Colorado’s Rock Solid Partnerships for Literacy

Colorado became an intensive state in 2016 but has been working with us since 2014 to initially receive targeted technical assistance (TA). The current Colorado-CEEDAR State Leadership Team (CSLT) is a collaborative partnership between the Colorado Department of Education (CDE), Metropolitan State University (MSU), University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS), and the University of Northern Colorado (UNC). The team has made remarkable progress toward meeting their blueprint goal of improving literacy outcomes for students with disabilities. The team has established a foundation for its reform efforts with a rock-solid partnership. The CSLT initiatives center on providing high-quality teacher and leader preparation in literacy instruction for students with disabilities.

Before requesting TA from CEEDAR, the CDE identified literacy as a priority in its State Systematic Improvement Plan (SSIP). According to Faye Gibson, principal consultant for the Exceptional Student Leadership Unit at the CDE, this plan was “designed around creating an aligned professional learning system in literacy from pre-service through in-service resulting in the strategic delivery of knowledge, skill progression, and professional learning for elementary instructional leaders and teachers.” With the assistance of CEEDAR, the CDE initiated essential partnerships with stakeholders that are now part of the CSLT. Together, the CDE and its partners developed blueprint goals that align with the SSIP and CEEDAR’s mission of creating professional learning systems that provide opportunities for teachers and leaders to enhance core and specialized instruction for students with disabilities.

Wendy Sawtell, the CDE state performance plan coordinator, provided insight about how the SSIP and CEEDAR initiative combined seamlessly to address the CSLT’s reform goal. Like most teams undertaking reform efforts, the CSLT encountered challenges. Initially, coordinating a meeting of stakeholders to create goals and timelines leading to long-term sustainability was difficult. Ms. Sawtell reported that with persistence and assistance from CEEDAR, the CDE was able to weave CEEDAR initiatives within the SSIP while simultaneously creating sustainable blueprint goals.

The university partners who are now working with the CDE were key in creating goals. The team has set up support structures to better align the knowledge and skills developed in pre-service preparation with school district needs. Ms. Sawtell expressed that the combined alignment of the SSIP and blueprint goals helped the CDE to focus on directly aligning the institutions of higher education (IHEs) educational experiences of pre-service candidates to district induction programs via CSLT recommendations, thus ensuring a seamless educational experience from the IHEs though employment. The overarching goal remains: ensuring teachers are entering the classroom fully prepared to effectively teach literacy. Way to go, Colorado—leveraging partnerships to improve professional learning systems!

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