Exciting policy options

This past week I had the extraordinary professional delight of attending a four-day event put on by the Aspen Institute talking state education policy. I realize that talking about education policy might sound like a dreadful way to spend one’s precious summer days, especially considering the Maroon Bells are in plain sight, but the invitation to learn, share and debate critical topics affecting education policy with a small, intimate, highly knowledgeable circle of thought-leaders was pretty exciting for me.

Pot tax not a panacea

This week, The Cannabist (a spin-off publication from The Denver Post covering marijuana related news and culture) proclaimed that tax dollars earmarked for schools “soared” based on revenue collected in May of this year and “crushed” 2014 earnings. Ricardo Baca, the journalist writing the story, put on a decidedly editorialized spin, stating that “the Colorado Department of Revenue’s just-released marijuana tax data for May 2015 shows one clear winner: schools.”

Finding the right fit

It is no particular secret that one of the difficulties faced by both private and public sector organizations in Eagle County is getting talented people to relocate here — and then keeping them for the long haul.

Yet when I describe our struggles to attract and retain teachers and other key employees with Eagle County Schools to those who don’t make the mountains their home, I’m often met with surprise. “Why wouldn’t someone want to live in that beautiful community?” they ask.

Keep the learning going

Across the country, school is definitely “out for summer”! But this does not (and absolutely should not) mean that learning stops during these fun-filled months for kids. Our kid’s brains and bodies are growing up every moment and as parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors, we all have an opportunity and a responsibility to keep the learning going. In that spirit, here are five big ways to make this a summer of learning for those kids in your life.

Seeing the future of education

This past weekend, state Board of Education member (and the front runner to be the next board chair) Steve Durham penned an important guest commentary for The Denver Post on the future of education in our state.

Durham’s main points are on the over-reach of top-down accountability and testing provisions that have been handed out from on high by the U.S. Department of Education and fueled by funds from the Gates Foundation.

Reaching out to our kids

Fifteen thousand meals. Let that number sink in for a moment. That’s the estimated number of free summer lunches that will be provided to children and youth ages 0-18 through a new initiative starting this summer in Eagle County designed to bring nutritious and healthy meals to our community.

Moving into the future

The term “innovation” is tossed around a lot in discussions on education reform. Indeed, it is difficult to argue with those who push for more innovation in education. The term conjures up images of industry pioneers, scribbling down seemingly crazy ideas and experimenting before that “Eureka!” moment, where the revolution occurs and everything changes from that beautiful moment forward.

Where can we find education’s Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein or Steve Jobs — who turns a paradigm on its head and alters the future for the better?

Educators hone their skills

A key part of Eagle County Schools’ organizational strategic plan is following what we call a “professional” model of teaching.

Implementing a professional model means focusing on quality before a teacher ever takes a job in one of our schools. Things like a high level of selectivity as to who enters the teaching profession, rigorous pre-service training that includes content knowledge (the subject to be taught), evidence-based pedagogical (how to teach) training, and early clinical (supervised, hands-on) experience.

The kids are all right

For schools, spring is a time of recognition and celebration, with continuation and graduation ceremonies happening all over the community. With those celebrations in mind, I’d like to profile a couple of exceptional Eagle County Schools graduates: Rachel Weiss from Battle Mountain High School and Miles Peterson from Eagle Valley High School.

Grading Capitol Session

Last week, the 2015 legislative session drew to a close. An unprecedented 119 bills related to education policy were introduced. However, and thankfully by some accounts, the vast majority of these never made it into law — mostly dying in committees as part of the process.

Our educators are very accustomed to being ranked and judged based on criteria imposed by some outside force, usually state government (doing the bidding of the federal government) or some “think tank” with a not-so-hidden agenda.

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