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What We’re Reading: AFT takes a tougher line on the Common Core

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 07/11/2014 - 18:26
  • The AFT, Randi Weingarten’s national teachers union, is softening its support for the Common Core standards. (Politico)
  • A New York City teacher says New York’s early adoption of the Common Core bodes well for his home state of Mississippi. (Rethink MS)
  • Here are four tips for getting the most out of murky education research. (Atlantic)
  • Fatigue, “administrative hassle,” and a desire for more led one experienced teacher to retire this year. (Accountable Talk)
  • This case against an ultra-elite New York City high school isn’t that it’s not diverse but that it’s not nurturing for students. (Slate)
  • In a frank interview, a charter school teacher says he’s kind of subversive. (Honest Practicum)
  • Four acclaimed teachers went to lunch with President Obama. Here’s what they said. (Answer Sheet)
  • A teacher is puzzled when two brothers who seem to be headed in opposite directions swap paths. (Yo Mista)
  • The U.S. Department of Education is going to study whether Khan Academy works. (Inside School Research)
  • The founder of a high-performing Nashville charter school explains why he’s replicating in Mississippi. (Hechinger Report)
  • It’s conventional wisdom that schools should develop students’ “grit.” What about teachers’? (TNTP)
  • For history buffs: Can you identify who said what about teacher tenure, and when? (Urban Ed)
  • Turning former Indiana superintendent Tony Bennett’s downfall into an allegory about the Common Core, teacher evaluations, and other policies. (Rick Hess)
  • Increasingly, New Orleans charter schools are taking on students’ mental health challenges. (The Lens)
Categories: Urban School News

Denver youth build video games at Denver’s IdeaLAB

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 07/11/2014 - 18:23

PHOTO: Monique Collins/Chalkbeat

Most people haven’t heard of 3D modeling, and they probably have never created a video game from scratch, either, but a group of Denver students who participated in Denver Public Library’s 2014 Summer of Tech knew exactly what they were doing.

The 19 students — most not much older than 12 — met on Thursday afternoon. Almost all of them, when asked by the workshop’s leader Chris Brown, said they had heard of and used the 3D modeling and gaming software to make their own first-person video game.

The software used to build the games is free to download, which was an important aspect for the workshop’s leaders because it gave participants the opportunity to access the software outside of the lab and work on the skills on their own time, Brown said.

In class, the students spent the time creating a simple, three-dimensional world for their characters, then used different software to enable characters to interact with one another.

This was just the beginning of a month-long science, technology, engineering and math program offered at the library’s ideaLAB, a free digital media center for teens. The ideaLAB’s goal is to create a space for local teens to practice vital (and potentially lucrative) computer skills and prepare themselves for the future.

Throughout the summer, students will have the opportunity to turn their video games into movies, create songs, make mobile games and more. The program runs every Thursday from 3:30-5:30 p.m., through August 14.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Littleton receives federal tragedy grant

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 07/11/2014 - 09:14

Band of schools

The state released the names of who would be joining the voluntary turnaround network. So why did these schools hop on board? A variety of reasons. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Facelift

Thanks to a grant, a playground that has been a dirt lot for fifty years will get a makeover. ( Gazette )

(No longer) a shot in the dark

Parents can now request the opt-out rates of immunizations at schools and daycare clinics, due to a law originally intended to cut back on exemptions. ( Chieftain )

Arapahoe High School shooting

Littleton Public Schools received a federal tragedy grant to cover counseling and security measures in the wake of the Arapahoe school shooting. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Around the network

Former Indiana schools chief Tony Bennett was found guilty of an ethics violation for working on campaign efforts during work hours. ( Chalkbeat Indiana )

At the rebuilt National Civil Rights Museum, student engagement is part of the design. ( Chalkbeat Tennessee )

An assistant principal in New York sees "a tale of two schools" in public education. ( Chalkbeat New York )

Categories: Urban School News

8 struggling schools opt in to Colorado’s new turnaround network

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 07/10/2014 - 23:10

When Rob Stein, chief academic officer for the Roaring Fork School District, learned third-grade reading scores at Crystal River Elementary School dipped this year, he called his old friend and former colleague Peter Sherman to ask for some advice.

Unlike his other elementary schools, which saw spikes in reading scores, something just wasn’t working at Crystal River, which has been on and off the state’s school accountability watch list for four years.

Sherman, the state’s executive director of school and district performance, suggested Crystal River apply to be a part of his new endeavor: the Colorado Turnaround Network, a state-run but voluntary co-op of schools working together to boost student achievement.

The network borrows some inspiration from efforts by other states that share a federal mandate to track and improve low-performing schools.

But unlike controversial initiatives in Louisiana and Tennessee, which have concentrated weak schools in districts run directly by the state, Colorado is leaving control of the turnaround schools up to local districts. Colorado also formed the network quietly, rather than trumpet its tough-on-struggling school approach, as some other states have done. And instead of requiring all low-performing schools to undergo the same changes, Colorado is asking schools to opt in — and to decide for themselves what changes would help students.

Colorado’s Turnaround Network

  • Adams 12 Five Star Schools: Hillcrest Elementary
  • Adams County School District 14: Rose Hill Elementary
  • Pueblo City Schools: Haaff Elementary, Irving Elementary
  • Calhan School District RJ1: Calhan Elementary
  • Roaring Fork School District: Crystal River Elementary
  • Lake County School District: West Park Elementary, Lake County Middle

The collaborative approach piqued Stein’s interest. “What I like about the network is that it’s do-with, not do-to,” he said.

The eight schools in the network — which include Stein’s Crystal River — met for the first time last month to hear more about Sherman’s vision for school-based solutions to four kinds of challenges: culture, internal operations, personnel, and district relations.

Entering the turnaround network doesn’t take schools or districts off of the state’s “accountability clock,” in which persistently low-scoring schools get five years to improve or their school districts could face state sanctions.

But it does offer a last-ditch effort for schools that have failed to boost performance for as much as four years already.

“Our belief and one of our theories of action is that we can provide some resources, some frameworks, for what we believe is necessary for success,” Sherman said. “We believe strongly that solutions for low-performing schools will come from the local communities.”

Balancing its influence against Colorado’s cherished local control could be a challenge for the turnaround network.

Pat Sanchez, the superintendent of the Adams 14 School District, said he got on board only after becoming convinced that the state’s priorities for Rose Hill Elementary, his lowest-scoring school, corresponded to the district’s own. The state network will provide training for the school’s new leader and will offer support to help the school reach the district’s reading and math goals.

“A big selling point is that the network will not create a new set of priorities for my principal,” Sanchez said. “She won’t have two sets of marching orders. The state is about supplementing that will hopefully help accelerate learning.”

Colorado’s approach has benefits, according to Ashley Jochim, a researcher for the Center on Reinventing Public Education, or CRPE, who has researched the role of state education agencies like CDE.

Because the state is acting more like a broker of resources and advice than directly running the schools, the state’s limited turnaround staff of five isn’t likely to be strained.

But Jochim said the resources will only be fruitful if principals are allowed to adopt the best ideas, even if they run counter to district polices — something that could be a challenge when it comes to personnel, budget, and curriculum.

If Colorado stumbles, it won’t be alone, Jochim said.

“We’re not in a place where anyone has done [a turnaround network] right,” she said.

Categories: Urban School News

Littleton schools get federal grant for shooting recovery

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 07/10/2014 - 12:00

The Littleton school district has received a $121,200 federal grant to help pay for counseling and school security measures in the wake of last December’s shootings at Arapahoe High School.

A U.S. Department of Education news release reported that “administrators and guidance counselors have seen an increase in student absences, health office visits, discipline referrals and suicide and threat assessments” since the shootings.

Last Dec. 13, student Karl Halverson, 18, entered the school armed with a shotgun and three Molotov cocktails. During the brief incident he shot and killed student Claire Davis, 17, and then killed himself. Halverson reportedly was looking for his debate coach, with whom he had a disagreement.

The funds came from a DOE program that provides grants to schools that have experienced violence or disasters. The Colorado Department of Education earlier received a separate $750,000 grant to help districts affected by last year’s floods. That money was used to reimburse districts for things like transportation costs, additional staffing for relief work, mental health costs and overtime costs.

Categories: Urban School News

Take 5: Avoiding budget reality, discipline disparities, problems with choice

Catalyst Chicago - Thu, 07/10/2014 - 10:49

1. The Chicago Tribune blasts CPS in an editorial today for the plan to spend 14 months of revenue in the next 12 months in order to balance the 2015 budget. Now that it is increasingly clear that CPS won’t get pension relief, the Tribune says CPS should just deal with reality, instead of borrowing against the future. CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has readily admitted that this was a one-time fix that does not solve structural budget problems. And officials admit that for at least five years, they have used one-time fixes to close budget gaps--which makes it harder to believe their claims that next year they will really be in trouble. Yet Byrd-Bennett said she doesn’t see any other one-time fixes showing up  to save CPS next time. One thing that the Tribune mentions is the underlying--and yes, cynical --reason most people assume the district won't tackle the problem this year: Mayor Emanuel is up for reelection.

2. We’ve said it before, but … the teaching workforce here in Chicago and the rest of the country is disproportionately white when compared to the student body. The left-leaning Center for American Progress issued a report last month on how districts must do a better job of getting teachers of color in front of students. 

Nationally, students of color make up nearly half of the public school population, while only about 18 percent of teachers are of color. In Chicago, 86 percent of students are of color, but less than half of all teachers are minorities. The report stresses the fact it’s a matter not just of recruitment, but of retention as new teachers leave the profession at disproportionately high rates.

Catalyst wrote about the shifting demographics of Chicago’s teaching force, and school closings and turnarounds in black communities have likely shifted the demographics even more, especially given the lack of black students in teaching programs and entering the teaching profession in Illinois--though Latinos are making progress on this front. 

3. Disciplining children of color… Minorities are underrepresented as teachers, but overrepresented when it comes to suspensions and expulsions in schools across the country.  Andre Perry, founding dean of urban education at Davenport University, says schools are giving up on black children “by expelling those who are considered not ready to learn. While zero-tolerance expulsions myopically help the school and the majority of students in it, they destroy the student — and, ultimately, the community, too.”

School officials in Chicago recently rewrote the student code of conduct policy. Byrd-Bennett says she made this a priority because she is personally disturbed by disparity in CPS. (For example, about 75 percent of suspended CPS students are black, though they make up only about 40 percent of the student body.) While advocates of restorative justice practices applauded CPS, many are cautious and still worry about skewed statistics that cloud the truth about discipline. You may recall last week’s public celebration by Mayor Rahm Emanuel of a drastic drop in expulsions that turned out not to be true.

4. Choice is great, but… More parents in cities are getting the chance to choose their children’s schools, but they report some substantial difficulties, according to a survey from the Center for Reinventing Public Education, a Seattle, Washington-based group that supports choice. Among the problems: parents understanding options, getting students to schools and making sure children with special needs get the right services.

Parents in CPS have complained about similar problems. Most charter schools don’t offer bus service, putting parents without cars at a significant disadvantage. Also, charter schools in Chicago serve way fewer students with more significant special needs and parents say they don’t choose charters because of problems they’ve had with getting needed services.The report calls on city and state leaders to try to solve these problems, instead of continuing to be tangled in the charter vs. district debate.

5. A summer reading reminder … As part of former First Lady Hillary Clinton’s “Too Small to Fail” campaign, parents are being urged to read, talk and even sing to their babies to develop literacy habits early on. As part of that effort, the Illinois-based American Academy of Pediatrics has asked its members to talk with parents about the benefits of reading on early brain development and even to incorporate reading into office checkups. Dr. Pamela High, who wrote the Academy’s new policy, told the Hechinger Report that reading is so powerful because “ it’s often a one-on-one experience between parents and children where children have your full attention.” It can also be a language-enriching experience and a reassuring routine that nurtures the relationship between parents and children.

Some classrooms in Chicago, including Cardenas Elementary in Little Village,  got special federal funding starting in 2010 to improve literacy in the earliest grades. This is important because poor readers from poor families face among the worst educational outcomes. Overall, CPS officials have been working on a district-wide literacy initiative that has yet to be rolled out.

On a related note, the New York Times' Opinion section has dedicated a "Room for Debate" to whether children's books should address politics, race, gender, sexual orientation and other potentially controversial issues. What do you think?

 



Categories: Urban School News

Take 5: Avoiding budget reality, discipline disparities, problems with choice

Catalyst Chicago - Thu, 07/10/2014 - 10:49

1. The Chicago Tribune blasts CPS in an editorial today for the plan to spend 14 months of revenue in the next 12 months in order to balance the 2015 budget. Now that it is increasingly clear that CPS won’t get pension relief, the Tribune says CPS should just deal with reality, instead of borrowing against the future. CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has readily admitted that this was a one-time fix that does not solve structural budget problems. And officials admit that for at least five years, they have used one-time fixes to close budget gaps--which makes it harder to believe their claims that next year they will really be in trouble. Yet Byrd-Bennett said she doesn’t see any other one-time fixes showing up  to save CPS next time. One thing that the Tribune mentions is the underlying--and yes, cynical --reason most people assume the district won't tackle the problem this year: Mayor Emanuel is up for reelection.

2. We’ve said it before, but … the teaching workforce here in Chicago and the rest of the country is disproportionately white when compared to the student body. The left-leaning Center for American Progress issued a report last month on how districts must do a better job of getting teachers of color in front of students. 

Nationally, students of color make up nearly half of the public school population, while only about 18 percent of teachers are of color. In Chicago, 86 percent of students are of color, but less than half of all teachers are minorities. The report stresses the fact it’s a matter not just of recruitment, but of retention as new teachers leave the profession at disproportionately high rates.

Catalyst wrote about the shifting demographics of Chicago’s teaching force, and school closings and turnarounds in black communities have likely shifted the demographics even more, especially given the lack of black students in teaching programs and entering the teaching profession in Illinois--though Latinos are making progress on this front. 

3. Disciplining children of color… Minorities are underrepresented as teachers, but overrepresented when it comes to suspensions and expulsions in schools across the country.  Andre Perry, founding dean of urban education at Davenport University, says schools are giving up on black children “by expelling those who are considered not ready to learn. While zero-tolerance expulsions myopically help the school and the majority of students in it, they destroy the student — and, ultimately, the community, too.”

School officials in Chicago recently rewrote the student code of conduct policy. Byrd-Bennett says she made this a priority because she is personally disturbed by disparity in CPS. (For example, about 75 percent of suspended CPS students are black, though they make up only about 40 percent of the student body.) While advocates of restorative justice practices applauded CPS, many are cautious and still worry about skewed statistics that cloud the truth about discipline. You may recall last week’s public celebration by Mayor Rahm Emanuel of a drastic drop in expulsions that turned out not to be true.

4. Choice is great, but… More parents in cities are getting the chance to choose their children’s schools, but they report some substantial difficulties, according to a survey from the Center for Reinventing Public Education, a Seattle, Washington-based group that supports choice. Among the problems: parents understanding options, getting students to schools and making sure children with special needs get the right services.

Parents in CPS have complained about similar problems. Most charter schools don’t offer bus service, putting parents without cars at a significant disadvantage. Also, charter schools in Chicago serve way fewer students with more significant special needs and parents say they don’t choose charters because of problems they’ve had with getting needed services.The report calls on city and state leaders to try to solve these problems, instead of continuing to be tangled in the charter vs. district debate.

5. A summer reading reminder … As part of former First Lady Hillary Clinton’s “Too Small to Fail” campaign, parents are being urged to read, talk and even sing to their babies to develop literacy habits early on. As part of that effort, the Illinois-based American Academy of Pediatrics has asked its members to talk with parents about the benefits of reading on early brain development and even to incorporate reading into office checkups. Dr. Pamela High, who wrote the Academy’s new policy, told the Hechinger Report that reading is so powerful because “ it’s often a one-on-one experience between parents and children where children have your full attention.” It can also be a language-enriching experience and a reassuring routine that nurtures the relationship between parents and children.

Some classrooms in Chicago, including Cardenas Elementary in Little Village,  got special federal funding starting in 2010 to improve literacy in the earliest grades. This is important because poor readers from poor families face among the worst educational outcomes. Overall, CPS officials have been working on a district-wide literacy initiative that has yet to be rolled out.

On a related note, the New York Times' Opinion section has dedicated a "Room for Debate" to whether children's books should address politics, race, gender, sexual orientation and other potentially controversial issues. What do you think?

 



Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Dougco staff propose plan for maintenance on district buildings

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 07/10/2014 - 09:48

Choosing Schools

A report published by the Center for Reinventing Public Education shows more parents are choosing their kids' schools, but many parents, especially those with less education and lower incomes, still face obstacles. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Under Construction

Douglas County School District staff have proposed a plan to pay for $275 million in building repairs with no increase in taxes, but the School Board of Education is hesitant to take action. ( Denver Post )

Opposition on All Fronts

Newark schools Superintendent Cami Anderson has a new three-year contract, but lack of support from parents, teachers and political leaders may prove a challenge for her in the coming years. ( EdWeek )

Failure to Act

A University of Denver student said school administration failed to impose sanctions on her rapist or offer counseling after the fact, a direct violation of the school's policy of sexual misconduct. ( Daily Camera )

Turned Away

Hundreds of parents were turned away Wednesday as they tried to sign up their children at New Orleans' online public school enrollment center due to lack of staff. ( The Times-Picayune )

Categories: Urban School News

Report: More parents are choosing their students’ schools, but barriers persist

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 07/09/2014 - 17:16

A majority of parents — regardless of socioeconomic backgrounds — are now choosing which schools their students attend, according to a new report by the Center on Reinventing Public Education.

But too many parents, especially those with less education and lower incomes, continue to face barriers in selecting schools.

The report, released today by the education reform-minded Seattle-based think tank, is based on surveys from 4,000 parents across eight cities with active choice options — including Denver. It is the first report in a series by CRPE that will examine choice programs across the nation. The report was funded in part by the Walton Family Foundation.

Barriers families face when choosing a school — neighborhood or charter — include inadequate information, lack of convenient transportation, and uneven school quality, the report found.

Parents of students living with special-needs are also more likely to experience difficulties finding a school of their choice.

“For school choice advocates, this report paints a cautionary picture,” the study’s authors concluded. “Although the expansion of choice in American cities has clearly empowered many parents and provided their children an escape from chronically low-performing schools, leaders today need to face crosscutting access and quality problems that get in the way of all families benefiting from choice. Given the state of education governance in many big cities, where agencies charged with overseeing public schools operate independently, addressing these problems requires new thinking and strategies.”

The report recommends school officials provide parents more detailed school information and offer better transportation options. In some cases, especially in those cities with multi-level governance structures (including district-run neighborhood and charter schools, private charter operators, and state-run schools), a single city-wide choice system like Denver’s may simplify the process for parents.

Denver’s SchoolChoice process is a three-year old initiative billed as “one form, one timeline, all schools,” which aimed to make school enrollment fairer. Parents submit up to five choices for potential schools. Those who do not participate or do not get one of their five choices are automatically enrolled in their neighborhood school.

Data released earlier this year by Denver Public Schools found this year is the first since the system’s launch in which the number of participants who received a top choice declined.

Denver parents also shared their love-hate relationship with the school district’s choice program earlier this year during a series of town-hall meetings the city’s school board hosted as it reworked its strategic governing document.

The next CRPE report is expected to dive into the results of the survey by localities and is due out in the fall.

Disclosure: Chalkbeat is a grantee of The Walton Family Foundation. 

CRPE choice report DV.load('http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1214560-crpe-makingschoolchoicework-report.js', { width: 620, height: 600, sidebar: false, text: true, pdf: true, container: '#DV-viewer-1214560-crpe-makingschoolchoicework-report' });
Categories: Urban School News

Teachers need a “road test” to ensure good teaching

Catalyst Chicago - Wed, 07/09/2014 - 12:22

The preparation of new teachers is receiving a lot of attention these days. Recently, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released a review of educator preparation programs. Meanwhile, the Obama Administration recently announced its plan to renew efforts to develop a rating system for these programs.

As a nation, we need to be confident that new teachers are ready to take over a classroom, will have an impact on student learning and that their higher education programs prepared them well. As Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “We want to have a national conversation” about quality teacher preparation and teaching effectiveness.

Missing from both the NCTQ report and Duncan’s overture, however, is acknowledgement that teacher educators are already taking charge of improving teacher preparation. Illinois teacher educators and institutions, such as Illinois State University, the University of Illinois-Chicago, Illinois College, St. Francis University and National Louis University, among others, are leading the way. Illinois faculty and administrators have been essential contributors in designing and field testing a nationally available performance assessment that breaks new and essential ground: It requires aspiring teachers to demonstrate for independent review that have the skills that define effective beginning teaching.

This assessment, called the edTPA, is now producing telling data about how well our programs are performing. As a result, we are in a better position than ever to dispute this area of weakness cited by Secretary Duncan.

The focus on performance assessment represented by edTPA (which Illinois is phasing in statewide ) is significant and promising for teacher education here and nationally. Traditionally, our field used multiple-choice tests to measure a prospective teacher’s understanding of how to teach, subject matter, key legal requirements, etc. By contrast, a performance assessment uses materials from actual teaching practice, including lesson plans, student work and an unedited video of a teacher leading instruction. Think of it as the difference between a multiple-choice driver’s license test and the actual road test an aspiring driver must pass. Teaching needs this “road test.”

Defining effective classroom teaching

EdTPA helps determine if a candidate can perform at a professional level in 15 essential areas that contribute to effective instruction. Candidates demonstrate their skills in a portfolio they prepare for independent scoring. To pass, candidates must show they can plan classes, deliver instruction, assess student learning and analyze their own teaching effectiveness. It focuses on what is fundamentally necessary—competence in practices that will improve student learning.

With more states making edTPA a requirement for program completion or licensure, a growing network of teacher educators – led by the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity and the American Association for Colleges of Teacher Education – is supporting educators and teacher candidates as they go through this challenging yet rewarding process of preparing to be classroom teachers.

The recent skepticism about teacher preparation will continue. The positive impact is that teacher education is focusing on the need to state clearly and precisely the essential features of effective instruction. Whether one completes a comprehensive teacher preparation program or an alternative route to licensure, we are converging on a common language that describes our expectations of beginning teachers. They must be able to demonstrate they can:

-        Teach toward a meaningful learning objective;

-        Plan instruction based on students’ strengths and needs;

-        Help students engage in and understand content; and

-        Assess if students are learning and include student feedback and results to plan further instruction.

The edTPA is one example of how the profession is defining effective classroom teaching. Educators from Illinois and nationwide are gaining unprecedented clarity on our expectations for professional practice. As in all professions, our aim is almost always truer when we have a clear sight of the target. Today, our aim is to make sure that beginning teachers are prepared to help all students learn from the first day they take over a classroom.

We extend an offer to the Department of Education and other skeptics to learn what we are learning about our candidates, their preparation, and our opportunities to improve.

Amee Adkins is associate dean of the College of Education at Illinois State University.

 

 

Categories: Urban School News

Teachers need a “road test” to ensure good teaching

Catalyst Chicago - Wed, 07/09/2014 - 12:22

The preparation of new teachers is receiving a lot of attention these days. Recently, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released a review of educator preparation programs. Meanwhile, the Obama Administration recently announced its plan to renew efforts to develop a rating system for these programs.

As a nation, we need to be confident that new teachers are ready to take over a classroom, will have an impact on student learning and that their higher education programs prepared them well. As Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “We want to have a national conversation” about quality teacher preparation and teaching effectiveness.

Missing from both the NCTQ report and Duncan’s overture, however, is acknowledgement that teacher educators are already taking charge of improving teacher preparation. Illinois teacher educators and institutions, such as Illinois State University, the University of Illinois-Chicago, Illinois College, St. Francis University and National Louis University, among others, are leading the way. Illinois faculty and administrators have been essential contributors in designing and field testing a nationally available performance assessment that breaks new and essential ground: It requires aspiring teachers to demonstrate for independent review that have the skills that define effective beginning teaching.

This assessment, called the edTPA, is now producing telling data about how well our programs are performing. As a result, we are in a better position than ever to dispute this area of weakness cited by Secretary Duncan.

The focus on performance assessment represented by edTPA (which Illinois is phasing in statewide ) is significant and promising for teacher education here and nationally. Traditionally, our field used multiple-choice tests to measure a prospective teacher’s understanding of how to teach, subject matter, key legal requirements, etc. By contrast, a performance assessment uses materials from actual teaching practice, including lesson plans, student work and an unedited video of a teacher leading instruction. Think of it as the difference between a multiple-choice driver’s license test and the actual road test an aspiring driver must pass. Teaching needs this “road test.”

Defining effective classroom teaching

EdTPA helps determine if a candidate can perform at a professional level in 15 essential areas that contribute to effective instruction. Candidates demonstrate their skills in a portfolio they prepare for independent scoring. To pass, candidates must show they can plan classes, deliver instruction, assess student learning and analyze their own teaching effectiveness. It focuses on what is fundamentally necessary—competence in practices that will improve student learning.

With more states making edTPA a requirement for program completion or licensure, a growing network of teacher educators – led by the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity and the American Association for Colleges of Teacher Education – is supporting educators and teacher candidates as they go through this challenging yet rewarding process of preparing to be classroom teachers.

The recent skepticism about teacher preparation will continue. The positive impact is that teacher education is focusing on the need to state clearly and precisely the essential features of effective instruction. Whether one completes a comprehensive teacher preparation program or an alternative route to licensure, we are converging on a common language that describes our expectations of beginning teachers. They must be able to demonstrate they can:

-        Teach toward a meaningful learning objective;

-        Plan instruction based on students’ strengths and needs;

-        Help students engage in and understand content; and

-        Assess if students are learning and include student feedback and results to plan further instruction.

The edTPA is one example of how the profession is defining effective classroom teaching. Educators from Illinois and nationwide are gaining unprecedented clarity on our expectations for professional practice. As in all professions, our aim is almost always truer when we have a clear sight of the target. Today, our aim is to make sure that beginning teachers are prepared to help all students learn from the first day they take over a classroom.

We extend an offer to the Department of Education and other skeptics to learn what we are learning about our candidates, their preparation, and our opportunities to improve.

Amee Adkins is associate dean of the College of Education at Illinois State University.

 

 

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: A special summer school keeps students with autism on schedule

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 07/09/2014 - 10:05

Due to technical difficulties, your morning Rise & Shine headlines are here. Check back tomorrow where your headlines will — hopefully — return to their normal home. 

Evaluating the evaluations

State Sen. Mike Johnston, in an interview with Chalkbeat, discussed how his signature teacher evaluation legislation is and should be impacting rural school districts. He believes teacher evaluations should be useful and about improvement not burdensome and accountability. Chalkbeat Colorado

Human resources

Another Douglas County School District administrator has made the move to Jeffco Public Schools. Syna Morgan, chief system performance officer for the Douglas County Schools, has been hired as chief academic officer for the Jeffco school district. Chalkbeat Colorado, Denver Post

The Greeley-Evans School District has a new interim superintendent: Chief Operations Officer Wayne Eads. Greeley Tribune

No interruptions, please

Keeping to a routine can be important for some students living with autism. That’s why one Lakewood teacher and her school psychologist created a special summer school to keep the momentum going. 9News

Dinner at 5:30

A national nonprofit, with an office in Colorado, hopes to help some students create the right environment to become effective scholars. That includes creating a strict routine and — in some cases — providing students with a new home during the school week. Huffington Post 

Back to school safety

Three schools in the Harrison School District will be outfitted with new security updates. Colorado Springs Gazette 

Tennessee turnaround

While President Obama is eager to highlight Tennessee’s early success with its Race to the Top Grant, a closer look illustrates a much more complexed and dogged overhaul. EdWeek

Top of the class

Last week the KIPP Foundation — which supports the charter school network — was awarded a $250,000 grant $250,000 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools last week. New York Post

Categories: Urban School News

Arts education report: More teachers and programs, but inequity remains

Catalyst Chicago - Wed, 07/09/2014 - 07:35

Two years ago, when Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled an arts plan for schools, it was unclear how much arts instruction was already being offered to students – either by certified teachers or through partnerships with community organizations.

Now, schools and arts leaders know the answer: There are more teachers than many would have guessed, but they are inequitably distributed across the city and the total is far below the goals.

“There are a lot of assumptions that people make about what is out there and what isn’t out there,” said Paul Sznewajs, executive director of the arts nonprofit organization, Ingenuity Inc. “What we found is that there are a lot of resources out there, maybe more than we anticipated, but there are still many gaps in the system. More teachers than we assumed there to be in the system, but underneath is the challenge of student access to those teachers and whether those teachers are distributed equitably across the system.”

Today, Ingenuity released a first-of-its kind analysis of arts offerings, staffing, partnerships and funding in CPS during the 2012-13 school year, when the Chicago Cultural Plan was unveiled. Among the findings in the report:

-- On average, elementary students received 99 minutes of arts instruction per week. As part of the district’s arts guidelines, elementary schools should provide at least 120 minutes per week of arts instruction. But, according to the self-reported data, only 40 percent of CPS elementary schools offered that much arts education during the 2012-13 school year.

-- The number of arts programs provided by partner organizations varied wildly from neighborhood to neighborhood. A striking map in the report shows how wealthier neighborhoods such as  Lincoln Park and Lake View have more than 50 arts partnerships in schools, while some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods in the South and West side have 10 or fewer.

-- More than 400 arts organizations had active partnerships to offer programming in CPS schools. Sznewajs said he thought the number was about half as many.

-- 95 percent of elementary/middle schools, and 88 percent of high schools, had at least one part- or full-time arts instructor. Most schools with arts instructors – 82 percent – also had community arts partners.

In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, CPS leaders said it wasn’t surprising that the district hadn’t met its goals during the 2012-13 school year; after all, that’s when they were created.

 "Are we anywhere near where we need to be? Of course not,” said CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. “This is a snapshot in the past that has now informed us.”

One way the information has already done so, she explained, was in the placement of 84 certified arts teachers who will be hired with $10.5 million in tax increment financing (TIF) dollars.  The vast majority, Byrd-Bennett said, will work in schools in the South and West sides “where there is the greatest need.” (Here's a list of where all the arts teachers will be heading next fall. Separately, CPS will hire an equal number of high school gym teachers with TIF dollars to comply with another mandate. Also, read a CPS fact sheet in response to the arts report.*)

The TIF money for new art teachers won’t be permanent, nor is it complete. Next year, schools must pay 25 percent of the cost of the teachers, and the district will pick up the remainder with the TIF money. The following year, schools must pay 50 percent of the cost.

And that, say CPS critics, is a problem.  Last year, a reported 100 arts teachers lost their jobs in budget cuts across the district.

“We’re either going to make a commitment to arts education or we’re not,” said Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis. “Relying on vanishing ways of paying things puts us in the same position we’re already in […]. I don’t think this is a sustainable plan.”

Too much attention to partnerships?

Ingenuity’s “State of the Arts” report was based on a variety of sources including the CPS Creative Schools Certification survey, which only 57 percent of schools completed. This fall, Ingenuity will publish a follow-up report using 2013-14 data, which is just now being analyzed.  The report promises to include better data, as this time around, 89 percent of schools completed the CPS survey.

“That’s a really positive sign to show both participation and movement forward,” said CPS arts director Mario Rossero.

Charter and contract schools, however, were the least likely to return surveys than traditional neighborhood schools both years.  Sznewajs said he expects that will change over the years, as all schools become more familiar with the annual survey.

The report provides data on a district-wide level, but not on individual schools. However, school-level data will be made available online later this year in a revamped version of Ingenuity’s interactive map of school arts offerings.

Ingenuity also issued a series of recommendations, starting with hiring more arts instructors. At a bare minimum, the report asks for at least one certified arts instructor per school; Rossero said he hoped the 84 additional arts teachers would ensure that all schools in Chicago had at least one arts teacher on staff but could not confirm whether that would be the case next fall. Other recommendations include increased training opportunities for principals and teachers; the creation of a system to measure arts instruction; and locating new public and private funding for the arts.

One key finding in the report is on the wide range in programs offered by arts partners that work in schools.  The majority of these programs are one-time field trips or performances that, “while valuable and may address an identified school need, signal little consistent or ongoing student access to partner programs,” according to the report.

Ingenuity points to art residency programs in schools as an alternative which provides “a deep arts learning opportunity” for students. Just over a quarter of schools reported having an art residency in 2012-13.

Sznewajs said outside arts partnerships make sense for schools in a city like Chicago, with its vast wealth of “cultural resources” that schools could tap into. He stressed that his group’s focus on schools partnering with outside arts organizations is in no ways meant to undermine the role of certified arts instructors in the classroom.

“If you want to grow the arts, it starts with having a certified arts instructor on staff. They’re the anchor of everything,” he said.

Still, the attention to partnerships has caused some concern among arts instructors in CPS. In late April, the CTU’s arts committee filed a grievance alleging that some schools were using outside arts partners to replace instruction by certified teachers, even though that instruction isn’t supposed to count toward the 120 minutes per week requirement.

John Perryman, who chairs the CTU arts committee, said some principals were leaving students alone with outside arts partners. CPS officials did not respond to questions about the grievance.

*This story was updated on July 10, 2014, to include a CPS-provided list of which schools will receive arts teachers next fall.

Categories: Urban School News

Arts education report: More teachers and programs, but inequity remains

Catalyst Chicago - Wed, 07/09/2014 - 07:35

Two years ago, when Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled an arts plan for schools, it was unclear how much arts instruction was already being offered to students – either by certified teachers or through partnerships with community organizations.

Now, schools and arts leaders know the answer: There are more teachers than many would have guessed, but they are inequitably distributed across the city and the total is far below the goals.

“There are a lot of assumptions that people make about what is out there and what isn’t out there,” said Paul Sznewajs, executive director of the arts nonprofit organization, Ingenuity Inc. “What we found is that there are a lot of resources out there, maybe more than we anticipated, but there are still many gaps in the system. More teachers than we assumed there to be in the system, but underneath is the challenge of student access to those teachers and whether those teachers are distributed equitably across the system.”

Today, Ingenuity released a first-of-its kind analysis of arts offerings, staffing, partnerships and funding in CPS during the 2012-13 school year, when the Chicago Cultural Plan was unveiled. Among the findings in the report:

-- On average, elementary students received 99 minutes of arts instruction per week. As part of the district’s arts guidelines, elementary schools should provide at least 120 minutes per week of arts instruction. But, according to the self-reported data, only 40 percent of CPS elementary schools offered that much arts education during the 2012-13 school year.

-- The number of arts programs provided by partner organizations varied wildly from neighborhood to neighborhood. A striking map in the report shows how wealthier neighborhoods such as  Lincoln Park and Lake View have more than 50 arts partnerships in schools, while some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods in the South and West side have 10 or fewer.

-- More than 400 arts organizations had active partnerships to offer programming in CPS schools. Sznewajs said he thought the number was about half as many.

-- 95 percent of elementary/middle schools, and 88 percent of high schools, had at least one part- or full-time arts instructor. Most schools with arts instructors – 82 percent – also had community arts partners.

In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, CPS leaders said it wasn’t surprising that the district hadn’t met its goals during the 2012-13 school year; after all, that’s when they were created.

 "Are we anywhere near where we need to be? Of course not,” said CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. “This is a snapshot in the past that has now informed us.”

One way the information has already done so, she explained, was in the placement of 84 certified arts teachers who will be hired with $10.5 million in tax increment financing (TIF) dollars.  The vast majority, Byrd-Bennett said, will work in schools in the South and West sides “where there is the greatest need.” (Here's a list of where all the arts teachers will be heading next fall. Separately, CPS will hire an equal number of high school gym teachers with TIF dollars to comply with another mandate. Also, read a CPS fact sheet in response to the arts report.*)

The TIF money for new art teachers won’t be permanent, nor is it complete. Next year, schools must pay 25 percent of the cost of the teachers, and the district will pick up the remainder with the TIF money. The following year, schools must pay 50 percent of the cost.

And that, say CPS critics, is a problem.  Last year, a reported 100 arts teachers lost their jobs in budget cuts across the district.

“We’re either going to make a commitment to arts education or we’re not,” said Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis. “Relying on vanishing ways of paying things puts us in the same position we’re already in […]. I don’t think this is a sustainable plan.”

Too much attention to partnerships?

Ingenuity’s “State of the Arts” report was based on a variety of sources including the CPS Creative Schools Certification survey, which only 57 percent of schools completed. This fall, Ingenuity will publish a follow-up report using 2013-14 data, which is just now being analyzed.  The report promises to include better data, as this time around, 89 percent of schools completed the CPS survey.

“That’s a really positive sign to show both participation and movement forward,” said CPS arts director Mario Rossero.

Charter and contract schools, however, were the least likely to return surveys than traditional neighborhood schools both years.  Sznewajs said he expects that will change over the years, as all schools become more familiar with the annual survey.

The report provides data on a district-wide level, but not on individual schools. However, school-level data will be made available online later this year in a revamped version of Ingenuity’s interactive map of school arts offerings.

Ingenuity also issued a series of recommendations, starting with hiring more arts instructors. At a bare minimum, the report asks for at least one certified arts instructor per school; Rossero said he hoped the 84 additional arts teachers would ensure that all schools in Chicago had at least one arts teacher on staff but could not confirm whether that would be the case next fall. Other recommendations include increased training opportunities for principals and teachers; the creation of a system to measure arts instruction; and locating new public and private funding for the arts.

One key finding in the report is on the wide range in programs offered by arts partners that work in schools.  The majority of these programs are one-time field trips or performances that, “while valuable and may address an identified school need, signal little consistent or ongoing student access to partner programs,” according to the report.

Ingenuity points to art residency programs in schools as an alternative which provides “a deep arts learning opportunity” for students. Just over a quarter of schools reported having an art residency in 2012-13.

Sznewajs said outside arts partnerships make sense for schools in a city like Chicago, with its vast wealth of “cultural resources” that schools could tap into. He stressed that his group’s focus on schools partnering with outside arts organizations is in no ways meant to undermine the role of certified arts instructors in the classroom.

“If you want to grow the arts, it starts with having a certified arts instructor on staff. They’re the anchor of everything,” he said.

Still, the attention to partnerships has caused some concern among arts instructors in CPS. In late April, the CTU’s arts committee filed a grievance alleging that some schools were using outside arts partners to replace instruction by certified teachers, even though that instruction isn’t supposed to count toward the 120 minutes per week requirement.

John Perryman, who chairs the CTU arts committee, said some principals were leaving students alone with outside arts partners. CPS officials did not respond to questions about the grievance.

*This story was updated on July 10, 2014, to include a CPS-provided list of which schools will receive arts teachers next fall.

Categories: Urban School News

Top Dougco administrator hired as Jeffco chief academic officer

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 07/08/2014 - 19:11

Syna Morgan, chief system performance officer for the Douglas County Schools, has been hired as chief academic officer for the Jeffco school district.

Jeffco Public Schools announced the appointment Tuesday, a week after Dan McMinimee started work as that district’s superintendent. McMinimee was the assistant superintendent of secondary schools in Dougco before taking his new job.

In a statement, McMinimee said this of Morgan: “Her knowledge of curriculum, instruction and assessment is exceptional. She will lead our team forward in a positive and balanced way with a focus on student achievement and growth.”

In her Dougco job, Morgan was head of research, assessment and accountability for the district since August 2010. Prior to that she owned a local educational consulting firm and worked for the Nevada Department of Education. She was elementary teacher in Nevada from 1989 to 1996. She has a bachelor’s degree in education from Fort Lewis College and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University of Nevada-Reno.

Morgan was recently appointed to serve on the Standards and Assessments Task Force, a new study panel created by the legislature to review the state testing system.

McMinimee, hired by a new conservative majority on the Jeffco board, has sparked concerns among board critics that he will try to copy some of the controversial initiatives undertaken in Dougco. Learn more about the new superintendent’s first day in this Chalkbeat Colorado story and read what he has to say on key issues in this article.

In Jeffco, Morgan takes the position vacated by Heather Beck, who left the job last month to become a superintendent in Oregon.

Corrections in Morgan’s professional background were made on July 10.

Categories: Urban School News

Sen. Mike Johnston: Districts have “a lot of freedom” under SB191

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 07/08/2014 - 16:43

Sen. Mike Johnston has been at the forefront of reform efforts in the Colorado legislature since his appointment in 2009. His signature measure, the overhaul of the state’s teacher evaluation system that kicked into gear this year, has received mixed reviews, especially from rural districts.

Recently, Holyoke, a small district in northeastern Colorado, signaled its intentions to apply for a waiver under the 2008 innovation schools law that would free the district from a key portion of the evaluation law –  basing half a teacher’s evaluation on student academic growth as measured by state and local tests.

Chalkbeat spoke with Johnston by phone recently to discuss the Holyoke waiver and the implications of education reform for rural districts, as well as what reformers can learn from rural educators. 

(The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.)

Let’s start with the recent push from Holyoke to apply for innovation status. Speaking to Superintendent Bret Miles, I think their feeling on the test scores is there is already a high level of accountability for teachers. They release their state scores in the newspaper and they know exactly who is responsible for those test scores. Does that do the same thing in your mind as the state system?

The purpose of any good evaluation should be improvement, so giving people feedback they can use to get better. And our initial belief behind the design of Senate Bill 191 was that you want that evaluation to consist of two components. One is an agreed-upon set of quality standards about what effective teaching practices look like. And then a link to actual student outcomes so we know the work we are doing with adults is having an impact on the learning of students. The law as it exists already allows a great deal of flexibility about how one measures student growth measures.  So I don’t think we would want to depart from the notion that students’ actual improvement ought to be a significant part of what our work is focused on.

In the Kit Carson context, it was more about providing full autonomy to all the schools in a way that innovation schools have sought. That’s a pretty significant overhaul of how the district operated before. [The Kit Carson district in eastern Colorado received an innovation waiver from some SB 10-191 elements in 2011.]

When the original innovation bill was passed, it was before we had passed other state performance bills like 191. So it was somewhat silent on whether you could innovate out of other requirements. The Kit Carson example seemed to be in the spirit of both innovation and accountability because they wanted to give schools and districts more autonomy, which often meant more control for principals over budget and hiring and firing and program. If in fact that’s the case with the Holyoke proposal, I’d be interested to see it.

One issue I’ve heard about SB-191 is the question of how much time it takes to fill out the paperwork, struggles that come down to some pretty practical considerations. And in Holyoke, they felt that those actually took away from teachers’ time with students and principals’ time in the classroom.

I’d be curious to learn more about what that is. One of the changes that exists is that people should be evaluated every year, instead of every three years. I don’t think it’s unnecessary paperwork to say that a professional ought to get good feedback once a year on how their work is. I think that that seems to be meaningful interaction between supervisors and teachers.

If they’re talking about what the evaluation system is itself, they have plenty of room to innovate in terms of how they design or use an evaluation system, without adjusting the balance of student growth measures and teacher quality standards. So I think a lot of freedom is in place within the law. So I’d be very curious to know what is the paperwork burden that they see and how do we make sure that that aligns to actual student outcomes.

What feedback did you get this spring from districts? We’re now several months into SB-191 implementation.

The most feedback we got this spring was, “We need more resources to support implementation of this,” which is why we spent all of the last year working on the school finance issue. People said, “This is the right work. We think it’s important but we need additional resources to provide that support.”

So we talked a lot about how we want to provide dollars for professional development, we want to provide dollars for technology so they have resources to provide assessments. And they all very clearly said, “Don’t target any of those resources to specific needs like professional development or technology, but rather give them to us with flexibility and we the local districts will determine what the best way is to use those.” So that’s exactly what we did. We invested almost $450 million into K-12 this year. So now the really important thing is to see how exactly are we going to develop and support this implementation. What are districts doing with the resources that are effective and making an impact and what lessons can we learn to share statewide?

How do you prevent flexibility from turning into overwhelming complexity?

I think that’s why we tried to set some guardrails around some common forms of practice. For instance, that’s why we’ve had educators work over the past two years to build the common evaluation rubric. I think we prevented districts from feeling like they have to reinvent their evaluation system on their own, if they don’t have the time or people to do it, and so there would be some commonalities. How you measure growth is up to you, but the fact that we have a shared commitment that growth is 50 percent of the evaluation is one of the things that keeps the statewide system common. I think the same fact that all the evaluation systems will roll up to the same basic effectiveness measures means we can start the process a little bit of making sure there’s some common and consistent feedback for educators and common language around what success looks like across the state, while still allowing for local flexibility.

I think that is one of the key challenges of statewide action is how to both preserve local flexibility and maintain some sense of statewide coherence.

It seems to me like you could have districts doing so many different things and having to come up with so many different solutions that the question becomes how much of a value is this for districts and how much of this is truly a change.

The nice thing about local control, like federalism in our federal system, is you’ll have different districts who’ll find different ways to revise and innovate. That means we’ll really learn from some innovative practices we hadn’t anticipated before. I think that helps the state grow strong. I don’t think we ever presumed the state was going to have one hard and fast best answer and everyone else was going to have to comply with it. We built the system with  a common set of outcomes and a common set of standards, but with flexibility for districts to implement with their needs the best. The needs are so different from an 80,000-student urban district to a 120-student rural district. You have to allow for some flexibility.

I think the question for a lot of folks in rural areas is, can you even ask the same thing? Can you even ask for an evaluation system that goes statewide?

Well, I think you have to ask the question. Can you even ask for rural teachers to be evaluated? I think you can say yes. Can you even ask for rural students to make growth every year? I think you can say yes. I’ve never talked to a rural educator who said their students couldn’t do that. I’ve never heard someone say I think we can’t expect our students to make progress each year or I don’t think we should give our teachers meaningful feedback each year. I’ve never heard them say that. I’ve never heard the argument that we should abandon the basic value that all students should be expected to grow and professionals are entitled to good feedback.

I think one of the questions is not whether this work is hard but whether this work is useful. I think if we are building a system that gives educators really good feedback and helps them improve their practice, gives really strong support to kids and helps them learn, then I think it’s worth doing. And I think that becomes the most important question now.

What kind of supports can the state provide to help rural districts recruit teachers?

One of the biggest challenges we find in retaining staff in rural districts is compensation. This is why when you look at my efforts on the school finance reform two years ago on Senate Bill 213, Amendment 66, we tried to change the measures on the school funding formula that really disproportionately hurt rural districts and made it much harder to get competitive salaries in those districts. I think we need to find ways to attract and incentivize teachers to stay in rural districts. And I think that’s one ongoing challenge we’re going to have to work on.

What about changes to licensure?

We’ve worked on it some. We’ve heard a lot from rural districts who’ve said, “We want more flexibility in being able to choose the folks that we think are best and we can train to support our needs.” I think that’s an issue that still remains. We have to figure out how to provide more opportunities to recruit and hire high quality staff for some of the tougher to serve regions of the state. I think they’re going to need some more tools in the toolbox than they have now.

What do you think larger districts can learn from smaller districts?

I think that smaller districts have a tremendous sense of intimacy and sense of teamwork that comes from the adults in the community because they all know each other so well and they all work well together.

No kid is a number. Every student is not just a name, but is a name with history, with brothers and sisters and cousins and parents and grandparents that they know. I think there’s a real sense of teamwork and collaboration in rural districts. Not that you don’t find that in urban districts, but it’s just not as familiar. I think that when you talk to career educators who’ve worked in rural districts, they’ll say they’d never do it anyplace else because it’s everyone at the grocery store they know and then everyone at the football team that they know. That sense of community is really, really powerful. What you find is a lot of urban schools are trying to recreate structures that make the community come closer, that really wonderful sense of community that a lot of rural parts of Colorado have.

What about innovation? Do you think small districts are able to be more nimble or are they going to run into resource issues?

Some of our rural districts are some of our most innovative. Sometimes they’ve had to be by necessity because they didn’t have the resources or they didn’t have the people and so you don’t find a lot of urban districts in which the principal is also the bus driver or the custodian. I remember one district in particular where we were coming to do an event. All the bleachers and all the setup for that was all done by the high school students because they had practice right afterwards and they didn’t have paid staff to set up and break down the gym. So they came in and got the whole thing set up and got ready to go.

There’s just a sense of all hands on deck and we’ll figure out what we need to get done and do it, instead of saying there’s going to be a set procedure or policy or process for everything that’s done. There’s going to be more of a sense of teamwork and innovation. I think some of our rural districts will probably come up with some of our best innovations on all of these.

Was there anything else you wanted to talk about?

An issue I wanted to raise that I’ve talked to a bunch of rural educators about, what I’ll continue to focus on, is they’ll say, “We think early literacy is important. We think evaluations are important. We think college readiness is important. The problem is we have all these other things on our plate, that we’re asked to do five or 10 or 15 years ago that aren’t as important as these things.”

We pushed them on this and said, “Well, what would go?” They said, “Well, it’s not that we think we should stop doing early literacy support or stop doing teacher evaluations. It’s that there are other things that take up hours in the day that aren’t so useful and aren’t so directly linked to student outcomes.”

So one of the things I’ve been asking people is what would put on the “stop doing” list. I think that there’s increasing sense that standards and evaluations and outcomes are all important. But when there are reports that are taking up a lot of your time and energy that don’t have a direct link to student outcomes that we are asking you to do because of legislation a long time ago, I think we should take a look at what some of those things are and what are some things we can take off the list.

So I am in full support of saying, can we simplify the work and let educators get back to the core work that draws them to schools?

I think the core work that draws us to schools are finding ways to support students to improve their learning and finding ways to support adults to support their practice. That’s what this system focuses on so I don’t think we should take our focus off of that. I think we should see if there are other parts of the system that are more distracting and more disconnected from actual student learning that we should take off the plate. I think that should be part of the conversation, absolutely.

Is there any area that comes to mind specifically, that you are potentially looking at?

I’m just asking every superintendent, principal, educator that I meet to make that list for me. They’ve all said they’re going to do it and going to send it to me so we can start building our own list of things that are burdensome and not linked to impact.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Final budget for Montezuma-Cortez includes more spending

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 07/08/2014 - 10:02

Teacher talk

The U.S. Department of Education kicked off a push to get more experienced teachers in classrooms with low-income and minority students. So what does that mean for Colorado? ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Schools (not) out for the summer

First through fifth graders in Pueblo are wrapping up summer school and it was a big hit for some. ( Chieftain )

But a closer look at summer school education revealed a lack of information across the country and one big question: what, exactly, is summer school? ( NPR via KUNC )

Simple fixes

A Colorado program that provides contraceptives to low-income women contributed to a large drop in teen pregnancy -- and drew national attention. ( Vox )

By the numbers

Montezuma-Cortez's school board approved the budget for the next year, which includes a 4 percent increase in spending over last year. ( Cortez Journal )

A change in how funding is disbursed has opened up more opportunities for extracurriculars in Routt County. ( Steamboat Today )

On fire

An arson attempt at Boulder middle school resulted in $500 worth of damages. ( Daily Camera )

Categories: Urban School News

Feds push to get experienced teachers in low-performing schools

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 07/07/2014 - 18:30

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has some updated marching orders on how to ensure all students have effective teachers – orders that could require action from state departments of education, including Colorado.

Duncan unveiled the “Excellent Educators for All Initiative” Monday with a letter to chief state school officers, a White House news conference, a roundtable discussion with teachers and principals and a conference call with reporters.

In Colorado, 5 percent of all students were enrolled in schools with 20 percent or more first-year teachers in 2011-12, compared to a 4 percent rate nationwide. Colorado also had higher percentages of black and Hispanic students enrolled in such schools, according to a DOE “Data Snapshot – Teacher Equity” document released in March.

While lack of educator experience isn’t necessarily equivalent to low quality of teaching, concentrations of new teachers in low-performing schools has been a concern for policymakers for some time. Discussion of equity also includes placement of highly effective teachers in such schools, as well as teachers who have appropriate subject-matter expertise.

In unveiling the latest effort, Duncan said, “All children are entitled to a high-quality education regardless of their race, zip code or family income. It is critically important that we provide teachers and principals the support they need to help students reach their full potential. Despite the excellent work and deep commitment of our nation’s teachers and principals, systemic inequities exist that shortchange students in high-poverty, high-minority schools across our country. We have to do better.”

The new federal initiative has three elements:

  • States are requested to analyze their data and consult with teachers, principals, districts, parents and community groups to create locally developed educator equity plans. States have to report by April 2015. An earlier set of such plans were required by the federal government in 2006.
  • A $4.2 million program of federal assistance to help districts implement their plans.
  • Publication of “educator equity profiles” for each state by DOE this fall.

The problem has been a topic of discussion in Colorado for several years, dating back to a 2006 report titled “Shining the Light – The State of Teaching in Colorado.” (See text of report here.)

But the issue hasn’t been the focus of major legislative or policy initiatives. State reform efforts have been focused on implementation of new standards, rollout of the new educator evaluation system and improvements in early literacy, all things that districts had to juggle for the first time in the school year that just ended.

Do your homework

In a statement Monday afternoon, the Colorado Department of Education noted, “Even before today’s announcement by the U.S. secretary of education, Colorado has been working with each district with high numbers of minority and poverty students and a high percentage of novice teachers to address any inequitable distribution of teachers through its state improvement plan.” (Districts and schools have to file improvement plans as part of the annual accreditation and rating process.)

CDE has developed a data tool to help districts analyze staffing patterns and “identify equity staffing between schools,” according to Janelle Asmus, CDE chief communications officer. (See the tool here. Use the links on the right of the page to search any school district.)

The CDE statement sounded a cautionary note about the initiative, saying, “While Colorado has been working with districts and schools on these issues, the commissioner of education is extremely wary of any additional burdens that may be placed on districts which are already stretched beyond their means.”

The DOE collects some data about students and novice teachers in the civil rights information it compiles. Here are U.S. and Colorado figures from the Data Snapshot – Teacher Equity report, which covers the 2011-12 school year.

Nation

  • 4 percent of all students were enrolled in schools with 20 percent of more first-year teachers
  • 1 percent of white students
  • 4 percent of black students
  • 3 percent of Hispanic students

Colorado

  • 5 percent of all students were enrolled in schools with 20 percent of more first-year teachers
  • 4 percent of white students
  • 7 percent of black students
  • 8 percent of Hispanic students

Last year the DOE considered tying state action on teacher equity to renewal of NCLB waivers but backed off the idea. (Colorado’s waiver was renewed last week – see story.)

Leaders of the nation’s two largest teachers unions were briefed on the plan Monday and were generally supportive, if cautious.

“The Excellent Educators for All project, with its goal of attracting, retaining and supporting good teachers for all of America’s children, especially those in the highest-need schools, is necessary and important—but the actual work of achieving a comprehensive solution to inequity is far from easy,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT.

Dennis Van Roekel, outgoing president of the National Education Association, said. “We urge the Department of Education and the Obama administration to take a comprehensive approach to equity that includes access to high quality pre-school and early learning opportunities and access to high quality, rigorous curriculum, adequate facilities and other learning conditions in schools and attention to out-of-school needs so we are educating the whole child.”

Categories: Urban School News

Take 5: Victims of violence, “transparency” stats, Ventra misstep

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 07/07/2014 - 11:18

Connecting CPS to violence
Apparently hoping to impress U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Mayor Rahm Emanuel last week announced that 49 fewer CPS students were shot and 12 percent fewer were victims of homicide. Up until the announcement, Chicago media had veered away from the previous common practice of identifying every young person killed by whether they went to Chicago Public Schools, a connection that led some folks to observe that the connection made it appear as though CPS were somehow responsible for the violence.

With Emanuel making the connection again, the media followed suit. The Chicago Sun Times headlined a weekend story “3 CPS students accused of robbing, raping girl, 16, on the South Side.”

But take note: Chicago police over the weekend police shot five people, including a 14-year-old boy and a 16-year-old boy. Neither Emanuel, nor the media, mentioned whether the two young victims were CPS students.

 Along the same lines…
As Emanuel announced the “safest year since the city began tracking student safety data,” another “good news” statistic emerged: A drop in expulsions of 1300 students over the last three years. That didn’t sound right, as CPS typically expels only a few hundred students a year. Now CPS, which had repeated the number in its own documents, says that what the mayor meant to say is that expulsion referrals are down. But what does the decline mean? Not much, since most students never make it to hearings and even fewer are expelled.

A good high school…?
…. Or maybe just a high school that attracts top students. In a short piece for The Chicago Reader, Steve Bogira makes the point that all the schools highly ranked by U.S. News and World Report are those that enroll high-achieving students--either through testing or by virtue of being located in a wealthy suburb. The two highest ranked Chicago high schools are Northside and Payton.

In Chicago, the path to these and other selective enrollment high schools starts well before eighth grade. A 2012 Catalyst Chicago analysis found that children living in high-income census tracts were four times more likely to take the test for gifted and classical schools than children in low-income areas—even though research has found that intellectually gifted children are no more likely to be rich than poor. By the time students go to high school, more lower-income students apply for selective schools—and there are more seats available—but the disparity continues: 31 of 77 community areas with low application and acceptance rates for selective enrollment elementary schools continued to have low rates for high schools.

Like pulling teeth…
Getting information out of CPS isn’t always easy. We here at Catalyst -- as well as other reporters in Chicago -- can attest to that, anecdotally. Now there’s official proof from the Illinois Office of the Attorney General.

The IAG’s public access counselor reviews complaints by citizens and reporters that a public body has violated the Freedom of Information or Open Meetings acts. As of late June, Chicago Public Schools ranked fourth among all public bodies for which the IAG received complaints—higher than last year, when CPS finished in fifth place.

So far this year, there have been 43 requests for review on CPS, including one from Catalyst that was eventually closed out when the district turned over school-level data on absences and truancy--more than two months after the initial request was made.

Top of the list: The Illinois Department of Corrections, which so far this year has received 246 requests for review (including hundreds from prisoners), followed by the Chicago Police Department (178) and the Illinois State Police (115).

No other school districts were in the top 10, and neither was the Illinois State Board of Education. One educational institution did stand out though: Chicago State University, with 41 requests for review.

A costly “Oops” for students…
In the transition to the new Ventra cards, many young people participating in summer school or programs are being forced to pay full fares, WBEZ’s Linda Lutton reports. Reduced fare is 75 cents, compared to the full fare, which is $2.25. In the past, special summer reduced fare cards could be purchased for these students. Now, the student transit card ID number needs to be submitted to Ventra in order for the reduced fare to take affect.

One last note: Next school year all students, even rich kids, will get free lunch as CPS takes advantage of a federal program, WBEZ reports. Under the program, the feds reimburse based on the percentage of low-income students, not on the specific number of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch. By making lunch free for everyone, CPS doesn’t have to deal with all the collecting of loose change every day and the worry that a clerk’s hands might be a little sticky.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: NEA delegates want Duncan gone

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 07/07/2014 - 11:07

NEA in Denver

Outgoing union president Dennis van Roekel had a message for the thousands of gathered educators: Take charge of reforming schools. And he has some suggestions for how to do it, some of which Colorado is already pursuing. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

What We're Reading

Catch up on the top education stories we found surfing the Web over the last few days. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

R2T

Federal education dollars will continue to flow to Colorado after the U.S. Department of Education announced it has granted the state a one-year extension to its No Child Left Behind waiver. ( Chalklbeat Colorado )

Jeff Q&A

Dan McMinimee, Jeffco Public Schools’ new superintendent, sat down with Chalkbeat Colorado for a wide-ranging interview. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Enough of Arne

Delegates to the National Education Association's annual convention passed a motion calling for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to resign. ( EdWeek )

No Core

Why are more states backing off the Common Core standards? ( PBS Newshour )

Child abuse reporting

Few people who by law are supposed to report suspected child abuse — such as teachers, nurses, coaches and clergy members — ever face punishment for failing to report, a Denver Post review has found. And the punishment for failing to report can be as little as $50. ( Denver Post )

Commentary

Paul Lundeen, chair of the State Board of Education, argues that a new pilot program for use of Title I funds by an online school is an important step toward having funding follow students. ( Denver Post )

Categories: Urban School News

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