The COVID-19 crisis has had an enormous impact operationally, educationally, and economically on P-12 school districts, charter schools, and institutions of higher education, as well as students, parents, and families. To address the learning challenges related to the economic, social, and health impacts of COVID-19 and promote innovation, Colorado is awarding $40 million in grants to educational institutions using federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Funds. The Colorado Lab is supporting several awardees in moving their programs along the steps to building evidence to ensure that these new and innovative approaches grow to be effective in improving student and family outcomes. Additionally, the Lab is working to ensure that lessons learned from these efforts are documented and communicated to other schools who might benefit from similar approaches.
Agencies:Colorado Governor’s Office
University of Denver, Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab
Centennial BOCES, the state’s largest Migrant Education Program, serves immigrant and migrant families across northern Colorado. RISE funds are supporting the development and implementation of three-pronged Project READY. READY for Technology focuses on increasing internet access and building adult learners technology and English language skills. READY for School focuses on building parental self-efficacy to support young children’s language acquisition and preschool readiness. READY for Graduation focuses on near-peer mentoring, paring high school students with first-generation college students to build skills and connections.
Montrose County School District (Montrose, Olathe and surrounding areas) is using RISE funds to establish a comprehensive Student Wellness and Engagement (SWE) program, building a tiered system of supports to ensure students have their social-emotional needs met. The first year has focused on working with six elementary schools to develop referral and support systems to increase access to preventive services and mental health resources. SWE is grounded in a philosophical shift in the way staff respond to behavior (from punitive to restorative). By focusing on addressing the root causes of disengagement, these efforts are designed to improve student engagement and academic persistence.
This project involves nine Denver-area charter schools, representing six non-profit organizations (AUL Denver, Colorado High School Charter, Academy 360, Girls Athletic Leadership Schools, RiseUp Community School, and Highline Academy). Each is working to mitigate the academic and social-emotional impacts of COVID-19 by delivering summer programs that include academic, social-emotional, and experiential components as well as opportunities for mental health support and strategies to engage families. School leaders are coming together as they are building their programs to learn from each other, reflect on successes and challenges, and collaboratively problem solve.Denver-area Charter Schools: Infusing Social-Emotional Learning into Summer Programs Academy 360 Elementary School Highline Academy Elementary School RiseUp Community School AUL Denver High School Colorado High School Charter Girls Athletic Leadership Schools of Denver
The Southwest Colorado Education Collaborative (the Collaborative) is a nonprofit that started by partnering with five school districts (Ignacio, Bayfield, Silverton, Archuleta, and Durango 9-R) and two higher education partners (Fort Lewis College and Pueblo Community College) to share a broader pool of resources, build partnerships with local industry leaders, and design easily accessible, interesting ways for rural students to engage in relevant career and college pathways. The Collaborative and its partners worked together initially to create two new career pathways targeting first generation, rural, low income, Native American, and diverse learners in the region’s high schools: Building Trades (through Pueblo CC) and Environmental Science (through Fort Lewis). The Building Trades pathway will ensure that graduates are able to immediately enter the local workforce and earn a living wage. The Environmental Science pathway will inspire students interested in science and climate change to develop passions leading to collegiate and career success. Mobile learning labs will facilitate program access.
New Legacy Charter School, which opened in 2015, is a small high school in Aurora designed for pregnant and parenting teens and their young children. RISE funds are supporting the development a real-world learning program, building structures and teacher capacity to support students in engaging in school-, college-, and work-based experiences, including course projects, career fairs, community college courses, certification programs, and internships. Funds are also being used to ground students, teachers, and real-world learning mentors in restorative practices, aimed at building students’ work-relevant skills and confidence.
New Legacy Charter School: Impacting Two Generations at a Time
Montezuma-Cortez High School is using RISE funds to develop a system of supports to help students leave high school with clear post-secondary goals and plan. This includes building-wide opportunities for career and college exploration, work-based learning opportunities, and concurrent enrollment. This effort involves fundamental shifts in school structures, including redesigning homeroom curriculum to support the development of professional competencies, strategic alignment of 6-12 counseling and advising, professional development for teachers, and dynamic scheduling to allow students to engage in work-based learning opportunities.
West Grand is a childcare desert and has significant challenges providing working parents with access to licensed childcare, early intervention, and family support. The district is using RISE funds to expand access to (a) early childhood education (ECE) by increasing slots in the school’s early learning center and growing the ECE workforce; and (b) K-3 education programs, including after school, Friday programs, summer programs, and transition programs. The district is providing support for historically underserve families to access services and resources, for example, by employing a bilingual school liaison.
Bennett, Strasburg, and Weld RE-3J school districts have partnered to harness the unique position of schools to strengthen mental health supports for students, their families, and school staff. They adopted an Multi-Tiered System of Support-based approach to Social and Emotional Learning in all schools. Training in the evidence-based TRAILS curriculum is now available to all teachers with the goal of raising the mental health awareness for all students (Tier 1). Students needing a higher level of support may choose to participate in small groups with TRAILS-trained school mental health professionals (Tier 2). Deeper staff understanding of mental health supports the early identification and referral of students at risk of suicide (Tier 3).
Located in Commerce City, the Adams 14 School District serves a student population that is 85% free or reduced lunch eligible, 90% minority, and 56% English learners. To address the needs of this population, the district is focusing on expanding opportunities for CTE and work-based learning while establishing a new P-TECH program in Architectural and Building Science. The Adams 14 Pathway Alliance will partner with industries to connect secondary students with postsecondary and career opportunities through career and technical education opportunities.