Gov. Ritter leads national education reform debate

Attending the National Governors Association annual winter meeting, Gov. Bill Ritter said Colorado’s groundbreaking education reforms are serving as models for other states and can help shape the soon-to-be reauthorized No Child Left Behind Act.

"As governors, we know that a well-educated workforce is the best tool in any economic-development strategy," Gov. Ritter said during a meeting of the NGA’s Education, Early Childhood and Workforce Committee. Gov. Ritter chairs the committee, and the meeting was attended by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

"But the intense competitiveness of the global economy has brought America’s education system to an economic and moral crossroads," Gov. Ritter said. "Our education system must work even harder to prepare students – all students – to be successful in work, life or postsecondary education. As governors, we want more for America’s children."

Gov. Ritter said the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, more formally known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), provides a critical opportunity to forge new partnerships between the federal government and states to improve student learning, close achievement gaps and secure economic prosperity for states and individuals.

Gov. Ritter highlighted several student-centered education reforms underway in Colorado, including:

  • The Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids, a bipartisan 2008 law that has given Colorado the most modern set of classroom content standards in the country.

  • The establishment of the state’s new Colorado Growth Model and an accompanying website -- www.schoolview.org -- that allows parents and all stakeholders to collaboratively analyze data on student and educator performance.

Massachusetts, Arizona, and Indiana have already adopted Colorado's growth model and other states like New York, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Rhode Island and Hawaii are considering it.

Gov. Ritter said the model is changing how educators use data, communicate and compare best practices when it comes to turning around struggling schools and improving student achievement.

"Today's meeting gave governors an important opportunity to share with Secretary Duncan how the federal government can accelerate and support gubernatorial-led education reforms, build state capacity to turn around low-performing schools, and support accountability systems that incentivize state and local education reforms like those happening in Colorado," Gov. Ritter said.

"If we make these goals part of the ESEA reauthorization, I know we will begin to decrease the high school dropout rate, lead the world in the college graduation rate by 2020 as the President has called for, and close achievement gaps," Gov. Ritter said. "We must reward excellence, learn from our successes, and turn around the lowest-performing schools, not by tinkering around the edges, but through fundamental reform."