Adams 12 Five Star School District is facing $30 million in cuts for next year. Unlike Gov. John Hickenlooper who portrayed the more than $340 million in cuts to education as a one year issue on ABC News this past Sunday, those of us in Adams 12 know that it won’t end next year.
The biggest fear among some is the loss of teaching jobs. And as usually happens when various factors vie for limited resources there are already calls by teachers to cut the “fat” at the district offices. And in some areas I’d agree. But I am not so fast to protect teachers at the cost of negatively impacting teacher effectiveness.
This puts me at odds with many of my colleagues. The claim is that you have to limit the impact of budget cuts in the classroom by cutting teacher-coaches, or cutting release time for teachers who work on leadership or reform issues in the school or at the district level before you cut classroom teachers. But what if these reforms, led by teachers with release time, or led by district personnel, have improved the effectiveness of the teachers? We have to look at how we can be as effective as possible with limited operating expenses. I hope that decisions can be made with effectiveness in mind.
Many of the reform movements in schools and districts have a limited impact on expenses. In other words these innovations don’t cost much. But, even with that said, many innovations and reforms are first to go. This has more to do with an emotional cost than with a monetary one. So, kudos to the Roaring Fork School District for moving ahead with its standards-based learning model even as the district make massive cuts to its budget. The entire district went to a standards-based grading model a few years ago and now they are implementing what they call the “Moving On” concept.
The idea is that students who are proficient with skills in reading, writing, or math can move on to the next level without putting in more seat-time waiting for the next semester or school year. Students would also need to exhibit proficiency before they could move on. As Re-1 assistant superintendent Brad Ray puts it: “The schools we have now are built on the assembly line model of the 1920s, where time is fixed and learning flexible, and you move students along just because they’re a year older,” he said. “What we’re moving toward is that, now time is flexible and learning is fixed based on the standards.”
I will be the first to fight for more resources for schools. We still operate off of the old paradigm of ranking and sorting students versus ensuring every student is academically successful. Our funding system is based on this antiquated model.
I will also lead the charge to cut ineffective operating systems and personnel, using data that reflects their impact on academic achievement. But as we shake off the effects of a recession and regain our priorities to our children, we need to make sure our budget decisions are sound and rational.
Even “[a]fter three years of conversation and more than 18 months of intense planning, the essential elements of Moving On are scheduled to be implemented throughout the district next school year.” Way to stick with it Roaring Fork!
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