Dr. Walt Cooper
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Many eyes are on the final days of school and winding down the academic year. And while there is no shortage of tasks to accomplish toward this end, members of the District 12 Leadership Team are already focused on the significant work that will be required over the next couple of years. The lion’s share of this work involves five large-scale, state mandates. Any one of these initiatives in isolation would be a large undertaking and result in significant change. The mandate that we must implement all five simultaneously will undoubtedly pose an unprecedented challenge for our school leaders, teachers, and staff members.
The most significant of these mandates will be the initial year of the Educator Effectiveness Act, a revision to our teacher evaluation system that will require 50% of a teacher’s or principal’s performance rating to be based on student learning outcomes. While this is a much welcome and widely needed shift in the way we analyze the effectiveness of teachers, it will also triple the time principals spend on supervision and evaluation thus restricting time available for all of their other duties which will not go away.
Another initiative will be the full implementation of the revised Colorado Academic Standards (CAS) across all grade levels and content areas. We view the revisions to our state standards as a positive step toward providing a much deeper and more appropriate framework for what our students need to learn and when they need to learn it, and there is no doubt they raise expectations for student performance. However, in order to implement them effectively, we will need to make revisions to a number of our existing curricula and undertake careful alignment and articulation among grades and schools to ensure our students are well prepared for the next level.
Paralleling the full implementation of the CAS are the new Colorado-mandated assessments, a combination of state-developed tests in social studies and science and the nationally developed assessments for English and math from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) that will begin in 2014 will cause a significant shift in the way we currently approach testing. Since these assessments will be digitally based, we must increase our technology capacity to effectively handle the demands of testing more than 3,000 students in a short period of time and on computer-based assessments. The hardware and connectivity demands alone for this initiative are truly staggering.
Two elementary-level mandates that we must address are the implementation of school readiness assessments and plans and the Reading to Ensure Academic Development (READ) Act. When fully implemented in 2014, school readiness will require comprehensive assessments of all preschoolers and kindergarteners to inform the development of individual learning plans for those students who demonstrate they are not fully ready for school. The READ Act focuses on assessment of K-3rd Grade students with a state-determined diagnostic instrument designed to identify significant reading deficiencies and, again, inform the development of individual READ plans for remediation. We believe that these initiatives are positive and hold promise for helping advance achievement, especially for struggling learners, but implementation will have measurable impacts on time and resources.
So while sweeping change is ahead of us, we are certainly up to the task of effectively implementing these mandates in the Cheyenne Mountain School District and, in fact, we have already begun the work in many areas. An added benefit is the fact that the majority of our newly appointed Leadership Team members at both the school and district level have been promoted from within and will bring with them consistency and the institutional knowledge that is highly critical toward continuing our good work to the benefit of our students’ future.