Schools are both centers for academic development and centers for well-being, community, and character development. The role of schools has been elevated by a pandemic that caused immeasurable social disruption and isolation of students and erected barriers to academic achievement and youth success. “School climate” encompasses several aspects of a student’s experience at school, including their own engagement and sense of belonging, school safety and discipline practices, social emotional learning, and culturally responsive education.
Research indicates that students are better able to learn when they feel safe and supported by peers and adults, and that connection also acts as a protective factor against youth and adolescent school-based violence and suicide. We must, therefore, prioritize the creation of safe, healthy and inclusive learning environments by investing in comprehensive support and training that is responsive to both students’ and educators’ social and emotional needs.
Meaningful Academic Standards and Assessments
The Children’s Campaign supports Colorado’s rigorous Colorado Academic Standards and aligned assessments, which represent one important tool for measuring student performance and growth. We acknowledge that students encounter assessments with different levels of preparedness and readiness and believe that placing greater emphasis on growth is imperative. At the state level, annual assessments should be valid, reliable, comparable and culturally relevant to students. Without jeopardizing the privacy of individual students, assessment results should be publicly available and disaggregated to show how results differ across student groups, especially across sub-groups which have historically faced the most barriers to educational opportunity.
School and District Accountability
All schools should be able to support and educate all kids who walk through their doors. Our state accountability system is just one way we can identify and support teachers, schools and districts that are both meeting and failing to meet expectations for the students they serve. Ideally, resources and targeted support are made available to schools and districts that are identified by the accountability system as needing improvement. Schools and districts that are determined to be higher performing can be models for best practices. We believe in a transparent accountability system that holistically defines, measures and depicts what student, school and school district success looks like. A central component of such an accountability system is a state-level assessment that provides valid and comparable data for all schools.
The Education Accountability Act of 2009 (SB 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. To learn more about the Children’s Campaign’s recent advocacy in this area, please reach out to Leslie Colwell at email@example.com.
Recent Policy Successes
HB22-1376 (Herod & Young/ Priola & Winter) Supportive Learning Environments for K-12 Students updates Colorado’s policies, practices and data frameworks to better measure and support positive school climates. It requires the Department of Education to gather data and create accessible, annually updated reports with consistent data concerning chronic absenteeism rates, suspensions, expulsions, and the number of students handcuffed or restrained, among other indicators of school climate. It also updates restraint and seclusion policies and limits practices that have been shown to harm students, such as handcuffing. The bill requires the development of a model policy to promote best practices and proper training for school security staff.
SB22-147 (Kolker & Sonnenberg/Young & Pelton) Concerning Behavioral Health Care Integration Services for Children appropriates $5 million in federal stimulus funds to the School Health Professional Grant Program. The bill also appropriates $1.5 million in federal stimulus funds for school-based health centers. Additionally, the bill creates the Colorado Pediatric Psychiatry Consultation and Access Program (CoPPCAP) and appropriates $4.6 million in federal stimulus funds to the program.
HB20-1427 (Caraveo & McCluskie/Fileds & Moreno) Cigarette Tobacco And Nicotine Products Tax to Support Health and Early Childhood Education Programs referred a question to voters to raise taxes on nicotine products to fill budget deficits caused by the pandemic, including public education funding, and also establish a universal preschool program that targets the greatest resources to those with the most barriers.
SB19-204 (Story & Arndt/Bird) Public School Local Accountability Systems improves local school district accountability by creating grants to support innovative local accountability systems that supplement and inform the state system.
SB19-003 (Zenzinger & Coram/McLachlan & Wilson) Educator Loan Forgiveness Program expands and funds a loan forgiveness program for teachers serving in hard-to-fill positions due to geography or content area.