Colorado Might Just Be Getting Even Smarter about Education Reform

I hope that I get smarter as I go through school some day. Likewise, despite its success with advancing school choice and accountability so far, Colorado also needs to Get Smart(er) about education reform. At least that’s the premise behind a new group called Get Smart Schools Colorado.

As the Rocky Mountain News reports:

The idea behind Get Smart Schools is similar to school initiatives in Chicago and New York – one group pooling expertise and funding to help promising new school models get off the ground.

That’s because research shows it’s typically more effective to start good new schools than it is to transform existing schools that are failing.

In Colorado, the focus will be on importing quality school models that have been successful elsewhere and on helping promising new schools find facilities, an obstacle for many.

Believe it or not, this sort of group really is needed. We know the importance of smaller schools, autonomy (big word!), strong leadership, high-quality instruction, research-based curricula, parental involvement (i.e., choice), and focus on student improvement. But with an experienced and qualified staff of its own, a group like Get Smart Schools Colorado can show new schools how to get it done and succeed without being bogged down by the well-meaning but counterproductive bureaucracy.

And, of course, why reinvent the wheel?:

Board member Van Schoales says the group will focus on start-up programs such as new charter schools, new pilot schools, or new schools seeking autonomy from the district. He says Get Smart Schools will help these programs learn from the successes of older ones.

“If you’re a low income kid, you have a 1-in-10 chance of making it to a four-year college. We want to dramatically change that and we think we can,” said Schoales. “You can usually tell six months into it as to whether or not the school’s going to hit the ball out of the park or they’re going to be struggling.”

The group is being founded by the Democrat leader in the state senate, Peter Groff, but it’s also being lauded by a leading Republican in the state legislature:

Republican Representative Cory Gardner says this effort should promote school choice and get members on both sides of the aisle to work together.

“Looks like a great step forward,” said Gardner, (R) Yuma. “Clearly education shouldn’t be a Republican or Democrat idea, it should be about the future of Colorado. It should be what’s best for our children and our children’s parents.”

Maybe we are getting smarter about education reform in Colorado. At least most of us:

9NEWS contacted representatives from state and local teachers’ unions about the formation of Get Smart Schools. Initially, they had no comment, but members of the Colorado Education Association planned to meet on Thursday to discuss some items including Get Smart Schools.