Tag Archives: Joyce Rankin

Top Priority: Reading

By Joyce Rankin, Colorado Board of Education

I taught public school fifth graders a long time ago, sometimes called “Old School.”  At least it seems like it these days.  However, there’s one thing that never changes: Reading. If you’ve been reading my columns this past year, you know that I believe Reading should be the highest teaching priority. Since you are reading this column, you, too, have learned to read. But what are teachers required to teach and what demands priority in their classroom?

First, we look at all things that determine a curriculum. In Colorado, the local board of education and the district make determinations about classroom curriculum. Here are a few classroom subjects that we frequently hear are priorities these days, social-emotional instruction, climate change, sex education, bullying, school safety, active shooter drills, anxiety coping, comfort animals (college for this one), mental health, vaping, food insecurity, suicide prevention, trauma, feeling unsafe (fear), character building and mindfulness (to name a few).

Reading: Start Early!

How do teachers determine where they spend valuable classroom time? I hear selecting curriculum can be, and is, overwhelming for teachers. By the way, did I forget to mention Reading and Writing?  What’s important, and how does a teacher prioritize?

To me, Reading should be first and foremost on a teachers list. Evidence-based research states that students between grades K-3 should be taught reading skills for at least ninety minutes per day.  For every year they are behind grade level, an additional 15 minutes should be added.  Why? Because the most important role in education is to prepare children to become successful readers. This is the mission of the READ Act (Reading to Ensure Academic Success) that I’ve been sharing with community members in my district.  In September, I was in Moffat county, a school district where teachers have learned the Science of Teaching Reading. In this district Elementary students have experienced considerable achievement growth, surpassing the state average, since their teachers were trained. I’ve also been in New Castle, Mancos, Norwood, Durango, Pagosa Springs, and Pueblo.  In October, I’m scheduled to speak in Montrose, Grand Junction, and Steamboat Springs. Some subjects are challenging to measure; but, evidence-based reading instruction is measurable, is proven to work, and leads to success. In kindergarten through third grade, students learn to read then they read to learn.  And, quite possibly, acquire information, not from being told, but by reading firsthand.

Rep. Joyce Rankin

If you know of additional subjects that are prioritized higher than Reading, send me an email. And please don’t include math, science, social studies, art and music. That’s “Old school!” joycesrankin@gmail.com.

Joyce Rankin is on the State Board of Education representing the Third Congressional District which includes Leadville and Lake County. She writes the monthly column, “Across the Street” to share with constituents in the 29 counties she represents.  The Department of Education, where the State Board of Education meets, is located across the street from the Capitol. She can be reached at: joycesrankin@gmail.com.

State Determines Funding for Saguache Schools

Progress is moving right along for the construction of the new Mountain Valley School in Saguache. Photo: Saguache Today/Kathy Bedell

By Joyce Rankin, Colorado Board of Education

During our monthly meeting, as the first week of the 72nd legislative session began, the State Board of Education walked across the street to attend the State of the State address. Jared Polis, our new Governor, reiterated his primary education related promise. “Our top priority this session is empowering every single Colorado community to offer free, full-day kindergarten while expanding free preschool to 8,000 more Colorado children.” The state already pays for kindergarten students to attend for half day classes. Many school districts offer full-day kindergarten, using district funds and parent paid tuition to pay for the additional half day. If the state agrees to pay for free full-day kindergarten for all kindergarten students in Colorado, the estimated cost will be an additional $250 million per year.

In the first week of the new session, 107 new bills were introduced. Seventeen of these involved Education. Of the seventeen, five were sponsored by Democrats, four by Republicans and 8 were bi-partisan. From their introduction the bills will pass through the Senate and House committees, and to both Senate and House Chambers before they become law. Many never get that far, but for now, legislators worked into the night to get their five bills written and submitted by the January 10 deadline.

Rep. Joyce Rankin

In addition to following all the legislative activity at the Capitol, the State Board of Education met for two days. One of our duties involved a vote to approve the monthly allocation of state funds to the 178 school districts in Colorado.

Under the public-school finance act of 1994 (Section 22-54-115, C.R.S.), the State Board is responsible for determining the monthly amount of money each school district receives from the state.  At our January meeting, we certified the December 2018 calculations and distribution. All districts and state distribution amounts were listed. The calculations for January through June 2019 will be certified at the February meeting.  All information is available on the State Board of Education website. Here are examples of the state distribution for districts in three counties that I represent: Roaring Fork SD with 5524 students, $1,825,907.67; Garfield 16 with 1163 students, $681,911.92; Meeker with 700 students, $191,591.25; Rangely with 483 students, $288,488.64 and Moffat County with 2106 students, $595,107.88. Throughout all of Colorado, the December distribution totaled $367,678,953.24. (Publisher’s Note: for Saguache and Moffat School District Numbers, connect HERE.)

In another vote, the State Board approved a Charter School appeal for the SKIES Academy. The SKIES Academy Charter application was initially granted, but later revoked, by the Cherry Creek School District.  The State Board found that this was not in the best interest of students, families and the community and remanded the Charter to go back to the local district to work together for a resolution. Charter SKIES Academy, based at Centennial Airport, will be a hands-on, project-based curriculum for 6-8 graders.  It will focus on students desiring a possible career in aerospace engineering, piloting and other aspects of aviation.

Thus we begin the first month of the 2019 legislative session and the first State Board Meeting of the New Year.

Enthusiasm for education never gets old in Saguache Today!

Joyce Rankin is on the State Board of Education representing the Third Congressional District, which includes Saguache County. She writes the monthly column, “Across the Street” to share with constituents in the 29 counties she represents.  The Department of Education, where the State Board of Education meets, is located across the street from the Capitol.