In the shadow of Colorado’s majestic mountains and frontiers is a long history of racial segregation and economic inequity. While Colorado has the third highest percentage of adults with college degrees, our state ranks at the very bottom for high school graduates continuing to college. This extreme divide, known as the Colorado Paradox, begins early within our education system and disproportionately affects disadvantaged students. In fact, Colorado’s affluent students are three times more proficient than those growing up in low-income communities.
In the face of these inequities, over the past five years Colorado’s education movement has made tremendous progress. Rather than viewing educational inequity as an intractable problem, there is growing optimism that promises new opportunities for students. In 2007, a small group of motivated leaders across Colorado took steps to help create broad, systemic change in education. They ushered in dozens of advocacy organizations to form a dynamic ecosystem working to reshape the policy context in which schools and school systems operate. Reforms around school leader autonomy, incentives-based compensation, and teacher tenure served as a model for 30 states across the country. Denver now ranks fourth out of 25 cities for reform-friendly environment. In just five years, Denver grew the number of schools consistently putting kids from low-income communities on a path to college from 0 to 12.
As a result of this momentum, by 2010, Colorado was poised to become an inspiring example of system-level change in the nation. Reformers at every level of the system recognized that dramatically expanding the pipeline of leaders was critical to accelerating the pace of change across the state. By infusing Colorado with transformational leaders, Teach For America–Colorado is a catalyst for the system-wide education reform movement here. We create transformational classrooms and schools for all kids, focusing on enduring personal and cultural growth and rigorous academic achievement. Our growing corps serves the Denver and Colorado Springs metro areas reaching more than 35,000 students.