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Rise & Shine: Thompson teachers union claims board targeted them

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 07/24/2015 - 09:57

Contract talks

The Thompson Education Association believes that no matter what contract had gone before its district's school board, it would have failed. ( Reporter-Herald )

Helping teachers

Teachers from around the state and country learned techniques to help close the opportunity gap at a national conference in Denver. ( 9News )

Blended learning at the library

More libraries — including one in Mesa County — are loading games onto their computers to help students learn problem-solving skills. ( Grand Junction Sentinel )

No Waiver Left Behind

Tennessee will move to a less punishing school accountability system under a federal waiver that grants the state continued flexibility under certain provisions of federal policy. ( Chalkbeat Tennessee )

Ten national education groups on Wednesday urged Congress to move quickly to finalize revisions to No Child Left Behind, the nation’s main federal education law. ( Washington Post )

Two cents

Choice and competition aren't winning strategies for Douglas County schools, suggests the district's teachers union president. ( Denver Post )

Parent Puzzle

When children say they're miserable at summer camp and want to come home, should parents indulge? A mother recounts how she resisted the urge. ( New York Times )

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Jeffco protesters take to the streets

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 07/23/2015 - 08:47

(Re)Call Me Maybe

Organizers are making their final push to collect enough signatures to force a recall election of three conservative school board members they believe are taking their schools down the wrong path. But tug-of-war isn't just about local classrooms. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

taking to the streets

Up and down Wadsworth Boulevard, protesters against the conservative Jeffco board majority took to the streets to get more signatures for their recall petition. ( 9news, CBS Denver )

A tale of two districts

Aurora Public Schools and Cherry Creek School District will face new challenges, such as budgets issues and ongiong renovations, in the coming school year. ( Aurora Sentinel )

(Not) Summertime sadness

For the past few years, Roaring Fork School District’s Middle School Summer School has rejected idea that summer school should be some sort of punishment ( Post Indepedent )

Fit bit

A one-year grant provided by Kaiser Permanente has kindled hopes that the opportunities created, including fitness classes, will spark a change in schools and classrooms around the Douglas County School District. ( Denver Post )

Head start

About 45 incoming Centaurus High freshmen are getting a jump on high school through a monthlong summer program. ( Daily Camera )

Stuff the bus

Another long-time and large-scale local school supply drive kicked off this week. Christmas Unlimited's "Stuff the Bus Operation Back to School Supply Drive" will collect supplies until Aug. 7 ( The Gazette )

Higher ed reforms

Emboldened by recent successes on a bill on secondary and elementary education, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions is tackling challenges facing higher education. The negotiations could inspire changes at Fort Lewis College. ( Durango Herald )

Culture shock

English teachers from Brazil are taking part in a professional development course at Aims Community College as part of a month-long exchange program put together by a group of Greeley residents. ( Greeley Tribune )

Community

Aurora Public Schools’ new Mosley School is working on "building a connection" with the community campus. The campus also includes William Smith High School, Pickens Technical College and several other APS facilities. ( Aurora Sentinel )

Planned Parenthood

Colorado State University officials denied purchasing fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood amid reports that it did so - either directly or indirectly - in January 2013. ( The Gazette )

sustainability

Colorado State University has been named the most sustainable university in the county. ( 9news )

CollegeAmerica

A lawsuit filed by the state of Colorado against CollegeAmerica, alleging deceptive trade practices that harmed students, has been dismissed. ( Denver Post )

Categories: Urban School News

Why the tug-of-war for Jefferson County’s school board isn’t just about local classrooms

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 07/22/2015 - 17:45

Battle lines are being drawn sharply this week in Jefferson County as organizers make their final push to collect enough signatures to force a recall election of three conservative school board members they believe are taking their schools down the wrong path.

And that closing drive comes as supporters of those school board members — Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams — are preparing for their first public counterattack.

On Wednesday, volunteers for Jeffco United for Action lined a 19-mile stretch of the busy Wadsworth Boulevard that runs north and south in suburban Denver to collect signatures for the recall petition from county residents on their way home from work.

While they have until early September to collect 15,000 signatures per school board member, organizers are working on a self-imposed deadline of July 31 to better their odds of being on the general November ballot. That would put all five school board seats up for grabs and potentially save the school district thousands of dollars.

And on Saturday, supporters of the board majority, organized by the Colorado arm of the conservative grassroots organization Americans For Prosperity, will knock on doors to share what they believe are the board’s successes in improving Jeffco Public Schools.

The next few days in Jefferson County, which is home to the state’s second largest school district, will be emblematic of what Coloradans can expect throughout the fall if the recall effort is successfully put on the ballot: A nonstop campaign about what the future of public education — in Jeffco and around the nation — should look like.

And that battle will feature a large cast of special interest groups and potentially huge sums of money from local and national donors who are waiting to see whether the recall becomes a reality.

“I can imagine the magnitude of this attracting all sorts of people wanting to pour money in from both sides,” said Ben DeGrow, a education policy analyst at the Independence Institute, a libertarian think tank in Denver that supports the board majority.

What’s at stake

Organizers behind the recall effort believe the conservative school board majority has wasted taxpayer dollars, disrespected the community and teachers, and has violated the state’s open meeting laws.

Supporters of the board majority believe those claims are not only wrong, but the opposite of what the board has actually done: Balanced a billion-dollar budget without taking out a loan to build a new school, given teachers raises, and made the operations of the school district and board more transparent.

Critics of the board majority believe the majority’s endgame is to terminate the district’s agreement with the Jefferson County Education Association and continue to advance a reform agenda that includes more policies influenced by free-market principles.

The majority’s supporters counter that the teachers union is making a power grab to “regain control” it lost in 2013 when the conservative board majority was elected by wide margins.

It’s also possible that the recall could come down to none of those issues.

Instead, the average Jeffco voter is likely to make a decision on the recall effort based on a number of very public controversies that happened after the board considered a proposal to review an advanced history class that spurred weeks worth of student protests, a board member linked to an anti-gay hate group on her Facebook wall, and school administrators refused to let Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper sign an education bill at a Jeffco school, which many considered a political snub.

The deciding factor in the potential recall might turn on those controversies rather than the deeper policy disagreements because the general public probably likes some policy ideas from both sides, said Kris Amundsen, executive director for the National Association of State Boards of Education.

“I think the public likes both sides of the agenda,” she said. “I don’t think the public is as polarized as those inside the debate. It will be very difficult to draw a conclusion on the future of public education.”

But while the election itself might not be driven by the district’s big policy questions, those questions are what could make the election appealing to outside interest groups hoping to secure a win for their ideology.

The hottest policy debates in Jefferson County — the outcomes of which will be largely shaped by the victors of the recall fight — are familiar in many school districts around the country.

Should teacher pay be linked to the number of years in the classroom or student performance on standardized exams?

How should school districts expand education options for students while preserving and improving traditional neighborhood schools?

And how can a behemoth government bureaucracy built during the industrial revolution adapt in the 21st century to improve working conditions for teachers and learning by students?

Classroom tug-of-war

It’s unclear what changes, if any, the political turmoil will prompt in Jefferson County classrooms.

Jeff Henig, a professor of political science and education at the Teachers College at Columbia University said he believes student learning will neither see immediate dramatic increases nor decreases as the political soap opera in Jeffco schools unfolds.

“A lot of these big ideological education battles don’t bubble down to the kids at all,” Hening said. “It’s mostly fodder for interest groups. Who gets control doesn’t necessarily lead to dramatic change at what happens in the classroom.”

In the two years the Jeffco board majority has been in place, the votes that came closest to changing how students learn were the non-controversial approval of a new math curriculum and the reorganization of two clusters of neighborhood schools.

Both measures passed with support from both the board’s majority and minority members.

“You can’t change classroom instruction that quickly,” said Amundsen, the national school board executive. “It takes thoughtful effort. When you try sudden and wrenching change, I can almost guarantee it will not be successful.”

If anything, expert observers suggest that the back and forth will lead to high staff turnover, which critics of the school board majority already say is happening. Jeffco’s teacher turnover rate had a 5 point increase last year, according to state data.

“An unsettled political environment can impact kids based on teacher mobility,” Henig said. “It’s worth remembering that the old style of local school boards often were stagnant places. And some of the turmoil, stirring the pot, maybe for the good. But there is reasonably convincing evidence and anecdotal reports from teachers, especially when they’re in these high profile places that they’re finding the job more stressful and they’re opting out.”

Supporters of the board majority point out that Jeffco’s rising teacher turnover rate mirrors state and national trends.

Further, supporters believe the majority’s reforms, like linking teacher pay to performance, are critical to improving classrooms.

“These are reforms that benefit students, and we will work to keep them in place regardless of who is on the board now or ten years from now,” said Michael Fields, the state director for Americans For Prosperity-Colorado. “What we are engaging in is a long term policy battle across the state.”

A new national spotlight on local school boards

School board elections are usually sleepy affairs with miniscule budgets that don’t attract much of the electorate.

In fact, of the 178,000-some Jefferson County residents who went to the ballot box in 2013, only about 136,000 bothered to select a school board member in each of the three races. That’s compared to the more than 400,000 registered voters in the county.

But as federal and state governments become more polarized and gridlocked, local municipal and school board races are increasingly attractive to large national donors looking to make political points, Henig said.

“Most of the nation’s 15,000 school districts are pretty much untouched by the national money and attention,” he said. “But it’s happening a bit. And increasingly.”

Look no further than wealthy Douglas County, south of Jefferson, where Americans For Prosperity, backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, spent $350,000 in the 2013 election to maintain a conservative school board majority that instituted a market-based pay system for teachers and a voucher program that was recently struck down by the Colorado Supreme Court.

“In traditional local school board elections, issues are about ‘what are we going to do with the high school football stadium,’ or candidates position themselves because they’re a successful businessman,” Henig said. “But what we think we see is a growing recognition by national level education reformers that they need to fight battles at the local level. The need to establish proof points for their broader reforms.”

Jefferson County, which spreads nearly 800 square miles west of Denver, is urban, suburban, and rural. And it is known for being the political bellwether of Colorado.

Similarly, the school district operates schools that serves an increasingly diverse population. Schools on the border with Denver to the east are made up of mostly Latino students who come from low-income homes. Other schools in the southern suburbs serve mostly white students from homes with six-figure incomes. And still others serve students in small mountain communities like Conifer.

Those kinds of qualities make Jeffco schools attractive to outside groups trying to make a statement about what works in public education.

“Jeffco could be a framework to improve student achievement,” said the Independence Institute’s DeGrow. “It’s a suburban school district that has a really good cross-section of high performing schools, low performing schools, and a lot in between.”

Alan Franklin, political director from Progress Now, a nonprofit progressive advocacy organization said his side of the political spectrum, which has been mostly focused on state-level races, now recognizes the outsized role a school board can have on a community and larger political debates.

“School boards have a way of influencing students and communities,” Franklin said. “We’d be fools to ignore this battle. Our schools supply the future electorate. The right wing recognized this well before the progressives.”

Henig said a biproduct of the turmoil in Jefferson County is that more residents are paying attention to school issues and that could potentially reverse the trend of low turnout in school board elections.

“There was a sentiment 100 years ago that politics was corrupting education and what we needed was elections where people who knew the most and cared the most would actually vote,” he said. “The sleepiness was by design.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that the Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education approved a review of an advanced history class and refused to allow the Colorado governor to sign a bill into law at a local high school. The board did consider a review of the history class but later dropped the issue. And district administrators, not the school board, rejected the governor’s request.  

This article has also been updated to reflect the correct amount spent by Americans For Prosperity in the Douglas County school board election in 2013. It was $350,000, not $35,000.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported how many Jefferson County voters voted in 2013. It was about 178,000, not 413,000. 

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Jeffco recall organizers say they’re close to having enough signatures

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 07/22/2015 - 09:50

Evaluations

Differing views of the legislature’s powers over labor and contracts law were at the center of oral arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit that challenges one part of Colorado’s landmark 2010 teacher evaluation law. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

(Re)Call Me Maybe

Organizers behind a school board recall effort in Jefferson County say they are days away from collecting enough signatures to head to the ballot box. ( Colorado Statesman )

Social Network

As the race for seats on the Denver Public Schools Board of Education begins, the candidates’ activity on social media — or lack thereof — can provide voters an insight into each candidate’s campaign and a preview of the debates in the coming months. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Healthy schools

Colorado moved up in national rankings on child well-being, according to a report released Tuesday. ( Denver Post )

College and career

More Colorado students are taking advantage of the evolving role of community colleges. ( 9News )

The results are in

More students — including those from low-income households — in the Littleton Public School District did better on science and social studies state tests. ( Centennial Citzen )

Outdoor learning

The Sylvan Dale Ranch in Loveland will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its huge acreage this year with a new twist — an emphasis on teaching. ( Greeley Tribune )

back to school

There are plenty of ways from individuals in the Pikes Peak region to help struggling families with back to school needs. ( Gazette )

early childhood education

Kindergartners who share, cooperate and are helpful are more likely to have a college degree and a job 20 years later than children who lack those social skills, according to a new study. ( AP via Durango Herald )

Categories: Urban School News

How social media gives voters insight into candidates’ campaign styles

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 07/21/2015 - 17:54

A 140-character tweet can be worth a thousand words when it comes to learning about candidates in a school board race.

And so far this campaign season, there are two competing narratives across social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.

As the race for seats on the Denver Public Schools Board of Education begins, the candidates’ activity on social media — or lack thereof — can provide voters an insight into each candidate’s campaign and a preview of the debates in the coming months.

Southeast Denver incumbent Anne Rowe and northwest candidate Lisa Flores are using social media sparingly and keeping positive. Both Rowe and Flores have said they believe DPS is on the right track with a number of educational reform policies that include more school choices for families, an emphasis on teacher evaluations, and using results from standardized assessments to make decisions about how schools operate.

Meanwhile, southeast candidate Kristi Butkovich and northwest candidate Michael Kiley actively use social media and are often critical of those same DPS policies. They also believe that DPS officials often operate in a vacuum and shut out public input when making decisions.

There should be a thoughtful strategy behind how a candidate uses social media, said independent political analyst Eric Sondermann.

Meet the candidates
Read previous interviews with DPS board incumbents and candidates here:
Kristi Butkovich
Anne Rowe
Michael Kiley
Lisa Flores

When it comes to candidates like Butkovich and Kiley, the abundance of opinionated posts is a way to connect with like-minded people, Sondermann said.

“There’s an element of social media which often becomes a ‘bitch session,’ for lack of a more artful phrase,” Sondermann said. “For some who are less than enamored with the current direction of DPS…they turn to social media to find like-minded people.”

And on the other end, candidates such as Rowe and Flores who are less vocal on social media do so to “avoid getting dragged down into the muck,” Sondermann said.

Sondermann added some candidates with less experience may also be using social media for no other reasons than it’s the thing to do.

“Any campaign has to have a social media presence. To not have a social media presence is not an option,” Sondermann said. “I think candidates, particularly in these district races where it’s much more personal, much smaller geography, social media becomes all the more important.”

Candidate Flores has a Facebook page and Twitter for her campaign. Her personal Twitter has been inactive since 2011, with the exception of two tweets about her candidacy.

She said she was less active on social media prior to July due to a busy schedule but is now using Facebook more frequently, which is evident in a slight increase in posts during the past two weeks. She frequently uses her page to spotlight nonprofit organizations and share photos from the campaign trail.

“I’m a nonprofit girl at heart,” she said. “That’s where I spent my 20s and 30s…for me, there was a real value alignment in choosing to highlight a nonprofit of the week that has a strong presence in supporting DPS students.”

Flores said that is a deliberate decision not to use her social media pages to discuss hot topics such as charter schools or enrollment zones.

“I have a different message and a different style of leadership and a different path that I’m running,” Flores said. “I think every candidate needs to run the race that’s in line with their own values and their own sense of integrity and that’s what I’m working to do.”

In stark contrast, Flores’ opponent Kiley uses social media avidly and is much more vocal on education’s most controversial topics on both his personal and campaign Facebook pages.

But Kiley said he doesn’t feel his posts are bold.

“People don’t tell me ‘this is a bold stand you’re taking,’” Kiley said. “They just want to know more about the issues [I post].”

But his posts draw an audience, Kiley acknowledged.

“I have a pretty steady upwards trend in people liking [the campaign’s Facebook page] and I suspect its because they like what I post,” Kiley said. “We don’t have a relentless campaign to get people to like us, we don’t do contests or anything like that. It’s organic and I can only assume it’s because people like the information I’m sharing.”

So far, Flores and Kiley are the only candidates running for the open board seat in northwest Denver. Butkovich is running against incumbent Rowe for the southeast Denver seat. The southeast candidates were unable to be reached for comments on their social media usage.

Here’s a snapshot of the candidates on social media.

[View the story “DPS candidates on social media” on Storify]
Categories: Urban School News

Legislative power key issue in arguments over teacher evaluation law

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 07/21/2015 - 14:22

Differing views of the legislature’s powers over labor and contracts law were at the center of oral arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit that challenges one part of Colorado’s landmark 2010 teacher evaluation law.

“The Colorado legislature has plenary power to modify these teacher employment rights,” lawyer Eric Hall, representing the Denver Public Schools, argued to a three-judge panel of the Colorado Court of Appeals.

But Philip Hostak, a National Education Association lawyer from Washington, D.C., countered, “plainly there are” limits on legislative power to change contract law.

The two were pitching their arguments in the case of Masters v. DPS, filed in January 2014 by five former teachers and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association. The suit claimed district officials misused the mutual-consent provision of the evaluation law, violating both contract and due process sections of the Colorado Constitution.

One part of the evaluation law, known as Senate Bill 10-191, requires mutual consent of a teacher and principal for assignment of a teacher to a school. Before the law was passed, non-probationary teachers would be assigned to a school solely by decision of district administration.

Under SB 10-191, teachers who aren’t placed go on a district waiting list and ultimately lost employment rights if not placed within a certain period of time.

Documents

Articles

Denver District Judge Michael Martinez dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims – and the case – in June 2014, prompting the union to take the case to the Court of Appeals last December.

On legislative power, while Hall stressed the General Assembly’s powers, Hostak argued there are limits on the legislature’s power to impair contracts.

The two also offered different interpretations of a 1991 bill that changed teacher employment law and removed the word “tenure” from those laws. Removal of the word was unimportant, Hostak argued, rhetorically asking the law changed a non-probationary teacher’s property right. “The answer to that is a resounding no.”

But Hall argued the 1991 law “got rid of any idea of tenure.”

The lawyers also had different views on the effect of SB 10-191’s mutual consent provision. Hall argued that “displacement and dismissal are two different things.” Given the legislature’s constitutional duty to supervise schools, changing mutual consent “is entirely consistent with the legislature’s power.”

But, Hostak maintained, “the end result is the same” and teachers are deprived of due process rights.

The DCTA is asking the appeals panel to send the case back to district court for trial. Whatever the panel rules, that decision likely will be appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court.

The CEA fought hard against the new evaluation law during the 2010 legislative session, but the mutual consent provision is the only part of the law being challenged in court. The law’s major provisions – requiring annual evaluations, basing half of annual evaluations in students’ academic growth and loss of non-probationary status for teachers rated partially effective or ineffective for two consecutive years – are being implemented in all state school districts.

Tuesday’s hearing marks the second DCTA-DPS conflict in the Court of Appeals this summer. In June a different three-judge panel ruled that the district violated the 2008 Innovation Schools Act by not getting staff consent for creation of some innovation schools in 2011 and 2012 (see story).

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Federal government checklist aims to support parent engagement

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 07/21/2015 - 09:58

Opt Outs

Mancos and Buffalo, small districts in different parts of the state, had the highest rates of students opting out of standardized tests in the state. More about how it happened and why. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

What to Know

The federal government created a new list of questions parents should be asking their schools. ( Aurora Sentinel )

Building Up

A trade school in Colorado Springs is getting some extra support from the VISTA program. ( Gazette )

School choice

Tillie Elvrum of Colorado Springs is the new president of Publicschools.org. ( Gazette )

Learning

High schoolers took a tour of Olde Town Arvada as part of a program aimed at fostering entrepreneurship. ( Arvada Press )

Advanced Placement 2.0

AP teachers focus on inclusion at a training. ( Arvada Press )

Growing, Growing

Red Rocks Community College has a new expansion in Arvada. ( Arvada Press )

Spinelessness

The Butterfly Pavilion has a new exhibit focusing on invertebrates. ( Westminster Window )

Internet

Bandwidth infrastructure provider Zayo has signed an agreement with Colorado's Eagle-Net Alliance to handle network oversight and support for the intergovernmental entity that provides broadband to schools and other community institutions. ( Telecompaper )

Rural Colorado

The Colorado Area Health Education Center prepares medical students to live and work in rural communities. ( High Plains Journal )

Categories: Urban School News

Two small districts set the record for opting out

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 07/20/2015 - 10:24

If you want to know where opposition to standardized testing may run deepest, look to Mancos and Buffalo, two rural Colorado districts 472 miles apart on opposite sides of the Continental Divide.

The two districts appear to have had the highest opt-out rates on elementary and middle school science and social studies tests given last spring.

“I think it just kind of rose up organically from everybody in the community,” said Mancos Superintendent Brian Hanson.

Testing opposition arose early in the 455-student district – none of the district’s seniors took their science and social studies tests last fall.

“It started with us at that point,” Hanson said, and continued into the spring. “In a small town it doesn’t take very long for that kind of thing to happen.”

Hanson added, “In small communities people place a value in a lot of things, not just test scores. I think there’s more to a kid than that test score. Our community agrees with that.”

Here are Mancos’ opt-out rates: 61.3 percent on 4th grade social studies, 87.2 percent in seventh grade, 60 percent in 5th grade science, 95.8 percent in 8th grade.

Anti-testing sentiment developed somewhat differently in Buffalo, according to Superintendent Rob Sanders. (The 315-student district often is called Merino, after the northeastern plains town where its schools are located. The dual names are the legacy of a long-ago consolidation.)

All of Buffalo’s seniors took social studies and science tests last fall. Sanders said students questioned the value of the tests but were told by the principal that they needed to take them. “We have extremely compliant kids and parents,” Sanders said.

But attitudes started to change in the spring, after word spread of the State Board of Education’s February approval of a resolution exempting districts from any accreditation penalties for low test participation rates. (Social studies and science tests were given in April.)

“We have a firm belief that we are accountable every single day. We believe we can reach our goals with some other type of standardized test,” Sander said.

Here are Buffalo’s opt-out rates: 91.3 percent on 4th grade social studies, 100 percent on 7th grade, 60 percent on 5th grade science, 95.8 percent on 8th grade.

The two districts share rural locations and the same state rating – Accredited, the second-highest level in the state’s five-step system. Nearly 58 percent of Mancos students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, and about 31 percent are minority. Buffalo has 25 percent free and reduced-price lunch enrollment and is about 12 percent minority.

Looking for a better system

Both Mancos and Buffalo are participating in a group of districts called the Rural Innovation Alliance, which is in the early stages of developing what’s called the Student Centered Accountability Project.

The goal is to develop a testing and accountability system that relies on a broader set of factors and data than the current state system, which is heavily reliant on results of statewide tests. (Get more information on the project in these slides.)

The State Board has given the project a preliminary endorsement, and proponents hope the initiative will qualify as a pilot project under the testing law passed by the legislature earlier this year.

“The districts that are involved in this project are very excited about it,” Hanson said. “We think we’re on to something.”

How the “waiver” districts did More testing coverage

One concrete sign of testing dissatisfaction earlier this year was the fact that 27 districts applied to the Department of Education or enquired about waivers from the first part of the PARCC language arts and math tests, which were given in March.

The waiver applications were solicited by the State Board in January. That proved to be an empty gesture because the attorney general ruled that granting waivers was illegal. But as a symbolic gesture the board kept the issue on its agenda for months and didn’t finally deny the waiver applications until May.

Districts’ interest in waiving out of PARCC tests didn’t appear to extend to parent refusals on the science and social studies tests. Only six of the 27 districts had opt-out rates higher than the state averages. In addition to Buffalo, Byers, Elizabeth, Julesburg and Wiley (northwest of Lamar) had significantly higher opt-out rates. Douglas County’s opt-out rates were modestly higher than the state’s.

(Data wasn’t available for some districts, or on some tests for other districts, because the number of students eligible to take the tests was below 16. In that case no testing results are publicly reported for privacy reasons.)

Mancos didn’t request a waiver.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: School relocation raises concerns

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 07/20/2015 - 10:14

There's an AP for that

At the AP for All Summer Institute, equity in and accessibility to Advanced Placement courses was emphasized. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Candidate Q&A

In the third installment, Chalkbeat speaks to Denver Public Schools Board candidate Lisa Flores, who says Northwest Denver Schools are "aflame." ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

First in line

a Chalkbeat analysis shows that about one-fifth of the individuals who gave to recall effort listed Jeffco Public Schools as their employer. See who was the first to give to the recall effort in the database. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Relocation woes

The relocation of Liberty School has raised concerns from community members due to the heavy traffic on three narrow roads near the school's new proposed site. ( Durango Herald )

Hablas espanol?

Staff at two Loveland elementary schools spent two weeks immersed in the Spanish language and culture in Guatemala to prepare for the first year Thompson School District will offer a dual immersion program. ( Reporter Herald )

Better business

The Better Business Bureau Foundation is starting a program, the LIFT Business Ethics Certification Program, to teach midde and high school students about ethics ( 9news )

Air supply

Results of the first of several planned staff health symptom surveys at Boulder's Casey Middle School show few health concerns stemming from air quality within the building ( Daily Camera )

Mayor Hancock and education

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced the formation of the Child Safety Net Impact Team Friday. This team will look for opportunities to build communication and make stronger partnerships with different organizations in the community, such as libraries and schools, to help keep kids safe. ( 9news )

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock will throw his support Monday behind a ballot measure proposing a sales tax to help students with college costs. ( Denver Post )

On the brain

University of Colorado Boulder researchers are part of a team that has developed a tiny wireless device to be implanted in the brain that can deliver drugs to specific neural circuits when signaled by remote control. ( Denver Post )

Categories: Urban School News

Weekend reads: How Republicans and teachers unions are uniting to reshape No Child Left Behind

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 07/17/2015 - 16:48
  • In a rare example of bipartisanship in Washington, the Senate approved a sweeping rewrite of the No Child Left Behind act that would roll back the federal role in education and give states more flexibility to create their own accountability systems. (EdWeek)
  • An unlikely alliance played a big role in the bill’s passage: Republicans and teachers unions, who are united in their opposition to some accountability measures and who want to decrease the influence of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. (Vox)
  • The superintendent of Tennessee’s Achievement School District, Chris Barbic, announced that he is resigning at the end of this year; here’s seven lessons Barbic says his work has taught him about the challenge of improving schools. (Chalkbeat Tennessee)
  • The same advocacy group that successfully challenged some teacher job protections in California is now suing 13 school districts, arguing that they are ignoring a law requiring teacher evaluations to include test scores. (L.A. Times)
  • Roughly half of Washington’s high school juniors refused to take standardized tests this year, raising thorny questions for that state and others around accountability systems. (NPR Ed)
  • A reported exodus of teachers from Kansas raises questions that many states and districts share about how to best support teachers and keep them happy with their jobs. (The Atlantic)
  • Teachers say there’s a reason that “To Kill a Mockingbird” is still on so many eighth-grade reading lists: It resonates with students (even if some start out thinking it’s a hunting manual). (St. Louis Post Dispatch)
  • In the South and around the country, school districts are weighing changes to Confederate mascots and schools named after Confederate officials. (Schooled in Sports)
Categories: Urban School News

Denver board candidate Lisa Flores: Northwest Denver schools ‘aflame’

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 07/17/2015 - 16:46

Just how Denver Public Schools should serve schools and students in northwest Denver has been a flashpoint for public debate this year. The district recently created a new enrollment zone that changes students’ assignments for middle schools and approved a series of temporary school placements — but only after a debate that raised questions about everything from the role of charter schools, diversity in schools, and the district’s community engagement processes.

The region’s current school board representative, Arturo Jimenez, has also been the only board member to regularly vote against DPS administration proposals. Now, Jimenez’s seat is up for grabs.

Lisa Flores, a former senior program officer at the Denver-based Gates Family Foundation and former policy analyst for then-Mayor John Hickenlooper, and Michael Kiley, a parent activist and project manager at workforce management software company Kronos have both declared that they are running for the seat. Flores was recently endorsed by the other six members of Denver’s board.

Both candidates say they are focused on creating quality schools, but they differ on the details.

In the third in a series of interviews with the candidates for Denver board, Chalkbeat spoke with Flores about special education, about why she thinks northwest Denver needs to move on from the district-charter debate, and on how she’ll advocate for District 5 schools that are less-often in the public eye. Earlier this week, Chalkbeat shared interviews with District 1 candidates Anne Rowe and Kristi Butkovich and with district 5 candidate Kiley.

Lisa Flores, a candidate for DPS District 5 board seat.

Flores says that students with special education need more attention from Denver Public Schools.

Chalkbeat: Are there any issues where you’d push against current district policies?

Flores: The issue I have been learning so much about since I’ve been campaigning is the concerns of parents with children with special needs. Our district has not served these children well. It is incredibly difficult for these families to navigate the education system, and in the year 2015 it shouldn’t be that hard.

Whether the issue is working with special needs issues or other issues facing the district, my leadership style is one that calls on people to be collaborative, creative, and resourceful. I believe in bringing key stakeholders to think through solutions for our children.

Chalkbeat: How do you respond to people who say that you would likely side with the current majority on the board in DPS on many issues, creating a uncritical board?

Flores: What I would say is that the current representative, Arturo Jimenez, did not have a reputation for working well with the other six board members and as a consequence was very isolated in how he chose to represent this community. I think you can get much further on advocating for the community when you have the support and willing collaboration of the other six board members.

Flores says that northwest Denver has been polarized about the role of charter schools for too long, and that the public conversation has focused on a small subset of District 5’s schools.

Chalkbeat: Why did you decide to run for school board?

Flores: I am a DPS grad. I am helping to raise my nephew who will be a third grader at Brown elementary and I am a big part of my cousin’s life who has six children, so I feel deeply invested in DPS and the quality of education it’s able to provide students.

I also have an additional motivation. I have sometimes, as a constituent, felt left out of the conversation. I’ve felt that when you’re representing a community, you have to be open to representing a variety of perspectives and the community as whole.

For a lot of years, the conversation’s centered on the Skinner-North feeder pattern. But they’re two of over 50 schools in District 5. And it feels like it’s time for the full spectrum of the district to be represented. I’m conscious of saying North and West Denver, which includes a broader spectrum of neighborhoods. That’s who I want to represent.

I also feel like our community has been so divided, so polarized. It’s like we’ve been stuck in this debate of traditional district schools versus charter schools, and I think it’s gotten in the way of us being more resourceful in how we serve students in Denver.

Enough of this camp or that camp, enough of being for or against this type of school…let’s get back to really thinking about focussing on what’s best for kids. Regardless of governance model, we need more high-quality schools.

Chalkbeat: Your previous employer was the Gates Family Foundation, which also supports some education initiatives in Denver. Do you feel there’s a conflict of interest?

Flores: Well, for one, I left my job at the end of June, so there is no conflict of interest. What I’d say instead is that through that job, I gained intimate knowledge with a variety of nonprofits that support DPS students and I’ve had the opportunity to travel the state and to see first-hand different schools and districts. It’s been a big eye-opener.

Flores says that she is concerned about school leadership preparation and support, special education, and failing schools in District 5.

Chalkbeat: What do you see as the biggest issues facing DPS? What do you see as the biggest issues facing District 5?

Flores: The first is quality school leadership. We need to do a better job of recruiting, training and supporting and then retaining quality school leaders. Two years ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a community advisory group for hiring a principal at West. After two full days of interviews, I saw some candidates that I felt would be good for an assistant principal position, but they weren’t ready yet. My instinct was, let’s work with them, help them grow into a principal leadership role.

I had a chance to talk to some new school leaders who were smart, sharp individuals, passionate about the schools they serve, and in need of additional support. This year I’m looking at North and West [high schools], and they’re both getting brand-new principals this year. You see too much turnover in quality school leaders. We need to do a better job of supporting and retaining them in their jobs.

Chalkbeat: What else?

Flores: We have too many schools in District 5 that are failing our children. Whether it’s at a traditional district school or a charter school, we need to have a higher level of accountability and a better plan for intervening and supporting our student.

Schools are rated and given colors that parallel fire danger warnings, and it’s just the same — you want green and blue, you don’t want to be yellow, orange, or red. District 5 is aflame, and we need to do a better job of having a plan of triage.

The other thing is the challenges of kids with special needs. It just seems that in the year 2015, it should not be as hard as it is to navigate that system for more families and their students.

Some people feel like, well, that’s not my kid. But they’re integrated into the same classrooms, and when special needs students are receiving proper support, both the children with special needs and the other kids in the class benefit and win.

Chalkbeat: This year, plans for school placement and boundary lines in northwest were very contentious. Do you have any thoughts on how that went?

Flores: I have a lot of experience leading collaborative efforts and bringing people together to work on challenging issues to really find solutions and a path forward.

Skinner Middle School has made tremendous progress over the last seven years, and yet there is still much work to be done. There are large achievement gaps at Skinner, and too many parents are still opting out because they’re not finding the quality of education that’s right for their families.

Chalkbeat: What other issues are on your radar?

Flores: As far as DPS-wide issues, one thing my opponent’s bringing up is the women and minority-owned Business policy. What I’d say is, that’s a policy that’s set by the school board. I served on the board of the Denver Housing Authority, and that was an issue that board moved aggressively on. We reviewed on a monthly basis and set into place some pathways to support smaller businesses. So I have experience in addressing that in a large quasi-governmental entity.

But the larger piece is about doing the right thing and working so that we’re no longer divided and doing a better job of collaborating.

Categories: Urban School News

At summer seminar, teachers learn advanced courses aren’t just for some

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 07/17/2015 - 16:35

When Miranda Schaelling started an Advanced Placement environmental science course three years ago at Harrison High School in Colorado Springs only 16 students enrolled. But next fall, her class roster will boast 126 students.

Her key to increasing enrollment? Encourage everyone to join, regardless of science proficiency, and to not worry about the end-of-year test many students take for college credit.

“I tell them all the time, especially after the first exam…it’s not about passing the test, it’s not about making a qualifying score, it’s about learning how to handle the workload,” she said. “Especially because a majority of my students are sophomores, it’s about learning study skills, learning accountability, learning what college is actually like.”

More than 60,000 Colorado high school students were in enrolled in at least one AP course during the 2012-2013 school year. That’s 7,000 more than just five years before, according to data from the Colorado Department of Education.

But according to data from College Board, only half of the students who could potentially succeed in an AP course took one. Even a smaller percentage of students of color, who could be successful in an advanced course, enrolled in those classes.

“So for every five black adolescents who has a very high potential to pass an AP exam, only one will ever take the course,” said Greg Hessee, the director of Colorado Legacy Schools for the Colorado Education Initiative, which provides grants to schools to pay for AP tests for students who can’t afford the fee.

In the past, schools haven’t pushed AP courses on all students.

They worry that by pushing all students to take rigorous courses, regardless of how prepared they are in the subject, could dilute the course for more advanced students or that those unprepared students could feel overwhelmed. In addition, some are skeptical that students who take these courses actually benefit from them if they don’t pass the end of year exam.

But these problems shouldn’t arise if AP programs are implemented correctly, said Kevin Welner, the director of the National Education Policy Center.

“If [expanding access to AP programs] is done poorly, yes this is problem,” Welner said. “If you have teachers who haven’t been prepared to teach a more diverse class of students and they try teach to the ‘middle’ of the class [and don’t] teach in a way that is engaging and challenging to all levels of kids, then yes, there could be a problem. But if you have the supports for students and teachers built into it, then no, it’s not a problem.”

That’s why the AP for All Summer Institute is important, Hessee said. About 500 teachers from around the world, hoping to replicate Schaelling’s success at enrolling more students in rigorous high school courses, participated in this week-long conference in Denver. The emphasis of this program is that advanced classes should be open to all students, regardless of proficiency in the subject, race, or socioeconomic status.

“I think that’s why it’s important to have it here in Denver. To give teachers those support systems as well as strategies…so they know how to handle this when they get back in their classroom,” Hessee said. “I believe we’re building momentum to change the historic notion of AP just being for that top five percent of students to something that all students deserve to receive support with.”

A student’s readiness for AP classes can be determined by a number of factors, such as their grade in a prerequisite class or their scores on a preliminary SAT exam. Some schools use an online tool, known as AP Potential, to identify students with a 60 percent or higher likelihood of succeeding in particular AP subjects.

Hessee said AP courses, and the resulting skills in college readiness, are especially important at a school like Schaelling’s Harrison, which serves a high-risk population: 71 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch and more than 60 percent of the students are Hispanic or black.

“Every student who has the will should be allowed to engage in Advancement Placement courses,” Hessee said. “That’s not how all AP programs have been run but more and more frequently it is. It’s not just the honors students…it’s any student who wants to learn at an advanced rate regardless of whether or not they can pass an Advanced Placement exam.”

At the summer workshop, teachers learned tactics to identify students with potential to thrive in AP courses, even if they might not pass the end of year test. Teachers were told by workshop leaders that if students challenge themselves, they can benefit from the advanced courses by getting a taste of college rigor.

“If they increase enrollment in their course they can also increase college readiness, even for students who aren’t your typical AP kids, kids who aren’t considered ‘AP worthy’ or ‘AP ready,’” Hessee said.

The idea that AP courses can be for all students is something Schaelling tries to implement at Harrison.

“We’re trying to get a lot more kids [to take AP classes], and I teach at more of a lower socioeconomic school, so AP for us is a really big deal,” she said. “Teaching them those college skills is essential for them because I know they’re going to go to college. They’re on their way. They just need the skills more than they need the passing test scores.”

Categories: Urban School News

Find out who were the first to give to the Jeffco recall effort

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 07/17/2015 - 11:34

Earlier we reported that the organization behind the recall effort of three conservative school board members in Jefferson County had raised nearly half its fundraising goal of $100,000.

Most of those donations were small, under $100, and from local individuals.

Additionally, a Chalkbeat analysis found about one-fifth of the individuals who gave to recall effort listed Jeffco Public Schools as their employer.

Who were the first to open up their wallets to support the recall?

You can find out in our database below. Use the slider to narrow by a dollar figure or sort by city or employer.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Senate takes big step in updating education law

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 07/17/2015 - 09:26

CMAS tests

Scores on statewide elementary and middle school social studies and science tests improved modestly this year compared to 2014, according to results from state tests released Thursday. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Find your school’s 2015 science and social studies scores in our database. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Visualize key test results in these eight graphics. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Beneath modest district-level shifts in science and social studies test scores in Denver this year lie persistent differences between schools — and big changes at individual schools. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

ESEA reauthorization

The U.S. Senate has passed a bill to update the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The measure would reduce the federal role in education and give states more flexibility, but some advocacy groups fear it would weaken school accountability. The Senate bill is considerably different from a House version passed earlier. ( EdWeek, NY Times, Wall Street Journal )

CMAS Tests II

Release of science and social studies test scores drew media attention around the state, including from outlets that focused on the performance of individual districts. ( Denver Post, CPR, Coloradoan, Greeley Tribune, Reporter-Herald, Daily Camera, Gazette, Daily Sentinel )

school discipline

Some parents complain the principal of Denver’s Cheltenham Elementary School principal humiliates Latino students. ( Colorado Independent )

Growing pains

Expansion plans at a Durango middle school are proving controversial. ( Durango Herald )

Brand new

The Greeley district has finished construction on Prairie Heights Middle School, which replaces a badly outdated building. ( Greeley Tribune )

PARCC victory

A New Mexico judge has rejected a closely-watched legal challenge made against the PARCC testing group. ( EdWeek )

Categories: Urban School News

In Denver, big swings in some schools’ scores, even as district follows state trends

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 07/16/2015 - 19:41

Beneath modest district-level shifts in science and social studies test scores in Denver this year lie persistent differences between schools — and big changes at individual schools.

In one notable example, three schools run by DSST, a lauded charter network in Denver that recently got the green light to expand significantly over the next decade, saw science scores drop, in one case from 72 percent proficiency last year to just 50 percent this year. The schools posted increases in social studies scores.

This is the second year the state has administered new science and social studies assessments, known as Colorado Measures of Academic Success or CMAS.

Districtwide, science scores fell slightly in middle schools but rose in elementary school, while social studies scores inched upwards at both levels. Those overall trajectories were in line with state trends, though Denver’s scores are lower than state averages.

In Denver, 14.5 percent of 4th graders scored strong or distinguished in social studies. That’s up from 11 percent last year. 15.8 percent of 7th graders scored strong or distinguished in social studies, up from 11.6 percent last year.

And 22 percent of 5th graders scored strong or distinguished on the science exam, up from 19.6 percent last year. Twenty percent of 8th graders met state expectations in science, down from 22 percent last year.

But at five elementary schools and five middle schools, no students scored strong or distinguished on the science exams. And at 10 elementary schools and eight middle schools, no students scored strong or distinguished on social studies exams. Those schools tended to be in higher-poverty areas.

On the other hand, more than half of students scored strong or distinguished on social studies tests at seven schools, and more than half of students scored strong or distinguished on science tests at 21 schools.

[Use Chalkbeat’s database to find individual schools’ and districts’ results.]

In DPS and throughout the state, students are significantly less likely to meet the state’s expectations in science and social studies than in English and math. More than 50 percent of Denver students scored proficient or advanced in reading and more than 40 percent scored proficient or advanced in math.

“We continue to see that students overall are wrestling with expectations in these disciplines,” said Alyssa Whitehead-Bust, the district’s chief academic and innovation officer. “That’s both a struggle and an opportunity.”

“Principals will be digging into the data,” she said.

The science and social studies CMAS scores are not currently used as a measure on the district’s School Performance Framework, the scorecard the district uses to monitor and make decisions about schools.

Whitehead-Bust said she is hopeful that new district initiatives, like a literacy-focused training for teachers, will help improve science and social studies performance.

She said that schools must balance competing priorities when determining how much time to devote to instruction in the subjects. But, she said, the Common Core standards and EngageNY, a new curricular resource that will be used in a number of schools, emphasize tying literacy lessons to science and social studies content.

Using the scores

High rates of free or reduced-price lunch at a school — a measure used as a proxy for low-income status — were often tied to lower overall scores. The elementary schools with the top five scores in science, for instance, all have fewer than 10 percent of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, while the ten schools with the lowest scores all had 87 percent or more.

The trend wasn’t universally true, however. DSST: Stapleton and GALS, both of which have more than 50 percent of students eligible for free and reduced price lunch, had some of the top scores in middle school science. KIPP Sunshine Peak, which has 95 percent of kids in poverty, had scores well above the district average.

Whitehead-Bust said that teachers would use information about gaps in scores to help meet individual students’ needs. Noting the state’s gaps between English language learners and their peers, she said, “We’re going to have to continue to focus on how do we better equip ourselves and our schools with culturally and linguistically appropriate strategies.”

Experts cautioned against drawing too much meaning from this year’s scores.

Derek Briggs, a professor at CU Boulder who focuses on assessment and evaluation, emphasized that there is still just two years of data and that the numbers represent different cohorts of students rather than a single cohort’s growth from year to year.

“When you see a big jump or drop that’s different in other schools, that’s a smoke signal. And sometimes there’s fire, and sometimes there’s just noise,” Briggs said.

In some Denver schools, big shifts came as schools underwent significant changes. Pioneer Charter School, where 6 percent of students were strong or advanced this year compared to 24 percent last year, is undergoing a change in management due to low performance.

DSST executive director Bill Kurtz said it was not clear what drove the drops at three DSST middle schools. DSST: Stapleton dropped from 72 percent in 2014 to 50 percent in 2015; DSST: Cole dropped from 49 percent to 32 percent; and DSST: Green Valley Ranch dropped from 46 to 29 percent. Those scores are still well above the district average for 2015.

“We take seriously data that we get on our students and their achievement,” Kurtz said. “We’re excited to continue the good work in social studies and to dig in and understand the science scores and continue to grow them.”

Whitehead-Bust said that the district will take into account test scores before green-lighting the opening of any new schools. “We remain really confident in DSST’s ability to analyze and adjust programs in response to data, but we’ve put progress monitoring systems in place so we can be sure that schools are continuing to post the same outcomes for students.”

  • The five elementary schools with the highest scores in social studies: Polaris at Ebert; Steck Elementary; Cory Elementary; Carson Elementary; Park Hill Elementary
  • The five middle schools with the highest scores in social studies: DSST: Byers; Slavens K-8; McAuliffe International; DSST: Stapleton; and Denver School of the Arts.
  • The five elementary schools with the highest scores in science:
    Polaris at Ebert Elementary; Steck Elementary; Carson Elementary; Cory Elementary; Bromwell Elementary.
  • The five middle schools with the highest scores in science: Slavens K-8; Denver School of the Arts; McAuliffe International School; DSST: Stapleton; and the Girls Athletic Leadership School.
Categories: Urban School News

Colorado’s 2015 science and social studies test results in eight graphs

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 07/16/2015 - 13:59

The Colorado Department of Education today released the results from the state’s social studies and science tests that some elementary and middle school students took this spring.

Generally, scores were up this year, which was only the second times the tests have ever been give. But eighth grade students did lose ground in science.

You can read our story about the results here. And search a database for your school’s scores here. But let’s take a look at the numbers in eight graphs. Each graph shows the percentage of students who met or exceeded expectations. Those students are considered to have either a “strong” or “distinguished” command of the content on the test and are on track for life after high school.

jQuery(function () { jQuery('#10science').highcharts({ chart: { type: 'column' }, title: { text: '10 largest school districts science results ' }, xAxis: { categories: ['State', 'Denver', 'Jefferson County', 'Douglas County', 'Cherry Creek', 'Aurora', 'Adams 12', 'St. Vrain', 'Boulder Valley', 'Poudre', 'Colorado Springs 11' ] }, yAxis: { min: 0, title: { text: 'Percent strong or distinguished command' } }, tooltip: { headerFormat: '{point.key}', pointFormat: '{series.name}: ' + '{point.y:.1f}', footerFormat: '', shared: true, useHTML: true }, credits: { enabled: false }, plotOptions: { column: { pointPadding: 0.2, borderWidth: 0 } }, series: [{ name: '2014 5th Grade', color: '#e9a3c9', data: [34, 20, 42, 44, 44, 14, 30, 41, 57, 49, 25] }, { name: '2015 5th Grade', color: '#c51b7d', data: [35, 22, 44, 45, 44, 13, 32, 43, 60, 51, 28] }, { name: '2014 8th Grade', color: '#a1d76a', data: [35, 22, 44, 37, 41, 13, 33, 38, 42, 48, 27] }, { name: '2015 8th Grade', color: '#4d9221', data: [29, 20, 39, 35, 38, 11, 28, 35, 39, 42, 24] } ] }); });

Most of the state’s largest districts followed state trends in both science and social studies. Boulder led the pack in fifth grade science tests. While Podure eighth grades did the best on their science tests.

jQuery(function () { jQuery('#10ss').highcharts({ chart: { type: 'column' }, title: { text: '10 largest school districts social studies results ' }, xAxis: { categories: ['State', 'Denver', 'Jefferson County', 'Douglas County', 'Cherry Creek', 'Aurora', 'Adams 12', 'St. Vrain', 'Boulder Valley', 'Poudre', 'Colorado Springs 11' ] }, yAxis: { min: 0, title: { text: 'Percent strong or distinguished command' } }, tooltip: { headerFormat: '{point.key}', pointFormat: '{series.name}: ' + '{point.y:.1f}', footerFormat: '', shared: true, useHTML: true }, credits: { enabled: false }, plotOptions: { column: { pointPadding: 0.2, borderWidth: 0 } }, series: [{ name: '2014 4th Grade', color: '#b2abd2', data: [17, 11, 22, 21, 28, 5, 17, 24, 32, 28, 11] }, { name: '2015 4th Grade', color: '#5e3c99', data: [22, 15, 28, 25, 34, 7, 23, 27, 39, 38, 13] }, { name: '2014 7th Grade', color: '#fdb863', data: [17, 12, 23, 21, 24, 7, 16, 21, 25, 26, 13] }, { name: '2015 7th Grade', color: '#e66101', data: [18, 15, 23, 23, 25, 7, 17, 21, 25, 26, 13] } ] }); });

None of the state’s largest school districts lost ground in social studies.

jQuery(function () { jQuery('#frlscience').highcharts({ chart: { type: 'column' }, title: { text: 'Science scores in large districts with high FRL rates' }, xAxis: { categories: ['Aurora - 69% FRL', 'Denver - 70% FRL', 'Harrison - 72% FRL', 'Colorado Springs 11 - 60% FRL', 'Pueblo City - 72% FRL', 'Greeley - 62% FRL', 'State' ] }, yAxis: { min: 0, title: { text: 'Percent strong or distinguished command' } }, tooltip: { headerFormat: '{point.key}', pointFormat: '{series.name}: ' + '{point.y:.1f}', footerFormat: '', shared: true, useHTML: true }, credits: { enabled: false }, plotOptions: { column: { pointPadding: 0.2, borderWidth: 0 } }, series: [{ name: '2014 5th Grade', color: '#e9a3c9', data: [14, 20, 29, 25, 20, 19, 34] }, { name: '2015 5th Grade', color: '#c51b7d', data: [13, 22, 30, 28, 18, 22, 33] }, { name: '2014 8th Grade', color: '#a1d76a', data: [13, 22, 26, 27, 21, 18, 35] }, { name: '2015 8th Grade', color: '#4d9221', data: [11, 20, 20, 24, 18, 17, 29] } ] }); });

Even though some ground was lost, students in large school districts with high free- or reduced-lunch rates in the Pikes Peak Region seemed to do better than their counter parts across the state.

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In a bit of shock, Denver’s largest — and arguably most successful — charter network DSST lost the most ground of any of the city’s middle schools in eighth grade science. The network’s middle school are still among the district’ best, its leaders point out. Meanwhile KIPP Sunshine made biggest gains, jumping nearly 10 percentage points.

jQuery(function () { jQuery('#containersoc').highcharts({ chart: { type: 'column' }, title: { text: 'Biggest gains, losses in Denver 4th grade social studies' }, xAxis: { categories: ['District Average', 'University Park Elementary School', 'Edison Elementary School', 'William (Bill) Roberts K-8 School', 'Lincoln Elementary School', 'Steele Elementary School', 'Whittier K-8 School', 'Montclair Elementary School', 'Kaiser Elementary School', 'Cory Elementary School', 'Bromwell Elementary School' ] }, yAxis: { min: 0, title: { text: 'Percent strong or distinguished command' } }, tooltip: { headerFormat: '{point.key}', pointFormat: '{series.name}: ' + '{point.y:.1f}', footerFormat: '', shared: true, useHTML: true }, credits: { enabled: false }, plotOptions: { column: { pointPadding: 0.2, borderWidth: 0 } }, series: [{ name: '2014', color: '#b2abd2', data: [20, 16.4, 25.8, 22.6, 24.4, 16.4, 6.3, 19, 15.2, 71.1, 64.2] }, { name: '2015', color: '#5e3c99', data: [22, 46, 49.4, 46, 45.7, 36.1, 0, 11.4, 5.4, 60, 52.3] } ] }); });

Denver’s biggest gains and losses on the fourth grade social studies test all came from district-run schools. The losses at Whittier K-8, in northeast Denver, were so great that not a single fourth grader passed the state’s proficiency bar on the social studies test.

jQuery(function () { jQuery('#racess').highcharts({ chart: { type: 'column' }, title: { text: 'State social studies scores by race' }, xAxis: { categories: ['All Students', 'Hispanic', 'American Indian', 'Asian', 'Black', 'White', 'Native Hawaiian', 'Two or more races ' ] }, yAxis: { min: 0, title: { text: 'Percent strong or distinguished command' } }, tooltip: { headerFormat: '{point.key}', pointFormat: '{series.name}: ' + '{point.y:.1f}', footerFormat: '', shared: true, useHTML: true }, credits: { enabled: false }, plotOptions: { column: { pointPadding: 0.2, borderWidth: 0 } }, series: [{ name: '2014 4th Grade', color: '#b2abd2', data: [17, 6, 6, 28, 7, 24, 18, 20] }, { name: '2015 4th Grade', color: '#5e3c99', data: [22, 9, 12, 34, 9, 30, 16, 28] }, { name: '2014 7th Grade', color: '#fdb863', data: [17, 6, 8, 34, 6, 22, 18, 22] }, { name: '2015 7th Grade', color: '#e66101', data: [18, 8, 7, 35, 9, 24, 16, 22] } ] }); });

While three out of every 10 Asian students in Colorado met the state’s expectations on the social studies test this year, fewer than one out of every 10 Latino or black students did.

jQuery(function () { jQuery('#racesci').highcharts({ chart: { type: 'column' }, title: { text: 'State science scores by race' }, xAxis: { categories: ['All Students', 'Hispanic', 'American Indian', 'Asian', 'Black', 'White', 'Native Hawaiian', 'Two or more races ' ] }, yAxis: { min: 0, title: { text: 'Percent strong or distinguished command' } }, tooltip: { headerFormat: '{point.key}', pointFormat: '{series.name}: ' + '{point.y:.1f}', footerFormat: '', shared: true, useHTML: true }, credits: { enabled: false }, plotOptions: { column: { pointPadding: 0.2, borderWidth: 0 } }, series: [{ name: '2014 5th Grade', color: '#e9a3c9', data: [34, 15, 19, 44, 13, 46, 25, 40] }, { name: '2015 5th Grade', color: '#c51b7d', data: [35, 16, 20, 48, 16, 48, 29, 40] }, { name: '2014 8th Grade', color: '#a1d76a', data: [32, 16, 19, 47, 14, 43, 23, 39] }, { name: '2015 8th Grade', color: '#4d9221', data: [29, 13, 15, 45, 12, 40, 27, 36] } ] }); });

Hispanic eighth graders lost more ground than any other ethnic group of students. On average, 3 percentage points were lost among Hispanic students while other ethnic groups saw only a 2 point drop.

jQuery(function () { jQuery('#turnsci').highcharts({ chart: { type: 'column' }, title: { text: 'Turnaround districts science results' }, xAxis: { categories: ['State', 'Adams 14', 'Aurora', 'Ignacio', 'Julesburg', 'Montezuma-Cortez', 'Pueblo City', 'Sheridan', 'Westminster' ] }, yAxis: { min: 0, title: { text: 'Percent strong or distinguished command' } }, tooltip: { headerFormat: '{point.key}', pointFormat: '{series.name}: ' + '{point.y:.1f}', footerFormat: '', shared: true, useHTML: true }, credits: { enabled: false }, plotOptions: { column: { pointPadding: 0.2, borderWidth: 0 } }, series: [{ name: '2014 5th Grade', color: '#e9a3c9', data: [34, 6.4, 14, 12, 19, 16, 20, 10, 12] }, { name: '2015 5th Grade', color: '#c51b7d', data: [33, 9, 13, 18, 0, 16, 18, 19, 16] }, { name: '2014 8th Grade', color: '#a1d76a', data: [35, 12, 13, 16, 35, 17, 21, 11, 12] }, { name: '2015 8th Grade', color: '#4d9221', data: [29, 6, 11, 9, 11, 12, 18, 10, 11] } ] }); });

The Julesburg school district, in Colorado’s most northeastern corner, lost the most ground on science tests this year compared to its peers on the state’s accountability watch list. The dramatic swing is likely due in part to the small size of the school district. Meanwhile, fifth graders in the Sheridan School District, southeast of Denver, made the biggest gains of 9 percentage points.

Data source: Colorado Department of Education. Graphics by Sarah Glen.

Categories: Urban School News

Colorado science, social studies scores show modest uptick

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 07/16/2015 - 13:58

Scores on statewide elementary and middle school social studies and science tests improved modestly this year compared to last year, according to results from state tests released Thursday.

The one exception was scores on the eighth grade science test, where the percentage of students meeting state expectations dropped by 3.5 points.

The percentage of students clearing the state’s proficiency bar increased by 4.8 points in fourth grade social studies, by 1 point in seventh grade social studies and by 1.2 points in fifth grade science, according to the state Department of Education.

In science, 34.8 percent of fifth graders scored high enough to be considered on track, as did 29 percent of eighth graders.

In social studies, 21.8 percent of fourth graders were labeled as having a “strong” or “distinguished” command of the subject, and 17.6 percent of seventh graders were at those levels.

Learn more

The 2015 results provide the first year-to-year comparisons of student performance on the science and social studies tests. Both sets of tests were new in 2014.

“It is important to remember that this is just the second year of these tests,” said Elliott Asp, interim commissioner of education. “We expect to see future growth as teachers and students gain more experience with the standards.”

Testing opt-out rates were generally low in the elementary grades but rose in middle school. The department reported overall parent refusal rates of 2 percent for 4th grade social studies and 4.7 percent in the 7th grade. For science, the 5th grade refusal rate was 2.2 percent. The 8th grade rate was 6.2 percent.

How the tests work

The state’s CMAS testing system assesses students in the two subjects once each in elementary, middle and high school. Science tests are required by the federal government, but the social studies test is a state-only mandate. Neither test is based on the Common Core State Standards, which cover only language arts and math.

High school tests in the two subjects were given to seniors last fall. But due to action by the State Board of Education, individual student results of the 12th grade science tests will be available later this summer, but there will be no public reporting of district and school results. The board declined to set cut scores, or levels of proficiency, for the 12th grade social studies tests, so there are no results available to report.

Based on their scores, students are rated as having distinguished command, strong command, moderate command or limited command of a subject. Scoring in the top two levels is considered an indicator that a student is on track for college or a career.

Breaking down the results

Results of the tests are broken down by gender, ethnicity and other student characteristics. Historically, non-white and low-income students don’t perform as well as white and Asian students.

The department said this year’s achievement gaps were similar to those recorded in 2015.

Here are some key points from the 2015 results:

Gender – Slightly higher percentages of boys than girls scored strong or distinguished on both science tests, reversing 2014’s results. Higher percentages of girls were in the top two levels on both social studies tests.

Ethnicity – In fifth grade science, about 48 percent of white and Asian students were in the top levels, with black and Hispanic students at about 15 percent. The numbers of those students in the top levels increased from 2014. Asian students had the highest percentage in eighth grade, 45.5 percent, and percentages were below 2014 levels for all groups except Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. There were similar results for the social studies tests.

Poverty – The gaps between students eligible for free- and reduced-price lunch and others ranged from 28 to 34 percentage points in science and from 19 to 24 percentage points in social studies. The gaps were similar but slightly smaller for Title I students.

Other factors – There were similar achievement gaps for students identified as non-English proficient and limited English proficient, and for special education students.

Districts’ performance varied

The state’s 20 largest school districts plus the Charter School Institute, or CSI, generally tracked statewide results, but there were variations in percentage changes in students who scored with strong or distinguished command.

  • A dozen districts plus CSI had larger increases than the statewide figure in fifth grade science.
  • All districts dropped in eighth grade science.
  • Fourth-grade social studies was a bright spot with all districts rising, and nine plus CSI showed greater increases than the state as a whole.
  • The results weren’t so good for seventh grade social studies, with five districts declining and eight rising but still below the statewide increase of 1 percent.

The state’s 20 largest districts plus CSI enroll 685,978 students, about 77 percent of the 889,006 pupils in the state. The institute oversees 34 charter schools that aren’t authorized by districts.

The chart below shows the percentage point change in the percentages of students showing strong or distinguished command on the four tests. For example, 33.6 percent of state students were at those levels in fifth grade science in 2014. This year the figure was 34.8 percent, a percentage point change of 1.2.

Opting out rates varied

Some districts were hit by a wave of test refusals by high school seniors last fall. The statewide participation rate for the high school science was 81.8 percent and 81.7 percent for the social studies equivalent.

Test refusal wasn’t quite as strong during spring testing in the four lower grades, but it was noticeable. CDE reported statewide participation rates of 96.8 percent on 4th grade social studies tests and 93 percent in 7th grade.

For science, the participation rate was 96.5 percent in the 5th grade but dropped to 90.8 percent on 8th grade exams.

The department said the parent refusal rate was 2 percent for social studies and 2.2 percent for science. Students can be listed as non-participating for other reasons in addition to parent refusal.

Participation rates are a touchy issue because the federal government requires 95 percent participation or higher on statewide tests. In Colorado districts and schools can be knocked down one level in their state ratings if test taking falls below 95 percent on two or more exams.

But the state’s accountability system is in a one-year timeout because of a law passed by the 2015 legislature. So, according to the department, “participation rates on the 2014-15 assessments will not impact any state school or district accountability rating in 2015.”

The lowest opt-out rate statewide was in 4th grade social studies; the highest was in 8th grade science.

The Thompson, Boulder Valley Cherry Creek and Academy districts generally had the highest refusal rates, while the lowest were recorded in Greeley (reporting no opt outs), Adams 50, Aurora and Denver.

What’s next

The full picture of 2015 Colorado testing will become clearer later this year when CDE releases results from last spring’s language arts and math tests, known as PARCC. Those were given in grades 3-11.

This was the first year for those brand-new computer-based tests, so results won’t be comparable to the 2014 TCAP exams in those subjects. Still, the state faces a potential public relations challenge because it’s expected that the percentages of students scoring in the top levels on PARCC will be lower than the percentages in the top two classifications of TCAP.

Changes are also coming next year in science and social studies testing.

Another testing bill passed last spring requires social studies exams to be given in only a third of schools each year, ending the testing of all 4th and 7th graders.

Science tests will remain the same in elementary and middle school. But because the legislature banned statewide testing in the senior year of high school, the department will have to find a different year for that science test. It’s expected it will moved to spring of the junior year.

Starting next year 11th graders won’t have to take the PARCC language arts and math tests.

See this Chalkbeat Colorado story for a full review of 2016 testing changes. And read this article for an explanation of the role the federal government will play in those changes.

Categories: Urban School News

Find your school’s 2015 science and social studies scores

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 07/16/2015 - 13:57

Scores on statewide elementary and middle school social studies and science tests improved slightly compared to last year, according to results from state tests released Thursday.

The one exception was scores on the eighth grade science test, where the percentage of students meeting state expectations dropped by 3.5 points.

The 2015 results provide the first year-to-year comparisons of student performance on the science and social studies tests. Both sets of tests were new in 2014.

Use this database to find how your school did. And read our story about what the scores mean here.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Analyzing the politics of one school board election

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 07/16/2015 - 09:47

Recall

The organization behind the recall effort of three conservative school board members in Jefferson County has raised nearly half its fundraising goal, $43,000, in just two weeks. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Q&A with Kiley

In it's third installment, Chalkbeat speaks to DPS board candidate Michael Kiley. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Jeffco negotiations

After months of heated debate, the Jefferson County School District and the teachers union have agreed on most items of a new contract. ( 9news )

TSD Board news

Thompson School District’s increasingly politicized Board of Education may change the face of school board elections in Northern Colorado. ( Coloradoan )

Donna Rice announced that she will not seek re-election to the Thompson School District Board of Education, making this the fourth seat up for grabs in the November election. ( Reporter-Herald )

Under Construction

Three areas of Peak to Peak Charter School's K-12 campus in Lafayette are under construction this summer. The $10.2 million project had been on hold since 2010 because of state cuts to K-12 education. ( Daily Camera )

Full of energy

Mead High School is ready to debut its new energy academy in the fall, with oil-and-gas and solar firms lending a hand to get the program going. ( Longmont Times )

Off roading

Starting this coming school year, Keenesburg School District students who live on dirt or gravel roads will have to catch the bus at a designated stop on a paved road instead of the buses traveling from house-to-house due to a new district policy. ( 9news )

In the spotlight

Education advocates in Colorado are moving beyond policy briefs and fact sheets: “The Colorado School Experience,” a new video project, launched this week. ( Durango Herald )

Traffic jam

A neighborhood meeting about Colorado State University's proposed new medical center drew about 40 people Wednesday night, with a good portion of the question-and-answer session focusing on traffic impacts to one of Fort Collins’ busiest intersections. ( Coloradoan )

In the money

Colorado State University this week announced a fourth consecutive year of record private fundraising, totaling $172.3 million. ( Denver Post )

Categories: Urban School News

Jeffco teacher contract talks stumble over length of agreement

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 07/16/2015 - 09:43

Officials from Jeffco Public Schools and the Jefferson County Education Association left the bargaining table Wednesday afternoon without a contract for the suburban school district’s teachers — and it’s uncertain when they’ll return.

When they do, the teachers union wants members of the Jeffco school board there to explain why they want a 10-month agreement.

Talks on Wednesday ended over a disagreement on how long the contract should last. The duration of the contract for the district’s more than 5,000 teachers is the final issue to be negotiated.

The teachers union wants a three-year contract to run from Sept. 1, 2015 through Aug. 31, 2018. The district wants a contract to expire in 10 months, on June 30, 2016.

“We are now calling upon the board to come to the bargaining table to express its interests around the duration of this agreement,” wrote JCEA president John Ford in a letter to the district’s five board members. “We feel that with more clarity directly from you, the decision makers, we can be successful in finding a mutually agreeable solution. We are available to meet with the board at your convenience.”

In a statement, Jeffco Superintendent Dan McMinimee signaled that a 10-month deal is the district’s final offer.

The district’s rational for a 10-month contract is that it provides both teachers and the district to adjust to a more streamlined contract and it would align the bargaining process with the budget process.

“We believe this agreement is good for Jeffco students and Jeffco teachers and I hope the final document can be agreed to quickly and we can continue to provide a great education for our kids,” McMinimee said. 

A 10-month contract would be a bit unorthodox. According to research by the National Council on Teacher Quality, the average collective bargaining agreement for teachers unions in the United States is three years. However, Jeffco and JCEA have previously had one-year contracts.

Contract negotiations between the teachers union and district, the second largest in Colorado, have been ongoing since March. More than 140 hours have been spent negotiating. In total, the agreement’s length has been reduced by about 60 percent. That was a huge priority for the school board.

Talks broke down temporarily during the spring over teacher compensation. However, an agreement was reached and negotiations quickly resumed.

In June, the district shared with the union a nearly-completed draft contract. The two sides have been using that document and a table of contents supplied by the union as a to-do list to complete the contract.

The current contract expires Aug. 31, about two weeks after school starts in Jefferson County. Any new contract must be ratified by the unions’ members and approved by the school board.

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Categories: Urban School News

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