First graders Zoey Schaller, left, and Daniella Madrid read together in Katlyn Smith's first grade classroom on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019 at Aragon Elementary in Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8. (Mark Reis, Special to The Colorado Sun)

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The Colorado State Board of Education appears poised to allow early elementary teachers a six-month extension to satisfy a new requirement for training on reading instruction.

During a meeting Wednesday, most board members said they support giving teachers more time to take the training given the pressure they’re under because of the coronavirus pandemic. The board will vote on the matter at a special meeting next week.

Shifting a deadline by several months may seem like a bureaucratic detail, but it gets at a larger debate about whether state leaders and educators are doing enough to help the more-than-50% of Colorado students who struggle to read well. While some board members, parents, and advocates say efforts to improve reading instruction are already years too late, other board members, plus district leaders and educators, say the extra time will ensure teachers can give proper attention to the training rather than just “checking a box.”

If the board formally approves the six-month extension next week, Colorado’s 23,000 kindergarten through third grade teachers will have until January 2022 to satisfy the training mandate. The decision would reverse an earlier position by the board to hold fast to the original summer 2021 deadline, but wouldn’t grant the yearlong extension — to summer 2022 — that many educators and district leaders sought.

The training rule, which came out of a 2019 update of Colorado’s landmark reading law, is meant to cover the fundamentals of reading instruction, something many teachers say they never got in their teacher preparation programs.


Ann Schimke is a senior reporter at Chalkbeat Colorado covering early childhood education. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and the Denver Post. She holds a master’s degree in education policy from the University...