K-12 Education

Improving Colorado’s public education system is important not only for realizing our children’s full potential. A high-quality education system further benefits all Coloradans by creating a more skilled workforce and increasing economic growth in our communities. To ensure that every child graduates prepared for success in college, career, and life, we must eliminate opportunity gaps and guarantee all students access to high-quality programs and schools that meet their individual needs.

a boy reading a book on a carpet

Where Colorado Stands

Colorado has a lot of work to do to ensure all kids get the education they need to thrive. 2019 CMAS results show that just 35 percent of Colorado students are demonstrating proficiency in math, while 46 percent are proficient in English Language Arts. . The share of students demonstrating proficiency in these core subjects has increased each year since 2015, and 2019 scores saw the largest share of students meeting or exceeding expectations. Despite this encouraging progress, the majority of our students are still not performing on grade level. Academic resources are inequitably distributed among Colorado classrooms, and historical achievement gaps between groups of students persist. The state’s districts serving the most students of color receive about 5 percent less ($549 less) in funding for each student when compared to districts serving the fewest students of color. This inequitable distribution of funds has impacts for how our students of color fare in the classroom. In 2019, 18 percent of American Indian and black students as well as 19 percent of Hispanic/Latino students scored proficient in Math, compared to 45 percent of white students. In English Language Arts, 29 percent of American Indian students and Hispanic/Latino students as well as 30 percent of black students demonstrated proficiency, compared to 55 percent of their white peers.

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When kids experience poverty or housing insecurity, it also impacts their academic outcomes. The stress of living in poor-quality housing can lead to lower math and reading scores for adolescents.  When families are forced to move frequently due to challenges with housing affordability or quality, or experience a period of homelessness, it means that kids have to change schools frequently or miss days of school. This has a negative impact on their chances for academic success and their educational attainment and earnings later in life.

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What the Children’s Campaign is Doing

Colorado has been putting in place education policy aimed at creating the excellent schools needed to create the outcomes of success we want for Colorado’s kids, and now is the time to focus on effective implementation of these promising reforms. There is still much to do to improve student achievement, close opportunity gaps, increase high school graduation rates, and ensure effective educators are in every school and classroom. To reach these goals, the Children’s Campaign is focused on protecting and advancing:

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  • Advocating for a modernized, equitable school finance formula that targets investments to meet the needs of all students.
  • Advocating for a more equitable and adequate K-12 revenue system that reverses the unsustainable reliance on state (over local) revenue for education, reduces property taxpayer inequality, and accounts for and equalizes differences in property wealth.
  • Effective implementation of rigorous academic standards, meaningful assessments of students’ learning, performance evaluation systems that support educators and improve practice, and accountability systems that provide a holistic picture of school and student success.
  • Ensuring all Colorado students have access to support that allow them to thrive in school, including nutritious school meals and access to mental health services.

School Finance Reform

The Children’s Campaign has been a leader in efforts to modernize our school finance system since 2012, when we convened a broad-interest group called the School Finance Partnership that came to universal consensus on a framework for significantly improving the sufficiency, transparency, accountability, and equity of our education financing system.

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High Performing Schools and Students

Great schools don’t happen by coincidence. There are several key elements needed to make great students and schools, including excellent teaching, high academic standards, and meaningful assessments of students’ achievement and growth.

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Educator Effectiveness

Educator effectiveness is one of the most important influences on student achievement. As school districts struggle with teacher shortages and systemic inequities, we must work even harder to ensure that every student receives a high-quality education.

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Want to Learn More?

For more information on K-12 education in Colorado, please contact the Children’s Campaign’s Vice President of Education Initiatives, Leslie Colwell, at leslie@coloradokids.org or 303.620.4534.