Wednesday, December 5, 2007


Gov. Bill Ritter today announced an ambitious package of education
reforms that will enhance student learning, help parents and teachers
make better use of data, increase accountability and allow more
children to succeed in a 21stcentury economy.

"Education is the key to opportunity," Gov. Ritter said during the
opening session of the Colorado Statewide Dropout Summit. "It opens
doors and leads to a better future. While we are a nation of
innovators, we also are a country at risk of falling behind other
countries. Public education helped me get where I am today, and I want
an even better education for my children, for your children and for
every generation that comes after us.

"Today, I stand here with a challenge to you all: Think big, dream
big, raise your expectations, and raise the expectations we place on
our children. They will rise to the occasion."

Gov. Ritter outlined his education reform package on the same day the
Colorado Department of Education released its annual School
Accountability Reports. The reports show that just 11.8 percent of
Colorado's 1,971 regular and alternative schools rated "excellent" in
2006-07, compared with 8.3 percent five years ago.

"We can and should continue to debate whether the SAR is the best
measurement tool available to us," Gov. Ritter said. "Regardless, I am
not satisfied. Nobody can say we are doing the best job possible when
it comes to preparing our kids for a 21st century workforce. If
there's one area where we can not fail, it's how we educate our
children. Principals are working harder, parents are working harder,
and you all are today because you are working harder. But the cold
hard truth is that we need to do things differently in order to do
them better."

During Gov. Ritter's first State of the State Speech in January, he
outlined bold education goals for Colorado, including cutting the high
school dropout rate and achievement gap in half over 10 years, and
doubling the number of college diplomas and certificates awarded to
Colorado students over the same time period.

The reforms outlined today will move Colorado forward in achieving
those goals, Gov. Ritter said. Proposals call for:

· Data and Accountability: Creating a meaningful data and
accountability system that captures information about each student
from the time they enter school to the time they enter the workforce.
Colorado would become only the second state in the country, in
addition to Florida, to align data from the beginning of a child's
education to the end.

· Colorado Counselor Corps: Creating the Colorado Counselor
Corps of 70 new counselors to work in middle and high schools. These
counselors would work directly with students so they stay in school
and are fully prepared for college. Schools or districts would apply
for the funds through the Department of Education. Currently,
Colorado's ratio of students to counselors is 544 to 1 – one of the
worst rates in the country.

· Statewide "Post-Secondary Preparation" Mission: Requesting
that the State Board of Education create a statewide guidance policy
that will establish "post-secondary preparation" as the main purpose
of Colorado's K-12 education system.

· Dropout Rules and K-3 Curriculum, Instruction and
Assessment: Requesting the Board to scrutinize the effectiveness of
current dropout rules and regulations, and abandon those that are
ineffective, and also examine and recommend best practices for
kindergarten through third-grade curriculum, instruction and

· Colorado Preschool Program: Eliminating the current waiting
list for the Colorado Preschool Program, allowing the state to provide
quality pre-school to 3,000 additional eligible children.

· Full-Day Kindergarten: Allowing 22,000 additional children
to attend full-day kindergarten -- if their school districts and their
parents choose to participate. This will be phased in slowly, over six
years, as resources are available.

The reforms are based on the work of Gov. Ritter's P-20 Education
Coordinating Council, which is co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien,
Bruce Benson, CEO of Benson Mineral Group, and Joe Garcia, president
of Colorado StateUniversity at Pueblo.

Three of the proposals would be included in the 2008 School Finance
Act, with dollars coming from the State Education Fund:

Full-Day Kindergarten: $25 million in Year 1, slowly increasing to
$100 million over six years.

Colorado Preschool Program: $10.5 million.

Colorado Counselor Corps: $5 million.

Gov. Ritter will propose a K-12 reserve trigger to maintain the long-
term health of the State Education Fund, ensuring that the Fund
remains a rainy day fund for K-12 education as it was always intended
to be.

"Colorado's greatest asset is our children," Gov. Ritter said. "We
know that children who start behind, stay behind. These reforms will
give more children an opportunity to achieve their full potential in a
21st century, globally competitive economy. Enacting these programs
will speak volumes about our commitment to Colorado's children,
because this is not just about today. It's not even about tomorrow.
It's about future generations to come and the kind ofColorado we want
them to inherit."

"Learning and development are like climbing a ladder," Lt. Gov.
O'Brien said. "One starts at the bottom rung, then climbs to the next,
and then to the next. Shaky – or non-existent – rungs make it hard to
successfully reach the next levels. These proposals will begin to
strengthen some of the rungs on the education ladder."

"As a long-time participant in education policy and a co-chair of the
P-20 Council, I am enthusiastic about and personally gratified by Gov.
Ritter's decision to support so many of the P-20 Council's
recommendations," Bruce Benson said. "They represent critical steps in
our collective pursuit of a world-class system of education. It is an
honor to serve the people of Colorado alongside of so many talented
individuals. I look forward to continuing to improve our education
system in 2008."

"We in higher education support Gov. Ritter's approach," said Ray
Baker, chairman of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. "It's
important that all Coloradans not think that one or two targeted
policies will change outcomes across systems. Comprehensive strategies
and wise investments, like those proposed by Gov. Ritter, are what we

"We have studied the importance of exposing children at the earliest
ages to quality early childhood experiences and we are unanimously
persuaded that early intervention can play a critical role in the
future success of our children," said Gail Klapper, who heads the
Colorado Forum, a consortium of business and civic leaders from around
Colorado. "We are delighted that Gov. Ritter is advocating such a
quality early-childhood and full-day kindergarten experience
forColorado children."

"Providing full-day kindergarten and quality preschool, as well as
improved counseling and mentoring for high schoolers, will improve the
education and lives of thousands of Colorado children," said Lisa
Weil, policy director for Great Education Colorado. "Gov. Ritter and
the P-20 Council deserve our thanks for placing the spotlight where it
belongs, on our kids and their future."