October 8-9, 2015 | Denver, CO

Greater access to quality educational opportunities from birth to post-secondary institutions is critical for the long-term economic and civic outcomes of all students and families across Colorado. The quality of educational services and their ability to adequately serve the needs of diverse families across Colorado will determine early childhood foundations, strong academic achievement, positive educational pathways, and successful degree completion.

This convening will provide participants with an overview of Colorado’s educational policies and academic outcomes for families and students. Policymakers will engage in a timely conversation to better understand early childhood services and they will learn about the foundations and benefits of early childhood education. In addition, participants will learn more about Colorado’s on-going funding initiatives that have a critical bearing on state and local educational budgets. Policymakers will learn from experts on the best practices and policy strategies to strengthen family and student engagement, create restorative justice environments, and increase student retention and completion rates in higher education.

This convening is part of the NALEO Education Leadership Initiative (NELI) which aims to provide education policymakers with the enhanced capacity and governance skills they need to become effective advocates for their students, families, and communities. Participants attending this two-day convening will hear from leading experts from the public, private, and non-profit sectors who will tackle pressing education topics will include the following curriculum:

The Status of Educational Access and Achievement in Colorado

  • Foundations of Early Childhood Education
  • Toxic Stress and Early Childhood Education
  • Colorado’s Funding Infrastructure & Policies
  • Engaging Parents, Teachers, and Students
  • The Justice System and Educational Pathways
  • Latino College Completion Rates in Colorado


Title Sponsors

Champion Sponsor

Benefactor Sponsors

Supporter Sponsors


  • Thursday, October 8
  • Friday, October 9

7:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.

Registration and Breakfast

8:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.

Welcome and Introductory Remarks

9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.

Session I:


The Status of Educational Access and Achievement in Colorado


Latinos represent 32% of the 1.2 million children and students throughout the educational pipeline (birth through 17) in Colorado. There is a wide range of diversity in the student body and with that comes along different trends in students’ academic performance and varying points of entry into the educational system. To date, 49% of all 3 and 4 year old children are enrolled in a preschool program of some type. In the K-12 system, Colorado students outperform national trends on 4th grade reading and math proficiency, yet by the time students reach high school only 72% of students graduate and Latinos fare even lower at 56%. This session will provide an overview of the academic trends for Latino students and will identify areas that require further policy discussion and solutions.

Chair: Dr. Valentina “Val” Flores, Board Member, Colorado State Board of Education

Resources: 1 | 2

• Mr. Bill Jaeger, Vice President of Early Childhood Initiatives, Colorado Children’s Campaign – Kids Count
PRESENTATION | Resource: 1

• Mr. Wade Buchanan, President, The Bell Policy Centert

10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Session II:


Foundations of Early Childhood Education


There is growing research demonstrating the short and long-term benefits of early childhood education for children, families, and communities. Evidence shows how a child’s brain has the greatest potential to grow by the age of three and it is in these first three years of life that children’s brains must be exposed to quality interactions to stimulate and strengthen brain development. This session will provide an overview of the brain development research and will also highlight the cognitive and emotional importance of supporting practices that are responsive to diverse families.

Chair: Hon. Crisanta Duran, Colorado State Representative; Board Member, NALEO

• Dr. Sarah R. Lytle, Director of Outreach and Education, Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, University of Washington


Session Resource: 1

11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Networking Lunch

12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Session III:


Tackling Toxic Stress

Babies who are exposed to healthy and nurturing environments have the foundation needed for positive brain development. Exposure to factors such as poverty, abuse, neglect, incarceration, separation of families, and crime trigger the development of toxic stress in young children. The consequence of this toxic stress can have long-term damaging effects on children’s emotional, social, and mental development and influence their health, learning ability, and social behavior. This session will provide an overview of the research on toxic stress and ways in which policymakers can develop policies to support healthy environments to mitigate the effects of toxic stress on vulnerable families and children.

Chair: Hon. Irene Aguilar, M.D., Colorado State Senator

• Dr. Marina Mendoza, Developmental Psychologist, Child Health and Development Lab, University of Denver
PRESENTATION | Resource: 1

• Ms. Charlotte Brantley, President & CEO, Clayton Early Learning

1:45 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Session IV:


Colorado’s Funding Infrastructure and Policies

One of the central components of a successful early childcare education system is the funding structure. There are challenges to maintaining a strong and well-funded system. As policymakers, it is important to be strategic and creative in developing the adequate policies that meet family needs and address issues around access to such services throughout the state. This session will provide an overview of Colorado’s funding structure along with an update on select on-going statewide and local policies and initiatives focused on maintaining equitable and sustainable funding models.

Chair: Hon. Beth Martinez Humenik, Colorado State Senator

• Hon. David Skaggs, Adjunct Professor, College of Law, University of Colorado Boulder; Former Member, U.S. House of Representatives

• Ms. Kathy Gebhardt, Executive Director, Children’s Voices

3:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Closing Remarks and Evaluations