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Education Reform in Colorado

June 28, 2011 posted by Jeff Benton

Jeff Benton is the co-founder and Managing Director of Group 720, a marketing communications firm based in Denver, Colorado. He is passionate about education reform and recently hosted an event for StudentsFirst at his home. Jeff and his wife, Jackie, are in the process of putting together a StudentsFirst Colorado Committee.

As members of StudentsFirst’s new Colorado chapter, my wife Jackie and I are focused on building support for policies that put the interests of kids before any others here in Denver.

Our efforts officially began in early June at an event at our home, where dozens of local business and civic leaders, most of whom are also parents of school-age children, had the pleasure of hearing Michelle Rhee’s impassioned delivery of the StudentsFirst mission.

Everyone who attended had at least one thing in common: a refusal to accept the status quo of our public education system. However, since most political discourse at the federal level has historically failed to improve student performance to the degree needed -- or to inspire citizens to get involved -- most of us are not equipped with the tools needed to bring about change.

Now, however, things are different in education reform. The ability to galvanize like-minded people toward a common goal -- albeit with numerous strategies to achieve it at the state levels -- has never been greater.

I joined StudentsFirst because it is an organization bent on delivering real change, and it offers concrete ways for concerned citizens to get involved. Michelle was a breath of fresh air for all of us who are disillusioned with the way politics has gotten in the way of student learning and achievement.

In recent months, thanks to the work of StudentsFirst and others, several state legislatures have already enacted significant reforms that will help students progress by rewarding and retaining highly quality teachers and making it easier to identify educators who are struggling.

Now it is Colorado’s turn to enact effective, timely reforms to improve our educational system. While our state is in relatively good shape in terms of having policies that prohibit LIFO (last in, first out teacher layoffs that ignore teacher quality) and protect high-performing teachers, there is still much work to be done to ensure the priorities of our students come first.

StudentsFirst Colorado intends to set the bar for advocacy and involvement. Colorado has an extremely dynamic, highly educated group of citizens who care deeply about our state and its future, and we are currently forming a committee to continue the early momentum and develop an action plan. Our committee will organize the grassroots efforts of the 7,000 StudentsFirst members in Colorado, a number in which we plan to more than double in the next six months.

If you want to be part of this movement to give our kids the schools they need and deserve in Colorado or in your home state, join StudentsFirst and find out how you can help.

The views presented on our guest blogs are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of StudentsFirst. We thank all of our guest bloggers for their thoughtful perspectives.