Effecting successful suburban school reform poses an authentic challenge. Many students do well compared to their peers in neighboring districts, but overall test scores conceal shortcomings. The U.S. spends more per person on education than any other country, yet even middle-class students academically lag their peers in other countries. The fast-growing Douglas County School District (DCSD) south of Denver, Colorado, has attempted a different approach to aim higher.
Online tools combined with face-to-face instruction create what is known as blended learning. Effective integration of technology can allow more efficient use of instructional time and save schools money. Colorado is well positioned to implement and test blended learning programs on a larger scale. Charter and district public schools have begun to implement blended learning models and have seen promising results.
In 1993 Colorado became the third state to adopt charter school legislation. Born out of frustration with lackluster school performance and limited options, the Charter Schools Act resulted from the hard work and dedication of many parents, educators, and political leaders. Careful and colorful recollections from many active, influential figures combine with other original sources to highlight the foundation and origins of the Act.
Scholarship tax credits increase the opportunity for K-12 students to access non-public educational options. Such a tax code modification increases the incentive for persons and businesses to contribute funds to qualified non-profit scholarship granting organizations. In turn, the organizations use most of the incoming funds to assist low- and middle-income families with private school tuition expenses. Colorado policymakers should give careful consideration to providing many of the state’s families an important benefit through the adoption of scholarship tax credits.
Many Colorado secondary students may benefit from greater opportunity to take a number of traditional face-to-face classes and digital courses simultaneously. Students’ ability to “self-blend” courses in this manner is hampered by school district control of per-pupil funding and course options. Following the national Digital Learning Council’s guidelines, Colorado should alter the K-12 education funding system to enable greater student access to effective online course options.
The report highlights the evolution of school choice in American history, from the colonial era to the present. Krista Kafer examines the trends, policies, laws, and court cases that have marked the nation’s progress toward educational freedom.
The use of the Internet as an education program delivery system has increased rapidly in Colorado in recent years. The first full-time Colorado public online program began in the Monte Vista School District in 1995. For the 2011-2012 school year, 22 full-time multi-district public online schools are certified to serve students statewide. Colorado students may choose from any of the statewide programs. Additionally, 24 full-time single-district online programs serve students who reside in a particular district.
Today it is more important than ever for governments to be financially transparent. The funds of public K-12 agencies in particular should be spent wisely to improve student learning. Colorado’s 2010 Public School Financial Transparency Act requires local education providers to post specified financial information online. Out of 178 school districts, 16 BOCES and the Charter School Institute, only 25 websites were fully compliant with the law’s requirement 90 days after the July 1, 2011, deadline to post expenditures through check registers and purchase card statements.
The transformation of teacher compensation is an integral piece of improving the overall quality of the K-12 instructional workforce. Research overwhelmingly shows the predominant single salary schedule, which pays teachers strictly according to seniority and academic credentials, to be ineffective and financially unsustainable. Numerous local innovations — led by Harrison School District Two, Eagle County Schools, and a number of public charter schools — place Colorado at the forefront of teacher compensation reform.
For the sake of public accountability and transparency, Colorado needs more effective oversight of education employee association leave. Through locally negotiated policies, many Colorado school districts grant release time privileges to local employee associations. Teachers and classified employees are excused from professional duties to serve extended periods as association officers or to spend particular days performing various association-related activities.