Katy Anthes became Colorado’s Commissioner of Education in December 2016, after serving as interim commissioner for several months. Her appointment was a welcomed sign of stability after a series of leadership transitions and staff turnover within the department.

She has been with the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) since 2011, serving in a variety of senior leadership positions. Notably, she was responsible for rolling out the state’s groundbreaking educator evaluation system, widely known as Senate Bill 10-191.

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Katy Anthes. Colorado Commissioner of Education. Source: Colorado Department of Education

Colorado Succeeds had an opportunity to visit with Commissioner Anthes to hear her perspective on Colorado’s current educational landscape, including the need for more targeted computer science education and the role the business community plays in supporting our public schools.

What follows are the highlights of that interview, edited for brevity.

Colorado Succeeds: What are your overall goals and priorities for CDE?

Anthes: We have some big things on our plate right now, and those are our main priorities. One is getting the Every Student Succeeds Act (the new federal law governing K-12 education policy) plan in to the U.S. Department of Education. That’s a really big lift and we’ve taken stakeholder engagement to heart on that. We’ve held over 170 meetings, have received over 4,000 comments on it, had over 1,500 people participate in a listening tour. We conducted listening tour sessions in 7 or 8 different locations across the state.

We’ve been working really hard to take all that feedback and make a plan. We just posted a draft plan last week for the 30-day public comment period.

The other big priority we have is we are now coming to the end of the five-year accountability clock with some school districts. (Editor’s note: those districts are Westminster Public Schools, Adams 14 School District, Aguilar Reorganized, Montezuma-Cortez and Julesburg RE-1. More info in Chalkbeat.) This is uncharted territory for us and our State Board of Education. They’ve never had to make a decision like this, to this degree of gravity.

So we are working hard to visit all of the districts and schools to create a commissioner recommendation. That’s a very heavy lift for our State Board of Education and our staff.

Colorado Succeeds: In terms of coming to decisions about the next steps on the accountability clock, is there a timeline?

Anthes: It’s in the law that we have to make decisions by July 2017 for all of the districts that have come to the end of the clock.

Colorado Succeeds: With the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) state plan, what are some of your specific goals?

Anthes: One of the interesting things we are trying to do with the plan is align our resources in a more effective way for districts with the most challenges. In the past, we’ve had all of these different grant programs but they’re in separate silos. Districts had to make sense of all these different grant programs. We are using ESSA to try and think about that differently. How can we actually align this and make it so districts have a one-stop shop? We want to work with the districts to find what their needs are and align them with the grant support they need. We want to make sure they get the targeted support they need, rather than scatter-shot approach.

Colorado Succeeds: In what areas of education do you see Colorado leading the nation and where do you want to see us become a leader?

Anthes: Colorado has a very collaborative spirit among policymakers and different organizations and districts. Especially as I’ve moved into other positions and worked more with different states, I’ve been more impressed with the collaborative spirit of Colorado.

Collaborating with the business community, having all of these different business groups involved helps set the foundation for education. We work with these groups all of the time. They come to our meetings, they are on our ESSA committees. This natural collaborative spirit in Colorado has allows us to get input from a lot of different organizations, legislators, and policymakers.

Another place where I think we are a leader is setting high-quality standards for students. We did that in 2008, before many other states.

We’re also leading the way in having teacher and leader systems for professional improvement and evaluation. Many states still don’t have educational leader standards.

Colorado Succeeds: What are your thoughts on the role of the business community in education and the business community as a partner of CDE, districts, and schools?

Anthes: We’ve been fortunate to have a great partnership with the business community for a number of years. We work with Colorado Succeeds on a lot of different issues, including ESSA. They are a critical partner. They have helped us do a lot of our work on competencies and skills-based standards: Not only thinking of academic standards, but what competencies and skills we build into that. How do those personal skill sets support academics?

We have started thinking about workforce development, apprenticeships, engaging a lot of our students in career and technical education, making sure students stay engaged. And all of that has to be done in close partnership with the business community.

We just recently opened up applications for the standards review committees. We really want business participation in that. (Editor’s note: If you are a business leader interested in participating in the standards revision process, contact Shannon Nicholas at Colorado Succeeds to learn about various opportunities and time commitments.)

Colorado Succeeds: What’s the best way for people to get involved and provide feedback to CDE?

Anthes: I’m happy to say contact me. I will connect you to an issue you are interested in. Contact us and we will get you in touch with staff members that work on these issues day to day.

There are organizations we all know about, like Colorado Succeeds, the chambers, Club 20 on the Western Slope, etc. So we have a couple normal processes we communicate through. But we always encourage the business community to reach out to their State Board of Education members.. There is so much work going on at CDE, there are all of these work groups and committees businesses can get involved in.

Colorado Succeeds: Colorado Succeeds is supporting legislation that adds computer science to the state standards, among other things. Do you have any thoughts on this?

Anthes: We too see the critical importance of computer science standards. Every student right now across our world will have some sort of interface with technology. Moving forward, it will be a core literacy skill for workforce success and equity. It’s also an equity issue across rural and urban areas. It is a complex issue, but it can provide economic opportunity across the state.

Colorado Succeeds: Any last thoughts for our members and readers?

Anthes: We’re looking forward as we get these big things implemented, to continuing to foster collaboration around the education community and ecosystem. I’m looking forward to building my relationship with the State Board of Education and listening to their vision as well and thinking how we can build our state’s education leadership.

By Shannon Nicholas
Director of Communications and Programs
Colorado Succeeds