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Everyone has a shot at success, but not a fair shot

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 04/03/2014 - 14:00

From a podium on the steps of the State Capitol, Luis Robles, a senior at CEC Middle College, spoke from experience. As a student who went to predominately low-income schools with peers who fell behind due to lack of support, Luis was well aware of the inequalities in public education.

On March 3rd, students gathered for the first annual “State of the Student,” designed to empower students and challenge the stakeholders of public education to create a more inclusive and intentional education system. I felt proud to have the opportunity to participate as a representative of Project VOYCE along with Luis and Chaunsae Dyson, a junior at South High School. Both were among the students to speak about their experiences in school and the changes they wanted to see.

Although I stood amongst a very small crowd of people, strong support was evident. Every student who spoke demanded equal funding for schools. Chaunsae also talked about how underfunding schools has increased the achievement gap before his very own eyes. He acknowledged, “There is an achievement gap that represents the United States in an un-united and unequal way.”

For the first time in my life, I watched students gather at the direct source of their frustration to share their stories and struggles with public education. The beautiful weather was a clear sign that this event was meant to happen, right at this particular moment. Students from Project VOYCE, Denver Student Union, and various Colorado schools came together to talk about standing up for their education.

Multiple students also talked about ending high stakes testing from schools, citing the fact that it leads to unequal funding for schools, as well as low-quality teaching standards. Students expressed frustration with the fact that they are taught concepts and “facts” specifically designed to be regurgitated on a test. One student, Michaela, talked about the billions of dollars invested in creating standardized testing. Alex Kacsh, a member of the Denver Student Union, passionately shared his critique of the school system stating that, “Our education system is being compromised and the students all across this state and across this country have been victimized by the same old politics.”

As I listened to the students express their concerns, I thought back to my own experiences in Denver Public Schools. Throughout my K-12 education, I went to schools where most of the students (including myself) were on free/reduced school lunch. I remember having outdated books and also having “vocabulary” words like “cat” in my 4th grade class. Prior to joining Project VOYCE when I was in high school, I knew that the quality of schools I attended was poor but I didn’t understand why. Once I learned about the unequal funding of schools and the achievement gap, I knew that something must be done; but, I was also confused by the fact that things were allowed to get so bad in the first place.

To discover that not much has changed in the six-plus years I have been out of high school is disheartening. I listened to students talk about the continued discrepancies in school funding and the intense focus on standardized testing with what sounded like worsening conditions. Although I have always done well on standardized tests, I was always stressed out by how time-consuming and tedious they were. Taking tests for several hours straight cannot possibly be a positive experience for anyone, regardless of age, yet that’s what we force students to endure.

Manual High School senior Anthony Scott expressed his concerns with performing well on standardized tests. He shared his experience as a slow reader who didn’t have time to finish reading three stories and then answer multiple questions in a 20-minute period on his last TCAP test. I knew many students like Anthony growing up. These students were not dumb nor were they lazy; however, the “one size fits all” style that standardized testing embodies does not accommodate the wide range of student learning styles.

Colorado students are asking for more comprehensive ways to evaluate their learning; a chance to get a fair shot. When will their requests be considered? I can’t help but be hopeful that the first annual “State of the Student” will be the catalyst for change that exposes people to the importance of bringing students to the table when their education is at stake. It is great to see young people take charge of their own rights, specifically the right to a quality education. I was lucky to be able to learn those tools through Project VOYCE and I commend the students of the Denver Student Union and high schools across the state who continue to push for positive change.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Eagle Valley teachers lobby General Assembly

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 04/03/2014 - 09:54

Teacher's Aid

The Colorado Department of Education released more than 100 pieces sample curriculum aligned to the new academic standards so that Colorado teachers may adopt them for their own classroom. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Wanted

A grant will help some far-off Colorado schools, including Montezuma-Cortez and Durango, recruit teachers. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

#COLeg

Colorado mountain teachers took their case for more funding straight to the governor. One left saying: "We came away with the strong impression that, while legislators were appreciative of our visit, they still do not comprehend the depth of the problem that our schools and children face." ( Vail Daily )

My test is better than your test

One of the reasons why Douglas County Schools wants out of state mandated testing is because officials there believe they have a better test. ( KQED )

Testing the test

Schools across the country are giving the new PARCC exams a shot this month and reviews are beginning to trickle in. School officials in Lincoln, RI, breathed a sigh of relief when they reported to the the results have exceeded expectations. ( The Valley Breeze )

But a snafu on the part of Pearson Education Inc., the company that directs the assessments, cut short the exam in Freehold, NJ. ( News Transcript )

money matters

An annual fundraising effort has kicked off in Durango. The supplemental funds will be used to help struggling school leaders among other priorities. ( Durango Herald )

Two cents

Denver Public Schools board member Barbara O'Brien writes the Student Success Act falls sort of what's needed to improve education, but it's a start. And she supports it. ( Denver Post )

Despite Colorado's work toward ending the school-to-prison pipeline, more work needs to be done to create equity in school discipline, writes the editorial board of the Longmont Times-Call. ( Times-Call )

Categories: Urban School News

In the News: How politics played a role in NYC charter victory

Catalyst Chicago - Thu, 04/03/2014 - 09:08

The New York Times offers a behind-the-scenes look at how New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo out manuvered New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio to give New York City charter schools some of the most sweeping protections in the nation.

END OF THE LINE FOR INBLOOM? New York state legislators made clear in their recently inked budget deal that they didn't want student data uploaded to the inBloom database, which the Gates Foundation spent $100 million to build, hoping it would become a resource for states and school districts nationwide. So the New York State Education Department has directed inBloom to delete all data stored there to date. No additional data will be uploaded, a spokesman said. That abrupt termination leaves inBloom with no known customers. Massachusetts is still officially considering a contract with the nonprofit, but a state education department spokesman said it was unlikely to proceed. Illinois no longer plans to upload large amounts of data, though individual districts may participate; inBloom won't say whether any have agreed to do so. (Politico Morning Education newsblast)

Golden Apple has selected 175 young people for its 2014 class of the Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois, making it the largest ever in 26 years. The program is also the leading pre-service teacher preparation and internship program in the nation. Chicago Public Schools recently approved a $1 million agreement with the Golden Apple Scholars program to provide 150 new teachers on top of the program's annual state-supported cohorts, during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years. (Press release)

PEABODY AWARDS RECOGNIZE STRUGGLING SCHOOLS: The 2014 Peabody Awards honored three reports about schools facing poverty, crime and serious educational challenges. They included "This American Life’s" two-part feature on Harper High School in Chicago which aired on public radio stations across the country as well as "180 Days: A Year Inside an American High School," shown on Public Broadcasting Service television stations. (School Book)

IN THE NATION
PUBLIC, CHARTER SCHOOLS COMPETE FOR SAME FUNDS: In one corner: cash-strapped school systems with aging facilities and billions of dollars tied up in debt service. In the other: charter schools looking to build and refurbish facilities of their own. Both want dollars from an ever-shrinking pot of money. (Tampa Bay Times)

HOMEWORK BURDEN: A report from the Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., shows that homework load has been mostly stable over the past two or three decades, but those who complain about too much homework get most of the attention. (The Detroit News)

TEACHER TENURE ON TRIAL: A lawsuit filed by the nonprofit advocacy group Student Matters on behalf of nine California public school students followed unsuccessful attempts in contract negotiations and the legislature to give school districts more freedom to hire and fire teachers. (Stateline)

Categories: Urban School News

State awards funds for more teachers in rural areas, Pueblo

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 04/02/2014 - 16:25

Two programs that bring teachers to hard-to-staff areas, including remote and rural areas of Colorado, will expand next year thanks to a state-funded grant awarded Wednesday.

Both Teach for America and the Boettcher Teacher Residency received nearly one and a half million dollars each from the Colorado Department of Education to expand their work on recruiting and training teaching candidates.

The Boettcher Teacher Residency, which is run through the Public Education and Business Coalition, is one of only a few programs focused on placing teachers in notoriously hard-to-staff rural areas. The grant will provide funding for an expansion to southwest Colorado, including Montezuma-Cortez and Durango. Currently, the program recruits and trains teaching in San Luis Valley districts as well as Front Range schools.

“For recruitment we have taken a very localized and relationship-oriented approach,” said Lori Pidick, PEBC’s director of communication. “We partner with the school districts to identify local candidates, such as paraprofessionals and substitute teachers, who would be a good fit for the program. Candidates living in these rural areas are excited about becoming a teacher and giving back to their local community.  It’s a win-win for everyone.”

The grant to Teach for America will increase the number of recruits it places in Denver schools and use the funds to fuel its recently announced Pueblo expansion.

For more information, see here.

Categories: Urban School News

Lawmakers consider LSC requirement at charter schools

Catalyst Chicago - Wed, 04/02/2014 - 16:17

As CPS gears up for the next Local School Council elections, legislation under consideration in the state’s House of Representatives would require every charter school in Chicago to be administered by an LSC.

Unlike traditional neighborhood schools in the city, charter schools are not overseen by an elected body of parents, community members and staff. (Find out who is running for the LSC at your school.)

“The whole point of this is bringing democracy into our schools,” says Rod Wilson, a member of Communities Organized for Democracy in Education, which has been lobbying for the bill. “We feel that if a school is in District 299 and receives public funding, there should be parents with decision-making authority, not just giving advice or input.”

House Bill 5328, sponsored by Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez (D-Cicero) also restores some authority to LSCs at schools under probation and requires Chicago Public Schools to provide $2,500 to each council for training purposes. The bill passed on first reading in the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee in late March and is awaiting a second vote to get out of committee.

The Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) opposes the bill, arguing that it “would create an additional and conflicting decision making entity in the charter school authorization process,” according to a summary of charter school-related legislation that the organization is tracking in Springfield.

Charter schools under current law and contract are governed under non-profit governing boards, and if you add LSCs as a layer, it’d be unclear what role they’d play,” says Andrew Broy, president of INCS. Charters get to design their curriculum and they get held accountable for results, not process.”

Broy said most charter schools already have active parent councils and that many schools’ governing boards include parents and community members. As an alternative to the LSC proposal, he said he’s suggested to lawmakers that charter schools should demonstrate how they’ll ensure parental and community involvement during the authorization process.

Even though the group doesn’t want charter schools to have elected governing entities, three staff members of INCS are currently running for seats on LSCs in Chicago. LSC elections take place on April 7 at the city’s elementary schools, and on April 8 at the high schools.

The INCS staff running for seats at LSCs include: the group’s spokeswoman, Jodie Cantrell, community candidate at Blaine Elementary School; director of development and capacity, Eric Johnson, parent candidate at Audubon Elementary School; and charter support manager, Jelani McEwen, community candidate at Kenwood High School. WBEZ first reported on some of the unusual candidates running for the Blaine LSC in March.

Suspicious of motives

Broy says he doesn’t think it’s a contradiction for his staff to run for positions on LSCs while the organization opposes having councils at charter schools. He considers it a sign of their “well-roundedness” if they participate in community organizations in their neighborhood.

“They’re trying to have a role in governance in local schools, and in those schools they can do that through LSCs,” he says.

But perhaps not surprisingly, activists against charter schools say they are suspicious of the true motives of LSC candidates who support charter schools.

Earlier this week, for example, some parents and educators circulated a list of candidates “not to vote for” on Facebook because of their support for charter schools and supportive politicians, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner.

“If they’re running for LSCs, does that mean they want to make them charter schools? Is that the purpose?” asks Wilson, executive director of the Lugenia Burns Hope Center in Bronzeville and a former LSC member himself. “Or do they want to be a part of a democratic process? If so, they should support this bill.”

Meanwhile, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is also getting increasingly involved in promoting LSC participation to both its own members and community groups. In February, the CTU and the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) organized a summit for about 250 LSC candidates and other community activists who wanted to learn about how to run an effective council. The coalition of like-minded LSC candidates voted to share a campaign platform that advocates for an elected school board, universal pre-kindergarten and an end to charter and military school expansion.

“We realize how important the LSCs are, and that they’re pretty much in the same boat as the union,” said Michael Brunson, the CTU’s recording secretary. “We have the same interests in having our publicly funded schools survive.”

LSC elections

LCSs are responsible for approving schools’ discretionary budgets, hiring principals, and overseeing the school’s Continuous Improvement Work Plan, although councils at schools on probation have more limited powers. Each council is made up of six parents, two community members, two teachers, one non-teacher staff member and the school principal. High schools also include one student representative.

Getting teachers, residents and community members interested in joining their LSCs isn’t always easy, Brunson says.

“You mention LSCs and people’s eyes roll,” he says. “There has been a lot of cynicism and disengagement. You can see that each year as you have elections, fewer and fewer people running for school councils.”

After passage of the historic School Reform Act and during the first elections in 1989, more than 17,000 people ran for seats.  But interest in LSC elections has since dwindled. This year, for example, CPS extended the deadline for candidates to file their paperwork to encourage more people to sign up.

Despite the extension, many LSCs still lack enough candidates to fill the vacancies. Nine of the 516 schools with LSCs lack any parent candidates, while 39 lack any community candidates. In total, 35 percent of councils don’t have enough parent candidates to fill the vacancies, and 22 percent don’t have enough community member candidates, according to CPS data. Click here to see an interactive map of all LSCs and the names of all of the candidates.

Pauline Lipman, a professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago who studies race and class inequality in urban schools, says that despite the lack of interest in LSCs, they remain “the only place where there is democracy at any level” in Chicago schools. The city’s School Board is handpicked by the mayor, although there is currently movement in Springfield to change the system. 

“They have great potential to involve parents and community members and teachers with the principals in robust discussions of what they want to happen at their schools and put pressure on CPS to provide it,” Lipman says.

Categories: Urban School News

Education department releases sample curriculum aligned to new standards

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 04/02/2014 - 14:43

The Colorado Department of Education on Monday published more than 100 pieces of sample classroom units aligned to the new Colorado Academic Standards.

The curriculum examples were designed by teams of teachers throughout Colorado in collaboration with the department’s Standards and Instructional Support division. The District Sample Curriculum Project, as it’s called, is believed to be the first of its kind in the department’s history.

State officials, always wary of local-control pushback from district leaders, said they launched the project last year only after several requests were made from classrooms. Districts are expected to have begun teaching to the new standards this year. And they’ve been doing so at various paces.

The standards, adopted by the state in 2009, cover 10 different content areas, including social studies, science and world languages. Colorado’s math and English language standards were fused with the Common Core State Standards, a set of standards developed by and adopted by 45 states, in 2010.

The curriculum project includes one full instructional unit per content area, per grade level. The goal, officials said, was not to develop a statewide curriculum but to provide teachers the resources and examples of how to build instruction plans to the new standards on their own.

“As examples, they are intended to provide support, or serve as conversation starting points, for teachers, schools, and districts as they make their own local decisions around the best instructional plans and practices for all students,” wrote Brian Sevier, leader of the instructional support department, in an email to districts.

The department will host a series of webinars in April to discuss the how the units were made and how they can be adopted to individual classrooms.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: More money for Fort Collins Safe Routes to School program

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 04/02/2014 - 09:40

look into the crystal ball

A new higher ed funding bill is the latest example of a legislative habit of budgeting money that the state doesn't yet have. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

taking sides

Conservative gubernatorial candidates are among those expected to protest Common Core standards in Colorado this weekend. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

pedal to the metal

The Colorado Department of Transportation is helping fund a Safe Routes to Schools program in Fort Collins. ( Coloradoan )

beyond reduce reuse recycle

Aurora schools are competing to see who can conserve the most energy over the course of a month. ( Denver Post )

"seeds of justice"

Lafayette students are planning a march in salute to Cesar Chavez. ( Daily Camera )

school discipline

The Times-Call editorial board argues that even Colorado, considered at the forefront of more equitable discipline policies, needs to do a better job reducing racial disparities in suspensions and expulsions. ( Longmont Times-Call )

transparency on transparency

Alicia Caldwell argues that the controversy over record-tampering in Poudre School District is an object lesson in how governments should not behave. ( Denver Post )

the ask

The foundation that supports Durango schools is kicking off its fundraising efforts. ( Durango Herald )

setting an example

A Denver mentorship program is trying to give black male students successful role models. ( Denver Post )

meeting deadlines

Despite a projected budget shortfall, Pueblo school officials say the district should complete all of its bond projects on schedule. ( Pueblo Chieftain )

Categories: Urban School News

In the News: State task force to study Chicago School Bd overhaul

Catalyst Chicago - Wed, 04/02/2014 - 09:10

The Illinois House opened the door ever so slightly Tuesday to stripping Mayor Rahm Emanuel and any of his successors of the sole authority to appoint the Chicago public school system's board of education, the Sun-Times reports.

By a 108-5 margin, the House approved legislation sponsored by Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, to create a task force to study whether the board should be appointed, elected or mixed.

DEVELOPING VOCABULARIES: The PNC Foundation will partner with the University of Chicago Medicine’s Thirty Million Words Initiative to help parents develop their children’s vocabularies. The initiative is based on an influential study showing that by age 4, a low-income child will hear 30 million fewer words than a child from a higher-income family. PNC is investing $19 million into the program as part of its Grow Up Great 10th Anniversary. (Press release)

PENSION BATTLE: After crashing a press conference held by the mayor at Merchandise Mart on Tuesday, the Chicago Teachers Union held its own emergency presser to bash a pension deal that’s on the table for some city workers. CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said the city needs to find creative ways to generate new revenue, and not simply increase employees’ contributions or raise property taxes, as has been reported in the Sun-Times and Tribune. Meanwhile, during the CTU’s separate negotiations, Sharkey said the city has so far balked at the union’s proposals to raise taxes on the rich through a luxury tax or a so-called millionaire’s tax. (Melissa Sanchez/ Catalyst Chicago).

STUDENT STRESS: Lyons Township High School students reported higher levels of academic stress than students at similar schools in a recent survey, reinforcing education officials' efforts to reduce stress at the competitive school. Students and parents reported the homework load is the primary cause of the stress. Teachers ranked "family problems" and "competitive college requirements" above homework. (Tribune)

IN THE NATION
CHARTER GROUP FAILS: As Indiana's charter school association completes a shutdown, which could be done within days, questions about what sort of group might replace it remain unanswered. (Chalkbeat Indiana)

KHAN ACADEMY AND COMMON CORE: Continuing its evolution from quirky disruptor of traditional classroom learning to mainstream player aligned with the education establishment, the nonprofit Khan Academy recently unveiled new online math resources tied to the Common Core State Standards. (Education Week)

Categories: Urban School News

The legislative habit of gambling on the future

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 19:07

One of the many peculiarities of Colorado’s complex state budgeting process is the legislature’s weakness for spending – or at least promising to spend – money before it’s even collected.

The latest example popped up just last week, when the House approved House Bill 14-1342, a measure that would provide extra funding for higher education construction projects – but only if the 2013-14 budget year ends with more surplus revenues than currently predicted.

K-12 education has benefited from such tactics in the past, and there has been some fear in districts that this year’s higher ed plan might disadvantage K-12.

The scheme probably means that the State Education Fund would receive a smaller infusion of cash than it might have otherwise. But in any event the higher ed finance plan won’t affect district funding in 2014-15, an issue that’s the focus of a separate – and bigger – debate.

“It’s based on ‘if’ there’s money left at the end of the year,” said Dillon Democratic Rep. Millie Hamner, chair of the House Education Committee.

So the K-12 lobby has decided not to pick a fight over HB 14-1342 and instead to remain focused on its main goal for 2014 – persuading lawmakers to make as large a dent as possible in the state’s $1 billion K-12 funding shortfall.

“Do we like this amendment? No!” Bruce Caughey, executive director of the Colorado Association of School Executives wrote in an email to members last week. He said the CASE legislative team recommended “that we do not get drawn into a battle with higher education, the governor and the Joint Budget Committee” and remain focused on reducing the shortfall, known at the statehouse as the “negative factor.” A group of superintendents is pushing for a reduction of as much as $275 million. A pending bill, House Bill 14-1292, proposes $100 million.

That doesn’t mean HB 14-1342 will get a free ride in the Senate. Denver Democratic Sen. Pat Steadman, vice-chair of the Joint Budget Committee, doesn’t like the idea of earmarking unknown future revenues. “I’m not the biggest fan,” Steadman said Tuesday morning before the bill was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee. ”I expect we’ll be talking more about the bill on the floor,”

Budget timeline

  • The legislature will vote by May 7 on a budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which starts July 1.
  • That budget is based on revenue estimates that were issued in late March.
  • Actual tax collections almost always differ from those estimates, especially when revenues are increasing.
  • So, backers of HB14-1342 are betting that when the state closes its 2013-14 books next fall there will be a bigger actual surplus than was predicted this spring, providing money for buildings.

Summary of HB 14-1342

Like virtually every other budget fight, the HB 14-1342 tussle has its roots in the 2008 recession, which sent state tax revenues into a tailspin. Among the many programs cut was construction on college campuses.

Revenues have been slowly recovering over the last two years, and lawmakers, lobbyists and executive branch bureaucrats hoped the 2014 legislative session would provide the opportunity to put some catch-up spending in the 2014-15 budget.

Even before the session started, Gov. John Hickenlooper proposed a $100 million increase in higher ed operating funds, a plan widely supported in the legislature. And college leaders and lobbyists also were looking forward to a boost in construction funding.

The Capital Development Committee, a joint House-Senate panel that reviews construction projects, produced a list that included some college projects. But the committee’s plans were derailed on March 20 when JBC members announced they would back an alternative project list supported by Gov. John Hickenlooper, which included only two higher education buildings, one at the Auraria Higher Education Center and one at the University of Colorado campus in Colorado Springs.

That’s when the higher education lobby and sympathetic legislators sprang into action and came up with the plan to spend possible future money on those campus buildings. The amendment was added to the bill last Thursday and given final approval in the House on Friday.

The amended bill protects two programs that the 2013 legislature had designated as recipients of sany urplus funds – the Colorado Water Conservation Board ($30 million) and the State Education Fund ($31.1 million).

In theory, that means the SEF would get less money than it would have under a 2013 law that allocated 75 percent of any surplus to the fund. (The SEF is a dedicated account that is used to supplement state General Fund spending on schools and for other K-12 spending.)

Even with the cap on the SEF transfer, Hamner called the bill “a fair compromise,” adding, “I have to look at the bigger view” of both K-12 and higher ed needs.

If there’s enough surplus to cover the water board and SEF transfers (plus $10.3 million to be kept in the General Fund), then any money above that would go to a ranked list of higher education construction projects. There’s a cap of $119.5 million on the campus spending. If the surplus revenue is more than about $190 million, the money above that goes to the SEF.

In past years lawmakers have used the future-revenues gambit to benefit the education fund, and those gambles have paid off. For instance, the SEF last fall received slightly more than $1 billion in 2012-13 surplus funds.

And K-12 advocates are trying to go back to that well. A House amendment to House Bill 14-1298, the annual School Finance Act, proposes diverting 75 percent of any 2014-15 surplus into the SEF.

Earmarking to-be-collected funds, whatever the purpose, bothers Steadman, one of the legislature’s budget experts. “It’s not the way to do it,” he said in an interview. Noting that the legislature meets every year, he notes, “We’ll be here next year to spend next year’s money.” Budgeting should be done “in real time,” he said.

He also said earmarking too much money ahead of time might limit the 2015 legislature’s ability to make annual mid-year budget adjustments.

The Senate is considering HB 14-1342 this week, along with the main 2014-15 budget, House Bill 14-1336. Steadman says he’ll have some proposed amendments for the higher ed construction bill, so the debate will continue.

Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to bill texts and other information.

Categories: Urban School News

CPS fails to nurture a true vision for charters

Catalyst Chicago - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 12:52

What happened to the vision?

The original purpose of charters, as proposed by the legendary head of the American Federation of Teachers, Albert Shanker, was to be a beacon for innovation. By loosening the reins on some public schools they would be free, he argued, to innovate and experiment with new models for learning that might serve as a model for change in other public schools.

But Shanker’s original intention has now largely been lost in the fog of history. His vision has been replaced by the zeal of a powerful group of "true believers" in charters – good, bad or indifferent -- who see them as an alternative to the existing public school system. These true believers are advocates for sweeping privatization as the solution to all the ills of our current schools, liberating them from the control of the unions, which must be broken if schools are to improve.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his appointees in CPS have settled more and more definitively in the privatization, union-busting camp. The percentage of students attending charters, once a blip on the radar screen, has risen steadily: 24% of high school students in Chicago now attend charter schools, while the overall figure for all schools is around 13%. The vast majority of charter students attend schools that are part of the large charter management organizations (CMOs) that have come to dominate the scene--each in effect, a mini-school district in its own right.

Make no mistake: Some of these CMOs include admirable schools and staff who perform well above the level of the schools they replaced, which had been badly serving poor children of color for decades. But for the most part, they are not the lights of innovation that early charter advocates promised.

The true carriers of that vision tend to reside in the small mom-and-pop, stand-alone charters that are usually run by mission-driven teachers and their community supporters. Schools like Namaste, the Academy for Global Citizenship, Polaris, Alaine Locke, The Montessori School of Englewood and others represent new approaches to education, fueled by a greater end goal than merely raising test scores. Yet it is these schools that CPS tends to treat as afterthoughts, second-class citizens in its charter school portfolio because they are not committed to “going to scale,” which has come to be the system’s gold standard for charter worthiness.

Rather than serving as the answer in a desperate search for quick fixes, the impact of innovative charter models on larger numbers of schools and students depends on breaking down the polarization between so-called neighborhood schools and charters, as has been done in a few districts around the country. Boston; East Providence, Rhode Island; Hartford, Connecticut; Austin, Texas; and Broward County, Florida are all places where consortia of neighborhood and charter schools have made possible the more organic spread of innovative ideas, regardless of school labels. These models may even include new designs for union contracts being created by some charters, as more of them explore paths to unionization which do not strait-jacket schools’ flexibility in the way current contracts do.

Take responsibility for supporting teaching and learning

I have been viewing the disturbing trend away from the original charter school vision through my own association with existing and aspiring charter schools, which, in different ways, represent that vision--and for whose failure CPS owns a large share of responsibility. Remember the studies of children in orphanages who were said to be suffering from “failure to thrive” as a result being deprived of care at their most fragile stage of development? I would argue that CPS’ malady in this case could be called “failure to nurture.”

If this or any other school district wants to present itself as a proponent of charter schools, it needs to assume the responsibility for supporting, in deep and meaningful ways, those schools that truly represent something new in education – a different way of thinking about teaching and learning, a new vision of what a holistic school community looks like, a recombination of elements that have, until now, only existed in isolation from one another.

Such one-of-a-kind schools are likely to be fragile. They are less likely to have wealthy financial backers, less likely to have boards that pack a political punch. With these schools, CPS needs to act less like an authorizing body and more like an advocate for innovation. If these schools are to become incubators of positive educational change, rather than a disruptive force dedicated to privatization with all the attendant damage to communities and to democratic life, CPS needs to be more proactive about identifying them early in the proposal stage and equipping them with the kind of facilities and professional support they will need through the delicate early years.

CPS houses people with those skills in its central office. They need to be freed up from policing and monitoring duties to help the schools that could truly be incubators of innovation to really make their mark. This represents a radical re-visioning of the purpose of the central office of a large school system. It is, in fact, the vision reflected in the original School Reform Act of 1989, which posited a handoff of powers to local schools and communities and the shrinking of central office to the constructive roles it could play, not simply by swelling the numbers of children they serve but in nurturing and supporting powerful teaching and learning.  We have strayed a long way from that ideal in the last quarter-century.

It’s time to return to the original concept of charter schools as wellsprings of innovation and to couple it with a new vision of the school district as a promoter of that vision. Only then will we begin to liberate ourselves from the oppressive cycle and ever-increasing testing at the expense of what one Houston school board member once told me was “destroying children’s souls.”

Marv Hoffman recently retired as Associate Director of the Urban Teacher Education Program at the University of Chicago. Prior to that he was the Founding Director of the University of Chicago Charter School – North Kenwood Oakland Campus.

Categories: Urban School News

Colo. gubenatorial candidates to join national day of protest of Common Core standards

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 11:11

Nearly a dozen conservative elected officials and gubernatorial candidates are expected to join a protest of the Common Core State Standards Saturday at the state Capitol.

The protest, organized by grassroots group Stop Common Core Colorado, will be at noon, April 5, on the west steps of the Capitol. The event is part of a nationwide day of protest led by Eye on U.S. Education, a group that aims to “preserve American Values through education.”

The protest comes about two months after a bill that would have delayed the full implementation of the Colorado Academic Standards, which are fused with the Common Core, and their standardized tests  was killed in February by a state Senate education committee on a party-line vote. Saturday’s protest also immediately follows a conference, held last weekend, that aimed to bolster the anti-standardized test movement.

The two causes, which politically attract fractions of both conservative and progressive groups, generally overlap. However, in the instance of Saturday’s protest, it’s clearly a push from the most conservative of Coloradans.

Among those expected to attend the protest are four Republican gubernatorial candidates: Greg Brophy, Tom Tancredo, Ronnie Bell Sylvester, Steve House. A surrogate for candidate Mike Kopp is also expected to attend. Also on hand will be state lawmakers Vicki Marble, Ted Harvey, Stephen Humphrey, and Justin Everette.

Marble sponsored the aforementioned bill.

The Colorado Academic Standards, adopted by the state in 2009, cover 10 different content areas including social studies, science, and world languages. Colorado’s math and English language standards were fused with the Common Core, a set of standards developed by and adopted by 45 states, in 2010.

The aim of the Common Core, supporters say, is to raise student expectations and create a national benchmark. Critics argue the standards are mundane and nothing short of a federal mandate that violates, in some instances, constitutionally protected local control of schools.

Correction: An earlier version of this article listed Tim Neville and Steve Laffey as state lawmakers. They are not. Neville is a former state senator who is running again this year. Laffey is running for a U.S. congressional seat. The article has also been clarified to reflect the Colorado standards for math and English language were adopted after 2009. 

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Thompson “brain drain” feared

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 10:03

Greener pastures

Better salaries in neighboring districts are raising worries about a "brain drain" in the Thompson school district. ( Reporter-Herald )

Cost of growth

Facing growing enrollment, leaders of the St. Vrain schools are laying the groundwork for a 2016 bond election. ( Times-Call )

Dougco board

Concern about the way a board vacancy was filled has prompted one Dougco board member to draft proposed guidelines for future appointments. ( News-Press )

A little extra cash

The Durango Education Foundation has begun its annual drive to raise money for schools still struggling with cuts in public support. ( Durango Herald )

Finding a supe

A controversy over teaching creationism has thrown a snag into the search for a new Estes Park superintendent. ( Trail Gazette )

Empty schools

The Pueblo 60 school board and the city council met Monday to talk about what to do with the district's four vacant schools, which cost the district more than $200,000 a year in maintenance expenses. ( KRDO )

Positive thinking

The superintendent of the Montezuma-Cortez schools is urging the school board to take a positive attitude towards handling the district's turnaround challenges. ( Cortez Journal )

Categories: Urban School News

In the News: U.S. students trail in problem solving

Catalyst Chicago - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 08:50

Fifteen-year-olds in the United States scored above the average of those in the developed world on exams assessing problem-solving skills, but they trailed several countries in Asia and Europe as well as Canada, according to international standardized tests results being released on Tuesday, The New York Times reports.

HEALTH CARE ON WHEELS: A mobile van health clinic is bringing check-ups to nearly 3,000 Chicago Public Schools students at six schools on the Far South Side, offering vaccines and physicals and treating everything from asthma to diabetes to eczema. It’s all at no cost to the kids and their families. TCA, a Chicago community health center, used money made possible from the Affordable Care Act to buy the van. (CBSChicago)

MORE CHANCES: Aspiring teachers are expected to get more chances to pass the state's basic skills test for educators. The Illinois State Board of Education adopted rules this month to allow unlimited attempts to pass the reading, writing and math test. (Tribune)

IN THE NATION
COMMON CORE TO USE ROBO-GRADING: Millions of elementary, middle and high school students in 14 states and Washington, D.C. may have their essays graded by computers next year if initial tests of robo-grading prove to be accurate. A multi-state consortium, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, known as PARCC, is developing the tests and said it hoped to use essay-grading software as soon as Spring 2015, when its new computerized tests are scheduled to roll out. (Hechinger Report)

CLASSROOM TRAILERS: Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg vowed that New York City would get rid of all “transportable classroom units” by 2012. But today, 7,158 students, most of them in the beginning grades, are still learning in them, a testament to the struggle to keep up with rapid neighborhood growth. (The New York Times)

THE BUSINESS OF EDUCATION: A news analysis discussing the decision last week that Northwestern University must treat football players as employees says "higher education is today less a rite of passage in which institutions serve in loco parentis, and more a commercial transaction between school and student." (The New York Times)

Categories: Urban School News

How can we produce more teacher leaders?

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 03/31/2014 - 15:00

In order to build the professional capacity of teachers and to retain and attract great teachers to the profession, we need to identify, compensate, and produce teacher leaders.

For the first time in the history of public education, there are more teachers with one year of experience than any other level. The impact of this on the teaching profession can be profound. Applying Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hour principle,” it would take at least 5 years for a teacher to gain the expertise necessary to be great at what he/she does. Teachers learn over time, and the role of teacher collaboration to ameliorate new-to-the profession teachers is key. Teacher leaders can play a key role in mentoring and assisting teachers and in establishing a culture of capacity building that can ensure all teachers grow.

Research shows that one of the major reasons teachers leave the profession is due to the relatively flat career advancement structure that exists. There are few opportunities for teachers to access higher earning and status positions that are found in other professions. The main opportunity for teachers to “advance” their careers has been leaving the classroom to become a school administrator. The establishment of career opportunities through teacher leader positions can help retain teachers.

More and more teacher advocacy organizations have emerged in the last decade. Organizations like Teach Plus, the Center for Teaching Quality, and the Hope Street Group recognize that elevating the teacher voice in education is key to improving education and transforming the teaching profession. Teacher leadership is one way to build the capacity and provide teachers with the leverage points necessary to transform public education. International comparisons to our education system reveal that the status of the teaching profession in our country lacks the necessary trust that other countries place in their teachers.

Teacher leader positions can take many shapes, some of which may or may not exist in some form today. But in general they heed these roles:

Mentor Teachers: Mentor teachers are responsible for the evaluation and mentoring of new-to-the-profession and struggling teachers. These teachers would be released from their teaching responsibilities full or part-time. Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) has been found to be an effective and well received approach to ensuring teachers receive the support they need, as well as ensuring teachers and administrators make the right decision when it comes to employment options. The traditional role of the administrator evaluating and mentoring teachers is a difficult, if not impossible, role to fulfill today, especially with new teacher evaluation policies, which require much more oversight and time. Imagine what would happen if both administrators and teachers took joint ownership in teacher performance in the best interest of student achievement.

Lead Teachers: These teachers are identified as effective teachers and trained to facilitate professional capacity building with their colleagues. Today’s teacher does not teach in isolation. Teachers are encouraged to work collaboratively with their peers in writing curriculum and assessments, as well as analyzing and adjusting their practice. Lead teachers facilitate these conversations. Building collaboration needs to be nurtured and identified if we are to build the professional capacity of all teachers.

Model Teachers: Teachers identified as master teachers assume the role of a Model Teacher. These teachers open up their classrooms for observation or video recording. By identifying Model Teachers, we can build a district and statewide bank of resources, as well as give other teachers the opportunity to observe and collaborate with teachers. This capacity building benefits all students.

Teacher Advocate Leaders: Teacher voice in policy decisions and implementation is sorely lacking, if it exists at all. Most policy decisions lack the input of those closest to the student: the teacher. In the book Everyone at the Table: Engaging Teachers in Evaluation Reform, the authors cite research that finds:
• 70 percent of teachers believe they are left out of the loop in the district decision-making process;
• 80 percent feel they are rarely consulted about what happens in their schools;
• 70 percent believe that district leaders only talk to them to win their support; and
• Only 23 percent believe that district leaders speak to them to gain a stronger sense of teachers’ concerns.

Opportunities for teachers to be involved in policy making would help propel teachers from continually being seen as merely reacting to policy decisions to being proactive in creating policy. Establishing a standing team of teacher advocates—as opposed to ad hoc or last-minute teams of teachers to react to policy recommendations—would improve the design, implementation, and sustainability of policy. Implementation of these policies would move teachers from compliance to commitment, since teachers would bes involved from the beginning.

All of these positions take new resources. We need to redesign the current compensation structures found in most master agreements. Our current system relies on the idea that each individual has the same basic responsibilities—it relies on a structure that reflects a flat teaching career. (See the “Tiered Pay-and-Career Structure” for a way to structure pay for master teachers that avoids the major pitfalls of the current pay-for-performance and bonus approach being used by some districts.)

We also need to rewrite state policy to allow for these teacher leader positions to emerge—state policy that recognizes and compensates leadership. One state to look to for guidance is Iowa. In 2013, Iowa passed a comprehensive series of policies called Building World-Class Schools for Iowa. Iowa took a comprehensive look at ways to systematically elevate and support the teaching profession.

This type of work is not cheap. It takes commitment and trust from state policy makers to make teacher leadership a reality. And state policy makers won’t budge unless they see support from their constituents. At the same time, we need teacher associations to make teacher leadership part of their mission and help change antiquated structures. It is also up to teachers to recognize their commitment to their profession and proactively work for change. These changes can benefit students and the teaching profession.

Categories: Urban School News

Comings & Goings: Goren

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 03/31/2014 - 12:01

Evanston School District 65, the elementary district in that suburb, has tapped Paul Goren for superintendent. Goren currently is senior vice president for program at the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning. He also has held leadership positions at the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research, the Spencer Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. He also was a deputy superintendent in the Minneapolis MN school district.

Categories: Urban School News

Comings & Goings: Goren

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 03/31/2014 - 12:01

Evanston School District 65, the elementary district in that suburb, has tapped Paul Goren for superintendent. Goren currently is senior vice president for program at the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning. He also has held leadership positions at the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research, the Spencer Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. He also was a deputy superintendent in the Minneapolis MN school district.

Categories: Urban School News

Comings & Goings: Goren, Russo

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 03/31/2014 - 12:01

Evanston School District 65, the elementary district in that suburb, has tapped Paul Goren for superintendent. Goren currently is senior vice president for program at the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning. He also has held leadership positions at the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research, the Spencer Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. He also was a deputy superintendent in the Minneapolis MN school district.

 Long-time education blogger Alexander Russo is closing down his District299 and This Week in Education daily news roundups to become a teacher. Here is an excerpt from his online announcement:  … on a lark this past fall I applied to Teach For America. I told myself it was just for the book I was writing. Nobody was more surprised than I was when I actually made it through and got picked. I had to think long and hard whether or not to quit blogging and accept the spot.  But finally I said yes and so I'm going to Houston this summer and starting teaching -- here in Brooklyn, I hope -- in the fall.  

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Help on the way for Boulder truancy officers

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 03/31/2014 - 09:39

Out and About

More than 100 parents, educators, and students gathered in Denver during the weekend to discuss how to grow and sustain the opt-out movement. Working groups discussed standardized tests as a human rights issues, what to replace standardized tests with — if anything at all — and how to share their opinions on education reform. ( Chalkbeat Colorado, KDVR )

tardy to the party

Boulder truancy officers, who handled nearly 250 cases last year, are getting some help from a court-appointed volunteer advocacy organization. ( Boulder Daily Camera )

Policing the Schools

Fewer Colorado students have been suspended or expelled since a law effectively re-writing Colorado schools' discipline policies was approved by state lawmakers. But racial disparities still exist. ( Chalkbeat Colorado, AP via Washington Post )

Jim Freeman, a member of President Obama's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans, applauded the results. ( 9News )

The report illustrated how districts across Colorado, like the ones in El Paso County, are managing conflicts at schools with varied results. ( Colorado Springs Gazette )

money matters

The Colorado House passed a version of next year's budget that included an additional $100 million for higher education. The Senate will begin debate soon. ( Denver Business Journal )

Poudre School District board member: Frankly, we should be some of the people first in line for the funding. ( Fort Collins Coloradoan )

A former Denver Public Schools board member explains why he believes the Student Success Act should pass: it's bipartisan, student-centered, and provides all Coloradans with an opportunity to unite behind investments into our education system. ( Colorado Statesman )

Healthy schools

The Colorado Legacy Foundation handed out 42 grants totaling more than $45,000 to Colorado schools last week. A dozen were from Colorado Springs. ( Colorado Springs Gazette )

What not to do

The relationship between schools and parents should be cooperative, not one that involves mass deletion of records and conflict, opines Denver Post editorial writer Alicia Caldwell. She examines one strange case in northern Colorado. ( Denver Post )

Ready for business

Despite some concerns, a Glenwood Springs charter school will open in the fall. ( Post Independent )

Bossy

Rocky Mountain Christian Academy kindergartner Elli Nugent ran her school for a day. Despite pressure from her classmates to enact all day recess, Nugent kept the status quo and managed to take a spelling quiz. ( Longmont Times-Call )

RIP

Innovator in childhood reading strategies, Janette Kettmann Klingner, died March 20. She was 60. Her program, Collaborative Strategic Reading, an elementary-level program that has been adopted by Denver Public Schools. ( Denver Post )

Categories: Urban School News

In the News: CPS seeks proposals, ideas for shuttered buildings

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 03/31/2014 - 09:25

Chicago Public Schools is collecting ideas and proposals for more than 40 of the school buildings it shuttered in last year’s massive school closing on a website the district launched Friday. (Sun-Times)

Members of the public and community groups can submit proposals for the old school sites at www.cps.edu/repurposingourbuildings, which has a full list of available school sites; the website also includes financial and physical information about each property, according to CPS.

JANITORS FEAR PRIVATIZATION: Chicago Public Schools has entered into a $260 million contract with Aramark to manage building maintenance for more than 500 schools — a step some union janitors fear could lead to the privatization or elimination of 825 custodial jobs. (DNAinfo)

IN THE NATION
EFFECTS OF GANG INVOLVEMENT: A new study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, paints a clearer picture of how long the effects of the decision to join a gang echo and how negatively it impacts a broad scope of factors—from the likelihood of later drug abuse and incarceration to poor health in adulthood. (Education Week)

PRE-K FUNDING AGREEMENT: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders announced on Saturday an agreement on a state budget that would provide $300 million for prekindergarten in New York City, but also undercuts other educational policies of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has championed prekindergarten while trying to slow the spread of charter schools. (The New York Times)

CUOMO BOOSTS CHARTERS: Charter schools will be big winners in the new state budget under a tentative deal hammered out by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders last week. For the first time, the privately operated schools will be eligible for government funds to cover the costs of leasing classroom space in private buildings, sources said. (New York Post)

THE COMMERCIAL SIDE OF HIGHER ED: A news analysis discussing the decision last week that Northwestern University must treat football players as employees says "higher education is today less a rite of passage in which institutions serve in loco parentis, and more a commercial transaction between school and student." (The New York Times)

Categories: Urban School News

In the News: CPS seeks proposals, ideas for shuttered buildings

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 03/31/2014 - 09:25

Chicago Public Schools is collecting ideas and proposals for more than 40 of the school buildings it shuttered in last year’s massive school closing on a website the district launched Friday. (Sun-Times)

Members of the public and community groups can submit proposals for the old school sites at www.cps.edu/repurposingourbuildings, which has a full list of available school sites; the website also includes financial and physical information about each property, according to CPS.

JANITORS FEAR PRIVATIZATION: Chicago Public Schools has entered into a $260 million contract with Aramark to manage building maintenance for more than 500 schools — a step some union janitors fear could lead to the privatization or elimination of 825 custodial jobs. (DNAinfo)

IN THE NATION
EFFECTS OF GANG INVOLVEMENT: A new study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, paints a clearer picture of how long the effects of the decision to join a gang echo and how negatively it impacts a broad scope of factors—from the likelihood of later drug abuse and incarceration to poor health in adulthood. (Education Week)

PRE-K FUNDING AGREEMENT: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders announced on Saturday an agreement on a state budget that would provide $300 million for prekindergarten in New York City, but also undercuts other educational policies of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has championed prekindergarten while trying to slow the spread of charter schools. (The New York Times)

CUOMO BOOSTS CHARTERS: Charter schools will be big winners in the new state budget under a tentative deal hammered out by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders last week. For the first time, the privately operated schools will be eligible for government funds to cover the costs of leasing classroom space in private buildings, sources said. (New York Post)

THE COMMERCIAL SIDE OF HIGHER ED: A news analysis discussing the decision last week that Northwestern University must treat football players as employees says "higher education is today less a rite of passage in which institutions serve in loco parentis, and more a commercial transaction between school and student." (The New York Times)

Categories: Urban School News

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