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Letter From the Superintendent

I would like to take this opportunity to take an analytical look at what has taken place in public education in Colorado over the last five years.  Our well- intentioned legislature has passed a series of educational reform measures in an attempt to improve the structure of the educational system as measured by student assessment scores. It is important to note that during this same time period our state education budgets have been cut by $1.2 billion.  Keep in mind that only a few of the members of the House or Senate have educational backgrounds, and unfortunately those few come from more affluent metropolitan areas. I do have to reluctantly admit that there has been some improvement.  Teachers have developed better teaching strategies, school districts have adopted more comprehensive curriculums, there is better vertical alignment between grade levels, and there is more collaboration between school buildings. This being said, we are in fact doing a better job of educating students.

So, why have achievement scores in Colorado not improved?  If we are doing a better job of teaching students and curriculums are more rigorous and engaging, then why are we not seeing any results?  To answer this question we have to look outside of the school system.  The family unit in our society has deteriorated to the point that a large majority of students live in single family households.  A large percentage of our families are on government assistance and are unable to provide food or adequate housing for their children.  Kids are afraid to walk to or from school because of gang violence or sexual predators. When they do get home all too often they are greeted by an intoxicated or stoned and abusive parent.  Can these kids really be expected to be concerned about tests scores?  You might think that I am exaggerating to make my point, but I assure you that in our inter-city schools and many of our poverty stricken rural communities this is the rule; not the exception.

It seems that many school districts have adopted the mission statement that “all children can learn at a high level”.  This might be true if “all” children came from families with two loving caring parents that hold education in high esteem, but unfortunately this is not the case.  As I told a fellow superintendent not long ago when she informed me that she was resigning her position, you cannot repair a broken school system until you address a dysfunctional community.

My message to our governor and state legislature is simple; if you want to improve our schools spend more time and effort on social reforms in hopes of repairing our broken society.

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