Which skills should Colorado schools prioritize? State leaders want the public to weigh in.

3 min. read
Student Alaya Martinez, City Year corps member Patrick Santino and student Dorian Medina at work at North High School in Denver. (Eric Gorski/Chalkbeat)

By Erica MeltzerChalkbeat 

Literacy, number sense, critical thinking, entrepreneurialism, time management, global awareness, respect for authority, leadership, empathy, problem-solving, personal responsibility, civic engagement, multilingualism.

Which of these skills and competencies are most important for Colorado students to learn? You can’t say “all of them.” You have to choose six among the two dozen qualities listed.

And what does an effective learning environment look like? Is it disciplined or culturally responsive? Experiential or traditional? Collaborative or personalized?

These are the types of questions that members of Colorado’s Education Leadership Council are asking the public as they work toward a framework for education policy.

Some of it may seem a bit abstract, but Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, a member of the council, said the survey is an important tool for people who work on education issues every day to hear from those who aren’t at the table but will be affected by the outcome.

“We hope to get a lot more perspective than the 100 people who serve on our committees or the 25 people who are on the council itself,” Lynne said. “Some of the results may surprise people who work on education every day. Hopefully even at the district level — and results will be broken out geographically — people will hear something different than what they usually hear.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper, whose term expires in January 2019, convened the leadership council in 2017. His executive order governing the council’s work directs members to identify statewide priorities for how to better educate the state’s children so they can contribute to Colorado’s workforce.

An earlier iteration of the council had become inactive in 2011. Its members include state lawmakers of both parties, the state’s education commissioner, school board members, superintendents, teachers, business leaders, higher education administrators, and others. Their terms extend into 2019 and 2020, and Lynne said she’s hopeful that the next governor — be it Democrat Jared Polis or Republican Walker Stapleton — will take a leadership role in implementing the framework developed by the council.

The plan likely will include recommendations for how the governor’s office, relevant state departments, the legislature, and others can work toward the state’s goals.

That’s a challenging task in Colorado, where the doctrine of local control gives school districts broad authority. Lawmakers of different parties have at times had quite different ideas about how to improve education, and a separately elected State Board of Education has the job of implementing state law and setting a range of policies.

“Clearly, one of the things we’re missing is a framework,” Lynne said.

Some 5,000 people have taken the survey already. It’s open until Aug. 6 and takes about 10 minutes to complete. You can take the survey here.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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