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UNPARALLELED ALTITUDE: A Globally Inspired Vision for Eagle County Schools Author Jason E. Glass, Ed.D. Superintendent & Chief Learner Eagle County Schools


Eagle County Schools is committed to being a good steward of both the environment and of tax payer resources. We have printed a limited number of these booklets because of its importance in conveying our vision to our staff and our community. We ask that you share and pass along this document to extend its reach. 2

Front and back cover photos are of New York mountain in Eagle County, Colorado


WHAT WE DO We care for our students.

We offer students and staff a safe environment for learning and living.

We look for new ways to engage students with learning, parents with the District, and the community for support of our noble mission. Most importantly, we ignite curiosity, open eyes, fuel confidence, protect innocence, feed intelligence, create joy, soften sadness, stimulate creativity, and prepare children for adulthood.

Education is a lofty goal, but that’s what we do. From the author:

I wish to deeply thank the teachers, administrators, support staff, Board of Education members, and community leaders who were interviewed in the process of gathering information for this report. I wish to acknowledge and express my sincere gratitude to the significant contributions of the administrative leadership team with Eagle County Schools, including Assistant Superintendents Heather Eberts and Mike Gass, Chief Human Resources Officer Brian Childress, Director of Exceptional Student Services Chris Madison, and Executive Assistant to the Superintendent Missy Gerard; each provided incredibly insightful and thoughtful suggestions and helpful critiques of this document. I would especially like to thank Traci Wodlinger, Chief Strategy Officer, and Dan Dougherty, Chief Communications Officer, who invested countless hours asking tough questions, providing critical insights, and supporting me in this effort.

We take children from all walks of life, create

high expectations for their individual success, and guide them for 13 years through a sea of

information and social situations so that they can

succeed in life. It’s nothing short of miracle work. Regardless of competing stresses, we strive to

inspire every student, every moment, to develop a lifelong passion for learning.

Jason E. Glass, Ed.D. Superintendent & Chief Learner Eagle County Schools

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FOREWORD

October 8, 2013, was a significant milestone for me as the Superintendent of Eagle County Schools. It marked exactly the first 100 days of my administration and signaled a transition from a time of information gathering and deciphering into a time of carefully crafting strategy and action.

These first 100 days were time well spent. Though I had a high level of familiarity with the district, having worked and lived in Eagle County previously, the district and community had changed. The effects of the Great Recession that led to lost capacity in the organization and the tremendous personal sacrifices by employees and community members were clear. In spite of devastating losses, Eagle County Schools continued to open its arms and serve the children of this community with honor and distinction. The people in our schools never lost sight of their sacred and noble purpose – educating kids.

I had changed as well. Having spent time away from the district, working first as an education consultant in Tennessee and Ohio, and then as the Director of the Iowa Department of Education (a position called “Commissioner” in Colorado), I gained remarkable perspective by seeing how other systems operate. I had the chance to sit at the table with some of the greatest education minds of our time and became well versed in the field of international benchmarking, or looking at the practices of the highest performing school systems in the world and considering how their ideas could be applied to our context. During my time away from Eagle County, I also became a father. While in Iowa, my amazing and wonderful wife, Sarah, gave birth to our two also amazing and wonderful children, Norah and Chase. The experience of becoming a parent has had a profound impact on my perspective and thinking, both professionally and personally. Our decision to return to Eagle County was heavily influenced by wanting our children to grow up in this community and go to these schools. Now, as Superintendent, I have the enormous responsibility and joy of building up a great school system that impacts over 6,500 students as well as the futures of my own children.

What I want for Eagle County Schools is not dissimilar from what all parents want for their children: safe and supportive schools, talented and caring educators, lessons that are engaging and challenging, and an education that is customized to fit each student’s strengths, areas for growth, and future pathways. This community’s children and families deserve all of this delivered with world-class quality on a consistent basis. These must be the gold standards to which we aspire, and we must never waiver in having great expectations for both our children and the schools that serve them. Please consider the attached report a working plan for how we will meet those great expectations. The ideas contained herein are intentionally bold, audacious, and, hopefully, inspiring! They are also straightforward, basic, and benchmarked against practices consistently used in the highest performing school systems on earth. During the first 100 days of my administration, Eagle County Schools has focused on three important and interconnected values: Clarity – communicating as directly and clearly as possible, so as to remove ambiguity and engender action. Coherence – advancing strategies that are logically connected and supported by evidence.

Compassion – showing genuine respect and caring for our kids, our community, and for each other.

I hope these values are also clear in the pages and ideas that follow. Over the past 100 days, they have brought a renewed instructional focus and connection with the community that were, in my professional opinion, needed.

I look forward with anticipation to the exchange of ideas and discussion this plan will bring about. Our ultimate goal must be to define and commit to a well-designed plan, and then fulfill on our moral obligation of providing a top-quality and world-class education for every student. I believe in the power of this community and in the talent and passion of the individuals who are part of Eagle County Schools. If ever there was a place that could set a shining example for what a community and its schools can accomplish out of love for its children, let that be us . . . and let it be now. With respect and admiration,

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Jason E. Glass Superintendent & Chief Learner Eagle County Schools


EXECUTIVE Eagle County Schools is a remarkable public education system that has provided quality services to students and the community in spite of some extraordinarily difficult circumstances. However, we must aspire to much more – the children of Eagle County deserve nothing less than an education on par with the highest performing systems in the world. Our schools must stop at nothing short of “world-class” quality. But how should we go about achieving worldclass status? Popular education reforms rooted in market-based approaches, accountability-based approaches, and simple silver bullet fixes have a questionable track record of success and may actually be harming our efforts toward greatness. Instead, we turn to those systems that have achieved and sustained greatness and ask if their practices can be adapted to fit our context.

The lessons from the highest performing systems are simple and direct. Foremost and fundamentally, achieving world-class status involves a relentless focus on instruction. We learn from the highperforming systems that instruction is improved through three interconnected elements: • Educator Quality – Great educators are a foundational component to any great education system. Educator quality is achieved through stringent selectivity at the point of entry to the career, by treating educators like professionals with commensurate compensation, status, respect, career pathways, and appropriate levels of professional autonomy.

• Customized Learning – Instruction must be adapted to fit every individual student. Students learn at different paces and in different ways. And, our students have very different talents, struggles, hopes, and dreams. We must put in place an education system that customizes to fit the student. • High Expectations for All – High expectations must be transferred into commensurately high standards for all students. Then, the system must work to create alignment from expectations, to standards, to curriculum, to lessons, to assessment, and to professional learning. High

SUMMARY expectations go beyond just “the basic” academic elements as well. High-performing systems emphasize a well-rounded approach inclusive of the arts, music, foreign languages, physical and health education, character education, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication.

We also see significant support systems both in and out of school in high-performing systems. Schools are places where all students are welcome and feel safe to learn, and safety nets are in place to prevent any child from suffering the effects of abject poverty. In Eagle County, we must rely on the services of the school district for this safety net, but also other resources in the community including other government agencies, the court system, philanthropies and foundations, non-profit organizations, and faith-based organizations. Working together, we can build a support system for all of our students on par with those seen in high-performing systems. This is especially necessary in the area of early childhood education, which gives us our best chance of providing every student a solid educational start and is a major lever in closing achievement gaps. We also envision technologically and media-rich schools where students can take advantage of the vast educational content available on the internet as well as use the interactive and individual publishing capabilities to throw open the doors of our classrooms and allow each student to be a global learner. Every student should have highspeed access and a high-quality electronic device. But going beyond this, every student should have a foundational understanding of technology as well as the opportunity to go deep in learning in this area, if interested.

So much depends on our public schools. A quality public education system is foundational to our way of life and to our continuing commitment to the American dream of a country where every child can grow up to be successful, live free, and pursue happiness. Eagle County has a moral responsibility to our community and our children to embark on this journey toward being a genuinely great school system. 7


INTRODUCTION Eagle County Schools is a remarkable school state and national levels. During these same years district with a history of innovation, courage, and of unprecedented budget shortfalls, significant success. Leading the way in efforts to revolutionchanges have come down related to educator ize educator support systems, teacher leadership evaluation, accountability, changes in academic opportunities, individual accountability, and standards, and new testing configurations. Many compensation practices, Eagle County Schools of these were classic state and federal “unfunded built ground-breaking systems and achieved mandates,” requiring the people in the district to success in areas related to educator effectiveness take on more and more responsibility with little nearly a decade before such practices became or no support. mainstay components of current state and national education reform efforts. Locally, the district continued to move forward with a significant change: implementing a new We have amazing and award-winning schools curriculum system with aligned formative which have been recognized by the State of assessments. Rather than buying some stock Colorado, the U.S. Department of Education, the product from a vendor, Eagle County Schools Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and U.S. News went about the authentic work of developing & World Report. In just the last few years, the these with our own educators. While this effort is district has also had three Colorado Principals of important and necessary, it was yet another the Year, a Superintendent of the Year, and an complexity added to what was already a tempest English Language Learner Director of the Year. of change. The district has also persevered years of budget cuts during the Great Recession that went well beyond just “belt-tightening.” Pay freezes, furloughs, higher benefit costs, layoffs, reductions, and even elimination of important services for students all became the norm. One result was that the people working in our schools were stretched to near the breaking point, asked to accomplish nothing short of daily miracles for the community’s children with less and less.

The district went to the ballot and asked the community for financial help in 2011 in the form of a tax increase. Issues of organizational trust, internal and external division, and concerns over the fragility of the local economy sank that effort. In spite of all this adversity, Eagle County Schools continued to deliver on the public promise of a quality education for any student who walked into any of our schools. Eagle County Schools has also felt the impacts of education reform policy changes coming from the

Eagle County Schools is a quality education system that does many wonderful things for our kids and the community, but there is much room for improvement. Achievement results, after years of steady and marked growth, have stagnated. Graduation rates are not where we need them to be. And the district’s most chronic issue persists – the significant differences in scores and outcomes for Anglo versus Hispanic students.

Despite these challenges, Eagle County Schools is a district with a lot going for it. There are incredibly talented educators and employees who are dedicated to improving our schools and there is an incredibly supportive and generous community. Our students deserve an education on par with the best performing school systems anywhere in the world. This report maps out a vision for achieving that result and asks for a communitywide discussion about what we will do to make our schools of exceptional quality.

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“FIXING” PUBLIC EDUCATION

If one were to take a day skiing or snowboarding at Vail or Beaver Creek and ask every stranger on the chairlift or in the gondola, “What could be done to dramatically improve the quality of public schools?” one might be able to hear from nearly a hundred people. One would also be likely to get one hundred different answers to the question! While there might be some debate as to whether public education in America is really in “crisis,” there is no debate that we should all be concerned with improvement and delivering the best possible education for our children.

Behind law and also more recent state-level efforts to evaluate individual teachers using test scores and other forms of student outcomes.

Market-based reforms include expanding school choice and charter schools, parent-trigger laws where parents can take over the administration of schools, and privatization of education through voucher programs. Colorado has chosen to implement many market-based reforms, and the drum beat for expansion of these approaches is ever-present.

These popular ideas come from within education (from educators) as well as outside education (from business or policy realms). The ideas come from all sides of the political spectrum as well, and there are increasingly strange political bedfellows of conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, who seize on any of these aforementioned strategies as the way to improve public schools.

There exists no shortage of proposed solutions for “fixing” our public schools. Two of the commonly espoused theories for improving schools in the United States are market-based and accountability-based reforms. Both of these approaches have a strong presence in Colorado’s education policy choices and also a history here in Eagle.

But the variety and abundance of ideas do not stop with market-based or accountability-based reforms. A number of simplistic “silver bullet” approaches are also frequently advanced. These include things like relentlessly pursuing lower class size (several high-performing international systems have larger average class sizes than the United States), adding more hours/days to the school year in an across-the-board manner, eliminating athletics and activities, hyper-focusing on “the basics” (reading, writing, math), dramatically reducing the number and compensation for school administrators, eliminating all testing, eliminating teachers’ unions, and creating false dichotomies of pure state control versus pure local control governance models.

Accountability-based reforms, also common, rely on measuring outcomes and then doling out sanctions or punishments to schools or individuals who fail to measure up. The accountability theory is a strong driver behind the federal No Child Left

Yet, when we look at the highest performing education systems globally (both within the United States and abroad), we see quite a different agenda.

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We see efforts to build up, increase the capacity to serve students, and support schools instead of intentional efforts to disrupt, discredit, or dismantle public education. We see efforts to recognize and honor the work of educators instead of large-scale systems designed to blame and shame schools and teachers into improvement.

We see deeply interconnected and common sense strategies designed to dramatically improve the quality of classroom instruction instead of a reliance on simplistic “silver bullet� approaches. The highest performing education systems on earth are on a different trajectory and a different plan. It is to these systems we must look for wisdom and insight on how to realize greatness.

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BENCHMARKING AGAINST THE BEST

Where are these high performing systems? They come from different continents and cultures and serve very different communities and demographics. Yet, in spite of all of their diversity, there are very common themes which emerge. Lessons drawn from Asian high performers like Singapore, Shanghai, and South Korea should inform our work. So should lessons from Europe, notably Finland and the Netherlands. Just across our border, the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Quebec have powerful insights to inform us. And within our own country, states like Massachusetts and Maryland, as well as individual districts like Long Beach and Montgomery County, have lessons to teach.

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We do not point to these high-performing benchmark systems because they follow one ideologically driven reform agenda versus another. Nor do we point to them because they are the latest shiny-flashy educational object to draw our attention. We point to them because they get results, and they sustain their greatness for years.

Paradoxically, we often hear about and pine over the results that high-performing systems achieve – yet we nearly completely ignore the pathways to greatness these systems took and the efforts to keep improving they still pursue. In Eagle County Schools, we see a better way forward – one guided by the practices of the topperforming school systems in the world.


WORLD-CLASS COMMUNITY/ WORLD-CLASS SCHOOLS

Eagle County is an international community with world-class expectations. Most prevalent are the internationally renowned ski and snowboard resorts of Vail and Beaver Creek. People from across the United States, indeed the world, come here to experience the unmatched grandeur and majesty of our mountains. But the world-class experiences and expectations do not stop there. Eagle County is a community accustomed to enjoying some of the very best artists and musicians in top-notch venues, dining at acclaimed restaurants with world-famous chefs, and experiencing a “5-star” level of quality in hospitality and service. Those fortunate enough to live in Eagle County get all of this … and get to live in an absolute temple of natural beauty.

Our community expects and is accustomed to international expectations, and we believe that it should have a school system to match. Our students should have an education on par with what kids receive in the greatest education systems anywhere in the world. Our children deserve nothing less. Singapore Shanghai

South Korea Finland

Netherlands Alberta

Quebec

Massachusetts

Long Beach Unified

Montgomery County

. . . Eagle County

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If ever there was a place that could set a shining example for what a community and its schools can accomplish out of love for its children – let that be us and let it be now.

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THE PATH TO GREATNESS The most fundamental lesson the high performers teach us is that there is only one genuine, authentic, meaningful way to improve the quality of an education system and that is to improve the quality of instruction. But how does one go about improving the quality of instruction at the level and scale sufficient to raise Eagle County Schools to an internationally benchmarked level?

The answer is in the connection between the educator and the learner as they focus on the standard or concept being learned. The nexus of these three elements, educator-learner-standards is where the magic of learning in schools happens. To raise the quality of instruction, we must make bold gains with each of these three parts using proven and research-backed strategies.

others put all their efforts into learner-centered instructional approaches, and still others zero in on standards driven efforts. These aren’t necessarily bad, assuming proven strategies are being used to advance them. But, raising any one element also necessitates raising all of the others.

Raising educator quality requires that we also raise our standards of excellence and that we deeply engage the learner - or else we will have talented teachers delivering stale content to bored students. Similarly, raising our standards requires a more effective educator and an engaged learner - or else we have high levels of rigor in our standards but lack the instructional talent to deliver it and will have students who feel overwhelmed. Finally, engaging the learner requires a more engaging educator and deeper and more meaningful standards - or else we will have students demanding more from educators who are unprepared for the level of depth needed and standards that are beneath the ability of the students.

We must pursue a foundational revolution in our system that leads to lasting improvements to instruction. The essential elements on which Eagle County Schools’ will focus on our way to greatness must necessarily include significant, sustained, and empirically validated strategies related to improving and engaging deeply with each of these three peaks.

Some approaches to reforming education have hyper-focused on one part of this relationship at the expense of the others. It is not uncommon to see disconnected approaches that use silver bullet strategies aimed at classroom teachers, while

RAISING EDUCATOR QUALITY In the United States and in Colorado, there is an appropriate level of gravity and importance placed on improving educator quality. Indeed, in all of the high-performing education systems, significant attention is placed on educator quality. For Eagle County Schools, our efforts at improving educator quality will be benchmarked against those practices which have been proven effective in the high-performing systems.

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A PROFESSIONAL MODEL OF TEACHING

High-performing education systems have a clear and focused strategy for improving educator quality. The basis of their approach, quite simply, is to consider education a profession, where professional educators are very selectively chosen, highly talented, highly trained, provided a great deal of professional autonomy, and have a number of options for career advancement.

Further, the profession of education in highperforming systems is afforded a high level of status. According to one recent international study on the status of the teaching profession, in the very highest performing systems, “Teachers are revered.� (as cited in Couglan, 2013). To put it more directly, high-performing education systems consider and treat education as a profession with respect. To teach in one of these systems is to be admired.

They also compensate their educators well. Highperforming systems generally pay educators at a level on par with other professional options like engineering, accounting, or architecture. Through these two strategies (status and pay), the highperforming systems are able to attract the

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brightest young people in their society to pursue education as a career.

High-performing systems are also incredibly selective about whom they let into the teaching profession. For example, Singapore only admits one in eight applicants for teacher training, each of whom must fall in the top 30% of students as a prerequisite. These high-performing systems generally train teachers in their highest prestige, research universities. They also strike a key balance between content training (what to teach), pedagogy (how to teach), and lots of supported clinical experience before teaching candidates are ever given their own students.

Once on the job, teachers in high-performing education systems are provided significant induction supports from talented and experienced mentors. There exist multiple options for professional growth through career pathways, allowing teachers to advance professionally without leaving teaching. And teachers in highperforming systems are empowered and trusted to work with each other, in small teams within school buildings, on professional learning.


Here, in Eagle County Schools, we already believe in, support, and respect our educators. If we are to build educator quality based on lessons from high-performing education systems, then a few key strategies emerge: We will focus on recruiting teachers from the very best colleges and universities anywhere in the country, if not the world.

Recruiting from our own top-performing high school students, we will create local systems with world-class standards of excellence to “growour-own� talented educators.

We will be incredibly selective about whom we allow to begin or to remain teaching in our schools.

We will do all we can to compensate, recognize, and provide supports for both our new and our existing teachers so that we are competitive for new teaching talent while retaining our experienced and talented educators. To be competitive, our educators should be among the best compensated in the State of Colorado. We will continue to support and build upon our existing career ladder program (career, mentor, and master teachers) but will look to expand it to allow for even more professional options like year-round teachers or specialist teacher-leaders that bring expertise to a key area of student need (like data specialists or language-learning specialists).

We will continue to support and value the time of our existing professional learning model, where small groups of teachers in all our schools take time to work together on issues they collectively face. But, we will work to turn upside-down the model where the content of professional learning is mostly driven from the district office. Instead, we will seek a better balance and further empower and provide professional autonomy to our front-line educators. The role of the district in this approach is to provide evidence-based support and research for building-level educators in solving the issues closest to the students.

We choose this professional model approach to educator quality, in part, for empirical reasons. That is, we see it working in the high-performing systems to which we are benchmarking. But it goes further than just empiricism. We believe that the profession of education is a sacred and noble calling and, in Eagle County, we will treat this profession with reverence and respect.

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CUSTOMIZED INSTRUCTION FOR ENGAGED LEARNERS

For far too long in education we adhered to a sort of “factory” model when it came to instruction. Students were like widgets rolling through grades on a giant conveyer belt - the same content was delivered to every student in the same way, year after year. For many students, that model worked. But, for the millions and millions more who struggled, felt ashamed, disengaged, and dropped out; the factory model of education failed them. Top-performing school systems reject the factory model of education and opt instead for systems that customize instruction to each individual student. Each and every student’s strengths and areas for growth are taken into account. In early grades, acceleration or additional supports are provided by data-informed teams of education professionals so that students master the basic and foundational skills, such as literacy and numeracy. In higher grades, talents and dreams of students are taken into account so that customized pathways into college or careers are in place.

For Eagle County, our endeavor to become a topperforming education system will hinge on our ability to customize and adapt instruction to every student. To achieve greatness, this customization cannot happen just for some students and just for some of the time. We must put in place multi-step and fail-safe systems that customize learning through teams of educators who monitor, adapt, and deliver high-quality learning experiences for students. Because the consequences of failing a student are so great, we must build a system with integrity, where every 18

student is supported to success and early warning signs of trouble are immediately acted upon. When a student is in trouble, academically or otherwise, the educators take action and intervene with research-based supports, so the student can return to a more successful path before things spiral out of control and toward failure. Supporting students so that they experience success and connecting school to their dreams creates high levels of engagement on the part of the learner, a key ingredient for a highperforming education system.

Customized learning also means that we recognize and appreciate cultural differences in our community. In Eagle County Schools, our two largest demographic groups are Hispanic and Anglo and these two make up nearly a 50/50 split district-wide. Our district also has nearly 40% of students who are Spanish-speaking and who are learning English. We can turn these factors into a tremendous advantage for our students by expanding opportunities for learning multiple languages. Imagine if every student who graduated from Eagle County Schools had a masterful command of English, spoke and understood Spanish at a very high level, and in many cases also acquired a third language by the time of graduation. In this increasingly global economy, the knowledge of multiple languages for Eagle County students can be more than just the sign of being raised in this international community with world-class expectations – it is a competitive advantage we can give our students that will pay returns on this investment for a lifetime.


The specific steps Eagle County Schools will take to put in place a system of customized learning include the following: At elementary grades, focus on foundational elements of literacy and numeracy by implementing multi-step, fail-safe systems where outcomes are clear, progress is closely monitored by teams of educators, and specific, individual student-tailored actions are taken at the earliest signs of struggle. Evidence-based programs with repeatable procedures to guarantee strong literacy and numeracy are of paramount importance in these early grades.

At secondary grades, create clear and customized pathways to college or careers that include abundant opportunities for experiencing college-level rigor, earning early college credit, and equally abundant experiential apprenticeship opportunities in partnership with employers and other experts in our community.

Tailor instruction at all age levels to exceptional students, both gifted and special education. For gifted students, we must go beyond just acceleration and offer deeper opportunities for learning and engaging opportunities for selfstudy and enrichment. Special education students must be provided adapted instruction, tailored to fit their needs, and supported to the same high standards we have for all students. Take full advantage of online and blended learning options to create an abundance of learning options for students.

Shift toward student progression based on mastery of learning instead of time-based notions of learning (earning credits based on hours of seat time in class). Students advance or receive additional time as they need it and have access to an abundance of experience-based learning opportunities.

Consider alternate school calendar structures and summer supports that can mitigate the “summer slump� (a decline in academic ability after the summer months), and provide engaging and enriching learning opportunities outside the regular curriculum.

We need a large-scale approach to close the achievement gap for students who are learning English that also raises the achievement of all students. We can turn our natural student demographics into an enormous advantage by expanding dual language opportunities across the district with a goal of every student graduating from Eagle County Schools being able to speak two languages with a masterful command of English. The research evidence strongly supports the dual language model as the most powerful method of improving language skills for English Language Learners (Howard et al., 2003; Thomas & Collier, 2002). Anglo students gain the advantage of learning Spanish with native speakers and acquiring a second language. For all of our students, a key academic advantage can be realized, as the evidence supports that bilingual students outperform their monolingual peers in all subjects tested (Thomas & Collier, 2002).

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A System Designed to Deliver Excellence for All

A bedrock element of high-performing education systems is high expectations for all students that are translated into a clear, well-designed set of standards which define what each individual student should be able to know, understand, and do. But just having standards isn’t enough; these standards must be internationally benchmarked. In this globally competitive world, our students must graduate with skills on par with students anywhere in the world. And these standards are not just for some students: high-performing systems make a point of closing achievement gaps through holding high expectations for all students and supporting them with high-quality instruction delivered by a highquality educator.

Alignment is also a paramount concept in the context of high standards. The standards should clearly set the bar for what students need to know and be able to do at different developmentally appropriate levels. From these standards, there must also be an aligned curriculum, aligned lessons, aligned assessments, and aligned professional development. The education system must continuously work to make sure it has challenging, clear standards, and that all the instructional work is closely aligned with those high standards.

These demanding standards absolutely include the academic fundamentals of literacy and math. But in the high-performing systems, we see broad, inclusive standards where social sciences, arts, music, foreign languages, physical and health education, and character education are all valued. Highperforming systems are also working to include competencies like critical thinking, communication, creativity, and collaboration into their standards. High-performing systems recognize that core academic skills are foundational to future success, but also recognize that the education system has a greater responsibility to prepare students to thrive in an ever-increasingly complex world. 20


When it comes to having high standards for all students, the following steps will put us on the path toward world-class excellence: Continue the work of rigorous curriculum design, establishing ongoing cycles to benchmark our standards against both Colorado state standards and internationally competitive systems in all content areas.

Expand the curriculum to include arts, music, world languages, physical and health education, and character education. Also expand the curriculum to include critical thinking, communication, creativity, and collaboration. Put in place clear and evidence-based literacy and numeracy programs district-wide that are aligned with our standards.

Continue the work of developing curricula in all subject areas that is clearly aligned with the district’s high expectations.

Continue the district’s work around formative assessment, but work to make this process faster and much more efficient. Also, build capacity for districtwide formative assessments in literacy and numeracy that have a direct impact on classroom instruction, and that are clearly aligned to district standards. All of our work must have clear alignment to internationally benchmarked standards. A mantra that must burn in the minds of all our educators must be: “alignment, alignment, alignment” in thinking about how our instructional work aligns to high standards.

High expectations for all students with high-quality instruction


A Comprehensive System of Supports

Up to this point, the focus has been intently on educators, learners, and standards. Rightly so – these components form the foundation of all great education systems. But these components, as central and foundational as they are, are not enough. We also learn from the best performing education systems that there are services inside and outside of schools that support students in learning at high levels.

School Supports As a public education system, we also have a responsibility to support students from every walk of life to remove as many barriers to learning as possible. We do this through making sure our buildings and grounds are safe and places of pride for our students, educators, and community. We also support our families by safely and reliably transporting students to and from school and by providing healthy and nutritious meals. Our school and district office professionals are knowledgeable and courteous and help our families get the information they need and help them to navigate what can sometimes be confusing processes.

Our schools must be places where students have every protection we can offer from the horrific school violence incidents of recent years. All of our buildings must be places where every student is safe to learn, and we must make investments and take proactive steps to make them secure.

We must also continue to support our students in times of grief or emotional distress through caring and professional counseling services. We must make focused efforts to eradicate school bullying. Our schools must be a sanctuary, where every child can grow and learn without fear. These in-school supports are incredibly important for the success of our schools and of our students. By establishing and maintaining internationally high benchmarks of service in all 22

of these areas, we remove potential barriers to learning and clear the way for our students to be successful.

A Community That Puts Its Arms Around Its Children For all of the tremendous things our schools do in service to our students, we can’t do it alone. We need significant help from other government agencies, the court system, local philanthropies and foundations, non-profit organizations, and faith-based organizations. High-performing education systems put safety nets around their children to mitigate the effects of poverty as early as possible. They provide an array of services to both protect and rescue kids from dangerous and destructive paths.

In addition to safety nets that protect and support children, we must establish a comprehensive and robust community-wide system around early childhood. There are many quality and wellintentioned partners already working in our community in the area of early childhood, including Eagle County Schools. But we must seek a coordinated and comprehensive system that ensures every child an opportunity to attend an early childhood program at a location convenient to the family. Quality early childhood education is a core practice seen in the highperforming education systems, and it will be a keystone to our work in becoming such a system. This community is extraordinary in its generosity toward the children of Eagle County. But we must make a concerted and focused effort to work better together as a system instead of individual organizations pursuing individual agendas. No child should be denied the opportunity to learn and to live a wonderful life, and with our community pulling together, we can create that system of supports around our children.


The Special Importance of Educational Technology

Eagle County Schools has made advances in education technology over the past few years. Broadband capacity has been significantly increased, wireless service points have been exponentially expanded, computer labs are available in every building, and teachers have a number of instructional technology tools including large panel LCD screens and interactive whiteboards. These are all positive steps which should be commended. However, the march and pace of technology is unrelenting and accelerating, and the world is becoming more interconnected by the moment.

Johannes Guttenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1450 had a profound impact by dramatically reducing the cost associated with printing books. Information became nearly universally available at a low cost. Changes in technology bring a similar revolution in the ability to access 24

information instantaneously and to interact globally. As their futures are almost certain to depend on it, our students must be well-versed and confident in the use of technology for lifelong learning. Our goal must be to have media-rich schools, where every student has all the bandwidth needed for learning. Every student should also have access to a high-quality, state-of-the-art device to access the internet for content (facts), and the boundless opportunities to interact, learn, and create online. A curriculum must be developed for technology which provides both a sound base for all students, and an accelerated path for students with a passion and drive for technology.

Our students deserve a world-class education, and a part of that means having access to worldclass educational technology.


Our schools play a critical role for our children and community in so many ways. Done well, quality public education:

Is foundational to our participatory democracy, creating a society where the people govern themselves and make important decisions together in line with the vision of the nation’s founding fathers.

Ensures the wealth and safety of our nation by creating a talented, skilled, and creative workforce. Is a powerful force by which we make good on the promise of the American dream – creating a nation where every child has the opportunity to grow, learn, live, and succeed.

Puts a temple for learning in every community, where the joy and enrichment of personal growth is available for all children. Brings together communities and teaches us the value of tolerance and respect for differences.

Provides all children an opportunity to experience art, music, culture, and humanity – so that all are able to fully experience and appreciate the human condition. Lays the groundwork and creates an appreciation for life-long learning, be that through higher education or personal growth.

The work of public education, at its core, is a decidedly noble endeavor and one worthy of protecting. Each and every one of us has a moral obligation and responsibility to ensure a quality education for all children.

In the days ahead, it is hoped that this document will be discussed, debated, and even challenged. The ideas contained herein are intended to set a vision, but that vision should be vetted to determine that it is indeed the right fit and direction for Eagle County and its schools. If the vision contained here indeed fits, then our next steps must be to fully flesh out a detailed strategy and set of focused actions. There should

be no illusions that achieving greatness at the scale envisioned here will be easy or quick. We can learn much from places that are attempting the shortcuts, the silver bullets, and the quick fixes. These approaches invariably disappoint and are not in line with what must be our ultimate goal - sustained and genuine quality. Commitment Our key and critical first step is committing to become a world-class education system. There is indeed power and clarity that follows after making that commitment. But this first step must then also be accompanied by the commitment in our hearts and minds to take many, many more steps on our journey to greatness.

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Suggested Readings

Battelle for Kids. (2012). Global education study: six drivers of student success – a look inside five of the world’s highest performing school systems. Retrieved from http://www.battelleforkids.org/initiatives/initiatives/global-education-study.

City, E., Elmore, R., Fiarman, S., & Teitel, L. (2009). Instructional rounds in education: a network approach to improving teaching and learning. Cobb, B., Vega, D., & Kronauge, C. (2006). Effects of an elementary dual language immersion school program on junior high achievement. Middle Grades Research Journal. 1: 27-47.

Coughlin, S. (2013, October 14). Teachers in China given highest level of public respect. BBC News. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-24381946.

Howard, E. R., Christian, D., & Genesee, F. (2003). The development of bilingualism and biliteracy from grade 3 to 5: a summary of findings from the CAL/CREDE study of twoway immersion education (Research Report 13). Santa Cruz, CA and Washington, DC: Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence. McKinsey & Co. (2007). How the world’s best performing school systems come out on top. Retrieved from http://mckinseyonsociety.com/how-the-worlds-best-performingschools-come-out-on-top/.

McKinsey & Co. (2010). How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better. Retrieved from http://mckinseyonsociety.com/how-the-worlds-most-improvedschool-systems-keep-getting-better/. Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. (2012). How does class size vary around the world? Education Indicators in Focus. 2012: 9.

Thomas, W. P., & Collier, V. (2002). A national study of school effectiveness for language minority students’ long-term academic achievement: final report. Santa Cruz, CA and Washington, DC: Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence. Tucker, M. (2011). Surpassing Shanghai: an agenda for American education built on the world’s leading systems. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

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UNPARALLELED ALTITUDE: A Globally Inspired Vision for Eagle County Schools Author Jason E. Glass, Ed.D. Superintendent & Chief Learner Eagle County Schools

Unparalleled Altitude  
Unparalleled Altitude  

A global vision for Eagle County Schools in Eagle, Colorado.

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