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Rise & Shine: Denver teachers union shut out of new teacher orientation

EdNewsColorado - 4 hours 37 min ago
on boarding Three have announced their candidacy for the Jefferson County school board. Yes, there is a regular — non-recall — school board election this year. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Candidates for the Thompson School District Board of Education may begin circulating nomination petitions on Wednesday. So far, four candidates have announced their intention to run for three of the four open seats. ( Reporter-Herald )

(dis)orientation The Denver teachers union said it was shut out of a program Monday welcoming new teachers to the district. ( CPR )

closing the opportunity gap A Pueblo elementary school principal organized a community meeting to address socioeconomic barriers his students face. ( KRDO )

Steady course Stability seems to have settled in at Falcon School District 49, which starts classes for the 2015-16 school year Tuesday. And that is making all the difference. ( Gazette )

Human Resources Teach for America, a national nonprofit that recruits college graduates and other professionals to work in schools in high poverty neighborhoods, has accepted three Colorado Springs-area locals into its 2015 teaching corps. ( Gazette )

a picture is worth 1,000 words This is what the Common Core — and life in general — looks like at three schools in the Silicon Valley. ( New York Times )

Categories: Urban School News

In Jeffco school board election — the one that’s not the recall — three vying for seats

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 08/03/2015 - 21:27

Did you hear about the school board race in Jefferson County?

No, not the potential recall. The other one. Like, the regularly scheduled school board election that happens every two years.

So far, three candidates have announced their intentions to run for two seats on the Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education. Both seats are open because current board members Jill Fellman and Lesley Dahlkemper are not seeking re-election.

Competing for Fellman’s District 3 seat are former commercial real estate manager Kim Johnson and former teacher Ali Lasell. District 3 covers most of the northwest corner of Jefferson County including the city of Arvada.

And so-far running unopposed for Dahlkemper’s District 4 seat is former teacher Amanda Stevens. District 4 includes most of the city of Lakewood, which is directly west of Denver.

Ali Lasell

Because both of the open spots are currently occupied by members of the board’s left-leaning minority, the outcome won’t upset the current balance of the board, which has been run by Ken Witt, Julie Williams and John Newkirk.

Those three board members won their seat in 2013 and are now subject of a recall effort by a group of parents, community members, and teachers. If the recall effort is successful and placed on the November ballot, Jefferson County residents will have the opportunity to reshape the school board entirely.

Both Lasell and Stevens have been vocal critics of the school board’s majority. But in interviews with Chalkbeat, both said they want to run positive campaigns. And while they support the recall effort, they say they’re focusing on their individual campaigns.

Kim Johnson

When asked where there was agreement between themselves and the board majority, Stevens applauded board member Williams for her deciding vote to expand a science and technology program at a local middle school. She also said she appreciated Witt standing up for the Colorado Academic Standards during a discussion earlier this year.

And Lasell said she believed Williams was a true advocate for students with special needs. She also said she shared a desire to be fiscally responsible like Witt and Newkirk.

Johnson, in an interview, said she couldn’t answer where she would side with the board’s majority, because too often the information she would want to influence her vote wasn’t presented at school board meetings.

Amanda Stevens with her daughter

“I consider myself good at asking the right questions, listening carefully, and making rational decisions,” Johnson said. “It’s not about ideology for me.”

All three candidates are mothers of Jeffco Public Schools students and hope that civility can be restored after the November elections.

“I’m not interested in my kids or the other 86,000 kids in Jefferson County being a proxy for a political battle,” Stevens said. Adding, “I might have to be the first to compromise.”

Among the issues the candidates wish to address if they’re elected:

  • Lasell said she’d like to review how Jeffco recruits and retains teachers, which includes the district’s evaluation system.
  • Stevens said she’d like to provide more access to extracurricular opportunities to student’s from low-income homes.
  • Johnson said she’d like to establish a five-year plan supported by the entire board to address overcrowding in many of the district’s schools.

The candidates appear to agree broadly on some of the hottest topics in education. Each believe there has been too much testing, the state should fund schools more, and that charter schools and parent choice are important. As the campaign progresses, it will be the finer policy stances that will separate the candidates.

“I’m where everyone is on testing — there’s too much,” Lasell said.

“I would be really happy to see what I could with a fully funded school,” Stevens said.

“Choice is a critical piece of the Colorado education system,” Johnson said.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported Kim Johnson’s previous career. She was a commercial real estate manager, not a broker. 

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Inside the battle for a school district’s salary records

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 08/03/2015 - 09:57
Funding puzzle Gov. John Hickenlooper told school administrators that something must be done to improve Colorado K-12 funding — he just wasn’t specific on what exactly that something should be. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

No hunger pains A one-year-old federal program that allows school districts to offer universal free meals at some or all schools is growing in Colorado. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Records battle More than five months after her initial request, former school board member and president Marilyn Flachman is getting the employee salary information she requested from Adams County School District 50. It took four Colorado Open Records Act letters, assistance from an attorney and $745. ( CFOIC )

NCLB Colorado senator Michael Bennett is leading the push to rewrite the long-standing federal education law No Child Left Behind. The legislation that is still being debated in Congress and many of the reforms started in Denver could soon be part of a new federal law. ( Denver Post )

PARCC All last week, educators from a dozen states crouched met in Denver to decipher the meaning of scores from a new era of standardized tests meant to be tough. But more states are backing out of the tests. ( Denver Post )

History repeating itself Last fall thousands of students in Jefferson County walked out of school in protest of a proposal by Board Member Julie Williams to review and possibly change the curriculum of Advanced Placement U.S. History. Now, the curriculum has been changed. ( 9News )

Out with the old Greeley-Evans School District 6 is in the midst of a huge asbestos removal project. ( Greeley Tribune )

Pikes Peak school board Pikes Peak region school districts will be holding information sessions for prospective board candidates. All 17 public school districts in the Pikes Peak region have seats open on the Nov. 3 ballot. ( The Gazette )

back to school As Pikes Peak schools start up again, students will notice new programs, new buildings, and in some cases, new superintendents. ( The Gazette )

New year, new look The House of Neighborly Service is helping kids prepare for the new school year by providing students with clothing and supplies. ( Reporter-Herald )

ACE-ing summer Greeley-Evans School District 6, with support from the city of Greeley, rolled out the Achieving Community Excellence internship program this year. The district paired students with local governments and businesses to give them a glimpse of real world jobs. ( Greeley Tribune )

Categories: Urban School News

Weekend reads: A deep dive into the school-to-prison pipeline in St. Louis and beyond

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 07/31/2015 - 16:40
  • A plan to integrate an under-enrolled California school in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood represents a new, more cooperative approach between school districts and housing developers. (Hechinger Report)
  • Comedians Key and Peele got a viral video hit by imagining a world in which teachers were treated the way we treat professional athletes that includes a draft, incentive pay and lots of classroom game tape. (YouTube)
  • A California high school teacher lists seven things he wishes the public understood about teaching, including that the “cult of the superteacher” is a myth. (Vox)
  • The first thing that schools often get wrong about their newly-arrived immigrant students is their names, a basic error that can have repercussions far into the students’ education. (Chalkbeat Indiana)

  • The Justice Department investigation found that vastly disparate treatment of black and white children in St. Louis County’s juvenile justice system that “cannot be explained by factors other than race.” (HuffPo
  • In an analysis of data from more than 60,000 schools, a sociologist found that schools with more poor students and students of color were more likely to respond to behavioral problems with criminalized disciplinary action rather than referring students to psychological or medical care. (Vox)   
  • Another new study finds that academically talented black and Hispanic students often turn away from the chance to attend elite universities in favor of schools closer to home with larger numbers of students of their race. (EWA’s Latino Ed Beat)
  • Here’s a quick guide to the research behind education buzzwords like motivation and grit. (The Atlantic)
  • The most popular high school plays over the past seven decades are “Our Town” and “You Can’t Take It With You,” plus more fun facts from an analysis of high school theater productions. (NPR Ed)
  • An intense summer program aimed at getting Mississippi third-graders who have repeatedly failed state reading tests on grade level is getting mixed results and a bit more time to succeed. (Hechinger Report)
  • A quarter of teachers who responded to a survey on teacher satisfaction reported that lack of opportunity to use the bathroom as an everyday stressor — and that seemingly small problem could have big implications for the profession. (The Atlantic)
  • A New York City education advocate sees parallels between Mayor Bill deBlasio’s fight with the car-sharing service Uber and his conflict with city charter school operators. (The 74 Million)
Categories: Urban School News

Hick: Educators need to make grassroots case for more money

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 07/31/2015 - 14:48

Gov. John Hickenlooper told school administrators that something must be done to improve Colorado K-12 funding — he just wasn’t specific on what exactly that something should be.

School finance is usually Topic One when the governor appears before education advocacy groups, and that was the case Friday when he spoke to more than 700 people attending the summer conference of the Colorado Association of School Executives in Breckenridge.

“At some point we obviously are going to need to find additional resources and work on the negative factor and get more resources in the classroom,” the governor said, referring to the state’s school funding shortfall.

Doing that probably doesn’t include repealing the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, the constitutional provision that requires voter approval of tax increases and sets limits on annual increases in state spending, he said.

“I don’t think there’s a will to get that passed,” Hickenlooper said, saying advocates need to “work within” TABOR to increase school funding.

Creating public support for TABOR changes that would increase school funding needs to start at the grassroots, he said.

“All of us can collect the stories and the narratives … in a way that it [school funding] becomes about real people. … We’ve got to collect stories of individual people that are affected in a very, very significant way” by inadequate funding. “Just giving statistical numbers and trends has been insufficient to drive people to make changes.”

Educators are close to their communities and can drive public attitudes, he said. “You know what kind of stories it’s going to take to change their opinions.”

The governor also said voters want to know what they’ll get from any ballot measure to increase school funding. “What are voters going to get for it, what are they going to see, what outcomes?”

Hickenlooper said “deliverables” could include things like “more art and music … it could be a longer school day.”

Asked about equity and the continuing squeeze on funding for low-income and at-risk students, the governor said, “That’s got to be included in whatever solution we come up with.”

The governor also asked for CASE members’ support in persuading the legislature to change the classification of a fee imposed on hospitals to help provide Medicaid funding. Even though the fee’s uses are earmarked, it counts against the state’s overall revenue limit and has helped push revenues to the level that requires taxpayer refunds.

Reclassifying the fee so it didn’t count against the limit could free tax revenue for other spending. “We would be able to take some pretty big bites out of the negative factor,” Hickenlooper said.

A proposal to change the fee died in the 2015 legislature, but the administration plans to try again next session.

Speaking after Hickenlooper finished, Boulder Superintendent Bruce Messinger said, “I heard the governor say he’s going to work with us to get more money for public schools. … He looks to use to create the network around the state to accomplish that.” He urged CASE members to get legislators into schools “so they understand the impact of inadequate funding.”

Messinger is co-chair of CASE’s lobbying committee and has been a prominent advocate for increased funding.

In 2005 voters approved a constitutional change that eased some of TABOR’s limits on state spending. But in 2013 voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposed $1 billion increase in income taxes to provide more school funding.

Various civic and business groups are discussing ideas for a possible 2016 ballot measure on school funding and other programs, but no definitive proposals have yet emerged.

Categories: Urban School News

After hesitation, more Colorado districts join federal program to give out universal free meals

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 07/31/2015 - 14:13

A one-year-old federal program that allows school districts to offer universal free meals at some or all schools is growing in Colorado.

A dozen districts, most small and rural, are planning to participate in what’s called “Community Eligibility Provision” or CEP this year. The program, which no longer requires families to fill out applications in order for kids to receive free breakfast or lunch, launched with eight districts last year.

At the time, administrators in some eligible districts passed on CEP because of concerns it could jeopardize funding for at-risk students. A year in, that trepidation appears to have eased a bit.

CEP represents a shift from giving meals only to students who fall below the government’s income bar to all students in high poverty schools or districts. The goal is to increase access to school meals with the hope of reducing hunger and some of the issues that go along with it, such as spotty attendance or discipline problems.

Julie Griffith, program specialist in the state education department’s Office of School Nutrition, said CEP has been a good public relations step in the districts that have signed on.

“It is offering free meals to all students so there’s no barriers really,” she said.

“There’s no stigma attached…whereas maybe there used to be.”

PHOTO: Sarah GlenMostly rural districts in southern Colorado have confirmed participation in CEP for 2015-16.

In the 18,000-student Pueblo City Schools, administrators sat out CEP last year, but after much discussion this spring got the go-ahead from the school board.

Jill Kidd, nutrition services director for Pueblo City Schools, said in addition to making parents happy, she expects the program to increase meal participation by 5 percent districtwide and bring much-needed funding to her department. .

“I need refrigeration. I need upgraded electrical. I need ovens…I need new vehicles,” she said.

“There’s just not that kind of money in the district’s general fund to do those things, so this is an opportunity to get that kind of funding.”

The hitch in the giddyup

While CEP has the potential to achieve goals that food service directors strive for—feeding hungry kids and bumping up meal participation—it comes with a risk.

That is, the loss of millions in at-risk funding if districts can’t successfully transition from the old system of tallying low-income students to the new system under CEP.

The old system was based on counting free and reduced-price meal applications, which parents were required to fill out in order for their kids to receive free or subsidized lunches.

But under CEP, things are different. The application is gone, replaced by a similar form called the “Family Economic Data Survey.” The trick is ensuring that parents fill it out even though their kids get free meals either way.

Kidd said the possibility that parents won’t comply and the district will lose at-risk funding is the biggest con of CEP.

“The superintendent is still quite nervous about it,” she said.

Nevertheless, she said the district’s principals know the importance of collecting the new forms and there are procedures in place to ensure that it happens.

Low-income schools

Schools or entire districts are eligible for the CEP program for four years if 40 percent or more of their students are identified as low-income because they receive certain types of government benefits such as SNAP (formerly known as the food stamp program), or are classified as homeless, migrant or in foster care.

CEP districts
Continuing participants from ’14-15

  • Harrison-19 schools
  • Alamosa-districtwide
  • Centennial-districtwide
  • Moffat Consolidated-districtwide
  • Mountain Valley-districtwide
  • Sierra Grande-districtwide
  • South Conejos-districtwide

New participants for 2015-16

  • Huerfano-districtwide
  • East Otero-2 of 3 schools
  • Rocky Ford-2 of 3 schools
  • Pueblo 60-districtwide
  • Center-districtwide

Discontinuing districts

  • Mesa County Valley 51-1 school

This “identified student percentage” is typically lower than a school or district’s free and reduced-price meal rate.

For example, Pueblo City Schools, the largest Colorado district participating in CEP this year, has an “identified student percentage” of 61 percent. In contrast, 72 percent of its nearly 18,000 students were eligible for free or subsidized meals last year.

While many districts don’t qualify for CEP on a districtwide basis, they are allowed implement the program in select schools that exceed the 40 percent threshold. That, however, has not been widely embraced in Colorado.

In part it’s because it requires two different systems of data collection to occur simultaneously—the traditional meal applications and the family economic data surveys. While a combined form is now available, there are still two sets of requirements to navigate.

Only three of this year’s 12 CEP districts–Harrison, East Otero and Rocky Ford—are opting for partial implementation. (All three districts qualify for the program districtwide, but stand to benefit more financially if they do it at their highest needs schools rather than all schools.)

Griffith said the education department’s goal for next year will be to recruit more districts for partial CEP implementation. This year the focus was districts eligible for full implementation, she said.

The deadline for CEP adoption this year is August 31.


Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: AP U.S. History gets — another — rewrite

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 07/31/2015 - 08:40
PARCCING in denver Denver is ground zero for setting the performance levels of students in Colorado and other states on last spring’s PARCC language arts and math tests. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

The Central Quesion In a letter to parents, the Aurora Public Schools superintendent hailed Aurora Central High School's new principal as a strong leader. ( Aurora Sentinel )

(ICYMI: Here's our Q&A with the principal Gerardo De La Garza.) ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Revising (AP) History (Again) The College Board, designers of the Advanced Placement program for high school students, has released an update to its U.S. History course that addresses the concerns of conservatives, including Jeffco school board member Julie Williams, who said it focused too much on the negative aspects of the country. ( Newsweek )

Pundits cheered (and said the Common Core could learn a lesson) ... ( Ed Week )

... and jeered. ( Think Progress )

Human Resources When state school superintendents decide to leave their posts in favor of running districts, it usually isn't a step down. ( Ed Week )

Two cents Early results hint that the Common Core is helping close the some academic gaps. ( US News & World Report )

Title I funding should stay with the poorest schools and not derail the work on rewriting No Child Left Behind. ( Denver Post )

Categories: Urban School News

For a few weeks, Denver at center of PARCC testing world

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 09:50

The basement conference rooms of a Denver hotel are ground zero for setting the performance levels of students in Colorado and other states on last spring’s PARCC language arts and math tests.

Dozen of educators gathered Monday to begin setting the five performance levels – sometimes called “cut scores” – for the two sets of tests given to Colorado students in grades 9-11.

“It’s exhausting,” said Marti Shirley, a high school math teacher in Mattoon, Ill. “But it’s invigorating in a way, too.”

Shirley and about 120 other teachers, administrators and college professors are meeting in Denver this week to set cut scores for high school language arts and math tests. Similar panels will gather in Denver during the last two weeks of August to set proficiency levels for elementary and middle school test results.

The educators do their work in panels of about 20 members each. Six groups are working in Denver this week.

Officials from PARCC and a group of panelists met with reporters Wednesday to explain the process and reflect on what it means.

Because the PARCC tests are designed to be harder than Colorado’s old TCAP exams and other states’ past tests, smaller percentages of students are expected to be ranked in the top proficiency levels. Panelists were asked repeatedly about that gap between how students actually perform and how they should perform.

They all came down on the side of setting high expectations.

“We’ve got to raise the standard if we want to do better. … The only way to do that is to keep raising the bar,” said Robin Helms, a math teacher at Wray High School on Colorado’s eastern plains. She’s serving on one of the panels.

“Students only give you what you ask them, so you have to push,” said Katherine Horodowich, an English teacher at Hot Springs High School in Truth or Consequences, N.M. “We have to set the bar higher.”

Shirley said there’s wide agreement among educators “that these standards are attainable. Are they attainable tomorrow? That’s not the case. … Trust us. Give us the benefit of the doubt that we know what we’re doing.”

The overall goal of the Common Core State Standards, on which the tests are based, and of the tests themselves is that high school students should be ready for college or to go to work and that younger students are prepared for the work in the next grade.

How performance setting works

The panels will be setting the scores needed for a student to be ranked in one of five performance levels.

“They are making recommendations about how good is good enough,” explained Mary Ann Snider, a Rhode Island education official who works with PARCC.

Each PARCC member state selected 20 educators to serve on the panels. The high school panels started this week with two days of intensive training and began setting levels on Wednesday.

The five levels

  • Level 5: Distinguished understanding of subject matter
  • Level 4: Strong understanding
  • Level 3: Adequate understanding
  • Level 2: Partial understanding
  • Level 1: Minimal understanding

A key tool for the panels are the detailed “performance level descriptors” that lay out the knowledge and skills that students need to demonstrate to be rated in each performance level. (See an example of a descriptor as the bottom of this article.)

Here’s how the panels work:

  • Members work through test question one by one.
  • Panelists individually decide what scores on a particular question should be assigned to each performance level.
  • Members then share their individual scores with each other, learn what the group’s median score was for each level and also learn the median score of all students in a particular grade on a test.
  • Based on that shared knowledge, individual panelists reconsider their individual decisions, and the whole process is repeated until the group reaches consensus.

The panelists who met with reporters had positive things to say about the process.

“None of us are shy. We have no problem telling people we disagree,” said Loretta Holloway, an English professor at Framingham State University in Massachusetts.

“It’s not like we all sit down and make one judgment. It’s a conversation,” said Helms. “We’re spending a whole week looking at this.”

What went on before

Before the panelists could begin work, the tests taken by 5 million children had to be scored.

The Pearson testing company used about 14,000 scorers at home or at more than a dozen centers around the country to score the tests, which took about a month per content area. Scoring was done by grade level, not by state. And individual scorers worked on individual questions, not entire tests.

Scorers assigned points for each answer, which could be as many as six points, depending on the question. To be hired, scorers had to have a four-year degree in a relevant field and pass a scoring “test” after being trained. Samples of scorers’ work were double checked by testing experts.

What’s next Learn more

After the high school panels finish their work, the education commissioners from the eight PARCC governing board states (including Colorado) will meet to review the recommended cut scores. The commissioners can make changes. Higher education executives from the states also will review the cut scores on high school tests.

The education commissioners will meet again Sept. 9 to review the middle and elementary school cut points.

Public release of scores, including parent reports similar to the one pictured above, will come in late fall or early winter, PARCC officials said Wednesday. In future years results should be available in June or July.

Colorado uses test scores, plus growth data based on multiple years of scores, as part of the system that rates schools and districts. A law passed by the 2015 legislature created a one-year timeout in the accreditation system, so PARCC scores from last spring won’t be used to rate schools and districts next year.

The state’s non-PARCC tests for science and social studies use four performance levels – distinguished, strong, moderate and limited. Students with distinguished or strong command are considered to be ready for college work, or for the next grade.

The State Board of Education will have to fine-tune the existing accreditation system in order to account for PARCC’s five performance levels.

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Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Agreement reached in lawsuit over religious activities in Florence schools

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 09:03
diversity A CU professor says that while recruiting a more diverse teaching force is an important goal, policymakers and school and district leaders also need to think about how to keep them in the classroom. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Church and school The Florence-Penrose School District and a former teacher have reached an out-of-court agreement that would drop the federal lawsuit presented by the teacher and limit religious activities by district personnel and in school facilities. ( Daily Record, Chieftain, Denver Post )

Getting ready for school The Thompson School District is helping parents save money by creating a pared-down, universal school supply list for all elementary schools. ( Reporter-Herald )

Colorado Springs car dealerships are collecting school supplies for kids in need. ( Gazette )

(Re)Call Me Maybe The Jefferson County school board recall is a microcosm of polarized politics. ( KUNC )

Teacher talks A Greeley school board work session Wednesday featured little sympathy for the Greeley teachers union, prompting some union representatives to ask for meetings with board members. ( Greeley Tribune )

Training teachers Adams State University and the Boettcher Teacher Residency Program are partnering to launch a new master’s degree program for teachers. ( Chieftain )

Categories: Urban School News

CU professor on teachers of color: “We’re bringing them in, but we’re losing them”

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 07/29/2015 - 19:08

In Colorado, close to 90 percent of teachers are white, compared to just 57 percent of the student population. While a handful of programs across the state have sprung up to address that discrepancy, one academic thinks more can and should be done.

Terrenda White, an assistant professor of education at the University of Colorado Boulder who has studied urban education and the teacher workforce, says that while recruiting a more diverse teaching force is an important goal, policymakers and school and district leaders also need to think about how to keep them in the classroom.

According to a Chalkbeat analysis of teacher turnover data, an increasing number of Colorado teachers are leaving their classrooms in Colorado, which is causing some school districts, including Denver Public Schools, to rethink how they recruit and retain teachers.

Chalkbeat sat down with White for a conversation about why teacher diversity matters, what drives teachers to stay or leave their schools, and how policies intended to improve schools may have led to more teachers of color leaving the classroom. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Why is teacher diversity an issue worth focusing on?
We know our kids in U.S. schools are diverse, and increasingly so. But our teaching force does not look that way.

Teachers of color bring so much to the classroom. They act as role models for all students, not just students of color. And there’s evidence that teachers of color become cultural brokers for students of diverse backgrounds, which means they tend to have insight on issues of race, issues of racism and discrimination, the cultural practices in the homes of Latino or African-American families, and they infuse some of that knowledge into their teaching, their relationships with parents. That matters. There’s also evidence that the representation of kids in gifted programs is higher when that school has more teachers of color.

We are actually recruiting teachers of color at a higher rate than we were before because of programs like the Pathways2Teaching program here in Colorado. The issue isn’t that we aren’t bringing them into the profession. The issue is that they’re leaving at a higher rate. And that’s a new phenomenon.

These are policy-related trends. That means we can do something about that.

PHOTO: University of Colorado BoulderTerrenda White

Why are teachers of color more likely to leave the classroom?
Some of the research suggests that teachers of color leave at higher rates than white teachers not because of the students. It’s not even salary. It’s the lack of autonomy, lack of decision-making authority, having trouble with discipline policies at their schools, as well as poor leadership.

These are all things we can address. They’re things we can change in terms of how we organize schools and how we make teachers of color feel like they can make a valuable contribution .

In order to have an education that supports a diverse democracy, we have to have democracy for diverse educators. And what that means is creating school conditions that allow diverse educators’ voices and their practices to matter and shape their schools.

This comes from survey responses come from Richard Ingersoll’s work using nationally representative surveys from the U.S. Department of Education, where he looks not only at turnover patterns but at the reasons teachers indicate.

He finds that issues around autonomy and school conditions are a thing for all teachers. But it’s distinct between white teachers and teachers of color.

Another piece of this is that historically, teachers of color have been placed in or choose to work in hard-to-staff schools. Now that they’re leaving at unprecedented rates, we have to think about how we’ve structured those schools in ways that don’t give teachers as much control.

How do charter schools fit into the issue of representation in the teaching force?
Since the early 1990s, the number of charters has grown exponentially, especially in urban areas. That’s where teachers of color tend to work. Nationally, there are more teachers of color in charter than in traditional district schools.

Some of the concerns are that charters have much higher turnover rates than traditional district schools. So they may be providing options for teachers of color to work, but they have certain conditions that may not be lending themselves to the retention of those very teachers. It’s a double-edged sword.

Is this just an urban schools issue?
No, it’s not. We know diversity in suburbia is alive and well. They have just as much sake in diversifying the teaching force as in urban communities.

But overall, I think we spend a lot more of our resources and research trying to improve recruitment and the pipeline. But we know from the data that it’s actually retention that’s the issue. We’re bringing them in but we’re losing them.

It seems that some of the schools that have been the subject of turnaround efforts are the schools that are the most likely to have the kind of teaching environment you describe as problematic. So do efforts to improve schools actually lead to these kinds of working conditions?
There is some new research being formed around the issue that, with all of our effort to improve low-performing schools, these are schools that often happen to have teachers of color. These are the schools that are being hit the hardest with accountability policies. We don’t know this from research yet, but this may be a driving factor in the underrepresentation of teachers of color, who are leaving at a higher rate.

On the one hand we say we want diversity, we need to support schools that support teachers of color, but we’ve turned a blind eye to the push-out of teachers of color who didn’t want to leave.

The case in New Orleans [where teachers in most of the city’s public schools were laid off in the wake of a state takeover of schools after Hurricane Katrina] is a symbolic case of, here we are restructuring schools in a particular way that’s disenfranchised a particular group of teachers at the same time we’re saying we want diversity in teaching.

I think some would push back and say, well, yes, they were teachers of color, but were they doing a good job?

The ethics around evaluating teachers and defining teacher quality gets complicated with issues with race when we look at the actual teachers who are losing jobs and who’s gaining jobs.

The standard of what’s considered a failing school can shift. There are issues around how we evaluate schools that isn’t quite clear.

Also, in some places, novice teachers who don’t have a credential yet are sometimes getting hired in places where they’re not defined as highly qualified. That’s happening at the same time we’re pushing out as highly qualified teachers.

Are there efforts to improve the situation that you’d point to?
NYU adopted scholarships for teachers of color to attend education graduate schools schools. The Woodrow Wilson Foundation also has a fellowship.

I think that where we are, though, is that we’ve identified that retention is the issue, and the next step forward is research to determine what has a better outcome in terms of retention.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Is a Japanese style of budgeting helping Dougco schools save money?

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 07/29/2015 - 09:51
(Re)Call Me Maybe Organizers behind an effort to recall three school board members turned in double the amount of signatures required to put the issue in front of voters. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

The county clerk now has 15 days to certify the signatures. There will be another 15-day period for challenges. ( Denver Post, KDVR )

Board President Ken Witt: "I'm disappointed that there is a distraction, but we're going to remain focused on what we heard loudly from voters (in 2013)." ( 9News )

Board member Julie Williams: "I believe this is an opportunity and I am looking forward to engaging with the voters of Jefferson County about the issues they care about. This is not about me, this is about making sure our Jeffco students receive an excellent education and have bright futures." ( Arvada Press )

starting early Some preschool parents in Aurora have made an odd request to school and district officials: homework. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

dollars and sense A Japanese system of budgeting and decision making is leading to savings in Douglas County schools, officials reported. ( Douglas County News-Press )

Learning from experince Middle school students in Greeley spent part of their summer vacation with elders at nursing homes. ( Greeley Tribune )

A different type of learning Here's why there are few — if any textbooks — at this Douglas County school. ( Douglas County News-Press )

Healthy schools Colorado students are breathing cleaner air thanks to a program that aims to reduce emissions cars in school parking lots. ( Durango Herald )

Global learning About 130 students from more than 30 countries are learning how U.S. schools work in New York City. ( Durango Herald )

Categories: Urban School News

Organizers say they have double the signatures necessary for a Jeffco school board recall

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 07/28/2015 - 21:08

GOLDEN —  Jefferson County residents want an electoral do-over in November, supporters of an effort to recall three school board members in suburban Denver said today when they turned in double the necessary signatures to put the issue in front of voters.

In the 17 days since the recall effort was launched, more than 37,000 Jefferson County residents signed the petitions to seek a recall of school board members Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk, organizers with Jeffco United For Action said outside the county clerk and recorder’s office.

Organizers had 60 days to collect just 15,000 signatures per board member.

“The message is clear, the people of Jefferson County want to hold this board majority accountable and demand a recall vote on November 3,” said Tina Gurdikian, one of the Jeffco United’s leaders.

The county clerk now has 15 days to validate those signatures. There will be another 15-day period for any resident to challenge the signatures. At that point the clerk may set a date for the recall election.

State law leaves some room for ambiguity when it comes to putting voter initiatives on the ballot. But advocates of the recall believe they’ve hit the sweet spot on a complicated timeline in order to put the decision before voters in November.

PREVIOUSLY: Why the Jeffco recall effort matters to a classroom near you

“As parents, as a community, we did everything we could to put his on the November ballot,” said organizer Wendy McCord. “Now it’s up to our opponents to respect the voters and put this on the November ballot.”

If the recall is not placed on the general ballot, then Jeffco Public Schools will have to pick up the costly six-figure tab for a special election.

Jeffco school board president Witt, who is being targeted for recall, said he welcomes the opportunity to have a dialogue with the public about his track record. But he declined to discuss whether he had any plans to counter the recall effort with a campaign of his own.

“I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished,” he said. “We heard loudly from voters that they want a focus on academic achievement, an expansion of choice, and ensuring we have accountability. I intend to remain focused on those goals. I am committed to ensuring Jeffco students get the great education they deserve.”


Categories: Urban School News

Homework for preschoolers? Aurora parents make the case

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 07/28/2015 - 12:57

A group of preschool parents from Aurora Public Schools made a surprising request last spring.

They asked administrators to give their 3- and 4-year-olds homework.

More specifically, they asked for a year-round homework calendar detailing things they should be working on at home with their kids — not hours of pencil-and-paper work, but rather daily activities with an educational twist. They also asked the district’s Colorado Preschool Program Advisory Council to add a section on homework to the parent handbook.

These requests, which district officials have agreed to address, may sound unusual in an age when many parents and educators worry that inappropriate academic work is weaseling its way into kindergarten and preschool.

But they also bring up compelling questions about the definition and value of homework, and how those things should be articulated for both parents and teachers. They also raise the thorny issue of how homework resources will impact children whose parents don’t have the time or ability to work with them at home.

Nevertheless, for Aurora parents active in the recent campaign, homework represents a commonsense approach to helping their children succeed in a district and metro area studded with race- and income-based achievement gaps.

“We’re just looking for simple things,” said Diana Castro, whose 4-year-old daughter Miranda attends the Jamaica Child Development Center. “Most of us, which are minorities, don’t have access to printers and computers, so we don’t really know what to do to help them.”

Getting started

The Aurora parents active in the preschool homework campaign came together through a nonprofit called RISE Colorado. The group, founded in 2012 by two Teach for America alumni and a third co-founder, aims to educate and empower low-income parents and parents of color.

More than 80 percent of Aurora students are minorities, about 70 percent are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, and more than one-third are English language learners. Districtwide, fewer than half of students scored proficient or advanced on state reading tests in 2014.

The preschool parents banded together last fall after RISE held education events at the district’s preschool centers detailing the “opportunity gaps” children would encounter during their educational careers.

As the parents talked together about their biggest concerns, homework quickly rose to the top of the list.

There was no consistency, they agreed. Some teachers didn’t send any assignments or activity suggestions home at all. Others did, but sporadically and they didn’t always tie in to what children were learning at school.

Parent Sipinga Fifita-Nau described getting homework “here and there” last year for her middle child Lisia, who will soon begin her second year at Laredo Child Development Center. Sometimes, the mother of three turned to Pinterest to come up with activities for Lisia.

“With 3- and 4-year-olds you’re educating them about the habit of doing homework,” she said, echoing a sentiment voiced by several parents.

RISE co-CEO Veronica Palmer said while the organization coached parents on how to raise concerns, navigate district bureaucracy and join decision-making bodies, it was parents who spearheaded the homework charge.

Castro, who arrived in the U.S. from Mexico at age 15, said before getting involved in RISE, “I didn’t even think about talking to the principal about these things that I wanted to happen.”

The impact of homework

For older students, the research on homework is mixed, without clear connections to increased achievement. For the youngest learners, there’s little data either way.

In part, it’s a terminology issue. That’s because what some people might call preschool homework — things like counting shapes around the house, thinking of words that start with “A,” or reading books together — others would  call “nurturing,” “playing” or “spending quality time.”

Kyle Snow, director of the Center for Applied Research at the National Association for the Education of Young Children, said “parent engagement” is the best way to think of homework at the preschool level.

“We know that engaging families in children’s learning, helps child development,” he said.

A 2013 report on parent engagement by the National Center for Children in Poverty demonstrated the positive effects of parent-led extracurricular activities. Things like playing alphabet games, telling stories, doing art projects, or visiting the library were associated with improved language, literacy, social, and learning skills in preschoolers. Similarly, parent-child activities like board games, counting, and comparing amounts of items, were associated with preschool math skills.

One potential drawback to these activities when they’re framed as homework is the assumption they makes about parents’ ability to comply. For example, notes or written materials sent home by teachers assume that parents can read proficiently, that they understand the language in which instructions are written, and that they have time to work with children after school.

District spokeswoman Patti Moon said homework calendar activities are meant to be easy and quick for parents to undertake.

Palmer acknowledged that some parents, perhaps some from the district’s large refugee community, may not be able to read the homework calendars, but said they are a resourceful group likely to seek help from friends, neighbors or teachers.

In addition, with some parents already doing enrichment activities on their own, she believes the daily calendars will better equip the parents who weren’t doing much at home.

“To me its closing the gap as opposed to widening it,” she said.

Regardless of what form homework takes, Snow said districts should have homework policies for students at every grade level, including preschool.

“If there’s no policy at all that’s the worst-case scenario for everyone involved,” he said.

While there are no current plans to establish a school board-approved homework policy in Aurora, Moon said by 2016-17, the preschool handbook will include “language about how individual sites support homework.”

Homework in a cultural context

With Aurora students coming from more than 100 countries, it’s no surprise that some RISE parents come to the homework debate with different cultural perspectives.

Kumar and Shova Dahal, who immigrated here from Nepal several years ago and have a 4-year-old daughter at Laredo, talked about the “homework culture” in which they were raised.

“Since childhood we have been bombarded by homework, no matter how small you are,” said Kumar, who is a business development manager at an electronics company.

“That’s how we grew up and we come here, it’s a little bit of a shock,” said Shova.

The Dahals said in addition to homework that aligns with school lessons, they want parents to be held accountable for ensuring it gets done—perhaps by having teachers check off the work each day.

Snow said both parents and teachers should be accountable to each other, but how that looks will depend on continuing conversations in the district.

“Homework is a product of the relationship between the school and the family,” he said. “This all has to be driven by a dialogue about what the relationship should look like.”

The response

School and district administrators say they are happy to work with parents on the homework issue and have them as members of the Colorado Preschool Program Advisory Committee.

Laredo’s principal, Cynthia Andrews, said that when parents asked to meet with her in the spring she wasn’t expecting homework to be their focus, but she’s glad they brought it up.

“I love that they came to me,” she said. “I knew it was important and knew … I wanted to start engaging parents more in those conversations.”

She quickly convened a homework committee of about 10 staff members and is working with parents to develop a “homework brochure” that will describe what form preschool homework will take and what research recommends.

“We wanted it to be the right kind of homework, the things that are developmentally appropriate for 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds.”

Andrews knows that some parents might not feel it’s rigorous enough.

“Even when we say this is our idea of homework, I’m not sure it will match their idea,” she said. “I’m interested in seeing how it all plays out.”

For now, the RISE parents are pleased with the results of their efforts. They say the summer homework calendar, published in both English and Spanish, and the eventual handbook language on homework represent a good start.

Perhaps even better was the reception they got from district staff—a bit hesitant at first, but ultimately receptive.

“They heard us. That’s the main thing,” said Shova Dahal. “They are really respectful of what we want for our kids.”


Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Colorado’s biggest districts use teacher evaluations to drive pay

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 07/28/2015 - 09:55
Evaluations Colorado school districts are using teacher evaluations to drive pay, even as feedback on the evaluation systems themselves is mixed. ( Denver Post )

Opt Outs Most Colorado school districts appear to have had more than 5 percent of their students opt out of standardized tests. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Q&A The new principal tasked with leading Aurora Central High School during a time of rapid change talks about his hopes for the school. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Testing, Testing The first year of mostly-online standardized testing in Colorado went smoothly, district tech administrators report. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Data Use Jeffco Public Schools is one of a group of 27 school districts focusing on creating guidelines for the use of students' data. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

AVID Student leaders from a college readiness program called AVID say they're learning about more than academics. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Incentives A program in Greeley pays students to keep them in high school. ( KUNC )

Supplies The Action Center School Supply Distribution has the gear needy students need to start the school year at discounted prices. ( 9News )

Categories: Urban School News

Testing coordinators: Preparation key to relatively smooth spring exam season

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 07/27/2015 - 16:51

School districts in Colorado have known for several years that the new computer-based tests were coming.

Anxiety was high about network capacity, having adequate numbers of laptops and other devices, student keyboard skills, disruption of instruction and other concerns.

Two years ago, one district technology executive rated schools’ readiness for online testing at “C-minus“ (see story). But district leaders were feeling more confident on the eve of new tests last winter (see story).

When we asked the state’s 20 largest school districts about their opt-out rates, we also spent some time discussing how the PARCC exam went. Here’s a sampling of what testing coordinators from around the state had to say.

Technology readiness – With the first full set of online tests behind them, testing officials in large districts said things went reasonably well on the technology front.

Practice testing during the 2013-14 school year was a big help. “Overall I think they [the testing sessions] were pretty successful,” said Carmen Williams of the Thompson district, echoing what others said. “We worked the whole year to prepare.”

Student reaction – Most assessment directors said most students seemed to do fine with computers. “At the elementary level, students were fine with testing online. In fact, many of them were more engaged during the testing process,” said Mya Martin-Glenn of Aurora. “At middle and high schools, students seemed to be happy with the tests moving from pencil/paper to online.

But, echoing the comments of others, Martin-Glenn said, “Some students took issue with the amount and length of tests, especially in high schools.”

Classroom disruption – Opinions varied about how much testing disrupted learning and regular classroom activities. Some testing directors said it was less of a problem in elementary school but more of a challenge in high school, where schedules are more complicated.

“Testing schedules did impact schools, but not as much as we thought,” said Brighton’s Peggy Robertson. “We were able to finish instruction and have normal activities.”

But Eric Mason, assessment coordinator for District 11 in Colorado Springs, said, “The biggest issue our schools faced was the amount of time we had to shut down our computer rooms for testing. We felt like we couldn’t mess with the computers.”

Tech support – Opinions varied on the support provided by Pearson, the testing company that ran the PARCC tests. “The customer service was horrible,” said Jeni Gotto from Adams 50. Other testing directors were less critical, but several agreed that they often had to go to the second level tech support go get the help they needed.

The biggest complaint – “The biggest challenge for us was having different testing windows,” said Cherry Creek’s Norm Alerta. Student data had to be checked and reloaded before every set of tests, he said, “a very difficult logistical task.”

So, collapsing the testing windows is “huge” said Creek assessment coordinator Linda Elliott.

“That should make it much better next year,” said Janeen Demi-Smith of District 11.

Categories: Urban School News

After widespread test protests last fall, opting out spread during spring exams

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 07/27/2015 - 16:40

The brushfire of testing refusal sparked by some high school seniors last fall spread during the state’s main testing season this spring, a Chalkbeat Colorado survey of the state’s largest school districts has found.

There were relatively high opt-out rates in more districts than was the case last fall, with only five of the state’s largest districts testing enough students to avoid scrutiny from federal education authorities. In almost every district test refusal appears to have been concentrated in high school, particularly in 11th grade.

Only the Adams 50, Aurora, Greeley, Mesa 51 and Pueblo 60 districts appeared to have participation rates at or above 95 percent.

Chalkbeat contacted the state’s 20 largest districts to ask about opt-out rates. Some districts provided summary information while others gave more detail. Denver and Jefferson County, the state’s largest districts, declined to provided summary information while they were still compiling their data.

We also asked other questions about how testing season went. See this story for information about those issues.

Detailed, standardized statistics about opt-out rates will be calculated by the CDE and reported this fall – probably at the same time as scores — after districts submit their full data to CDE at the end of July. CDE officials didn’t want to comment on spring opt outs until that final official data is compiled.

Will testing changes make a difference?

The PARCC language arts and math tests were given in two sections, one in March and the second at the end of the school year. Many districts reported that opt-out rates were higher for the second set of tests.

High school assessments and the testing schedule both will change in 2016. Juniors won’t be tested in language arts and math, and there will be only a single testing “window” in April.

“I don’t claim to be a prophet, but, yeah, I expected high opt-out percentages,” said Republican Sen. Chris Holbert of Parker, who was heavily involved in legislative testing and opt-out debates. He also suggested high school refusal rates were significantly driven by students. “The awareness and them advocating to each other is more important.”

“Folks have been wondering where those big districts would fall. It’ll be an interesting convers what we do about those big districts with a high rate” of opt outs, said Bill Jaeger, a vice president with the Colorado Children’s Campaign. Jaeger served on the state task force that studied testing before the 2015 legislative session and has followed the issue closely.

As for the variation among districts, Jaeger said, “It’s an interesting finding to me, and there’s a whole host of explanations that I don’t think anyone’s explored.”

Noting testing changes made by both the legislature and the PARCC, Jaeger said, “It will be interesting to see if there is a restoration of confidence in the assessments.”

One testing critic, St. Vrain Superintendent Bob Haddad, doesn’t think that will happen.

“I don’t think it will make a difference,” Haddad said of testing reductions. “I don’t think you’re going to get parents and students back at the table … because there’s no trust” in the state testing system. “CMAS was summarily rejected by our students and parents.”

CMAS, or the Colorado Measure of Academic Standards, is the official name of the state’s testing system, which includes the PARCC tests.

Holbert also thinks testing changes won’t necessarily dampen opt-out rates. “I expect it to continue. … There is an increasing frustration with assessments that don’t drive to letter grades.”

A big change from 2014

Statewide participation was more than 99 percent on the last set of paper-and-pencil TCAP tests given in the spring of 2014.

That started to change, when high school seniors had to take statewide tests for the first time. The Colorado Department of Education reports only 81.8 percent of seniors took the science tests and that 81.7 took social studies.

Testing reduction and opting out were hot topics during the 2015 legislative session. An assessment bill was passed – among other changes seniors won’t be tested this fall – but a measure to codify parent opt-out rates died in a House committee. (If it had passed it likely faced a veto by Gov. John Hickenlooper.)

Test participation rates are important because the U.S. Department of Education requires 95 percent test participation. In Colorado schools and districts can have their accreditation ratings downgraded if they fail to meet that benchmark on two or more tests.

Supporters of high test participation argue that it’s vital to ensure the state has a full, annual picture of student and school achievement, especially by minority and poor children.

But the potential consequences for districts that fell below 95 percent are unclear, according to CDE. For one thing, the testing reform law passed last spring creates a one-year time out in the accountability system. And legislation currently pending in Congress – if passed – could give state more flexibility in using test results for accountability.

What the districts reported

Here are the highlights of what the 20 largest districts reported to Chalkbeat:

Academy (24,578 students) – The district had an overall opt-out rate of 23 percent, said public information officer Nanette Anderson. (Non-participation on fall 12th grade tests: 10.3 percent science, 11.4 percent social studies)

Adams 12-Five Star (38,701 students) – The percentage of students who opted out of the first set of language arts and math tests was less than 1 percent in grades 3-10 but rose to more than 4 percent for high school juniors, according to information provided by the district. Opt-out rates rose for the end-of-year tests in all grades but were 9.5 percent for language arts and 10 percent for math in the 11th grade. (Non-participation on fall 12th grade tests: 8.2 percent science, 7.2 percent social studies)

Adams 50 (10,161 students) – The Westminster-based district had a .17 percent opt-out rate for the two windows said Jeni Gotto, executive director of teaching and learning. More students opted out for end-of-year tests. “Kids didn’t understand why they were taking tests twice,” Gotto said. She attributed the high participation rate to effective work by principals in explaining the value of testing. “Because we are a priority improvement district, we value the data. I’m not sure every district sent that message out.” (Non-participation on fall 12th grade tests: 8.2 percent science, 7.2 percent social studies)

Aurora (47,729 students) – For the March window the district’s opt out rate was just under 3 percent, and in May the refusal rate was 3 percent, said Mya Martin-Glenn, director of assessment and research. (Non-participation on fall 12th grade tests: 6.1 percent science, 5.9 percent social studies)

Boulder Valley (30,908 students) – The district was a hotbed of opting out by high seniors in the fall, and that pattern continued in the spring. “At the high school level, 35 percent of students ultimately took PARCC English language arts. The corresponding figures for elementary and middle school students were 92 percent and 82 percent, respectively. Math figures are nearly identical,” said Jonathan Dings, executive director of student assessment and program evaluation. (Non-participation on fall 12th grade tests: 78.2 percent science, 77.6 percent social studies)

Brighton 27J (17,103 students) – “Overall it was about 10 percent of our students who opted out. Most of it was high school … mainly 11th grade,” said Peggy Robertson, director of assessment and federal grants. The elementary opt-out rate was 2 percent, she noted. (Non-participation on fall 12th grade tests: percent 4.8 science, percent 5.3 social studies)

Looking ahead

Cherry Creek (54,499 students) – The opt-out rate was about 16 percent for the first window and roughly 23 percent for the end-of-year tests, said Norm Alerta, director of assessment and evaluation. “We’re seeing most of it in high school,” he noted, saying the rate was “50 percent or more” in high schools, 17-20 percent in middle schools and less than 10 percent at the elementary level. The district also noticed variation among high schools. Cherry Creek the highest, but Overland had a rate of about 10 percent. (Non-participation on fall 12th grade tests: percent 34.7 science, 36.7 percent social studies)

Colorado Springs District 11 (28,332) – The district had an overall opt-out rate of 10-11 percent, with rates of 1-2 percent in elementary schools, 4 percent at middle schools and 31 percent in high schools, said Janeen Demi-Smith, executive director of educational data and support services. (Non-participation on fall 12th grade tests: 5 percent science, 4.7 percent social studies)

Denver Public Schools (88,839 students) – “DPS is continuing to review our CMAS data and validating our numbers to ensure all data reflects the guidance from CDE,” said Jennifer Mills, a DPS senior program manager. (Non-participation on fall 12th grade tests: 13.6 percent science, 12.1 percent social studies)

Douglas County (66,702 students) – About 16-17 percent of students opted out district-wide, with fewer than 5 percent at elementary schools but rising to about 30 percent in high schools, said Matt Reynolds, chief assessment and system performance officer. (Non-participation on fall 12th grade tests: 47.8 percent science, 50.9 percent social studies)

Falcon 49 (19,552 students) – Some 11.3 percent of district students opted out, according to communications director Matt Meister. (Non-participation on fall 12th grade tests: 9.4 percent science, 8.7 percent social studies)

Greeley (21,183 students) – The district reported 134 parent refusals out of 14,346 students tested, for an opt-out rate of less than 1 percent, according to Sophia Masewicz, director of assessment and special programs. (Non-participation on fall 12th grade tests: 3.1 percent science, 3 percent social studies)

Harrison (11,441 students) – District schools had an overall opt-out rate of about 1 percent, but the rate was more than 35 percent for Harrison charter schools, reported Margaret Ruckstuhl, research, data and accountability officer. (Non-participation on fall 12th grade tests: 21.9 percent science, 22.7 percent social studies)

Jefferson County (86,547 students) – Robert Good, director of instructional assessment, said he couldn’t provide opt-out statistics until the district finishes its data cleanup process at the end of this month. (Non-participation on fall 12th grade tests: 8.5 percent science, 7.8 percent social studies)

Littleton (15,691 students) – District participation rates followed the pattern seen in many other large districts, according to information provided by Diane Leiker, director of communications. Third grade language arts and math test participation was 99 percent during both testing sessions. There were similar high rates in grades 4 and 5, but participation slipped in higher grades, and on the end-of-year section. The district reported 69 percent of 10th graders and 53 percent of 11th graders took the March tests. But those rates dropped to 39 percent and 29 percent in May. (Non-participation on fall 12th grade tests: 41.8 science, 42.7 percent social studies)

(This chart provided by the Littleton schools shows participation by grade and test and shows a pattern reported by many other districts. Key to abbreviations: PBA – Performance-based assessments given in March, SS – Social studies, EOY – End of year.)

Mesa 51 (21,742 students) – “Generally we had a 95 percent participation rate,” said communication director Dan Dougherty, who also noted that two of five school board members opted their children out of testing. (Non-participation on fall 12th grade tests: 18.6 percent science, 17 percent social studies)

Poudre (29,053 students) – “We had in the upper 90s [percentage points] for elementary school participation in PARCC, mid-90s for middle schools and 80s for high schools,” said Danielle Clark, executive director of communications. (Non-participation on fall 12th grade tests: 25.9 percent science, 27.4 percent social studies)

Pueblo 60 (17,960) – “Of the 10,800 students who were eligible to participate in the state assessment program, less than 1 percent of the parents refused the performance-based assessment portion [given in March] while about 3 percent of parents refused the end of year assessment portion,” said Amy Weingardner, assessment data specialist. (Non-participation on fall 12th grade tests: 14.8 percent science, 15 percent social studies)

St. Vrain (31,076 students) – “We had a considerable amount of parents decide not to have their children take the tests,” said Superintendent Don Haddad. He didn’t have specific numbers, but noted opting out was “Not very prevalent at the elementary schools. We had some at the middle schools, and we had a considerable amount at the high schools.” (Non-participation on fall 12th grade tests: 21.7 percent science, 8.1 percent social studies)

Thompson (15,691 students) – Opt-out rates were below 5 percent in grades 3-5 but started rising in middle school, reported assessment director Carmen Williams. Opting out spiked among high school juniors, with 46.6 percent boycotting the March language arts tests and 57.1 percent skipping those tests in May. (Non-participation on fall 12th grade tests: 33.4 33.8 percent science, 33.8 percent social studies)

Charter School Institute (14,048 students) – Officials of this state agency, which oversees schools that enroll 14,048 students, said they didn’t have opt-out information. (Non-participation on fall 12th grade tests: 17 percent science, 17.5 percent social studies)

The state’s 20 largest districts plus CSI, enroll 685,978 students, about 77 percent of the 889,006 pupils in the state.

The state’s CMAS tests aren’t given in all grades. K-2 and 12th grade students weren’t testing this spring. So the number of students tested in a district is smaller than total enrollment. Fall non-participation rates listed above include both parent refusals and small numbers of students who didn’t take tests for other reasons.

Categories: Urban School News

Jeffco schools to help set national standards for student privacy

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 07/27/2015 - 16:22

A new partnership between Jeffco Public Schools and 26 other districts nationwide could lead to more rigid security measures for student data.

For the next six months 27 school districts, working with The Consortium for School Networking, will work toward establishing a nationwide set of standards around student privacy. The end result will be known as the Trusted Learning Environment Seal that public schools can adopt to assure the community that their student’s data is protected.

The consortium is a professional association for district technology leaders.

“Our families and staff need to be able to trust the institutions, including ours, that have access to their data,” said Jeffco Superintendent Dan McMinimee in a statement. “In the context of student and staff information, it is especially important to ensure the protection of personally identifiable information.”

Student’s personal data being shared with agencies outside the districts, for profit, has been a concern of parents and advocacy groups. Earlier this year, a bill that would have regulated more tightly how student data can be shared was killed at the General Assembly.

Jeffco’s participation in the consortium is a reaction to the public outcry prompted from a previous endeavor.

Student’s personal data being shared with agencies outside the districts, for profit, has been a concern of parents and advocacy groups. Earlier this year a bill that would have regulated more tightly how student data can be shared was killed.

Jeffco’s participation in the consortium is in part a reaction to the public outcry prompted from a previous endeavor.

In 2013, the suburban school district was a member of the student data pilot program known as InBloom, which was backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

InBloom was a cloud-based service that tracked a variety of student data, kept them on a central dashboard, and could be accessed by teachers. Some critics of the program said it was too invasive. The district, facing public outcry, eventually opted out of the program. And InBloom was shuttered quickly thereafter nationwide.

Jeremy Felker, director of instructional data reporting, said Jeffco was asked to participate in the consortium because of data security measures the district developed after leaving the InBloom program. The TLE Seal is not a cloud option for districts to securely store their data, but rather, a stamp of approval for taking precautions to protect student data.

Currently, Jeffco officials spend up to four weeks screening any software, free or paid for, for language that allows teachers and officials to share student information. The district has created a list of approved programs and cloud services.

“The TLE Seal is one more step in our process to ensure that Jeffco Public Schools is implementing best practices for protecting student and staff data,” said McMinimee.

At the end of the six months schools will be able to implement the TLE Seal to ensure the protection of their students’ data.

[Disclosure: Chalkbeat is a grantee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.]


Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Colorado State Board of Education at a crossroads

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 07/27/2015 - 09:59

(Re)Call Me Maybe

As of Saturday, the recall group Jeffco United for Action said they had more than 25,000 signatures for each of the three recall petitions, which makes the recall election closer to a reality. ( Arvada Press, 9news )

No discrimination found

Twin Peaks Charter Academy didn't discriminate by blocking the graduation speech of a valedictorian who wanted to disclose his sexual orientation in the speech, said an outside attorney hired by the school to investigate the decision. ( 9news via AP )

State board shakeup

The Colorado State Board of Education sits at a crossroads. A Republican vacancy committee on Aug. 8 will select from among nine candidates to replace Neal as representative of the 3rd District — potentially shaking up the board dynamic again — and the next few months will be consumed with finding a new commissioner, a key board responsibility. ( Denver Post )

Plan rejected

With an eye toward selling the plan to members, Greeley Education Association representatives on Friday were unable to accept a “large, systemic change” that came with a new Greeley-Evans School District 6 collective bargaining agreement proposal. ( Greeley Tribune )

Lights, camera, arts

Students are learning more about art through a free Summer Film Camp put on the Community College of Aurora, Colorado Film School, and a group called Downtown Aurora Visual Arts or DAVA. ( 9news )

Business venture

An 18-year old Centennial entrepreneur who started her own business when she was 14 years old is the winner of a $15,000 Young Entrepreneur Foundation college scholarship from the National Federation of Independent Business. ( 9news )

Gold medalist

A Boulder High student will play the national anthem at Special Olympics World Games. ( Daily Camera )

Little mermaids

A Colorado Springs swimming school is bringing mermaid dreams to life with summer classes. ( The Gazette )

Categories: Urban School News

Students in college readiness program say they find more than academic support

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 07/27/2015 - 08:21

Myduyen Thimy Nguyen, a senior at Eaglecrest High School in Centennial, doesn’t want to be a nail technician when she grows up. But those are highest aspirations her family has for her.

“Everybody expects [me] to go to community college and get a nails license,” said Nguyen, who came to the U.S. from Vietnam 10 years ago. “I don’t want to do nails the rest of my life. I’ve worked so hard these four years, why not go to a university I want to go to? Why settle for a community [college]?”

It was these higher aspirations that led Nguyen to join AVID, a program aimed at preparing students who might not otherwise make it to college to succeed there. Nguyen was one of a dozen student leaders who attended the AVID Summer Institute held for the first time in Denver, where seven schools will offer the program this fall.

The conference drew more than 3,500 educators, including 70 from Denver Public Schools, to the area to learn about how to implement AVID at their schools. This coming academic year, Denver is expanding AVID to two additional schools: Manual High School and West Leadership Academy.

The program may come in handy for struggling students at DPS. The most recent ACT data shows that, on average, DPS students didn’t meet any of the minimum ACT subject scores that indicate they are college ready. The scores predict a student’s chance of passing first-year college courses in the corresponding subjects.

The program hinges on the idea that students who are more likely not to attend or complete college — including students of color, first-generation college students, and poor students — can succeed if they have the right skills. AVID teachers explicitly focus on those skills, such as note-taking, time management, and seeking out mentors, while students are in high school.

Gaining those skills can come at a cost. Students who participate in AVID for four years often must pass up chances to take other electives, such as art or music, although some districts incorporate the skills training into regular classes.

Nguyen and other local students say the program is worth it.

“[AVID changed] how I see certain things,” said Thomas Jefferson High School senior Adoneyase Mehari. “It’s a family feeling. I wouldn’t have that if I wasn’t in AVID.”

Mehari said his own grades have not improved since joining the program, mirroring external research about AVID’s effectiveness that has generated mixed results.

The program’s own data do suggest that the efforts pay off: According to AVID’s most recent survey data, students who participated in AVID aimed for four-year colleges instead of community colleges, got in once they applied, and stayed enrolled more often than similar students who did not participate in AVID.

Jaylene McDowell, who will be a freshman at Cherokee Trail High School this fall, said her two years in AVID so far had made a big difference for her.

“I joined AVID in seventh grade because I wasn’t doing well but my teacher saw potential. … I raised my GPA pretty dramatically,” McDowell said. “I wasn’t doing my work, I didn’t have good time management.”

McDowell said she learned how to stay organized through AVID. In addition, she also spoke highly of her AVID teacher, who took time out of her own spring break to sign McDowell up for the summer institute.

“You have to have a good teacher or [the AVID class] is not good and my AVID teacher was pretty amazing,” she said. “She took time out of her spring break to sign me up for this summer institute and she didn’t have to. It means a lot to me that she would take time out of her day and her vacation for me.”

It’s experiences like this that keep students engaged, said Marta Mansbacher, a rising junior at Englewood High School.

“The family-like environment is one of the reasons we like class so much,” Mansbacher said. “You know your teacher is dedicated and passionate and you’re going into a safe and trustworthy environment.”

Categories: Urban School News

Weekend Reads: The complicated connections between housing and school quality

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 07/24/2015 - 16:12
  • Philadelphia is moving to merge a few of the small high schools that opened a few years ago as support wanes and some of the schools struggle to attract students. (Newsworks)
  • Flawed assumptions about the effectiveness of punitive discipline practices may be the biggest obstacle to reducing suspensions nationally. (The Atlantic)
  • Matthew Yglesias interprets the connection between median home prices and reading proficiency rates across Washington, D.C. to mean that you have to be rich to send your kids to a good school. (Vox)
  • Campbell Brown’s new education website cries foul, arguing that school quality is about much more than proficiency rates. (The Seventy-Four)
  • And let’s not forget that school zone lines aren’t accidental. (CityLab)
  • A mom of six in Oakland explains why she didn’t think about the local schools when she bought her home. (Design Mom)
  • Silicon Valley’s real-estate boom makes it hard for teachers to live anywhere near where they work. (Hechinger Report)
Categories: Urban School News

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