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RISE Funders Convening


The Colorado Lab was honored to host Governor Polis and philanthropists at a convening on January 6th to discuss progress on Colorado’s RISE project. RISE—the Response, Innovation, and Student Equity fund—has awarded over $40 million to address the learning challenges in pre-K-12 through higher education related to the economic, social, and health impacts of COVID-19. The fund is sponsored through the federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Funds. The Colorado Lab is supporting the change efforts of 10 RISE grantees with generous funding provided by the Anschutz Foundation, Gary Community Ventures, Gates Family Foundation, and Wend Collective.

RISE grantees include schools, school districts, and public institutions of higher education, each working to create sustainable innovations to improve student learning, close equity gaps, and enhance operational efficiencies. Projects range from providing extended learning opportunities —such as after school, summer school, and early childhood education—to social-emotional learning/mental health support and career pathway programs that prepare students to succeed during and after high school, no matter which path they choose.

“Low income, rural, English Language Learners, and other underserved students need us to think outside of the box—this is what gave birth to RISE,” Governor Polis said as he kicked off the convening. “This work to support schools and districts in doing something different, to break down silos between districts, higher education, and the workforce, will pay dividends for the long term.” The Governor underscored to funders the importance of philanthropy partnering with the public sector, noting that no one sector alone can achieve change of this scale. He also emphasized the critical role evaluation plays, remarking that “learning from successes and failures is important to replicating what works.”

Dr. Kristin Klopfenstein, Director of the Colorado Lab, told funders that successfully launching and sustaining these types of innovations is a tall order for educators stretched to meet basic requirements amidst the continuing challenges of the pandemic, especially staff turnover and shortages. “The role of the Lab is to support and guide RISE grant partners in navigating these complex and often frustrating environments,” she said. “We begin by meeting partners where they are, helping teams to generate ideas, build evidence of what works, and share learnings. Throughout the journey, we have been serving as a thought partner and working closely with teams to troubleshoot and address barriers to implementation and build processes to ground the work in data.”

“The ultimate goal for each grantee is to build evidence to position their new approaches for effective implementation and long-term success and sustainability. As Governor Polis noted, we also are capturing data and lessons learned so that other schools and educational institutions might benefit from similar approaches.”

We are featuring efforts underway by each RISE grantee, including a focus on the Southwest Colorado Education Collaborative below. We encourage you to read these articles and learn along with us as the RISE grant projects continue to unfold. If you would like to learn more about the Lab’s RISE work, please contact Dr. Kristin Klopfenstein.

Colorado’s RISE Fund has awarded over $40 million to address the learning challenges in pre-K-12 through higher education related to the economic, social, and health impacts of COVID-19. The Colorado Lab supports these RISE grantees in the effective implementation and long-term success and sustainability of their projects.

  • Bayfield, Silverton, Ignacio, Durango and Archuleta School Districts, with Pueblo Community College and Fort Lewis College
  • Montezuma-Cortez High School
  • Montrose County School District
  • New Legacy Charter School
  • Ute Mountain Ute Tribe
  • West Grand School District