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Effective education: parents, teachers, students have roles

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By Matt Gunn

Parents and teachers who provide support and strong school and community programs were identified last week in a Jeffco forum designed to form consensus on ways to improve public education.

Also discussed were student responsibilities, including the need to take school seriously and to show up ready to learn and to be their own advocates.

Jeffco Public Schools last week hosted the guided session as part of Conversation 2007, a statewide forum on improving public education.

Those in attendance worked in groups to discuss the needs and responsibilities of various stakeholders in education, ultimately bringing together ideas that could influence the future of education.

Well compile it and well present it to the legislators who initiated it, and then well present it to the P-20 (Education Coordinating Council) in the next month, said Bill Fulton, director of Civic Canopy.

Fultons group was initially contracted to build guidelines for Conversation 2007, which was formed as a partnership between the Colorado General Assembly and a coalition of public, private and nonprofit leaders. The program is made up of a series of guided conversations across the state designed to build a consensus on issues important to public education.

Three areas of emphasis in the Conversation 2007 program are identifying a vision for the state of Colorado, where education is going and how the state and its educators will get there.

Weve kind of taken over the full operations of the project, Fulton said. Initially we designed a dialogue guide for legislators if they wanted it.

As the program began, Civic Canopy became more involved in conducting dialogues and gathering information as well. The group is an inclusive network of partners working together to build stronger neighborhoods, healthier communities and a more civil society.

The two-hour session saw community members, Jeffco Public Schools staff and board members, break into discussion groups in an attempt to focus on priorities for students, educators, families and communities.

As we take a look at each of these roles, what is it that each person or group is responsible for, Fulton asked as the discussion began.

Within the context of a school, we need to look at each child, said Superintendent Cindy Stevenson. But within the community you must look at all of them.

To support those students, those in attendance also discussed the needs and requirements of communities, families and the educators themselves.

What we keep hearing is that there is broad agreement on overarching goals, Fulton said. But to really make progress on those strategies, we have to get out of this isolated, each-against-all mentality of the different groups.

Theres always a tension between policies and values, said Vince Chowdhury, Board of Education District 5 representative. We have to focus on the word value what it is we value.

Those who took part in the Conversation 2007 session put emphasis on educators need for resources and support, and to be responsible for a reasonable amount of work.

Needs for families included good communication and mutual trust and respect both with students and educators. Responsibilities for families such as being a part of childrens education and understanding the need and urgency of education were discussed.

For communities, it was labeled an important need to engage in communication conversation and to receive civic-minded graduates. To get there, communities responsibilities included getting the information they need from schools and investing in education.

Each group is not willing to commit to part of the solution unless all the groups are there at the same time, Fulton said.

He said Civic Canopy will possibly present preliminary results of the statewide conversations to the legislature as soon as mid-November, with final results around Nov. 20.

The findings ultimately go to Gov. Bill Ritters P-20 Education Coordinating Council, which was formed to ensure Colorados educational systems from preschool to grade 20 are aligned along the states education highway and also aligned with the needs of todays employers.

Contact Matt Gunn at matt@evergreenco.com.