I believe that Jeffco Schools provides families many choices for their children’s educational experience. Charter, neighborhood, and option schools provide particular school learning environments that help meet the needs of our students. For an example, within District 4, four elementary schools provide dual language programs, Patterson E.S. provides an IB Primary Years program, Addenbrooke Classical Charter School provides students with a core knowledge curriculum as well as music every day, and Jefferson County Open School provides for self-direction and experiential learning. I am very pleased to know that the district will open another Warren Tech that will be located near Dakota Ridge High School. I choice enrolled my daughter into the middle and high school program at Jefferson County Open School. In addition, my son attended Creighton M.S. and Lakewood H.S. via choice enrollment.
College and Career Pathways:
I believe that it is important to help our students uncover their interests, talents and aspirations as soon as middle school. This will help lead to the use of Individual Career and Academic planning as soon as possible to help ensure that students are ready for career, college and community engagement. Middle schools must continue to promote career awareness programs for students and their parents. Once a pathway is developed, it is important that Jeffco schools continue to promote links with college and industry partnerships that will help our students be college and/or career ready. We need to continue to encourage opportunities like concurrent enrollment with local colleges. These concurrent enrollment programs range from 1 to 254 courses at our high schools. In addition, we need to continue to promote career technical education by expanding the Warren Tech campuses and using the Career Wise Colorado apprentice programs.
Emotionally Safe Schools:
It is difficult for students to engage in the learning process if they are depressed, worried and anxious. In addition, the creation of a positive school climate that encourages pro-social behaviors allows for an atmosphere where all teachers can teach, and all students can learn without unnecessary distractions. I am pleased the district has used some of the mill levy money to employ Social Emotional Learning Specialists. It is my expectation that the SEL’s will help students acquire skills, attitudes, and behaviors that will lead to more positive classroom environments.
I am a strong supporter of public education. We should not undermine funding and our support of public schools to subsidize private tuition with tax dollars or tax credits. I do not support any legislation that sanctions establishing conventional or neo-vouchers in Colorado. In our country, direct financial support in the form of vouchers have often be directed towards religious private schools. The Colorado Constitution, Article 9, Education, Section 7, states that neither the general assembly, nor any county, city, town, township, school district or other public corporation, shall ever make any appropriation, or pay from any public fund or monies whatever, anything in aid of any church or sectarian society, or for any sectarian purpose, or to help support or sustain any school, academy, seminary, college, university or other literary or scientific institution, controlled by any church or sectarian denomination.
State Education Funding:
Colorado does not have the educational funding it needs. In the early 1980’s our per pupil funding was above the national average, and now it is $2,700 less than the national average. The state is $4,300 below the level in Nebraska and $8,000 below the level in Wyoming. We need to fix this problem to retain a high-quality teaching force. Making trade-offs in our existing budget will not necessarily fix the problem of lower comparable Jeffco teacher salaries to that of our surrounding districts.
Challenges and Opportunities for Jeffco Public Schools:
Jeffco needs to continue on the path of facilitating learning for our students to allow them to be prepared for a successful life. This is done by ensuring that our students have a mastery of content knowledge and can transfer that knowledge as needed. In addition, it is equally important that students are more motivated to learn if they can connect to learning in the real world. Finally, our students need to use their knowledge to build upon new learnings and to develop new ideas.
As Jeffco follows a path of facilitating deeper learning for our students, it is still important to remember that the mastery of content knowledge and the transfer of knowledge is an important aspect of deeper learning. It is disappointing that the 2019 academic growth data for CMAS and PSAT/SAT showed lower performance compared to prior years for overall grade levels and subgroups such as free/reduced lunch eligible students, Hispanic students, etc. I am pleased that the district is addressing decreased growth score data by determining root causes and then identifying and addressing the underlying causes of the decreased growth scores.