Since we moved to Colorado eleven years ago from Alberta (which has one of the world’s highest performing K12 education systems), I’ve heard the same answer over and over again when I questioned why our local district performed so poorly:

“We need more money.”

To be sure, this was always a very incomplete counterfactual, that evaded three critical issues:

  • If the district had had the money it wanted, on what activities would it have spent it?
  • What evidence is there of a causal relationship between these activities and student outcomes — particularly academic proficiency in reading, writing, math, and science?

With little or no public awareness, a proposal has been making it way through Jeffco schools to have the district use somewhere between $17 and $35 million in county taxpayers’ money (more with interest) to build an Olympic Natatorium in West Arvada to replace the current Meyers Pool. This proposal will be up for a vote on the May 6thschool board agenda. Let me explain why this is a horrible idea and you should immediately contact school board members to voice your opposition to it.

First, what’s an Olympic Natatorium? While lanes at your local recreation center’s pool are 25…


Located in Denver’s affluent, educated western suburbs, Jefferson County Public Schools is the nation’s 37th largest school district, with more than a billion dollars in annual revenue to serve around 84,000 students (the pandemic has created substantial uncertainty about how many students will return to the district when classes start in August).

Tracy Dorland, Jeffco’s newly appointed CEO (Superintendent in K-12 speak), starts her job on Monday, April 19, 2021.

She has never been a CEO before, and I can say from experience that nothing anyone has done in their past fully prepares them for their first time in this…


The Jefferson County school district is located in the western suburbs of Denver. It is the nation’s 37th largest district, serving about 84,000 students with annual revenues of over a billion dollars a year.

Jeffco has a population of almost 600,000. Many of its citizens are educated and affluent — 42% of adult residents are college graduates, and median household income was $85,890 in 2018.

On 7 October 2020, I published a detailed, evidence-based analysis of Jeffco’s $705 million six-year capital improvement program that was approved by a razor thin 0.24% …


One definition of critical thinking is “the use of a rigorous process to reach justifiable inferences.”

In the United States, the ongoing debate over when to reopen schools for in-person instruction has put paid to K12 leaders’ frequent claim that they teach students how to think critically.

Example #1: Framing of the reopening issue has ignored basic principles of inductive reasoning

Teachers unions and their supporters have basically demanded that district and state leaders (not to mention parents), “prove to us that it is safe to return to school.” …


Jefferson County, Colorado, is located to the west of Denver. It is the United States’ 36th largest school district, serving about 84,000 students with more than 150 schools and a billion dollars in annual tax revenue.

In November 2018, by a margin of just 1,417 votes (0.24% of the total votes cast), Jeffco passed proposition 5B, authorizing the school district to issue $567 million in bonds and incur up to $998 million in total cost (repayment of principal and interest), to fund a six-year capital improvement program. …


After three years as Jeffco’s Superintendent of Schools, Jason Glass terminated his contract five years early to become Kentucky’s Commissioner of Education.

Good riddance. Academically and financially, he has been a disaster for the district.

His “Jeffco Generations” vision document was an unambitious and confusing mix of buzzwords and unprioritized goals that ignored both resource constraints and critical uncertainties (see my columns on medium.com).

Glass later announced 26 simultaneous, unprioritized initiatives to achieve his goals, despite the advice by Deliver-Ed (a consulting firm he hired) that Jeffco should only focus on three.

Having done corporate turnarounds, I noted then that…


In many previous articles, I have explained in detail why the performance of Jefferson County Schools desperately needs to improve. Achievement results in this affluent, educated county, which is the nation’s 36th largest school district, have been stagnant for a decade. Over the past three years they have actually declined, at an accelerating rate.

Over the same three-year period, Jeffco’s overhead costs have risen by $48 million, or $728 per student in district run schools, to a total of $3,658 per student per year. That’s $91,450 in overhead cost for every classroom of 25 students. …


Nine years ago, my family moved to Colorado from Alberta. Both there and in the UK, I had had excellent experiences with CTE programs.

In the UK and EU, I had seen firsthand the emergence of a new human capital ecosystem, which has clear responsibilities for competence definition, development, assessment, certification, and the award of portable academic credit. This system has created a new organizing principle, based on continuously updated portfolios of certified competencies and linked academic credits, that will integrate and drive individuals’ classroom, online, and work-based learning (WBL) across their lifetimes.

Unfortunately, here in Colorado my experience with…

Tom Coyne

Co-Founder, K12 Accountability Inc. New book: "K-12 On the Brink: Why America's Education System Fails to Improve, and Only Business Leadership Can Fix It"

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