Education: our view

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As part of the Chamber’s three-pronged approach to improve educational outcomes in Colorado: 1. Increase public awareness about Colorado’s education system; 2. Improve the outcomes of the system through reforms; and 3. Serve as a connector between those organizations that have proven track records of delivering better results and businesses who want to help improve education in Colorado, a team of Chamber staff, board members, educational professionals and experts with whom we partner traveled to New Orleans this week for the Institute for a Competitive Workforce ( ICW) retreat.

The ICW is a 501(c)3 affiliate of the U.S. Chamber and is focused on promoting “rigorous educational standards and effective job training systems needed to preserve the strength of America’s greatest economic resource, its workforce.”

We spent time at the retreat discussing provisions in the No Child Left Behind Act that are working and those that are not working. We also explored ideas for helping students excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education as they prepare for a workforce that needs workers with strong technical skills.

Perhaps most importantly for our group, we examined business’ role in education and shared ideas for how businesses and schools can develop partnerships to benefit student achievement. The ICW has produced a publication, What It Takes for Business to Help Drive School Reform, which outlines some ideas.

Our Denver Metro Chamber team then met for a private discussion around Colorado-specific examples and ideas for improving our own school system and results. Big thanks to Tom Boasberg, Bob Deibel, Jeani Frickey Saito, Lynne Mason, Sonja Semion, Alan Salazar, Kelly Underell and Chris Watney for being part of these roundtable sessions. We were encouraged from that experience that Colorado does indeed have the right people, the right goals and the passion to ensure Colorado’s kids are workforce and college ready.

We are preparing for the 2012 legislative session to approach our student achievement challenges through public policy. We remain committed to the implementation of SB10-191, the bill passed in 2010 focused on teacher and principal effectiveness, and we have worked closely with our partners in education to prepare the rules of implementation for approval during the legislative session.

Third-grade literacy will be a key proposal as well, because we know that third grade is where students transition from learning to read to needing to be able to read to learn. According to the Colorado Children’s Campaign, currently 8 to 10 percent of Colorado’s kids are functionally illiterate (meaning they don’t know all the letters of the alphabet or simple sight words).

Based on a study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, students who could not read by the end of third grade were four times more likely to drop out of high school.

We believe we must commit as a state to ensure kids can read in third grade-their future depends on it. As does the economic future of our state.


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