Positive Movement in Jeffco: A Welcome Change

It’s Thursday, and that means it’s Jefferson County day for yours truly. Okay, I made the Thursday thing up just now, but we are indeed going to talk about Jeffco. Don’t suit up and brace yourselves for more negativity quite yet, though; today’s post will isn’t about teacher sick-outs, student protests, or an inexplicable disdain for more representative curriculum review committees. Instead, I’d like to highlight a Denver Post article about some positive efforts by a group called the Edgewater Collective to improve educational outcomes for some of Jeffco’s most at-risk students.

As you may have noticed, many anti-reform groups try to whitewash any assertion that Jeffco may have some room for improvement by arguing that the district as a whole is doing well compared to neighboring districts. As much as I wish that rosy picture were entirely accurate, it isn’t. It masks the fact that certain areas within Jeffco are in desperate need of attention. And even when that fact is acknowledged, it is too often swept aside as “unfixable” or “out of our control.”

Nowhere is the need for change more obvious than the Jefferson Articulation Area within Edgewater, where the overwhelming majority of students are low-income and trapped in schools that are, put bluntly, failing them. Fortunately for those students, not everyone is ignoring the problem or brushing it aside.

Recognizing Edgewater’s educational woes, the Edgewater Collective launched in 2013 with the goal of repairing schools within the Jefferson Articulation Area. Former pastor Joel Newton, Edgewater’s founder and executive director, believes (rightly) that the key to success is community buy-in and support. To that end, he and his organization have set about the work of building bridges between community stakeholders. Those stakeholders may not agree on everything, but Newton hopes they can rally around a common vision for better schools and brighter futures.

The Collective initially ran volunteer training programs aimed at improving students’ reading and math skills in early grades, but it is now shifting gears to focus entirely on the bigger picture, or what Newton calls the Cradle-to-Career Success Pathway. As he puts it:

Going forward, Edgewater Collective will not run programs, but will focus solely collaborating for the common good in our community. The main focus of this work is on the Jefferson Success Pathway. We believe that by aligning all community stakeholders around a common vision and keeping them accountable to goals and indicators, all children can succeed from cradle to career. Instead of focusing on a few stories of transformation limited to a few children and their families, we are focused on changing the education ecosystem in our area.

Cool stuff. What’s even cooler is that Newton thus far seems to have a knack for bringing highly disparate groups together for the common good in Edgewater. Don’t underestimate how tough that is—Jeffco is positively stuffed with organizations that don’t much care for each other and that have wildly divergent views of the district’s problems (or lack thereof) and how to solve them.

I don’t envy you, Mr. Newton, but I do admire the work you’re doing so far. Keep it up!