Op-Ed: Let's Work Together to Better Serve Colorado Students

Tillie Elvrum leads the Parent Support for Online Learning Initiative.
Tillie Elvrum leads the Parent Support for Online Learning Initiative.
Colorado Coalition of Cyberschool Families
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As the first half of the 2020-21 school year comes to a close, it’s time we start thinking about opportunities we have in 2021 to better serve Colorado students. In a recent op-ed, Chris Christoff, a kindergarten and first-grade multi-age teacher in Denver Public Schools, noted that remote learning has been discouraged by the district since the start of the school year, even though 44 percent of DPS families have elected for 100 percent remote learning amid COVID-19. That means nearly 36,000 DPS students will be learning online for the remainder of the school year. This teacher has legitimate concerns about the way online education has been rolled out in our communities. To successfully conduct remote learning, teachers need support and instruction to enhance the student experience to drive success and growth.

From kindergarteners drawing and writing responses to text-based questions to first-graders learning how to read, Christoff’s experience navigating remote learning proves that students can excel while schooling from home. However, many teachers throughout Colorado are still struggling and need guidance to assist their efforts in the new year. The most vital aspect of 2021 is to continue further preventing COVID-19 from spreading while still creating beneficial learning environments and education opportunities for all our Colorado students.

Amid the chaos from the pandemic, cyberschools across Colorado have continued to deliver continuity and normalcy during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years to over 32,000 students. As a former cyberschool parent and advocate for over fifteen years, the online learning platform already works for thousands of Colorado families. Our cyberschool educators and leaders have over twenty years of experience on how to manage and engage students with online curriculum, and we are a resource to the traditional brick-and-mortar schools, teachers seeking support, and parents who may be seeking alternatives as they navigate online learning.

We’re fortunate in Colorado that parents have the option of school choice. It is the parents’ choice to decide which education platform is best for their child or children; this decision also includes options such as cyberschools. It is also important to highlight that online education has been a huge relief for thousands of families and students, as it has been the one constant in their lives during such uncertain times.

In addition, cyberschool teachers and educators are trained and experienced in supporting a variety of students, including those who are gifted and talented, have special needs and students with learning differences. Online teachers and experts also have experience on how to provide access to technology and Internet for all students, professional development to deliver meaningful online instruction, best use of learning platforms and how to create and maintain parent and student engagement amid digital learning.

As we enter 2021, consider online learning platform options available to you as you seek to find a consistent and beneficial education platform for your child or children. If millions of Americans can transition to remote work, our Colorado schools can do the same. In addition, thousands of families have found cyberschool as their pathway to success long before 2020. For example, Alexandra Zeitz, a cyberschool student at Colorado Preparatory Academy, struggled in the brick-and-mortar environment due to bullying and ostracization by her peers. After switching to CPA in her fourth-grade year, her life was forever changed for the better as she quickly began learning more efficiently, which increased her confidence and self-esteem. Now, Zeitz is a sophomore in high school and has already received A grades in her first four college courses.

In a recent survey, 49 percent of Denver and Colorado Springs-Pueblo families changed their opinion regarding their child’s education. Thus, if you are one of the 49 percent, I encourage you to consider Colorado cyberschools as a valuable alternative to traditional public schools for your children during the coronavirus pandemic and after. Colorado offers a diverse set of online learning options, and you can find them here.

For our Colorado students to prosper and grow in 2021, let’s find a solution that promotes learning and safety amid COVID-19. We are excited and prepared to combine forces to create the most beneficial learning experience for students.

Tillie Elvrum, of Colorado Springs, has worked to promote school choice in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado and on the national level since first becoming an advocate for school choice and education reform in 2004. She is director of the Colorado Coalition of Cyberschool Families and currently leads the Parent Support for Online Learning initiative.

On weekends, Westword published op-eds and essays on matters of interest to the Denver community. Have one you'd like to submit? Send it to editorial@westword.com, where you can also respond to this piece.

Read Chris Christoph's original op-ed about online learning here.

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