2019 was a busy and fruitful year for our team. Here are our ten favorite things that happened this year.
Full Day Kindergarten Now Law
Our top legislative priority last year was providing tuition-free, full-day kindergarten for every child in Colorado. Until last year, Colorado funded just over half a day of kindergarten for children, which left many families facing a choice of whether to pay up to $400 per month for their child to attend full-day kindergarten or have them go only half a day. Legislation that enabled up to 63,344 kids to start full-day kindergarten this fall, was signed into law in May. We are proud to have played a strong role in this legislative achievement (you can read more here).
Nearly 340 Parents Attend Stand Literacy Workshops
This is the fourth year of hosting our parent literacy workshops in Denver Public Schools. Last year we held 47 parent workshops focused on empowering parents to support their child's reading development in partnership with their teacher. This work is part of our broader campaign around increasing outcomes in early literacy. We provide childcare, interpretation, and a meal at every workshop because we want to remove barriers and ensure every parent that wants to, can participate and access the information. 338 parents attended these workshops which is more than triple the number of participants from last year. We look forward to continuing these workshops to reach even more families next year.
New Ninth Grade Success Work Launches to Support Schools & Districts
This year we launched a new area of work focused on supporting schools and districts interested in improving high school success. The transition from eighth to ninth grade is a critical time that determines a student’s trajectory in high school. Rigorous studies have found a 9th grade student’s “on-track” status is a stronger predictor of high school graduation than their race/ethnicity, level of poverty, or test scores combined. Our Center for High School Success (CHSS) supports schools in focusing on this critical eighth to ninth grade transition period. CHSS provides tailored supports to partner schools in real-time, which puts students on track to graduate before they have the chance to fall behind.
In December, we hosted our first ever Ninth Grade Success Institute. Over 40 educators from eight school teams from five districts across Colorado attended this two-day professional development opportunity. Read more here.
Policy to Update and Strengthen Early Literacy Policy Now Law
Another one of our top legislative priorities last year was focused on increasing early literacy. Senate Bill 199 underscores that K-3 literacy instructional programming needs to be based on evidence and science and include foundational skills: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary development, reading fluency including oral skills, and reading comprehension. It also provides some critical updates to strengthen the READ Act, including:
- An expansion of the Early Literacy Grant program which has shown early promise at improving literacy rates.
- Better supports for educators teaching students to read including training in evidence-based instruction and additional professional learning from the Colorado Department of Education at no cost to districts.
- Stronger transparency and accountability for how READ Act funding is being spent.
Our team is now participating in workgroups focused on implementation of this policy. Our priority is helping ensure that teachers are getting access to the training and resources they need to support their students.
Three Parent Fellowship Programs Launch
Last Spring we launched our first ever Parent Advocacy Fellowship program. Nine fellows from across Colorado completed the program which met for two hours every week for eight weeks and focused developing advocacy skills and leading conversations around efforts to fund full-day kindergarten. They went on to testify before the legislature, speak at press conferences, write blog posts & letters to the editor and meet with Governor Polis. Over the Summer and throughout the Fall nine parents participated in our Elections Fellowship program which focused on driving the conversation around electing our next leaders on Denver Public Schools Board of Education. Fellows learned about the roles and responsibilities of DPS Board of Education, led Stand's endorsement process, canvassed and phone banked on behalf of candidates. Right now an additional nine parents are participating in a leadership development fellowship.
Milliken Middle School Awarded for Work to Promote Kindness
Milliken Middle School in Northern Colorado was one of five schools across the country recognized for their work by Teach Kindness (formally called the Middle School Kindness Challenge) to improve school climate and foster a safe and supportive environment for all students. They were awarded $1,000 in Donors Choose credits to support their continued efforts.
Teach Kindness is a program Stand for Children launched a few years ago to support schools in improving culture by intentionally teaching and fostering life skills related to kindness. Registration for our free, four-week program is open to any school with a combination of grades K-8. This year we added elementary school classroom content from some of the country’s leading experts, like Second Step and Harvard.
Stand Hosts Seven Community Conversations in Denver
Our team has continued to expand our work to engage with families in Southwest and Northwest Denver. Last year, we started hosting conversations with the community around education in Denver. These conversations have been an opportunity for community members to learn about how Denver Public Schools is tackling its biggest issues and to discuss opportunities for advocacy with their neighbors. It also afforded us an opportunity to deeply understand the perspectives and priorities of the communities we work with.
Staff Engage in Powerful DEI Learning Experiences & Prioritize Language Justice
As part of our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, all Stand for Children staff engage in thought-provoking and eye-opening learning experiences that take us all farther in our journey to becoming a more welcoming and open-minded organization; one where we break down walls and celebrate our differences. Last year every member of the Stand for Children team traveled to Montgomery, Alabama to visit the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Prior to the visits staff read Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, by Bryan Stevenson.
Our team continued to push for language justice in our work and examine how we can create inclusive environments for families to engage in work to support their child’s education. If you are not familiar with the term language justice, you can check out this blog post to learn more. We partner with the Community Language Cooperative for our translation and interpretation needs. They define Language Justice as “a key practice used in social justice movements in order to create shared power, practice inclusion and dismantle traditional systems of oppression that have traditionally disenfranchised non-English speakers.
Supports for Summer Learning and New Reading Resources Released
Every week this summer we shared learning resources with families across Colorado. These resources, available in both English and Spanish were designed to help families support their child’s summer learning and combat summer slide.
Because we believe that every family should have access to resources and strategies to use at home, last year we also released an assortment of printable resources made especially for parents. These resources lay out tips ranging from how to encourage reading at home to how to effectively partner with your child's teacher.
2019 Impact By the Numbers
Thank you for your support and engagement during 2019. It was a strong year for our team and some important progress was made for Colorado's kids. We hope you enjoyed some downtime this month and are ready to start 2020 off strong with us!