High-Performing Schools and Students

Excellent schools don’t just happen. They are carefully built by educators, community leaders, and policymakers who understand that the most important asset for our future is our children’s education today. We know that there are several key elements needed to make great schools, including excellent teaching, high standards, and meaningful assessments of students’ achievement and growth. These elements work together in a supportive system to improve readiness for college and career for every student in Colorado, regardless of zip code.

children in a classroom raising their hand

The Children’s Campaign is committed to supporting and advancing a number of educational policies including meaningful standards and assessments, school and district accountability, innovation and turnaround schools, competency-based graduation guidelines, and school choice.


Meaningful Academic Standards and Assessments

In 2008, the legislature established the Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids (CAP4K) to create new standards and assessments and align expectations from preschool to post-secondary education. CAP4K required the revision of academic standards and design of a new state assessment system, including a school readiness assessment. The Colorado Academic Standards were fully implemented in the 2013-2014 school year, and the first year of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment was administered in Spring 2015.


The Children’s Campaign supports assessments that give parents and taxpayers a complete picture of how our schools are performing for every child. History has shown us that without policies that explicitly ensure all students have access to the same high standards and opportunities to measure levels of understanding, we will not have a fair and equitable education system.

Learn more about Colorado’s Academic Standards and aligned assessments, or take a look at a timeline of other educational policies being implemented. In the 2015 legislative session, the Colorado General Assembly approved HB 15-1323, which made several changes to the state testing system. And in January, 2017, the Children’s Campaign partnered with Climb Higher Colorado and Stand For Children Colorado on the report Statewide Testing in Colorado: Where it Came From and Why It Matters. Read the full report or an executive summary.


School and District Accountability

The Education Accountability Act of 2009 (Senate Bill 09-163) created an education accountability system that tracks the overall performance of every public school and district throughout the state by authorizing annual reviews and implementing improvement plans and accreditation categories. The Children’s Campaign believes there is value in a fair accountability system that ensures equity and transparency and allows performance comparisons to be made between students, schools, and districts within the state.


Learn more about the state’s accountability system, including recent changes that addressed accountability during the 2015 assessment transition. With the authorization of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December of 2015, Colorado has an opportunity to fundamentally re-imagine certain aspects of the accountability system and re-commit to ensuring equity is a core focus. To learn more about the Children’s Campaign’s recent advocacy in this area, please reach out to Leslie Colwell at leslie@coloradokids.org.


Innovation and Turnaround Schools

The Innovation Schools Act (SB 08-130) created a standard process for schools, groups of schools, and districts to apply for waivers from various state laws and regulations. The goal of the law is to give schools and districts more freedom to design their own programs to improve student achievement.

The Children’s Campaign recognizes the urgent need for dramatic school and district turnaround in Colorado and the development of talent ready to make the kinds of changes that are necessary. Efforts to turn around under-performing schools are making gains, including successes in Far Northeast Denver and the Westminster 50 school district. However, not every district working on turning around schools has a strategy that is working.


In October 2012, the Children’s Campaign partnered with several organizations on the report Colorado Turnaround Schools – Rays of Hope, which tracked $51.5 million in School Improvement Grants to Colorado’s lowest-performing schools. By comparing districts’ efforts and performance data, the report pinpointed successful practices and areas for improvement. In 2015, the Children’s Campaign was part of a broad coalition that released the report If Not Now… Transforming Aurora Public Schools from Failing to Great, which took a closer look at concerning performance trends in Aurora. Learn about CDE’s current turnaround work.


Graduation Guidelines

The Children’s Campaign considers it imperative that what Colorado students learn in high school prepares them for college or the workforce. It is estimated that by 2020, 74 percent of Colorado’s jobs will require some form of post-secondary education. The path to earning a post-secondary certificate or degree begins in the K-12 system. At the same time, one in four Colorado high school students fails to graduate in four years. For students of color, only 70 percent of our black students and about 65 percent of Hispanic students graduated from high school on time in 2013, compared to 83 percent of white students.


In 2012, the Graduation Guidelines Council convened to articulate Colorado’s shared beliefs about the value and meaning of a high school diploma and outline the minimum expectations and responsibilities of local districts and the state to support students in attaining their diploma. After more than 40 meetings across the state with interested constituents, and using data and relevant research to inform their work, the Council developed recommendations for the State Board of Education’s consideration. In May of 2013, the State Board voted unanimously to adopt the competency-based graduation guidelines proposed by the council. In doing so, the board emphasized that the guidelines are a starting point for continued discussion and refinement as the state works toward full implementation of the guidelines in 2021. In the 2014-15 school year, school boards were required to adopt local graduation requirements that meet or exceed the state guidelines.

Successful implementation of these guidelines is an important step towards ensuring students do not need remediation when they reach college. While the remediation rate for Colorado students has declined in the last five years, it is still too high at 34 percent. The Children’s Campaign supports the Department of Education as it works to implement the guidelines and guarantee that a high school degree signifies true readiness for life and careers.

Learn more about Graduation Guidelines on the CDE’s website. Find info including a fact sheet, timeline and FAQs.


School Choice

In 1993, Colorado was the third state in the country to pass legislation opening up school choice and options. In 2016, charter schools served more than 108,000 students in more than 225 schools across the state. Whether families choose traditional or alternative forms of education (including charter and online learning), we must ensure that all educational experiences offered are of the highest quality and drive positive outcomes for our students. The Children’s Campaign has been a lead supporter of school choice and will continue to advocate for high-quality educational options for all Colorado kids.

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Our KidsFlash Blog is here to help fellow Coloradoans stay informed about important issues related to the well-being of Colorado’s Children.

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