Partner Profile: Colorado Education Initiative


Envision Learning Partners is delighted and honored to introduce the Colorado Education Initiative (CEI). The Colorado Education Initiative is a statewide nonprofit organization in Colorado that invests time, expertise, and dollars in schools, students, educators, and leaders. They are rooted in a vision of equitable outcomes for every kid that drives a strong bias for action focused on sustainable change to the system. 

ELP and CEI kicked off our partnership in the 2017-18 school year. Amy Spicer is the Senior Program Lead at CEI and has shared her thoughts on our work together below.

How are you redesigning and advancing your systems to provide rigorous and equitable capstone experiences for your students?


We have been working with ELP for the past two years to help schools and districts in Colorado build capstone experiences that meet the needs of our state’s Graduation Guidelines policy.  Graduation Guidelines put a menu in place for districts to use in establishing graduation requirements, including traditional ways to demonstrate college and career readiness such as SAT and ACT scores, as well as performance-based demonstrations such as portfolios and capstone projects.

The capstone and performance assessment options both open up immense possibilities for Colorado’s students. In addition to providing students with more options to show that they have mastered academic content, the performance-based pathways to graduation allow students to go beyond demonstrating proficiency in traditional academic subjects. The world is rapidly changing, and what students need to be successful in college, a career, and in life require additional skills like collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving—all things that students cannot show with a single test score.


CEI’s partnership with ELP has resulted in over fifteen schools and districts building systems that are equally rigorous to test scores and have allowed Colorado districts to rethink assessment practices in ways that are more inclusive and empowering of students who have been under-served by our traditional systems. When done well, capstones can show more of what students know and are able to do than the SAT or ACT.

How have performance assessment principles, tools, frameworks, examples, and/or best practices, informed this work?

Our work has benefited greatly from the guidance from ELP. The theory of action that ELP brings—define a graduate profile, design a system of performance assessments that measure that profile, and implement pedagogies and school structures that lead to success—has allowed for schools and districts to create comprehensive capstone systems that break through traditional learning environments. In particular, we have seen the immense impact that the locally-developed graduate profile has on building rigorous capstones. When communities come together to define the competencies and skills they seek for their students to acquire in their K-12 career, they have a framework in which to design systems and structures that allow students to demonstrate their mastery.

What have you learned during this process? What has been the impact of this work ON YOU? Is there one story you can share that illustrates this?

I have learned so much through this project and our partnership with Envision. By far the biggest impact on me has been on how I approach supporting schools and districts to enact change: when the work is meaningful and relevant, we as facilitators need to introduce tools and resources and then get out of the way.  When we first started this project, there was one school district in particular that asked to have a lot of interrupted time to work on their capstone after our initial kickoff and introduction. At first, we weren’t sure how this would go—would they create rigorous plans? Would they make the amount of progress we were seeking? Could we let go and see what happened?

This district—Canon City School District—ended up making a significant amount of progress in a short time. They have created an incredible program that is based on the needs of their community, one that has become an exemplar across the state. What they are building is still a work in progress, but they have taught me the value of not over-facilitating and trusting in the good work that our educators—who are truly the experts—accomplish when they are given inspiration, time, and space. This has impacted my work far beyond the scope of this project, as I have taken this lesson into all projects I lead.

Click here for a deeper look into CEI’s Capstone Design.

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