Creating a More Resilient Education System in Colorado - PEBC

Creating a More Resilient Education System in Colorado

In partnership with Keystone Policy Center, PEBC is convening an Education System Resiliency and Innovation Initiative (ESRII), gathering more than 80 teachers, leaders, legislators, stakeholders from across the state to use this time of challenge to catalyze learning. 

As part of this work, we asked ourselves the question – “What is the critical work necessary to speed up recovery in our education system post-COVID, and how do we capture the right learnings from this moment in order to build a more resilient system for the future?”

A critical aspect of the ESRII coalition is providing opportunities for the field to lead the work – what are teachers and leaders doing, right now, as we continue to manage the day to day shifts in teaching and learning during this disruption? We wanted to design a framework that allowed us to both a) anchor ourselves in the now, with an immense appreciation of the difficult lift that all teachers, leaders, and systems are managing, and b) create a space where we can begin to sift through the myriad layers of this disruption, looking for answers to challenges that preceded our current moment and have only been exacerbated as leaders, teachers, students and families have had to radically adjust to a profoundly new reality of what schooling entails. 

Following this line of inquiry, and with the generous support of the Boettcher Foundation, PEBC has supported development of four micro-pilots/learning experiences this fall within ESRII’s framework. While each of the four projects vary in their focus, each of them touches on at least one aspect of the ESRII framework – supporting the teaching workforce, reimagining teaching and learning to meet the current moment (and improve it for the future), and addressing both current and future teaching workforce needs.  

  • We’re collaborating with the Colorado Education Association on a series of focus groups with practicing teachers to understand both the effect of the COVID-19 disruption on their mental health, and learn from them about the effectiveness of current mental health supports for teachers in both prep and PD. Learnings from these focus groups will inform how we can center better mental health supports for teachers, leaders, and students in the years ahead. 
  • We want to learn more about Peer to Peer Networking and the Student-Centered Accountability Program (S-CAP), and other ways in which teachers can collaborate both within and across district boundaries. In this effort, we’re partnering with La Veta School District Superintendent Bree Jones, who has led a partnership between her district and the neighboring Aguilar School District. These two rural districts in Southern Colorado are partnering to provide teachers with opportunities to collaborate and explore alternative perspectives through peer observations; sharing strategies/resources; engaging in reflective practice and providing contextual feedback; and having productive conversations focused on solving wicked problems and improving outcomes for all students. In addition to the current partnership, we’re supporting the buildout of an online framework to establish and drive three job-alike peer networks across the 14 S-CAP participating school districts from January-June 2020.  
  • We are supporting a team of educators at Dillon Valley Elementary School in Summit County, a dual language school, who are identifying best practices in delivering culturally responsive instruction across learning environments (in-person, hybrid, and virtual), specifically focusing on how they are providing instruction to English Language Learners. 
  • Last, we’re partnering with Edgewater Collective in Jefferson County, a community nonprofit that established “pathway pods” as an inclusive, equitable way for students at the schools within their zip code to receive tutoring and after-school enrichment opportunities. A part of this work includes hiring high school students to serve as tutors to younger students who show up for enrichment. Joel Newton, Edgewater’s Executive Director, ultimately envisions building this experience into a pathway into teaching for students from the neighborhood who learn through tutoring that they are interested in pursuing a career in education. We’re looking at ways to support these tutors (what do they need to be successful?) as well as how to create feedback loops between the tutors, students, parents and teachers to holistically support student learning in the midst of the current disruption. 

Project leaders at each site are receiving stipends to document their learning so that it can be shared with the broader community, as well as incorporated into a report to the legislature by December 2020. For promising initiatives, PEBC will seek to usher in legislation to remove barriers, generate funding, and smooth pathways for scaling statewide.

One model for this work is the Educator Preparation Innovation Coalition (EduPIC), convened previously by Keystone and PEBC, which generated legislation to create expanded supports for new educators; this Coalition’s work was shared across state and then got traction nationally; we see similar potential for the projects described above.  

The past eight months have been a time of extreme stress for all of us. Educators have been grappling with the unique strain of managing their own stress while striving to sustain productive learning experiences for the students in their care. Teachers have earned so much respect by pivoting so rapidly, learning new skills overnight every night. There is great hope that the momentum teachers have generated through this crisis will continue, and PEBC will be a stalwart ally to those teachers moving forward.

For more information, contact PEBC Director of Strategic Initiatives and Public Policy Evan Kennedy at [email protected].