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Tuition increase “holiday” could be over for Colorado students

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 11/02/2015 - 20:52

College tuition costs could start rising more steeply under Gov. John Hickenlooper’s new budget plan, which would cut $20 million from direct state support of colleges and universities.

That cut, combined with predicted increases in college operating costs, could lead to average tuition increases of 8.7 percent for resident undergraduate students for the 2016-17 school year, according to Hickenlooper’s annual budget letter to the legislative Joint Budget Committee.

Tuition increases have been below 6 percent this year and last.

The administration is recommending that college and university boards be free to set 2016-17 tuition rates as they see fit, ending the past system of legislative oversight.

The governor’s recommendation is in line with a resolution passed last Thursday by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, which voted 6-3 in favor of allowing college trustees to set tuition rates.

The proposal is sure to spark controversy during the 2016 legislative sessions. In 2014, lawmakers imposed a 6 percent annual ceiling on tuition increases for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years.

“Not having a tuition limit is very sobering,” CCHE chair Monte Moses said during last week’s meeting. He voted for the resolution, as did past chair Dick Kaufman. But Kaufman warned, “Be prepared to negotiate something with the JBC. … They will want some kind of line in the sand.”

Asked earlier last week about tuition-setting flexibility, JBC member Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, said, “I think the General Assembly should have a role in setting tuition policy. It was too easy to shirk responsibility and give up that role in the guise of "flexibility" [in the past]. Yes, these decisions are hard, but they go with the territory, and they're part of the job of elected policymakers.”

Dillon Democratic Rep. Millie Hamner, who will chair the JBC in 2016, said, “If institutions must increase tuition to backfill for the lack of state funding, they should also be prepared to explain what they can do to reduce student debt through strategies such as shorter completion time and more partnerships with school districts to reduce the need for remediation.”

Unlike K-12 schools, whose funding is partly protected by the state constitution and which can’t charge their students, the state’s colleges and universities are completely exposed to swings in the state budget and can use tuition to compensate for state cuts during downturns.

As state funding shrank after the 2008 recession, 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 institutions.

Those rising tuition rates sparked concern among legislators, who took advantage of improving state revenues in 2014 to increase funding for higher education by 11 percent and also set that 6 percent cap on tuition increases for resident undergraduate students. The 2015 session also was able to increase higher education funding.

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.

The cap has led to moderation of tuition increases. The median percent increase in tuition was 5 percent for 2014-15, the lowest since 2006-07, when it was 2.5 percent.

This year state colleges and universities are receiving about $740 million in state support but raise more than $2 billion in tuition revenue. Hickenlooper’s budget plan would shave $20 million from that $740 million. The Department of Higher Education estimates that colleges’ fixed costs will rise by about $56 million in 2016-17, meaning institutions will have to cover $76 million with tuition increases.

While that translates to an average potential increase of 8.7 percent, possible tuition hikes at individual colleges are impossible to predict now. Boards of trustees make tuition decisions on several factors, not just revenue. For instance, institutions usually consider tuition rates at competing institutions, both in Colorado and outside, to avoid pricing themselves out of the market.

Different colleges also have different abilities to raise revenue. A big institution like the University of Colorado Boulder has a large enrollment and relatively high tuition already, so a small percentage increase can yield significant revenue. But a smaller, lower-tuition institution like Adams State University may need a larger percentage increase to raise the money it needs.

The debate over tuition focuses just on what’s paid by Colorado residents who are undergraduate students. Colleges long have had the power to charge what they like for out-of-state undergrads and for all graduate students.

Get the details on college costs in the Department of Higher Education’s most recent tuition and fees report.

Categories: Urban School News

School funding shortfall would grow under new Hickenlooper budget plan

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 11/02/2015 - 19:49

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s proposed 2016-17 state budget proposal contains a mix of good and bad news for K-12 education, given the financial squeeze facing the state.

The good news is that average per-pupil funding would rise to $7,397 from this year’s $7,284, up 1.4 percent. That would be driven by the constitutional requirement that school funding be increased annually by inflation and enrollment growth.

But there’s bad news in what’s called the negative factor, the device the legislature uses to control school spending and balance the overall state budget. For the last five years, the K-12 community has focused on the negative factor as its key indicator of school finance health.

Hickenlooper’s proposal would peg the 2016-17 negative factor at $904 million, up from $855 million in the current school year.

“I would expect there is going to be a lot of noise around that,” state budget director Henry Sobanet told reporters during a briefing before the budget plan was released late Monday afternoon.

Earlier this year, the Colorado Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of the negative factor, allowing the legislature to continue using it.

Sobanet also had bad news about an extra $70 million in additional funding school districts had hoped to gain in the current budget year.

“It’s out,” he said.

The school funding law passed last spring contains a non-binding clause saying that the 2016 legislature will retroactively increase funding if local revenues are higher than projected last spring. Typically, when local revenues rise the state contribution is reduced in the middle of the school year.

While local property tax revenues are expected to be higher than was forecast, Sobanet indicated the state won’t have the money to meet that promise.

Some districts also are fearful that needed mid-year adjustments in the current budget would force cuts in current school funding.

“We’re not going to support cuts,” Sobanet said. But he said he didn’t know yet if the state can afford the mid-year increases that often are made to cover high-than-projected enrollments.

Overall, the governor’s budget proposes K-12 total program funding of $6.4 billion from state and local funds, up from $6.2 billion this year.

The governor is required to deliver his budget proposal to the legislative Joint Budget Committee at the beginning of November. His plan is by no means the final word on the subject, as the ultimate decisions on the budget are up to lawmakers. A final budget usually isn’t passed until the second half of the legislative session in April.

Colorado is stuck in a paradoxical budget situation. Even as tax revenues rise, state government spending is constrained by a variety of constitutional provisions that in some cases limit state spending and in other cases require certain programs like K-12 to expand.

“I think we are at a point in time where we see many, many years of uncoordinated fiscal policies now colliding with each other,” Sobanet said.

He noted that $830 million would be needed to fully fund the four biggest drivers in the 2016-17 budget – K-12 costs, $289 million in required taxpayer refunds under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Right, refilling the state reserve and paying higher Medicaid costs.

But there’s only $457 million in projected new revenue available to meet those costs.

Learn more about school funding in this archive of Chalkbeat Colorado stories.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Kids in Boulder break barriers over lunch

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 11/02/2015 - 09:12
Breaking Barriers

Kids at Creekside Elementary School in Boulder made new friends on “Mix It Up at Lunch Day,” an effort to encourage students to branch out and break barriers. Daily Camera

Sub Shortage

The Boulder Valley School District is trying to increase its shrinking pool of substitute teachers by offering jobs to subs without a bachelor’s degree. Daily Camera

“Dark Money”

Outside groups, some of which don’t have to report donors or contributions, are spending more money on school board elections, making it hard to track spending or supporters. Chalkbeat Colorado

ELECTION 2015 • Jeffco edition

Some see the Jeffco recall election as an expensive proxy war, with national implications, between teachers unions and education reformers. Washington Post

In the non-recall election for two open seats on the Jeffco school board, union-backed candidates continue to raise more money than their opponents. Chalkbeat Colorado

ELECTION 2015 • Denver Edition

The at-large Denver school board race between incumbent Happy Haynes and newcomer Robert Speth is heating up, according to the latest campaign finance reports. Chalkbeat Colorado

Election 2015 • Everywhere else

District officials mistakenly certified a candidate to run in the District 51 school board election but didn’t admit the error right away. Sentinel

In a hotly contested school board race in the Poudre School District, the candidates disagree on financial policy and standardized testing. Coloradoan

Candidate fundraising in the Dougco school board election remains low compared to other districts but those numbers don’t include big bucks spent by outside groups. Chalkbeat Colorado

The local education association -- which describes itself as an advocacy organization and doesn’t have the power to bargain -- has endorsed candidates in the District 38 board race, which has at least one parent concerned about the role of unions in the election. Gazette

Mission: Graduation

Colorado Youth for a Change helps students like 17-year-old Breeonna Trujillo, who’s struggling with Algebra II, graduate from high school. Denver Post

Human Resources

The Garfield school district is searching for a superintendent who understands the needs of a large rural district and can build support for a property tax boost to help the schools. Citizen Telegram

mental health

Students at Green Mountain High School in Lakewood have created a book to help elementary school students deal with everyday issues and fears. 9News

Two Schools, One Roof

Mountain Village Montessori Charter School in Steamboat Springs will rent space from an under-capacity Christian school that the district passed on buying earlier this year. Steamboat Pilot

Two cents

Denver school board candidates Michael Kiley and Robert Speth don’t send their kids to the schools in their neighborhoods even though both men routinely emphasize the importance of “neighborhood schools” while on the campaign trail, the Denver Post editorial board notes, quoting from Chalkbeat Colorado. Denver Post

Denver Public Schools is taking steps to reduce segregation in its schools, such as nudging more affluent schools to prioritize low-income students who want to “choice in,” says superintendent Tom Boasberg. Denver Post

Charter schools deserve an equal share of property tax revenue, says state Rep. Lang Sias of Arvada, who plans to talk to colleagues about legislation addressing funding inequities. Sentinel

Categories: Urban School News

Money pours into Happy Haynes campaign for Denver school board at-large seat

EdNewsColorado - Sat, 10/31/2015 - 15:02

This story was updated with Michael Kiley's finance report information.

The Denver school board at-large race, which pits an established Denver political figure against an upstart parent, appears from the latest campaign finance reports to be heating up.

In two weeks in October, board president Allegra “Happy” Haynes raised $70,865 in an effort to keep her at-large seat. That’s more than four times as much as she raised in the previous year.

Haynes’s last-minute flurry of donations includes sizable contributions, up to $5,000 each, from Denver establishment types and a network of local and national education reform backers.

Haynes’s opponent, Robert Speth, raised $19,546 in the same period. The majority of it -- $15,000 -- came from the Denver Classroom Teachers Association Fund, a small donor committee of the teachers union, that previously gave $25,000 to his campaign. Speth, who is critical of DPS’s reforms, was a late entrant to the race.

The latest reports, filed Friday, show that Haynes spent $46,485 on mail, $6,500 on Facebook ads, $3,095 on robocalls and $320 on print advertising with the Villager newspaper.

Robert Speth is running against Happy Haynes.

Speth also spent the majority of his money -- $42,264 -- on mail and literature. But he spent half as much as Haynes on robocalls -- $1,539 -- and just $700 on Facebook ads. Speth also spent $1,446 on print advertising with The Denver Post and $541 on Google ads, the reports show.

The latest campaign finance reports cover the period between Oct. 9 and Oct. 25. Although Haynes raised more than three and a half times as much as Speth during that time, their totals weren’t as far apart: Haynes had raised a total of $90,630 by Oct. 25, which included $2,800 left over from her 2011 campaign, whereas Speth’s total was $60,196.

In the competitive northwest Denver race, candidate Lisa Flores raised $30,580 between Oct. 9 and Oct. 25, bringing her fundraising total to $110,219. Flores, a former program officer with the Gates Family Foundation, is running against Michael Kiley for the open District 5 seat.

Notable donors to Flores’s campaign included: Kent Thiry, CEO of Denver-based DaVita Healthcare Partners ($5,000); Michelle Yee of San Francisco, whose husband co-founded LinkedIn ($4,000); Reid Hoffman of Silicon Valley venture capital firm Greylock Partners ($4,000); Colorado congressman Jared Polis ($2,000); and Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz ($2,000).

Flores claims more than 400 individual donors, more than any other DPS board candidate.

Haynes also received donations from Thiry ($5,000), Yee ($4,000), Hoffman ($4,000) and Polis ($1,000). Her other donors included: Samuel Gary, founder of Samuel Gary Jr. and Associates, a Denver-based oil and gas company ($5,000); Denver Center for the Performing Arts chairman and CEO Daniel Ritchie ($2,500); University of Denver law professor Susan Daggett, who is married to Colorado senator and former DPS superintendent Michael Bennet ($2,500); and Oakwood Homes chairman and CEO Pat Hamill ($2,500).

Kiley's campaign missed the midnight Friday deadline for the latest required reporting period and is subject to a $50 fine. His report, filed Saturday afternoon, showed that most of his financial support is coming from the Denver teachers union's small donor committee.

Between Oct. 9 and Oct. 25, Kiley reported bringing in $55,590 in contributions. The Denver Classroom Teachers Association Fund gave $46,000 in the latest reporting period. Another union-backed group, the Public Education Committee, contributed $6,500 to Kiley in that timeframe.

Overall, DCTA Fund donations account for more than 75 percent of the roughly $111,500 Kiley has brought in during the campaign.

Data Center | Track donations this election to all candidates including the most recent filings here.

The District 1 race for a seat to represent southeast Denver has not seen the same cash infusion as the two other races. Incumbent Anne Rowe raised $6,270 in the latest period, bringing her total to $41,064.

Challenger Kristi Butkovich raised $580. The majority -- $500 -- came from the teachers union small donor committee. That committee previously gave her $21,000. Butkovich had raised a total of $29,836 by Oct. 25. Part of that total included Butkovich loaning her campaign more than $6,000.

Editor’s note: Chalkbeat receives financial support from the Gates Family Foundation and the Anschutz Foundation.

Categories: Urban School News

Jeffco school board candidates backed by union continue to raise more than opponents

EdNewsColorado - Sat, 10/31/2015 - 13:53

Two candidates running for open seats on the Jefferson County school board continued to outpace their opponents last month in fundraising thanks in large part to a small donor committee linked to the county’s teachers union.

Amanda Stevens and Ali Lasell — part of the five-member “Clean Slate” running to reset the contentious school board — in October raised $23,679 and $25,681, respectively, new records filed Friday with the secretary of state show.

Each candidate received $15,000 from the Jefferson County Education Association small donor committee and $3,000 from the Public Education Committee, a small donor group backed by the Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union.

Meanwhile, their opponents Tori Merritts and Kim Johnson raised much smaller amounts during the same time period. Merritts raised $2,050 and Johnson raised $1,609, reports show.

The new reports — which cover Oct. 9 through Oct. 25 — provide little new information about the murky state of play in Jefferson County, which is enveloped in a hotly contested school board recall for three school board members.

Data Center | Track donations this election to all candidates including the most recent filings here.

The race for the two open seats coupled with the recall has generated national headlines and plenty of money, much of which can’t be traced because of limited disclosure required by law.

What the candidate’s new reports do highlight is how each campaign is attempting to reach voters.

Lasell and Stevens continued to spend tens of thousands of dollars on mailing campaign literature. Both used Mad Dog Mail, a Democratic advertising firm based in Florida.

By contrast, Johnson and Merritts spent thousands on digital advertising with Google, Facebook and local digital advertising companies.

Since the beginning of their respective campaigns:

  • Johnson has raised $12,249 and spent $10,827
  • Lasell has raised $71,835 and spent $68,540
  • Merritts has raised $6,785 and spent $6,610
  • Stevens has raised $60,249 and $56,305

The final campaign finance deadline for the candidates is Dec. 3.

Categories: Urban School News

Dougco incumbents raise modest money, but reports don’t tell full story

EdNewsColorado - Sat, 10/31/2015 - 12:32

Three incumbents seeking election to the Douglas County school board have raised only about $12,000 in campaign contributions, compared to a total of just over $64,000 for their three challengers.

But the figures don’t reflect the reality of campaigning in the suburban district, where outside groups are heavily involved in producing campaign materials and TV ads.

Some of those groups will have to report their income and spending, but not until next January. Others will never have to file disclosures. Growing involvement by outside groups and inconsistent state reporting requirements make it difficult to track total spending in Dougco and other districts.

One group, Americans for Prosperity, is supporting the incumbents and says it will spend in the “low six figures.” The group is one of those that won’t have to report.

Outside spending is nothing new in Dougco board elections. In 2013 about $228,000 was contributed to candidates, but nearly $221,000 was spent by independent groups that had to disclose their activitiess. An undetermined amount of additional money was spent by groups that didn’t have to report.

Board president Kevin Larsen was asked earlier in the month about the reasons behind low fundraising for incumbents. All he would say is, “We are definitely relying on and pleased to have many grassroots volunteers for our campaign, informing voters and helping turn out our supporters. … We are confident that we'll have the resources to win.”

Richardson said, “I concur in Kevin's thoughts.”

Larsen raised nearly $21,000 in his successful 2011 run for the board, while Richardson took in more than $27,000 that year. The third incumbent in the race, Richard Robbins, was appointed to the board in 2014 and is on the ballot for the first time this year.

Here’s what the six candidates have raised, base on reports filed with the secretary of state on Friday. The totals reflect all activity from the beginning of the year (or when candidates registered their committees) through Oct. 25. Candidates will have to file final reports by Dec. 3.

  • Richardson (District A) – Income $5,525, spending $2,524, on hand $3,001
  • Larsen (District C) – Income $3,906, spending $2,650, on hand $1,256
  • Robbins – (District F) – Income $3,000, spending $2,537, on hand $464
  • Wendy Vogel (District A) – Income $18,329, spending $12,212, on hand $6,108
  • Anne-Marie Lemieux (District C) – Income $21,280, spending $12,556, on hand $8,723
  • David Ray (District F) – Income $24,443, spending $13,482, on hand $10,961

All six of the candidates have raised their funds primarily through small individual contributions. Some of the candidates also reported relatively small amounts of non-monetary support.

The 2015 board election is round four in a political struggle that has seen some of the faces change while the key issues remain. Because three of the board’s seven seats are on the ballot this year, the current majority will remain intact regardless of election results.

The first round came in 2009, when four candidates endorsed by the county Republican Party swept to a majority on the board. Vouchers — the focus of a costly court battle — were an issue in 2011 board elections, but conservatives held their majority, as they did in 2013.

A big issue this year is the condition of district facilities. Some parents have pushed for putting a bond issue plan before voters, but the board has declined.

Learn more about the races in this article about a recent candidate forum. Read what the candidates have to say for themselves in Chalkbeat’s Election Center.

Categories: Urban School News

Weekend Reads: Spring Valley video opens new round of school policing debate

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 10/30/2015 - 16:33
  • New York City's lightning-rod charter operator Eva Moskowitz is under fire over reports that one of her schools maintained a "Got to Go" list of disruptive students. (Chalkbeat)
  • In rebutting criticism of her schools, Eva Moskowitz released a 10-year-old's disciplinary record, potentially violating federal privacy laws. (Slate)
  • A coalition of educators tells Deray McKesson, the Teach For America alum at the fore of the Black Lives Matter movement, that TFA undermines equity. (Jacobin Mag)
  • The hottest show on Broadway, "Hamilton," will soon get an audience of 20,000 schoolchildren. (Hollywood Reporter)
  • Two teachers who aren't working for their unions have started a political action committee of teachers who support Hillary Clinton for president. (L.A. Times)
  • Many sharp tensions in Denver's school board race can be traced to evolving definitions of "neighborhood school." (Chalkbeat)
  • What we know and what we don't know about Spring Valley High School, the South Carolina school where a police officer was videotaped tackling a student at her desk. (Kicker)
  • A teacher argues that the best way to prevent incidents such as the one in Spring Valley is to lead with love every day. (Jose Vilson)
  • The incident was an extreme example of South Carolina's dismal record on school discipline. (The Atlantic)
  • Roxane Gay: Spring Valley is yet more proof that black children are not safe anywhere in America. (New York Times)
  • defender of good standardized tests says the Obama administration's call for less testing has downsides. (Grand Rounds)
  • People pretty much saw what they wanted to in the country's first-ever decline in NAEP scores. (Answer Sheet)
  • Is it fair to connect the country's collective NAEP stumble to the introduction of the Common Core? It's hard to say. (Hechinger Report)
  • Parents in China pay 35 times the regular school tuition to get their children Common Core-aligned, American-style instruction. (New York Times)
  • Happy Halloween! Follow #eduween for some not-so-scary surprises.
Categories: Urban School News

Smoke screen of outside money, complex disclosure laws obscure spending in school board races

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 10/30/2015 - 15:40

Good luck if you’re trying to follow the money in Colorado’s increasingly expensive and contentious school board races.

Increased involvement by outside groups and inconsistencies in state law have made it harder for voters to track who’s supporting board candidates.

“We’ll probably never know” how much money was spent in 2015 school board races, said Luis Toro, director of Colorado Ethics Watch, a research and advocacy group.

Referring to Jefferson County, Colorado’s hottest board contest, journalist Sandra Fish said, “We’re never going to know how much money is being spent on this recall.”

Board campaign spending started to escalate in 2009, when total contributions to candidates for the Denver Public Schools board went well into six figures. DPS elections have continued to be high dollar since then, and candidates in Douglas County and Jefferson County have jumped on that bandwagon.

Some observers project contributions will top $1 million this year in Jeffco, where a recall campaign against three incumbents is combined with a regular election for two other board seats.

Several factors are involved in the growth of school board campaign spending and in the difficulty of tracking that money:

  • Organized groups not directly connected to individual candidates have become bigger players in board races.
  • Even as contributions and spending have soared, state campaign finance laws require less frequent public financial reporting by outside groups on board contests than is required for legislative and other state races in general elections.
  • That problem of limited disclosure is particularly acute with independent expenditure committees, which spend money on campaign ads independently of candidates but don't have to provide as much detail in off-year elections.
  • A different set of campaign committees, known commonly as C4s, can spend money in campaigns without any public disclosure of their activities, depending on how they word their ads.
  • Finally, school board seats are among a handful of Colorado elected offices for which there are no limits on individual contributions to candidates.
The rise of outside committees

School board races traditionally were funded by individual contributions to candidates, with teachers union committees the largest but still modest contributors in some bigger districts.

Increasing polarization over school choice, district budgets, the role of teachers unions and issues like vouchers have drawn increasing outside interest in school board races.

For instance, in the 2013 Douglas County board elections, $228,378 was contributed to candidates but there was at least in $220,943 in independent expenditures by outside groups, according to data compiled by Ethics Watch.

That pattern is continuing this year in both Dougco and Jeffco.

“We are spending in the low six figures in both Jeffco and Dougco on educating residents about the positive reforms of the school boards," said Michael Fields, Colorado head of Americans for Prosperity.

In Dougco, “low six figures” would exceed what the six candidates have raised themselves. Americans for Prosperity is connected to the billionaire Koch brothers, who are major funders of conservative causes at the national and local levels.

In Denver, a similar dynamic is playing out, albeit on the other end of the ideological spectrum.

Raising Colorado, an independent expenditure committee affiliated with Democrats for Education Reform, is a major purchaser of campaign materials supporting DPS board candidates who support the district’s reform efforts. Different kinds of committees connected to teachers unions are major direct contributors to opposition candidates.

Ethics Watch has been working to track 2015 spending in the Jeffco recall and has produced a graphic following “traceable” and “untraceable” money. See the graphic at the bottom of this article for the group’s analysis of some 2013 school board spending.

Information limited in off-year elections

State election laws govern a bewildering variety of campaign organizations, including candidate committees, issue committees, small donor committees, independent expenditure committees and others.

The most important committees in school board elections are candidate committees, independent expenditure committees and small donor committees. Small donor committees are the traditional vehicle for unions to make campaign contributions, and those committees usually are funded by dues check-offs. Such committees can contribute to candidate committees, but independent committees can’t.

Different rules apply to different kinds of committees – who can contribute to them, the size of those contributions they can receive, to whom they can give money and what they have to disclose in periodic reports to the secretary of state’s office.

But all those committees have one thing in common – they have to disclose their activities more frequently in even-numbered years when general elections are held than they do in odd-numbered years, when school board elections are held.

In even-numbered years most committees must file reports every two weeks between the beginning of September and the general election in November. Some reports also are required earlier in the year.

But in odd-numbered years most committees have to file only a single report in mid-October and then not report again until the following mid-January. So committees’ contributions and spending during the height of the election season, starting about Oct. 1, aren’t available to the public until the new year, long after the campaigns are forgotten.

An example of the information gap is provided by an independent committee named the Douglas County Education Alliance, which has produced materials supporting school board incumbents. The committee registered with the secretary of state on Sept. 29, one day before the end of the July 1-Sept. 30 reporting period. So when the committee filed its report on Oct. 15 it listed no contribution and no spending. It now doesn’t have to file a report until Jan. 15, 2016.

The group’s registered agent, Randy Reed, didn’t respond to questions asked by Chalkbeat Colorado.

Why are there different reporting requirements by year?

Observers say it’s largely because campaign finance laws were written before odd-year elections become contentious. A constitutional amendment governing campaign finance was passed by voters 13 years ago, and the most recent legislative tweak in finance laws was passed in 2010.

“Our fundamental campaign finance law in the Colorado constitution was enacted in 2002 when school board elections weren’t so major," said Toro of Ethics Watch. "They kind of fell between the cracks.”

Both Toro and Fish think the legislature should perhaps rethink the reporting deadlines.

“Maybe it’s time for the state to take a look at requiring more frequent reporting, especially since the money appears to be growing in these [board] elections,” said Fish, an independent journalist who has written extensively on campaign finance.

Yet another reporting gap

Independent expenditure committees are a unique animal. They have to report their contributors, and they have to report what they spend. But they are barred from coordinating their efforts with candidates and their personal committees.

If you find a glossy brochure in your mailbox that reads “Vote for John Doe,” or “Don't vote for Mary Smith,” with a disclaimer like “Paid for by the Committee for a Better City,” chances are it was paid for by an independent committee.

During regular elections in even-numbered years, such committees must make separate reports within 48 hours of making “electioneering communications,” expenditures for or against specific candidates. But that requirement doesn’t apply in odd-numbered years, leaving the public and political operatives without real-time information about what such committees are doing.

"Dark money” playing a bigger role

There’s yet another group of committees that doesn’t have to report contributions or spending reports – as long as they follow certain rules.

Known in the political world as C4s (after a section of the Internal Revenue Service code), such committees are nonprofits that are allowed to distribute political ads and materials – as long as they don’t cross a certain line.

That line is this: The committees aren’t allowed to use what political operatives call “the magic words” – like “vote for Smith” or “vote against Doe.”

A video ad produced by Americans for Prosperity in Douglas County is a classic of the genre.

The ad features a retired teacher named Denise Denny, who says, “Some of the best schools in the country are right here in Douglas County.”

As a phone number appears in the video, Denny says, “Call the Douglas County school board and thank them for supporting school choice, because more choices mean more opportunity, and that makes all the difference.”

Americans for Prosperity has posted similar videos in Jeffco during this fall's campaign.

Sometimes C4 committees work in tandem with independent groups.

Raising Colorado’s sole source of funding this year is Education Reform Now Advocacy, a New York-based C4. Both are arms of Democrats for Education Reform. Raising Colorado has to report who gave it money and how that cash was spent. But Education Reform Now Advocacy doesn’t have to report contributors, so the ultimate source of Raising Colorado’s funding isn’t public.

In 2014, Education Reform Now Advocacy gave $465,000 to Raising Colorado, according to reports on file with the secretary of state. Between January and September of this year, the group gave $250,000 to Raising Colorado, according to the latest filing, which was submitted on October 15. Raising Colorado doesn't have to file again until January, which means it will be months before the public will know how much money the New York-based group gave to the Colorado committee in the last few weeks before the election.

Jen Walmer, Raising Colorado's registered agent and head of DFER in Colorado, did not respond to requests for comment this week.

Nonprofit groups that participate in elections do have to detail some of their finances in reports to the Internal Revenue Service, through Form 990s. Those reports provide information about how much a nonprofit has raised and spent but not about the specific sources of its income. But those reports only are filed once a year, long after elections are over. (For an example, see this 2014 990 filing by Citizens for Sound Government, a Lakewood-based conservative group that has sponsored literature in this year’s Dougco races.)

And then there are the candidates

The campaign committees set up by candidates do have to report their financial activities more frequently in odd-year elections. Filings are required in mid-October and then at the end of the month, providing an up-to-date look at contributions and spending right up to the election. Final reports are due in early December.

But unlike many other office seekers, like legislative candidates, there is no limit on the amount of individual contributions to school board candidates. Issue committees, which are part of the Jeffco recall, also don’t have contribution limits.

“Theoretically you could give a million dollars to one of these candidates,” jokes Fish.

That hasn’t happened, but there were five-figure individual donations to DPS and Dougco candidates in past elections.

That bothered Denver Democratic state Rep. Beth McCann, who’s now running for district attorney.

“The current lack of limits makes it extremely difficult for a parent to run to be a school board member unless he or she has contacts with a lot of wealthy individuals or those with certain agendas,” McCann.

She sponsored bills in 2011 and 2012 to cap board campaign contributions, but both measures died.

“It was very hard to get support from the unions or the outside interests as they do not necessarily want to limit their ability to make and collect contributions,” McCann said.

She said she expects future efforts to limit contributions, but not during the upcoming legislative session.

Toro of Ethics Watch is somewhat less worried about contribution limits, noting that much of the spending in school board races seems to have shifted to outside groups.

And Fish notes that because of the reporting requirements imposed on candidate, “It may not be to your advantage to take large contributions.”

Jan Tanner, an outgoing board member in Colorado Springs District 11, feels candidates are at a disadvantage because they have a reporting burden not shared by independent committees.

“There’s so much soft money [and] there’s no teeth in the law to make sure it’s reported,” in contrast to the detailed filings required of candidate committees, she said.

“If you’re trying to hide money there are lots of ways to do it.”

Chalkbeat Colorado reporter Melanie Asmar contributed information to this report.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Pueblo West teacher wins 'Oscar' of educating

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 10/30/2015 - 08:13
A teaching 'Oscar'

An eighth-grade science teacher from Pueblo West wins a prestigious Milken award. Gazette

ELECTION 2015 • Jeffco edition

Death threats, big money and national attention, oh my, in the Jeffco recall battle. Denver Post

The recall’s implications stretch well beyond one bellwether suburban county. Al-Jazeera America

American for Prosperity is pledging to stay active in Jeffco regardless of the school board recall result. Denver Post

How does a TV ad attacking the Jeffco recall stand up when subjected to the harsh lens of the 9News fact-checkers? 9News

ELECTION 2015 • Denver Edition

In the Denver school board race, disagreements over what “neighborhood schools” look like provide a telling glimpse at differences among candidates and challenges facing DPS. Chalkbeat Colorado

Denver voters are weighing factors such as rising college costs and the role of city government in considering the Measure 2A scholarship tax. 5280

Election 2015 • Everywhere else

In a ballot question that has received relatively scant attention, the Boulder Valley School District is asking voters to approve a measure that would allow the district to expand its broadband Internet reach and attempt to earn revenue along the way. Boulder Weekly

The Poudre school district race could be a tight one. Coloradoan

P.E. for all

Denver Public Schools is working to ensure that students with disabilities have equitable physical education experiences though not exactly the same ones as their general education peers. Chalkbeat Colorado

wired learning

Broomfield High freshmen get laptops that will be theirs to keep after graduation as part of the Boulder Valley School District’s 1:Web initiative, Broomfield Enterprise

Vetting process

School board members in the Garfield Re-2 mixed it up with the public to discuss priorities of the district’s superintendent search. Citizen Telegram

Categories: Urban School News

In Denver school board race, a telling divide over what defines a “neighborhood school”

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 10/29/2015 - 15:43

When Michael Kiley talks about “strong neighborhood schools,” he means not only a commitment to academic excellence and the latest technology but a rich roster of music, arts, languages, sports and extracurricular activities.

The school would have a defined boundary, with no application process or lottery to sweat out. If you lived in the boundary, your child would be guaranteed a seat. Classes would be taught by “professional teachers” who aren’t using the gig as a career stepping stone.

Lisa Flores chooses different words, preferring to press the case for “strong schools in every neighborhood.” That means giving families options so they can choose a school that best fits their children’s needs, whether it be a traditional district-run school, magnet school or charter school.

To Flores, narrower definitions of what a neighborhood school looks like carry a whiff of nostalgia — and selective memory about past shortcomings at schools that did not serve all students equally.

The dueling philosophies and semantics about neighborhood schools are a central narrative in the Denver school board election that will be decided Tuesday when ballots are counted.

Nowhere is the rhetoric more evident than politically volatile District 5, where Kiley and Flores are squaring off in a high-profile, high-cost race for an open seat to represent northwest Denver and other close-in neighborhoods in the district.

In that campaign as well as the at-large DPS board campaign, the neighborhood school discussion revolves around difficult issues. Those include the role of charter schools, the district's ability to successfully run its own schools, teachers' credentials, use of district resources, school segregation and an enrollment strategy that has fundamentally changed the district's choice process and the notion of boundary schools.

From court order to today

Two decades of court-ordered busing to integrate black students into DPS schools came to an end in 1995, leading to a return to boundary schools serving students from surrounding neighborhoods.

Over the last decade under superintendents Michael Bennet and Tom Boasberg, DPS has adopted a “portfolio approach” to schools, which includes district-run schools, charter schools and innovation schools that are a sort of hybrid of the two.

When discussing school choice, Boasberg urges families to first look at schools in their neighborhood, said Susana Cordova, DPS’s chief schools officer. At the same time, families in a large and diverse city will look elsewhere for schools that suit their needs, she said.

“It’s really important to have those options for families,” Cordova said. “That does not have to come at the expense of a quality school in your neighborhood you can attend without an application.”

More recently, the district has turned to another strategy. In 2010, DPS began introducing enrollment zones, which include multiple schools in a wider geographic area. Families in the zones are guaranteed a seat at one of the schools, but not necessarily their first choice. Most of the strategy’s focus is on middle and high schools.

The district promotes enrollment zones as a way to drive greater participation in the choice process and — ideally — create more diverse schools by casting a broader geographic net and counteracting the city’s segregated housing patterns.

Not surprisingly, enrollment zones have become another dividing line on the school board campaign trail.

The battle for northwest Denver Michael Kiley

When Kiley is campaigning, he said most people he speaks with provide a consistent definition of a neighborhood school — one that sounds like his.

Kiley, a critic of the board majority who ran unsuccessfully for an at-large seat two years ago, said he has no “categorical 100 percent answer” to whether charter schools can be neighborhood schools. He argues charters should complement neighborhood schools, not replace them.

To help pay for the robust neighborhood schools he promotes, Kiley proposes starting with cutting the number of district administrators.

“Prior generations were willing to pay for this,” he said. “It isn’t like I’m describing a manned mission to Mars.”

“Isn’t this what the district is supposed to be good at, running a neighborhood school?” he added. “If the district is saying it cannot run a neighborhood school, then I wonder about our management of the district at this point.”

Kiley said some people view his neighborhood schools message as “code” for talking about the teachers union or union teachers. But Kiley said his definition does not explicitly require that a school have union teachers.

Lisa Flores

To Flores, who most recently worked as a senior program officer for the Denver-based Gates Family Foundation, the term “neighborhood school” has become more fluid. People can find a home in a school that is not necessarily their assigned school, she said.

For some families, a neighborhood school is a dual-language Montessori school, she said. Flores points to other area schools she considers neighborhood schools that break the traditional mold — DCIS Fairmont, a formerly struggling school slated for closure that rebounded quickly after a restart, and University Prep, a charter elementary school in northeast Denver.

“Sometimes, folks have this nostalgic notion of what a neighborhood school is,” Flores said. “I think sometimes they think of the old days of Ozzie and Harriet.”

In the 1950s and 1960s, Flores said, neighborhood schools often did not serve minority children well.

“We need to remember some of the inequities that existed then, and those issues we are still working to address now,” she said.

Charters as neighborhood schools

The neighborhood schools mantra also has been central to the upstart campaign of Robert Speth, a northwest Denver parent and school volunteer who works in the telecommunications industry.

Robert Speth

Like Kiley, Speth said neighborhood schools offer a well-rounded, enriched curriculum with art, music, world languages, athletics and extracurriculars.

Speth, who is trying to win incumbent Allegra “Happy” Haynes’ at-large seat, said he defines neighborhood schools as high-quality, high-performing schools with “certified teachers" and few junior teachers.

That definition would seem to exclude charter schools that rely more heavily on less experienced teachers who are not required to be licensed but must meet standards of being “highly qualified.”

Speth, however, said charter schools can be neighborhood schools, too.

“It’s a possibility if a neighborhood is demanding and desiring a particular type of charter,” he said. “The district needs to listen to what communities are truly wanting and provide that service.”

At the same time, both Speth and Kiley have raised concerns that in the district's embrace of charter schools, district-run neighborhood schools are being shortchanged.

Haynes, the school board president, did not respond to requests for comment this week. She has taken a more expansive view of defining strong schools.

Happy Haynes

“Good schools are good schools whether they are district run or charter run schools and they will each have an important place in the district as long as there continues to be a need for high-quality schools to help to meet the district’s goal of great schools in every neighborhood and as long as parents and families choose to attend them,” Haynes wrote in a Chalkbeat candidate questionnaire.

Kiley and Speth oppose enrollment zones — both fought a new middle school zone established this year in northwest Denver — while Flores and Haynes support them.

Speth said it's at times a heavy-handed approach, with some families unable to enroll in the neighborhood school across the street from them.

"That is a painful realization for a lot of parents and children,” he said.

DPS officials, however, say all middle school students in DPS's half-dozen enrollment zones who wished to attend a district-run zone school are enrolled in one.

None of the 12,190 students was “forced” to enroll in a charter school, Brian Eschbacher, DPS’s director of planning and enrollment services, said in an email.

Only one district-run middle school in an enrollment zone has a wait list — McAuliffe in the Stapleton neighborhood, he said. Charter schools in some of the zones, meanwhile, have lengthy waiting lists.

The story is different with elementary schools, where some in-demand district-run schools boast wait lists.

In the new northwest middle school zone, all students living in the zone were placed in their first-choice school, DPS officials said. District officials project that will hold true for the next few years in part because the number of middle school students in the area is shrinking, Eschbacher said.

Eschbacher said retreating from enrollment zones would involve either introducing new district-managed options and arbitrarily carving up zones because enrollment has ballooned since the new programs have been introduced, or returning to large 1,200-student middle schools that have been shown not to work.

The race factor

Both Speth and Kiley have pushed for a new district-run middle school in northwest Denver cut from the same cloth as Skinner Middle School. But district officials say enrollment projections and other factors show that isn't feasible.

Outside Skinner (DPS photo)

Skinner's enrollment and test scores have risen in recent years as the neighborhood has gentrified. But scores still lag behind the district average and achievement gaps separating white and Latino students are large.

Skinner had a wait list of about 50 students last spring but found seats for all students by the start of the year, said Rebecca Caldwell, a school spokeswoman. That included 30 students from outside the enrollment zone, DPS says.

If trend lines continue, Skinner will get whiter and less Latino in the coming years. But at least in the short term, it appears the new northwest Denver middle school enrollment zone has slowed that, as Skinner absorbed some students from heavily Latino Trevista at Horace Mann, which closed its middle school last school year.

Caldwell said the numbers are not final, but the number of students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches is projected to rise 1.5 to 3 percentage points this school year.

Skinner’s relatively diverse racial makeup — it was 67 percent Latino and 25 percent white last year — makes it an exception among DPS schools.

A recent report from the pro-education reform group A+ Denver identified only 29 of 188 district schools as integrated, meaning their nonwhite population was between 50 and 75 percent.

Another recent analysis by Rocky Mountain PBS iNews found that more 80 percent of DPS’s Latino students attend schools where at least half the students are Latino, with most of those students in schools where between 70 and 90 percent of the students are Latino.

Some of the district’s most racially homogeneous schools are charter schools that have made it a mission to serve high-poverty minority students. Those schools also are producing stronger academic results than district-run neighborhood schools.

A student at STRIVE Excel rehearses a script for a student store run by the students at the high school.

Chris Gibbons, CEO of STRIVE Preparatory Schools, which serves primarily low-income Latino students in Denver, said he considers schools in the network to be neighborhood schools.

“When I think of what does it mean for a school to be a neighborhood school, I think of it in the context of being of the neighborhood,” Gibbons said. “So to me, what matters is, is this a school that is serving the kids who live there? Is it committed to that community and does it have an enrollment system and process that makes it equally accessible to kids of all levels, whether it’s kids who historically have had success in the system or not?”

To that end, STRIVE is committed to serving special education students, English learners and severe needs students, and opens access beyond the start of school and traditional choice windows, Gibbons said.

Not all charter schools can make all those claims, and have faced criticism for it.

DPS charters serve a higher percentage of students living in poverty, students of color and English learners than the district norm, said Alyssa Whitehead-Bust, DPS's chief academic and innovation officer. While the district has adopted a number of initiatives to ensure charters serve all students, “we still have a ways to go in ensuring total equity of enrollment for students,” she said.

Gibbons also backs enrollment zones for opening up choice and getting families more invested in the process. STRIVE operates in enrollment zones and as a boundary school, as part of a shared campus at Lake Middle School. STRIVE schools have ranked among the highest performing in DPS but suffered a decline in the most recent state test scores, from 2014.

Personal choices

Amid the campaign trail rhetoric about neighborhood schools, Flores points out that all three of the DPS board candidates who hail from northwest Denver chose to enroll their children — in her case, a nephew she is helping raise — in elementary schools in the neighborhood that were not their assigned schools.

“We all have chosen the schools that are the best fits for our kids and our families, and I think each one of us would say that is our home school,” she said. “That is where we have established community. Yet it breaks with the traditional sense of a neighborhood school.”

Flores’ nephew choiced into Brown Elementary, which has an International Baccalaureate program.

Speth enrolled his children in Valdez Elementary, a dual-language magnet school. He cited the appeal of his children learning another language and the school’s global focus.

Kiley enrolled his children in nearby Edison Elementary rather than their boundary school, Columbian Elementary, which has a higher proportion of low-income students and lower academic marks than Edison.

He said he supports the choice process, but does not waver in his belief that everyone should be guaranteed access to a strong, district-run neighborhood school.

Like a lot of parents in northwest Denver, Kiley said, he and his wife when they arrived in the neighborhood quizzed friends and neighbors at birthday parties and backyard barbecues about schools, and Edison got high marks.

“There is philosophy,” Kiley said, “and then there is your kid.”

Editor’s note: The Gates Family Foundation provides financial support to Chalkbeat Colorado.

Categories: Urban School News

How PE classes are working to get kids with disabilities off the sidelines

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 10/29/2015 - 10:45

Ignacio wore a bright orange pedometer, but he wasn’t counting steps. The Denver seventh-grader was using the device strapped to his wrist to count each push of his wheelchair wheel as he circled the gym during warm-ups.

Later in the physical education class at Bruce Randolph School, Ignacio tossed a basketball back and forth with an aide and the pedometer tallied that movement too. His 19 classmates—with disabilities ranging from autism to cognitive delays—also wore pedometers.

The devices, which track both steps and physical activity minutes, represent one way that Denver Public Schools are ensuring that students with disabilities have equitable physical education experiences—comparable though not exactly the same as their general education peers.

Over the last five years, the district has made efforts to improve physical education for special needs students. The district spent about $50,000 on modified sports equipment—things like lighter-weight balls or balls that beep—for 56 district schools. It has also brought in out-of-state experts to run trainings on adapted P.E, most recently in 2014.

In part, the push has come from the district’s Health Agenda 2015—a five-year plan outlining key health priorities including improvements to physical education.

DPS officials say the district’s teacher evaluation system LEAP, launched districtwide in 2012, has also played a role by explicitly mandating differentiation—customized instruction based on student needs.

“Before, I think it was more of an implied understanding,” said Kelley Morrison, supervisor of the district’s occupational and physical therapy department. “There wasn’t as much emphasis, so we may not have been as aggressive…Now, it’s more spelled out.”

This ball is among $900 worth of modified sports equipment that Bruce Randolph School received with funding from the district's Health Agenda 2015.

In the class at Bruce Randolph—an adapted P.E. class specifically for students with disabilities—there were plenty of choices and at least four staff members to help facilitate. It was the culmination of a ball sports unit and some students joined a fast-paced soccer game next to the bleachers. Others dribbled basketballs on the far side of the gym. A few practiced kicking and throwing on their own, or like Ignacio, with a paraprofessional.

When one boy, who wore leg braces under his jeans lingered off to the side with his arms folded across his chest, teacher Whitney Darlington quickly spotted him and said, “What’s up bud?”

He told her his legs were tired from hula-hooping during the warm up period. After a quick pep talk, he accepted what looked like an oversized orange volleyball from Darlington and began bouncing it off the wall to himself.

Not included

In another era, or even now in some districts around the country, Darlington’s students might have experienced a very different P.E. class.

Although the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires schools to provide physical education to students with disabilities, it’s not unheard of for them to be shunted aside when it comes time for class.

They might be set up with a game of chess or checkers, or scheduled for physical therapy during P.E.

David Martinez, an adaptive physical education specialist from Georgia who’s conducted trainings for Denver Public Schools staff, said kids are sometimes invited to participate in an empty way.

They'll be told, "'Today, you’re going to be the scorekeeper,” or ‘Today, you're going to be the official.”

Worse yet, “Some students may not even make it to the gymnasium, they may be left in the classroom.”

Greeley-Evans teacher Kelly Kennedy, who was recently named Colorado's Adapted Physical Education Teacher of the Year, said she believes physical education opportunities for students with disabilities have improved over the years.

“As a profession, we’ve gotten so much better at being able to adapt and modify for students,” she said.

It can be as simple as providing a ramp to roll a ball up instead of requiring a student to throw it. Or hanging a hula hoop from the the basketball hoop to create a more manageable target.

Bruce Randolph parent Melissa Smith said she’s been happy to see her daughter Alissa, who has a congenital heart defect and cognitive delays, get the same P.E. opportunities as her peers—things as small as learning how to jump rope.

“These kids are being treated a lot more like the general population,” she said.

Smith has heard “back-in-the-day” stories about special education students being sidelined during P.E., but said it’s never happened to Alissa.

In fact, physical education is her daughter's favorite class, she said. 

More money, more guidance needed

While awareness is higher than it used to be, funding constraints and a dearth of teacher training remain challenges.

A 2010 report from the federal Government Accountability Office found that students with disabilities had similar opportunities to participate in P.E. as their general education peers, but that teachers didn’t always know how to fully include them, were unclear about requirements under federal law and didn’t have regular access to trainings on these topics.

Another problem is that more than two-thirds of states—including Colorado—don’t offer a teaching license or endorsement in adapted physical education. Kennedy, who holds an adapted P.E. teaching license from Minnesota, said a state advisory committee is working with the Colorado Department of Education to create that credential here. Currently, the department recommends that teachers interested in adapted P.E. positions seek a national credential from the National Consortium for Physical Education and Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities.

Ideally, every district would have at least one adapted physical educator, say Kennedy and Martinez. It's a role that typically includes some teaching as well as consulting with general education P.E. teachers who have students with disabilities in their classes.

In Colorado, the state education department doesn’t track how many districts employ adapted physical educators. In Greeley-Evans, Kennedy is one of two such teachers. In Denver, there are no adapted P.E. teachers.

Personal improvement

At the end of Darlington’s P.E. class at Bruce Randolph, Ignacio and his classmates crowded around her to plug their pedometers into docking stations and check their results. The stats, which get posted on the gym bulletin board (by student numbers not name), students how hard they're working during class and how they've improved over time.

PHOTO: Ann SchimkeWhitney Darlington, a physical education teacher at Bruce Randolph School, looks at pedometer data with her students.

“I think I did more,” said Ignacio, when it was his turn.

He was right. The previous week he’d completed 4 minutes and 49 seconds of “moderate to vigorous physical activity” in the class, and now his numbers were up to 6 minutes and 13 seconds.

It was a far cry from the amount clocked by his most active soccer-playing classmate— nearly 29 minute in the moderate to vigorous range. But for Ignacio it was a win.

Before the pedometers, he liked to stick by Darlington's side and talk at length about baseball. Now, he's pushing himself a little harder.

“It’s pretty awesome,” she said.




Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Robot challenge makes Greeley students, teacher learn new skills

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 10/29/2015 - 08:45
On their own

In a Greeley classroom students and teacher alike must think critically and learn new skills to build robots out of Legos. Greeley Tribune

labor day

Pueblo City Schools officials will go to fact-finding with its employee unions agreements couldn't be reached. Pueblo Chieftain

ELECTION 2015 • Jeffco edition

The Jefferson County school board recall will be a test to see whether conservative education reform policies have gone too far. New York Times

Speaking of conservatives, a nonprofit linked to the Independence Institute gave $75,000 to fight the recall, new campaign finance records show. Chalkbeat Colorado

Candidates linked to the recall still have a lead in reported contributions. Arvada Press

To browse the latest donations in the recall effort, check out our updated database here. Chalkbeat Colorado

Election 2015 • Aurora edition

Party labels aren't much of an issue In the nonpartisan races for the two boards of education serving Aurora, the candidates say. Aurora Sentinel

Election 2015 • Pueblo edition

Is there a link between the Pueblo City School board race and this baseball coach not getting a job? KRDO

Human Resourecs

Boulder Valley Superintendent Bruce Messinger has been named the Superintendent of the Year. Daily Camera

Two cents

The new frontline in the war over public education reform is Jefferson County, writes two leaders of Americans For Prosperity. Forbes

Categories: Urban School News

Denver-based libertarian group adds $75,000 to fight Jefferson County school board recall

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 10/28/2015 - 15:57

Big money continues to pour into the fight over who controls Jefferson County classrooms, new campaign finance records show.

Since the recall effort was launched in June, an estimated $1 million has been raised by groups on both sides of the fight.

The latest round of reports filed with the Secretary of State — which covers a small window of Oct. 16-22 — continues to show supporters of the recall have the edge in reported donations. But a new contribution to the committee opposing the recall has narrowed that gap slightly.

Colorado Independent Action, a nonprofit linked to the libertarian think tank The Independence Institute, contributed $75,000 to Kids Are First Jeffco, the political committee that opposes the recall of the three conservative school board members, in the latest filing period.

The donation from Independent Action to Kids Are First Jeffco was the single largest donation during the reporting period. Reports from campaigns and committees involved in the Jefferson County school board recall were due at midnight Tuesday.

Kids Are First Jeffco spent all $75,000 on advertising with a Denver-based company called Colorado Media Group, according to records.

Data Center | Track contributions to players in the Jefferson County school board recall election and see how much everyone has raised in spent since June here.

While donations to recall supporters slowed down during the latest reporting period, the groups still holds an edge in total reported contributions.

Jeffco United for Action, the organization that initiated the recall, reported raising $3,110 in the period. It spent $23,997, mostly on advertising.

Jeffco United Forward, the committee that is backing a slate of candidates to reset the entire board, raised $630 in non-itemized contributions. Tapping into money it had previously raised, it spent $9,980, mostly with the consulting firm Strategies 360.

Contributions to recall targets and the candidates seeking to replace them were more mixed.

Recall targets continued to raised little campaign funds on their own. Jeffco school board president Ken Witt raised $575. John Newkirk raised $1,345. Julie Williams didn’t report any new contributions.

By contrast, members of the so-called Clean Slate who are seeking to replace the conservative school board majority raised and spent impressive sums. Ron Mitchell raised $10,783. Brad Rupert recorded $14,198 in contributions. And Susan Harmon added $5,515 to her war chest.

Big contributors to their campaigns include the county’s teachers union’s small donor committee and a rancher from Boulder, John Powers, who has given generously to Democrats in the past, according to records.

The union’s small donor committee donated $9,000 to Rupert and $6,000 to Mitchell during the seven-day reporting period. During the same time, Powers donated $4,000 to Harmon and $3,500 to Mitchell.

The three candidates, who are also backed by recall supporters, continued to spend thousands of dollars on advertising with Mad Dog Mail, a Democratic marketing company in Florida.

Other candidates in the recall election raised considerably less money — if any.

Regan Benson raised $200, according to records. Neither Paula Noonan nor Matt Dhieux recorded any new contributions.

The final reporting deadline for committees in the recall election is Dec. 3.

Candidates and committees involved in the regular election that features two school board seats in the state’s second largest school district are due at midnight Friday.

The total amount spent on the recall will never be known because organizations like the Colorado Independent Action and Americans For Prosperity, which supports the school board majority’s policies, aren’t required to file with the secretary of state so long as they don’t expressly advocate for or against particular candidates.

Recall supporters have a nonprofit of their own that is not required to disclose its donors. That nonprofit, Jeffco United made an early donation of about $90,000 to the recall effort.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Board races could drive high Dougco turnout

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 10/28/2015 - 08:42
Election 2015

With three seats open on the Douglas County Board of Education, county officials are expecting the trend of high voter turnout for school district races to continue this year. Castle Rock News-Press

Students at Douglas County’s Mountain Vista High School are media-savvy, and they recently hosted a forum for candidates in the Dougco school board race. Highlands Ranch Herald

School board candidates like those in Jefferson County are increasingly banding together. Chalkbeat Colorado

Hunting teachers

School districts competed for hard-to-find teachers at the University of Colorado’s Fall Employment Day. Greeley Tribune

Closing the gap

The Harrison school district in southern Colorado Springs now has one of the state's smallest achievement gaps between white students and minority students. Gazette

Nation's report card

Colorado students’ scores slipped on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading and math tests, given to a sample of fourth and eighth graders every other year. Chalkbeat Colorado, AP via Gazette


More students are staying in school and earning their diplomas in Colorado Springs District 11. Following a three-year trend, the district says the high school graduation rate has gone from nearly 65 percent to 68 percent of students graduating on time. Fox21

planning ahead

The Poudre school district is studying a possible bond issue for the 2016 election. Coloradoan

Arts at school

Valor Christian has opened the doors on a 94,000-square-foot arts venue that is the first of its kind at the high school level in Colorado. Highlands Ranch Herald

campus security

Students and staff at Pikes Peak Community College's Centennial campus in Colorado Springs were warned about a threat made Tuesday against the campus by a student. Denver Post

A suspicious item prompted the evacuation of the Ricardo Flores Magon Academy for about an hour Tuesday afternoon. 9News

Two cents

The Greeley Tribune commends the Greeley school board and the teachers union for reaching a contract agreement. Greeley Tribune

Categories: Urban School News

Colorado scores on "nation's report card" decline but stay above national scores

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 10/27/2015 - 23:01

Colorado students did worse this year on the test known as “the nation’s report card” than they did the last time it was administered two years ago, according to data released Wednesday. But the state’s scores are still better than national averages.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, is a set of reading and math tests given every two years to a sample of fourth and eighth graders in each state. Earlier this year, 4,500 Colorado students spent one hour each taking one of the tests.

On the fourth-grade math tests, 43 percent of Colorado students scored proficient or better, down from 50 percent in 2013. On the eighth-grade math tests, 37 percent of students scored proficient or better, down from 42 percent two years ago.

On the fourth-grade reading tests, 39 percent of students scored proficient or better, down from 41 percent in 2013. On the eighth-grade reading tests, 38 percent of students scored proficient or better, down from 40 percent two years ago.

Most national scores, with the exception of fourth-grade reading, dipped as well but the declines weren’t as steep. However, Colorado education officials said the decreasing scores aren’t cause for concern.

“If we start seeing declines over a period of time — if we see scores dip again in 2017 — it becomes a little more alarming,” said Will Morton, director of assessment administration for the Colorado Department of Education. “Right now, with a single-year dip, I wouldn’t be too concerned about it yet.”

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U.S. students have taken the NAEP exams since the early 1990s in an effort to provide a consistent measure of student performance at a time when states’ standards varied widely.

Many states have adopted or are developing new tests that reflect shared standards, potentially allowing for more detailed and frequent comparisons of students across the country. But the NAEP tests are not officially aligned with the standards adopted by Colorado and more than 40 other states. Called the Common Core standards, they detail what students should know in reading and math.

By the 2013-2014 school year, the Common Core standards were in effect in all Colorado schools. The state also rolled out new tests that align with them. Students took the reading and math tests, known as PARCC, for the first time last spring.  The state is scheduled to release the results in November.

“When we look at tests as a measurement for student success — and they’re only one way to measure student success — those tests, which are taken by all students ... are what we really look at,” said Dana Smith, interim chief communications officer for CDE.

HOW HAVE MATH SCORES CHANGED OVER 10 YEARS? jQuery(function () { jQuery('#mathnaep').highcharts({ chart: { type: 'line' }, title: { text: ' ' }, xAxis: { categories: ['2005', '2007', '2009', '2011', '2013', '2015' ] }, yAxis: { min: 20, title: { text: 'Percent proficient or better' } }, tooltip: { headerFormat: '{point.key}', pointFormat: '{}: ' + '{point.y}%', footerFormat: '', shared: true, useHTML: true }, credits: { enabled: false }, plotOptions: { column: { pointPadding: 0.2, borderWidth: 0 } }, series: [{ name: 'CO 4th grade', color: '#1f78b4', data: [39, 41, 45, 47, 50, 43] }, { name: 'National 4th grade', color: '#a6cee3', data: [35, 39, 38, 40, 41, 39] }, { name: 'CO 8th grade', color: '#33a02c', data: [32, 37, 40, 43, 42, 37] }, { name: 'National 8th grade', color: '#b2df8a', data: [28, 31, 33, 34, 34, 32] } ] }); });

But officials said NAEP serves a purpose, too, in that it provides a glimpse into how Colorado students are performing compared to students across the country. Colorado ranks in the middle: Its scores were 23rd highest in fourth-grade math, 17th highest in eighth-grade math, 23rd highest in fourth-grade reading and 18th highest in eighth-grade reading.

“Overall, we’re about where we would expect to be,” Morton said, adding that “if you look at it on a bell curve, we’re in the middle of that bell curve toward the higher end.”

Colorado’s scores have generally improved over the years, while achievement gaps between white and minority students and low-income and non-low-income students have stayed the same. This year, Colorado's scores did not improve. Morton and Smith were hesitant to speculate as to why, but they noted the differences between NAEP and the Common Core.

NAEP may not be testing what students are learning in their classrooms, they said. A recent study by the American Institutes for Research found that the similarity between the NAEP math tests and the Common Core is “reasonable,” but there are gaps. For example, the study said it appears that “a notable amount” of middle-school math content recommended by the Common Core is not part of the NAEP test.

“As our teachers continue to teach to our Colorado standards,” Morton said, “those differences between what NAEP is designed to test versus what our teachers are being asked to teach — those differences may be highlighted.” But it’s too early to tell for sure, he said.

“Until we have more years of implementation, we can’t really tell if this is an implementation dip or a fundamental difference between our standards and the blueprint of the NAEP test,” Morton said.

HOW HAVE READING SCORES CHANGED OVER 10 YEARS? jQuery(function () { jQuery('#readnaep').highcharts({ chart: { type: 'line' }, title: { text: ' ' }, xAxis: { categories: ['2005', '2007', '2009', '2011', '2013', '2015' ] }, yAxis: { min: 20, title: { text: 'Percent proficient or better' } }, tooltip: { headerFormat: '{point.key}', pointFormat: '{}: ' + '{point.y}%', footerFormat: '', shared: true, useHTML: true }, credits: { enabled: false }, plotOptions: { column: { pointPadding: 0.2, borderWidth: 0 } }, series: [{ name: 'CO 4th grade', color: '#ff7f00', data: [37, 36, 40, 39, 41, 39] }, { name: 'National 4th grade', color: '#fdbf6f', data: [30, 32, 32, 32, 34, 35] }, { name: 'CO 8th grade', color: '#e31a1c', data: [32, 35, 32, 40, 40, 38] }, { name: 'National 8th grade', color: '#fb9a99', data: [29, 29, 30, 32, 34, 33] } ] }); });

NAEP officials took a similar view of the scores, which stayed stagnant or declined in most states.

“One downturn does not a trend make,” said Peggy Carr, the acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the NAEP tests.

“It’s not a multi-year trend we’re seeing,” added Bill Bushaw, the executive director of the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets the framework for the NAEP tests. He referenced “curricular uncertainty” in American classrooms and said experts have suggested that “slight declines” often precede improvements.

The NAEP tests are not meant to be tied to a specific curriculum, Bushaw said. However, he predicted that the national board would take another look at the framework in light of this year’s scores and reports such as the one from the American Institutes for Research.

In Colorado, officials said that while NAEP is helpful, it’s just one piece of the overall testing puzzle — and one that’s based on a small sampling of the state’s nearly 900,000 students.

“We don’t get too upset when we see small gains or losses,” Morton said.

Chalkbeat Tennessee reporter Grace Tatter contributed information to this report.

Data source: National Assessment of Educational Progress 

Graphics by: Sarah Glen/Chalkbeat

Categories: Urban School News

School board candidates looking for an edge in local elections team up, capitalize on national debates

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 10/27/2015 - 18:18

The Clean Slate was solidified in a Jefferson County living room.

By the time the five school board candidates had arrived there that early September evening, most had already endured a five-month recruiting and vetting process.

Now they were hashing out where they agreed and parted on issues such as linking teacher pay to evaluations and how they could work together to restore harmony in Denver’s western suburbs after two years of controversy.

The architects of this coordinated effort were not political operatives, but a team of six Jefferson County mothers who previously had the ear of the school district’s superintendent and felt shut out of the process after three conservative school board members were elected as a slate in 2013.

The candidates who ultimately came together are part of an evolving political chess match that grows out of a long tradition of finding strength in numbers. By banding together, school board candidates up and down the Front Range and across the nation gain a leg up in raising money, spreading a cohesive message and cutting through the noise of what can be crowded ballots.

That cohesiveness is seen as a considerable advantage as once sleepy school board elections become less about local issues and more a proxy war for a national education debate that pits teachers unions against modern day education reformers.

“This slate didn’t happen because of cliques in Jeffco, but because there is a national agenda to take over public education,” said Kelly Johnson, one of the mothers behind the slate that wants to reset the entire county’s school board.

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

Slate politics are nothing new

Political slates were born out of the Progressive Era of the 1930s.

Fed up with the contemporary political machines that controlled and corrupted many large U.S. cities, members of the business class sought to reform municipal elections, said Luis Ricardo Fraga, co-director of Institute for Latino Studies at Notre Dame, who has studied nonpartisan elections for most of his career.

“The whole idea was to get political parties out of city politics,” Fraga said.

But after the successful adoption of nonpartisan elections, business and community leaders ended up building their own machines and slates on behalf of their interests.

Political slates became so common that after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 went into effect, the U.S. Department of Justice monitored slates in the South to ensure black communities weren’t shut out of the electoral process.

For much of the 20th century, the most common slates in school board elections featured candidates who won endorsements from local teachers unions, said Terry Moe, a Stanford University political scientist and union critic.

That’s because teachers have the biggest material stake in school board elections, Moe said. Their livelihood depends on decisions made by the school board.

“If you go back in time, unions were the only organized force,” Moe said. “If you were a school board member and the union didn’t like you, you were in trouble.”

The birth of the modern school board slate

Much of today’s school board politics can be traced to the 1999 Los Angeles school board election, when Mayor Richard Riordan hand-picked a slate of candidates to run against four incumbents backed by the city’s teachers union.

The mayor, with help from the business community, identified and bankrolled candidates who would challenge the status quo and usher in reform policies that would weaken union control. then bankrolled their campaigns.

Since then, education reform activists have replicated Riordan’s model in Denver, Indianapolis, and Oakland, among other cities.

Those tactics employed in major cities are now at play in suburbs and smaller metro-areas. In Colorado this election season alone, slates that fit this definition and their opposition are campaigning in the Douglas County, Colorado Springs District 11, Aurora and Thompson school districts.

In helping candidates raise money, these organizations also identify key policies and messages such as school choice to influence local debates regardless of location.

Funders and education-reform advocacy groups such as Students First and Stand for Children, in an effort to gain more traction with voters, are changing what matters in local school board elections, said Michael Hartney, a professor at Lake Forest College.

“They’re mainstreaming or nationalizing the debate,” he said. “Most voters don’t pay attention to school boards. To me [slates] give voters more knowledge.”

By creating flashpoints — like disagreements over teachers evaluations — policy debates can happen at the local, state and federal level and gain more traction, Hartney said. That, in turn, creates a more engaged voter.

“It’s about attention,” he said.

Fighting back

Unions and their supporters have been losing strength for decades, labor expert and author Philip Dine said.

Education reform efforts are further eroding the power of unions.

“Labor is doing whatever it can to fight back,” Dine said. “So they’re doing a lot of creative things whether reaching out to the public or forming alliances with other organizations.”

Locally, the Jefferson County teachers union launched a campaign, Stand Up For All Students, complete with T-shirts, buttons and county-wide protests to draw attention to the school board majority.

While the Jefferson County Education Association has distanced itself from the recall, it was messaging developed by Stand Up For All Students — that the school board majority lacked transparency, wasted tax dollars and was disrespectful — that ended up on the recall petition.

And the union has endorsed and contributed to the Clean Slate.

But the union also has been busy working behind the scenes on other projects outside of the recall that might generate even more goodwill with a community unlikely to support unions.

Throughout the year, the union teamed up with parents and a national foundation to host hundreds of house parties and conduct a survey to craft a platform for unity. The platform, which will be released in final form after the election, calls for more collaboration between teachers, parents and school board, funding for early childhood education, and less testing.

Consequences for governance

Not all slates lead to radical change.

Some teams, like a 2013 school board slate in Greeley, end up not being fully elected.

In other instances, former allies turn against each other.

That’s what happened in Colorado Springs’ District 11 when a conservative slate backed by real estate developer Steven Schuck was elected in 2003.

According to The Gazette, the four-member slate attempted to launch a voucher program but was unsuccessful. They hired and fired a new superintendent within a year. And a power struggle ended in a recall of two reformers.

Another potential consequence of increased polarization at the local school board level is governing paralysis tantamount to Congress, which continues to be less and less productive, political consultants and education researchers said.

Some observers of Denver Public Schools pointed to a 4-3 split on the board as one reason why student achievement didn’t improve more quickly between 2009 and 2013.

And political acrimony between reformers and unions in Washington D.C., and Chicago made headlines, but little progress for students.

“The day when you were elected to school boards, because you were a leading citizen or you wanted to fulfill your civic duty, those days seem to be from a bygone area,” said Denver-based independent political analyst Eric Sondermann. “Now you almost have to have an ideological agenda on one side of divide or another. I think there is a real danger to this.”

Categories: Urban School News

Analysis: Students of color in Colorado suspended at higher rate

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 10/27/2015 - 08:55
Standing in the gap

Students of color in the state's 20 largest school districts are suspended at a higher rate than their white peers. 9News

Walkout for a cause

Students at Denver's Summit Academy organized a walkout to show support for law enforcement officers. 7News

Pueblo's innovation

Pueblo City Schools is considering uniting six struggling schools into an innovation zone, freeing three more schools from some district and state red tape. Pueblo Chieftain

Karen Ortiz, principal of the Pueblo Arts Academy middle school in Pueblo, is more determined than ever to improve the school. Pueblo Chieftain

labor day

The Greeley-Evans School District Board of Education voted unanimously to approve the 2015-2016 master contract with the district’s teachers after months of unrest and disagreements. Greeley Tribune


President Obama’s recent call for less standardized testing spurred lots of national chatter, but many of his specific proposals involve steps Colorado already has taken. Chalkbeat Colorado, KRDO

Sen. Michael Bennet, echoing the White House, said school testing has gotten out of hand. Durango Herald

Human Resources

Basalt High School English language development teacher Leticia Ingram is Colorado's teacher of the year. Post-Independent

Election 2015

Big spending by both sides in the Jefferson County recall point to national interest in the outcomes. 9News

Both sides in the school board recall made their case to voters on 9News. 9News

Hands-on learning

A group of Loveland fourth graders learned about life, nature and natural disaster along the banks of a small-scale river. Reporter-Herald


A judge declared a mistrial in the case against a former Denver Public Schools employee who was hired by New Mexico's largest school district after he had been charged with sexually abusing two young boys. AP via Denver Post

Categories: Urban School News

Colorado ahead of the game on Obama’s suggested test reforms

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 10/26/2015 - 18:38

President Obama’s recent call for less standardized testing spurred lots of national chatter, but many of his specific proposals involve steps Colorado already has taken.

For example, the “testing action plan” released Saturday by the U.S. Department of Education recommends that states cap the percentage of instructional time students spend taking required statewide standardized assessments so children spend no more than 2 percent of their classroom time taking the tests.

In Colorado, 2 percent of classroom time is about 21 hours in a school year, said Department of Education spokeswoman Dana Smith.

But the statewide CMAS tests will consume only a low of 8.25 hours in third grade to a high of about 13 hours in seventh and eighth grades next spring, according to CDE. The time needed for college-readiness tests in 10th and 11th grades isn’t known because those exams haven’t been chosen. (See graphic at the bottom of this article for details.)

The federal action plan also says, “Low-quality test preparation strategies must be eliminated” and calls on districts to take concrete steps to "to discourage and limit the amount of test preparation activities.”

Colorado testing critics have complained about the overall burden of testing, including preparation for state tests and tests chosen and given locally. But the state has no requirements for control over test prep or local testing.

Similarly, the action plan’s recommendations for flexibility in use of test scores for educator evaluation mirror things Colorado already is doing, said Katy Anthes, the state education department's interim associate commissioner.

“The Administration has adjusted its policies to provide greater flexibility to states in determining how much weight to ascribe to statewide standardized test results in educator evaluation systems” and will work to help states use such flexibility, the plan states.

“There’s nothing in here that’s not already built into our system,” Anthes said.

Colorado law requires that 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation be based on students’ academic growth. But districts can – and do – use other measures in addition to growth based on multiple years of state test results.

During the 2014-15 school year, districts could choose to not use growth measures or to use less than 50 percent. And a testing law passed last spring bars the use of data from state tests for evaluation in the current 2015-16 school year.

The testing action plan acknowledges the role of the Obama administration in the growth of testing but says assessment problems are the “unintended effects of policies that have aimed to provide more useful information.”

Along with calling for such high-level goals as quality tests, assessments aligned to what students are learning in class and the linking of tests to improved learning, the document also promises federal financial support for states to improve and streamline testing programs.

And the action plan draws a bright line in calling for the continuation of annual statewide tests, a requirement some testing critics would like to eliminate.

Changes in Colorado’s testing system have been driven both by cutbacks required by a 2015 law and by time reductions made by PARCC, the consortium that provides the language arts and math tests currently used by the state.

But those changes aren’t likely to dampen legislative interest in testing, which was the top education issue during last spring’s legislative session.

"Until we have an assessment tool that parents trust, I'm confident that we will continue to see high opt-out ratios and annual legislation to withdraw from PARCC," said Parker Republican Sen. Chris Holbert, a member of the Senate Education Committee.

Learn more about the Colorado testing system in this archive of Chalkbeat Colorado stories.

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Categories: Urban School News

Pueblo 60 bets on innovation to turn schools around

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 10/26/2015 - 08:48
Pueblo innovation

The Pueblo Chieftain takes an in-depth look at efforts to improve some Pueblo 60 schools using the state innovation law. Pueblo's plan, The innovation law, What it costs, Roncalli STEM Academy, Roncalli's leader, Risley Academy, Risley's leader, Beacon Grant Middle School

Testing reconsidered

Students across the nation are taking tests that are redundant, misaligned with college- and career-ready standards, and often don't address students' mastery of specific content, according to a long-awaited report. News of the study comes just after the Obama administration’s announcement that standardized testing should be trimmed. EdWeek, CNN

Would-be principals recently debated standardized testing at a Colorado Springs event. Gazette

Election 2015

Denver voters will decide whether to devote some city tax revenues to college scholarships. CPR

Leaders of Brighton-based District 27J hope voters will provide some breathing room for overcrowded schools. Chalkbeat Colorado, Denver Post

Backers of the proposed $122 million bond issue in the Roaring Fork district have raised more than $16,000 for their campaign. Post-Independent

The local teachers union is the largest contributor in Mesa Valley 51 school board races. Daily Sentinel


Parents are at odds with administrators over searches of student cell phones at University Schools, a Greeley charter. KRDO

Students versus robots

The Rocky Mountain B.E.S.T. robotics competition at Metropolitan State University featured 28 teams from around the region. Denver Post

What a diploma means

Debate continues as Colorado’s new graduation guidelines start to filter down to school districts. Durango Herald

Classroom tech

The most advanced woodworking lab in the country sits inside a classroom in the small Peyton district. Denver Post

Both Westview and Trail Ridge middle schools in the St. Vrain district recently were recognized as Apple Distinguished Schools for innovating with Apple products. Daily Camera

Preschool payoff?

A new Tennessee study raises questions about the last impact of early childhood education. Chalkbeat Colorado

Categories: Urban School News

Weekend Reads: Why childhood disadvantages hurt young boys more than girls

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 10/23/2015 - 19:55
  • A new poll suggests that a large majority of Americans think that the country should do more to expand access to early childhood and a plurality think we should invest more in early learning than in college. (The Atlantic)
  • A decade after the first state run school district was started in Louisiana, the track record for existing turnaround districts is mixed, but more may be on the way. (Hechinger Report)
  • New research suggests that childhood disadvantages such as poverty or an unstable family life hurt boys more than girls. (The Upshot)
  • The flap over language a McGraw Hill textbook used that described slaves as "workers" reveals larger problems with the way history is taught in American classrooms. (The Atlantic)
  • In their latest philanthropic effort in education, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, former teacher Priscilla Chan, are opening a private school aimed at counteracting the toll that poverty takes on children. (San Jose Mercury News)
  • For many first-year teachers, October and November are the hardest months, but some programs are working to get teachers through the fall rough patch. (NPR Ed)
  • Sesame Street's new puppet character with autism is unusual because she's a girl, a decision that the show's creators made intentionally to combat impressions that most kids with autism are boys. (L.A. Times)
  • If you didn't already know that education-only news outlets do amazing reporting, the story of how Catalyst Chicago broke open the story that eventually led to the former Chicago schools chief pleading guilty to fraud charges should give you an idea. (Columbia Journalism Review
Categories: Urban School News

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