Stability: School’s underrated X-factor makes Belmont Elementary a shining star in Pueblo

belmont1Kaelia and Sunny were called into Principal Stephanie Smith’s office to tell the truth. They weren’t called in to inform on another student’s bad behavior, but given the more unusual opportunity to tell on their teachers.

Sunny: “They work together as a team to find out what we’re going to do, and if we get stumped on something, like we don’t know something, they help us understand it.”

And tell on their parents.

Kaelia: “My mom gets along with the teachers, she talks with them, she wants to be their friend. They think it’s great that I’m learning a lot from this school.”

And talk about the big lessons they’re learning.

Sunny: “If you don’t strive for success, than you might not get to where you want to be, and you’ll just be lonely.”

Kaelia: “You can’t just say, ‘I can’t do this.’ You always have to say, ‘I can do this. I can get through this.’ You can’t just give up right away. You don’t do that.”

Kaelia and Sunny love their school

Kaelia and Sunny love their school

Sunny and Kaelia haven’t been inside every school in Pueblo, but these third graders have both attended another school in District 60. Even with that short sampling, they’re convinced Belmont Elementary is the best school in the city.

“I love school. I was sick for two days last week and I kept telling my mom that I was better,” Sunny confesses with a sly smile. Not to be out-complimented, Kaelia brags, “I wake up earlier than I should just to get ready to go to school.”

Many education watchers in the city and state don’t share this enthusiasm for Pueblo City Schools. District 60 is better known by the word ‘turnaround,’ a term for failing schools that are on the clock to bring up student performance. Belmont is not a turnaround school even though its staff faces the same Pueblo realities: high poverty and unemployment, low incomes, and great public reluctance to raise revenue for public education with its limited means.

Belmont's Principal Smith

Belmont’s Principal Smith

“In Pueblo we have some of the hardest working educators probably anywhere. We work our tails off, but we don’t always see the results of that in numbers, in test scores,” said Smith, Belmont’s principal of seven years. “I’m not sure that people outside of Pueblo, and even here, get how significantly challenging our schools are as a whole. We don’t have a mix of student needs in Pueblo. We have a demographic continuum that starts high-need, and just gets higher and higher and higher.”

Belmont has not only survived but thrived in conditions where similar schools are struggling. The key to its success starts at the top, with Principal Smith and her predecessors.

“We’ve had four principals in 59 years, which is practically unheard of,” said 4th grade teacher Terry McCanne. “You have to have stability in leadership. A lot of Pueblo schools have had 25 principals in that time, and the average turnover of every two to three years isn’t going to cut it.”

Terry McCanne teaches 4th grade math

Terry McCanne teaches 4th grade math

“Every time you have a new principal, the programs are going to change, the expectations are going to change, and that is really what makes Belmont good. We’ve stayed stable,” added library media specialist Julie Naccarato. “We’re not a school that gets a new principal every two years. The stability helps.”

Kendra Zerfas, a 5th grade teacher, says principal firing is too often the silver-bullet, quick-fix to whatever issue a school is having. “Administrative offices think, ‘Let’s just get a change of principal in there and it will make the difference.’ That’s the absolute wrong approach to take. The more stable your principal is, the more stable your building is going to be.”

Principal stability has led to teacher stability at Belmont. “I believe having stability in leadership is really important in developing a good school. Once you get a reputation of being a good school, many teachers want to teach there,” said McCanne, who has taught at Belmont for 20 years. Naccarato has taught Belmont students for 17 years, Zerfas for 12.

Kendra Zerfas checks progress one-on-one with her 5th graders

Kendra Zerfas checks progress one-on-one with her 5th graders

“That is something to celebrate and tell other districts and schools,” Zerfas said of Belmont’s experienced workforce. “You don’t want 90% of your staff to be a first-year staff. You need to have a good mix of veteran teachers because they teach younger teachers how to handle change and problems.”

CharLou Simonson, a kindergarten teacher here for 29 years, is proud to be part of the long history of teachers who have stayed Team Belmont. “That’s been the trend since I’ve been here, teachers stay. It’s a very cohesive staff and that really helps too.”

Principal and teacher stability has led to a solid community reputation that in turn fosters student stability.

“The principals and teachers get to know the families, and the families become very comfortable with them, and that’s what makes Belmont special,” Zerfas explains. “Many Belmont families have their kids come here kindergarten through 5th grade, then their brothers and sisters come here. Even when families move, they still come here because they don’t want to switch schools.”

According to Smith, nearly 200 of Belmont’s 550 students choice-in to attend Belmont from across the city.

“I get challenged here at Belmont,” said Lauren, a 5th grader in the Gifted and Talented program. “If math problems or worksheets are a little too easy, they’ll give me a more challenging one. It really helps because I feel like I’ve grown so much. I’ve been really successful over the years.”

So if stability is demonstrated to be a positive force at Belmont, trickling benefit down from principal to teacher to student, why don’t we see more stability at other Pueblo schools?

“That’s a good question. Because there hasn’t been consistency at other schools, it’s a problem that just keeps feeding itself,” Simonson offers. “The more instability there is, the more people don’t want to stay because it’s not a stable feeling. So then people leave, and then it’s not stable. That’s the real challenge in truly turning a school around.”

CharLou Simonson has taught kindergarten at Belmont for 29 years

CharLou Simonson has taught kindergarten at Belmont for 29 years

Though every teacher CEA spoke with felt fortunate to work in a highly successful school, they have aspirations for working in a better school system. Among the roadblocks they face:

Curriculum: “The powers that be are causing what I call curriculum-creep, where what used to be taught in 6th grade is now taught in 5th grade, and now it’s even coming down to 4th grade. It’s not developmentally appropriate and it’s a huge challenge for us to get kids up to the level that’s expected. It’s gone too far.” (McCanne)

Testing: “Testing has taken over the whole feel of a school in many ways. Here, kids know that tests are important, but we’re not making it into the be-all and end-all of the school year. I think a lot of schools focus way more than they need to on the whole process because they’re scared. They hear rumors of, ‘We’re going to close you down.’ That’s scary. So then they think, ‘We better make sure we’re doing well on these tests.’ That doesn’t necessarily make you do well on tests.” (Simonson)

Funding: “I wish the taxpayers in this city who didn’t have children in school anymore would understand how poor our city is and the majority of our kids are. If they would support a mill levy or a bond, it would trickle into businesses and improve everything else. That’s what I think the everyday lay person doesn’t get. They don’t understand what kinds of financial things we’re seeing here.” (Zerfas)

belmont6The education of children like Kaelia, Sunny and Lauren are impacted by these challenges, but Belmont mitigates them better than most through a stable learning environment.

“Schools reflect society. You can’t really change society by changing the schools, and yet we all try to do that,” Simonson reflected. “That’s what we try every day – we try to fix it. I don’t really think we can, but we are a positive force toward that change.”

Kaelia and Sunny certainly appreciate the stable, caring staff. When asked about the lessons and skills they’ll take with them when they leave Belmont, they couldn’t even fathom the thought of leaving.

Kaelia: “I just love this school, I don’t ever want to leave it.”

Sunny: “I’m going to take my principal, my teachers, and my stuff – but mostly my principal and my teachers.” 

Note: Terry McCanne, Kendra Zerfas, Julie Naccarato, and CharLou Simonson are all members of Pueblo Education Association. Belmont Elementary has 27 members of Pueblo EA and classified employee associations.

Community rallies to reduce testing time, red tape in education

A community movement known as “Free Our Teachers, Value Our Students” kicked off Feb. 18, with educators, parents, students, legislators, and community members gathered at the Denver Press Club to call for reductions of testing time, educational mandates and bureaucratic red tape in Colorado’s public schools.

Red tape is tying up more Colorado teachers,

Red tape is tying up more Colorado teachers,

“This is a campaign to say, ‘No more mandates.’ Let’s make sure we have all the tools to give students the best education and a solid future,” said Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association, in opening remarks. “We’re seeing actual teaching time vaporize because of increased red tape and testing mandates. That’s not good for anyone. It’s not good for our students and it’s not good for the educators.”

Dallman introduced a new video spot highlighting some of the pressing issues facing Colorado public schools, including anemic funding for a growing student population, a corporate-driven testing culture absorbing classroom time, and the loss of vital instruction time for students. Supporters were also encouraged to share their stories on a new Facebook page, also named “Free Our Teachers, Value Our Students,” which had more than 350 ‘likes’ overnight.

Glass speaks at the kickoff event for "Free Our Teachers, Value Our Students."

Glass speaks at the kickoff event for “Free Our Teachers, Value Our Students.”

Jason Glass, superintendent of Eagle County Schools, spoke to the enormous amount of change his schools are going through while enduring massive budget cuts.

“The state schools have experienced an historic gutting of education funding while simultaneously being saddled with an unprecedented number of state government reforms,” said Glass. “The combined effect of these two forces puts our schools in a pressure and policy vice-grip that, by the accounts of those actually working in our community schools, makes the goal of becoming a high-performing education system a more elusive endeavor.”

While Glass said he supports the Colorado Academic Standards and Common Core State Standards, he said no other country subjects every student, every year to machine-scored standardized testing and hitches those results to school and educator accountability.

“Of all the international systems which purportedly outperform the United States, and whose results we so often pine after, none of them uses such an approach when it comes to student assessment. Instead, our higher performing global competitors rely on more heavily on classroom level, formative assessments…that are more squarely focused on improving instruction,” Glass said. “The heaping of accountability, and more and more blame and shame-based education policies on this still very unproven assessment system, has generated reactionary fear, and it is that fear that is the root cause of much of the resistance to these new systems.”

student0

Rossi watches her students speak to supporters of less testing, less red tape.

A February poll of 1,200 Colorado public school teachers, released yesterday by CEA, found teachers spend more than 30% of their instruction time with students preparing and administering tests, with a clear majority of teachers favoring less than 10% of instruction time devoted to testing. Several teachers and students spoke at the event who typically spend 50 days during the academic year preparing for and taking standardized tests. Jefferson County EA member Stephie Rossi brought three of her students from Wheat Ridge High School to explain that current standardized testing doesn’t generate critical thinking and isn’t aligned to the skills and knowledge learned in class.

“The test was boring. It wasn’t calibrated toward what I was learning,” said Michael Coyne, who recalled having to re-study material from a previous year just to prepare for a test. “We really need to refine our standardized tests so that they’re more focused to what we’re learning in the classroom, not toward a set standard that really doesn’t reflect the state curriculum.”

Colorado kids are losing teacher instruction time for testing of questionable value.

Colorado kids are losing teacher instruction time for testing of questionable value.

Are kids just a test score in school today? Dee Blecha, a special education teacher and Wray EA member, asked this as she reflected over the changes she’s seen over a 33-year career. Blecha said what’s missing for her in today’s classroom is the opportunity to form relationships with students.

“A test doesn’t mean anything to students. What does mean something to you is the fact that your teacher likes you, that your teacher cares about you as a human being. And that’s the part that I’ve struggled with,” said Blecha. “How do I find the time – as I muddle through the red tape, as I progress monitor, as I standardize test, as I crunch the numbers, as I look at data – how do I find time to make sure that I continually connect with kids each and every day, each and every hour?”

Rep. Young represents House District 50.

Rep. Young represents House District 50.

Rep. Dave Young of Greeley, a career junior high school teacher, said he would not choose to teach in today’s high-stakes testing environment.

“Teachers need to drive the instruction, and the sense I have now is, they’re not in control of that,” said Young. “Let’s think about how we can put teachers back in control of the instruction experience in the classroom.”

Young observed decisions on education reform and funding in the Capitol are overly invested in standardized testing and often miss the mark on what is central to the learning experience – the interaction between teachers and students.

“We’re engaged in test preparation, and that’s okay if you agree that the test is what we really want. But I’m not convinced that any test really measures the full scope of what we value, what we want people to learn. I want deeper learning, and that’s hard to measure on a standardized test.”

Gov., CEA officially kickoff campaign to increase investment in Colorado schools, students

CEA leaders turn out for the campaign launch

CEA leaders turn out for the campaign launch

Top leaders of the Colorado Education Association, from the Denver metro area to Fort Collins to Colorado Springs, gathered at Green Mountain High School in Lakewood, Aug. 15, for the official campaign launch for “Colorado Commits to Kids,” an education funding ballot initiative that will go before Colorado voters in November.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia and other political and business leaders spoke at the campaign kickoff, explaining the necessity to increase Colorado’s investment in public education to give students the skills and tools they need to compete for jobs, achieve their potential and make a better life.

CEA Pres. Kerrie Dallman thanks Gov. Hickenlooper for his support of Colorado Commits to Kids

CEA Pres. Kerrie Dallman thanks Gov. Hickenlooper for his support of Colorado Commits to Kids

Hickenlooper called the initiative “the single-most comprehensive education reform initiative in the history of the United States” during his remarks.

“We’re not going to get anywhere without an educated workforce. Colorado has got to be ready to have those jobs filled in the 21st Century,” Hickenlooper said about the impact increased education funding would have on energy, aerospace and other sectors that drive our economy. “With the Colorado Commits to Kids initiative, we get to build a better Colorado for our students, for our families, for our businesses, and for every future generation that’s going to come after us.”

The “Colorado Commits to Kids” ballot initiative would generate $950 million annually to improve public education under the provisions of the Future School Finance Act (Senate Bill 213). The State Legislature passed and Hickenlooper signed SB 213 in May to bring badly needed resources to our public school system. Over the past five years, lawmakers cut more than $1 billion from our schools and Colorado now spends $2,000 less per student than the national average.

SB 213 begins to address the shortfalls by overhauling a school funding system that has not changed in nearly 20 years. In his remarks, Garcia highlighted some of the benefits of SB 213, which calls for increased funding for all students with targeted resources to students who need help the most: at-risk preschool, full-day kindergarten, special education and gifted and talented, and English- language learners.

Lt. Gov. Garcia speaks at the kickoff for the ballot initiative campaign

Lt. Gov. Garcia speaks at the kickoff for the ballot initiative campaign

“We know that not all kids enter school on equal footing. We know that not all kids speak the same language at home. We know that not all kids have books in the home. We know that not all kids make the same progress when they show up at school,” said Garcia. “If we want kids to graduate and all be ready for higher education, we need to make sure we can provide the level of individualized support that most district cannot now afford to offer. That’s what is key, and it’s key not just for those students, but for the long-term good of this state.”

Two days later, CEA held a statewide leader conference in Denver to plan how its Local Associations will reach out to members and voters with the facts on “Colorado Commits to Kids.” 

CEA VP Amie Baca-Oehlert reviews campaign materials that show how "Colorado Commits to Kids" funding will better serve all students in all communities.

CEA VP Amie Baca-Oehlert reviews campaign materials that show how “Colorado Commits to Kids” funding will better serve all students in all communities

At the conference, more than 70 leaders and staff affirmed “We’re All In” on passing the ballot measure and engaged in table discussions on how educators can drive voter support in their communities. They reviewed the success of the summer signature drive, in which CEA leaders, members and staff collected more than 19,400 signatures toward putting the initiative on the November statewide ballot, and they looked at ways to engage more CEA members to become involved in the campaign.

“This is about our students,” CEA President Kerrie Dallman told the conference participants. “A lot of us have talked over the last several years about the importance of taking action on social justice issues. I can’t think of an issue more important to us and our organization than the future of our kids and the investment in our kids’ future. Securing their future is exactly what these dollars are going to do.”

Secretary Duncan on ‘Preschool for All’ at Denver townhall

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan spoke at a Denver townhall meeting, July 19, about a proposal to provide every four-year-old child with access to high-quality preschoool, while also incentivizing states to adopt full-day kindergarten policies.

President Obama is proposing a series of new investments that will establish a continuum of high-quality early learning for a child – beginning at birth and continuing to age five.

Duncan2Secretary Duncan told the audience at the Clayton Early Learning Campus that less then 30% of the nation’s four-year-olds have access to high-quality preschool programs, and as a result, children starting kindergarten in disadvantaged communities are typically more than a year behind in academic and social skills.

“We have to close what I call the ‘opportunity gap’. Our children, from every community, are as smart, as talented, as great as children anywhere. We just haven’t given them the chance to be successful,” said Duncan.

The Secretary was joined by a panel representing several segments of the Colorado community – business, military, faith, law enforcement – each explaining how investment in early childhood education is crucial from their perspective.

“From a business person’s perspective, to see the efficiency of the investment thorugh my involvement at the state and national level, I’ve seen many evidences of the power of investing in kids,” said Brad Busse, an investment banker and early childhood education advocate who sits on the state’s Early Childhood Leadership Commission. “The reason I’m involved in this is that I think investing in kids early is the best investment we can make.”

Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey said he’s been asked many time over a 30-year career how to best prevent crime, and found early childhood education is the best answer.

“We prevent crime by investing in kids. We prevent crimes by supporting (education) programs,” said Morrissey. “When you get into my system, the criminal justice system, it’s too late. We are the system of last resort…The system you work in (education) is a lot more cost-effective than the system I work in.”

question2Duncan and his fellow panlists took many questions from the audience, including one on “Colorado Commits to Kids”, the education funding ballot initiative that would raise Colorado’s investment in public education by nearly $1 billion. CEA members and other groups are gathering voter signatures to put the measure on the statewide ballot in November.

“It’s a big initiative here in the state. I desperately hope it moves forward. I think the implications for the state’s children, for the state’s ecomony, are huge,” said Duncan.

Busse added, “Hopefully the success that we have with the ballot initiative in Colorado will be something that will go to other states. It’s a great model. This isn’t just a Colorado (issue), but something that affects all Americans.”

The townhall was hosted by Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia at the Clayton Early Learning Campus in Denver. Garcia said in his introductory remarks, “What we need to really be thinking about is the ‘school readiness gap’, the fact that some of our kids show up more ready than others, more prepared to learn and be successful. So we really want to focus on, and talk about how we make sure everyone has that opportunity.”

Giving every young child that opportunity may come down to how we think of education funding, according to Duncan.

“Do we think of education as an investment, or do we think of education as an expense?” asked Duncan. “There’s a lot of folks I work with and respect, but just fundamentally disagree with in Congress, who think we should be cutting back in education – cutting back from early childhood, cutting back from K-12, cutting back the college PELL grants. I just think we cut off our nose to spite our face when we do that.

“I spend a lot of time looking at our international competitors – Singapore, South Korea, China, India – and they are investing very, very heavily in innovation, in education, in early childhood education,” added Duncan. “I just want our children to have a chance to compete on a level playing field.”

Teaching grant to give more Colorado students access to STEM instruction

Colorado is the first state to receive a challenge grant from the National Education Association and matching-fund partners to train more teachers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

Kerrie Dallman at Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia at the Colorado STEM expansion press conference, Jan. 15

Kerrie Dallman at Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia at the Colorado STEM expansion press conference, Jan. 15

Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia made the announcement today at Northglenn High School, which is transitioning into a STEM school to emphasize student learning in subjects projected to drive many 21st-century careers.

The NEA will provide $200,000 to the New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning (NJCTL) for teacher training and certification, technology and support to expand its math and science program in Colorado. The NEA’s challenge grant is being matched by grants from the Morgridge Family Foundation ($150,000) and Xcel Energy ($50,000).

The NEA’s goal is to raise $1.5 million in efforts to spread the NJCTL teacher training model to many states.  The Center cultivates teachers who are highly qualified and skilled educators to fill science and math teacher shortages, and has added more than 130 new physics and chemistry teachers in New Jersey since 2009.

Quotes from the participating organizations:

(watch video of remarks by Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia and CEA President Kerrie Dallman on CEA’s YouTube channel)

  • “Colorado’s economy is adding jobs in STEM-related fields every day and we need to meet this growing demand by educating a highly-skilled and competitive workforce.  Colorado is replicating progressive science and math training programs that will help translate a teacher’s first-rate instruction into better learning for students in the classroom.” – Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia
  • “We know a great teacher can make a tremendous impact on a student’s desire and ability to master STEM content, but Colorado lacks the number of teachers we need to help enough students learn these exciting subjects.  This investment will grow our talent pool of outstanding STEM teachers and further our state’s collective goal of preparing every student to thrive in a dynamic economy.”  – Kerrie Dallman, Colorado Education Association president
  • “We are thrilled to be working together to get additional qualified, caring, and committed math and science teachers into the state’s classrooms.  There is a clear understanding that our nation’s prosperity is tied to innovation and that innovation will be spurred on by our ability to engage our students in STEM subjects and programs. NEA will continue to lead efforts to improve teaching and learning and invest in programs that work.” – Dennis Van Roekel, National Education Association president
  • “The Morgridge Family Foundation is thrilled to be a part of bringing Bob Goodman and his exceptional physics and math training programs to Colorado.  We believe in doing all we can to transform the lives of students and teachers through proven instructional strategies.  We are especially proud to support the early adopters at Northglenn High School and Adams 12 who have demonstrated a strong commitment to STEM education.” – Carrie Morgridge, Morgridge Family Foundation vice president
  • “Improving STEM education is imperative for the energy business and other sectors as well as our overall economy.  More than half of our current jobs require STEM degrees or extensive math or science skills. These are positions critical to our business.” – David Eves, president and CEO of Public Service Co. of Colorado, an Xcel Energy company
  • “I want to express my appreciation to the NEA, Morgridge Family Foundation and Xcel Energy for having confidence in a program that has proven so successful in New Jersey and for providing the financial support needed to bring it to the students of Colorado.” – Dr. Bob Goodman, New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning executive director

On the national front, President Obama wants to add 100,000 highly qualified and skilled educators to better prepare students in the STEM subjects that are expected to be critical in 2.7 million new jobs over the next five years.

Kerrie Dallman with Northglenn High students after the press conference

Kerrie Dallman with Northglenn High students after the press conference

TELL Colorado Survey begins February 6

As educators know, there is a clear connection between teaching conditions and student learning. This is why CEA is working with statewide partners for the third time to offer the TELL Colorado Survey to teachers from February 6 to March 6. We want to find out more about Colorado’s K-12 schools from the people who know them the best.

The TELL Colorado Survey is an anonymous, online survey which gives teachers and other licensed school-based educators the opportunity to tell their perceptions of the teaching and learning conditions in their schools. The survey data will provide educators, schools, districts, the Legislature, Colorado Department of Education (CDE), and CEA and its partners with information we can all use to improve our schools and support pro-education policies.

The TELL Colorado Survey (TELL stands for Teaching, Empowering, Leading, and Learning) was offered in 2009 and 2011, supported by funding from the Legislature. State-based versions of the survey are offered in a dozen other states in partnership with The New Teacher Center. CEA is working with CDE, CASE, CASB, the League of Charter Schools, and the Colorado Federation of Teachers on this year’s survey.

The TELL Colorado survey takes about 20-30 minutes and addresses issues of time, empowerment, leadership, resources, student conduct, community engagement, professional development, and mentoring. In their schools during the last week of January, educators will get individual letters with personal codes for taking the survey. After the close of the survey on March 6, The New Teacher Center will analyze data from all the schools that have sufficient participation for a written, school level report. Through this analysis, each school will have its own data to use in school improvement planning. The initial data will be available beginning in April.

CEA working in partnership with education groups, others on early literacy

During February 27-March 2, the Colorado Education Association (CEA) was proud to play a role in Colorado Literacy Week, a vibrant movement led by Governor John Hickenlooper, Lt. Governor Joe Garcia and literally scores of groups around the state.  Literacy Week was the outgrowth of a broad coalition of partners including business, elected and community leaders, along with CEA, organized to focus attention on and address the challenges we face with early childhood literacy.

Friday, March 2, as part of a nationwide program by the National Education Association called Read Across America, CEA helped sponsor and conduct special reading events in dozens of classrooms around the state.  CEA believes it is unacceptable for even one student capable of reading at grade level to fall short of this critical standard.

As Gov. Hickenlooper and Lt. Gov. Garcia emphasized in the Colorado Reads: The Early Literacy Initiative report issued last week, literacy neither starts nor stops in school.  When it comes to the classroom, however, CEA members have been working for decades on advancing literacy.  We supported the 1997 Colorado Basic Literacy Act as a critical foundation for making teaching literacy a top priority.  CEA members were also instrumental in revising the Colorado Academic Standards and integrating literacy into all academic content areas. Our members are committed to bringing the highest quality instruction to all public school students, especially those who struggle to read.

CEA has dedicated increased resources and energy to promoting strategies that are clearly effective in raising early literacy skills. This means first ensuring students have the resources, time and support to be successful readers and teachers have the preparation and training to effectively meet the needs of their students.  It also means focusing attention and awareness on approaches that have been proven to make a meaningful difference in helping our kids read, such as all-day kindergarten and summer reading programs. 

CEA members who are experts in early literacy and work with the most challenging cases every day emphasize that these kinds of programs are essential to helping kids read.  Success also means broadening awareness of the role school readiness, parental involvement, and early intervention play in literacy.  Moreover, we must acknowledge that achieving lasting results in early literacy involves confronting the other critical factors that greatly impact our system of education, including poverty and drastic cuts in school funding. 

Our mission is to capitalize on every opportunity to improve public education and early literacy.  CEA has been working in close partnership with other education groups, the state legislature and the Hickenlooper administration on a broad-based approach to early literacy.  A bill now before Legislature that looks to update rules regarding literacy teaching, HB 1238, is one part of this effort. CEA is working with others to amend the bill and collaborate with sponsors and  partners to it better results for public school students, their families and the Colorado citizens who invest in our system of public education.