As I continue to watch a variety of legislative issues that impact education in Colorado repeatedly grind the wheels of progress to a halt, it’s clear the political path is not for me.
There is a dominating atmosphere where positional stands prevent sides from coming together and finding common ground. Sadly, often at the center of it is the future of public education.
For six months, I’ve had the opportunity to serve on a state task force to study the issue of assessment. The task force consisted of 15 people, representing the variety of stands on assessment across the state: from a position of “no state assessment” to those who felt status quo was best. This group set ground rules that included an agreement to hear all points of view and to work toward a consensus position. The entire group did agree that we have hit a critical mass where students are being assessed at the expense of instructional time.
After six months of hearing concerns and positions from constituents across the state, the task force recommended clear actions that could provide relief in the state while maintaining a level of accountability to ensure the effectiveness of our educational systems. Not everyone on the task force got what he or she wanted, but the commitment to consensus led to compromise and understanding of various viewpoints.
On March 17, I joined our governor, community leaders and leaders of both chambers of the Legislature at a press conference to promote a bill that would in fact enact the recommendations of the task force and lead to critical relief in the state. In a matter of days, the measure stalled in committee, as it didn’t go “far enough.” The work of 15 people who worked hard to find compromise was for naught.
I am saddened at the state of politics in Colorado; it appears divisiveness is embraced and encouraged. Colorado has taken some major steps in education reform; in all of those matters, reform wasn’t the issue as much as the pace. Colorado has a true desire to lead in education, especially around closing the achievement gap experienced by minority students, students in poverty and students who have special needs.
No business or industry would rest on its laurels if inefficiencies were identified. The problem is not educators, as I’ve yet to meet any who lack desire to have a positive impact on students. It is critical that we find ways to balance the consistent, comparable assessments administered statewide, support teachers in their development in meeting the needs of all students and fund our schools in a sustainable way to ensure that critical supports can be put in place for both students and staff members.
I still have great faith in the legislators in Denver and can only hope that calm minds will prevail and that groups on the fringe of these educational matters can set aside their agendas and unite for the sake of our students in Colorado.
DSnowberger@durango.k12.co.us. Dan Snowberger is the superintendent of the Durango School District.