Colorado Education Initiative

CEI is a statewide nonprofit organization that invests time, expertise and dollars in K-12 public education. We are rooted in a vision of equitable outcomes for every kid that drives a strong bias for action, focused on sustainable change to the system.

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High School Redesign

Class

Education 

Beneficiaries

Adolescents/Youth (13-19 years)
Adults
Families
Teachers
Young Adults (20-25 years)

Description

The Challenge and CEI's Solution
The typical American high school was designed to align with the social and economic demands of the early 20th century. While demands have changed drastically, our high schools have not and, at most, layers of additional options and requirements have been added without addressing underlying structures. Research confirms students become less engaged, productive, and curious the longer they attend U.S. schools and the gap between what today's employers want and what most high schools produce is widening. In Colorado, after steady increases in the state graduation rate and steady decrease in dropout rates, those numbers have stalled. Moreover, more than one in three Colorado high school students who does go on to college is found to need remedial coursework. It's time our education systems respond to the current needs of our communities and businesses. It's time to redesign Colorado high schools.

Why This is a Smart Bet
Local policy is increasingly focused on expanding options for advanced course work and the Colorado Legislature and State Board of Education have created policies (Graduation Guidelines) requiring students in all districts to demonstrate proficiency at a "college and career ready" level by 2021. In addition, state level partners are pushing for course-work to be more rigorous and relevant to students' lives after high school. Redesigning high schools is a comprehensive approach to achieving these outcomes through strategic partnerships at the state and local levels.

Targeting high schools is also a strategic entry point for work related to district transformation. Changes in high schools cause a ripple effect in middle schools and elementary schools, laying the foundation for true systems change. These changes also demand that district leadership engage communities in robust conversations about the value and outcomes of education, empower students with meaningful agency over their learning, allocate resources differently, and prioritize learning environments that support social and emotional development. Redesigning high schools can impact all five desired student outcomes (academic, professional, personal, entrepreneurial, and civic) and increase equitable access, two of CEI's top priorities.

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

In 2018, CEI launched learning networks in two of our Big Bets, High School Redesign (HSR) and Competency-Based/Personalized Learning (CB/PL), which we believe will help transform educational systems to reliably produce the academic and non-academic outcomes we care about for students at scale. These networks are designed to help district and school teams learn about HSR and CB/PL, grounded in CEI's theory of change, with a focus on equity and empathy mindsets, conditions for scale, and catalyzing a learning community of schools and districts across Colorado seeking to leverage this work for broader system transformation.

The learning networks kicked off in early March with a joint convening, in which the HSR network focused on network building and developing empathy-building skills and the CB/PL network spent time learning about the relationship between competency-based education and personalized learning, as well as how CB/PL can be used to address equity challenges in their districts. Over the subsequent few months, CEI provided distance learning and knowledge-building activities, including online webinars and a Seeing Is Believing visit to an elementary school in Greeley implementing personalized learning, and CEI staff conducted site visits at each participating school and district. The networks reconvened separately in early May to reflect on their learnings and begin planning work for the 2018-19 school year. These convenings provided opportunities for more shared learning across districts and schools, as well as focused team planning time. This planning work continued at CEI's 2018 Showcase in June, where teams prepped for the transition to the design network phase of the project, to begin in the 2018-19 school year.

Both learning networks have embedded continuous improvement approaches in their work in different ways. The HSR network has started to train participants in PDSA cycles to begin testing out ideas for redesigning their schools this next school year, while the CB/PL network entailed district teams completing system self-assessments focused on CB/PL (adapted from tools developed by KnowledgeWorks) using evidence, in order to help inform areas of focus for their work moving forward, setting them up to use PDSAs in the 2018-19 school year. After the May 10th convening, 100 percent of HSR network members reported that they were supported to use multiple data sets to better understand challenges in their schools. Both networks also supported districts and schools in using empathy-building strategies with their students to better understand them and what they need to be successful. One educator reflected on the experience interviewing students, "We were really able to hone in on the overall needs of our student as a whole, instead of assuming or guessing."

Competency-Based/Personalized Learning

Class

Education 

Beneficiaries

Description

The Challenge and CEI's Solution
Traditional educational systems divide what a student should know and be able to do upon graduation into thirteen years (K-12) of study, and students move through this curriculum in as a grade cohort - regardless of levels of mastery. The result - less than half of Colorado students graduate "college and career ready." Competency-based education turns the traditional model on its head. Instead of age-based cohorts of students moving forward together simply because another year has elapsed, students progress when they are able to demonstrate they have mastered clearly defined competencies-the skills, abilities, and knowledge required in an area of study. Competency-based learning is flexible, personalized, self-paced, skill-based, technology-enabled, and builds engagement and ownership in learning for the student. Instead of a single pathway, students can be prepared for any of the multiple options that exist after high school (vocational training, career, 4-year degree, etc.). CEI must support districts to adopt a competency-based/personalized learning model.

Why This is a Smart Bet
Colorado education policy encourages innovation. State law requires students in all districts to demonstrate proficiency at a "college and career ready" level, but provides districts with flexibility to determine the requirements for their local context. This enables districts to pursue competency-based learning. Other states, including Maine and New Hampshire, and districts across the country have made significant shifts to competency-based systems, with compelling early results. National partners have convened leaders to create a common definition and implementation guardrails for this work.

Local and national funders and other education leaders have explicitly stated interest in competency-based/personalized learning, and recognize that improvements at scale require strategic partnerships and a systems approach, including shifting mindsets and expectations across the system; disrupting use of funds, time, and staffing; and empowering educators to tailor instruction to students' interests, needs, and learning styles. Furthermore, transitioning to competency-based and personalized learning will improve equitable access to education and impact all five student outcomes, as the pace of learning is customized to each student.

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

In 2018, CEI launched learning networks in two of our Big Bets, High School Redesign (HSR) and Competency-Based/Personalized Learning (CB/PL), which we believe will help transform educational systems to reliably produce the academic and non-academic outcomes we care about for students at scale. These networks are designed to help district and school teams learn about HSR and CB/PL, grounded in CEI's theory of change, with a focus on equity and empathy mindsets, conditions for scale, and catalyzing a learning community of schools and districts across Colorado seeking to leverage this work for broader system transformation.

The learning networks kicked off in early March with a joint convening, in which the HSR network focused on network building and developing empathy-building skills and the CB/PL network spent time learning about the relationship between competency-based education and personalized learning, as well as how CB/PL can be used to address equity challenges in their districts. Over the subsequent few months, CEI provided distance learning and knowledge-building activities, including online webinars and a Seeing Is Believing visit to an elementary school in Greeley implementing personalized learning, and CEI staff conducted site visits at each participating school and district. The networks reconvened separately in early May to reflect on their learnings and begin planning work for the 2018-19 school year. These convenings provided opportunities for more shared learning across districts and schools, as well as focused team planning time. This planning work continued at CEI's 2018 Showcase in June, where teams prepped for the transition to the design network phase of the project, to begin in the 2018-19 school year.

Both learning networks have embedded continuous improvement approaches in their work in different ways. The HSR network has started to train participants in PDSA cycles to begin testing out ideas for redesigning their schools this next school year, while the CB/PL network entailed district teams completing system self-assessments focused on CB/PL (adapted from tools developed by KnowledgeWorks) using evidence, in order to help inform areas of focus for their work moving forward, setting them up to use PDSAs in the 2018-19 school year. After the May 10th convening, 100 percent of HSR network members reported that they were supported to use multiple data sets to better understand challenges in their schools. Both networks also supported districts and schools in using empathy-building strategies with their students to better understand them and what they need to be successful. One educator reflected on the experience interviewing students, "We were really able to hone in on the overall needs of our student as a whole, instead of assuming or guessing."

The Lab

Class

Education 

Beneficiaries

Adolescents/Youth (13-19 years)
Adults
Families
Teachers
Young Adults (20-25 years)

Description

The Challenge and CEI's Solution
Evolving an entrenched, out-of-date system requires a focused approach to innovation. While external innovations have pushed around the edges of education for more than a decade, CEI believes that the innovators and innovations that will address longstanding education challenges reside within the educators working in Colorado's classrooms and schools today. CEI's approach to innovation focuses on people and on process more than on technology or specific interventions. We believe this will lead to more sustained and connected innovation efforts. The Lab at CEI provides Colorado educators with opportunity, support, and space to design the future of learning.

Why This is a Smart Bet
At a time when technology is racing forward to replace human jobs in many industries and globalization guarantees competition from all corners of the world, improvement efforts that push a small percent of our students to pass routine memorization exams is a false "mission accomplished." To succeed today and tomorrow, students need to be self-starters, persistent, and comfortable with measured risk-taking. They need to possess specialized and technical knowledge but also need to be comfortable with continued learning when those skills rapidly become out of date and new opportunities and challenges arise in our communities. This is not what our schools and school systems were designed for. In fact, many adults in our education systems have most often been rewarded for compliance - both their own and their students'. The Lab at CEI is an investment in innovators over innovations, focused on building the empathy, vulnerability, skills, and community for educators across levels of the system to innovate and adapt their roles in response to student and community needs, while simultaneously helping CEI anticipate emerging opportunities and barriers to innovation in the field.

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

CEI launched the Innovation Fellows Program in summer 2018 as part of The Lab at CEI. The Lab at CEI (formerly SpaceLab) is committed to investing in innovators, creating a community of innovation in the state, and testing and implementing solutions that can shift the education system.

CEI identified 12 entrepreneurs through an application process to engage in the six-week Fellows Program focused on defining the problem they wanted to solve, testing the validity of their idea, and pitching their solution to education stakeholders. Fellows attended two convenings over the course of the summer and 11 of the 12 participants successfully completed the program. The first training was a retreat-style convening in Estes Park where fellows were challenged to deeply understand the problem they are trying to solve. After this convening, the fellows engaged in empathy building with users of their proposed solution through interviews and observations and tested their solution. Five weeks later they came together in Denver to refine their pitches and present their idea to an audience of funders, entrepreneurs, and educators. After this second convening, the fellows completed a feedback survey about their experience in the project, and 10 of the 12 fellows responded to the survey. In total, fellows received over 32 hours of instruction and coaching, both in groups and individually. This brief report summarizes results from that survey, organized by the main goals of the project.

Overall, fellows consistently reported they had a positive and meaningful experience - 100 percent reported this fellowship was a valuable use of their time, and that based on their experience in this fellowship, they would recommend partnering with CEI to their colleagues.

Colorado Legacy Schools

Class

Education 

Beneficiaries

Children and Youth (infants - 19 years)
Ethnic/Racial Minorities - General
Female Youth/Adolescents (14 - 19 years)
Native Americans/American Indians
Poor/Economically Disadvantaged/Indigent

Description

Our Colorado Legacy Schools (CLS) initiative works with 55 high schools across the state to dramatically increase the number and diversity of Colorado high school students who are succeeding in AP math, science, and English courses - especially students typically underrepresented in AP courses such as females, and students of poverty and color. CLS coursework also encourages students to pursue majors and careers in the rapidly-growing STEM fields - science, technology, engineering, and math.

The goal is to enroll 30,000 new high school students in AP math, science, and English courses by 2017.

CLS is a local replication of the National Math + Science Initiative's College Readiness Program, a national program dramatically increasing the number of students taking and passing AP math, science, and English exams, particularly for traditionally underrepresented students.

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

The Colorado Legacy Schools program's recent accomplishments and measures of success include:
• Since CEI launched the CLS program in 2011-2012, the 13 schools that have completed the three-year program have more than doubled the number of students taking AP math, science, and English exams (129% overall increase) and the number of qualifying scores earned on AP exams (102%).
• Thirty-four high schools have received at least one year of support from CLS. In their average first year, these schools have increased enrollment in AP math, science, and English courses by 70 percent - and the number of qualifying scores earned on AP exams by 64 percent.
• Over 1,500 students provided with additional time on task to master AP coursework at Saturday Study Sessions
• 71% increase in the number of qualifying scores earned on AP math, science, and english exams at the original 13 participating Legacy Schools (from 733 to 1255)
• 82% increase in the number of qualifying scores earned on AP math and science exams by female students
• 116% increase in the number of qualifying scores earned on AP math, science, and English exams by African American and Hispanic students

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