Keystone Policy Center (KPC) and the Public Education & Business Coalition (PEBC) published a comprehensive report Feb. 9 detailing a set of 16 recommendations aimed at strengthening teacher support and initiating system-level change. The report is the result of the work of a broad coalition called the Education System Resiliency and Innovation Initiative (ESRII) and details potential pilot programs, field studies, and learning opportunities as well as findings from its own micro-pilots.
“This initiative has shown there is great potential for sustainable change for the education system that will improve student outcomes, address many of the inequities that have been exacerbated by the COVID system interruption, improve teacher retention, and reduce the teacher shortage in Colorado,” said Christine Scanlan, president & CEO of Keystone Policy Center.
“PEBC is a stalwart ally to educators and we have immense appreciation of the difficult lift that all teachers, leaders, and systems are managing. Capturing the right learnings from this moment can help us build a more resilient system for the future,” said Sue Sava, president & CEO of PEBC. “Teachers have earned so much respect by pivoting so rapidly, learning new skills overnight. The ESRII coalition provides opportunities for the field to lead the work so that the momentum teachers have generated through this crisis will continue.”
ESRII assembled more than 80 education system leaders, educators, government officials, and stakeholders from within and outside the education system to develop new approaches to improve support for the teaching workforce, deliver instruction that better prepares all students for the challenges of an ever-evolving world, and address issues within the education system that perpetuate inequities and achievement gaps that were only exacerbated during disruptive events like the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A lot of attention has appropriately been on the challenges brought about by the pandemic and responding with urgency to those challenges. There have also been remarkable examples of leadership, of innovation, and of systems evolving to respond to each community’s unique context and their students’ unique needs. In many ways, this not only redefined how students learn, it rewrote the job of teacher,” said Berrick Abramson, director of the education program for Keystone Policy Center. “We gathered teachers, system leaders, and education stakeholders to capture what was being learned and chart a new path forward. From the first meeting, the members of this group were clear that they did not want to return to what was and all had a remarkable sense of hope that we can and will rebuild a better, stronger, more personalized education system for students and a prestigious, rewarding profession for educators. These recommendations are offered as a starting point, not an end point, and we look forward to continuing this engagement at the local, state, and even the national level.”
Keystone and PEBC kicked off the ESRII July 10, 2020 and conducted six months of regular meetings. The initiative specifically focused on three primary streams of inquiry:
- Educator Workforce: Exploration of opportunities for reimagining the educator workforce and the role of teacher to reduce non-instructional burdens on teachers, strengthen and diversify the educator workforce, provide additional pathways into the profession and roles and pathways within the profession.
- Teaching and Learning: Exploration of best practices, innovations and emerging approaches to instructional delivery including models for other than full-time in-person instruction, use of technology, competency-based progression and examining the strengths, challenges and innovations surfaced through the statewide shift to remote delivery of instruction.
- Teacher Training and Supports: Discussion and examination of changes, improvements or shifts in how we train and support new and veteran teachers through lens of lessons learned during the COVID-19 system interruption and in light of other recommendations developed for shifts in the educator workforce and in teaching and learning.
Education leaders in Colorado lauded the initiative and the potential it holds for charting a new path for education in the state.
“While state and local officials rightly focus on the immediate needs of teachers and students, we always need to have an eye on the long-term, which has also been the focus of the Governor’s Education Leadership Council. Having a group like the ESRII doing complementary work and bringing so many people together to dig deep into the long-term implications for public education is invaluable. As busy as every person is, it was inspiring to see how many gave so much of their time to this initiative and to spend time with so many educators committed to seizing on the lessons learned in these challenging times to build an even stronger, more agile education system,” said Colorado State Representative Julie McCluskie and Senator Bob Rankin in a joint statement.
“Our best hope for providing the education system our kids deserve and the profession that attracts and retains the best teachers is to listen to those closest to that work. Listening to such a diverse group from across the state and voices from across a spectrum of perspectives as everybody came together on key strategies to deliver on that promise has been remarkable. I’m excited about this report and what comes next,” said Angelika Schroeder, chair of the Colorado State Board of Education.
“Every school leader and education system leader in Colorado wants to ensure we emerge from this pandemic with an education system ready to address inequities by empowering its educators and leaders to provide an education system that meets the needs of all students. The recommendations of this diverse and thoughtful group can move us closer to the vision we have for our students,” said Bret Miles, executive director of the Colorado Association of School Executives.
Members of the ESRII will be scheduling a webinar in the coming weeks to discuss the initiative and the recommendations detailed in the report. Please reach out to Marques Chavez at [email protected] if you would like to receive updates and login credentials for this webinar.
The report is also being distributed broadly in Colorado to education system leaders, educators, community organizations, state officials, legislators, and other interested stakeholders. It will also be shared with peer organizations and leaders in other states and with national organizations. In the months ahead, the ESRII intends to develop guidance and best practices for implementing the recommendations in this report; provide technical support to members and others implementing the recommendations; support a second cohort of pilots; and continue to engage state and local leaders advancing system-level changes in education.