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Posted: May 16, 2012

Education nation: Colorado’s view

There's work to be done

Kelly Brough

NBC News was in Denver last month for a week-long focus on education and readying our nation’s students for a 21st century workforce.

This is a topic near and dear to us at the Chamber, as we know we must change the current educational outcomes, if we hope to achieve the economic future we all envision. It appears ours efforts in Colorado are being noticed by the nation.

In 2010, the Chamber hosted an education event featuring reform expert Geoffrey Canada, who is nationally recognized for his pioneering work helping children and families in Harlem and as a passionate advocate for education reform. Featured in the documentary Waiting for Superman, Canada and the work of the Harlem Children’s Zone Inc. is a national model in education.

A year later, we hosted Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of the Washington, D.C., public school system and founder and CEO of StudentsFirst, a non-profit organization dedicated to education reform. She also appeared in Waiting for “Superman.”

Rhee, along with Margaret Spellings, senior advisor to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and president of its forum for policy innovation, answered questions addressing what the business community can and must do to help improve our schools.

Denver was the first stop on the Education Nation tour this year, and we think it is good to continue to highlight our successes and our weaknesses to ensure we continue to improve our education system. We are always energized by the ideas generated by these types of discussions as they help us hone in what more we can do to further our efforts.

Literacy was a major focus of the Chamber this legislative session with HB-1238, which focuses on creating a value and standard for reading success for students in Colorado in a manner we have never committed to in our history. It recognizes that, if we fail to teach a child to read by third grade, we are likely creating a future of little hope for that child. It says to every adult in the state that we will no longer accept such a future for our children or our state.

It provides for the first literacy expert at the Colorado Department of Education and will source materials to supports teachers and principals to teach the science of reading. We are still working to get this bill passed through the state Senate. If you haven’t yet, you can take action and contact your legislator and encourage him or her to support this important bill.

We must increase the number of students in college by 20 percent in six short years if we are to meet our economy’s educational needs. Our future truly does depend upon our ability to graduate Colorado’s students from high school and prepare them for careers or college.

Monday, Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell moderated a panel discussion with area business leaders about the role that education plays in job creation and job readiness. Presenters Linda Alvarado of Alvarado Construction; Bruce Benson, president of the University of Colorado; Dick Monfort, chairman/owner and CEO of the Colorado Rockies; and Kent Thiry, chairman and CEO of DaVita all spoke about how critical it is to show the value education to today’s students and to have a well-educated workforce in many industries.

It is easy to think this is a challenge for parents, teachers or even for the student him or herself. The reality is this challenge belongs to all of us. Preparing our children for the future to meet business needs, and to provide them with the quality of life they envision, is our challenge. There is work for everyone as we first work to set standards (such as ensuring that all Colorado students can read) and then to ensure we meet that challenge. Please consider helping us now. Express your support for such a standard and contact us anytime to find out how you can help many of the organizations in the state to achieve these higher standards.
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Kelly J. Brough is the current president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. She previously served as the chief of staff and deputy chief of staff for Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. She also served as a personnel analyst and a legislative analyst for the City and County of Denver. Kelly has served on a number of boards and commissions, including the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation board. She has a bachelor's degree in sociology and criminal justice from Montana State University and an MBA from the University of Colorado at Denver.

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