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Q&A: Building the Next Education Workforce in rural Colorado schools

Sep 18, 2023 | Colorado, From the field


With the assistance of an Opportunity Now grant, rural Colorado schools will be able to explore teaching in team-based models with the Next Education Workforce™ initiative at Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Here, Andrea LaRocca, senior program manager for the Next Education Workforce, shares how teams of educators with distributed expertise can be more effective, support equity and improve learning outcomes. Learn more about the model and how rural Colorado schools can access resources to get started. 

Question: What is an Opportunity Now grant and what does the initiative do?

Andrea LaRocca: The Opportunity Now grant will support schools in Colorado as they explore and implement Next Education Workforce team-based models through a year of strategic support and planning. We have formed a partnership with three organizations in Colorado: the Colorado Department of Education, the Public Education and Business Coalition, and South Central BOCES. 

Q: Why is the Next Education Workforce from ASU working in Colorado?

AL: Opportunity Now Colorado wants to catalyze transformative change for Colorado’s workforce, which includes creating more attractive conditions into which to recruit new teachers. That’s what we do at the Next Education Workforce, and we’ve been fortunate enough to work with schools not just in Arizona but in several other states.. We’re excited to partner with Colorado organizations to build education systems that work better for teachers and students. The expertise and skill of our partners will allow us to have the greatest impact for new teachers in Colorado, particularly in rural areas.

Q: Why is there a focus on rural schools in Colorado?

AL: Rural schools in Colorado have felt the impact of COVID-19 teacher shortages as much as and sometimes more so than some of their urban and suburban counterparts, plus often do not have as many pathways into the profession. This is a great way to maximize the human capital in rural areas that would benefit from innovative staffing models to address these shortages.

Q. How will Colorado schools benefit from the Opportunity Now grant? 

AL: Schools that are interested in launching at least one team could receive a year of strategic planning and support. The grant covers the cost of professional learning for eight schools that want to learn about, explore and prepare to launch team-based models. Colorado’s educators will benefit from a community of practice and have the opportunity to network, learn from each other, and explore and implement best practices for innovative staffing in Colorado. 

Q: What is the advantage of team-based models for Colorado schools? 

AL: Colorado is already embracing innovative approaches to the future of education. The Next Education Workforce team has found that team-based models are better for educators and learners. These models can help address the working conditions that contribute to teacher shortages. Teachers report greater job satisfaction and less isolation. Students have more access to a range of adults and have more access to deeper and personalized learning, which we see in increased algebra scores and an increase in reading scores. 

Q: Who should schools contact for more information?

AL: For more information, please contact Andrea LaRocca, senior program manager for the Next Education Workforce.

Notes about the author:

  • Bruce Watson

    Bruce Watson, EdD serves as senior program manager, marketing and communications for the Next Education Workforce team at Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Bruce curates, contributes to, and publishes the Next Education Workforce blog.

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