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The SPARK - February 2020

The Spark. A newsletter filled with information and inspiration for Colorado teachers.

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Katy Anthes headshot during the Thanksgiving holiday message

Dear Teachers,

Last month CDE released graduation rates for the state as a whole, as well as the rates for every district and high school in Colorado. A total of 81.1% of the Class of 2019 graduated last spring, the highest four-year graduation rate in nine years! Congratulations to all of you for your success in supporting students to walk across their graduation stage. I know that graduation is the culmination of the work and dedication of every educator and school leader who supports students during their preschool through 12th-grade years, so I want to thank all of you for your hard work, dedication, compassion and excellent teaching practice.  

Preparing all students to succeed in a good paying job, the military or college is our collective goal, so I want to make sure everyone is aware of an important policy change affecting the classes of 2021 and beyond.

By now, your local school board should have adopted high school graduation requirements that meet or exceed the Colorado Graduation Guidelines. Local school boards and districts select from this menu to create a list of options that their students must use to show what they know or can do in order to graduate from high school, beginning with the graduating class of 2021. The opportunities to demonstrate postsecondary and workforce readiness include work-based learning opportunities such as obtaining an industry credential or completing a capstone project as well as more traditional ways for students to show what they know, such as the SAT or ACT assessments.

Why do we have this new graduation policy? Several years ago, the legislature acknowledged and acted on the fact that life beyond high school is different from what it used to be. Most jobs in Colorado require training or education beyond high school. Students who graduate and work in Colorado will need in-demand skills that meet business, industry, and higher education standards.

So, Colorado’s Graduation Guidelines have two purposes, the first is to articulate Colorado’s shared beliefs about the value and meaning of a high school diploma. The second is to outline the minimum components, expectations, and responsibilities of local districts and the state to support students in attaining their high school diploma.

Do you know what your district’s new graduation requirements are? If you are interested in learning more about Colorado’s Graduation Guidelines, CDE also has a number of learning opportunities available. You can check them out here:

If you’re curious to know what other communities have adopted and how they involved parents, students, local employers and higher education institutions into their process, check out our promising practices on Graduation Guidelines.

As always, please reach out if you have questions about Graduation Guidelines or anything else. You are welcome to email me at, or our postsecondary and workforce readiness team members are also available to help districts develop and implement graduation requirements that meet the needs of your community. Robin Russel, 303-866-2908,




Image TLCC Graphic

Teachers are encouraged to take the 2020 Teaching and Learning Conditions Colorado, or TLCC, survey by Friday, Feb. 21.

The TLCC is an opportunity for Colorado educators to anonymously voice opinions on their work environment and career satisfaction.  The results from this survey are used to guide school and district improvement efforts and to drive state-level policy and research. 

The last distribution of the survey happened in 2018. That year, about 57% of elementary and middle school educators responded as well as 53% of high school educators.

Through the 2018 TLCC, we learned that 89% of educators who took the survey believe they work in good schools but the biggest challenge they face is not having enough time to prepare. Other concerns raised by the 2018 results included lack of opportunities for professional development and less-than-ideal training for new teachers.

All data from the previous TLCC survey can be viewed by category and question online.

Teachers will be given an individual code to use by their school’s principal or association representative. If the access codes are missing or did not arrive, contact the TLCC Help Desk. After you receive your unique code, go to the TLCC website to take the quick, 15-minute survey. The survey can be accessed on any device, including smart phones, and is not required to be completed in a single session.

Schools and districts need more than 50% participation and at least five responses to access their data. Each respondent will receive a unique, anonymous code from their association representative or principal. You can track your school and district response rates using this real-time tool.

The TLCC survey is offered in partnership between CDE, Colorado Education Association, Colorado Education Initiative and others.

For more information, visit Contact Lisa Steffen with CDE’s improvement planning office at or 303-866-6676 for questions.


Graduation caps flying.

The Colorado Department of Education released two important pieces of data last month – the graduation/dropout rates for the Class of 2019 and enrollment and demographic information from the student count earlier this fall. And it’s good news all around - showing increases in the graduation rate and in the enrollment data.

These two pieces of information are important for a variety of reasons. The graduation and dropout rates show how many kids are staying in school and leaving with a diploma and are used to assess how schools are doing with postsecondary measures as part of the state’s accountability system. Enrollment data are used to determine how much money schools get every year from the school funding formula, which incorporates per pupil funding as one of its measures.

Colorado showed improvement in both categories. The four-year graduation rate of 81.1% was the highest in nine years. And the state saw a record number of pupils enroll this fall with a total of 913,223 preschool through 12th graders – 1,687 more students than the year before. 

Graduation/Dropout Rates

The Class of 2019 had 999 more graduates this spring for a total of 54,239 four-year graduates – improving the graduation rate by .04 percentage points from the Class of 2018.

Drilling down on those numbers, a total of 75.5% of minority students graduated in four years last spring, an increase of 0.2 percentage points from the previous school year. Notably, the graduation rate among Hispanic students was 74%, up 0.6 percentage points from the previous year.

Additionally, the state’s dropout rate is at an all-time low of 2%, an improvement of 0.2 percentage points from the previous year. Overall, the state saw 9,277 students in grades seven through 12 drop out last year, 903 fewer students than 2017-18. You can read more about the graduation in CDE’s press release.

In-depth graduation statistics are available here.

In-depth dropout statistics are available here.


The state hasn’t seen a decrease in pupil enrollment in 30 years, with 913,223 preschoolers through 12th graders recorded this fall. A large chunk of that can be attributed to a new law that went into effect for the 2019-20 school year, which provided 100% funding for full-day kindergarten. In previous years, the state only paid 58% funding for full-day kindergarten. Subsequently, a total of 11,913 more kindergartners signed up for full-day classes this year than last year for a total of 61,989 full-day kindergartners this fall.

Overall, Colorado’s total increase in preschool through 12th grade enrollment for public schools grew by only 0.2% from the previous year or 1,687 more students than in 2018-19.

Denver Public Schools remains the state’s largest district with 92,112 students, followed by Jefferson County with 84,048 students.  In 2019-20, 15 school districts – mostly in the Denver metro area – had a total enrollment of 613,335 students, representing 67.2% of the total statewide PK-12 enrollment. You can read more about the pupil count in CDE’s press release.

Follow this link to access the complete 2019-20 student count information.


Image for EPP Report of teacher smiling

A new interactive dashboard is available with information about the effectiveness of the programs in Colorado that train teachers, principals and special services providers.

The Educator Preparation Programs Report, released in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Education and the Colorado Department of Higher Education, features demographic information on teacher candidates enrolled in educator preparation programs, candidates who have completed the programs and candidates who have obtained teaching jobs in Colorado public schools.  

Information about new teachers includes employment data, on-the-job performance metrics, data about teacher retention and teacher mobility. For this year’s Educator Preparation Program Report, student academic growth data were not available, but will also be included in future releases.

Detailed information about educator preparation program enrollment and completion as well as employment, employment context, performance and retention of new teachers in Colorado for 2013-14 to 2017-18 academic years, varying by metric, is available in the interactive dashboard. Report highlights:

  • Overall enrollment in Colorado educator preparation programs increased by 10.5% during the past three years from 11,298 in 2015-16 to 12,486 in 2017-18.

  • Colorado’s pool of educators-in-training continues to be mostly white and female. The total number of enrollees across Colorado identifying as Hispanic has increased from 13.6% (1,536) to 14.9% (1,856) from 2015-16 to 2017-18.

  • Creditably, alternative licensure programs are attracting a relatively high proportion of male candidates: approximately one out of three, or 35.3%, for the 2017-18 academic year, alternative licensure candidates are male compared to about one out of five, or 22.3%, of traditional route candidates.

  • The in-state placement rate of new teachers was 66.1% for the 2017-18 cohort, which is a 5-10 percentage point increase over each of the prior two cohorts. Please note that the in-state placement rate only includes those hired at a Colorado public school.

  • Over the past years that data have been collected, the largest employers of the statewide cohorts have been Denver Public Schools, Jefferson County Public Schools, Douglas County School District and Aurora Public Schools. In the most recent 2017-18 cohort, these four districts hired nearly four of every ten (38%) new teachers finishing at Colorado EPPs.

  • For the educator cohort of 2017-18, over a third of these new teachers taught in schools with high levels of poverty (35.7%), minority students (38.1%) and/or English-language learners (37.8%).

For a full list of report highlights and to access the interaction dashboard visit the Educator Preparation Program webpage.

Image for TEACH Colorado graphic

An exciting new website and outreach campaign will help anyone interested in pursuing a career as an educator in Colorado. 

TEACH Colorado’s mission is to inspire people to become teachers by providing them with support throughout their journey to becoming a certified teacher.

By offering resources and mentors, TEACH Colorado hopes to demystify the educator preparation process. TEACH Colorado is funded through the Rose Community Foundation of Denver, with additional support from CDE, the Colorado Department of Higher Education and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

Through interactive and engaging graphics, website visitors can move through a six-part road map to better understand the process of becoming a Colorado teacher. 

Visitors can also create an account to receive customized emails, develop a personalized plan, access prep program application checklists and claim free reimbursements toward application and testing expenses. Eventually, visitors will also be able to receive one-on-one advice from coaches who are licensed teachers via phone or email.

Interested individuals can search Educator Prep Programs and apply filters such as program format, and program outcome here.




BVSD teacher Michael Bautista

Michael Bautista has had more than 30 years of experience in the educational field. Not only has he been a teacher, but he was director of construction for Flatirons Habitat for Humanity and founding principal of the Denver School of the Arts. Currently, he is the lead teacher and designer of the construction program at Boulder Valley School District’s Technical Education Center. Additionally, he is a member of the commissioner’s teacher cabinet, which helps Commissioner Katy Anthes include the voices of teachers in major educational decisions.  

The Spark: Can you tell us about yourself, why did you get into teaching and why did you stay?

Michael Bautista: I started teaching at the university level and didn't get into secondary education until 1983, when I took a position with Jenks Public Schools in Oklahoma as the director of the district’s performing arts center. At the time, I found high school students could do just as well or even better than most college students, given the right conditions. I gave them responsibilities to staff the performing arts center and to become part of my staff when we rented the space out to the arts community. I stayed with Jenks for eight years. Then I was hired to open the Denver School of the Arts for Denver Public Schools in 1991 and began the process of forming the school. To this day DSA is a very successful arts magnet school.

The Spark: Explain your position as a construction teacher? How did you get into this, what does it entail?

Bautista: I was the director of construction for Flatirons Habitat for Humanity when the Boulder Valley School District, Boulder TEC, called and asked if we could help develop a curriculum for a construction program. I designed a curriculum focused on the process of construction - from when you buy a property to when the structure is turned over to the owner(s). This allows me to talk about all the careers associated with the construction industry. Every Friday I bring in speakers to talk about their roles in the construction industry, giving students a clearer picture of what the industry is to pique their interest in possible careers. The two-year program begins with juniors learning the development stages through the permit stage. They also can study to become general contractors, commercial drone pilots and get certified in SmartSheet -- a construction management scheduling program. They can get their OSHA 10 and CPR/First Aid certification (that alone can get them a job on a construction site). And they can get certified in SketchUp, AutoCad or Revit and/or receive college credit through Front Range Community College in construction classes. During the second year, they concentrate on trades and areas they are interested in pursuing. For the second semester, they do an internship or go right into an apprenticeship program.

The Spark: Talk about the importance of students exploring future careers while in high school. How is this accomplished in your district?

Bautista: Having the opportunity to develop job skills is extremely important for students. By integrating their general core classes with CTE classes, students can see the relevance of how math is used in the real world and how English language arts classes are important for communicating with clients. They learn to create readable documents to be used for the permitting process, or scheduling the construction of the building, or reports, etc. My students understand that if they can get a good paying job and work for a couple of years, they can save for college and then not have the debt that many students have coming out of college.

The Spark: What about your job brings you joy and what are the struggles?

Bautista: My joy is seeing students learn and having those a-ha! moments when they understand something. The struggles are when they come to me unprepared in their general core skills because they weren't allowed to use their style of learning in the regular classroom. We must meet students where they are and use their strengths to help them learn. Also, I have some students with learning disabilities that can hamper their learning as well. So, again, we need to look at the strengths they have and use a more one-on-one approach.

The Spark: How do you balance work and home life?

Bautista: Earlier in my career, I never saw my work as work. It was play time for me because I was doing exactly what I wanted to do and what I was trained for. People would say I was a workaholic. It wasn't until some life-changing events that I realized I didn't have balance in my life. So, for the past 12 years I have worked to create a better balance in my life so I could enjoy my life more. Unfortunately, my children and my ex-wife didn't benefit from my newfound balance. My children today understand why I did what I did, but they too have struggled a little bit because they enjoy their work so much as well.

The Spark: What are some of the biggest problems facing teachers today, and how do you think they can be fixed?

Bautista: Some of the biggest problems we face are salaries and needing smaller class sizes. Remember, it's the teacher who trains us to have the careers that we enjoy. They are just as important as any MVP sports figure, actor or performer, highly paid lawyer, architect, TV producer or CEO, etc. Class sizes are way too big in the general classroom, and if we really want to make an impact and have that real one-on-one experience. We need more teachers with smaller class sizes. We also need to make sure students understand the relevance of what they are learning by connecting the general core with their passions.

The Spark: If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self as you entered the profession?

Bautista: I think I would say do it the way you've done it but learn balance in your life sooner.

The Spark: What do you do in the summer months and how do you gear up for the next school year?

Bautista: Last summer I started a construction company for high school students who are 16 and 17 years old. They work six to seven hours a day, five days a week. They completed two contracts that I got for them to increase their knowledge base in construction. I have the company operating for six weeks right after school is out for the summer. Then the rest of the time I try to play a bit and also learn new skills in the areas that I'm teaching them.


Census 2020 Everyone Counts Graphic

February is a good time for educators to connect with families about the importance of filling out the U.S. Census.

Remember, teachers and principals are trusted voices in the community and can help families understand the importance of responding to the U.S. Census. The information gathered from the census will affect the amount of  federal education dollars coming into Colorado over the next decade--in the millions of dollars. For reference, between 2011 and 2018, Colorado school districts received $3.56 billion. Learn how much of that federal income came to your district between 2011 and 2018 (PDF)

Census Day is April 1, 2020. By this date, every home will have received an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. CDE has created a toolkit to help principals and teachers communicate with parents about the importance of responding to the census. This includes drop-in articles and flyers to share at back-to-school events.

Teachers can also use the census as a teaching opportunity to help students understand the U.S. Constitution, history, social studies and math and statistics. CDE has compiled a toolkit for teachers with links to online free resources that are searchable by grade, school subject, topic and education standard. 

For more information, contact Jeremy Meyer at or 303-866-2334.


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Assessment Communications Toolkit​

CDE has created communications toolkit to help teachers/principals talk about the statewide assessments students will be taking in April.

Visit the assessment communications toolkit.


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