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Colorado ed department recognizes districts, schools for performance

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 12/02/2014 - 17:46

PHOTO: Colorado Dept. of Education

The Colorado Department of Education recognized dozens of school districts at its annual awards ceremony today in Denver.

Commissioner Robert Hammond honored schools and districts that earned acclaim in 10 award categories.

The event recognized the 27 districts that earned the highest level of accreditation under the state’s accountability system. School districts are rated annually by the department based on test scores and other factors like graduation rate.

The department also recognized recipients of the Centers of Excellence, Governor’s Distinguished Improvement, John Irwin Schools of Excellence, ESEA Reward School, High School Academic Growth, National Blue Ribbon Schools, ELPA Excellence, Title I Distinguished Schools and U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools awards.

PREVIOUSLY: Find your school district’s 2014 accreditation rating 

Here’s a rundown on all the awards from CDE:

Established by the Colorado State Legislature, the Centers of Excellence award recognizes schools that demonstrate the highest sustained rates of student longitudinal growth as measured by the Colorado Growth Model among those that have at least 75 percent at-risk students. In 2014, 19 schools earned this award.

The Governor’s Distinguished Improvement awards are given to schools that demonstrate excellent student growth. On the school performance framework that is used by the state to evaluate schools, these schools “exceed” expectations on the indicator related to longitudinal academic growth over three years. In 2014, 128 schools earned this award.

The John Irwin awards are given to schools that demonstrate excellent academic achievement. On the school performance framework that is used by the state to evaluate schools, these schools “exceed” expectations on the indicator for academic achievement over three years. In 2014, 160 schools earned this award.

The ESEA Reward School awards are given to Title I schools demonstrating high-performance and high-progress. In 2014, 6 schools earned this award.

The High School Academic Growth Awards recognize high schools that demonstrate the highest levels of student academic growth in reading, writing and math, within each classification used by the statewide association for high school activities for the sport of football. In 2014, nine schools have demonstrated the highest rate of student longitudinal growth.

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes public and private elementary, middle and high schools based on overall academic excellence or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

The ELPA Excellence Awards honors 10 local education providers and 10 charter schools that achieve the highest English language and academic growth among English learners in an English Language Proficiency Program and that achieve the highest academic achievement for English learners who transition out of an English Language Proficiency Program.

The Title I Distinguished School Award recognizes two schools out of the more than 700 Title I schools in the state —one that has achieved academic success and one that made progress in closing achievement gaps associated with race and poverty.

The U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools honors America’s public and private elementary, middle and high schools for their efforts toward improving student health and achievement and reducing their environmental impact. A Green Ribbon Schools award represents a healthy and sustainable school or district, recognized by parents, students, staff and governments at federal, state and local levels as an exemplary model of achievement in sustainability, health and environmental education.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: More bond money allocated to charter school in Boulder

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 12/02/2014 - 10:04

English language learners

Services for English language learners at proposed schools for Kepner are in the spotlight. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Peak to Peak

Boulder has allotted more bond money for a charter school, Peak to Peak. ( Daily Camera )

Teaching Style

Castle Rock teachers tell the board they enjoy being the 'guide on the side,' rather than the 'sage on stage' in their classrooms. ( Douglas County News Press )

Eastern Colorado

An eastern Colorado high schooler was shot in an accidental shooting near campus. ( Gazette )

Filling seats

The El Paso County GOP will vote on Paul Lundeen's school board replacement. ( Gazette )

Teach for America

Teach For America at 25: How has the organization changed over time? ( KUNC )

Creativity

Lessons in creativity at a wood shop in Dartmouth. ( KUNC )

Two generations

Schools are teaching Common Core math to parents as well as to students. ( Education Week )

Put it online

Big districts are telling publishers they need content digitally. ( Education Week )

Snow Daze

Some districts have replaced snow days with virtual school days, though barriers remain to getting all students devices. ( Hechinger Report )

Categories: Urban School News

Plans for Kepner surface concerns about services for English language learners

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 12/01/2014 - 20:42

Denver Public Schools has postponed finalizing plans for Kepner Middle School for another month in response to concerns about how the district will fulfill its legal commitments to English learners.

The decision follows questions about whether the district’s current plan — which would place two charter schools, Compass Academy and Rocky Mountain Prep, in the building temporarily — would disrupt the district’s commitment to provide certain programs to non-native English speakers at Kepner, including some instruction offered in their native language.

Kepner, where more than 60 percent of students are identified as Limited English Proficient, currently houses the district’s largest Transitional Native Language Instruction, or TNLI, program for middle schoolers. The district is bound by a consent decree overseen by the U.S. Department of Justice to have a TNLI program in Kepner.

Last spring, the district decided to phase out Kepner as part of a broader plan to improve schools in the southwest Denver neighborhood, where the district’s schools have been struggling. It has since issued a series of proposals for the building. In addition to temporarily locating the two charter schools in Kepner, the current plan would permanently open a new district-run school, Kepner Beacon, and a school run by charter network STRIVE in the 2016-17 school year

But the plan to place Rocky Mountain Prep and Compass in the school was pulled from the board’s November agenda in response to the concerns around services to English learners, even as a separate part of the district’s turnaround plan for the rest of southwest Denver, a new enrollment zone, was approved.

“We pulled [the most recent plans for Kepner] off the agenda to give more time for the community to hear about plans around Compass Academy and Rocky Mountain Prep,” said Susana Cordova, the district’s chief schools officer.

She said the district would be reviewing the plans with the school leaders, community members, the Congress of Hispanic Educators (CHE), and the U.S. Department of Justice.

District officials say that their plan to use the space in Kepner for the charters temporarily is in compliance with requirements. The current Kepner program, which is phasing out over the next four years, and at least one program that will be permanently housed in the building will offer TNLI programs.

“This does not affect the district’s commitment to having a TNLI program in Kepner,” said board president Happy Haynes at a board work session last month.

But not everyone is convinced. This summer, an independent monitor expressed concerns about what would happen during the phase-out in a letter to district officials. (See document below, page 27.) 

At the work session, board member Arturo Jimenez asked officials how the new plans would affect the district’s efforts to comply with the consent decree and whether there were clear plans for the temporarily-housed charters to leave.

District chief schools officer Susana Cordova told the board that Rocky Mountain Prep is held to the same standards as all charter schools, and that its current program for English learners meets requirements.

She said that Compass Academy had developed a TNLI program that resembles the district’s and had been working with CHE on its plans for its time in the Kepner building.

Alyssa Whitehead-Bust, the district’s chief innovation officer, said that the district would work with the schools to find permanent locations.

Fabricio Velez, a co-founder of Compass, currently slated to be in Kepner for two years, said that he had been talking with the community, the district, the DOJ, and CHE. He himself is bilingual, as are his children.

“We are developing our own model. But we want to offer the very best to the southwest community,” he said. “We looked at the research, and we designed our school to meet the needs of our second language learners in their native language.”

“Our goal is to be there as long as we can,” he said. “My goal is to ensure that the school is a center for the community.”

The board will likely vote on a proposal for the Kepner building in December.

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Categories: Urban School News

Comings and Goings: New principals

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 12/01/2014 - 16:24

These interim principals have become contract principals at their schools: Peter Auffant, Shields Middle School; Patrick McGill, Westinghouse High School; Ethan Netterstrom, Skinner North Elementary; Jean Papagianis, Kilmer Elementary; Tracie Sanlin, Spencer Elementary.

Assistant principal Megan Thole has become principal at Ray Elementary.

Be a part of Comings & Goings. Send items to Catalyst Community Editor Vicki Jones: vjones@catalyst-chicago.org

Categories: Urban School News

Raising the bar for STEM education

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 12/01/2014 - 12:54

A teacher in West Garfield Park reads a letter to her class: A waste management company is interested in purchasing vacant land for a garbage dump. The students’ task is to decide what happens next.

In a discussion, they examine potential outcomes from various angles, such as employment opportunities, neighborhood safety, or environmental impact, to understand the costs and benefits. They take on different roles – a local resident, an environmentalist, the company’s CEO – to determine whether or not they support the proposal. Finally, they put their research together to come up with the best solution.

This exercise is one of the “real-world problems” used in the new curriculum at Hefferan Elementary, one of 11 so-called “welcoming schools” that gained a STEM program after last year’s school closings. Beyond teaching the subject content of science, technology, engineering and math, STEM education should be “a shift in instruction,” said Jodi Biancalana, the school’s math and science specialist. 

“More of the thinking is on the learners,” she said. “With real life, authentic situations, students have to do the researching, exploring, experimenting, and come up with the solutions.”

Over the last four years, STEM education has become a priority nation-wide, due to a projected increase in jobs in the field to 8.6 million by 2018. Half of the 7.4 million jobs in 2012 were unfilled.

In 2010, a report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology projected a nationwide demand for approximately 25,000 new STEM teachers per year over the following decade.

Yet while young people heading to college report high interest in STEM subjects, there’s far less interest in teaching these subjects: A new report from ACT found that nearly half of 2014 high school graduates who took the ACT said they were interested in a STEM field, but less than 1 percent of those reporting such interest said they planned to teach science or math.

‘Mile wide, inch deep’

The U.S. fares poorly in comparisons of the quality of U.S. math and science education to international counterparts: America ranked 51st among 144 countries in the World Economic Forum’s most recent Global Competitiveness Report.

“American science education has long been critiqued for being a mile wide and an inch deep – trying to cover a lot of material and not going [intensively] over the same content,” said Dr. Shaunti Knauth, the director of National Louis University’s Science Excellence through Residency project. “There has been a push for a long time to revisit how we teach science.”

National Louis University was one of 24 schools that in September received a grant from the Teacher Quality Partnership, a federal program that aims to improve the quality of teacher preparation and student learning through partnerships between colleges and schools in high-poverty communities. This year’s competition prioritized applications that focused on STEM education, with the goal of recruiting, training and supporting 11,000 STEM teachers over the next five years.

National Louis University won $8.3 million. Downstate, Illinois State University won $10.1 million.

In partnership with the Illinois Institute of Technology, National Louis University will use the grant to figure out how to implement Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in its teacher preparation residency program. Teacher candidates will then take the science curriculum into middle-grades classrooms at Academy for Urban School Leadership schools.

Knauth said the NGSS picks out the central ideas in science and teaches them across several different content areas. Instead of prescribing what students should know, such as the various stages of a water cycle, the standards focus on what students should be able to do, like constructing models that explain cycles.

“NGSS expects teachers will be active in designing the curriculum and implementing it,” she said. “But it’s not fair to ask a biology teacher to incorporate engineering in her classroom without support.”

Even teachers who aren’t trained in the specific subject areas naturally want to engage their students with content that crosses over various curricula, said Biancalana, one of the two STEM coaches at Hefferan. Her job is to help teachers see that they can incorporate science content with teaching practices they’re already using in math or reading. By allowing students to reach their own conclusions about the “right answer,” she has seen more enthusiasm and engagement in the classroom.

“It’s really about creating a new culture for the students where they feel real ownership of the learning,” she said. “Everyone’s voice is important. Participation is important.”

Categories: Urban School News

Take 5: REACH exams, Walton's new focus, profits for testing

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 12/01/2014 - 11:16

For the first time, this year all teachers will be rated under the new REACH evaluation system that not only take test scores into account, but also student performance on exams designed by teachers. But complaints have emerged that these exams are too hard and setting students (and therefore teachers) up to fail. Saucedo special education teacher Sarah Chambers spoke about the issues at the last board of education meeting.

When questioned by board members, CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett shrugged off those concerns, saying the problems with the test might be unique to Chambers’ students. But it turns out that Chambers and other teachers who have expressed concerns might be right. WBEZ reporter Becky  Vevea was given a leaked version of some of the tests and took them to Barbara Radner, the head of DePaul University’s Center for Urban Education. Radner, running them through some reading readability indexes, says that the tests were registering at least three grade levels higher than the grade of the students. Some of the passages for 4th-, 5th- and 8th-grade students were at a college level.

Of course, one problem with this criticism is that teachers themselves came up with the tests. CTU’s Carol Caref says that, while the exans are better than having teacher’s evaluations tied only to standardized tests, ultimately the union favors an evaluation system that is not tied to exams at all. CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey says the district is looking closer at the issue.

2. Taking on entire cities … In her first-ever extensive interview, Carrie Penner Walton -- the Walton Family Foundation’s point person on education issues -- talks with Forbes about moving beyond “choice.” The granddaughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton and heiress to one of the world’s largest fortunes says the Foundation’s new mantra when it comes to education policy is “accountability and reach,” with an emphasis on shutting down bad charter schools and expanding help for English language learners and special education students.

In the interview, Penner also gives vague details on the Foundation’s new five-year plan to “take on entire cities.” The Walton Family Foundation -- which has spent more than $1 billion on K-12 education since the late 1980s -- will soon announce “two to four mid-size ‘proof point’ cities with high poverty rates where they will work with on-the-ground partners to support students in and out of the school setting.” The lofty goal is to ensure every child is being “well-served within that community” and because this will require “buy-ins from major stakeholders, they’ll start with cities politically inclined to support such efforts.”

Could Chicago be one of those cities? The Walton Family Foundation has already had a huge presence here. In 2012, CPS charter schools received more startup funds from the foundation than any other city, getting a total of $3.8 million, according to a Chicago Sun-Times story. Also, that year, CPS received money from Walton for community outreach during the school closings. In 2013, Chicago charter schools got $1 million, including $250,000 for each of the two Horizon Charter Schools, opened by Concept charter operator after they were approved by the independent Illinois State Charter School Commission over the objection of CPS.

3. Phillips loses, but wins… As you probably know by now, Phillips High School’s football team lost the state championship to Rochester High School. If they won, they would have been the first CPS team to win a state championship in football since Robeson in 1982. Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent out a statement congratulating the team. “In defying great obstacles, they have defined what it is to be a great team, and they have developed the personal characteristics that will sustain them into the next season and – most importantly – throughout the rest of their lives.”

Emanuel didn’t note, however, that lack of resources for public school teams is one of the obstacles. In an article from the Toronto-based National Post, coach Troy McAllister says he took over the team because no one else wanted to. The team had no footballs, no pads and only 12 players.

In a DNAinfo article, McAllister elaborated: “It's almost impossible to believe with the talent and coaches that are in the city that there's never been a state champion. But when you see the resources that are available to many Public League schools, you see there's a problem… All these Catholic League and private schools have their own stadiums, and that's not the case with a lot of Public League teams. It's not an excuse — you have to overcome it — but it is a big disadvantage.”

4. Classes on computers… As more school districts move toward so-called blended learning that incorporates techonology, the Washington Post asks whether these programs are indeed less expensive. The Washington D.C. Public Schools’ manager of blended learning says these programs are actually more expensive.

One example is a math class at a middle school, with 200 students sitting at computers but the same number of teachers as in a traditional classroom. Start-up costs were high, including $600,000 from the D.C. Public Schools to renovate the room and $400,000 from foundations for software.

Chicago’s foray into blended learning seems to be focused on using computers to provide intervention to help students do better on standardized tests. Byrd-Bennett calls these “personalized learning” instruments. In August, CPS awarded two contracts, each for $250,000, to companies that promise to assess students and match them with the right educational software to improve their skills.

5. On that note… The growth of “personalized learning” tools has helped create tremendous profits for the testing industry. An article in EdWeek explains how the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, as well as “new interest in real-time online assessments and school officials’ desire to link tests to academic content with the goal of personalized’ learning” have helped the industry grow by 57 percent over two years ago.

The research comes from Software & Information Industry Association, a trade group that collected a sample of data from testing companies and then extrapolated the information across the industry.

The article notes that the growth will likely level off over the next few years, as states and districts settle into new assessments.  Karen Billings, the vice president of the education division at the SIIA, says “a lot of the purchases made are [for products] they're going to use for a while."

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Greeley schools, union relationship bruised after contract talks

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 12/01/2014 - 09:55

six of one and half a dozen of the other

Colorado's largest school systems are split on whether to use student data to complete teacher evaluations this year — when they have legislative flexibility to do so. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

If you were in charge of your district's teacher evaluations, would you use the flexibility given this year? ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

State of the (Greeley) Union

After another round of bitter contract negotiations, Greeley school and union officials are painting a pretty picture for future contract talks. But their past relationship has been bruised with painfully public disputes. ( Greeley Tribune )

Grit — on and off the field

At the struggling Adams City High School — branded with the state’s “turnaround” status for poor academic performance — the football team had long been a symbol of apathy. But school leaders and a new football coach hope this prep season is symbolic of progress to come: on and off the field. ( Denver Post )

"Testing madness"

We asked. You answered. Check out how some Chalkbeat readers would revamp the state's testing system. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

A helping hand

A Colorado Springs program allows seniors to give back to the community while relieving some of the pressure teachers face in the classroom and form important intergenerational bonds. ( Gazette )

This Denver nonprofit connects students facing serious challenges with a school counselor and network to support them through high school graduation and beyond. ( Denver Post )

Two cents

The Denver Post says it's time to update Denver Public Schools' once groundbreaking teacher compensation bonus system. ( Denver Post )

Addition, Subtraction

Pueblo City Schools students may need few math credits to graduate high school. ( Pueblo Chieftain )

A new path

Longmont High School's new Medical and Bioscience Academy is giving some students interested in the health industry a jump start with internships and advanced courses. ( Daily Camera )

Human Resources

School principals at a Pueblo charter school network will work together to fill the void left by their executive director who resigned last month. ( Pueblo Chieftain )

Accolades

Two Pueblo schools are among the 160 that will be honored for student achievement by the Colorado Department of Education. ( Pueblo Chieftain )

The student newsroom at Standley Lake High School has won the National Scholastic Press Association's Pacemaker award. ( Your Hub )

Nine Colorado schools are splitting $6,500 to support physical activity and wellness programs before, during and after school. ( Gazette )

whole child

A new report suggests classrooms at all levels should focus on these same skills, habits, attitudes, and mindsets students learn in preschool. ( NPR via KUNC )

PARCCing Zone

A Chicago reporter was challenged to take the PARCC sample test online. Watch what happened next ... ( Chicago Sun-Times )

A change in the air

After 25 years, Teach For America's outsized reputation has made it a lightning rod of sorts in public education. And in the dawn of a post-Wendy Kopp era there's pressure to change. ( NPR via KUNC )

Categories: Urban School News

Talk to us: should more districts use flex-year in teacher evaluations?

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 12/01/2014 - 08:00

According to a Chalkbeat survey of the state’s 20 largest school systems, about half are taking advantage of flexibility in how they evaluate their teachers this year.

Colorado school districts were supposed to begin using the state’s evaluation system — based equally on professional practice and student data — in earnest this year. But due to an expected “data gap” between the state’s old and new testing system, the Colorado General Assembly provided districts one year to manage the evaluation system as they see fit.

Aurora Public Schools is one of the districts using the flexibility. Here’s why, according to Damon Smith, APS’s chief personnel officer:

“We believe there is still a great deal of work to do and learning to be accomplished before we introduce student achievement measures to the evaluation construct.”

On the other side of Denver, Jeffco Public Schools is moving forward with its use of data. Todd Engels, executive director of educator effectiveness, reasoned:

“We had all components for Senate Bill 191 in place last year. There are pieces we’re continuing to refine. [But] we need to have some consistency for evaluating our educators.”

So, this weeks question: If you were in charge of your school district, would you use the year of flexibility? If so, how would you use it? If not, why? 

Each Monday, we ask readers a question about a timely or timeless question about their experiences in education. Readers who want to share their opinions should leave a response in the comment section below, tweet us @ChalkbeatCO, send an email, or leave a comment on our Facebook wall. Every Friday we round up the responses. Here’s last week’s.

Categories: Urban School News

Weekend Reads: In honor of Thanksgiving, how to teach gratitude

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 17:20

Please enjoy our weekly links list as a side with your turkey (or your favorite meat substitute) and stuffing. We’ll be back Monday with more stories about education in Colorado.

In honor of Thanksgiving, here are some ideas for how to cultivate a culture of gratitude in the classroom. (Edutopia)

Here’s a collection of resources for teachers hoping to talk to their students about Ferguson. (Teaching Now)

Working in early childhood education remains a low-paid, dead-end job. (Colorado Public Radio)

Early childhood education teachers find themselves in the midst of changing and sometimes conflicting expectations. (Slate)

A call for more humanities in U.S. schools says we need to give students more to be proud of. (New Republic)

After he won the Nobel Prize for literature, Albert Camus credited a childhood teacher. Here’s what he said. (Brainpickings)

A 22-year-old with a faked resume got the green light from New York to open a charter school. (Rochester Dem & Chronicle)

Three recent books — “The Teacher Wars,” “Building a Better Teacher,” and “Getting Schooled” — offer a trip through the past and present of American teaching. (NYRB)

Even as the educational game market blows up, some kids are still playing Oregon Trail. (Hechinger Report)

But teachers face some struggles using games in the classroom. (KQED)

One school of thought is that standardized tests should be harder and cost more. (Atlantic)

A new study shows that the digital divide isn’t going anywhere. (Marketplace L-12)

Digital learning may not be more cost-effective than traditional classroom set ups. (KUNC)

Child safety fears are wildly out of step with the actual dangers most children face. (Vox)

And parents are more likely than their children to think of their schools as safe. (Rules for Engagement)

Children benefit when their parents talk about race rather than avoiding the subject. (Colorado Public Radio)

In New York, after-school programs might be measured for how well they affect students’ academic performance. (Hechinger Report)

How to challenge children whose major literacy problem is that they just want to read too much. (Flypaper)

Some very silly jokes told by kids (maybe in school), courtesy of the internet. (IMGUR)

And speaking of Thanksgiving, have a great one! We are thankful for you.

Categories: Urban School News

Major districts of two minds on temporary teacher evaluation reprieve

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 15:09

Colorado school districts got a temporary reprieve this year in using student academic growth to evaluate teachers, and major districts are split into two camps about how to use that flexibility.

Just over half of Colorado’s 20 largest districts will continue to use student academic growth data for 50 percent of teacher evaluations.

Another half-dozen large districts are taking advantage of Senate Bill 14-165 and won’t be applying student growth when evaluating their teachers.

Among the 50-percent districts who will use growth data are the Douglas County and Jefferson County schools. Major districts choosing to skip growth for a year include Adams 12-Five Star, Aurora, Boulder, Cherry Creek and Denver.

The first group of districts employs about 19,000 teachers, while about 17,000 teachers work in the districts that won’t be using growth.

The information comes from a Chalkbeat Colorado survey of the state’s 20 largest districts, conducted to find out how each is using evaluation flexibility. Those districts employ about 72 percent of the state’s roughly 54,000 teachers.

District decisions appeared to be driven by a combination of three factors – a district’s level of confidence in its evaluation system, a desire to refine its systems further, and concern about changing its evaluation system for only one year.

“We decided we were just going ahead to push forward, instead of taking a step back,” said Marne Milyard, a principal in the Pueblo City Schools, which is sticking with 50 percent.

On the other side, Tracy Dorland of Adams 12 said, “We’re grateful for the gift of time, and we plan to use it well.” Dorland is the district’s chief academic officer.

Sen. Mike Johnston, author of the flexibility law, isn’t surprised that different districts have taken different directions. “I think that reflects what our intent was,” the Denver Democrat said.

“A lot of folks we talked to had done the advance work and were prepared” to use growth measures for evaluation this year. But, “It makes a lot of sense that a lot of people [in other districts] would say, ‘Let’s test the system first.’”

“We hope it will lead to a good year of reflection and work,” said Johnston, who’s also the author of the 2010 law that created the new evaluation system.

Long timeline, stops and starts for evaluation rollout Evaluation systemState law requires:

  • Annual evaluations of teachers, principals, and other licensed personnel
  • Basing half of evaluations on professional practice, half on student growth
  • Loss of even veteran teachers’ non-probationary status after two consecutive years of less-than-effective ratings

Teacher standards

Five standards comprise professional practice (50 percent)

  • Content knowledge
  • Creation of good learning environment for all students
  • Effective instruction and creation of environment that facilitates learning
  • Reflection on practice
  • Leadership

Student academic growth (50 percent)

Teacher ratings

  • Highly effective
  • Effective
  • Partially effective
  • Ineffective

The teacher and principal evaluation systems required by Johnston’s Senate Bill 10-191 were implemented in all districts during the 2013-14 school year. Educator evaluations were based 50 percent on classroom and professional practice and 50 percent on what are called “measures of student learning” – academic growth as measured by a variety of tests. Ratings of partially effective or ineffective didn’t count against future loss of non-probationary status.

This school year and this year only, thanks to SB 14-165, districts can choose to continue the 50-50 system, use a smaller percentage for student growth or base evaluations solely on professional practice. Districts do have to calculate and record student growth measures for teachers even if they’re not used in evaluations. And, low ratings do count against possible loss of non-probationary status. (The flexibility was granted by the legislature partly because of the “data gap” that will be created by moving to the new CMAS testing system next spring.)

The evaluation system is supposed to return to its original design in the 2015-16 school year, with evaluations based 50-50 on practice and student growth and with low ratings counted against teachers.

What the 50-percenters say

Some of the districts that decided to stick with the 50-50 evaluation system did so for continuity.

“We know it’s going back to having that [growth] requirement a year from now,” said David Peak, assistant superintendent for human resources in the Academy district near Colorado Springs.

Peak said his district started working on the issue three years ago and has student growth measurements “that we believe are valid and reliable, but we recognize there’s still work to be done in that area.”

Ruth DeCrescentis, chief human resources officer for the Brighton schools, said, “We’re going to go ahead with 50 percent because we’re ready. … I think people are pretty comfortable.”

“We had all components for Senate Bill 191 in place last year,” said Todd Engels, executive director of educator effectiveness for the Jeffco schools. But, he added, “There are pieces we’re continuing to refine.”

The district decided, “We need to have some consistency for evaluating our educators” and didn’t want to change the rules after having used student growth in 2013-14, Engels said.

Some 50-percent districts nevertheless are adding pieces of local flexibility to evaluation practices.

Colorado Springs District 11 is using only what are called “collective measures” – data such as school performance framework ratings – not individual classroom growth measures – to evaluate teachers.

And while the Douglas County Schools will use 50 percent growth for evaluation, that data won’t be used in the district’s performance pay system this year. (Use of performance pay is a local decision and isn’t part of state evaluation law.)

Thoughts from the 0 percent districts Learn more

 

“We believe there is still a great deal of work to do and learning to be accomplished before we introduce student achievement measures to the evaluation construct,” said Damon Smith, Aurora chief personnel officer.

Judy Skupa, Cherry Creek’s assistant superintendent of performance improvement, sounded a similar note, saying, “There are many unknowns right now due to the transition of state assessments, and this provides us with more time to determine how new state assessments will inform teacher and principal effectiveness. Also, we are beginning to develop a deeper understanding of quality assessments at the classroom level; the ‘14-15 school year provides a time for us to use this deeper understanding to pilot different assessments across the district and to use that information to make the best decision possible.”

Denver Public Schools has been a leader in developing evaluation systems but, under an agreement with the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, opted for 0 percent this year. The district is doing more work to develop usable “individually attributable student growth data” – student performance information that can be connected to individual teachers, not just to the performance of whole schools or the district.

“Because we don’t have other measures of individually attributable student growth for enough of our teachers, we decided to take advantage of the flexibility afforded by SB 165,” spokeswoman Nancy Mitchell said.

Theresa Myers, a spokeswoman for the Greeley schools, seemed to sum up the feelings of many districts by saying, “The reason was to give teachers one more year to learn about the system, to understand what supporting materials they will need to provide and to have one more year to feel comfortable with all the new evaluation entails.”

The outliers

The flexibility law allows districts to use any percentage between 0 and 50 for student growth this year. The Mesa 51 district in Grand Junction is the only top-20 district that isn’t doing all or nothing, and it is using 25 percent. “It’s the same rationale as those who are dropping it to zero percent; we want another year of experience with the process with the belief that we’re still honing our skills,” said spokesman Dan Dougherty.

Katy Anthes, director of educator effectiveness for the Colorado Department of Education, said she’s heard that several districts have chosen either 0 or 50 percent but doesn’t have a count because the flexibility law doesn’t require districts to tell CDE which route they’ve chosen.

Linda Barker, director of teaching and learning for the Colorado Education Association, said she’s heard that at least one smaller district, Meeker, is using 25 percent.

The flexibility law doesn’t set a deadline by which districts had to decide. Among top-20 districts, the Thompson schools still haven’t made a decision.

How student growth is measured

It’s a common misconception that Colorado’s evaluation system rates teachers based on student scores on statewide tests. That’s only half the story – remember that half of evaluations are based on classroom and professional practice.

And districts can measure the student growth half with a variety of data, including growth as measured by state tests, teacher-designed classroom tests, assessments provided by outside vendors and even growth in the ratings provided by the school and district performance frameworks that are used for accreditation and rating. Many districts are working on creation of student learning objectives that can be used to measure academic growth. From those different measures districts can choose their own mix for their evaluation systems.

The Colorado Education Initiative recently issued a report on districts practices, based on a study of what 53 districts did during the 2013-14 school year.

“In most cases, districts rely on teachers to develop their own assessments to measure student growth rather than relying solely on state or vendor assessments that test only a relatively narrow range of content,” the report concluded, although it did find a somewhat heavier reliance on collective growth measures by larger districts.

The graphic below summarizes the report’s findings. Get links to a summary and the full report here. (MSL stands for “measures of student learning.”)

RANDA to the rescue?

The Education Initiative’s report noted that “The burden of data collection and scoring has been substantial, and many districts would welcome more streamlined and cost-effective data tracking systems.”

Officials at CDE are trying to provide some help with that in the form of a $2 million online data system that allows principals and administrators to enter and track evaluation data. For now the system is available only to districts signed up for the state’s model evaluation system, used by about 90 percent of districts (although not some of the larger ones).

The department says more than 80 districts already are using what’s nicknamed RANDA (after the name of the vendor) but which is formally called the Colorado State Model Performance Management System. Learn more about RANDA here.

Evaluation implementation a big challenge

The feelings of many administrators and teachers can be summed up by this sentence from the initiative’s report: “Developing, implementing, reviewing, and refining an MSL system takes an enormous amount of time and energy, both for administrators and educators.”

The CEA’s Barker said districts are “appreciating that they have this year of flexibility” but cautioned that “one year isn’t going to give us enough data.”

“This is a huge learning curve for all of us. … It’s going to take time to fully implement this.”

Categories: Urban School News

We asked, you answered: What should the state’s tests look like?

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 14:51

Last week, we asked our readers, “What do we want state standardized assessments to accomplish and how should we use the results?”

[View the story "We asked, you answered: What do you want from Colorado's assessment system? " on Storify]
Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Kids are least likely to receive needed early treatments for mental illness

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 10:02

Investigation

Kids are least likely to receive early treatment for mental illness. ( Denver Post )

Boundary Lines

Aurora district approves boundary lines for a new school. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Denver Public Schools

Denver Public Schools plans to take a handful of its board meetings on the road. ( Chalkbeat )

Thanks

Middle school and elementary students in Boulder fill baskets for needy families as Thanksgiving approaches. ( Daily Camera )

Oregon Trail

The Oregon Trail video game still exists and is being played by students, with educational purposes in mind. ( Hechinger Report )

Accolades

A Sierra High School assistant principal won an award. ( Gazette )

Hands Up

Two protests were held in Colorado Springs to protest the ruling in the Michael Brown trial. ( Gazette )

Keeping Warm

A program called Koats 4 Kids provides outerwear for hundreds of students. ( Gazette )

Sad news

Frederick High School in Longmont is dealing with several student suicides in recent weeks. ( Times Call )

Let's Talk aBout Race

Expert: It's better for parents and kids to talk about, not ignore, race. ( CPR )

Common Core

Tennessee was preparing for the Common Core; now its backing away. How is that working so far? ( Hechinger Report )

Afterschool

Some NYC afterschool programs are considering trying to make ties to how they improve student's scores in school. Some point out more affluent parents don't ask for proof that ice skating or piano lessons improves test scores. ( Hechinger Report )

Digital learning

Digital learning may not be as effective or cost effective as it's made out to be. ( KUNC )

Categories: Urban School News

Aurora OKs boundary lines for new school; most students will be behind grade level

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 11/25/2014 - 19:18

The Aurora Public Schools Board of Education last week set a broad attendance boundary for its new combined elementary and middle school, which they hope will alleviate pressure from some of its most overcrowded west-side schools.

But in an effort to also save the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity at two high achieving schools in the southern part of this Denver suburb, the district is creating a school where most students will enroll behind grade level in math and language arts.

The unanimous vote capped a sixth month community engagement process and begins a new one that will likely include staff changes at nine of the districts elementary and middle schools and some services for students who will be relocated to a new school.

The new school, which will serve about 820 preschool through eighth grade students in its first year, is being built in part to curb overcrowding at schools like Tollgate Elementary and Vista PEAK Exploratory P-8. The district also hopes to strengthen its ties with the Buckley Air Force Base community. Students who live on base will predominantly attend the new school. And Aurora officials are also using the occasion to develop a new school model that requires teachers to use strength-based classroom tactics and promote “academic resiliency.”

At least half of the students who are expected to attend the new combined elementary and middle school will be below grade-level in language arts and math, according to a sample compiled by Aurora officials. They will also be mostly Latino and poor.

Which such a composition, the new school is likely to join several of the district’s existing schools on the state’s accountability clock. Those schools are on-watch for low student performance on state exams. If they don’t improve in enough time, they may face sanctions.

But the school’s leader believes the strength-based and academic resiliency model that she and a team of teachers, district officials, and community members are developing is an advantageous solution.

“Learning is hard,” said Carrie Clark, the school’s principal. “We’re gonna tell all of our kids that. But in this building, we’re going to teach you these skills so when something is hard, you can get through it and come out the other side.”

The school will be located at East Sixth Avenue and Airport Road. The boundary runs north from Alameda Avenue to Interstate 70 and east from Sable Road to Picadilly Road.

“The new school will help, but by no means will it solve all of our problems,” said Anthony Sturges, Aurora Public School’s chief operations officer.

Nearly 10 percent of APS schools are at or above capacity, while another 38 percent are at 90 percent capacity. And according to district projections, by 2017 every desk in every high school will be filled by a student.

The elementary and middle schools that will see the biggest shift in students are also among the district’s largest. Elkhart and Tollgate elementary schools and Vista PEAK Exploratory P-8 are each expected to lose more than 100 students. That means changes in budgets and human resources.

“When you lose students, you lose staff,” said Mary Lewis, an APS board member at a meeting earlier this month.

And that’s caused some parents and teachers, especially at Vista PEAK Exploratory, to worry.

Stacey Ivey, a parent and teacher at Vista PEAK Exploratory, told the school board before the new boundaries were approved that she had three questions about the forthcoming boundary changes. How as the district planning to support students either relocate to a new school or don’t? How will the district communicate staff reductions at schools? And will there be special enrollment opportunities for VISTA Peak Exploratory students entering the seventh or eighth grade?

Superintendent Rico Munn said at the time he was aware of the concerns and that they would be addressed once the boundary zones were set.

One group of parents Munn and his team won’t have to worry about upsetting are those at the Murphy Creek and Aurora Frontier P-8 schools. That’s because the new boundary lines keep their racially and socioeconomically diverse schools intact, as those parents requested — loudly — during the community engagement process.

“We’re 40 percent Caucasian, 30 percent Black, and 30 percent Hispanic,” said Chris Capron, an assistant principal at Murphy Creek, at the school board meeting when the boundaries were discussed. “That’s why they’re going to Murphy Creek.”

If the mostly white neighborhood kids were to go to a different school, he said, “it would completely change the culture of our school. And we don’t want that.”

Categories: Urban School News

Study highlights benefits of full-day preschool in Chicago

Catalyst Chicago - Tue, 11/25/2014 - 17:38

Research has long shown how preschool attendance can have lifelong academic and other benefits for children, especially those from low-income families. But a new study on Chicago’s child-parent centers found that children attending a full day of preschool do even better on a range of kindergarten readiness assessments than those who attend preschool for just part of the day.

Children who attend for a full day also have better attendance, are less likely to be chronically absent and demonstrate more gains in social-emotional development and physical health. 

The research -- from the Human Capital Research Collaborative at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs -- comes just weeks after the city agreed to temporarily expand the number of half-day slots available in child-parent centers using a unique loan that ties repayment to a reduction in children needing costly special education services.

The study’s lead author, Arthur Reynolds, who has researched Chicago’s child-parent centers for decades, said he was surprised by the consistency and size of the impact of extending the hours. Previous research, he said, had already established that children in full-day classes make more progress on literacy and math skills than children in half-day classes.

“But we found even larger differences in social-emotional learning -- in terms of peer relationships, following directions, managing emotions and experiences – and also physical health, which has never been looked at,” Reynolds said.

Scores for literacy and cognitive development were not significantly different between children from the two groups, the study found. But, overall, children who participated in a full-day program scored 22 points higher on their “total school readiness score,” as measured by the observational tool Teaching Strategies Gold.

Reynolds said the benefits found by extending preschool hours in child-parent centers could likely be replicated at other kinds of high-quality preschools. Historically, most publicly funded CPS preschool classrooms have been half-day, meaning children attend class for less than three hours per day. CPS officials said that currently some 563 of the district's 663 preschool classrooms are half-day.

The study, conducted in the 2012-2013 school year, focused on about 1,000 low-income children who attended one of the 11 child-parent centers in Chicago that offered both full-day and part-day classes that year. (The number has since grown, with 13 of the city’s 16 child-parent centers now offering full-day classes.)

Child-parent centers are unique because of their wraparound services and requirements of parental involvement. They were started in Chicago in the 1960s but have been significantly improved and expanded across the Midwest since 2011, through a $15 million federal Investing in Innovations (i3) grant that’s being managed by Reynolds and a team from the University of Minnesota.

Longer days lead to better attendance

The new study – which is being published in tomorrow’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association -- found that children in full-day classes were also more likely to show up to school. The average daily attendance rate among children in the full-day cohort was 85.9 percent, versus 80.4 percent among those in the half-day programs. Chronic absenteeism, meanwhile, was cut by nearly half.

Reynolds said parents are more committed to sending their children each day to a full-day, high-quality preschool program. He also recognized the transportation and logistical barriers that make it challenging for parents to send their children to half-day preschool programs. A recent report from the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research found that children are most likely to miss preschool when they’re sick, although logistical obstacles for families account for nearly one-fifth of all absences.

Parents say many of those obstacles “arise because of difficulty with half-day preschool schedules,” according to the Consortium study. “Half-day programs require that parents find child care for the remainder of the day and arrange drop-off/pick-up in the middle of the day.”

In recent months, a new coalition of unions and community groups has issued a call to city officials to extend the hours of early childhood education programs and child care so that parents can work full-time.

In fact, Reynolds says the main reason that many of Chicago’s child-parent centers even offer full-day preschool classes is because of the insistence of parents who otherwise refused to enroll their children. Because the federal grant money only covers a half-day of class, “principals agreed to use their own dollars to match the i3 grant,” he said.

Categories: Urban School News

DPS board takes meetings on the road

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 11/25/2014 - 13:19
"Instead of asking the community to come to us, we're going to come to them."
– Anne Rowe, DPS board meeting

Denver’s school board has a new home this year—the Emily Griffith Campus on Lincoln Street (which may well be the only school board meeting room in the country with a rock climbing wall).

But starting next month, the DPS school board will take some of its meetings on the road. The board plans to meet at high schools in all four quadrants in the city over the course of the year.

“Instead of asking the community to come to us, we’re going to come to them,” said board member Anne Rowe.

The board’s first meeting “on the road” will be on December 18 at South High School, 1700 East Louisiana Ave., at 4:30.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Denver teachers, staff make recommendations about compensation

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 11/25/2014 - 10:05

Compensation

As negotiations approach, a group of Denver Public Schools teachers and staff suggest a series of revisions to the district's noted compensation system. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Race and Museums

An exhibit about race at History Colorado is starting conversations in Denver public schools. ( Colorado Public Radio )

Colorado

A student's essay inspired by the History Colorado race exhibit. ( Colorado Public Radio )

Keeping Safe

A sheriff in Park County volunteers as a school resource officer in a district that needs more than it can afford. ( 9 News )

Teacher Equity

The federal education department released guidelines for states helping to ensure "teacher equity"—placing successful teachers around the states—but the guidelines are still fairly vague. ( Education Week )

Ferguson

St. Louis-area schools closed in the wake of grand jury decision in Michael Brown. ( Education Week )

Identity

A Colorado student navigates her racial identity. ( Colorado Public Radio )

Around the network

A program in Tennessee links students to social services. ( Chalkbeat Tennessee )

Public Education

Middle class parents might return to public schools in Detroit. ( Hechinger Report )

Categories: Urban School News

Denver study group: ProComp teacher pay system should be simpler, more targeted

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 11/24/2014 - 19:32

As Denver’s current teacher and administration compensation system nears its expiration date, a working group of teachers and district staff are recommending a set of significant tweaks aimed at improving teacher recruitment and retention, especially in hard-to-staff schools.

The Denver Classroom Teachers Association, Denver Public Schools, and the Rose Community Foundation, which helped fund the initial version of the system, released a report late last week based on the feedback of a union- and district-convened Design Team for Compensation and Career Pathways.

The team’s recommendations likely foreshadow the options on the table as the union and district enter negotiations.

“This is basically the beginning of a conversation,” said Henry Roman, president of the DCTA.

The report suggests that DPS’s Professional Compensation System, or ProComp, should be easier to explain and understand. It also suggests a set of stronger incentives to encourage teachers to stay in the classroom and teach in the schools where the district needs them most.

Under the current ProComp system, which earned national attention when it was first implemented in 2005, teachers receive bonuses for working in hard-to-staff or hard-to-serve schools, for exceeding student achievement expectations, or for working at a top-performing school, among other actions. Denver voters approved a $25 million annual property tax increase to fund the incentive program, and several local and national foundations, Rose most prominent among them, donated millions of dollars as well.

But just how those incentives have been working has been the subject of some debate. A report from the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University presented to the district’s board last month finds that salaries under ProComp weren’t dramatically different than they would have been under traditional compensation schemes, and that ProComp incentives were not strongly tied to DPS’s measure of a teachers’ effectiveness in improving students’ test scores.

The new report outlines a possible new framework for ProComp that includes larger incentives that grow over time for staff in more challenging schools. It also includes more established and lucrative pathways for teachers who move into leadership roles.

Roman said that framework is just one of a number of possibilities the DCTA would explore.

The report also outlines eight principles it says should guide the negotiations. From the report:

  • Opportunities for leadership and increased compensation, including base-building opportunities and bonuses, should be available to teachers throughout their career.
  • The compensation system should be easy for teachers to understand. It should also be easy for administrators to understand and support.
  • The compensation system should attract and retain, with real incentives, effective and distinguished teachers in hard-to-serve schools
  • The compensation system should allow effective/distinguished teachers to increase earnings substantially without leaving the classroom.
  • The compensation system should attract, retain and reward effective and distinguished teachers.
  • The compensation system should value professional learning.
  • The compensation system should provide a formal and explicit structure for career progression and opportunities.
  • The design of the system should be sensitive to whether the requirements placed on teachers and school and district leaders are reasonable. The district must have systems/ practices in place to support the compensation system and support teachers in pursuing available opportunities.

The current ProComp agreement expires at the end of December, though it will likely be extended throughout negotiations. The district and the DCTA plan to establish a calendar for negotiations early in the month.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Before tackling southwest schools, Denver hopes to learn from turnaround in far northeast

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 11/24/2014 - 11:06

dollars and sense

The proposed new formula, which would divvy up funding in a substantially different and more defined way, for funding Colorado’s public colleges and universities would give every institution an increase in 2015-16. But some campuses would gain more than others. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

DPS has released a new guide to its budget hoping to increase understanding of the way the district receive its money and the way they spend it. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

history lessons

After four years of turnaround work in the city's far northeast, Denver Public Schools is hoping to learn what it did right before taking on another struggling reason. ( Denver Post )

Hey, I know you

Colorado Senate Democrats have appointed familiar faces to that chamber's education committee. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Measuring success

The Jefferson County school board is expected to revise their academic goals next month. ( Arvada Press )

Grief counseling

After two students at Broomfield High School died this school year, students are struggling with grief. And teachers and administrators believe its as important to pick up on what students don't say as what they do say. ( Daily Camera )

Access granted

The Colorado Education Initative will work with 30 schools during a three-year period to provide classroom resources and provide training to teachers so those schools can offer a full range of Advanced Placement courses instead of basic ones. ( 9News )

Reunited

The Douglas County School District has re-upped its membership with the state's association of school boards. ( Douglas County News-Press )

Raising hope

Students at Lakewood High School last week met the 8-year-old boy with a rare genetic disorder they've raised thousands of dollars for. ( 9News )

The early (childhood learning) bird, doesn't get the worm

A new study points to an apparent disconnect between 21st-century knowledge about early childhood teaching and these 20th century wages ( NPR via CPR )

Categories: Urban School News

Take 5: Teacher evaluation study, pension reform ruling, foreign language high school

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 11/24/2014 - 08:34

While most teachers still agree that the new CPS evaluation system will lead to better teaching and improved learning, there’s been an overall decrease in satisfaction with the system, a new study finds. In addition, nearly four out of five teachers say the new system has increased their stress and anxiety levels, with the majority saying the process takes more effort than it’s worth.

The report from the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research comes two weeks after CPS released data on how teachers performed last year under the new system, Recognizing Educators Advancing Chicago’s Students (REACH Students). The system is now in its third year.

The study found that two-thirds of teachers believe their evaluations rely too heavily on “student growth” metrics, which last year accounted for up to 25 percent of REACH ratings. In addition, half of the teachers think the assessments used to calculate student growth are not fair ways to measure learning -- with special education teachers being especially concerned about their fairness.

Apart from its report on teacher and principal perceptions on REACH, the Consortium also released an analysis of the ratings data from Year 1.

2. On the hook… At least for now, Chicago Public Schools better plan on paying up its pension obligation. Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Belz ruled on Friday that the pension reform bill passed last year is unconstitutional. Now, the battle over pension reform will move to the Illinois Supreme Court as Attorney General Lisa Madigan immediately announced that she planned to appeal.

That pension reform, which reduced benefits for employees, did not apply to CPS teachers. However, Mayor Rahm Emanuel would likely want to pursue similar pension reform for teachers, if the reform bill holds up. After taking years of a pension holiday, CPS had to write a check to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund for $634 million this year. And that pension obligation is slated to rise to $724 million in 2017.

This year, as the mayoral election approaches, CPS officials found money to avoid major cuts. But they have warned that without some relief, those cuts are pending. The CTU, however, argues that the city needs to stop trying to get out of pension obligations. “The only constitutional solution going forward is to find ways of raising revenue in both Illinois and the city of Chicago,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey in a statement.

3. Good news… CPS announced that 20,000 students took Advanced Placement tests in the spring of 2014, earning the district a place on the AP Honor Roll for the second year in a row. This is the fifth year that the College Board has honored school districts that have increased access to AP classes and increased the number of students getting college credit for AP.

CPS has yet to post detailed 2014 school-level data on AP participation. But in the press release on the honor roll, it says that the district is now a leader in participation in AP by black students. It also says the number of black students earning a 3 or higher, which is what is needed to get college credit, has increased.

Still, there likely remains a big gap between white students and black and Latino students. In 2013, 30 percent of white high school students took AP classes and 64 percent of those classes were passed. Only 14 percent of black students took AP classes and only 17 percent of Latino students. In 2013, 17 percent of black students passed, and 35 percent of Latino students did so.

Low pass rates is one reason many CPS high schools are starting to offer dual credit programs in which students can take classes certified by City Colleges of Chicago.

4. Immigration news … President Barack Obama’s announcement last week that he will use executive action to grant temporary status to 5 million undocumented immigrants could have a significant impact on millions of students in public schools in the U.S. An estimated 7 percent of students in kindergarten through 12th grades have at least one parent who is undocumented, according to Census data analyzed by the Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project; in Illinois, it’s about 8 percent.

"If this alleviates that situation, it's going to create a sense of security for families that will allow students to focus on their schoolwork" instead of worrying their parents or other family members might be deported, said Claire Sylvan, executive director of the International Network for Public Schools, a network of 17 high schools around the country that serve newly-arrived immigrants and English-language learners, in an interview with EdWeek.

Some teachers in Chicago used last week’s announcement as a teaching moment with their students, including Hancock High School’s Ray Salazar, who publishes the White Rhino blog. Salazar wrote about his students’ reaction to the decision last week.

5. A foreign language high school? A group of parents with children at language-focused elementary schools is pushing CPS to create a high school language academy, DNAinfo reports. While there are four public elementary schools where students can intensively study languages, it’s extremely difficult for these children to continue their language studies in high school. The city’s top selective-enrollment high schools offer numerous language classes, but getting into them isn’t easy and the language offerings differ at each school.

"CPS invested all this money and time, and the kids invested, and the families invested," says Michele Dreczynki, a LaSalle II Magnet School parent. "Say you take eight years of Arabic, and the high school you go to, they don’t offer it. Then you’ve lost the investment you put in."

Parents have made their case to top city and CPS officials, and district spokeswoman said CPS would consider community requests though there isn’t a formal process for proposing new selective-enrollment schools. The language academies are magnet schools and admissions is through lottery with consideration of socio-economic tiers. If the district were to create a new magnet high school focused on language, it would likely mirror the demographic makeup of the elementary language academies -- which are disproportionately whiter and more affluent than the rest of CPS.

One final note ... Voters in 36 of the city's 50 wards will have the opportunity to vote in a symbolic referendum on whether Chicago should have an elected school board. A coalition of unions and community organizations behind the ward-level campaign will turn in more than 50,000 signatures to election officials today, which is the deadline to file for items -- and candidates -- to appear on February's municipal ballots.

Categories: Urban School News

All win – more or less – under new high ed funding model

EdNewsColorado - Sun, 11/23/2014 - 15:19

The proposed new formula for funding Colorado’s public colleges and universities would give every institution an increase in 2015-16, but some campuses would gain more than others.

That’s because the model would divvy up funding in a substantially different and more defined way than has been used in the previous years, when campus financial support was based on past funding, political jockeying and legislative compromise over how much money was left over in the state budget for colleges.

Creation of the formula was mandated by a new law, House Bill 14-1319, that seeks to make higher education finance more transparent and to give colleges “performance funding” for how well they do in retaining and graduating students, among other factors.

Another goal of the law – an aspiration mirrored in the 2012 higher education master plan – is to increase the recruitment, retention and graduation of low-income and minority students.

That law sparked a summer of intense work by the Department of Higher Education, assorted advisory committees and outside consultants. All that work came to fruition this week with approval of the model by two key advisory groups.

The mood was upbeat Friday at the final meeting of the Executive Advisory Group, one of the panels that reviewed the model.

“We’re really shooting for the stars with this one. This is going to be an example a lot of other states are going to look to,” said Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, who’s also executive director of DHE.

Do your homework

Garcia also said the plan has “a great deal of focus on affordability … targeted toward low-income and minority populations.”

And, Garcia said, the new model should be “more transparent for the public. … We hope it will lead to more public support for funding higher education going forward.”

The next stop for the plan is review and approval by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education at its Dec. 4 meeting. After that the plan will be subject to the uncertainties of legislative review and the annual budget process.

Here’s how the model would work, based on Gov. John Hickenlooper’s 2015-16 budget request for higher education, which overall proposes a 10 percent increase.

  • The full appropriation for higher education would be $665 million.
  • After money is be taken off the top for “specialty education programs” – CU medical programs, CSU veterinary programs, two area community colleges and vocational schools – $525.6 million would be left for distribution through the new formula.
  • Of that, $294.5 million – 56 percent – would be distributed as tuition discounts for resident undergraduate students, known as the College Opportunity Fund stipends. (The new law requires that at least 52.5 percent of funding be distributed in this fashion.)
  • Of the remaining amount, $138.6 million would be distributed to colleges based on factors related to what’s called their “role and mission,” which includes factors such as size, numbers of low-income students, costs of academic programs, location and other attributes.
  • $92.4 million would be distributed among campuses based on their performance, including such factors as graduation and retention of all students, graduation and retention of low-income and underrepresented students and number of degrees and certificates issued in STEM and medical disciplines. Distribution of these funds also would be weighted to account for differences between small and large campuses.

Hickenlooper’s proposed budget also includes some extra funding intended to compensate colleges for a legislative requirement that tuition increase no more than 6 percent in 2015-16 and to provide extra funding for campuses that would receive the smallest increases under the formula. That last measure is intended to ensure that no college receives a funding increase of less than 10 percent in 2015-16. The administration is proposing such transition funding for five years.

Under the formula, Metropolitan State University would receive an increase of more than 16 percent and Fort Lewis College in Durango would get 13.2 percent. At the low end, the University of Northern Colorado would receive only 2.9 percent more. Other colleges and systems would receive increases of between 8 and 11 percent. (The percentage increases are based on the model’s calculations. But the law stipulates that no institution will receive more than a 15 percent increase nor less than a 5 percent hike, so that requirement would override the calculation.)

DHE staffers said Metro and Fort Lewis would benefit because of relatively high numbers of low-income and underrepresented students, while UNC’s increase would be smaller because it has fewer of those students. But, the transition funding would bring UNC and some other colleges up to a 10 percent increase in 2015-16.

While there is widespread support for the formula, some members of the Executive Advisory Group noted that the situation could be much different in years when state funding is flat or is cut.

Jean Adkins, an administrator at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, noted, “If we did not get a 10 percent increase … it would look very different.” She added, “When there is no new money coming in, it is rural Colorado that will get hurt.”

Garcia acknowledged that potential problem, saying, “If you’re in a flat funding year, this [model] looks kind of ugly. That is something that is a long-term concern for every institution.”

The new model also doesn’t change one key fact about higher education funding, that parents and students will continue to pay the bulk of college costs. State funding cuts in recent years have forced colleges and universities to rely on tuition increases to keep the doors open. Tuition revenue currently provides roughly 75 percent of college revenues.

Categories: Urban School News

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