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El Paso County Colorado District 49

From the CEO – The drama of public education

With a new season of television descending around us, Iíd like to propose a few more topics that reflect our stories in District 49. These plot lines reflect our reality ó that public education in Colorado is in a season of great drama.One of the most controversial story lines in our stateís education is the recent decision by the Colorado Supreme Court upholding a funding mechanism called the ìnegative factor.î Although Colorado voters committed the state to increase education funding annually (by passing Amendment 23 in 2000), the court applied that commitment narrowly; deciding that it only applies to base funding, not total funding. The court approved the practice of cutting funding for supplemental expenses, such as cost of living increases, online students, at-risk funding and students living in poverty. As a result, Colorado will continue to withhold funding from K12 education by over $850 million each year. District 49ís share of those cuts, as the 13th largest district, amounts to over $20 million per year, or over $100 million since the inception of the negative factor in 2011. While this development has a major impact on district planning, District 49 has worked hard over the past four years to protect students as much as possible by cutting administration, reducing non-instructional budgets and redirecting funds closer to the school for local decision-makers to control to increase efficiency and effectiveness. We have also constrained compensation and raised fees for transportation, activities and elective classes to help close the gap for peripheral programs.While school funding has a deeper impact, school assessment has earned a greater audience through 2015. Support or opposition to state-mandated testing and scoring became a massive political and educational debate all over Colorado. Some districts embraced the opportunity to measure student performance against other states, while students in other districts refused to even attend school when assessments were scheduled. In District 49, our students and teachers did not ignore the debate, but neither were they distracted by the controversy. Our participation rates remained high, and student performance rebounded from previous levels. New legislation in 2015 has eliminated some testing, combined multiple tests into a single administration and reduced the overall state testing burden on schools and students. In District 49, we will continue to administer and analyze state tests, along with local assessments selected by zones and schools. As we collect multiple years of data, our teachers and principals are selecting materials and methods that help more students improve performance. In particular, our internal assessments of primary literacy showed positive growth across every elementary school.The stories of funding and assessment get a lot of publicity and deserve our attention. But the real story in District 49 is about our continuing work to build pathways to excellence. Across the district, teacher leaders and administrators are setting high goals and measuring progress. We know our students are responding because we have the data to show it. We know District 49 attracts outstanding leaders because we have the recognition to prove it. This fall, the best biology teacher in Colorado, as determined by the National Association of Biology Teachers, is Robin Walters, a veteran member of the staff at Sand Creek High School. We also employ the Assistant Principal of the Year at Falcon High School (Angela Prochnow), the Online and Blended Learning Counselor of the Year at Springs Studio for Academic Excellence (Dale Bonavita) and numerous other award-winning educators and leaders.Faced with funding challenges, assessment controversies and ever-higher standards can feel like an uphill battle. True ó the trail ahead leads upward, but any Colorado climber can tell you the best views are always a little higher. Thatís where our district is heading. Thatís where our students are leading; and thatís where our dedicated teachers and staff are determined to take us. We appreciate our community and we invite you to visit a school, volunteer at an event, or just spend some time with our students as we climb further on the pathway to excellence.

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