Our Blog


Xerox. Raytheon. DaVita. State Farm Insurance. BP America.

These businesses have offices based in Colorado — and they are just a few of the more than 70 leading businesses and business groups that signed on in support of the Common Core State Standards, via this letter in The New York Times from the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation.  (more…)

Luke Ragland is Vice President of Policy at Colorado Succeeds, a Future Forward coalition member. This blog is a version of testimony he provided before the Colorado General Assembly House Education Committee in February 2014.

Our state’s accountability framework serves as indispensable tool for system-wide improvement.

As business leaders, Colorado Succeeds’ members know that what gets measured gets done.  And the key to accurate and useful measurement lies in the ability to compare actual performance against desired outcomes.

The inability to accurately measure student growth would undermine Colorado’s capability to assess whether teachers, schools, and districts are improving student achievement. Similarly, eliminating the requirement for early literacy assessments would undercut Colorado’s ability to identify struggling readers so that they can receive targeted supports and interventions to get them back on track.

Put plainly, if we stop measuring the progress of our students, we will have no way to ensure that students don’t fall through the cracks. Statewide assessments and the related accountability framework are absolutely fundamental tools to ensure that every student, regardless of zip code, has access to a quality school.

Anti-testing proponents say that students spend too much time taking statewide tests.  This is an incredibly important topic, but we need to be sure the discussion is based on facts. So, exactly how much time are students spending taking statewide assessments?  The answer may surprise you:  Under the new statewide assessments, the average student will spend less than 1.5 percent of total instructional time taking statewide tests.

Of course, this fact seems wholly incompatible with the commonly-accepted rhetoric surrounding tests, namely, that our students are being inundated with constant state-mandated assessments. This confusion is likely a result of the confluence of several factors, including how district-mandated tests are administered, testing windows, human resource allocation, and technology capacity.

It is important to be precise when identifying concerns related to testing so that we can address the issues actually at play.  If we need to adjust testing windows, provide training to teachers, or increase technology capacity; let’s figure out solutions to those specific problems.

GlobeIt seems the Common Core State Standards detractors follow Lenin’s maxim that, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” Their most recent foray into trying to take down the effort spearheaded by the nation’s governors and chief state school officers to outline what all students should know and be able to do in reading and math leaves us with no choice but to roll up our sleeves and yet again set the record straight.

Sandra Stotsky, holding herself out as a mathematics expert, has been traveling from state to state alleging that the Common Core math standards hold students back from pursuing advanced post-secondary studies in science, math, engineering and technology (STEM) fields. She made this point to Wisconsin legislators in October last year. Stotsky, a former high school French and German teacher, goes so far as to question how leaders of major STEM companies could support the standards. Well, she should just ask.

As a former engineering professor, the former chairman and chief executive of Intel and current CEO of one of the highest-performing charter school systems in the country (BASIS Schools) I can speak directly to why businesses, and, indeed, higher education, benefits from the Common Core, and why concerns about the math standards’ rigor are misplaced. (more…)

jessica cuthbertsonJessica Cuthbertson is a 7th grade ELA Teacher at Vista PEAK Exploratory P-8 in Aurora Public Schools and a Teacherpreneur through the Center for Teaching Quality. She presented this public comment at the State Board of Education Meeting on February 12, 2014. 

I have been teaching adolescents for over ten years. Recently, I think about my career in two segments – teaching and learning BEFORE and AFTER the Colorado Academic Standards (CAS) and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

I’d like to share a few before and after examples with you. As I share these examples I’d like you to ask yourself a few questions:

  • In which era (before or after the CAS/CCSS) would I want to be a student? (Or would I want my own child to be a student?)
  • In which reality would I want to be a teacher? (more…)


Although 45 states quickly adopted the higher standards created by governors and state education officials, the effort has begun to lose momentum. Some are now wavering in the face of misinformation campaigns from people who misrepresent the initiative as a federal program and from those who support the status quo. Legislation has been introduced in at least 12 states to prohibit implementation and states have dropped out of the two major Common Core assessment consortia. Opposition voices are growing louder as new assessments show students aren’t performing as well as they had on easier state tests offered previously.

The debate about the standards must be changed to ensure politics and mythology don’t derail a vital effort to improve opportunities for our kids as they are falling further behind their international peers. (more…)

The Colorado Academic Standards, which incorporate the Common Core, call for a greater focus in mathematics. Rather than racing to cover topics in a mile-wide, inch-deep curriculum, the Standards require us to significantly narrow and deepen the way time and energy is spent in the math classroom. We focus deeply on the major work of each grade so that students can gain strong foundations: solid conceptual understanding, a high degree of procedural skill and fluency, and the ability to apply the math they know to solve problems inside and outside the math classroom.

Colorado High School Math teacher Tiffany Utoft and other educators share what the new standards mean for math.


Miriam Rollin is VP/COO for the Council for a Strong America

IPaintbrushest may sound like the opening line of a joke – but it’s no joke. It’s a powerful reality to make the case for the continued implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and aligned assessments.

For instance, last summer, 23 police chiefs from across Tennessee released a Fight Crime: Invest in Kids report demonstrating the connection between educational deficits, unemployment, and crime in their communities. Research shows that long-term changes in wages and employment opportunities among non-college educated men may explain as much as half of property and violent crime rates. The report also focused on the importance of continued implementation of the CCSS to address those educational deficits. The media coverage included stories on four local TV networks, as well as in The Tennessean and another local paper. (more…)

Zachary Neumeyer, Sage Hospitality

Zack Neumeyer, Founder, Sage Hospitality

Colorado is fighting harder than ever for convention business — and we are winning. The Denver Business Journal reported last week that the Denver metro area massively increased its convention space and appeal, qualifying us for major events similar to the Democratic National Convention, professional sporting events, and other major attractions. This boom in convention traffic has more than doubled the industry’s economic footprint between 2004 and 2012. This is great news for Colorado economy, job creation and the hospitality industry as a whole.


Watch best-selling author Amanda Ripley moderate a discussion with some of America’s top CEOs on the need for higher academic standards, featuring Jorge L. Benitez, Chief Executive (United States) and Senior Managing Director (North America), Accenture; Frederick Humphries, Vice President, U.S. Government Affairs, Microsoft Corporation; Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO, ExxonMobil; Joe Tucci, CEO, EMC.

American students must be able to compete with their peers across the country – not to mention the rest of the world. However, when compared internationally, students from the United States aren’t performing as well as students in other countries, most of which spend far less per pupil. (more…)

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

ODYSSEY_170Should states only set educational standards that are easily attainable? Apparently, that’s what many critics of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) believe. This notion should drive every parent insane. Personally, as a mother of two young boys–one in preschool, the other about to begin 5th grade in public school–I shudder to think that the expectations placed on my kids are only just enough to be attainable. Because, goodness, (begin sarcasm font) we wouldn’t want them to be challenged to achieve great things!

For decades, we have been dishonest with parents and students, and told them they were on track even though the data tells a different story. Fifty percent of undergraduates and 70% of community college students must take at least one remedial course because they are underprepared. Proficiency rates on state assessments look great, but when compared to the Nation’s Report Card, the numbers drop dramatically, particularly for low-income and minority students. States have set mediocre, dare I say “attainable,” standards so that passage rates on assessments are acceptable to adults, and so states/districts/schools can escape accountability. (more…)

Jaylon Burleson, a third-grade student at Denver s Marrama Elementary School,  works on a writing exercise in this 2011 file photo.

The Common Core education standards are being criticized as too tough. An edict from above. Another way of tightening the tyrannical grip of standardized testing on education.

We hope the road ahead for the Common Core — a set of standards that the District of Columbia and 45 states, including Colorado, have agreed to adopt — gets smoother because it has a lot to offer the nation’s students.

First, let’s talk about what the Common Core is not. It is not a common curriculum or an effort to nationalize education.

It’s a way of ensuring that the nation’s school districts are aiming for the same level of proficiency on an agreed-upon menu of things that kids should know. How you get there is your choice.

We think it’s long overdue. And if it raises the bar, that’s a good thing. (more…)

Thomas J. Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and John Engler is president of the Business Roundtable.

Rocky Mountain Prep 6America’s public K-12 education system isn’t making the grade.

It’s not adequately preparing our students to succeed in college or the modern workforce. It’s not delivering the skilled workers that businesses need to drive stronger economic growth. It’s not helping advance America’s ability to compete and lead in the global economy. In short, it’s setting our nation up to fail.

Although there are exceptions, American public schools are generally producing fewer students with the skills they need for long-term success. Proficiency in fundamental disciplines is slipping.

Among the 34 leading industrialized countries, the United States ranks 14th in reading literacy, 17th in science and a dismal 25th in math. It should surprise no one that we’ve fallen from No. 1 in the world in the percentage of young adults with college degrees to No. 10. (more…)

Keith Swerdfeger is a former member of the Colorado House of Representatives and co-founder and owner of K.R. Swerdfeger Construction.

HallwayJust south of Denver, the STEM School and Academy in Highlands Ranch recently announced a major expansion. Just north of Denver, government officials in Westminster approved construction of the Colorado STEM Academy.

These twin developments are a great reminder that our state continues to be a national leader in education in the “STEM” subjects – science, technology, engineering, and math. Our state is replete with specialty academies focused on cultivating young people’s STEM passions and aptitudes.

We should be proud of Colorado’s serious commitment to STEM education.

However, we can’t afford to rest on our laurels.

The competition for STEM jobs has never been fiercer. And if businesses can’t find enough qualified workers in Colorado, they’ll happily turn to other states – and other countries – to find them. Colorado needs to continue to press forward and find ways of equipping even more local young people with the cognitive tools they’ll need to thrive in the modern economy.

Fortunately, our state is about to take a major step forward in that direction. Colorado school administrators have joined 44 other states in adopting the “Common Core,” a robust set of achievement standards designed to improve K-12 students’ reasoning skills by beefing up math and English competencies.

The Common Core still needs to be fully implemented. By doing so, this state would build on our STEM successes and secure an even brighter future for our young people. (more…)

Donna Lynne Photo

Donna Lynne, Executive President, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals

Today’s workplace demands highly educated employees who can succeed in an increasingly complex and global economy. As a business leader and parent, I am impressed with the hard work and innovative strategies educators engage in daily to meet the needs of students.

Yet, despite these efforts, I also see that far too many students are not getting the education and skills they need. These skills include problem- solving, critical thinking, navigating ambiguity, collaborating, and communicating with clarity. This is what I look for in new employees. And these are the competencies and skills that Colorado is on the path to helping students attain through the use of the Common Core State Standards. (more…)

The new “Common Core” math and reading standards have come under a firestorm of criticism from tea-party activists and commentators like Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin. Beck calls the standards a stealth “leftist indoctrination” plot by the Obama administration. Malkin warns that they will “eliminate American children’s core knowledge base in English, language arts and history.” As education scholars at two right-of-center think tanks, we feel compelled to set the record straight.

Here’s what the Common Core State Standards are: They describe what children should know and the skills that they must acquire at each grade level to stay on course toward college- or career-readiness, something that conservatives have long argued for. They were written and adopted by governors—not by the Obama administration—thus preserving state control over K–12 education. And they are much more focused on rigorous back-to-basics content than the vast majority of state standards they replaced. (more…)