Outside Education Experts Help Point the Way to Get Colorado On Track

Education policy is often as much art as it is science. But Colorado’s education policy still can benefit from the informed perspectives of non-Colorado experts.

Denver’s own Piton Foundation convened a panel of six national education experts who observe what Colorado has done in many reform areas, and asked for their honest assessments. The result is a brand new report Colorado’s 2008 Education Reforms: Will They Achieve the Colorado Promise? (PDF).

In today’s Denver Post, education writer Jeremy Meyer sums up the findings:

Six national education experts took a look at Colorado’s education landscape and found the state is on track in some areas but has a long way to go in others.

Perhaps the most startling observation in the Piton report comes from Dr. Paul Hill – director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education – who commented on Gov. Bill Ritter’s stated goal to cut the dropout rate in half within a decade by saying:

“It’s a good aspiration but not likely to be met. The kids who will drop out of high school 10 years from now are already behind.”

Interestingly, Hill noted the following about efforts to boost funding on early childhood education as a means of meeting Ritter’s goal:

The effects of early-childhood education on the longer-term problems of dropouts and postsecondary completion are unproven….

It’s not that Paul Hill despairs of achieving positive change, but that he takes a longer and more organic view of reform. One of his key points is:

“Innovation needs encouragement and nurturing from the top, but it comes from the bottom. If you want charters to contribute to continuous improvement of the whole system they must face a level playing field. Moreover, all schools must be held accountable for performance in the same way.”

In other words, treat public charter schools fairly.

Yes, I know there are five other panelists who offer many of their own valuable insights. That’s why I urge you to go back and read the whole report. In several areas of reform, though, Colorado does indeed have a long way to go. Are policy makers listening?