Menu
Paid Advertisement
view counter

Struggling Aurora Central High will have new leader next fall

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 06/17/2015 - 18:46

The high school at the heart of Aurora Public Schools’ most ambitious school improvement efforts will have a new interim principal this fall.

The suburban school district has released Mark Roberts from his principalship duties at Aurora Central High School and offered him a new position within the district, a spokeswoman confirmed.

Roberts’ exit comes as Aurora school officials have earned preliminary nods from their school board and the State Board of Education to begin creating a plan for a network of schools — including Aurora Central — that would work together outside of some state and district policies to improve learning for students

“In light of this desire for change, APS will be hiring an interim leader with unique experience to assist with this change,” spokeswoman Patti Moon said in a statement. “We can assure the Aurora Central community that the interim principal will actively engage students and families while focusing on improving student achievement.”

Moon declined further comment until Roberts accepted the job or not.

Roberts did not return an email request for an interview. He was principal at Aurora Central for two years. Under his leadership, the academically struggling school, which has run out of time on the state’s accountability timeline, made slight improvements on tests scores. But impressions of Roberts’ tenure have been mixed among community members, parents, students, and staff.

Robert’s replacement will be one of 11 new principals in APS this fall.

This year APS changed the way it screened for and hired principals. But given the proximity to the start of the school year, Aurora Superintendent Rico Munn will make the selection of who replaces Roberts.

The most substantial change to the process is what APS’s Chief Personnel Officer Damon Smith calls “performance-based activities.”

Principal candidates, very early in the application process, were asked to role play three or four different scenarios principals might encounter on a daily basis. Those situations included providing a teacher with feedback on a lesson, dissecting student data and creating a strategy to improve results, and working through a parent complaint.

One of the reasons why APS changed how it hired principals was because of student achievement, Smith said.

“In our district, we have a lot of work to do,” Smith said. “We need to get a better understanding of a person’s ability.”

Between the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school year, 16 APS schools will have new principals. Of those, nine are on the state’s accountability watch list for poor academic performance.

Hiring an effective principal is paramount to boosting student learning, said Kim Knous Dolan, associate director at the Donnell-Kay Foundation, who has lead research on Colorado school principals.

(Disclosure: Chalkbeat Colorado is a grantee of the Donnell-Kay Foundation.)

“A principal is the person who is going to hire teachers, support teachers, hopefully keep teachers, who are the most important in student learning gains,” Knous Dolan said. “Principals are the glue that makes sure the entire school is achieving and growing.”

Knous Dolan and other education observers interviewed by Chalkbeat noted the growing pressures on and different responsibilities of principals makes it difficult to recruit and identify quality leaders. That challenge is even more difficult when hiring a principal to turn around an academically struggling campus.

“Turnaround leaders in particular need a relentless focus on achievement, need to be able influence others, and impact change,” Knous Dolan said.

Peter Sherman, the state’s school turnaround leader, added that school district officials hiring principals need to think carefully about the unique challenges each school has and what skills are need to address those challenges.

“I don’t think there is an ideal principal description,” Sherman said. “Schools need different people at different times.”

To help build those skills in new and veteran principals, the Colorado Department of Education has given $1.6 million to 13 school districts , including Aurora, to send 45 principals to specialized turnaround training.

That training might be useful for whoever goes on to lead Aurora Central, said Michelle Ancell, vice president of the Aurora Central High School alumni association.

“I think the issues facing Central are very complicated,” she said. “They go beyond the classroom and the school building. … I think the issues that have faced every principal at Central — including Dr. Roberts — are going to affect the new principal as well. Not only the academic issues but the societal issues as well.”

Categories: Urban School News

Robots, up-cycled art, and more rule in Denver summer learning offerings

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 06/17/2015 - 17:31

Mixing and matching robotic cubes that looked straight out of a science fiction movie, a classroom of about 20 students demonstrated how they’d be spending their time in a summer program focused on building hands-on science and engineering skills called Science Matters in America.

The kids assembled the cubes in different ways to see how they behaved, like figuring out what combinations caused the blocks to light up or move backward.

Science Matters was one of six summer programs showed off for community members, district officials and school leaders at Denver Public Schools’ National Learning Day, held Wednesday at Johnson Elementary School. The event, a joint effort between DPS and the Denver Afterschool Alliance (DAA), highlighted the importance of after-school and summer learning programs in Denver.

According to data from DAA, 17 after-school programs collectively served more than 5,000 students in Denver during the 2013-14 school year. City and district officials emphasized the role that the programs play in preventing learning loss during the summer months, especially for low-income students who often don’t have access to rich summer educational programming.

The event was meant to display the diversity of offerings in the city’s summer learning programs, which included art projects like creating “up-cycled” art from old magazines, sports and wellness activities like goalie practice, to language practice for students learning English.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Grand Junction schools shift to performance-based learning

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 06/17/2015 - 09:44

On My Own

Nearly one-fifth of Denver principals are taking the district up on an offer to opt their schools out of centrally-provided curriculum or professional development programs next school year and instead choose their own. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Saying goodbye

Colorado Education Commissioner Robert Hammond got a highly complimentary send off Tuesday. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

A new direction

Seven schools in Grand Junction's will use performance-based learning next fall. Instead of traditional quarter or semester grades, students will earn credit for consuming curriculum in bite-size chunks, prove they understand that curriculum as soon or late as they can and move on. ( Grand Junction Sentinel )

life lessons

More than 200 Daniels Fund scholarship winners will participate in a program that teaches ethics, etiquette, social and other skills. ( 9News )

Summer science

Some Colorado high school students built and designed experiments on how silver crystals react in the weightlessness of space. Those crystals could potentially be used in the manufacturing of electronic wiring. ( 9News )

a dying wish

Individuals are performing random acts of kindness and posting about them on social media in honor of a dying Colorado student. ( Longmont Times-Call )

Can you tell me how to get ...

The most authoritative study done about the impact of “Sesame Street” finds that the famous show on public TV has delivered lasting educational benefits to millions of American children – benefits as powerful as the ones children get from going to preschool. ( Washington Post via The Durango Herald )

teaching the teacher

This week, the Levine and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation announced a $30 million partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with the goal of creating a better model for teacher training. ( NPR via KUNC )

Categories: Urban School News

In first test of flexibility plan, nearly a fifth of Denver principals go their own way

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 06/16/2015 - 21:39

Nearly one-fifth of Denver principals are taking the district up on an offer to opt their schools out of centrally-provided curriculum or professional development programs next school year and instead choose their own.

This is the first year principals have that option, after the Denver school board told district officials at a meeting in May that school leaders should have the flexibility to set their own programs.

Since that meeting, district staff have been scrambling to make the board’s vision for a more decentralized district — a marked departure from the current arrangement, in which most schools’ academic programs are automatically set by the district office — a reality.

The principals’ decisions to opt in and out are the first firm evidence of whether they are actually interested in the decision-making power they are being granted.

Alyssa Whitehead-Bust, the district’s chief academic and innovation officer, said on Tuesday that about 81 percent had chosen to keep district services so far. A final list of which schools are opting in or out will be available later this week.

“I think this [rate of principals opting in] is about what we expected. We thought [the new district-selected curriculum] would meet the needs of the majority of schools,” said Whitehead-Bust. “It’s the first time that we’ve done this, so there’s no baseline data.”

She said many of the school leaders who are opting out of either professional development or curriculum work at innovation schools, which already have some flexibility over their academic programs. The district’s charter schools also have complete control over their academic programs.

But some are principals at the district’s traditional schools, for whom the ability to choose academic programs is a new development.

Responding to the change

The board’s instructions to the district to give school leaders control over academic programs, effective immediately, came as a surprise to DPS staff. Several staffers told Chalkbeat they anticipated an eventual move toward more school-based decision-making, but didn’t expect it to happen so soon.

A nearly-completed new academic strategic plan, for instance, had to be significantly revised to reflect the accelerated introduction of flexibility.

Well after school budgets had been set for the upcoming year, principals were suddenly tasked with deciding whether to change programs.

The district’s finance department, which had also already set the district’s 2015-16 budget, had to rework how funds for curriculum and professional development would be distributed to schools that chose not to participate in district programs.

And the process for helping principals pick their own materials had to be developed from scratch. A new website — flexibility.dpsk12.org — was created to host resources and timelines. District staff held webinars and consulted with principals, who were reassured that the same flexibility would be available in 2016-17.

Given the short timeline, “I’m excited about how much the team’s been able to develop and deliver,” Whitehead-Bust said. “With time they’ll be able to revise and refine the processes.”

Still, among some teachers and even some principals, “it’s created a great deal of confusion,” said Henry Roman, the president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association. “You can’t just make a decision that’s going to impact an entire year in just a couple weeks, without having enough time to plan, think, bring people on board.”

He said that while the idea of giving school leaders more freedom to choose academic programs in their schools is interesting, it’s not yet clear what the results will be. “I hope whatever decisions they make are driven by strong data on instruction.”

Practical changes

In the meantime, the change has brought up numerous practical concerns.

Since the district adopts curricular resources in chunks in order to pace spending — purchasing, for instance, new middle school math books one year and new elementary school literacy books in another — there is simply not enough money for all schools to buy new books every year.

Mark Ferrandino, the district’s chief financial officer, said the solution is that schools that would receive new materials next year anyway will receive $104 per student for curriculum. Schools will be eligible for those funds on a cycle.

“So if we’re rolling out fourth grade curriculum and a high school says they’re not opting in, they don’t necessarily get money for curriculum because we weren’t rolling out curriculum for high school,” he said.

Schools that choose their own professional development will receive approximately $22 per hour per teacher to cover teachers’ extra time on the job during that schools’ new programs.

Ferrandino said the approach to budgeting for flexibility might change as soon as 2016-17, depending on how the coming school year goes.

Whitehead-Bust said most principals were interested in how to make sure their school is serving English language learners. Very few academic materials currently on the market are both aligned to the Common Core State Standards in English and math and meet Denver’s requirements under a federal court order to offer programs in Spanish for Spanish-speaking students.

Putting so much decision-making power in the hands of principals in a district where principals’ tenures are, on average, just three years and where students often move between schools also raises the specter of schools where academic programs are changed frequently or where students get lost in the shuffle.

Whitehead-Bust said a combination of consultations with district staff and budget constraints should help prevent rapid swings or inconsistencies.

Nick Dawkins, who will be the principal at Manual High School next year, said that he is planning to opt out of district-offered professional development for teachers next year. He said the flexibility allows him to tailor his resources to his teachers’ needs, rather than have to adapt the district’s programs to suit the school.

“That’s big. A lot of teachers have talked about being crushed by the weight of initiatives, so this has really changed the conversations,” he said. “Even people who are delivering services went from, ‘next year you’re going to be doing this’ to ‘next year, this is what we can offer.'”

Dawkins said he thinks the changes will require principals to work together differently, perhaps pooling together to purchase resources or working together to make sure feeder patterns of schools in a given geographic area have academic programs that mesh together.

“It will be interesting to watch,” he said.

Categories: Urban School News

Despite uncertainty, Education Commissioner Robert Hammond exits on a celebratory note

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 06/16/2015 - 21:38

A retirement party is an occasion for saying nice things, and education Commissioner Robert Hammond received a highly complimentary send off Tuesday.

Hammond is leaving the Department of Education at the end of month after serving as commissioner since 2011. (See this story about Hammond’s April announcement and this article about his thoughts on Colorado education.)

The atmosphere was mostly smiles and good feelings in the ornate lobby of the Department of Education as scores of CDE employees and figures from the state’s education community gathered for a farewell reception.

But Hammond is leaving at a time of division on the State Board of Education and uncertainty about the future leadership of the agency. Board chair Marcia Neal generated shock waves last week when she announced her resignation, citing divisions on the board (see story).

Both Neal and Gov. John Hickenlooper injected those uncertainties into Tuesday’s celebration.

Neal said the board needs to “remove that focus on political squabbles and return our focus to the children.”

The governor said, “Our [state] school board shouldn’t be partisan. … We should be looking for ways to bring people together.”

And Hammond sparked prolonged applause from the crowd when he called Neal “a pillar of strength.”

What they said

Although the commissioner of education is the only state department chief who’s not appointed by the governor, Hammond’s retirement party drew both Hickenlooper and Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, who’s also director of the Department of Higher Education. Here are some comments.

  • “What’s remarkable about Robert Hammond and the board [is] no one’s given in to frustration. … There was no limit to what Robert and his team did, and the board did.” –Hickenlooper
  • “I can’t believe you and Marcia are leaving at the same time. It seems karmically unjust.” – Hickenlooper
  • Hammond is “a good man who cares about the right things” and who’s navigated “the choppy seas and shark-infested waters that we refer to as public education.” – Garcia
  • “He set out to build a first-class organization, and he did that.” – Neal
  • “No one else has earned retirement more than Robert has.” – Interim Commissioner Elliott Asp
What he said

Hammond’s remarks focused on his efforts to build a strong team at CDE and to provide more service and less regulation to districts. Here are some quotes.

  • “We have to keep our eyes on how education will change in the future.”
  • “We all have to come together despite our differences for the children of this state. … The success we have experienced in this state is because of all of us working together.”
  • “What’s amazing is what we’ve been able to accomplish,” given all the education changes and new programs launched by the legislature in recent years.
  • “Our children will live up to our expectations.”
Faces in the crowd

Garcia was the joker among the afternoon’s speakers, telling the crowd, “I see the crazies on the right and the crazies on the left, the crazy reformers and the crazy traditionalists.”

Among those crazies was a good mix of Colorado education names, including:

All State Board members plus former members Elaine Gantz Berman and Paul Lundeen … state Sens. Andy Kerr and Nancy Todd … a selection of superintendents including Harry Bull of Cherry Creek, Scott Murphy of Littleton, Bruce Messinger of Boulder and DPS’ Tom Boasberg, among others.

Education interest groups also were well represented, including Ken DeLay from CASB, Kerrie Dallman of CEA, Scott Laband of Colorado Succeeds, Bill Jaeger from the Colorado Children’s Campaign, Van Schoales from A+ Denver and Nora Flood of the Colorado League of Charter Schools.

Changing of the guard

Tuesday’s event was more than Hammond’s retirement party. it marked the end of an era for CDE. Not only are Hammond and Neal leaving, but top Hammond aides Keith Owen, Jill Hawley and Janelle Asmus also are headed to new jobs. The board’s top staffer, Carey Markel, already has left. Other departures are expected ahead of the hiring of a new commissioner and the inevitable management changes that will bring.

The department’s overseers, the seven elected members of the sometimes-fractious State Board, are in for their own changes. A 3rd District vacancy committee will select a replacement for Neal, and the Republican-controlled board will elected new officers after that.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Colorado district participates in active shooter drill

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 06/16/2015 - 09:47

Autonomy

The Denver Post editorial board commends Denver Public Schools' move to give principals more decision-making power. ( Denver Post )

Meal Time

Colorado still has one of the lowest rates of summer meal participation in the country. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Earnings

The Douglas County district plans to give staff raises. ( Douglas County News-Press )

Preparation

The Fountain-Fort Carson District 8 plans to participate in an active shooter drill. ( The Gazette )

Into Space

A group of Centennial students are sending their science project to the International Space Station. ( 9News )

Running

St. Vrain board member Joie Seagrist announced she is running for re-election to one of the school board's three open seats. ( Daily Camera )

Trajectories

Glenda Ritz, the librarian who defeated education reform favorite Tony Bennett to become Indiana's state superintendent in 2012, is now running for governor. What that means for education politics in the state. ( Chalkbeat Indiana )

Getting Along

The Jefferson County teachers union agreed to a pay plan for next year. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Funding

Letter to the editor: Charter schools funding should depend on schools opening doors to more students. ( Reporter-Herald )

School funding

More Colorado districts are showing signs of financial distress. ( Fort Morgan Times )

Teacher Turnover

The Pagosa Daily Post wraps up a four-part series on teacher turnover with some musings on State Board of Education chair Marcia Neal's retirement. ( Pagosa Daily Post )

Categories: Urban School News

Colorado makes gains in summer meal participation but still low-ranked nationally

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 06/15/2015 - 20:01

When it comes to feeding low-income children when school’s out during the summer months, Colorado is at the back of the pack.

Last year, it ranked 44th  among the states and Washington DC in summer meal participation as a ratio of school year meal participation by low-income students. That ranking comes from an annual report from the Food Research and Action Center, a national group often referred to as FRAC.

Still, observers here say Colorado’s poor showing in the FRAC report doesn’t tell the whole story and obscures the state’s progress over the last five years.

Last year, the state served nearly 1.5 million summer meals, almost double the number served in 2009, advocates say. In addition, a statewide coalition of summer meal stakeholders recently ramped up efforts in high-needs communities with few or no summer meal offerings. There are 31 meal sites this summer in 29 “high priority” locations such as Alamosa, Sterling and Yuma, compared to 12 last summer.

Finding summer meal sites

“We have done incredible work to grow participation in Colorado, but there’s a lot of work still to be done,” said Cate Blackford, child nutrition program manager for Hunger Free Colorado.

The state’s goal this year is to increase total meals served by 7 percent. The meal program, which takes place at schools, churches and other community locations, is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture or USDA. It’s free for all children 18 and under.

Here are the best and worst performing states in FRAC’s annual summer meals report. The ratio indicates how many students get USDA-funded summer meals for every 100 low-income students who get school meals the rest of the year.

One statistical factor that appears to suppress Colorado’s summer meal numbers on the FRAC report is the fact that the organization looks at average daily meal attendance in July, the slower of the two big summer meal months here.

State officials say they understand why FRAC looks at July—for apples-to-apples state comparisons—but with many Colorado schools letting out in late May, June is the busier month.

In fact, if the state’s June meal attendance numbers from 2014 had been subbed in for the July numbers used by FRAC, Colorado would have achieved a ranking of 38th.

The rural conundrum

One of the biggest barriers to summer meal participation in Colorado is getting the kids to the food, especially in far-flung rural areas. All told, 44 percent of the state’s children live in rural or mixed rural settings, according to the 2015 Kids COUNT Colorado report.

“I think the impact of poverty is magnified by living in rural communities,” said Devin Koontz, public affairs director for the Mountain Plains region of the USDA.

Not only are there fewer summer meal sites in such communities, they may be all but impossible to access for families who live far away or lack reliable transportation.

Koontz noted that none of the 10 states in the USDA’s Mountain Plains region—most of them with large rural populations—made FRAC’s top 10 for summer meal participation. That honor belongs mostly to East Coast states like New York, Vermont and Connecticut.

PHOTO: Mesa County Valley School District 51The Mesa County Valley district launched a mobile meals program this summer with $58,000 from the Western Colorado Community Foundation. The “Lunch Lizard” van came about after three of five district schools stopped offering summer meals because they could no longer pay for accompanying activities.

One major exception is New Mexico, which ranked 2nd on the FRAC report.

That state, which like Colorado releases students from school in late May, is both more rural and impoverished than Colorado. It also got a head start in offering federally-reimbursed summer meals, joining the program in 1969 when it began as a pilot. In contrast, Colorado joined after the program went national in 1975.

Compared to about 547 summer meal sites in Colorado this summer, New Mexico has about 900.

Advocates in Colorado are intrigued by their southerly neighbor’s success. Brehan Riley, program manager in the Colorado Department of Education’s Office of School Nutrition, said she and a colleague joked about taking a field trip to New Mexico.

Reagan Smetak, chief of the Family Nutrition bureau in New Mexico’s Department of Children Youth and Families, credited the program’s reach partly to involvement from the governor and other top officials.

“We get that support from the highest levels,” he said.

Jennifer Ramo, executive director of the poverty policy organization New Mexico Appleseed, said she doesn’t think the state does anything drastically different from other states. The food is about the same. The types of sponsors and sites are also similar.

“I think it’s been many years of working hard,” she said.

Creating buzz

One possible difference between Colorado and New Mexico may have to do with how the two states have educated the public about summer meals.

“We do a huge amount of outreach and I think it makes a big difference,” said Ramo.

Such efforts include handing out summer meal maps to students before schools let out and having top state officials attend summer meal kick-off events across the state. In addition, TV and radio stations often run public service announcements or otherwise cover the program.

PHOTO: Colorado Department of Education The Colorado Department of Education is advertising the summer meals program on city buses.

Colorado officials agree that public awareness is critical and say there are efforts underway to advertise the state’s summer meal program on RTD buses, in light rail cars, at select AMC movie theaters and even on receipts from certain Family Dollar stores. They’ve also sent postcards to families who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, and worked with the Rockies baseball team and the Rapids soccer team to publicize the program.

“We’re just trying to ramp up the marketing and outreach pieces,” said Riley.

There’s also a push to experiment with mobile meals, which rely on buses or trucks to deliver meals to several sites within a community each day. Nine meal sponsors use that model in Colorado.

“We really believe that is a huge way to increase participation,” said Riley.

Interestingly, New Mexico has just two mobile meal programs: One in the capitol city of Santa Fe and one launched this summer in a small town east of Albuquerque.

Different model for the future?

Despite New Mexico’s relative success in delivering summer meals to low-income children, advocates there have no illusions that it’s easy, especially in remote areas.

It often comes down to nitty gritty details like ensuring that a meal site has a working refrigerator or a community organization without Internet access can circumvent the web-based application to become a summer meal sponsor.

“If someone needs a refrigerator, we make sure they get it,” said Ramo. “It’s that level of problem-solving required to address the gaps.”

An easier solution, she said, would be the addition of money during the summer months to low-income parents’ electronic benefit transfer cards. Such a program was piloted in 10 states a couple years ago and advocates believe it could make a dramatic difference.

Congress would have to act to open that program to all states.

“If we could expand that program, we could meet so many of our kids’ needs in the summer,” said Blackford.

Categories: Urban School News

Jeffco union agrees to teacher pay plan for next school year

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 06/15/2015 - 17:51

GOLDEN — The Jefferson County teachers union Monday afternoon agreed to a pay plan that will allow the school district to move forward with hiring teachers for the fall.

The plan, which totals $6.4 million, will adjust salary for more than 1,000 district veterans with up to six years of experience to be equal to what the Jeffco Public Schools wants to pay new teachers in order to be competitive with neighboring districts.

Another 4,400 Jeffco teachers will receive on average a 1 percent raise. Teachers rated highly effective will earn a slightly higher raise than those rated effective.

Under the proposed plan, teachers in their first three years who are rated partly-effective would also receive a nominal raise. But teachers with more than three years of experience who are rated less-than-effective will not receive a raise.

The plan also gives raises to Jeffco teachers who earned an advanced degree since 2012, when the district stopped compensating for those additional credentials.

The agreement breaks a stalemate between the school district and the Jefferson County Education Association that made it difficult for the district to hire for 300 vacant teaching positions in the district.

The district has been under a court-ordered injunction not to use a compensation system it had developed without the input of the JCEA.

JCEA executive director Lisa Elliott said her members’ agreement to the plan was reluctant.

“What I’m struggling with is this 1 percent [raise],” she said. “The rise in the cost-of-living in the Denver-metro area is much more than that. So this is another year of flat to negative earnings for teachers in Jeffco. I want to be really clear that this 1 percent is not going to solve your problem of attracting and retaining.”

The total amount allocated for compensation increases for all district employees next year will be about $16 million. About $7 million of that amount is allocated to mandatory increases to pensions and health insurance.

The agreement between JCEA and Jeffco comes after the school board last week agreed to add an additional $2.5 million to pay increases. That money allowed the district to offer pay increases to all teachers who had a qualifying rating on his or her annual evaluations.

With compensation for next year settled, the district and union will return to negotiating specific language for a new teacher contract. Last week, the district sent the union a draft of a contract to use as a way to discuss specific topics. On Monday, the union provided edits and alternative language.

Among the union’s proposed changes: adding back mandated classroom sizes, extending the contract’s duration to four years as it has been for the last 25 years, and proposing one joint union-district collaboration committee.

Another element missing from the contract, Elliott said, is specific language about how teachers will be paid moving forward. The Jeffco school board, last fall, abolished the district’s salary schedule that outlined teacher pay raises based on years in the classroom.

“We have to have some kind of reliable system,” she said.

JCEA’s edits of district draft contract DV.load('http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2103021-draft-negotiated-agreement-2015-v1jceamarkup61315.js', { width: 620, height: 600, sidebar: false, text: true, pdf: true, container: '#DV-viewer-2103021-draft-negotiated-agreement-2015-v1jceamarkup61315' });
Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: DPS toys with “enrollment zones” to better integrate schools

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 06/15/2015 - 09:23

Jeffco negotiations

The Jeffco contract draft puts more decision-making power in the hands of schools leaders and teachers, but limits some privileges of the union and lacks detail about teacher evaluations. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

The full 25-page draft of Jeffco's new teacher contract. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

The Jefferson County Education Association and Jeffco Public Schools will meet today to discuss contract negotiations. ( Arvada Press )

Zoning out

DPS shakes up traditional school boundaries through the use of "enrollment zones." ( Denver Post )

Backing out

After initially agreeing to participate, CU Boulder decides to back out of national sexual assault survey. ( The Gazette via Associated Press )

Common sense

A year later, how APS' district-wide initiative to reduce student suspensions through "Common-Sense Discipline" has changed Aurora schools. ( CPR )

The great outdoors

A state program has launched a five-year initiative aimed at getting kids to play outside. ( The Daily Sentinel )

Live off the land

Thompson School District might be purchasing nearly nine acres to expand Berthound High School in the future. ( Reporter-Herald )

Categories: Urban School News

Jeffco contract draft: big on site-based decisions, short on teacher evaluation specifics

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 06/12/2015 - 19:02

Jeffco Public Schools officials Friday released a 25-page draft contract for its teachers union that puts more decision-making in the hands of school leaders and teams of teachers, lacks details on some of the district’s most important efforts, limits some of the historic privileges of the union, and lasts for less than a year.

The document, which was sent to the Jefferson County Education Association and reporters Friday morning, is meant to focus the work of the committee tasked with creating a new contract, the district’s lawyer stressed. The bargaining teams have until Aug. 31 before the current contract expires.

But the document, which lawyer and lead negotiator for Jeffco Jim Branum has been working on for months behind the scenes, is the most comprehensive work to date to come out of negotiations. JCEA agreed to discuss the document’s contents at 4 p.m., Monday. The association might also bring specific language of its own.

We spent today comparing and contrasting Branum’s document to the current master agreement between Jeffco and JCEA. Here are a few of the noteworthy items we found:

The proposed document is one-fifth the size of the current contract.

A priority for the district is to streamline the contract. Officials suggested early in the process that some provisions were out-of-date and could be struck all together while others could be moved to an employee handbook.

This draft accomplishes that goal.

A side-by-side comparison found 27 different sections of the current contract either no longer exist or have been collapsed into broader sections. Some of those sections include topics on academic freedom and what happens if classroom materials are challenged.

While the contract is a quicker read, many of the sections are short on specifics. For example, the current contract spells classroom limits and how extra unpaid hours teachers may be required to work are to be used. The proposed contract leaves those decisions to individual school committees.

Jeffco removes specific language about evaluation process.

While the details about how teachers are evaluated exist in a policy that’s separate from both the current contract and the new draft, the current contract does include some specific language about how many observations a teacher is to receive and by when.

That’s not the case in Branum’s draft. Instead, the contract says the evaluation system and process will be “clearly defined and communicated to” teachers.

This point is likely going to be a huge rallying cry for the JCEA, maybe even more so than pay increases. Armed with an independent report that found the district’s evaluation system isn’t applied equally across the district, the union has been pushing for evaluation reform. They want stricter guidelines and more training for observers — not less.

While it’s completely possible for both stricter guidelines and more training to co-exist outside of a contract, JCEA is looking to codify as much as it can to provide its teachers with assurances and predictability given the increasing stakes of evaluations.

The contract would expire on June 30, 2016.

Since 1992, the district’s contract with its teachers has ended on Aug. 31, well after the start of the school year. (In earlier years, the contract ran from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31.)

The end of summer deadline gave teachers and the district time to workout their issues over a few months without the stress of the classroom.

It’s unclear why the district has proposed this change, other than maybe it wanted to align its contract to its fiscal year that ends June 30.

It’s also unusual for the district to propose only a one year extension of the agreement. Contracts have also historically have been multiyear agreements for many cycles.

District officials declined to explain this change saying, “we’ll be discussing the contract at the bargaining table.”

The union gets a win — for now — in seniority rights for displaced teachers.

One of the earliest signs of tension during this year’s negotiations was around how schools should decide which teachers to fire if their student population decreases.

The union believes teachers with more years in the classroom should get to stay. The district team believed these kinds of personnel decisions should be based on evaluations, not years in the classroom. The two sides dropped the topic in an effort to find common ground on less contentious issues.

For the moment, JCEA’s preferred method of choosing which teachers stay and which go when a school has to cut staff — seniority — remains in the contract. But that’s likely not going to sit well with the district’s conservative school board majority that has pushed evaluations as a decision making tool.

The union’s rights have been scaled back.

Many of the historic rights the union has been given in its teachers contract don’t exist in Branum’s draft.

For example, the union’s right to use school buildings, free of charge is gone. The union’s right to post information on employee bulletin boards? That’s gone too. Also, JCEA is going to have make more trips to Office Depot. The proposed contract doesn’t allow JCEA to order office supplies from the district’s vendors.

What is preserved? one of the first sections in the district’s proposed contract is the recognition of JCEA as the exclusive representative of teachers. That might rub some of the board’s conservative majority the wrong way.

There are no new details on teacher raises.

Any hope for a more robust system to determine teacher raises remain unaddressed in this proposal.

Since the district abandoned the traditional salary schedule last fall, in lieu of a plan linked only to teacher evaluations, some have hoped for a different system. Earlier this spring, the union presented a plan that rewarded teachers with raises for a variety of things including advanced degrees, leadership roles, and time in the classroom.

Not only does none of that exist in Branum’s draft, but under today’s proposal, teacher salaries remain the same until a percentage increase linked to evaluations can be agreed to by the bargaining teams.

How big of a fight will a new system to determine teacher raises be for JCEA given the battles on other fronts? That’s hard to say.

Meet your new ‘professional problem solving committee’ (whatever that is).

Under the new contract language, schools will be required to establish a “professional problem solving committee.” This group will be made up of at least three teachers selected by the school’s staff and administration. The panel will be called upon to help mitigate conflict among staff.

It’s not clear what kind of disputes this group might be tasked with. What we do know is that this group won’t replace a formal human-resource grievance process because that’s outlined elsewhere.

Categories: Urban School News

Weekend Reads: The three big strategies driving the United State’s rising graduation rates

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 06/12/2015 - 18:57
  • Graduation rates have been rising steadily since 2002. A team of reporters around the country go deep on the strategies schools have been using to drive that increase. (NPR Ed)
  • The national movement to extend the school day with after-school programs is prompting school districts and community organizations to share data and strategies in new ways. (EdWeek)
  • One in four black young people are neither in school nor employed in nine American cities featured in a new report. (The Atlantic)
  • Don’t miss WNYC’s series on a transgender third grader attending a Brooklyn public school. (SchoolBook)
  • A group of students is petitioning the College Board to let them retake the SAT for free after an error caused scores from one section of the test to be thrown out. (Answer Sheet)
  • Here’s what test-taking looks like in Baltimore, India, Pakistan, South Korea and more places around the world. (The Atlantic)
  • And in China, officials are using drones to identify students who cheat on the country’s college entrance examination. (CBS News)
  • Renovations at an Oklahoma school uncovered 100-year-old chalkboard drawings. (NewsOK)
  • A fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute takes a deep look at the changes that have reshaped New Orleans schools since Hurricane Katrina. (Washington Monthly)
  • Michael Petrilli used a linguistic algorithm to analyze the tweets of prominent education policy officials, teachers and writers and found a lot of upbeat, analytic people. (Education Next)
  • Even though college tuition in Norway is completely free, the children of parents without a college degree are just as unlikely to attend as American children of parents who didn’t go. (Hechinger Report)
  • The Mexican government has reinstated its new teacher evaluation plan after the country’s June 7 elections, which the teachers union had threatened to disrupt, were carried out smoothly. (EdWeek)
  • The New York teenager who spent more three years on Riker’s Island, much of it in solitary confinement, waiting on a trial that never happened committed suicide last week after many struggles returning to school and society since his release. (New Yorker)
Categories: Urban School News

Here’s Jeffco’s first draft of a new teacher contract

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 06/12/2015 - 12:33

In an effort to accelerate negotiations with its teachers union, Jeffco Public Schools has developed a working-draft of a contract and sent it to the Jefferson County Education Association.

The two sides will discuss the 25-page document Monday afternoon.

“It is not intended to be a formal district proposal or a final product — there are a number of provisions that still need to be bargained, and we anticipate that JCEA will be bringing additional provisions to the table,” wrote Jim Branum, the district’s lawyer and lead negotiator, in an email to reporters. “The intent is to give everyone a more focused goal to work toward.”

Contract negotiations between the Jefferson County school district and its union have become strained. Complicating matters is that the two parties must negotiate not only a new contract for subsequent school years, but they must also work out how to pay new hires for the next school year after a judge put the district’s plans on hold.

JCEA had little response Friday morning to the district’s overture.

“We look forward to returning to the negotiations table on Monday,” said JCEA President John Ford.

At first glance, the contact developed by the district is influenced by its goal to give schools more flexibility about how it uses its resources. For example, in Article 8, class size will be determined at the school level. That’s a departure from the current contract, which gives ranges for class sizes depending on the level.

What’s in? What’s out? Help us compare and contrast the district’s proposed contract language with the existing contract. Leave your observations below or email them to ngarcia@chalkbeat.org. We’ll post a story later today with analysis. 

Jeffco’s proposed teacher contract DV.load('http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2097057-draft-negotiated-agreement-2015-v1.js', { width: 620, height: 600, sidebar: false, text: true, pdf: true, container: '#DV-viewer-2097057-draft-negotiated-agreement-2015-v1' });
Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Parents raise concern about Jeffco principal

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 06/12/2015 - 09:51

Chaos at CDE

State Board of Education Chairwoman Marcia Neal resigned Thursday. She said the growing dysfunction and her health are two reasons why she is stepping down. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Neal, in interviews, refused to call out any specific board colleague directly. But she dropped plenty of hints about who (Steve Durham) she is at odds with. ( Denver Post )

Neal almost didn't win re-election to the board. That's because she had a tough primary opponent. ( Grand Junction Sentinel )

Some of Neal's colleagues (not Steve Durham) and observers are concerned about the uncertain future of the board and the Colorado Department of Education. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Meanwhile, Elliott Asp has been officially named interim-education commissioner. He'll serve in that role until a replacement for Robert Hammond is found. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Complaints

Some Jefferson County parents say the principal of an elementary school treats families of Hispanic students differently than non-Hispanic families. And they plan to file a formal complaint with the federal government. ( 9News )

summer learning

More low-income Aurora students have access to summer programs after the COMPASS program expands. ( Denver Post )

Healthy schools

Colorado schools will begin compiling data on students who get busted for using or distributing marijuana. ( AP via Denver Post )

Turnaround trends

More states are getting into the school turnaround business by setting up their own districts. ( Ed Week )

Teacher Turnover

The average starting salary for a teacher in the state's school districts with the highest turnover is $28,407. ( Pagosa Daily Post )

Two cents

After the Twin Peak Charter School controversy, professors at CU argue that charter schools might need more diversity training. ( Longmont Times-Call )

Colorado should offer a private-school choice option to its students, argues Ross Izard is an education policy analyst for the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver. ( Greeley Tribune )

Categories: Urban School News

State board members, education officials see an uncertain future after Neal’s resignation

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 06/11/2015 - 17:47

The future of the Colorado State Board of Education and its department is unclear after chairwoman Marcia Neal resigned this morning, education officials and advocates said today. Even some of Neal’s board colleagues are scratching their heads.

“Truly, I have no idea,” said Angelika Schroeder, a Democrat and vice chair of the board.

In statements and interviews with Chalkbeat Colorado, fellow board members and education leaders thanked Neal, a Republican, for her service. Some, like board member Debra Scheffel, rejected Neal’s accusations that the board has become dysfunctional. Others, like education reform advocate Van Schoales, worried that the board is heading toward more chaos.

A Republican Party vacancy committee in the 3rd Congressional District will choose Neal’s successor, likely by August. The board will also need to pick new leadership.

Here’s how fellow board members, education officials and leaders are responding to Neal’s resignation.

State board Vice Chairwoman Angelika Schroeder, D-Boulder, said in an interview: 

I’m sad. She’s been a terrific board member. I think we’ve spent exactly the same about of time on the board and I’ll miss her very much.

I have no idea [where the board goes from here]. Truly, I have no idea. There will be a revote for the leadership of the board and there is a group of four that often votes the same way and I don’t expect that to change. I’m at a loss to make any meaningful guesses.

This doesn’t mean we won’t be able to hire an effective commissioner. It’s a challenging job. I’ve been around long enough to know that if we pick a commissioner who doesn’t have the respect of the state’s school districts, the districts will do whatever they can to ignore what the board has done.

Until this year, we had at least three board members who had been on school board members. In that environment you learn to be effective. You learn to work through the superintendent or the commissioner. You don’t micromanage. That’s really hard to do. It took me a while to learn my role.

Maybe it’s a philosophical difference of how you work as board.

State board member Debra Scheffel, R-Parker, said in an interview:

We always hate to see good people leave. Marcia has served with distinction. We appreciate her service.

We do have different opinions about how to accomplish reform in education. It’s good to have those disagreements and robust discussions. We represent different constituencies. Having those conversations in public is healthy.

I think what is happening is that the reforms that have been passed are really kicking in. And parents and teachers are really seeing the intricacies of these reforms. Implementing something on the front end is all idealistically. When they actually begin, problems begin to surface. We’re seeing the details in how these things work in reality and not just in the abstract. That accounts for the chaffing that appears to be happening on the board. This really has been a consequence of where were are in the timeline of the initiates.

I hope we get a board member who is ready to engage in a rigorous discourse around the important issues of public education.

Again, I will miss Marcia and I wish her well.

State board member Val Flores, D-Denver, said in an interview:

This is so sad. I really like Marcia. I had no idea. She was a great moderate. And she had all that experience. I’m going to miss her.

My head’s spinning right now. I didn’t expect the commissioner to resign. I’m concerned about all the people who have left [the department]. Yes, I’m worried aboout the department and of course the board right now.

I think this change might have been to much to [Marcia]. I wasn’t expecting to come on board and have [Commissioner Robert Hammond] retire. It’s a lot on the board’s plate right now. I have respect for my fellow board members. And I think we’re all trying to do the best we can. And I’m very sorry to see Marcia leave.

State board member Pam Mazanec, R-Larkspur, said in an email statement: 

I was surprised by her resignation, and she’s entitled to her opinion about the board. I sincerely appreciate her service and I wish her all the best.

State Rep. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, and former State Board of Education chair, said in an interview:

Marcia has been a steadfast champion of students and improving education in Colorado for a long time starting back when she was a teacher and her time on her local school board. I certainly appreciated the time we had shoulder to shoulder when she was vice chair and I was chairman.

I’m sure her voice won’t go away. That wouldn’t be in Marcia’s nature.

Van Schoales, executive director of A+Denver, said in an interview: 

Marcia did a remarkable job as chair. We gave her a game changer award last year from A+ because of her leadership as it related to standards assessment and being supportive of schools and districts that were making improvements and holding those that were not accountable

Obviously this has huge implications for the state. Without knowing exactly what will happen, I’m guessing that [Republican] Steve Durham will become chair. With that happening, it’s unclear as to where CDE is going to go in terms of the commissioner search. And it’s not clear as to whether CDE will take on the federal government [on issues including waivers and testing].

This is the demarcation line. We’re now going to enter a new era. More important than the appointment of a new commissioner is Marcia stepping down.

Bruce Caughey, the executive director of the Colorado Association of School Executives, said in an interview:

When I think about Marcia – she was such a stabilizing force on the state board – and I think we’re going to miss her moderate viewpoint. In her words – how much she cares about public education. She gets it, deeply, because she was a longtime teacher.

Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association, said in an email statement: 

CEA members across Colorado salute Marcia Neal today for her dedicated service to public education. She was a great advocate for the students, parents and educators she represented on the State Board of Education and we will miss her thoughtful approach to serious, complex issues. We thank Marcia for her leadership and wish her the very best in her future endeavors.

Jen Walmer, the state director of Democrats for Education Reform in Colorado, in an email statement:

DFER-CO was greatly disappointed to hear of Marcia Neal’s resignation from the State Board of Education this morning. While we sit on opposite sides of the political fence, we were strong allies around maintaining high levels of accountability, standards and assessments. We applaud her years of service for Colorado’s kids and we also echo her words in her resignation letter that we hope the State Board will put kids interests first, instead of their own, and get back to working together as a team.

Jane Urschel, deputy executive director of the Colorado Association of School Boards, said in an interview:

Rumors were strong and had been for a while that Marcia would be deciding to step down.

But Marcia has been a great friend of local school boards. She walked in the shoes of a teacher and then also as a local school board member. While serving on her local board, she was a member of CASB’s legislative committee for a number of years.

Her dedication to public education and her straightforward thinking was never tainted by political or personal ambitions.

And we all will miss her and wish her well.

The board is facing some major decisions, and those decisions will affect the direction of public education in the state. I think everybody will be watching closely and will be very hopeful that the board comes together and makes good decisions.

Scott Laband, president of Colorado Succeeds, in an email statement:

Colorado Succeeds and the state’s business leaders thank Marcia Neal for her service to the State Board of Education. Colorado’s kids benefitted from her wisdom as a teacher and thoughtful policymaker dedicated to working on both sides of the aisle. In particular, we applaud her for her commitment to early literacy, tenure reform, and graduation guidelines. The state’s education system is better today thanks to Marcia’s contributions.

Leslie Colwell, vice president of K-12 education initiatives at the Colorado Children’s Campaign, said in an interview:

I think – it was unexpected and really unfortunate — Marcia has been an advocate for children her entire career, and she took incredibly seriously the board’s main duty of supporting student learning. She’s always been a strong supporter of high standards and I think she’s always been looked to by colleagues and partners like the Colorado Children’s Campaign as a really thoughtful and moderate voice on education issues. She was willing to work across the aisle to do what’s right for kids. We’re sad to see her go.

Categories: Urban School News

State board chair Marcia Neal resigns, citing “dysfunction”

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 06/11/2015 - 13:23

Marcia Neal, chair of the State Board of Education, announced her resignation Thursday morning. In an interview with Chalkbeat Colorado, Neal said board dysfunction was one reason for her decision.

“You know how dysfunctional we are, and that is really difficult for me,” Neal said. “I find it really difficult to deal with that.”

In a letter sent to fellow board members Thursday morning, Neal wrote:

“While under better circumstances, I would like to stay on the board to work toward common goals and mutually agreed upon aspirations for improving learning for all students. In fact, I don’t hear any board discussions about the benefits of our work in supporting student learning – making students better prepared for the world they’ll encounter after graduation. We don’t talk about how we’re improving their education to truly make them fully prepared for college or a career of their choice. If we’re not working for these things, what are we doing to meet our responsibilities for preparing our students for success? Unfortunately, I do not see that the current board is interested in working together and reaching consensus.”

(Read the full letter here.)

She also said health issues were the other reason for her decision. Neal is still recovering from the effects of a fall last winter.

“It’s been a struggle,” she said.

Neal’s departure comes at the same time as education Commissioner Robert Hammond is preparing to leave the department. He announced his retirement, effective later this month, in late April.

The composition of the seven-member board and the tone of its meetings changed after new members elected last November took their seats in January.

The new members were Republican Steve Durham of Colorado Springs and Democrat Val Flores of Denver. Neal, a Republican from Grand Junction, was re-elected to a second six-year term last November.

Neal was elected chair in January. Democrat Angelika Schroeder of Boulder was elected vice chair, something that didn’t sit well with the board’s three other Republicans, Durham, Pam Mazanec of Larkspur and Deb Scheffel of Parker. The vote for vice chair was by secret ballot. Because there are only three Democrats on the panel, one Republican – presumably Neal – voted for Schroeder.

SBE’s wild ride

The new board started things off with a bang in January, with members voting 4-3 on a surprise Durham proposal to allow school districts to request waivers from the first part of standardized testing this spring. The move ultimately came to nothing because the attorney general ruled that neither the board nor the department had the legal power to grant such waivers.

At meetings later in the spring, the board – often with majorities led by Durham and including Mazanec, Scheffel and Flores – criticized the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, refused to set cut scores for last fall’s 12th grade science and social studies tests and declined to accept staff recommendations for changes in upcoming high school graduation guidelines. (For background on the board’s tumultuous spring, see this story about the April meeting and this article about its May session.)

In her letter, Neal also criticized fellow board members for lack of communication and cooperation.

“Sadly, our current board has become dysfunctional,” she wrote. “Past protocols were very effective with regard to communicating and the sharing of information. Those protocols are now largely ignored by several board members.”

For the last five months board meetings often have been marked by confusion and delay as Neal at times struggled to maintain procedures and keep to the agenda, particularly when proceedings were interrupted by Durham or Flores.

Neal also expressed concern about high-level departures from the department. “We’ve recently had a surprising number of resignations and notices of retirement. One has to wonder how much of the board’s seemingly destructive behavior has contributed to this exodus.”

In addition to Hammond, Deputy Commissioner Keith Owen and Associate Commissioner Jill Hawley are leaving. Owen will be superintendent of the Fountain-Fort Carson schools, and Hawley is taking an administrative job with Denver Public Schools. Carey Markel, the board’s top administrative officer, left for a job with the Boulder city attorney. And Thursday afternoon Janelle Asmus, CDE’s chief communications officer, informed colleagues that she is leaving to take a communications position with the Adams 14 district.

The board is just starting its search for Hammond’s replacement and has yet to hire a search firm. Elliott Asp, special assistant to Hammond, was chosen Wednesday as interim commissioner.

Neal’s replacement will be chosen by a Republican Party vacancy committee in the 3rd Congressional District, which she represents. She said she expects that to happen by August. That person will have to run for election in November 2016.

Neal is a retired social studies teacher and Mesa 51 school board member who was first elected to the board in 2008. She previously served as vice chair and often was a swing vote on the board.

Categories: Urban School News

Asp to lead education department until new commissioner is found

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 06/11/2015 - 13:18

Longtime Colorado educator Elliott Asp will lead the Colorado Department of Education until a permanent successor for outgoing Education Commissioner Robert Hammond is found.

The State Board of Education voted to appoint Asp as interim commissioner at their Wednesday meeting.

Asp most recently served as special assistant to the state education commissioner. He will fill in when Hammond’s retirement becomes official on June 25. Asp has indicated he will not seek the permanent position of education commissioner.

Board member Debora Scheffel was the sole vote against Asp’s appointment. She said that while she approved of Asp’s qualifications, the board had not had enough time to consider candidates for the interim position.

Hammond announced his retirement in late April.

At Wednesday’s meeting, vice chairwoman Angelika Schroeder choked back tears as she read a resolution thanking Hammond for his service.

The resolution reads in part, “The Colorado State Board of Education formally commends Robert K. Hammond for his outstanding service as Colorado Commissioner of Education, his indefatigable efforts to increase academic achievement, champion academic civil rights for all students and develop continuous improvement systems to benefit all educators, students, parents and communities across Colorado.”

PHOTO: Susan Gonzalez Colorado Education Commissioner Robert Hammond at his last State Board of Education meeting June 10.

Asp joined CDE in November 2012 after retiring as Cherry Creek’s assistant superintendent for performance improvement. He previously held a similar position in Douglas County and also worked in Aurora and Littleton. He has worked in education for more than 35 years and has been a teacher and assistant principal.

At CDE, Asp has worked on projects related to assessment, accountability, educator effectiveness and the Colorado Growth Model. He has become a familiar figure at education meetings and at the Capitol explaining department work on those issues.

Steve Durham said he hopes no one at the department thinks they can slack off due to the lack of a permanent leader.

“I hope no one in the department or the new acting department that this is just housekeeping for the next six months, because it shouldn’t be,” Durham said.

Durham said he has received complaints from charter schools that need to be addressed promptly and that he hopes the department can move forward with new rules on student data privacy.

Hammond isn’t the only top executive leaving the department this month. Two of his deputies,  Keith Owen and Jill Hawley, are also leaving the department. The board thanked both at its meeting Wednesday.

Chalkbeat Capitol Editor Todd Engdahl contributed to this report.

Hammond resolution DV.load('http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2096211-resolution.js', { width: 620, height: 600, sidebar: false, text: true, pdf: true, container: '#DV-viewer-2096211-resolution' });
Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Investigation into blocked grad speech by gay valedictorian continues

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 06/11/2015 - 09:49

moving forward

The State Board of Education gave Aurora Public Schools the OK to move forward with reform efforts, pending a more detailed plan. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Under review

The St. Vrain Valley school board sent a letter to Twin Peaks Charter Academy stating that they support the school's decision to conduct a broader investigation of the blocked grad speech by gay valedictorian Evan Young. ( Daily Camera )

Hard bargain

As the expiration date for the JeffCo teachers' contract approaches, negotiators from both sides are frustrated with the little progress made. ( 9News )

Free at last

A religious freedom lawsuit filed by a nonprofit legal organization against Pine Creek High School was dropped. ( The Gazette )

Granting more to schools

After school programming for North Aurora kids gets a boost after a grant expansion. ( Denver Post )

A new addition is coming to the De Beque School District 49JT campus in 2015-16 thanks to a $5.35 million state grant. ( The Daily Sentinel )

Categories: Urban School News

Aurora’s school improvement plan earns blessing from state board, with some reservations

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 06/10/2015 - 17:23

The State Board of Education has given Aurora Public Schools the green light to move ahead with freeing some of its struggling schools from bureaucratic red tape in order to improve student learning.

But two board members who voted against the proposal on Wednesday said they were not comfortable backing the plan without more details about how the district plans to use the proposed flexibility.

Those details must come before the state board can give final approval to let Aurora exempt schools from state requirements. The board’s 5-2 vote on Wednesday gave the suburban school district only preliminary approval to create what is known as an “innovation zone.”

The district’s bid reflects Superintendent Rico Munn’s efforts to ward off state sanctions for its schools that are so low-performing that they must either close or be overhauled. Under the state’s school accountability law, schools that are deemed failing for more than five years must close, be turned over to a charter operator or private management organization, or apply for innovation status.

Innovation status confers flexibility around state and district regulations related to school calendars, budgeting, curriculum, and hiring. So far, it has shown only mixed results: A 2014 report found that most innovation schools in Denver, which has more such schools than any other school district in the state, fared no better than schools with no flexibility.

Munn’s pursuit of innovation status is aimed at allowing Aurora to overhaul the schools on his timeline, rather than the state’s.

“What we are asking is that you come alongside us, come alongside our community, come alongside our students and recognizing that we need to start that work now,” Munn said.

Most of Aurora’s 17 struggling schools still have some time before the state must mandate action. But one high school, Aurora Central, has run out the time on Colorado’s “accountability clock.”

After months of debate, Munn convinced the Aurora school board last week that preemptively seeking innovation status from the state board would provide the district the most flexibility and local control.

But while the sate board responded positively to the district’s request, dissenting members Pam Mazanec and Debora Scheffel said they were concerned that the unofficial plan the district asked the board to sign off on was short on details. Mazanec said she thought it was not “appropriate for the board to have a vote at this time.”

Scheffel echoed the same sentiment, adding that she was confused about why the board would need to endorse the APS plan so early on.

“I would want to know the parents are on board with it, the community is on board,” Scheffel said.

Marcia Neal, the state board’s chair, countered by saying that Wednesday’s vote was merely a “gentlemen’s agreement” that would not prevent the board from ultimately turning down Aurora’s request for flexibility.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: New charter to open to at Holly Square, site of past gang violence

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 06/10/2015 - 09:45

Practice Makes Perfect

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said soon-to-be teachers need more time practicing in the classroom. Duncan made these comments during a town hall in Denver. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

dollars and sense

Colorado may get a "C" for school funding. But it gets an "F" for effort. ( CPR )

A community reborn

A new Denver charter school will build a campus at Holly Square. In 2008, gang members set fire to Holly Square — once a shopping center in Northeast Park Hill — causing a center of the community to be lost. ( 9News )

A (financial) head start

About 2,000 Head Start preschoolers will receive $50 from Colorado to start college savingss account this November. The pilot program is for 3- and 4-year-olds and will run for three years. ( Denver Post )

Healthy Summers

Englewood schools hopes to provide 100 free lunches daily to its students throughout the summer. ( Englewood Herald )

Church and state

Claiming its goal has been achieved, a nonprofit legal organization has withdrawn a federal civil rights lawsuit over prayer practices at a Colorado Springs high school. ( Gazette )

Human Resources

The St. Vrain Valley school board is expected on Wednesday to approve a 16 percent pay increase for superintendent Don Haddad, bringing his salary to $250,000. ( Longmont Times-Call )

Categories: Urban School News

Duncan: Soon-to-be educators need more time in classroom

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 06/09/2015 - 22:00

Denver Public Schools is “way ahead of the curve” in teacher preparation due in part to the Student Teacher Residency, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Tuesday.

The residency programs is offered through the University of Colorado Denver and the Metropolitan State University of Denver.

Teacher preparation was the subject of a town hall Duncan held Tuesday afternoon. Duncan and other participants said that soon-to-be educators need as much time as possible in the classroom, and DPS is achieving that through the residency program.

The program, which launched a year ago, pairs each student at the university with a DPS mentor for a yearlong residency that allows the would-be teacher to work in the classroom full-time.

Duncan has focused on teacher preparation in recent months. In November, his department pitched new guidelines to improve programs for aspiring teachers by requiring states to report annually on the performance of programs – including alternative certification programs – based on a combination of retention rates, new teacher and employer surveys, and student data.

Keeping new and effective teachers in Denver classrooms has also become a concern for school officials here. A report in February found DPS has a high teacher turnover rate.

At the town hall, CU Denver student Linda Abeyta said that spending time in the classroom is an essential prerequisite for becoming a proficient teacher. Abeyta is finishing the Student Teacher Residency program at Denver’s McMeen Elementary School and said she has found time in the classroom beneficial to her future career.

“I feel that student teacher preparation programs need to have their teachers in the room with the kids as much as possible so they’re comfortable and confident and ready to get to know the whole child,” said Abeyta, who will begin teaching third grade at High Tech Elementary later this year.

Panelist Tania Hogan, who works at Greenlee Elementary School in DPS, said aspiring teachers can’t prepare themselves for all the issues students face outside of school by sitting in a university classroom. But they can become more familiar with these issues by being in a public school classroom.

“You start to realize….that many of your kids are suffering from PTSD, homelessness, poverty, abuse. Different things come into play that the new teacher might have not been as prepared (for),” Hogan said. “They become emotionally drained on top of everything else they have to do.”

Abeyta said she got to know her students outside of the classroom setting by making home visits to her students, accompanied by her mentor.

McMeen Elementary participates in the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project, which encourages educators to visits student homes. Schools that participate in the project see an increase in student attendance and test scores, according to the project’s website.

“The dynamic of that relationship completely changes with that student,” Abeyta said. “You get to know the whole child – their interests, their fears, what’s going on with mom and dad. Getting to know that side of that student can really change the entire energy of the classroom. It can really help guide instruction…it builds an atmosphere of trust.”

Update: A previous version omitted the Metropolitan State University of Denver’s participation in the Student Teacher Residency.

Categories: Urban School News

We need your support!

HELP US RAISE
$45K

$37,687

raised

$45,000

goal
 

Read the latest print issue

Philly Ed Feed

Top

Public School Notebook

699 Ranstead St.
Third Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: (215) 839-0082
Fax: (215) 238-2300
notebook@thenotebook.org

© Copyright 2013 The Philadelphia Public School Notebook. All Rights Reserved.
Terms of Usage and Privacy Policy