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Colorado Legacy Foundation secures $9.7 million to support innovation in raising student achievement

Today the Colorado Legacy Foundation announced the award of a three-year $9.7 million investment by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to significantly improve the number and rate of students who graduate from Colorado high schools ready for college or work.
Colorado Legacy Foundation will partner with the Colorado Department of Education and four local school districts to accelerate and integrate implementation of new educator performance evaluation systems and the Colorado Academic Standards using instructional tools aligned to those standards. The school districts will be determined later this summer and will serve as demonstration sites. The tools developed and lessons learned from those sites will be shared statewide.


“Governor Hickenlooper and I are thankful to be working with and supporting the efforts of the Colorado Legacy Foundation,” said Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia. “Governor Hickenlooper, the Colorado Legacy Foundation and the Colorado Department of Education are committed to deliver on our shared vision to develop public-private partnerships that support improving student academic achievement. This work holds the potential to translate Colorado’s strong education policy into powerful classroom instruction so that all Colorado students complete high school prepared to be successful in college or the workplace.”


Colorado was chosen for funding in large part because current state education reform efforts provide a strong framework for the proposed work. The new Colorado Academic Standards are being integrated with aligned instructional supports and last year’s Senate Bill 10-191, Colorado’s grounding-breaking legislation, statutorily establishes a performance-based educator evaluation system statewide.


“We know that there are pockets of excellence throughout Colorado and that some of this great work in educator effectiveness is already being done,” said President and CEO of the Colorado Legacy Foundation, Dr. Helayne Jones. “Taking this work to the next level will require integrating these elements in a systematic, systemic and sustainable manner. This investment will give us the boost we need to take accelerated steps in that direction.”


Colorado presently serves more than 840,000 increasingly diverse public school students in grades preschool through 12, and nearly 220,000 in public higher education. Consistent with its tradition of local control, Colorado’s 178 school districts vary dramatically in size, demographics, capacity, reform history and technological sophistication.


“Colorado’s education reform plan is singularly focused on student academic growth and achievement of postsecondary and workforce readiness,” said Colorado Commissioner of Education Robert Hammond. “The state and the country will be looking to us to take the lessons learned from these four districts across Colorado to ensure that every district is able to implement them with high quality.”


With this Gates Foundation Integration Grant, Colorado will join a cohort of other states working to integrate teacher evaluation with implementation of new academic standards and instructional supports. Both the Colorado Legacy Foundation and the Colorado Department of Education are committed to work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to share the learning from and the products of this Integration Grant with other states and districts across the nation.


“Teachers are telling us they are committed to raising academic achievement for all students, but they need the supports to make that happen,” said Adam Porsch, Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “This investment in Colorado builds on work we are supporting in other states, and we hope it will serve as a model of collaboration, leveraging the best ideas to prepare all students for college and career.”