The State Board of Education Wednesday voted 6-1 to approve a revised menu of choices school districts will use to set their requirements for high school graduation.
Districts will have to choose at least one item from the menu of graduation guidelines, described in the board motion as a “floor.” Districts can choose one, some or all of the menu items and add whatever additional graduation requirements they want, such as a certain set of classes in high school.
Students wouldn’t have to meet all the benchmarks on the state menu but could choose from them in addition to meeting local requirements.
Most of the menu items are standardized language arts and math tests such as the ACT, SAT, Accuplacer, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate. The menu sets scores students would need to achieve to meet the requirements.
Other items on the menu include passing grades in college classes taken by high school students, district-approved independent study or class projects and industry certificates in various trades. The original list included PARCC tests, but the board voted to remove that option, reasoning that the test only will be given in 9th grade moving forward.
The board’s motion also allows districts to seek waivers from the guidelines.
The graduation guidelines have a long history of stops and starts.
Because the state constitution gives local school boards control over instruction, it’s long been considered unconstitutional for the state to impose any uniform requirements for high school graduation.
A 2008 education reform law tried to work around that by directing the Department of Education and the board to develop graduation guidelines that districts had to “meet or exceed.”
The board didn’t act on a set of guidelines until 2013, when it approved a menu that included measures of not only language arts and math but also science and social studies.
That list drew criticism from many administrators and school leaders, who complained that the menu was unfair to smaller districts that wouldn’t be able to offer as many choices to their students as larger districts.
The department went back to the drawing board with a large task force of educators who developed the revised menu — dropping science and social studies — that was approved by the board Wednesday.
Some business and education reform groups criticized the new menu, arguing it watered down the original guidelines.
The revised menu was presented to the board earlier this year, but some board members weren’t happy with it and delayed action.
But the timetable laid out in that original 2010 law finally forced the board to act. The guidelines are supposed to apply to students who graduate at the end of the 2020-21 school year – students who will enter 8th grade next fall. It’s common practice for districts to inform incoming 8th graders of graduation requirements.
The decision seems to leave no one happy.
Several members of the task force that developed the second menu testified to the board and had qualified support.
Bret Miles of the Northeast Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services said, “The second menu is definitely much improved.” But his endorsement was nuanced. “Determining the graduation requirements is best done at a local level,” he said. “We believe there are still enormous equity issues even in the second menu.”
The guidelines likely will be revised in the future. The board’s motion directs the education department to convene a study group to find more career and technical education options that can be added. The motion also requires creation of a second group of parents, educators and industry representatives to study other possible additions.
And board chair Steve Durham told his colleagues that if any of them come up with menu additions, he’d be happy to add those suggestions to the next board meeting agenda.
The lone board no vote, Debora Scheffel of Parker, criticized the menu’s reliance on standardized tests.
“I think that’s a huge problem,” she said.Hunt for new commissioner ramps up
The board was briefed on the search for a new education commissioner by Gary Ray, president of the search firm Ray and Associates.
The company is conducting meetings this week to gather educator and public comment on desired characteristics of a new commissioner. Get information about the meetings and take an online survey here.
Ray will brief the board on the survey and the meetings on Sept. 21, and the deadline for applications is Nov. 7.
“We’ve had some inquiries, but people keep asking me what they’re looking for,” Ray said. “The word is out there. I can tell you that.”
The board will receive applicant names in mid-November and conduct interviews in early December.
Robert Hammond retired as education commissioner in June, and Elliott Asp is serving in an interim role.
An historic lack of interest in Weld County school board positions leaves many districts without elections. Greeley TribuneSome 45 school board seats are on the ballot in the Pikes Peak region, and it’s mostly incumbents versus newcomers. Gazette A group opposing the Steamboat Springs School District’s $92 million bond question has come together under the name Citizens for a Better Plan. Steamboat Pilot All three Basalt schools will get improvements and makeovers if voters approve a $122 million Roaring Fork School District bond proposal slated for the Nov. 3 election. Aspen Times Residents of the tiny Western Slope town of Rico fear their 16-student school could be on the chopping block if the Dolores County schools don’t seek and win a tax override in the November election. Cortez Journal Standing room only
A 2009 state law that required large employers to give workers time off for certain school activities is expiring. National Law ReviewGrowing pains
With another school year comes a fresh set of challenges for the growing Windsor school district and new Superintendent Dan Seegmiller. He said his biggest challenge will be accommodating growth in the community. ColoradoanA proud moment
The South Conejos School District flung open the doors to its new school building recently to give the community a look at the $19.5 million school. ChieftainInnovation
The Aurora school district is moving ahead with plans to request innovation status for some of its schools. Chalkbeat ColoradoTwo cents
An editorial argues that standardized tests remain invaluable tools for identifying differences in performance across class and ethnic lines, as well as charting the academic growth of individual students. Denver Post
Aurora school administrators are taking their first steps toward making Superintendent Rico Munn’s most ambitious school improvement strategy a reality, while the school board cautioned it won’t accept any sweeping changes without support from teachers and parents.
Munn’s plan is to use the state’s innovation schools law to create what he’s calling “ACTION Zones.” Clusters of schools will apply for waivers from district and state policies that will provide more flexibility over personnel, budget, curriculum and resources.
The idea is the schools will work together — mostly outside the district’s bureaucracy — to boost student achievement at some of the district’s lowest performing schools.
Aurora Public Schools, which is the largest school district on the state’s watch list for poor academic performance, has contracted with the education nonprofit Mass Insight Education to lead a variety of committees that will be tasked with redesigning up to five schools. Two of those committees began meeting last week.
The one-year contract with Mass Insight is for $600,000. APS may renew the contract for another two years at $600,000 annually.
Boston-based Mass Insight has worked with school districts across the country to improve chronically failing schools since 2010. During the last three years, Mass Insight helped the Jefferson Parish school district in Louisiana reduce its number of failing schools from 18 to four.
Mass Insight also has worked with the Colorado Department of Education since 2010. For the past three years, CDE has been a member of the nonprofit’s State Development Network, which helps state education departments craft and evaluate school improvement strategies.
While Munn is confident freeing his struggling schools of red tape is the best option for Aurora students, similar schools in Denver have produced mixed results. And costly consultants in other struggling school districts haven’t yielded the results state officials would want.
To win waivers in Colorado, the school committees must follow the state’s innovation school law, which requires proof of broad community support including a majority of a building’s teachers.
Still, school board members pressed Munn and officials from Mass Insight on building consensus for the school redesign plans at a meeting last week.
“If it’s a dictatorial process through a single individual, I don’t think the process will be viewed as authentic,” said board member Dan Jorgensen. “I will not vote for any plan that isn’t authentic.”
So far, only one school has been identified to participate in the district’s first ACTION Zone: Aurora Central High.
Aurora Central has been considered academically failing by the state for five years. The State Board of Education was supposed to level sanctions on the high school, which serves mostly Latino students from low-income homes, later this school year. However, legislation passed in the spring put a hold on the state’s accountability timeline.
Munn’s ACTION Zone plan is in part a pre-emptive strike to stave off state sanctions, which could include handing over low performing schools to charter authorizers or closing them. Munn sought and won the state board’s blessing to move forward with his plan this summer.
The APS administration is also considering including Boston K-8 and other primary schools that send students to Aurora Central as part of the plan.
Munn said he hopes to have detailed plans for the five schools to the school board for approval early next year. If the APS and state boards of education approve the plans, they’ll be rolled out for the 2016-2017 school year.
A program that takes Denver students out of the classroom and puts them into real-world situations and offices is an effort to close the achievement gap. Denver Business JournalSchool and Marijuana
Colorado has brought in more than $150 million in marijuana tax revenue, according to official state data. But that doesn't make it a budgetary panacea for schools and other state services, lawmakers warn. Christian Science MonitorGetting to know Joyce
When Joyce Rankin was 10 years old, she told her parents she wanted to be a fifth-grade teacher. Now she's the newest member of the State Board of Education. Post-IndependentLand squabble
The opening of a new charter school hasn't ended a legal fight by still-simmering Denver parks advocates over what they saw as an illegal giveaway of valuable park land, a charge disputed by city officials. Denver PostElection 2015
Six candidates are running for three seats on the Douglas County school board. Here is a quick look at them. Douglas County News-PressThe Jefferson County clerk’s office expressed confidence Friday that a high-profile school board recall election can co-exist with a crowded November regular ballot and promised to address the Colorado Secretary of State’s concerns about whether it can pull it off. Chalkbeat Colorado First things first
Students participating in the El Sistema Colorado program learn how to play an instrument and team building skills by making paper mache violins. 9NewsHuman Resources
A Basalt High School teacher is one of three finalists for the Colorado Department of Education’s 2016 Teacher of the Year award. Aspen TimesThe Thompson School District is constantly hiring bus drivers with turnover leaving a steady stream of open routes and forcing office staff behind the wheel. Reporter-Herald PARCCing Zone
School is back in session. But teachers, parents, and students still don't have the results from last springs PARCC tests. That should change this fall. AP via Denver PostAll tech considered
Students at half of the St. Vrain Valley School District's high schools — Silver Creek, Longmont, Frederick and Mead — received iPads this fall. The rest of the high schools will distribute iPads next school year. Daily CameraHealthy schools
As we previously reported, schools across Colorado will begin issuing the Healthy Kids Survey. GazetteTwo cents
The U.S. Supreme Court should take the Douglas County voucher case and rule in favor of it, ending Colorado's so-called Blaine Amendment, the Gazette suggests. GazetteBad economic times are never too far down the road, so 2016 is a critical year to ask voters to approve measures that would give lawmakers more financial flexibility, writes Vincent Carroll. Denver Post "The Jefferson County Education Association, the local teachers’ union, reacted badly," writes a columnist for the conservative National Review. National Review
The Jefferson County clerk’s office expressed confidence Friday that a high-profile school board recall election can co-exist with a crowded November regular ballot and promised to address the Colorado Secretary of State’s concerns about whether it can pull it off.
“The staff and everybody looked at all the options possible,” said Beth Clippinger, spokeswoman for the clerk. “We talked to all the players in the game. This is the best possible plan for our voters and following state statute.”
The Secretary of State’s office sent a letter to the clerk Thursday raising concerns about the office’s decision to include the recall with the regular election.
Clippinger said the clerk’s office will respond early next with its game plan for combining the recall with the general election— an explanation required by law.
Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert said Friday that recalls “were never really intended to be run on coordinated elections.”
Among the concerns detailed in the secretary’s letter and in a Chalkbeat interview with Staiert:
How will the clerk’s office coordinate dozens of other elections including those for city councils?
How much wiggle room will the clerk have to meet state election deadlines in the event of a technical error?
What will happen if there is an eleventh-hour legal challenge?
The most recent notable recalls in Colorado have been off the regular election cycle. The successful recall of Democratic state Sens. John Morse and Angela Giron — targets for their support for gun-control legislation — took place Sept. 10, 2013.
The timing of the Jeffco recall — organized by a group called Jeffco United for Action — has been in dispute since Day 1.
State statutes that govern regular elections and recalls conflict, making one ballot for both extremely unlikely. However, organizers behind the recall effort believed they found a three-day window to make it work, saving Jeffco Public Schools roughly $500,000 it would cost to stage a special election.
“Our group has done everything we can to be the most cost-effective election it could be for the Jeffco school district,” said Jeffco United for Action spokeswoman Lynea Hansen. “There are going to be challenges, but I think the Jeffco clerk is ready to handle those.”
Ballot printing errors are one potential problem. Another: a conflict between state statute and the state constitution regarding candidates to replace recall targets Ken Witt, Julie Williams and John Newkirk.
State statute says residents who want to replace the school board members can petition to be on the ballot up to 15 days before the mail-in ballots must be sent to voters in October. However, the state constitution says residents have 15 days before the election day — which is technically Nov. 3 — to petition on to the ballot.
If someone tried to enter the race under the constitution’s timeline, that could trigger a legal challenge. That could send both the recall and regular election spiraling into chaos, Staiert said.
“We’d have multiple ballot content and a lot of voter confusion,” Staiert said. “We’d have to void the race and send out another ballot.”
Staiert said her office will continue to regularly communicate with the Jeffco clerk’s office.
“Our goal is to have a successful election,” she said.
Staiert said at least one concern about the recall has been resolved – involving deadlines required under state law for ballots sent overseas and to members of the military.
The Jeffco clerk will mail two ballots to those voters. The first, which will be sent 45 days before the Nov. 3 election, will contain a statewide ballot question. The second, which must be sent 22 days before the Nov. 3 election, will contain the county’s ballot language including the recall question.
Jeffco residents who began the recall process in June believe the school board majority has misused taxpayer dollars, disrespected teachers and parents, and broken the state’s open meetings law.
Witt, Williams, Newkirk and their supporters counter that reality is the opposite. The school district is building a new school without increasing debt or taxes, has given teachers raises and made meetings more accessible by live-streaming them on the Internet, they say.
Correction: An earlier version of this article said a Jefferson County ballot will be sent to military and overseas voters with statewide ballot questions. It will only contain one statewide ballot question.
The Jefferson County clerk’s office announced the much-watched recall of three board members would make the November ballot, but the Secretary of State has questions. CBS4, 9News, High Timber Times, Chalkbeat Coloradocan't wait
Recalls are an increasingly popular avenue to force political change quickly. Denver Postlearning to heal
Denver’s George Washington High is undergoing a massive year-long effort to rebuild what was for years a fractured school. CPRLet the sun shine in
Discussions among Garfield Re-2 school board members about parting ways with the district superintendent raise questions about a potential open meetings law violation. Citizen TelegramTaking care of business
The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce endorses Denver's looming ballot question over subsidizing college costs. Colorado IndependentBond windfall
All 55 Boulder Valley School District schools will see repairs or upgrades as a result of a $576.5 million bond issue approved in November. Daily CameraHuman Resources
Denver Public Schools Foundation president Kristin Heath Colon has been named Colorado Mountain College’s new vice president for advancement as well as the college's foundation CEO. Post Independentnot funny
Authorities credit a Northglenn high school student with alerting them Monday to an Arizona teen's Snapchat hoax about shooting up his school. Denver PostTwo cents
Anyone with a passing knowledge of school finance battles will recognize the last name on this commentary about how substantive change remains elusive. Denver Post
For two years, Colorado college students have been protected by a 6 percent cap on tuition increases.
But a draft new policy being considered by state higher education officials looks a lot like an old system that gave colleges and universities significant flexibility in setting tuition rates. In some instances, that led to double-digit increases.
The Colorado Commission on Higher Education, meeting Thursday in Colorado Springs, gave Department of Higher Education staff the go-ahead to refine the proposal before the commission makes a final decision.
“It’s expiring,” Diane Duffy, department chief financial officer, said of the current tuition cap. “The state of Colorado is going to need to do something” about tuition.
Any new policy would amount to a recommendation, with legislators having the final say.
In broad terms, the proposed policy would work like this: Every year the department and the commission would consider the expected amount of state funding for the coming school year and affordability factors for students, plus the financial needs of individual colleges and universities, in order to recommend a tuition increase cap.
Institutions would be allowed to increase tuition above the cap if they met commission-set requirements for affordability, student completion and other factors.
The biggest factor in the tuition equation is the level of state support.
“They are so inextricably linked,” Duffy said.What college costs
State budget cuts after the 2008 recession forced state colleges and universities to raise tuition rates to keep their budgets balanced. This year state colleges and universities are receiving about $740 million in state support but raise more than $2 billion in tuition revenue.
Higher education experts don’t believe the state can restrain tuition growth merely through cost savings at colleges and universities.
Colorado colleges have less revenue per student than institutions in most other states and “are already far more efficient than comparable public institutions” in other states, according to a cost study done for the department this summer.
That study, done by the Boulder-based National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, also noted “the share of the [higher education] budget devoted to expenditures for items other than compensation has declined substantially.”
A 2014 law requires the commission to deliver a proposed new tuition policy to the legislative Joint Budget Committee by Nov. 1. DHE staff members are continuing to work on the draft policy and will gather feedback from college and university leaders and others. The commission is expected to vote on a final version at its Oct. 29 meeting.Tuition as a political issue
Tuition increases in recent years put pressure on student and family budgets and also came at a time when the state was trying to increase enrollment of low-income and first-generation students, for whom college costs can be a significant barrier.
Rising tuition rates sparked concern among legislators, including some who tried to make college affordability a 2014 election issue.
During the 2014 session, lawmakers increased funding for higher education by 11 percent and also set the 6 percent cap on tuition increases for resident undergraduate students.
Tuition increases have moderated a bit recently. The median percent increase in tuition was 5 percent for 2014-15, the lowest since 2006-07, when it was 2.5 percent.Proposal echoes prior tuition flexibility law
As state funding shrank after the 2008 recessions, lawmakers threw colleges a lifeline with a 2010 law that gave institutions greater power over tuition than they had in the past.
That law set a 9 percent cap for five years but allowed the commission to approve larger increases if institutions provided detailed rationales for why they needed more money.
Most state colleges took advantage of that flexibility, and double-digit rate increases were imposed by some colleges. The legislative repealed that flexibility law in 2014.
In contrast to the 2010 law, the new proposal would be more integrated into the annual budget setting process for higher education, and the new plan would set different requirements for colleges that want to exceed the annual cap.Commission doesn’t have the final word
Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, who also heads DHE, reminded commissioners that they won’t have the final say on tuition, regardless of what new plan is adopted.
“What we would be adding here is a recommendation about tuition increases,” he said. “The General Assembly could elect to do something different.”
Commissioner Jeanette Garcia, an educator from Pueblo, said, “My hope is that the General Assembly starts recognizing that this body and the department are the right people to be making these decisions.”
Commissioner Paula Sandoval of Denver, a former state senator, noted, “We have to convince 35 senators and all of the representatives that what we’re doing is valid and sound.”Bigger budget problems could derail any formula
The lieutenant governor also stressed that a tight state budget could make a new tuition policy meaningless if lawmakers have to cut support of higher education.
He referred specifically to the hospital provider fee, income that doesn’t come from taxes but which still counts against the annual state revenue limit required by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. An attempt to reclassify the fee so it doesn’t count against the limit failed during the last legislative session, but the Hickenlooper administration plans to try again in 2016.
“If the hospital provider fee isn’t converted … there’s no chance there will an increase for higher education, and probably a decrease” in 2016-17, Garcia said. “And we’ll see tuition go up.”
The Jefferson County school board recall election will be part of this fall’s regular ballot, the county clerk announced Thursday.
The recall question will be part of the mail-in ballot, which will be sent to voters in October, the clerk said. Anticipating a larger turnout, the clerk’s office will also set up additional polling centers on Election Day, Nov. 3, for those who want to vote in person.
The announcement follows months of speculation about the timing and potential added costs of a recall. If a special election were required, the school district would face an estimated cost of $500,000.
A letter from the Secretary of State’s office sent after business hours, however, casts some doubt on whether the recall could be part of the regular mail-in ballot.
The letter, sent about 5:30 p.m., asks the clerk to provide the state with a plan on how the clerk’s office will address ballots to those in the military. Those ballots must go out by mid-September, which is problematic because candidates running to replace the recall targets have until Sept. 28 to turn in petitions with at least 50 valid signatures needed to make the ballot.
The letter was first reported by CBS4.
There was always doubt about whether the recall would make this fall’s regular ballot because there are discrepancies between state laws that govern recalls and regular elections. Recall organizers said they worked to submit enough signatures within a three-day window they believed would guarantee a spot on this fall’s ballot.
Five candidates have pulled petitions so far, but none have returned them completed, Beth Clippinger, spokeswoman for the clerk’s office, said earlier Thursday.
“The sooner the better. That would help us,” Clippinger said. “But we have to follow the law.”
Those who have picked up petitions are: Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon, Ron Mitchell, Matthew Dhieux and Paula Noonan.
Jeffco residents who began the recall process believe the school board majority has misused taxpayer dollars, disrespected teachers and parents, and met in private.
Witt, Williams, Newkirk and their supporters counter that reality is the opposite. The school district is building a new school without increasing debt or taxes, they’ve given teachers raises and made meetings more accessible by live streaming them on the Internet.
Denver’s teachers union is accusing Denver Public Schools of overstepping its bounds by not getting union buy-in before launching a program that pays teachers extra for working in 30 of its highest-need schools.
The grievance filed this week by the Denver Classroom Teachers Association drew a rebuke from DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg, who in an interview defended the process and said the union has shown “zero flexibility” in finding new ways to attract great teachers to high-poverty schools.
While research has shown that higher pay alone is often not enough to keep teachers from leaving challenging schools, DCTA executive director Pam Shamburg said the union is not opposed to the concept.
However, she said changes such as DPS’s new incentive program “have to be bargained. They just can’t be imposed by the district unilaterally. If (Boasberg) changes his mind tomorrow, they are out the door.”
Boasberg said he was “very disappointed” in the development.
“Our teachers have waited too long for this change,” he said. “Our goal is very simple and very important, which is to get and keep our best teachers in our highest-need schools to close our achievement gaps and give all kids great opportunities.”
The disagreement is the latest between a school district and teachers union in Colorado over changing how teachers are paid. While districts increasingly are eyeing incentive-based reforms — with support from many educators – the conflicts illustrate the challenges of upending a compensation system that traditionally has rewarded teachers’ experience and academic credentials.Windfall from pension bill
Boasberg announced the program in June alongside Gov. John Hickenlooper at the signing ceremony for a bill that reduces the amount DPS contributes each year to PERA, the state’s retirement fund. That gave the district about $20 million a year of savings to work with.
DPS chose to begin the teacher incentive program with some of that money. Under the plan, more than 1,500 teachers and specialized service providers such as counselors, nurses and social workers at the 30 high-need schools will receive between $2,000 and $4,000 a year extra. Those with higher evaluation ratings would earn the larger bonuses.
Teachers would earn monthly incentives for working in the schools, and a yearly, one-time bonus for returning to work another year. Those payments are on top of another incentive – what teachers earn by serving more than 100 impoverished schools and programs designated as “hard-to-serve” through ProComp, DPS’s teacher pay plan.
Teachers across the district already are scheduled to get a 5.6 percent raise on average this school year.
Boasberg said in adopting the incentive program, “what we have done is fully consistent with (the collective bargaining agreement), with the law, and with extensive precedents in DPS.” District officials say the union’s grievance will not halt the monthly bonuses.
Boasberg said the 30 schools were chosen based on factors including poverty rates, the number of English language learners and students with disabilities, and past academic performance.
A year ago, the district put in place a similar incentive program for principals or school leaders at the same 30 schools. Boasberg said teachers there deserve the same.
A ProComp working group of district officials and teachers recommended similar changes more than a year ago, Boasberg said. And more than eight months ago, a teacher retention task force focused on teachers in high-need schools recommended the incentives, he said.
During ProComp negotiations last school year, DPS proposed paying for the incentives in high-needs schools by reducing bonuses for teachers in schools identified as top performing on the district’s school performance framework. The union fought that idea, and it was abandoned.Fleeting bonuses?
Shamburg acknowledges that teacher buy-in but maintains the incentives need to be bargained.
“What we are most opposed to is a compensation system that pits teacher against teacher,” she said. “But we also realize there’s a recognition that it’s just a harder job in some locations than it is in others, and we should take a serious look at what it takes for teachers to stay and increase performance at schools that are really challenging.”
At the same time, the union and others question whether what may be fleeting bonuses will prove effective in attracting and keeping teachers at challenging schools. The DCTA is pushing for raising starting teacher salaries to $50,000 — up from $38,765 for those with bachelor’s degrees and $42,538 with master’s degrees – and permanent pay raises.
The tit-for-tat between DPS and the union follows a similar dispute in Aurora over Superintendent Rico Munn’s more modest plan to pay incentives to teachers rated effective or higher who stay at one of the district’s most at-risk elementary schools.
The Aurora Education Association filed a grievance, and an arbitrator agreed with the union that Munn lacked the authority to pay teachers at Paris Elementary anything other that what is spelled out in the district’s collective bargaining agreement.
The school board this week scolded Munn and accepted the arbitrator’s findings, while directing Munn to work with the union to figure out how to pay teachers the incentives they were promised.
A judge ordered the Thompson School District to recognize the Thompson Education Association's status as the exclusive representative of teachers while a breach of contract lawsuit proceeds. Reporter-HeraldIn light of the injunction, the Thompson school board changed its plan to discuss new policies regarding the union. Reporter-Herald The Aurora board Tuesday night told Superintendent Rico Munn to clean up the “disaster” he created by boosting pay for teachers at one of the district’s most at-risk elementary schools without first getting the blessing of the teachers union. Chalkbeat Colorado No scholarship for you
A workforce development program that promises most Weld County high school graduates $3,000 per year for higher education will leave out students living in the country illegally. Greeley Tribunesafe schools
A senior at Greeley Central High School was arrested Wednesday morning after a handgun and ammunition were found in his backpack. Denver PostA 16-year-old Arizona student was arrested for a hoax after a Colorado student alerted police of a photo posted on Snapchat about a school shooting. 9News growing and growing
Metropolitan State University of Denver has inked an agreement that gives it ownership of portions of Colorado Heights University's Loretto Heights, creating a multi-campus. Denver PostHigher ed
It's an increasingly popular move in higher education. Hundreds of schools no longer require student applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores. NPR via KUNCEarly childhood
The state released a document Wednesday that outlines strategies and goals around early childhood education, health and family support. Chalkbeat Coloradoshowing up
Colorado has slightly higher student absenteeism rates in the fourth and eighth grades than the nation as a whole, according to a new study that ties chronic absences to achievement gaps. Chalkbeat Colorado
The reception in the marbled lobby of the Colorado Trust building was for adults, but all about kids.
Little kids to be exact.
They are the focus of the brightly colored brochure that was officially unveiled on Wednesday evening and will soon find its way onto the desks of early childhood policymakers, advocates and educators—including K-12 administrators—across the state.
Officially called the Early Childhood Colorado Framework, the document outlines the state’s strategies and goals around early childhood education, health and family support.
The new framework is a simpler, more streamlined version of one first released in 2008. The revision cost about $100,000, with the money coming from the state and six foundations.
Early childhood leaders around the state say the new framework will be both easier to use and more comprehensive than the old one.
Anna Jo Haynes, co-chair of the state’s Early Childhood Leadership Commission, said the new version brings extra emphasis to each end of the early child spectrum, which covers the prenatal period to age eight.
Too often, there’s a tendency for discussions of early childhood to focus on the preschool years—typically ages three and four, she said.
“We haven’t been great about doing what we need to do with both ends of that spectrum,” Haynes said.
The new framework also brings more focus to the preschool-to-kindergarten transition and the large swath of young children not enrolled in licensed childcare programs, but rather watched informally by relatives, friends and neighbors.
Such informal arrangements often feel like a “black hole” to early childhood leaders, said Stephanie Martin, director of Routt County’s early childhood council.
They know it’s there, but have a hard time tracking it.
“I do think this is a more holistic approach,” Martin said. “You can share this framework with a broader audience.”National context
While several states have some version of an early childhood plan, Colorado’s may be unique in the support it’s garnered from top state leaders. The crowd on Wednesday included several current and former legislators as well as Gov. John Hickenlooper.Gov. John Hickenlooper walks to the podium at the Colorado Trust as part of an event unveiling the Early Childhood Colorado Framework.
Laura Bornfreund, deputy director of the New America Foundation’s Early Childhood Initiative, said the governor’s presence at the release event is significant.
He’s “using [his] bully pulpit to say, ‘Hey, early childhood is really important,” she said.
“These kinds of documents, be they frameworks or roadmaps or other kinds of high-level plans … set a vision at the state level,” she said.
Both Hickenlooper and Lt. Governor Joe Garcia, who is co-chair of the Early Childhood Leadership Commission, have prioritized improving early childhood programs.
In a short speech Wednesday evening, Hickenlooper said the framework follows on work done when he was Denver mayor to get the Denver Preschool Program sales tax passed.
He said the new framework is a key step in making Colorado the No. 1 state for children to grow up, saying “it’s “going to accelerate the pace of change for our kids.”Keeping it real
Although the new framework is less wordy than the original, it will likely be used much the same way. That is, to help state leaders, funders, early childhood councils and community organizations set priorities, identify service gaps and better coordinate services.
Lisa Jansen Thompson, director of the Early Childhood Partnership of Adams County, described the framework as a “really good guide to make sure we’re addressing all the needs of our families and our community.”
Like many early childhood councils across the state, her team has used the framework extensively, she said.The cardboard coasters distributed at the framework release event.
“We live it and breath it, we literally have posters of it on our walls,” Jansen Thompson said.
One problem the partnership identified as they used the original framework was the lack of home visiting services for families of 2-year-olds in the county. The programs that were available, she said, either stopped at age 2 or started at age 3.
Jansen Thompson said once that gap was identified, a local organization that already provided some home visiting services secured additional grant money and expanded their program to cover 2-year-olds.
One group that may be relatively unfamiliar with the framework but is increasingly part of its target audience is elementary school administrators, Haynes said.
”How do you convince people in public schools this is really meant for you?” she said.
Some commission members have wondered if that group will balk at using the document, but Haynes said framework drafters and state education department staff will work to support principals and other district personnel.
“We’re hoping people will be open-minded and will look at it,” she said, “But we certainly don’t expect it to happen overnight.”
Above is the second page of the 2015 version of the Early Childhood Colorado Framework.
AURORA — The school board here Tuesday night told Superintendent Rico Munn to clean up the “disaster” he created by boosting pay for teachers at one of the district’s most at-risk elementary schools without first getting the blessing of the teachers union.
On a 6-1 vote, the school board accepted the decision of an independent arbitrator that found the Aurora Public Schools administration violated its collective bargaining agreement with the Aurora Education Association when it gave teachers at Paris Elementary a bump in pay.
School board president JulieMarie Shepherd was the lone board member to stick by Munn.
The school board then unanimously directed Munn to bargain with the teachers union to ensure the staff members at Paris receives the pay they were promised.
“My intent is you complete payment however it looks,” school board member Dan Jorgensen said.
Its unclear how Munn’s administration and the union will move forward on paying teachers.
As part of the original plan, Munn promised teachers at Paris a raise on two conditions — that they stay at Paris and maintain at least an effective rating on their annual evaluations.
Munn, explaining his rationale for linking the program to evaluations, told the school board on Tuesday that it would be difficult to explain to taxpayers why teachers rated ineffective were getting a bonus.
The Aurora Education Association said Tuesday it will not sign off any plan that links pay to evaluations.
Paris has suffered some of the district’s highest rates of teacher attrition for five years. Officials believe this is one reason why students chronically earn poor scores on the state’s standardized assessments.
Despite firing harsh criticism at Munn for the process, multiple board members did renew their support for the program.
“I agree with the two conditions. I like the effective piece. I don’t want to pay ineffective teachers per se,” said board member Amber Drevon. “… I would not consider this a discontinuation of the program. We like the program. AEA says they’re open to discussing it. All we’re saying is, ‘You don’t have to leave it. You don’t have to discontinue it. No, please pursue the idea. But pursue it together in a mutually agreed upon fashion.’”
Colorado has slightly higher student absenteeism rates in the fourth and eighth grades than the nation as a whole, according to a new study that ties chronic absences to achievement gaps.
But the study found Colorado had slightly smaller gaps in scores on a national test between students with high numbers of absences and those without them.
The statistics were part of a report released this week that found that attendance disparities among different kinds of students start as early as preschool and kindergarten and contribute to achievement gaps and dropout rates in later grades.
The role of student health is highlighted in the study, which says, “Many of these absences, especially among our youngest students, are excused and tied directly to health factors: asthma and dental problems, learning disabilities and mental health issues related to trauma and community violence.”
The study, “Mapping the Early Attendance Gap,” was done by two advocacy and research organizations, Attendance Works and the Healthy Schools Campaign.
The groups urge that states and districts take a more nuanced view of attendance to ensure that more students spend more time in school. “State leaders can shift the focus — and the accountability metrics — from truancy to chronic absenteeism, a measure of how many students miss 10 percent or more of the school year for any reason. And they can identify and learn from the positive outliers — the schools, districts and communities that improve or maintain high levels of attendance despite challenging conditions,” the report said.
The report combines the findings of other absenteeism research and took a snapshot of the problem based on results from the 2011 and 2013 National Assessment of Education Progress tests in English and math. Those exams are given to a sample of students in each state (about 2,500 in each grade) in fourth and eighth grades. Students who take those exams also are asked how many days they were absent in the prior month.
That review found that 20 percent of both fourth and eighth graders nationwide reported three or more absences in the prior month. The percentages were higher for students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch and for minority students.
The study also found that higher percentages of students with disabilities were absent three or more days in a month.
Students with higher levels of absences also had lower mean scores on the NAEP assessments.
Here’s a look at score gaps for the nation and Colorado:
Fourth grade: For all students nationwide, students with absence problems had a mean score 12 points lower than other students. For Colorado the gap was 10 points. The gap was nine points for students who were eligible for subsidized meals and eight points for non-eligible students.
Eighth grade: For all students nationwide, students with absence problems had a mean score 18 points lower than other students. For Colorado the gap was 17 points. The gap was 14 points for students who were eligible for subsidized meals and 13 points for non-eligible students.
“Analysis shows that missing three or more days in the prior month (high-absenteeism) is associated with lower test scores for students in every state and city tested,” the study said. See the report’s state-by-state charts here.
The report sums up its finding in this way: “Across the country, an estimated 5 million to 7.5 million students are missing nearly a month of school [a year] and suffering academically for it.
“The problem starts early: At least 10 percent of kindergartners and first graders miss that much school, absences that can stall their progress in reading and deny them an equal opportunity to learn. Chronic absence flares again in middle and high school, when it becomes an early warning sign that students will drop out. Children from low-income families and communities of color, and those with disabilities are disproportionately affected.”
As required by federal law, the state Department of Education compiles attendance data submitted by school districts.
For the 2013-14 school year, Colorado had an attendance rate of 93.5 percent. The truancy rate, defined as unexcused absences, was 2.2 percent. While the state breaks out attendance by school, it doesn’t report absenteeism by grade or by disaggregated student groups. Get links to CDE truancy rate data here.
Two months after Colorado’s highest court rejected the Douglas County School District’s controversial school voucher program, officials in the wealthy, high-achieving suburban district announced Wednesday they will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case.
The district also gained a key ally in the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, which will be filing its own petition backing the district’s Choice Scholarship Program, district officials said.
The district’s move is not a surprise. District leaders all but promised to take the step after the Colorado Supreme Court held in a 4-3 judgment June 29 that the program violated a state constitutional provision barring spending public money on religious schools.
District officials also followed through on their pledge to enlist elite legal help, announcing their team would be headlined by Paul Clement, a former U.S. solicitor general who has been mentioned as a potential Republican appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The AG’s office signing on is another boost to the district. After the state Supreme Court ruling, Republican AG Cynthia Coffman issued a statement lamenting districts “now have one fewer tool to support parents in choosing the education that best fits their children’s needs.” A spokesman for the AG said the office would not be issuing any statements Wednesday commenting on its involvement in the Dougco case.
“When the Colorado Supreme Court’s opinion was announced in late June, we promised a careful, thorough and rigorous legal analysis to determine our next steps,” school board president Kevin Larsen said in a statement. “Today we announce that we will be seeking U.S. Supreme Court review of our case. To achieve that end, we have retained the very best legal minds in the country to make our argument that the June 29 opinion runs afoul of the United States Constitution.”Mixed legal results on vouchers
Just about every program nationwide that uses public money to subsidize private education has been tested in court, with mixed results but the majority surviving, analysts say. Framers of the Dougco pilot program modeled it on an Ohio voucher program that weathered a U.S. Supreme Court challenge.
Legal experts disagree on whether the nation’s highest court will take the Douglas County case. Some say it’s unlikely the court would wade into a case brought solely on a state constitutional matter. Others argue the anti-Catholic roots of Colorado’s law – similar to those in more than 35 other states – and other issues make it a strong candidate and could plow new ground beyond traditional arguments over the First Amendment.
The district has signaled it will argue that prejudiced history taints the law enough that it violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. Opponents of the voucher program point to precedent holding that state courts can interpret their own constitutions to recognize broader rights than what might be afforded under the U.S. Constitution.
The involvement of Clement — who as U.S. solicitor general from 2005 to 2008 represented the federal government in U.S. Supreme Court arguments — is another wrinkle.
Larsen said Clement will be supported by a “dream team” of lawyers involved in the state court proceedings and scholars from “the highest ranking law schools in America.”
Alan Chen, a constitutional law expert at the University of Denver’s Strum College of Law, said Wednesday he does not believe the Colorado Attorney General’s Office involvement will factor in whether the court takes the case. While crediting Clement’s stature and experience, Chen said he remains skeptical the court will grant the review because the case is built entirely on state constitutional law.
Mark Silverstein, legal director for the ACLU of Colorado, which represented most of the individual plaintiffs, noted that the Attorney General’s office has been involved from the beginning. The State Board of Education was one of the defendants and was represented by the AG’s office.
Silverstein said he “wants to see what they write and how they frame the issue” in the petition to the Supreme Court before commenting further.An unorthodox voucher program
The Dougco voucher case has endured a long and bumpy road. The district established the Choice Scholarship Program in 2011 after a conservative takeover of the school board, reasoning that competition can lift all schools even in a district consistently ranked as one of the state’s top academic achievers.
While most voucher programs are restricted to low-income students or those with special needs, Douglas County invited all families to apply — although the program was limited to 500 slots. Sixteen of the 23 participating private schools were religious; 14 were outside the county.PHOTO: Nicholas GarciaHighlands Ranch High School science teacher Bob MacArthur leads a class discussion May 16 on propaganda art. His ninth grade science class was asked to design a propaganda poster in support of an energy source they have been studying.
In 2011, the first 304 students were about to enroll when a lawsuit brought it to a halt. Voucher opponents prevailed in Denver District Court. But in 2013, the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the program’s constitutionality in a 2-1 vote, setting the stage for state Supreme Court arguments.
In the prevailing opinion, Supreme Court Chief Justice Nancy Rice cited Colorado’s “stark constitutional provision” forbidding the use of public money to fund religious schools. Although the money came in the form of financial aid to students, the prohibition is not limited to direct funding, she wrote.
School board member Craig Richardson said in an interview the decision to continue the legal fight is consistent with the district’s “broader strategic vision of freedom.” That, he said, includes empowering parents to choose their children’s schools and extends to the district’s teacher pay-for-performance system.
“The district is proceeding because it’s good for the Douglas County School District to proceed,” Richardson said.District looking at proceeding with secular schools
He said the district has yet to complete a separate legal review of whether it can move ahead with the voucher program with changes. The district previously floated the possibility of revamping the program as early as this fall, but ran out of time before the school year began.
One question the district is evaluating, Richardson said, is whether moving forward only with secular private schools would meet the legal parameters of the state Supreme Court ruling. Given that most students chose to enroll in religious schools, it’s unclear how much appeal that would hold.
The decision to petition the high court – and assemble the high-powered legal team — also will send legal costs soaring beyond the $1.2 million the district already has reported. District officials say private donations have covered all costs.
“We continue to have as our goal that all legal costs associated with this case will be funded with the generous contributions of private donors who similarly believe in choice and competition in K-12 education and are not affiliated with any religious institutions,” Richardson said. “We strongly believe this is not a cause to which we want to put taxpayer dollars.”
The district faces a deadline at the end of September to ask for a U.S. Supreme Court review. Richardson said the district plans to ask for a month’s extension to file but will move forward even if that is denied.
The Adams 12-Five Star district is raising teacher salaries again this school year. Northglenn-Thornton SentinelThe Denver school district is setting a new $12 minimum hourly wage for district employees. AP via Denver Post Turnarounds are tough
An education advocate and principal are interviewed about how to turn around low-performing schools. CPRHigh school for all
McLain Community High School in Lakewood allows adults of any age to earn their diplomas. 9NewsTraining teachers
An infusion of $1.2 million in federal scholarship money will help more Colorado College students who aspire to become teachers study techniques in local schools with high amounts of low-income students. GazetteTesting
Results for some of the states that participated in Common Core-aligned testing for the first time this spring are out, with overall scores higher than expected though still below what many parents may be accustomed to seeing. APUnintended consequences
A new study argues that residents in many Colorado school districts pay higher property taxes than they would have if the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights hadn’t been passed. Chalkbeat ColoradoTwo cents
Passage of Denver’s tax-funded scholarship program would be an investment in the city’s students and economy, writes business leader Barbara Grogan. Denver Post
A new paper by three Colorado State University researchers argues that residents in many Colorado school districts pay higher property taxes than they would have if the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights hadn’t been passed.
The study provides details for what many Colorado educators and policymakers have long observed – a shift of school funding responsibility from districts to the state and widened funding gaps between richer districts and poorer districts.
“Property taxes in Colorado have become more unequal and less progressive, and somewhat improbably 81 percent of the state’s population is paying more in property tax than if TABOR had not passed and begun distorting school funding,” the study concludes.
“Taxpayers in 74 of the state’s 178 school districts currently pay more in school property taxes than they would if TABOR was never enacted. These 74 districts contain 81 percent of the state’s population,” the report said.
Passed by a statewide vote in 1992, TABOR is best known for its requirement that state and local tax rate increases have to be approved by voters. But it also contains a complex set of provisions that put limits on both government spending and revenue collection, requirements that have created challenges for governments across the state.
The study focuses on one element of TABOR, a requirement that school district mill levies – the tax rate on real estate – be reduced under certain circumstances. In districts where the tax rate is driven down, the state share of school funding automatically increases under the formula in state school finance law.
“In essence, since most of the larger districts in Colorado were not the ones whose levies were driven down by TABOR, the 81 percent of the state’s population living in these districts were left subsidizing low levies in a subset of the state’s smaller districts whose levies were driven down,” the report said.Learn more
“As a result, local property tax rates and burdens plummeted in those [smaller] districts resulting in a reduced reliance on the local property tax and an increased one on state aid. In effect, for these districts, TABOR transferred the burden of funding schools from the local residents to all Coloradans who pay state taxes,” the report continued. “Colorado taxpayers are subsidizing extremely low levies in a small sample of districts, many of which are quite wealthy.”
The study also argues that TABOR has made property taxes more regressive, meaning that lower-income taxpayers pay a higher percentage of their income in property taxes than do higher-income citizens.
And the report also notes that disparities between districts have increased because larger, wealthier districts have an easier time gaining voter approval of mill levy overrides. Those are local property tax increases that provide additional revenue on top of the funding provided through the state school finance formula.
“The use of overrides may be resulting in wealth related spending disparities in public school finance across Colorado,” the report said.
The paper was written with the support of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, a foundation that supports research on land policy and land-related tax issues. It was published on the institute’s website.
The authors are economist Phyllis Resnick and Charles Brown and Deborah Godshall of the CSU Colorado Futures Center, a Colorado think tank that originated at the University of Denver but now is part of CSU. Brown and Godshall are former senior legislative staff members with expertise in the state budget and school finance.
The center issued major studies in 2011 and 2013 detailing the gap between revenues and mandated spending Colorado faces in the future. Read about the 2011 study here and see this story about the 2013 update.
A group of civic leaders called Building a Better Colorado is studying possible changes to fiscal provisions and other parts of the state constitution, but no specific proposals have been developed.
Talk about funding inequities among districts starting to bubble at the Capitol during the 2015 legislative session, and the issue is expected to surface again in 2016.
LAKEWOOD — Jefferson County voters got their first glimpse Monday at most of the candidates either running for or defending their seats on the school board.
Nine of the 12 declared candidates and incumbents met at a forum hosted by Colorado Christian University, giving voters a taste of what’s to come in a race that already has drawn national attention to a county known as a political bellwether.
In regular times, two of the five seats on the school board would be up for election.
But barring an unexpected development, voters also will be asked to recall the other three school board members that comprise the conservative majority — Ken Witt, Julie Williams and John Newkirk — and replace them with new faces.
That puts all five seats on the board in play. And it created a lively discussion at the private Christian university’s forum.
Here are Chalkbeat’s five takeaways from the evening:The missing slate was the elephant in the room.
A few days after the Jefferson County clerk announced the recall campaign had supplied enough signatures to send the question to the voters, a group of three Jeffco residents backed by an anonymous group of parents announced their intention to replace the board majority.
That slate of candidates, however, did not attend the university’s forum. John Andrews, the forum’s host, a former state lawmaker and leader in Colorado’s conservative community, was a good sport about it. While he reminded the audience more than a few times that the slate turned down his invitation, he also encouraged audience members to do their own research on the candidates.
“To me, they missed an opportunity to demonstrate good faith of putting their goals and agenda in front of a large and engaged audience of Jefferson County voters and to submit to some give and take with people who want the same job they want,” Andrews told Chalkbeat.
Other supporters of the recall targets suggested the slate’s absence was evidence that the candidates would snub conservatives in favor of the teachers union.
When asked why he was unable to attend, candidate Brad Rupert said in an email he had a previous engagement.
Candidates Ron Mitchell and Susan Harmon did not respond to requests for comment.
What we’ll be watching next: The next forum is Sept. 12. Will the slate participate?Julie Williams was more confident than ever and she owned the AP U.S. history controversy.
Conventional wisdom says school board member Julie Williams faces the toughest challenge keeping her seat this fall. Her name is linked with the most public controversy the board has weathered.
But you wouldn’t have known that Monday night. Williams, in a friendly environment, was poised and confident. And she received some of the loudest applause of the evening.
Last fall, Williams made headlines with a request to review the Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum to ensure materials were patriotic. Her proposal, which mirrored another in Texas, sent thousands of Jeffco high schoolers to the streets in protest. Williams’s proposal eventually evolved into a rewrite of the district’s curriculum review process. No review of the history class was ordered.
This summer, the organization responsible for establishing the class’s framework and corresponding test issued new guidance that addressed conservatives’ concerns. The group added a section about American exceptionalism and filled in chunks of history Williams and others said needed to be explicitly addressed.
“I was right on AP U.S. History!” Williams said at the forum.
What we’ll be watching for next: How will Williams’s defense of her AP History position play in less friendly settings?The fault lines on some hot topics like testing are fuzzy.
In an attempt to provide the audience with a snapshot of views on some of the hottest education policy debates in Jeffco and the nation, moderator Andrews asked a series of “yes” or “no” questions.
The candidates also could have answered “pass” if they thought the question was too complex to answer that way.
There were a few shockers:
Candidate Ali Lasell, who has been critical of the board majority’s record, said she supported their efforts for putting charter schools on the same financial footing as district-run schools. Williams broke rank with Witt and Newkirk when she said she didn’t support free full-day kindergarten for students who qualify for free and reduced-priced lunch. And Witt said he he would support vouchers for private schools as a parent, but not as board president of a public school system.
Not every topic drew sharp choices for voters.
Take the PARCC tests. Every candidate and incumbent except Amanda Stevens said they wanted Colorado to withdraw completely or partially from the multi-state testing partnership.
And every candidate and incumbent except Lasell approved of student-based budgeting, which allocates dollars to schools based on the number of students and their needs, and gives schools discretion on how to spend the money. Lasell said she wouldn’t form an opinion until after a year of using it.
What we’ll be watching for next: How do the incumbents and candidates differentiate themselves on complex policy debates, especially when they mostly agree?The non-slate successor candidates, Noonan and Dhieux, will bring an edge to the debate.
It would be easy for the recall election to become slate vs. slate. But candidate Paula Noonan — running to replace Witt — certainly isn’t going to let that happen.
Noonan took both the recall supporters and targets to task several times. At one point toward the end of the forum, moderator Andrews referred to Noonan affectionately as an “Irish terrier.”
Noonan isn’t the only candidate unconnected to a slate seeking to replace a recall target. Matthew Dhieux, who is running for Newkirk’s seat, earned the attention of the room when he plainly explained — while other candidates dodged — what he believed the recall election was about: local communities losing control of their classrooms to special interests.
What we’ll be watching for next: How do Noonan and Dhieux push both the incumbents and the successor slate in the next debate?The regular school board election might actually be the more substantive races to watch.
While the recall election is getting all the attention, the more authentic conversations may take place between candidates in the regular school board races.
Take this exchange between Ali Lasell and Kim Johnson about the achievement gap …
Lasell: “What we need to address is full-day kindergarten for every student … Once we get there, we need to man up for preschool.”
Johnson: “There’s more than one solution to close the achievement gap, because there is more than one reason why it’s there.”
Neither Lasell nor Johnson have run for office before. That’s true for Amanda Stevens as well. And Tori Merritts is a stranger to a political campaign in the age of Twitter; her last campaign for Jeffco’s school board was in 1999.
It’s clear that Witt, Newkirk and Williams have their talking points down. And it’s safe to assume the successor slate will bring messaging that echoes the recall campaign’s themes. As true with most campaigns, the incumbents and candidates will strive for fewer and fewer surprises.
So enjoy the fresh debate amongst the novices while you still can.
What we’ll be watching for next: Whose experience will resonate with voters more: Stevens’s experience in the classroom or Merritts’s experience on the board?
Update: This article has been updated to include the host of the event’s first name, John.
"We hear all the time that there's not a silver bullet out there — that we don't know how to turn around the schools that have been struggling academically for years. I actually think we do have a very clear road map." – Zachary Rahn, principal Ashley Elementary School CPRElection 2015Daily Camera labor day
The Thompson school board will discuss repealing all policies that recognize the Thompson Education Association as the exclusive bargaining agent and representative of the teachers and revising policies on disciplinary decisions for teachers. Reporter-HeraldAurora's school board will decide whether Superintendent Rico Munn may pay teachers at one elementary school more money in an effort to reduce teacher churn. Chalkbeat Colorado Career readiness
A new state-of-the-art Colorado Springs welding training center is in high demand. Gazettesafe schools
The Colorado State Patrol is ramping up patrols in one part of Grand Junction where a student was injured in a hit-and-run. KJCTResignation
A board that oversees New Mexico’s largest school district unanimously voted Monday to accept the resignation of its embattled superintendent, who hired an administrator charged with child sex abuse in Colorado. AP via SFGateHonor Roll
Longtime Glenwood Springs High School science teacher Scott Nykerk is among 42 Colorado teachers honored for the impact they have had on some of Colorado’s top students. Post-IndependentHigher ed
The National Retail Federation estimates that families will spend $43 billion on supplies for college-going students. NPR via KUNCAn unknown person wrote about the sexual assault of sorority members on several chalk advertisements for the University of Colorado's Greek Life programs on campus Monday. Denver Post The University of Denver is violating federal law by paying female law professors less than their male counterparts, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 9News
AURORA — Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn wants to give teachers at an academically struggling elementary school more money for sticking around.
Paris Elementary School, which is just north of Colfax Avenue in the Original Aurora neighborhood, has suffered some of the district’s highest teacher churn rates during the last five years.
Staff and district leaders believe this is one reason students — who are mostly Latino and black, and come from low-income homes — are earning poor marks on the state’s standardized tests.
As part of a package of school improvement efforts, Munn told teachers last spring they’d receive a stipend — half then, half in the fall — if they were rated effective and returned to Paris for the 2015-2016 school year.
Of 28 teachers at the school, 20 qualified for the incentive by earning effective ratings and returning this year, a district spokeswoman said. Each of them would receive about an extra $1,000 under the plan.
The Aurora Education Association, however, says Munn doesn’t have the authority to pay teachers any amount other than what is specified in the district’s collective bargaining contract. The union filed a formal grievance. An arbitrator agreed with the union in July, but the decision ultimately rests with the school board.
The board is expected to decide Tuesday at its meeting whether the district may move forward with the plan.
In taking up the issue, the school board will do more than decide whether Munn can give teachers retention bonuses. The board also will wrestle with two questions that have vexed policymakers and school districts across the nation: Should teachers be paid more if they are in hard-to-staff schools and should teacher pay be tied to evaluations?
Munn believes he has the authority to pay teachers at Paris more because the district-union contract describes the salary schedule as the “minimum” teachers must be paid.
“I looked at our agreement and under the agreement, in my mind, it was a settled issue,” Munn said. “There’s a whole sort of issues we know we need to bargain. For the things not in the bucket we move ahead. … We’re not trying to go around anybody or go around the agreement. None of this was meant to be an end run around the union.”
Even though the union opposes the plan, it wants to see teachers at Paris receive the stipends they were promised. But before any other promises are made, the district and union must negotiate, said Amy Nichols, the union’s president.
“Very simply, the matter is to us that salaries cannot be unilaterally increased for one group of teachers,” Nichols said. “It has to be negotiated. We would be interested in having this conversation while we have a task force that comprehensively looks at the issue — not just at Paris, but across the district.”
Munn said the Paris Retention Initiative — the district’s name for the bonus pay plan — is a specific solution for a specific problem.
“We don’t have the same issue or same circumstance anywhere else,” Munn said.
In 2012, three out of every 10 teachers decided to leave Paris. In 2013, more than one-third of teachers moved to another school or left the profession. And last school year, more than half the staff was new. In a drastic reversal, this school year nearly three-quarters of the staff returned.
The district has proposed creating a broader system for hard-to-fill positions in district schools. But that has been put on hold, Munn said.
Research has shown that paying teachers more money to stay at schools with difficult working conditions largely hasn’t worked.
“These types of incremental bonuses or raises are not sufficient,” said Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, which tracks issues such as teacher pay. “They’re a well-meaning gesture. But they’re not effective.”
Nichols said other issues contribute to a teacher’s decision to leave the classroom.
“Money is nice, money is great,” Nichols said. “But the retention issue is deeper than pay. It’s about having a leader in the building, having a team teacher working together, about feeling supported, and having the resources to meet the needs of the students in their building.”
“I would say nobody, including myself, believes increasing pay by itself is effective,” he said. “It’s in combination with other things you’re doing.”
Other efforts at Paris include a new principal and assistant principal, and more teacher training. The district is also considering including Paris in an effort to free schools from some local and state red-tape.
“I think [the stipend] is probably going to prove an added expense for the district that isn’t going to pay off in higher retention,” Walsh said. “The other things they’re doing there is going to be a larger factor.”
The total for the stipends is about $40,000, according to district documents.
Chalkbeat Colorado made more than a dozen interview requests in person and electronically with teachers at Paris.
Only one, who asked to be identified only as K.C., agreed to speak briefly after school Friday.
“I think we should pay teachers like we pay baseball players,” he said. “If they’re good, pay them more.”
Munn stressed the Paris retention program is not a step toward creating a pay-for-performance model in Aurora.
The state’s three largest school systems — Denver, Jefferson County and Douglas County — all have some variation of a pay-for-performance model. The Harrison School District near Colorado Springs is also considered a national pioneer for linking teacher pay to evaluation ratings.
And under Colorado law, this is the first school year that teachers could lose their non-probationary status if they receive low back-to-back ratings.
But national research on whether linking pay to student outcomes is an effective strategy for better test scores remains mixed.
“If you give teachers more money, they’ll work harder than they already are: That is a false premise,” Nichols said. “Teachers are always working hard — harder than they ever have. What we need to do is pay teachers well to begin with.”