Race to the Top Briefing
STUDY OF THE FINANCING OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS
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09:01 AM -- Race to the Top Briefing
Lieutenant Governor Barbara O'Brien and Commissioner of Education Dwight Jones spoke before the committee regarding the Race to the Top application. Lieutenant Governor O'Brien reviewed the status of the application and the specific areas that are being targeted in the application. She further discussed legislation implemented in the 2009 legislative session that positioned Colorado well for the competitive grant application. She noted that early childhood education has not been included in the application process. The state will push for the inclusion of early childhood education in the upcoming public comment period for the Race to the Top's draft guidelines. She also explained the technology that is being use to receive public input on the application throughout the state. She explained that white papers are being commissioned to get feedback on what the public would like to see included in the application.
Commissioner Jones updated the committee on the application guidance issued by the federal government on Friday, July 24. He noted the importance of innovation in being well-positioned for the Race to the Top funding. He noted that on national conference calls Colorado has been cited as an example of the standard the federal Department of Education seeks on certain assurances states must meet to qualify for Race to the Top funds. He further explained the involvement of Colorado in federal level discussions on the common core standards. The Commissioner also discussed the relevancy of Senate Bill 08-130, the Innovative Schools Act, in turning around struggling schools at the state and national level. He discussed the creation of zones of innovation in the state and noted that the system of accountability being built is based on support, not punishment. He also noted the importance of the teacher identifier program for being competitive for Race to the Top funding. He concluded his remarks by discussing the growth model, which he noted is a national front-runner in longitudinal assessment models.
Representative Middleton asked the Commissioner to comment on the school turnaround process and how it fits with the interim committee's discussion regarding at-risk funding. Commissioner Jones discussed the pilots the department has implemented across the state. He noted that on August 7, the data to be released about the pilots will be promising. He also noted the federal stimulus funding can be dedicated for school turnaround, which he explained can be up to $500,000, and that he will be meeting with national experts on the topic to support the department's work in this area. He stated that the department is developing a statewide system of support to couple with the new accountability system created in Senate Bill 09-163, which will be funded with Title I federal stimulus funds.
Representative Middleton discussed the connection between money following the student and the turnaround process. Senator King asked about the Senate Bill 08-212 standards and how they compare to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) standards. Commissioner Jones shared that the department is ahead of the December 2009 deadline for presenting the state standards created under Senate Bill 08-212 to the State Board of Education (SBE). He reviewed the phases of establishing the model content standards. Commissioner Jones explained that Colorado is one of six states that has the opportunity to have early access to the common core standards being developed by the Colorado Department of Education.
Senator Romer commented that few states have moved to an outcomes-based funding model. He stated that teacher compensation models have been at the core of states' innovations. He asked the Lieutenant Governor and the Commissioner to discuss their vision for updating the formula. The Lieutenant Governor stated that her preference would be to experiment with different funding models instead of a complete rewrite of the formula, in order to allow for different growth rates of children. Commissioner Jones shared his view that the old system does not support new innovation in the state, and he presented concerns about how to align public education funding with P-20 alignment. The Commissioner also noted the role that centers of excellence can have.
Representative Massey asked the Lieutenant Governor if she knows how many states will be receiving Race to the Top funding, and if the funding could be used for concurrent enrollment programs. The Lieutenant Governor responded that there will be eight states receiving funding in the first phase of grant awards. She further stated that there are ten states that cannot apply because of their current education systems, but noted that states could change that in their next legislative session.