1.) We Supported a Victory for Families in Denver Public Schools
In August, the Denver School Board voted to develop a dashboard with transparent, important information for parents and families in the community. Ensuring that families and communities have access to information about how schools are performing is an essential right. Without a dashboard that shares data that shows how all groups of students are being served – we won’t be able to know how we are doing and make improvements.
Fighting for transparent school information that focuses on equity was a full year’s worth of work for Stand Colorado and we are proud to celebrate this win with parent leaders and partners. Many, many hours went into centering and elevating community voice, including parents writing and delivering testimony 42 times, publishing op-eds, producing a call to action video, and countless more actions.
Although the next steps for the creation and implementation of a dashboard are unclear amidst other DPS priorities, including supporting school through remote learning and selecting a new Superintendent, we are focused on ensuring parents have a seat at the table in the creation of the dashboard.
2.) We Prioritized Early Literacy – Supporting Families and Educators
For nearly 10 years, Stand Colorado has been intensively focused on improving early literacy in Colorado. Over the past year we are proud of strides we have made to support educators and families with resources and policy.
Improving literacy outcomes for Colorado’s students means supporting educators in gaining access to the tools and resources needed to provide high quality literacy instruction. As part of the effort to focus on science-based reading instruction in classrooms called for in Colorado’s early literacy policy, the READ Act, our team is committed to supporting policies and implementation that maximizes those efforts.
This summer, we offered scholarships for educators to participate in The Reading League's virtual trainings. The Reading League is a widely respected organization that bridges the gap between research and classroom practice to improve literacy outcomes for students.
We look forward to continuing to partner with The Reading League this year to share information with families about the science of reading and to support both communities and educators in ensuring access to high-quality literacy instruction in Colorado’s schools.
As part of our ongoing commitment to providing high-quality literacy resources to families, we are proud to launch Stand’s Virtual Literacy Center! This new site provides literacy information for families in three sections the power of literacy with information about why early literacy is so critical, literacy at home with all of our resources and information for families to use to support their children at home (including demo videos for activities, games, and other online resources!), and literacy in Colorado with information about the READ Act and literacy policy in Colorado. We also transitioned our popular parent literacy workshops online and hosted dozens of virtual workshops over the year. Our efforts to educate families about the importance of using scientifically based approaches to teaching students to read continued.
Last but certainly not least, during a legislative session that required a lot of cuts to funding, we fought to preserve $44 million dollars in Reading to Ensure Academic Development (READ Act) dollars. These funds are critical to efforts to improve early literacy for Colorado students.
3.) We Launched and Expanded Our Parent Advocacy Fellowship
This year we launched our first ever year-long Parent Advocacy Fellowship program. Our annual fellowship is an exciting opportunity for parents and community members who are interested in becoming effective advocates for equity in our schools and community. Seven fellows spent this year honing their community organizing skills—crafting their stories, hosting events, and holding 1:1s to motivate and inspire other parents to join their work for educational equity.
“What I loved most about the fellowship was that no matter where you come from or where you’re going, the program teaches you how you can use your story to inspire others. Having the right leadership and people around you make a difference,” said Ruby, Parent Advocacy fellow.
Natalie added, “I learned I am a leader... I found an inner voice that was hidden and now I’m not afraid to use it.”
In September, Stand Colorado launched its 2020-2021 Parent Advocacy Fellowship! This year, Sarah, Tina, Nallely, Natalie, Yaeel, and Kaye will work alongside our team to advocate for change in their schools, districts, and communities, with a special focus on racial justice.
I applied for the Fellowship because I was tired of sitting on the sidelines as educational decisions were being made for our kids and families. Even during my time inside education – first as a teacher and then as a leader – I felt like there had to be more that I could be doing to inform and impact the policy work being done around education.
In joining the Stand Parent Advocacy Fellowship, I am enthralled by the idea of building a team of change-agents from the greater community. Hearing from other parents and stakeholders roots me in the truth that we all are just seeking better opportunities for our children Our stories, and histories, have the tremendous power to shape the future.
You can donate to support this year’s fellows here.
4.) We Advocated for Increased Broadband Access for Families
Stand continued our advocacy for expanded broadband access to ensure that every student across Colorado can meaningfully engage in remote learning and beyond that has internet at home to support their learning. We know that this crisis disproportionately hurts students of color, with nearly 25% of all African American households with school-aged children and 23% of all Hispanic households with school-aged children lacking high speed internet access at home. Being able to access a K-12 public education during this pandemic shouldn’t be a privilege – it’s a right.
After advocating for federal funding to expand internet access throughout the spring/summer, we are proud to announce a key win for Colorado students in the Colorado’s legislature’s special session. HB20B-1001 Grants To Improve Internet Access In P-12 Education, which Stand supported, will provide $20 million to support remote learners with expanded internet access. We are thrilled that policy makers provided critically needed funding for expanded broadband access for Colorado students.
Read more about special session wins here.
5.) We Created Collaborative Spaces Through the Center for High School Success
Our Colorado Center for High School Success (CHSS) partners with high schools committed to becoming communities where all students excel academically, and race and socio-economic status do not predict success. We help our partner high schools to significantly increase the number of 9th graders who finish the year on track to graduate, a stronger predictor of high school graduation than their race/ethnicity, level of poverty, or test scores combined. This year, we partnered with seven schools representing five districts across Colorado.
As we transitioned to virtually engaging schools in response to the pandemic, CHSS Colorado hosted virtual trainings and collaborative meetings to support partner schools through virtual learning last spring and this fall.
Partner schools shared bright spots and key takeaways from the Spring as they built plans to support Ninth Grade students this fall. School Counselor, Cassie Poncelow, shared her thoughts on the impact that the work will have on Poudre High School. “The value of getting a comprehensive view on the importance of the 9th grade year- and the need for an equity lens to drive our work- was significant. The guided process of meaningful conversation, data work, and application gave us next steps for immediate action and make a difference for students at Poudre High School”
We’ve continued to create opportunities for educators to connect and collaborate virtually. This quarter, we’re proud to have hosted two virtual events with educators across the state as an opportunity to share best practices and collaboratively problem solve with over 60 participants.
At our Rethinking Attendance event, four expert panelists shared how their schools and districts are approaching attendance and supporting student and family engagement differently this year.
In early December, our Center for High School Success hosted a Rethinking Math event in which educators from Poudre High School shared their expertise and best practices around creatively approaching math instruction to better engage students and support their success.
We are excited about the opportunity virtual events have to reach more folks across the state and look forward to continuing to provide meaningful, collaborative spaces.
6.) We Deepened our Commitment to Racial Justice
As our country is going through a long overdue reckoning with racial disparities, Stand is committed to supporting calls for racial justice and centering community voice in crucial conversations about school safety.
We supported the Denver School Board’s decision to remove School Resource Officers from schools, and are eager to elevate and center the views of parents in conversations about what comes next. This legislative session, we will be pushing legislation that increases pathways for more teachers of color to enter the classroom. We know from students, parents, and research that a diverse, highly effective teacher workforce is critical in reaching our mission of making safe, welcoming, effective and equitable schools a reality for all of Colorado’s children. As Executive Director, Krista Spurgin, put it in testimony last year, “The issue of diversifying our teacher workforce needs to be taken seriously by everyone if we are going to truly close the gaps for students who continue to be underserved.”
As we work towards this year’s goals, we will tirelessly work to bring our vision to life:
- We envision a just and equitable education system where all students have access to high-quality learning including opportunities to feel safe in order to excel.
- We believe empowered parents are key to dismantling the current system that has left underserved students behind for years, especially students of color.
Our team is continuing to engage in critical conversations about race and are working to identify and interrupt white supremacist norms in our workplace, in the policies we pursue, and in our personal lives.
Read our full Vision Statement outlining the key areas of work for this fiscal year here.
7.) We Supported Key Wins for Colorado Students this Election
In November, we were proud to have helped support the victory of measures to provide critical funding for students and schools and the election of many education champions to the Legislature and State Board of Education. Throughout the election cycle, we continuously engaged community starting with our Parent Endorsement Committee, elevating voice of educators and parents, providing key information about voting, supporting education efforts, providing financial support to the campaigns, and reaching over 300,000 Colorado voters directly.
Proposition EE, Amendment B, and Denver’s 4A and 4B all passed. Stand for Children endorsed nine candidates for Colorado Senate, 15 candidates for Colorado House of Representatives, one candidate for State Board of Education, two ballot measures, and the Denver Public Schools Bond and Mill. We are proud to announce that all nine of our endorsed candidates were elected to the State Senate, 14 to the State House of Representatives and one to the State Board of education. We are extremely grateful to the hard work of our over 50 volunteers who helped make this happen.
You can read more and see the full list of Education Champions here.
8.) We Elevated The Voices of Parents
We are proud to elevate the voices of parent leaders who work with Stand in key conversations about remote learning, access to broadband, Denver’s School Performance Framework revisions, and more.
- Parent leaders, Natalie and Tina, shared their reflections with Colorado Matters on Colorado Public Radio as a new school year begins- With The Push Of The Power Button, Online Learning Begins For Two DPS Students — And Their Nervous Parents
- Parent leader, Tina Carroll, shared her thoughts about schools reopening on CNN Cuomo Prime Time
- Parent leaders, Tina Carroll, and Natalie Perez shared their thoughts on reopening schools on Colorado Matters on Colorado Public Radio: The COVID-19 Back-To-School Dilemma And The Debate Over How To Do It Right
- Parent leader, Nallely Antúnez Gonzalez, was quoted in Chalkbeat Colorado upon DPS’s announcement that remote learning will extend through mid-October.
- Parent leader, Roxana Barraza spoke at a press conference sharing challenges she faced with internet access and online learning. This press conference was with Governor Jared Polis, Education Commissioner Katy Anthes, Attorney General Phil Weiser and Senator Jeff Bridges announcing an exciting expansion broadband access for Colorado families.
- Parent Sarah Titus published an op-ed in Front Porch calling on the DPS Board to support a dashboard providing information about schools for parents
- Parent advocacy fellow, Tina Carrol was featured in Good Morning America web article: Mothers in the workplace at a 'tipping point' amid the pandemic, child care crisis.
- Parent leaders and Stand Advocacy Fellows, Tina and Natalie, continue their conversation with Colorado Public Radio about their experience with their children through remote learning.
9.) We Listened, Engaged, and Supported Families During the Pandemic
When the COVID-19 pandemic caused schools to close and families to take on new challenges, the our team decided that listening to families was the most effective way to provide meaningful support. In early March, the team launched a needs assessment survey, which received nearly 300 responses, with lost income, supporting students academically, and mental health cited as the top concerns. Organizers followed up with every person who responded to the survey with resources that were specific to the needs they articulated and launched efforts to address needs more broadly.
Families overwhelmingly expressed a need for information and resources related to at-home literacy, so we created a Virtual Literacy Center, complete with organic educational videos, family activities, and information about the READ Act and literacy policy in Colorado.
In response to parent concern around mental health and staying connected to community, Stand Parent Organizers hosted weekly virtual “hangouts” in both English and Spanish to give families the opportunity to talk about the struggles they faced and share experiences.
Recognizing the deep financial impact that the pandemic caused for families in Colorado and across the country Stand set out to provide some immediate relief. Project 100, a partnership of Give Directly, Propel, and Stand, exceeded its ambitious goal of providing $1,000 direct cash payments to 100,000 SNAP recipient households that use Propel’s Fresh EBT App. More than 116,000 households across the country have received $1,000 payments to date. In Colorado, 114 volunteers in CO received the Give Directly payment, for a grand total of $114,000. Stand also provided direct financial relief to 13 Parent Fellows totaling $3,900 and help with meals for families we work with.
10.) We Made it Easier for Schools to Support Social Emotional Learning - Meet Teach Kindness Flex Path
Our children’s mental health and emotional well-being has been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, along with witnessing our nation’s collective (and overdue) reckoning with systemic racism. During these difficult times, students need strong social-emotional learning incorporated into their school work.
We've told you about the Teach Kindness challenge that provides schools with a structured program to help foster kindness and make their schools more welcoming and safe environments for all students to thrive. In fact, Milliken Middle School in northern Colorado was a finalist for the challenge a couple years ago.
Educators have enough on their plate and are being asked to do so much right now that we wanted to find a more direct, lower-lift way to support them this year. With this urgency in mind we have launched Teach Kindness Flex Path: a program that offers the very best lessons from leading academic providers across the nation but is fully adaptable to whatever learning looks like in your community whether in-person or online. Flex Path offers all this without any barriers or requirements, putting teachers in the driver’s seat to fit our lessons in the way that makes most sense for their students.
You can learn more at weteachkindness.org. We encourage you to share this information with educators and school leaders in your community. Encourage them to participate in Teach Kindness Flex Path—it’s free of charge and essential in these challenging times.