I often hear rhetoric that leads me to believe that some think quality teaching is about how much you care, how much time you dedicate, how much sacrifice you’re willing to make. But excellent teaching relies on much more than whether you care or whether you’re willing to sacrifice- because every teacher I’ve known selflessly does. Rather, excellent teaching is about being prepared, supported, and equipped.
I once had a student, who I will call ‘A’, who at the end of his time in my classroom, went to 2nd grade over a year below grade level in reading and on a path to be behind for the rest of his educational career. This was not for lack of preparation or support- I got to school early, stayed late, preparing lessons and pouring over books, looking for one ‘A’ would enjoy. I had incredibly dedicated administrators who observed my lessons and even pulled 'A’ for extra one on one support. But after the hours, effort, and frustration, it wasn’t enough.
The simple truth is that I was not fully equipped with all the research-based knowledge and evidence-based tools of the science of reading. This had huge impact- I have countless faces in mind- of frustrated students, desperate parents, and disheartened teachers who this system, this state, failed.
I left teaching to work more closely to policy because I deeply believe our state education policies dictate whether our education system will support students or fail them. I deeply believe that every student has a right to a high-quality education and that this state has a responsibility to ensure every teacher is equipped to realize that right.
Colorado has taken meaningful steps to ensure that our schools are teaching the science of reading through the READ Act, expanded training for teachers, the list of state-approved and vetted literacy curriculum - this matters- it is changing students’ lives. When teachers are equipped, they’re successful. Through the years, I’ve stayed in close touch with ‘A’’s teachers, and I’m elated to tell you that as teachers become more and more equipped with evidence-based approaches and tools, students are making incredible gains- students like ‘A’ who is now on track to start middle school reading on grade level. This is what’s possible when the state upholds its duty to serve students by creating policies that ensure our systems work for students, not against them.