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Colorado Essential Skills

Colorado Academic Standards: All Students, All Standards

Colorado Essential Skills


Call for Materials: Implementing the Colorado Essential Skills

Colorado educators have been doing amazing work to integrate the Colorado Essential Skills into their instruction. As part of state efforts to develop a Colorado Essential Skills implementation guide, CDE is looking for examples of the integration of the skills into instruction. CDE staff will be reaching out to educators to collect examples of lesson plans, videos, display materials, activities, coaching strategies and any other instructional materials. While this collection is voluntary, resources are needed for all grade levels and content areas.

Outreach started on Aug. 24, and the goal is to have collected the necessary materials by Nov. 1. Submit materials using this online form. For questions, contact Robin Russel, Graduation Guidelines manager, at 303-866-2908 or


In 2008, Colorado passed legislation (Senate Bill 08-212) that requires the State Board of Education to adopt content standards that prepare students for the 21st century workforce and for active citizenship upon receiving a high school diploma. In addition to the requirement that students meet those content standards, students must also (to the extent practicable) develop and demonstrate skills essential for success in professional life. The same law, amended in 2019, also requires a revision to approximately one-third of the the Colorado Academic standards beginning in 2022 and an additional one-third every two years thereafter (22-7-1005(6) C.R.S.).

The Colorado Academic Standards and the Post-Secondary and Workforce Readiness description review and revision process provides an opportunity for these skills to be revisited and clarified. In an effort to update Colorado’s 2018 Essential Skills and better align these skills from preschool through postsecondary, the Colorado Department of Education brought together a cross-unit team of specialists to review the Essential Skills. They used the framework and subsequent associated research to frame the current revision. In addition, the team used the 2020 Colorado Talent Pipeline Report and research to guide their revisions. This second version contains the same skills as the first version, with two additional skills (data literacy and digital literacy) which are included based on the most recent Colorado Talent Pipeline Report. The change that most people will notice is in the organization and categorization of the skills. The workgroup decided to organize them based on what we see Colorado graduates as being: Communicators, Problem solvers, Community Members, and Empowered Individuals.

The team will be working over the next year on an Implementation Guide to clearly identify how these statutorily identified skills manifest in early childhood and continue through their postsecondary pursuits leading to in-demand employment skills. Developmentally appropriate support for these skills should occur in all subject areas throughout students’ academic careers. Understanding the importance of these skills is the first step in achieving life-long success for all students.

The 2018 Colorado Essential Skills are incorporated into the Colorado Academic Standards.