to figure out the difference between a dividend and a divisor. Able to complete only five problems over the course of an excruciating evening, I begged my mother the next morning to let me stay home from school, believing that I could never show my face in math class with incomplete homework. (more…)


By Kelly Brough, President & CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce

In just six short years, 74% of jobs in Colorado will require some sort of post-secondary education. It’s a daunting stat even for a highly educated region like ours in which roughly 47% of adults have a two- or four-year college degree (which ranks us second only to Massachusetts in terms of degrees per capita).

Just think about that for a minute – we rank second in the nation for the number of adults per capita with a college degree, yet we are still positioned to fall far short of our estimated workforce needs.

In Colorado, we’re known for our smart and healthy workforce, but we have been delivering that top-quality workforce by importing talent to our region. With a thriving economy like ours, an appealing and collaborative business community, and year-round recreation, it hasn’t been tough for us to draw people here. (more…)

paperclipCo-authored by Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor of the State University of New York, John Morgan, Chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, and William E. (Brit) Kirwan, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland In 2009, educators, teachers and stakeholders from 45 states came together to figure out how to make the education system better for our kids. The outcome is the “Common Core” — a blueprint that ensures our students will learn what they need to learn to succeed in this day and age. But change does not come without controversy. To be expected, there is opposition at both ends of the political spectrum. Critics on the Right argue the federal government forced these new standards on the states. Critics on the Left contend that the standards are being implemented too quickly. The reality is neither claim is true. Let’s begin with its creation. The Common Core was not developed by the federal government. It was actually designed by K-12 teachers, college faculty, businesses and other stakeholders who collectively developed appropriate standards for our kids’ schools. The new standards are higher than most states’ previous standards. (more…)

States across the country have always established their own academic standards, curricula, and achievement goals. This inconsistency, however, creates problems for children from military families, who must move and change schools frequently as their parents are reassigned. For these children, moving from state to state not only has significant social and emotional challenges, it also complicates their education. It is critical for states to minimize the strain that moving has on these children; adopting and effectively implementing the Common Core State Standards would ensure that as students change schools, their education is consistent and of high quality.
Common Core can help improve education for children from military families:
• Families can be confident that their children will receive a high-quality and consistent education when they move across state lines.
• Students will not bear the burden of missing or repeating classes on top of the stress of moving across state lines.
• Consistent expectations will ease the transition from one year to the next as students cross state lines, allowing them to graduate on time.

Read more at the Center for American Progress website.

Mike MartinMike Martin is chancellor of the Colorado State University System.

Colorado is facing strong headwinds as we look to develop the state’s workforce of the future. Experts predict that by 2020, 74 percent of all the jobs in this state will require a college degree or some kind of post-secondary technical training.

If Colorado is going to develop that next generation of talent from within — which most leaders in business, politics and education agree is the goal — then much of the work of growing and building that workforce is going to fall to the state’s education system. It’s a daunting task and, according to the Lumina Foundation, we are not on pace to meet the goal.

Simply put, we must improve the pipeline of students coming out of the education system if we’re going to meet Colorado’s 21st century workforce needs. That’s why I join with many of my colleagues from across Colorado and within higher education to support the Common Core for K-12, a new set of education standards for what students should know and are able to do at each grade level. (more…)

rulerIn 2010, a who’s who of American educators and politicians joined forces to spearhead a national initiative with wide appeal and few if any critics. It was called the Common Core.

The pols and educators agreed: Too many U.S. students breezed through weak state achievement tests (think Illinois’ defunct ISAT), only to falter against tougher national and international assessments. Many students who reached college needed intensive tutoring.

The prescription: Create “a common set of high expectations for students across the country.” State school superintendents, other education leaders and teachers nationwide would write tough national math and English standards.

For English, the Core standards suggest that students be exposed to “classic myths and stories from around the world, foundational U.S. documents, seminal works of American literature and the writings of Shakespeare.” The standards stress reading comprehension, clear writing and vocabulary growth. There is no required reading list. (more…)

CalculatorBy Dan Snowberger, Superintendent of the Durango School District

Anyone watching the debate on both the state and national level knows there are a lot of discussions happening around the issue of assessment in public education.

There is no doubt we are entering a new phase of accountability in public education. We must ensure all students, regardless of background, achieve and learn within our schools.

This spring, we’ve gone through a transition period where our schools have completed their last year of the old assessment (CSAP/TCAP) and piloted new assessments. These assessments are based on new, higher academic standards, known as the Colorado Academic Standards, that have raised the bar for all of Colorado’s schools, so we can make sure our students are better prepared for college and the workforce. These standards emphasize real learning over basic memorization and test-taking skills and give students, parents and teachers clear and consistent benchmarks for every grade level.


By The Daily Sentinel

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The good news is that for the second year in a row District 51 third-graders beat the state average in scoring at or above grade level on 2014 Transitional Colorado Assessment Program reading tests: 72 percent to 71.5 percent.

The bad news? Both the district and the state averages are down slightly from last year. Whether they can pull those numbers up will remain something of a mystery because the TCAP is being replaced by a new assessment that won’t provide an apples-to-apples comparison, but, hopefully, better results.

Still, it’s good to know that students in our district aren’t falling behind or performing worse than the rest of the state. And the new testing, we think, warrants some optimism about the state’s gradual implementation of new academic standards. (more…)

PrintWant to know why the business community cares deeply about high expectations and quality assessments for our children? Click through to check out the Future Forward infographic.  (more…)

What do teachers think of the Common Core? Here’s a look into one teacher’s story:

by Nelson Garcia

ENGLEWOOD – Even though Cerri Norris teaches kids in first grade, she is working on skills that she hopes her students will use as adults and business professionals.

“This is where we want our kids to be when they’re 18-years-old, so now we need to plan backwards,” Norris said. “If these are the skills they need when they’re 18, what does that mean that they should be able to do when they’re six years old?” (more…)

ImprimirWhile many states struggle with high unemployment and too few jobs, Colorado has a unique problem — plenty of available and high-quality jobs but too few qualified workers to fill them.

Historically, importing talent has been a reliable solution, given Colorado’s natural appeal — great weather, recreation, and an affordable cost of living. From an economic perspective, Colorado welcomes the inevitable influx of talented individuals and growing companies. However, we also must ensure the state’s education system is preparing our kids to succeed in this increasingly competitive environment.

A healthy state economy relies on Colorado schools putting students on a trajectory to fill Colorado jobs, and more than ever, those jobs require education beyond high school. (more…)

USA Today’s editorial board released this op-ed, ‘Common Core’ demonized as Obamacore: Our view, outlining the political wrangling around high standards. 

site-masthead-logo@2xYou’d think an effort to improve school standards and promote higher expectations for students — adopted by 45 states, embraced by the business community, and endorsed by governors and education reformers from both parties — would be about as controversial as motherhood and apple pie.

Well, think again. Attacks against the “Common Core” standards, led by Tea Party activists and conservative pundits and lately joined by some teachers’ unions, have reached a crescendo of distortions that put students’ welfare at risk.

Last month, Indiana, which adopted the standards in 2010, became the first state to un-adopt them. Similar repeal moves are afoot in several other states.

It’s an instructive example of how easily constructive, thoughtful attempts to address the nation’s problems are derailed by political opportunism. (more…)

Brooks When the Circus Decends

We are pretty familiar with this story: A perfectly sensible if slightly boring idea is walking down the street. Suddenly, the ideological circus descends, burying the sensible idea in hysterical claims and fevered accusations. The idea’s political backers beat a craven retreat. The idea dies.

This is what seems to be happening to the Common Core education standards, which are being attacked on the right because they are common and on the left because they are core. (more…)

The Urban League supports the Common Core State Standards and has released resources for parents about the standards. Check it out!

School systems around the country are implementing new learning standards designed to ensure that all children – no matter where they live – graduate high school with the skills they need to be ready to succeed in college or careers.  These standards are known as Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and while they may have a different name in your state, they have a shared goal – to better prepare all of our children to compete in today’s and tomorrow’s economy. (more…)

appleThe Colorado State Board of Education has joined a movement advocating the state pull out of a multi-state testing consortium called — pardon the clumsy title — the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.

The Republican board majority believes the tests represent an intrusion of federal power and wants the state to develop its own tests, even though the PARCC tests haven’t even been given here yet.

“From my perspective, as a long time educator, when we have a federally-funded entity like PARCC, we’ve just legitimized a huge federal influence on what students are taught,” board member Debora Scheffel was quoted as saying on the website Chalkbeat Colorado. “It’s the wrong way to influence student achievement.”

If the federal government were dictating test content or underlying standards, Scheffel would be correct. But PARCC is not a federal power grab. (more…)

Al Timothyby Al Timothy

Al Timothy is the retired Vice President of Community Affairs at MillerCoors Brewing Company and co-chair of the board for Future Forward partner Colorado Succeeds. 

From corner to corner of the state, Colorado’s business community understands that the relationship between our public education system and our state’s economy is a symbiotic one—each one depends on the other for survival.

And I can tell you that the business community as a whole embraces both the moral and economic urgency behind improving our state’s public education system, which is the feeder system for our future workers and customers.

But there is one particular aspect of this relationship that demands more attention. The citizens of Colorado, and our high school students in particular, must acknowledge that the pipeline between our schools and our workplaces is changing rapidly. (more…)


by Jessica Keigan, English Language Arts teacher at Horizon High School in Thornton, Colorado

Last week, I was able to testify on behalf of the Common Core State Standards to the Colorado state senate committee on education, who convened to hear testimony for and against a bill written to pause implementation.

I found out late last Thursday that my voice, along with other voices from CTQ Colorado teachers, parents, union leadership and concerned stakeholders, influenced the committee so much that the proposed bill was voted down by a four to three vote.

As a topic of much debate across the country, here are my remarks on how the Common Core (embedded into our state’s Colorado Academic Standards) have become a positive force for learning and growth in my classroom. (more…)

The Foundation for Excellence in Education, along with the Higher State Standards Partnership, have created new resources about the Common Core, including this video.



Pamela NortonSome of our country’s leading companies such as Dell, IBM, Microsoft, Verizon and Boeing support states who have adopted rigorous K-12 math and reading standards. 

I believe companies will invest in these states and opportunities will flourish in the years ahead because education, business and community groups are collaborating to support higher education standards that will produce students who are workforce and college ready upon graduation. Traditional benefits such as tax breaks and low overheads will continue to be part of the decision, but states that are willing to invest in knowledge capital will now have a major influence where companies locate, expand, recruit and invest in the future.

Unfortunately, Colorado as a state is falling further and further behind in the knowledge gap race. GlobalReportCard.org shows the average Denver public school math score was only 46 percent compared to 25 of the world’s top industrialized countries. For reading, Denver’s public school scored only 74 percent compared to the same countries. And while a few local exceptions exist, Colorado public school municipalities, in general, find themselves well behind the mean of the 25 industrial countries included in this report. This is likely a big part of the reason that only 22 out of every 100 students entering high school in our state will earn a post-secondary degree(more…)

by Ross Weiner

The Common Core has started to take political flak from the right and the left. Conservatives worry about the overreach of federal incentives, while unions don’t want the standards connected to teacher evaluations. What is being lost?  The standards’ significant emphasis on reinvigorating the democratic purpose of public education. Making good on this promise presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine and reprioritize the special role that schools play in preparing students for active civic participation. (more…)

You may not have heard of Common Core, but it’s the most controversial two words in the American education system right now.

Common Core is the shorthand for a requirement that, beginning as early as possible in elementary school and continuing throughout high school, students be exposed to, and become comfortable with, a college-prep set of skills. These skills—especially in mathematics and English—will provide a foundation for students to go in any career direction.

This is so transparently a good thing that it’s hard to figure out why anyone would be opposed. That’s especially true for conservatives, who have long believed our education system is underperforming; that student progress needs to be measured; and that teachers and school superintendents should be accountable for better outcomes in the classroom.

Conservatives are instinctively pro-standard. And yet the latest round of opposition to Common Core comes primarily from the right. What gives?

As with so many other major initiatives, those who disagree with any portion of the idea want to scrap the whole thing. Why, they ask, does a 10th grader interested in auto mechanics need to know whether it was David Copperfield or Oliver Twist who asked for more porridge? (Hint: It was Oliver.) Why does that same student need to pass Algebra II to achieve proficiency in setting the timing on a Tesla “S” model electric car? (Hint: Electric cars don’t have timing issues.)

Not every high-school student needs to go to a traditional four-year college. But, those who claim we are wasting the time of students who are likely to get on a vocational instead of an academic track are settling for low expectations at a time when we should be setting high expectations.

What if, instead, we made the case that students who were either pushed into a vocational lane or self-selected for it, were being deprived of skills they may need later in life? What if they want to progress beyond being an hourly worker to being the manager of a business, or perhaps owning his or her own business?

When we look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment numbers on the first Friday of every month, we are treated to an amazing graph. That graph shows a straight line in employment from someone who did not finish high school to someone with a professional degree. The line goes up from no high-school diploma through a two-year community college associate’s degree to some four-year college to a college degree through an advanced degree to being a doctor or a lawyer.

Rich Galen is a Republican strategist.

This piece originally appeared in Politico. Read the rest of the piece here.

Business Roundtable

John Engler, President of the Business Roundtable, writes of his members’ support of the Common Core State Standards in this letter to the Republican National Committee.

On behalf of the members of Business Roundtable – more than 200 chief executive officers who lead U.S. companies located in states across the nation from every sector of the economy – I am writing to express our steadfast support for the Common Core State Standards and explain why the Republican Party should support them too.

Click here for the full letter.