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NEA president: Current testing system “will crumble”

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 07/02/2014 - 16:48

Two National Education Association leaders Wednesday called for a massive reduction in the amount of student testing and predicted accountability systems based on such assessments “will crumble.”

Dennis Van Roekel, president of the 3 million-member NEA, told a handful of reporters (and several dozen cheering members), “This entire accountability system that’s based on tests will crumble. It’s not a question of if. It’s a question of when.”

He appeared with Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association, an NEA affiliate. Dallman, citing a CEA teacher survey that concluded 30 percent of the school year is consumed by testing, said, “Let’s cap it at 5 percent.”

The two leaders appeared a day before the NEA’s representative assembly convenes for four days of elections, voting on resolutions and deciding on union initiatives for the upcoming year.

The national meeting at the Colorado Convention Center is the first in Colorado since 1962.

Testing, which has come under increasing criticism from state and national teacher groups in the last year, is expected to be a major topic of discussion. One agenda item proposes creation of a “NEA Campaign Against Toxic Testing” that “will conduct a comprehensive campaign to end the high stakes use of standardized tests, to sharply reduce the amount of student and instructional time consumed by tests, and to implement more effective forms of assessment and accountability.” (Read about full proposal here.)

Dennis Van Roekel (left) and Kerrie Dallman.

Van Roekel and Dallman pounded on those themes Wednesday, with Van Roekel saying testing “has failed the children of America” and “I don’t need five more years of the same results to show me which students aren’t getting what they need.”

Dallman criticized “the corporate-driven testing culture” and said it’s “taking the joy” out of schools.

“We are here to tell Colorado we are all more than a score. … We are not anti-testing. Teachers invented testing. But too much of a good thing is a bad thing,” she said.

Asked about a new state task force that will study the issue, Dallman said she hopes the group will “separate student testing from high-stakes decisions” about accountability. “I hope that recommendations come out of that task force to put a cap on testing.” (Get more details on the task force here.)

Criticism of the Common Core State Standards and testing also is on the rise among conservative groups. Asked if the liberal NEA might make common cause with such groups on testing, both Van Roekel and Dallman avoided answering.

Nearly 9,000 people started gathering last week for the NEA’s annual meeting, attending a variety of events including special-interest caucuses, committee business meetings and state delegation sessions, plus service and educational events.

The business portion of the meeting kicks off in earnest Thursday when the NEA’s representative assembly digs into business items, constitutional amendments and – starting Friday – election of officers. Van Roekel is ending his term, so a new president will be elected. Those sessions run through Sunday. (See agenda here.)

The resolutions could take some time. The table of contents for proposed resolutions runs to more than nine pages by itself, not counting proposal texts. (See the full set here.)

The teachers unions’ annual summer conventions come at a time of increasing pressure on the groups. (The smaller American Federation of Teachers holds its convention in Los Angeles starting July 11.)

EdWeek on Wednesday posted a set of graphics showing the changing membership, finances and other stats about the two groups. A recent article on Politico concluded, “As the two big national teachers unions prepare for their conventions this summer, they are struggling to navigate one of the most tumultuous moments in their history.”

Categories: Urban School News

Long summer and fall ahead for testing task force

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 07/02/2014 - 12:48

Members of the 15-member task force assigned to review Colorado’s school testing system, whose names were released Wednesday, represent a fairly wide spectrum of backgrounds and include a number of familiar figures.

The Standards and Assessments Task Force could play an important role in the growing debate over the role and form of testing.

Creation of the task force was something of a compromise plan for the Democratic majority (and a few Republicans) during 2014 legislative session.

Some conservative Republicans, backed by a variety of citizen groups, pushed bills to delay rollout of the new PARCC tests next year or allow districts to opt out of tests. And some Democrats tried a last-minute rollback of the new social studies tests.

The delay and opt-out proposals had no chance of passage, given potential disruption to the state’s accountability system if such measures were passed. (The social studies gambit also failed.) But Democratic leaders needed to show some response to rising public and teacher criticism of testing, so conversion of the opt-out bill into a task force measure provided a way to do that.

The 15-member panel’s assignment is to study the impact of testing on teaching time, the interaction of testing with the state accountability and educator evaluation systems and the feasibility of waiving some assessment requirements, among several other issues. (Get more information on the task force in this legislative staff memo.)

As is the case with most legislative task forces (and permanent state boards and commissions), members had to reflect a careful balance of interest groups and professional backgrounds. The appointment power also was divided, with members being named by all four political party leaders in the legislature and by the chair of the State Board of Education.

Here are the members, organized by who appointed them:

House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver

  • Bill Jaeger, Colorado Children’s Campaign vice president, representing organizations that advocate for low-performing students
  • Donna Lynne, chair of Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, representing business
  • Dan Snoweberger, Durango superintendent, representing administrators
  • Ilana Spiegel, leader of the activist parent group SPEAK, representing parents

Senate President Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora

  • Adele Bravo, Boulder Valley teacher, representing teachers
  • Lisa Escarcega, Aurora chief accountability officer, representing administrators
  • Nancy Tellez, Poudre board member, representing school boards
  • Susan Van Gundy, associate director of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, the group that developed the new tests Colorado is supposed to start using in 2015

Paul Lundeen, Republican chair of State Board of Education

  • John Creighton, St. Vrain board member representing school boards
  • Tony Lewis, executive director Donnell-Kay Foundation and Colorado Charter School Institute board member, representing CSI
  • Syna Morgan, Douglas County chief performance officer, representing administrators

House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland

  • Luke Ragland, vice president of Colorado Succeeds, representing business
  • Dane Stickney, Strive Prep Charter School teacher, representing teachers

Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs

  • Jay Cerny, CEO of Cherry Creek Academy, representing charter schools
  • Bethany Drosendahl, author and educator, representing parents

The legislation that created the task force, House Bill 14-1202, also allocated $142,750 to the Department of Education to coordinate the group’s work, commission a testing cost study, pay for a separate review analyzing how different testing schemes would affect the accountability system and obtain legal advice on the implications of letting parents and districts opt out of some testing requirements.

CDE also has an outside consulting group, WestEd, reviewing the administration of online science and social studies tests last spring.

The task force and CDE are to report findings and recommendations to the legislature by next Jan. 31, giving the 2015 session plenty of time of consider the issue.

The November elections could provide a wild card in the process, as the terms of the testing debate could change if Republicans take control of the governor’s office, or of one or both houses of the legislature.

A poll released Tuesday showed Gov. John Hickenlooper and Republican Bob Beauprez neck and neck. Republicans are pushing hard to flip the Senate, where Democrats only have a one-vote majority, but they face longer odds in trying to take the House.

The task force’s first meeting will be July 15, at a time and place to be determined. (Parts of the Capitol are under renovation this summer, so staff still are trying to find an available meeting room.)

Learn more about Colorado’s testing system, planned changes and about the debate in this Chalkbeat Colorado story.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: What’s the state of the unions?

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 07/02/2014 - 09:58

Going to work

On his first official day as superintendent of Jeffco Public Schools, Dan McMinimee attempted to soothe the fears of district staff after months of angst and uncertainty. ( Chalkbeat Colorado, 9News )

Money doesn't matter?

Both candidates who won the contested State Board of Education primaries on June 24, Valentina Flores and Marcia Neal, raised less money than the people they defeated. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Summer of study

Fifteen members have been selected for a state task force that’s supposed to come up with recommendations for oversight of multi-district online schools. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

State of the unions

As the NEA in Denver and the AFT in Los Angeles hold their national conventions this month, what are their financial assets, political spending, membership trends and governance structures? ( EdWeek )

Core politics

An anti-Common Core activist has told a Dougco Republican group that unseating Gov. John Hickenlooper is the key to repealing Colorado's adoption of the Common Core Standards and urged support of Republican candidate Bob Beauprez. ( Castle Rock News-Press )

Commentary

Thousands of teachers have converged upon Denver this week for the National Education Association's annual convention. A great many of those educators, when it comes to government reforms in education, are mad as hell and are not taking it anymore. ( Teacher Alan Isbell via Denver Post )

Evaluation + licensing

The Tennessee Board of Education has given initial approval to a revamped teacher licensure policy that offers high-performing teachers a fast pass to licensure and renewal. (The idea has stalled in Colorado.) ( Chalkbeat Tennessee )

Things looking up

As the new fiscal year starts, 40 states have budgets that boost spending and dedicate extra funding primarily to education. ( Reuters )

About face

The School Nutrition Association has changed its mind and is leading a lobbying campaign to allow schools to opt out of the federal healthy-meals rules it helped to create. ( NY Times )

Categories: Urban School News

On first day, McMinimee calms and challenges Jeffco staff

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 07/01/2014 - 20:08

GOLDEN — On his first official day as superintendent of Jeffco Public Schools, Dan McMinimee attempted to soothe the fears of district staff after months of angst and uncertainty.

McMinimee told about 200 central administration employees who gathered for a 1 p.m. meeting at the district’s headquarters that his leadership will not be a “total departure” from how the suburban school district has operated, as some had feared. He used the meeting — part meet-and-greet, part corporate pep rally — to share his personal philosophy, squash rumors, make jokes, and build excitement for the next school year.

McMinimee — who previously was the assistant superintendent in neighboring Douglas County School District — replaces Cindy Stevenson, who led the district for 12 years. She left her post abruptly in February, accelerating a plan to retire after elections stacked the school board with people who opposed her leadership.

Stevenson’s departure left the district, with its 85,000 students and 14,000 employees, without a superintendent this spring. The board’s president, Ken Witt, backed by board members Julie Williams and John Newkirk, bucked conventional practices by not appointing an interim leader. Instead, they asked Jeffco’s top deputies to report directly to them during the search process.

Coming on top of a tense election in which the victorious candidates pledged to make substantive changes in the district, the unusual arrangement thrust Jeffco into turmoil. Board meetings grew tense — and conflicts started during them spilled out onto social media and, in a few cases, the streets of Jefferson County — as teachers, staff, and community members raised concerns about the board’s ambitions for the district. McMinimee’s selection in May also drew sharp criticism, in part because he helped lead Dougco at a time when the district was rolling out policies that challenged the teachers union there.

On Tuesday, McMinimee worked to quell those concerns, repeating several times during his speech that he supports the work already happening in Jeffco and those who are doing it.

“People in this room need to know they’re safe and there is a job for them here,” he said.

But he also challenged them to find new ways to make the suburban school district the best for every student, regardless of their zip code. And he said, if anyone has an idea of a better way to do their job that would improve student learning, he wants to hear about it.

Replicating and improving the best of Jeffco Public Schools, of which his own children are graduates, and creating a climate where every employee is able to contribute, are his main focuses, he said.

“Preserving the best [of Jeffco], while moving us forward, that’s where the struggle is going to be,” he said at the gathering in the district headquarter’s fifth floor board room.

The crowd was largely silent, even as McMinimee attempted to draw listeners out with questions. But afterward staff said they found new confidence in McMinimee.

Jill Colby, a retired principal who now serves as the executive director of the district’s administrative association, said McMinimee made his case that he wants to build upon what’s already in place in Jeffco. She said she appreciates that McMinimee is not pushing specific policies until he has a better understanding of how Jeffco operates.

Ashley O’Donnell, secretary to the director of special education, said she’s more confident in McMinimee after Tuesday’s meeting.

“All we’ve seen is the negative,” she said. “He was solid. I’m impressed for the better.”

But McMinimee still has much to do to win over the district’s largest employee bloc, said Ami Prichard, the former teachers union president.

“Teachers are still very concerned,” she said during an interview with Chalkbeat before the district meeting. “There have been a lot of questions raised, about where he stands with the changes that have been made in Douglas County.”

In Dougco, McMinimee served as lead negotiator for the district during contract talks with the teachers union that ultimately ended in a stalemate and left educators without a collective bargaining agreement.

Unconstrained by a contract, the Dougco school board has implemented a controversial teacher evaluation program and market-based salaries.

“I believe he can show with his actions that he’s an advocate for teachers,” Prichard said. “I wish him the best of luck. It is a very tough job he’s moving into. It’s going to be hard and he’s going to need help. And we’re all interested in making our district as strong as possible.”

Categories: Urban School News

Fundraising advantages didn’t buy victory in SBE primaries

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 07/01/2014 - 16:43

Both candidates who won the contested State Board of Education primaries on June 24, Valentina Flores and Marcia Neal, raised less money than the people they defeated.

In the 1st District, Democratic winner Flores raised $20,292 in cash and non-monetary contributions. Loser Taggart Hansen amassed $38,288 in cash, loans and non-monetary services, including $7,408 in personal loans that he forgave and turned into contributions.

Flores spent $17,543, while the Hansen campaign laid out $36,404.

When the votes were counted in Arapahoe and Denver counties, Flores had 22,412 votes to Hansen’s 15,621.

Put another way, Flores spent 78 cents for every vote she received, while Hansen spent $2.33. (Two independent expenditure committees connected to Stand for Children and Democrats for Education Reform spent a total of $107,078 supporting Hansen, or $6.85 a vote.)

There was a similar pattern in the Republican primary for the board’s seat representing District 3, which covers 29 counties in the western and south-central parts of the state.

Winning incumbent Marcia Neal raised $5,681 from all sources and spent $4,068. Loser Barbara Ann Smith raised $7,338 (including ($2,100 in loans) and spent $7,427. Smith also had the advantage of being listed on the top line of the ballot (as was Flores in the 1st).

But Neal was victorious with 26,138 votes, compared to 24,355 for Smith.

The four candidates this week filed updated contribution and spending reports on financial activity through June 25. The independent expenditure committees don’t have to file updated reports until Aug. 1.

Here are some other state board election tidbits, now that complete but unofficial results have been posted by the Department of State.

Democratic candidate Henry Roman, running unopposed in the 3rd District, received 29,768 votes. (All certified candidates appear on the primary ballot, even if they don’t have opponents.)

There’s no Republican candidate in the 1st District, although an unaffiliated candidate could get on the November ballot by petition.

There is a general election contest for the board’s 7th District seat, which covers Adams and Jefferson counties. Democratic incumbent Jane Goff received 28,724 votes in the primary, while Republican challenger Laura Boggs, a former Jeffco school board member, received 33,781.

The primary election was more of a draw for Republican voters, given a four-way race for the gubernatorial nominations and lots of down-ticket races. Overall voter turnout was only 17.2 percent.

Categories: Urban School News

Membership set for new online task force

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 07/01/2014 - 16:37

Fifteen members have been selected for a state task force that’s supposed to come up with recommendations for oversight of multi-district online schools, a somewhat touchy issue that the 2014 legislative session couldn’t decide on.

Instead, legislators choosing the time-honored option of ordering a study, to be overseen by the Online Task Force. It was appointed by education Commissioner Robert Hammond, will convene in August and is supposed to finish its work in time to send a report to the State Board of Education and the legislature’s two education committees by next Jan. 1.

Multi-district online schools have been a concern for some policymakers over several years because of low achievement, student turnover and other problems in some schools. But there have been no significant legislative or regulatory changes made in recent years affecting such schools.

A bipartisan group of four lawmakers took up the issue during the 2014 session, appointing their own seven-member panel to develop recommendations on several online-related issues (see what the group recommended here).

The most controversial suggestion was that the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) sets standards for districts that authorize multi-district schools, rather than certify such programs, as is the case now. Critics were concerned the timing of such a switch could create problems for such schools. (See this story for background on the disagreements.)

A watered-down online measure, House Bill 14-1382, ultimately did pass (see text of law). It created the new task force to, among other things, “review best practices and policies for authorizing and administering multi-district on-line schools, to recommend to the state board quality standards and practices for authorizers, and to recommend to the state board and the General Assembly the regulatory and statutory changes that are necessary to certify authorizers of multi-district on-line schools.”

The group also is supposed to advise CDE on creation of possible pilot programs to study different ways of calculating online school accountability, measuring student competency, supporting students and improving student responsibility for their education.

As is the typical pattern with task forces created by the legislature, this group had “one-of-each” membership requirements intended to include a wide variety of professional backgrounds and interest groups.

Here are the group’s members:

  • Judy Bauernschmidt – A parent, representing Jeffco’s 21st Century Virtual Academy
  • Brian Bissell – A parent from Colorado Virtual Academy
  • Scott Campbell – Superintendent of the Widefield School District
  • Joe Dinnetz – A teacher in the LPS Voyager program of the Littleton Public Schools
  • Leanne Emm – Associate commissioner for finance at CDE
  • Diana Gamboa – Director of online learning for the Boulder Valley School District and head of school for the Boulder Universal program
  • Ethan Hemming – Executive director of the Colorado Charter Institute
  • Chaille Hymes – Principal for Colorado Connections Academy
  • Renee Martinez – Online and blended learning specialist at CDE
  • Dale McCall – Executive director of the Colorado BOCES Association
  • Kim McClelland – Executive director of the Colorado Digital BOCES and a zone superintendent for the Falcon schools
  • Gretchen Morgan – Executive director of CDE’s Choice and Innovation Unit (even though there are three CDE members, they have only one vote)
  • Dan Morris – Executive director of eNet Colorado
  • Amy Valentine – Executive director, Insight School of Colorado and Colorado Preparatory Academy
  • Linda Van Matre – School board president of Academy School District

Hammond will select a chair from among the group after all members have accepted their appointments. The department also is expected to hire a facilitator for the panel; the legislature appropriated $47,659 for the project.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Some St. Vrain facilities getting makeover

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 07/01/2014 - 10:33

Lunch is served

While summer food programs typically feed just children for free, a few sites in Colorado have bucked convention by providing free food for adults too. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Clean up crew

Educators from around the country came together in Denver yesterday to beautify two Denver schools. The teachers were participants of the annual conference of the National Education Association, which is meeting in Denver. ( Chalkbeat Colorado, CBS 4 )

The St. Vrain Valley School District is also using its summer break to repair or improve school facilities. Several of the repairs are due to damage from last year's floods. All projects are on time. ( Longmont Times-Call )

First Day on The Job

It's Antwan Wilson's first day on the job as superintendent in Oakland, Calif. Here's a look at what the former assistant superintendent of Denver Public Schools is facing: rampant school violence, a failed bureaucracy, and one-third of his schools are considered failing. ( Mercury News )

back to school

A school supply drive in Boulder aims to fill 9,500 backpacks pencils, markers, notebooks and other supplies for Boulder Valley and St. Vrain Valley students. ( Daily Camera )

Categories: Urban School News

Coming July 7: Our take on the news

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 06/30/2014 - 15:50

Next Monday, July 7, Catalyst Chicago will debut a renamed, revamped version of our daily “In the News” roundup. We’re calling it “Take 5,” and our goal is to give you a concise recap and analysis of the five news stories, opinion writing or other media coverage we think you will find most engaging, thought-provoking and useful. Check it out next week. Over the summer, we will publish on Monday and Thursday.; as the school year gets underway, we will publish daily. Meanwhile, follow us on Facebook and Twitter for news updates.

Categories: Urban School News

Coming July 7: Our take on the news

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 06/30/2014 - 15:50

Next Monday, July 7, Catalyst Chicago will debut a renamed, revamped version of our daily “In the News” roundup. We’re calling it “Take 5,” and our goal is to give you a concise recap and analysis of the five news stories, opinion writing or other media coverage we think you will find most engaging, thought-provoking and useful. Check it out next week. Over the summer, we will publish on Monday and Thursday.; as the school year gets underway, we will publish daily. Meanwhile, follow us on Facebook and Twitter for news updates.

Categories: Urban School News

Educators, leaders join forces to spruce up two local schools

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 06/30/2014 - 15:09

Educators from around the country — current, future and retired teachers, higher education faculty and educational support professionals — met Monday to beautify two Denver schools.

About 400 National Education Association members, in town for the union’s annual summer conference, volunteered as part of the organization’s Student Program’s 19th annual Outreach to Teach service project.

Denver’s Mathematics and Science Leadership Academy, or MSLA, and Val Verde Elementary were the two schools chosen for this year’s project. Dennis Van Roekel, president of the NEA, said they were chosen because of their high need and great faculties.

MSLA is a teacher-led school and has served as a model for teacher-led education reform in the Rocky Mountain West.

With 97 percent of its students being nonwhite and 96 percent eligible for free- or reduced-lunch prices, Ruth Ocon, one of the teacher leaders at MSLA, said it is important to address students specific needs without having to wait around for what may be a drawn-out district process to make decisions.

“Because we’re teacher-led, we’re able to make decisions quickly,” Ocon said. “We have a say in what our students need.”

Volunteers were expected to work all day, painting railings, creating murals and building gardens at MSLA, while others did a cleanup at Val Verde. The Outreach to Teach team spruced up 16 classrooms, teacher lounges and six bathrooms. They also donated 50 bulletin boards, 25 staplers, 50 scissors, 30 sets of stencils and an array of other school supplies.

“All these people supporting have one thing in common: heart for children,” Ocon said. “This is their way of giving back.”

 

Categories: Urban School News

Comings and Goings: Easton, Fuller

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 06/30/2014 - 15:06

John Q. Easton, director of the Institute of Education Sciences in Washington, D.C., will return to Chicago to take a position as Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Spencer Foundation. Easton, the former executive director and one of the founders of the University of Chicago's Consortium on Chicago School Research, was nominated to head IES by President Barack Obama in 2009. At Spencer, Easton will play a lead role with the board and staff in developing a program of work on research-practice partnerships in education (similar to the Consortium, which works with Chicago Public Schools and is one of the nation’s leading research-practice partnerships). Easton will also serve as a collaborator in and advisor to various Spencer projects and activities. Easton has a doctorate from the University of Chicago.

Jerry Fuller, Executive Director of the Associated Colleges of Illinois, will join the James S. Kemper Foundation as its Executive Director on November 3. The Kemper Foundation promotes liberal arts education coupled with workplace experience as the basis for career preparation. Fuller served as head of ACI, a network of private colleges and universities that focuses on helping low-income, minority and first-generation students complete college, since 1995.

 

 

Categories: Urban School News

Comings and Goings: Easton, Fuller

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 06/30/2014 - 15:06

John Q. Easton, director of the Institute of Education Sciences in Washington, D.C., will return to Chicago to take a position as Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Spencer Foundation. Easton, the former executive director and one of the founders of the University of Chicago's Consortium on Chicago School Research, was nominated to head IES by President Barack Obama in 2009. At Spencer, Easton will play a lead role with the board and staff in developing a program of work on research-practice partnerships in education (similar to the Consortium, which works with Chicago Public Schools and is one of the nation’s leading research-practice partnerships). Easton will also serve as a collaborator in and advisor to various Spencer projects and activities. Easton has a doctorate from the University of Chicago.

Jerry Fuller, Executive Director of the Associated Colleges of Illinois, will join the James S. Kemper Foundation as its Executive Director on November 3. The Kemper Foundation promotes liberal arts education coupled with workplace experience as the basis for career preparation. Fuller served as head of ACI, a network of private colleges and universities that focuses on helping low-income, minority and first-generation students complete college, since 1995.

 

 

Categories: Urban School News

Free summer meals for kids, but what about hungry parents?

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 06/30/2014 - 11:37

The summer meal program in the cafeteria at Estes Park Elementary School is a little different than most. Here, in the shadow of Rocky Mountain National Park, it’s not just kids who eat for free, as is the case at most other sites across Colorado and the nation. Parents are invited to dig in as well.

It’s been that way since 2011 when an ad hoc group of retired teachers called the “Kids Café Committee” decided to raise some extra funds for that purpose, knowing the town’s tourist industry relied on low-wage service workers who routinely struggle to make ends meet.

“Hungry parents are just as important as hungry kids,” said MaryAnn Martin, one of four current committee members. “You can’t feed these kids and let those adults not eat, knowing in all likelihood, they’re going home and not eating till dinner.”

While thousands of Colorado children 18 and under have access to free breakfast and lunch during the summer through nutrition programs funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, parents do not. In fact, USDA rules prohibit parents from eating off children’s plates, and many sites prominently display signs to this effect. At some locations, parents can purchase their own meals for around $3, but parents still sometimes sit idle watching their children eat.

Finding summer meal sites

  • Call the statewide Hunger Free Hotline at 855-855-4626 from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday or visit KidsFoodFinder.org.

Beyond the broader questions of how to meet the needs of hungry parents and caregivers, some advocates worry that depriving adults of free summer meals may dissuade them from bringing their kids. Of particular concern are toddlers and preschoolers, who can’t get to summer food sites without an adult.

Boosting summer meal participation has been a key priority of USDA officials in recent years, particularly after declining participation during the recession. While rates went up slightly last year, they still lag well below school-year participation.

According to a report published this month by the national Food Research and Action Center, federally-funded summer nutrition programs — there are two versions — served 15.1 children for every 100 low-income children who participated in the school lunch program in 2012-13.

Still, there’s not strong evidence either way that free parent meals will help close that gap. In addition, some anti-hunger leaders caution that offering free parent meals may not be right for every site. For example, some sites weave summer meals into several hours of supervised activity designed for kids to attend without parents.

“I don’t think it’s a one size fits all answer across the board,” said Kathy Underhill, executive director of Hunger Free Colorado. “For me, it’s about each site or sponsor knowing their community and knowing what their community’s needs are.”

Divining the impact on attendance

Perhaps the biggest barrier to determining whether free parent meals affect participation by children is that there’s no mechanism for tracking which sponsors offer the benefit from summer to summer or how it affects participation at those sites. A USDA representative noted that some sites in both Colorado and Virginia have offered free adults meals in the past, but said the agency doesn’t collect data on the topic.

In Colorado, there have been efforts in two recent years to provide free adult meals at multiple summer meal sites. The first and largest, came in 2011 after an anonymous donor gave money to Hunger Free Colorado, which also contributed funds for the project. All told, nearly $63,000 worth of adult meals were provided at 92 meal sites across Colorado, including those run by the Denver, Thompson, Adams 50, Alamosa and Trinidad school districts.

The donor had volunteered at summer meal sites and witnessed the plight of some parents, said Underhill.

“She saw first-hand it’s really hard when parents come or caregivers come … when they have to sit there and not eat. It doesn’t feel good.”

Tammy Rempe, Thompson’s director of nutrition services, said she believes child participation increased that year because more parents started coming, bringing their kids with them.

“I think the need in Loveland is much greater than anyone imagines,” she said. “Maybe we have a hidden poverty or a low-middle class income group whose needs are continuing to grow.”

While Hunger Free didn’t attempt to gauge participation changes after the 2011 donation , the organization did collect data the next year when it paid for adult meals at 11 sites from mid-July to mid-August to see if that would help drive late-summer meal participation. Underhill said it didn’t generally change participation rates among children, but it did create a stronger sense of community and drew appreciation from site organizers and participating parents.

A sign taped to the lunch table at a summer meal site.

There may be no definitive evidence showing that free parent meals push up participation by children, but the lack of free adult meals proved lethal for one meal program in Manitou Springs.

Laurie Wood, director of the school district’s Partners for Healthy Choices program, helped launch the inaugural summer lunch program at a local church last year. While the program wasn’t funded with USDA dollars, the grant money that paid for it had similar parameters.

At first, families showed up—most from a corridor filled with motels, hotels and mobile home parks. Although fliers advertising the lunch program stated that the meals were just for children, Wood said parents were surprised to learn they couldn’t eat too.

“They thought if they showed up they would get fed.”

When that didn’t happen, some tried eating off their children’s plates. But as the rules were enforced, participation dwindled and the program had to be cancelled mid-way through.

“The adults just abandoned ship with the kids,” said Wood. “It went from 15 to 10 to eight to three.”

Wood said she hopes to fund-raise over the next year so she and other community partners can take another stab at providing summer meals – this time with their own set of rules that allow both adults and kids to eat for free.

Building community

Agape Christian Church in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood is another Colorado summer meal site that provides for guests of all ages. Adults meals, whether for parents, grandparents or neighbors accompanying children, cost just 25 cents.

“I just charge them a quarter so there’s some dignity behind it,” said Eddie Mae Woolfolk, coordinator of the program since it began seven years ago. “A person feels better about themselves if they give something.”

The church, which serves 20-45 children and six to seven adults a day, covers the additional cost of the adult meals through donations. It costs about $1,000 a summer.

Aside from feeding the hungry, proponents of adult-inclusive models say it’s important for adults to be at the table for social reasons. Woolfolk said for some families that attend her lunch program it may be the only meal that parents and children eat together.

In Estes Park, which Martin said doesn’t have the sidewalks and cozy neighborhoods of a traditional residential area, attracting parents to the summer meal program allows them to meet others in the community.

“Food … is such a powerful and great way to bring people together,” said Wood.

The money crunch

While there are valid arguments that free adult meals don’t make sense in all communities and are not part of the core mission of  the USDA’s summer meal programs, money too is an inevitable sticking point. With meals costing $2 to $3.50 per person, the expense can gobble up funds quickly.

Sign at the entrance of a summer meal site in Loveland.

Those involved in the 2011 parent meal effort spearheaded by the anonymous donor agree on that point.

“The need was so great that that money was spent very rapidly,” said Rempe.

“I was so floored by the demand,” said Underhill. “I’ve been doing anti-hunger work for a couple decades and I don’t get surprised a lot. … I got really surprised by the demand for adult meals.”

While Rempe said it “would be awesome” to offer free parent meals again in the Thompson district, she said it’s not possible with today’s funding sources.

Theresa Hafner, executive director of Enterprise Management for Denver Public Schools, contemplated a smaller-scale program — say free parent meals once a week. Even that, she speculated, would help boost summer meal participation among children and get parents comfortable with the school food served during the school year.

Bruce Wallace, project director of the Food Bank of Larimer County, which sponsors the Kid’s Café program in Estes Park, believes the committee’s efforts to include parents represents ground-breaking work. At the same time, he said, “If it gets too big my concern would be, gosh, we can’t afford this.”

For the Kid’s Café Committee members, who Wallace calls “your classic local community heroes,” spending $1,000 to provide 10 adult meals a day for two months seems manageable.

“When you think about how many adults actually show up – It’s a car full of kids and maybe one or two adults. So you’re not out that much,” said Martin. “We just said, ‘Feed them, how expensive could it possibly be?’”

 

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Pueblo superintendent says goodbye

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 06/30/2014 - 09:21

The big fight

A group of parents and school districts filed suit Friday, charging that the state's school funding practices are unconstitutional. ( Denver Post, AP via Gazette, CPR, Chalkbeat Colorado )

Not quite Kumbaya

Despite a vote of no confidence from Aspen High School teachers, the school's principal saw her contract renewed for the next school year. But first, she and the teachers will spend the summer trying to resolve their differences. ( Aspen Times )

I've got my eye on you

The Greeley school district is in the midst of installing security cameras in the district's middle schools and a high school. The elementary schools got security cameras last year, with little controversy. ( Denver Post )

Say your goodbyes

Today is the last day for Pueblo's superintendent, who is retiring after leading the district for four years. ( Chieftain )

At the neighboring school district, a long-time teacher who spent most of her life in the district is also retiring. ( Chieftain )

Actions teach louder than words

A northeastern Colorado teacher is at the forefront of how to teach foreign language, using actions and storytelling to improve comprehension rather than rote memorization. ( Reporter-Herald )

Feeling your way through "Goodnight Moon"

A group of CU-Boulder researchers are using 3D printing to create books for visually impaired students, as part of an effort to promote literacy. ( Daily Camera )

What We're Reading

Do you need some extra morning reading material? Check out our roundup of the most interesting education stories from last week. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Categories: Urban School News

What We’re Reading: Chicago’s union chief weighing a mayoral bid

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 06/27/2014 - 18:32
  • The head of Chicago’s teachers union is considering running against Rahm Emanuel for mayor. (Sun-Times)
  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is losing allies over his opposition to the Common Core standards. (Politico)
  • Opposition to the Common Core is a vote-getter for critics in a way that support isn’t for proponents. (Talking Points Memo)
  • An alumnus whose former school is once again facing closure mulls the past — and the future. (Washington Post)
  • A satirical obituary says close reading, a central focus of the Common Core, was killed by “buzzwordification.” (Teaching the Core)
  • A report released this week argues for treating principals like CEOs — in responsibility and pay. (Atlantic)
  • Venture capital investment in education technology fell by more than half since the first quarter of the year. (TechCrunch)
  • Ed tech also seems to be growing achievement gaps, not closing them. (Slate)
  • A new study finds that students who are struggling in math don’t need fun activities to engage them. (Curriculum Matters)
  • A Philadelphia educator reflects on a year of building a school from scratch. (Philly Teacher)
  • New York City high schools take a variety of approaches to closing the college guidance gap. (City Limits)
  • What did the last day of school look like? A photo gallery. (EdWeek)
Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Teacher training programs adjust to new evaluations

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 06/27/2014 - 09:31

Finance fight

A group of parents and school districts plans to file suit today to have a portion of the school finance law which reduces the amount districts are given stricken from the books. It does ask for the return of lost funds. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

money money money

Three Adams County school districts are facing cuts, in spite of an influx of state money, and may go to the voters this fall to ask for more money. ( Denver Post )

The school board for Montezuma-Cortez is expected to adopt a budget that includes substantial cuts, alongside wage increases. ( Cortez Journal )

teaching the teachers

Teacher training programs are gearing up to prepare teacher candidates to cope with the state's new evaluation system. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Summer fun

Incoming high school freshman got a taste of college life at a camp intended to jumpstart the process of getting ready for high school and thinking about college. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

In Boulder Valley schools, students can participate in a patchwork of summer academic activities from getting a taste of the IB program to using a 3D printer. ( Daily Camera )

And Colorado Springs students recently travelled to a national conference to show off the water purification system they designed for developing countries. ( Gazette )

First Person

A parent at Denver's George Washington High School weighs in on the coming changes to the school, including GW's respected International Baccalaureate program. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Healthy schools

Three charter schools from across the state have joined an initiative intended to foster health and wellness work in schools. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

history lesson

Boulder County schools will start teaching Latino history in their classrooms. It's a big part of the area's history but hasn't previously been taught at area schools. ( Times-Call )

Saying goodbye

Pueblo's departing superintendent got praise for her leadership and work last night at a celebration for her retirement. ( Chieftain )

Categories: Urban School News

In the News: Karen Lewis "seriously thinking" of running for mayor

Catalyst Chicago - Fri, 06/27/2014 - 09:01

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who blamed Mayor Rahm Emanuel for the more than 1,100 layoffs announced Thursday, said she is “seriously thinking” about mounting a mayoral run. A Sun-Times poll earlier this year put Lewis behind Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who is running for her own reelection. Emanuel, meanwhile, has raised more than $7.4 million in his campaign. (Sun-Times)

RAUNER REDUX: It appears gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner can't go too long without facing questions about how his daughter got into an elite Chicago school. After initially being rejected in 2008 to Walter Payton College Prep because she didn't meet attendance requirements, Rauner's daughter later got in. Rauner's foundation later gave $250,000 to a school initiative. The money and Rauner's conversations with officials have led to allegations of clout. Now an outgoing Chicago Public Schools official says Rauner's daughter's overall admission score wasn't high enough. (State Journal-Register)

AFFLUENT PARENTS VS CPS: The Chicago Board of Education sat through its monthly tongue-lashing Wednesday, listening to speaker after speaker denounce their decision-making processes. But one group stood out: Affluent parents from Lincoln Park saying that CPS spends money on schools that are not the most in need. Talk about a reality check. (WBEZ)

 

IN THE NATION
PARENTS SAY TESTING A TIME SUCK: A new survey says parents think their kids spend too much time preparing for and taking exams. The annual Schooling in America Survey, released today by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and Braun Research, shows that 44 percent of parents think test prep takes too much time. Twenty-two percent of parents say their children don't spend enough time and 30 percent say they spend the right amount of time. More than six in 10 Americans also support vouchers, the survey says, with the most support coming from black parents at 74 percent and Hispanic parents at 72 percent. The Friedman Foundation, a school choice proponent, also noted that support for vouchers grew. In 2012, 56 percent of parents supported vouchers compared to 63 percent this year. The American Enterprise Institute is hosting a talk about the survey starting at 3 p.m. Eastern Time.

D.C. CONSIDERS GUARANTEED PRESCHOOL: The District of Columbia proposed an idea that appears to have strong support: guaranteeing access to pre-kindergarten for students who live in-bounds for high-poverty schools. (The Washington Post)

STUDENT DEBT DEBATE: A debate is raging about whether rising student-loan debt constitutes an existential crisis in American higher education or the natural outcome of more Americans' pursuing a college degree. (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

WHO'S AT THE CHALKBOARD: A recent New Orleans high school graduate says the school district hires too many white teachers. (The News Tribune)

Categories: Urban School News

In the News: Karen Lewis "seriously thinking" of running for mayor

Catalyst Chicago - Fri, 06/27/2014 - 09:01

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who blamed Mayor Rahm Emanuel for the more than 1,100 layoffs announced Thursday, said she is “seriously thinking” about mounting a mayoral run. A Sun-Times poll earlier this year put Lewis behind Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who is running for her own reelection. Emanuel, meanwhile, has raised more than $7.4 million in his campaign. (Sun-Times)

RAUNER REDUX: It appears gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner can't go too long without facing questions about how his daughter got into an elite Chicago school. After initially being rejected in 2008 to Walter Payton College Prep because she didn't meet attendance requirements, Rauner's daughter later got in. Rauner's foundation later gave $250,000 to a school initiative. The money and Rauner's conversations with officials have led to allegations of clout. Now an outgoing Chicago Public Schools official says Rauner's daughter's overall admission score wasn't high enough. (State Journal-Register)

AFFLUENT PARENTS VS CPS: The Chicago Board of Education sat through its monthly tongue-lashing Wednesday, listening to speaker after speaker denounce their decision-making processes. But one group stood out: Affluent parents from Lincoln Park saying that CPS spends money on schools that are not the most in need. Talk about a reality check. (WBEZ)

 

IN THE NATION
PARENTS SAY TESTING A TIME SUCK: A new survey says parents think their kids spend too much time preparing for and taking exams. The annual Schooling in America Survey, released today by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and Braun Research, shows that 44 percent of parents think test prep takes too much time. Twenty-two percent of parents say their children don't spend enough time and 30 percent say they spend the right amount of time. More than six in 10 Americans also support vouchers, the survey says, with the most support coming from black parents at 74 percent and Hispanic parents at 72 percent. The Friedman Foundation, a school choice proponent, also noted that support for vouchers grew. In 2012, 56 percent of parents supported vouchers compared to 63 percent this year. The American Enterprise Institute is hosting a talk about the survey starting at 3 p.m. Eastern Time.

D.C. CONSIDERS GUARANTEED PRESCHOOL: The District of Columbia proposed an idea that appears to have strong support: guaranteeing access to pre-kindergarten for students who live in-bounds for high-poverty schools. (The Washington Post)

STUDENT DEBT DEBATE: A debate is raging about whether rising student-loan debt constitutes an existential crisis in American higher education or the natural outcome of more Americans' pursuing a college degree. (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

WHO'S AT THE CHALKBOARD: A recent New Orleans high school graduate says the school district hires too many white teachers. (The News Tribune)

Categories: Urban School News

In the News: Affluent group chides CPS on spending choices

Catalyst Chicago - Fri, 06/27/2014 - 09:01

The Chicago Board of Education sat through its monthly tongue-lashing Wednesday, listening to speaker after speaker denounce their decision-making processes. But one group stood out: Affluent parents from Lincoln Park saying that CPS spends money on schools that are not the most in need. Talk about a reality check. (WBEZ)

RAUNER REDUX: It appears gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner can't go too long without facing questions about how his daughter got into an elite Chicago school. After initially being rejected in 2008 to Walter Payton College Prep because she didn't meet attendance requirements, Rauner's daughter later got in. Rauner's foundation later gave $250,000 to a school initiative. The money and Rauner's conversations with officials have led to allegations of clout. Now an outgoing Chicago Public Schools official says Rauner's daughter's overall admission score wasn't high enough. (State Journal-Register)

LEWIS CONSIDERS A RUN: Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who blamed Mayor Rahm Emanuel for the more than 1,100 layoffs announced Thursday, said she is “seriously thinking” about mounting a formal challenge to Emanuel.

IN THE NATION
PARENTS SAY TESTING A TIME SUCK: A new survey says parents think their kids spend too much time preparing for and taking exams. The annual Schooling in America Survey, released today by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and Braun Research, shows that 44 percent of parents think test prep takes too much time. Twenty-two percent of parents say their children don't spend enough time and 30 percent say they spend the right amount of time. More than six in 10 Americans also support vouchers, the survey says, with the most support coming from black parents at 74 percent and Hispanic parents at 72 percent. The Friedman Foundation, a school choice proponent, also noted that support for vouchers grew. In 2012, 56 percent of parents supported vouchers compared to 63 percent this year. The American Enterprise Institute is hosting a talk about the survey starting at 3 p.m. Eastern Time.

D.C. CONSIDERS GUARANTEED PRESCHOOL: The District of Columbia proposed an idea that appears to have strong support: guaranteeing access to pre-kindergarten for students who live in-bounds for high-poverty schools. (The Washington Post)

STUDENT DEBT DEBATE: A debate is raging about whether rising student-loan debt constitutes an existential crisis in American higher education or the natural outcome of more Americans' pursuing a college degree. (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

WHO'S AT THE CHALKBOARD: A recent New Orleans high school graduate says the school district hires too many white teachers. (The News Tribune)

Categories: Urban School News

Lawsuit claims school funding reduction mechanism unconstitutional

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 06/27/2014 - 01:18

Updated 9 a.m. - A group of school districts and parents filed a lawsuit Friday arguing that the device used by the legislature to control annual K-12 spending, the so-called negative factor, is unconstitutional.

The suit, filed against the state in Denver District Court, argues that the negative factor violates Amendment 23, the constitutional provision that requires school funding to increase by inflation and enrollment growth every year.

The suit has been expected for some time and opens a new front in the policy war over the negative factor, a conflict that intensified during the 2014 legislative session. It’s estimated that use of the negative factor has cut about $1 billion a year from what school districts otherwise would have received for basic operating costs. (See text of suit here.)

The plaintiffs ask that the negative factor section be stricken from the state’s school funding law and that the legislature be barred from reinstating the factor in another form. The suit does not ask that lost funding be restored.

Lead lawyers in the case are Timothy Macdonald of Arnold and Porter and Kathleen Gebhardt of Children’s Voices, a Boulder public interest law firm. She was the lead lawyer in the long-running Lobato v. State school funding suit, which was thrown out by the Colorado Supreme Court in 2013. (Get full background on the Lobato case here.)

Kathleen Gebhardt / File photo

Gebhardt told Chalkbeat Colorado that the final decision to file was made on Tuesday, partly because recent state revenue forecasts (see story) indicate continued improvement in state finances.

“It’s a simple claim, just that the negative factor violates Amendment 23,” Gebhardt said, describing it as a very different case from the complex Lobato suit.

The plaintiffs in the new case include the Colorado Springs 11, Boulder Valley, Mancos, Holyoke and Plateau Valley school districts, along with the East Central Board of Cooperative Educational Services. Other plaintiffs are the Colorado Rural Schools Caucus and the Colorado PTA. Four sets of parents with children in the Kit Carson, Lewis-Palmer and Hanover districts also have signed on to the suit.

The lead plaintiffs are Lindi and Paul Dwyer, who have four daughters in the Kit Carson district, and the case takes their name, Dwyer v. State. Gov. John Hickenlooper and Education Commissioner Robert Hammond are the named defendants in the suit.

Lawyers from four Denver law firms have agreed to assist Gebhardt with the case without charge.

What Amendment 23 does

Passed by voters in 2000, A23’s backers intended for it to provide a predictable and growing source of funding for schools. The amendment’s goal was to restore per-pupil funding to 1988 levels over time. For the first 10 years after passage the amendment required that funding increase an additional 1 percent a year on top of the increases for inflation and enrollment.

State funding for schools comes in two chunks. The larger amount, base funding, provides an identical per-student amount to every district. The second chunk, called factor funding, gives districts varying additional per-student amounts based on district characteristics such as numbers of at-risk students, low enrollment and cost of living for staff.  Local property and vehicle tax revenues also contribute to what’s called total program funding for schools.

(A third, smaller pot of state support known as categorical funding provides money to districts for programs such as special education, gifted and talented and transportation. While A23 requires overall categorical funding to increase by inflation every year, the money is not distributed by the same formula that governs total program funding.)

The key fact is that up until the 2010-11 school year, the legislature applied the inflation-and-enrollment increase to both base and factor funding. (Because of the recession, in 2008-09 and 2009-10 the legislature cut school funding by other means.)

Behind the negative factor Source: Colorado legislative staff. Click for larger view

With the economy still squeezing state revenues, in 2010 the legislature created the negative factor (originally called the stabilization factor) to control school spending as lawmakers continued to struggle with the overall state budget. It applied to the 2010-11 K-12 budget and has been in effect ever since.

The legal reasoning behind the negative factor is that A23 applies only to base funding, not to factor funding. And while the original A23 factors are intended to increase school funding, the negative factor gives lawmakers a tool for reducing it. This is the key issue under attack in the new lawsuit. The negative factor hasn’t been tested in court before. Its rationale is based on a 34-page 2003 memo issued by the Office of Legislative Legal Services at the request of then-Rep. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs. (Read memo here.)

“Amendment 23 precludes the General Assembly from purporting to grow the base but then slashing overall education funding by fundamentally revamping or jettisoning the [finance] formula as in effect in 2000,” the suit argues.

The policy debate

Negative factor impact

  • $5.9 billion K-12 funding in 2014-15 with
  • $6.8 billion without

A23 isn’t the only constitutional provision that applies to the state budget. Among other things, the constitution requires a balanced state budget every year, limits the amount of new revenue that can be spent even in years of high growth and restricts property taxes in a way that has reduced growth of local district revenues.

Because of those restrictions, policymakers who support the negative factor argue that it’s necessary to prevent K-12 spending from consuming larger and larger shares of the state’s general fund budget and squeezing out other state programs.

With state revenues improving, reduction of the negative factor was the top priority for education interest groups during the 2014 legislative session. Their proposals ranged as high as $275 million. In the end lawmakers agreed to a $110 million reduction.

The Hickenlooper administration and legislative budget experts resisted a larger buy down, arguing that a bigger amount would put too much pressure on the state budget in future years. That can happen because reducing the negative factor puts more money into K-12 base funding, which is subject to A23’s multiplier in the future.

Lawsuit backers met with key lawmakers near the end of the session, but legislators reportedly refused to be swayed by any possibility of a suit.

What happens next

As usually happens in these kinds of constitutional cases, the attorney general is expected to ask the district court to dismiss the suit. If that happens, the plaintiffs would appeal to the Colorado Court of Appeals.

Assuming the case stays alive in district court one way or another, both sides could file their written arguments by the end of the year – creating a pile of legal documents for the 2015 legislature to ponder as lawmakers consider the 2015-16 budget and how big a negative factor to include.

Interest groups already are gearing up to push for additional factor buy downs in 2015, and a live lawsuit will provide additional fuel and tension for the debate.

 

Categories: Urban School News

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