Hot Lunch Helps Us Think Big: This Month, About ESSA

October 11, 2016 by

With this season’s Hot Lunch in full swing and more popular than ever, we have been reflecting on how our speakers add perspective and value, both to the current issues and opportunities we see in our education system and to the particular work the DK staff is engaging in.

Our staff spends a lot of time thinking about who to invite to Denver for Hot Lunch. We seek out people who we think will expand our collective mindsets and challenge our assumptions about current approaches to education. Our hope is that speakers also provide us with some ideas and strategies to adapt to our Colorado context – and not to mention, some inspiration!

This Hot Lunch season, we’re trying something new. We are utilizing our blog as a window into our thought process by sharing a bit more about why we’ve chosen each speaker to join us, and why we think their work is important and relevant to our own.

This month, we interviewed Kim Knous-Dolan and Tony Lewis about our October speaker, Chiefs for Change CEO Mike Magee, and what his organization’s work might mean for this moment in education.

First, can you give us a very brief overview of the work Chiefs for Change is doing?

Kim: Chiefs for Change is focused on building a pipeline of future district and state education leaders and, more importantly, they are building a cadre of diverse leaders. As well as providing support and resources to these leaders, they are encouraging leaders to take bold action, and create a strong vision for education.

Tony: Given the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), it’s timely that Chiefs for Change are focusing a lot of effort on how states may implement the Act with both fidelity and innovation. This hits close to home as Colorado begins its work on its accountability system under the new guidelines.

Second, why does this matter? And why should we care?

Kim: After several years of decline, Colorado drop-out rates went up for the first time this year. Achievement gaps between white students and students of color are growing. It’s clear many schools just aren’t meeting the needs of current or future students.

Tony: The flexibility under ESSA means Colorado will have the opportunity to redefine its accountability system – and we already know that some in the legislature are considering making changes to our participation in the PARCC tests. Change is happening and more is on the way!

And how is this relevant to the work that DK is doing?

Kim: ESSA provides a real opportunity for states and districts to re-examine our education practices and initiate some bold thinking. There is a real chance for innovation here, which is something we believe in.

Tony: Under ESSA, there is new flexibility in terms of how we measure and hold our schools accountable, and how different portions of federal money (Title monies primarily) could be spent. That increased flexibility in spending could support all students in personalized ways, which is something we’re very focused on with ReSchool Colorado and other projects.

And lastly, what do you hope our audience takes away from Hot Lunch?

Kim: Our hope with every Hot Lunch is to ignite an ongoing dialogue. With Chiefs for Change, we would like to wrestle with the possibilities under ESSA that make sense for Colorado and could lead to positive impact for kids. Mike will highlight these opportunities, which will give the leaders, educators, elected officials and funders attending Hot Lunch a realistic place to begin.

Can’t join us? Tune in for Friday’s conversation on Twitter by following #DKHotLunch.

Photo courtesy of Chiefs for Change.