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Education leaders preview big year ahead

More than 1,000 Colorado school administrators got a working break in the mountains this week just ahead of what may be one of the most challenging school years in Colorado history.

The annual education leadership convention of the Colorado Association of School Executives featured speakers, dozens of breakout sessions and, of course, lots of time for networking and schmoozing at two Breckenridge hotels.

The chance to enjoy the cool mountain weather came before a 2013-14 school year that will feature rollout of new content standards statewide, use of new principal and teacher evaluations in every district, new requirements for reading instruction in grades K-3 and new online social studies and science tests next spring.

The magnitude of the challenge was the theme of a Wednesday luncheon session featuring education Commissioner Robert Hammond (left above) and Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia (right).

“I fully realize you’re under a lot of pressure right now,” Hammond said, noting that Colorado is “reaching the apex” of implementing all the education reforms that were set in motion starting in 2008.

Hammond said the coming year “is going to be a challenge” but promised, “We’re going to do it.”

After their brief remarks, Hammond and Garcia fielded a list of questions posed by CASE Executive Director Bruce Caughey.

Hammond handled a couple of questions on new tests, saying he believes the state is ready for the new online tests next spring but warning that the public and legislators need to be prepared ahead of time for the inevitable drop in scores after new English and math tests debut in the spring of 2015.

Garcia weighed in on the proposed $950 million K-12 increase expected to be on the November ballot.

While acknowledging that the issue creates “a complicated discussion,” Garcia said, “I think people will come together behind it.”

He said Gov. John Hickenlooper “absolutely believes this is critical for Colorado.” Garcia said, “I’m going to be spending a lot of my time on the road” campaigning for the measure, and that “The governor is spending time now raising money” for the campaign.

Hammond opened the session by praising the spirit of cooperation that has marked Colorado education reform efforts over the last several years, a point emphasized by a group portrait of lawmakers, officials, association executives and others who are at the center of reform efforts.

(From left) Commissioner Hammond, SBE member Marcia Neal, Sen. Mike Johnston, Garcia, Rep. Millie Hamner, Sen. Evie Hudak, Rep. David Young, SBE member Jane Goff, Caughey, Helayne Jones of the Colorado Legacy Foundation and Tony Salazar of the Colorado Education Association. Ken DeLay of the Colorado Association of School Boards is behind Salazar.

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