Stuck in the Middle

As students begin their adolescent years, middle school can be a time of monumental change. Yet, too often, these schools seem to fail their pupils. Here, we spotlight the local middle schools that are making the grade, and examine why others are not.

August 2012

Change is Gonna Come

Colorado’s educational landscape has dramatically evolved in recent years, and 2012-13 will continue the trend. Here’s a brief guide to the most noteworthy laws and initiatives that will take effect—or be debated—in the coming months.

  • READ Act
    Signed into state law last spring and going into effect in 2013, this early literacy program helps identify reading problems as early as kindergarten. It will provide anywhere from $5 million to $21 million in funding for summer school, full-day kindergarten, and reading tutors. “There’s a lot of data now showing that early deficits in reading manifest themselves in obstacles that keep you from accessing all the content,” says state Senator Mike Johnston. “Even if you’re great in math and science, if you can’t read and understand a word problem in fourth grade, that creates all kinds of difficulties. This could be a historic piece of legislation.”
  • Testing Consortium
    Colorado is likely to join about 30 other states—many of them, including Colorado, winners of the recent Race to the Top competition for federal education funding—in a group that will make it easier to see how Colorado’s school kids are measuring up against students across America. By more closely sharing information, ideas, and initiatives, the collective effort should create broader education policies without robbing individual states of their independence. “This will give us real-time data that demonstrates how teachers and administrators are performing,” Johnston says. “States still maintain control over their own standards, but now they can see how they compare to other states.”
  • School financing
    The Colorado Children’s Campaign is working with advocates and legislators to recommend rewriting the state’s school financing laws for the first time in almost 20 years, and it should begin to address the Lobato v. Colorado lawsuit that accuses the state of requiring better academic performance without giving educators the resources to accomplish it. Although this will be a contentious debate, it needs to happen. “We have all these education reforms in place around accountability, but we’ve never connected them to the funding aspect,” says Reilly Pharo of the Children’s Campaign. “The traditional education community says it’s doing a fine job and just needs more money, but the business community is resistant to that until the outcomes get better. Until now it’s been a counterproductive conversation. If we can get the right amount of money, along with the best way to allocate it, it could have huge implications for how we finance everything in our state.”