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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

How Colorado stacks up on national union leader’s priorities

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 07/03/2014 - 18:08

On the eve of Independence Day and the election that will determine the leadership of the nation’s largest teachers union, the outgoing 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.

“We allowed the politicians to define the solution and their solution was No Child Left Behind,” Van Roekel said, referring to the 2001 law passed under former President George W. Bush which set out strict accountability for schools based on test scores.

Yesterday, Van Roekel and other union leaders kicked off an anti-testing campaign yesterday, after months of turmoil over the nationwide rollout of tests tied to the Common Core State Standards. Van Roekel predicted the entire system of standardized testing would crumble. And when that happens, Van Roekel said educators will have an opening to define the future of public education in the U.S.

“I figure there will be a vacuum, a void for one nanosecond,” Van Roekel said. And at that moment, he said, “we the educators must define the solution and we must lead.”

His declaration, during a lunch at the union’s national conference being held this week in Denver, received noisy support from the gathered educators, as did the statement that departing from the current system did not mean reverting to old ways. Van Roekel reeled off a list of fixes ranging from dollars for schools to early education which could define union priorities for the coming years.

“What he mentioned is either in line with what we are attempting to do or are ongoing conversations,” said Henry Roman, in an interview following the speech. Roman heads up the Denver teachers union.

So how does Colorado stack up against Van Roekel’s proposed initiatives? Well, it’s a mixed bag.

School readiness

Van Roekel’s first suggestion: early education for all.

No one doesn’t want their children to be prepared to enter school, Van Roekel said. “Why don’t we believe it’s important for other people’s children, for all children?” he said.

Colorado legislators, including many of those most supportive of education reform, have pushed for universal preschool and full-day kindergarten. Denver, in particular, has been at the forefront of providing access to all families, at affordable levels. And the efforts have received support both from reformers and the local teachers union.

“Kindergarten, who could say no to that?” said Roman. Denver leaders plan to go to voters this fall to ask for additional funds for the city’s preschool program.

Early childhood received a funding bump this year in the state education budget, although not as large as initially proposed.

Still, early education efforts haven’t been universally popular. In the state’s second largest district, Jeffco Public Schools, a new school board majority curtailed a program to expand full-day kindergarten.

More on Colorado’s early childhood education initiatives here.

Dollars for schools

Among the most popular suggestions Van Roekel listed was to bolster money for classrooms, not tests.

“Instead of spending billions on toxic tests, spend it on the learning conditions of students,” he said. “To those people who say learning conditions don’t make a difference, you’re just wrong.”

Recession-era cutbacks to school spending are still in place for Colorado, even as the state’s finances have improved. School finance proved to be the defining education issue of this year’s state legislative session, with school administrators, teachers, and boards of education across the state banding together to defend money for schools without strings attached. They got some of what they asked for, but many school leaders remained dissatisfied with the outcome and some districts still faced six-figure cuts to spending.

And a recent lawsuit suggests the fight isn’t over. A group of school districts and parents filed suit against the state to abolish the practices that maintain recession-era cuts. The lawsuit promises to fuel the fire in the fight over school finance for the coming year.

See more on Colorado’s school finance practices here.

Preparing the next crop of educators

His final proposal: raise the bar for entering the teacher profession, so every new teacher is “profession-ready” on day one.

“What kind of crazy world do we live in that we let in anybody?” Van Roekel said. In an indirect reference to a recent legal decision striking down California’s teacher tenure laws, Van Roekel said that it should be harder to become a teacher, rather than easier to fire one.

Teachers without licenses and without extensive preparation are placed in the highest-need schools, Van Roekel said. Some research suggest low-performing students are placed in the classrooms of inexperienced teachers more often than their higher performing peers.

The state department of education is likely to roll out an accountability system for teacher preparation programs, based on teacher performance, in the next couple years. But efforts to alter how teachers are licensed have stalled out. A committee charged with coming up with recommendations for potential legislation couldn’t come to agreement over whether to tie teacher licenses to the results of the state’s evaluation system.

Another sticking point? Whether to allow alternate licenses in hard to staff positions, especially in rural areas — a particular area of vitriol for Van Roekel, who said all teachers should have to clear a high bar to enter the profession.

For more on the laws governing the teaching practice in Colorado, see here.

Categories: Urban School News

What We’re Reading: Newark school chief gets new contract, same conflict

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 07/03/2014 - 17:42
  • Newark’s embattled superintendent could stay another three years but internal strife seems unlikely to die down. (PolitickerNJ)
  • Could the war over Common Core testing contracts take down the whole initiative? (Politico)
  • What’s right way to teach students how to read? A debate. (Room for Debate)
  • The problems with school discipline and mental health for students of color extend far beyond the classroom. (Colorlines)
  • In North Carolina, legislators are pushing out the Common Core, over the objections of the teachers’ union. (WFDD)
  • Beloved author Walter Dean Myers, who took on stories of adolescence that are rarely told, passed this week. (A.V. Club)
  • Longer school days haven’t gone over well with Washington D.C.’s teachers union. (Washington Post)
  • The national teachers union head and Los Angeles’ superintendent go head to head over Vergara on stage. (Atlantic)
  • What’s wrong — and what’s right — with a “need-to-know” list of facts on education reform. (Shanker blog)
  • A teacher reflects on what it takes to write good math problems. (Rational Expressions)
  • Even doctors and airplane pilots struggle their first year. Why should we expect anything different of rookie teachers? (Education Next)
  • There’s a new degree specifically for those who hope to open a charter school or redesign an existing school. (EdWeek)
  • Reading Rainbow is for getting kids to enjoy reading, not teaching them reading in the first place. (New Yorker)
Categories: Urban School News

Colorado gets one-year extension on federal policy waiver

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 07/03/2014 - 14:31

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

But in a letter to the Robert Hammond, Colorado’s education commissioner, the department noted it still has to sign-off on changes to Colorado’s school and district accountability system.

The department also said the waiver was contingent on the state working with the department to smooth out its teacher and principal evaluation tools. That’s because the Colorado General Assembly earlier this year passed two pieces of legislation that tweaks those two policy initiatives.

Colorado was one of the first states to receive a waiver after the Obama administration began using them to circumvent the federal education law, which Congress has not revised since it expired in 2010. The waivers let states maintain their federal funding even if they do not meet the law’s requirement that 100 percent of students pass state tests — as long as the states put policies in place that conform to the Obama administration’s priorities.

Those policies include adopting new college- or career-ready standards and aligned tests, developing teacher evaluations that include student growth data, and identifying and monitoring the bottom five percent of schools based on various data points.

But how those policies are adapted to local jurisdictions is broadly left to the states.

The Colorado Department of Education did not have a comment on the extension.

Other states that received a one-year extension today include Arkansas, Connecticut, Nevada, South Dakota and Virginia.

Categories: Urban School News

Early childhood quality rating system comes online

Catalyst Chicago - Thu, 07/03/2014 - 13:55

Need help finding a quality early learning provider for your child? This week, a new web site based off the state’s updated quality rating system came online to do just that.

ExceleRate Illinois, which replaces the former Quality Counts rating system, separates licensed early care and education programs into four categories, or “circles,”  that range in quality from merely licensed to bronze, silver and gold. The higher ratings indicate that programs are moving toward improvement, including trainings for staff and use of research-based curriculum that’s aligned with state guidelines on early learning.

“It’s about engaging people in continuous improvement and giving them a road map to get there, rather than being any kind of punitive system at all,” said Theresa Hawley, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development.

All licensed programs in the state are included in the system, although not all are required to participate in the process of trying to improve their quality ratings. However, there is a benefit to those programs that earn silver or gold ratings: higher payments for those that benefit from the state’s child care assistance program.

“We recognize that it’s more expensive to provide these services,” Hawley said.

The online rating database allows users to type in a city or zip code to find licensed care in specific geographic areas. Apart from the rating description, users can also see program hours, ages served, a map and contact information.

The goal is to help parents think about quality -- and not just location and cost- - when deciding on early childhood programs.

Rated programs include school-based preschool, Head Start and center-based Early Head Start, child care centers, and private licensed preschool programs. Hawley explained that not all ratings are yet in the system, including many of Chicago’s school-based programs. It could take another six months to a year for it to be a “solid database,” she said.

Next year, ExceleRate Illinois will also include ratings for licensed family child care homes; a quality rating system for that category is currently being developed.

The new criteria used to rate early childhood programs was developed through a 16-month process with stakeholders from across the state. (For more on the standards, see this presentation.)

The Illinois Network of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies administers the site, under the direction of the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development, the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Illinois State Board of Education. The state updated its quality rating system in response to receiving federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grants.

The ExceleRate Illinois site is separate from the City of Chicago’s own Early Learning site, which will be updated to include ExceleRate ratings.

Categories: Urban School News

Early childhood quality rating system comes online

Catalyst Chicago - Thu, 07/03/2014 - 13:55

Need help finding a quality early learning provider for your child? This week, a new web site based off the state’s updated quality rating system came online to do just that.

ExceleRate Illinois, which replaces the former Quality Counts rating system, separates licensed early care and education programs into four categories, or “circles,”  that range in quality from merely licensed to bronze, silver and gold. The higher ratings indicate that programs are moving toward improvement, including trainings for staff and use of research-based curriculum that’s aligned with state guidelines on early learning.

“It’s about engaging people in continuous improvement and giving them a road map to get there, rather than being any kind of punitive system at all,” said Theresa Hawley, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development.

All licensed programs in the state are included in the system, although not all are required to participate in the process of trying to improve their quality ratings. However, there is a benefit to those programs that earn silver or gold ratings: higher payments for those that benefit from the state’s child care assistance program.

“We recognize that it’s more expensive to provide these services,” Hawley said.

The online rating database allows users to type in a city or zip code to find licensed care in specific geographic areas. Apart from the rating description, users can also see program hours, ages served, a map and contact information.

The goal is to help parents think about quality -- and not just location and cost- - when deciding on early childhood programs.

Rated programs include school-based preschool, Head Start and center-based Early Head Start, child care centers, and private licensed preschool programs. Hawley explained that not all ratings are yet in the system, including many of Chicago’s school-based programs. It could take another six months to a year for it to be a “solid database,” she said.

Next year, ExceleRate Illinois will also include ratings for licensed family child care homes; a quality rating system for that category is currently being developed.

The new criteria used to rate early childhood programs was developed through a 16-month process with stakeholders from across the state. (For more on the standards, see this presentation.)

The Illinois Network of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies administers the site, under the direction of the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development, the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Illinois State Board of Education. The state updated its quality rating system in response to receiving federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grants.

The ExceleRate Illinois site is separate from the City of Chicago’s own Early Learning site, which will be updated to include ExceleRate ratings.

Categories: Urban School News

McMinimee on teacher evaluations, the Jeffco budget, and his role as peacemaker

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 07/03/2014 - 11:58

On Tuesday, we told you about how Dan McMinimee, Jeffco Public Schools’ new superintendent, introduced himself to district staff. Prior to the meeting, McMinimee sat down with Chalkbeat Colorado for a wide-ranging interview. Here are some highlights from our conversation:

First 100 days

McMinimee’s No. 1 goal during his first 100 days is high visibility. “I want people to feel I’m accessible,” he said. “My door is wide open. I want to meet with anyone.” Acknowledging his role as a chief peacemaking officer, he pledged to attend any meeting he’s invited to and will host anyone in his office who asks. He also said he wants to start putting together a coalition, or as he said, “setting a table,” of individuals from throughout the district and county to work on shared goals — especially around the Board of Education’s academic achievement goals, post secondary readiness and teacher effectiveness. “A lot of people want to be engaged in these conversations,” he said. “The challenge is how do we get people to move toward common goals.”

His predecessor

McMinimee confirmed he has been in communication with his predecessor, Cindy Stevenson, who left abruptly in February after she felt she could no longer work with a newly configured board. McMinimee called Stevenson a “respected educator” and characterized the conversations as productive. Stevenson offered her support to McMinimee through his transition, he said. “I appreciate it,” he said.

Lost time

McMinimee said he wants to move quickly to make up for any impact on the classroom the ongoing turmoil between between the board’s three-member conservative majority and certain portions of the community may have had. “The last six months some momentum may have been lost,” McMinimee said, quickly pointing out that “great” work has and continues to be done in Jeffco Public Schools.

Statewide education policy issues and Jeffco

As the superintendent of the state’s second largest school district (largest if you only count K-12 enrollment, as Jeffco officials point out), McMinimee will now have a very prominent role in helping shape statewide education policy. McMinimee said he plans on not only leveraging Jefferson County lawmakers but also his old Douglas County contacts.

He said the three biggest issues challenging school districts statewide are teacher evaluations, standardized testing and how the state funds its schools.

The challenge with teacher evaluations, McMinimee said, is how does a district evaluate a teacher fairly, consistently and within different contexts.

While teacher evaluations may be the most important conversation for those working within schools, state testing is the biggest conversation moving forward, McMinimee said. He said the state and its school districts need to strike a balance and noted that sometimes districts — and not the state — are the culprits behind excessive testing.

McMinimee also said he’s looking forward to working with other superintendents to find a better way to fund schools. He said the funding debate is bigger than just Jefferson County. “We have to look out for all of our students,” he said. “That’s the future of this state.”

Compensation

McMinimee’s salary, which makes him the highest paid CEO for any school district in Colorado, was hotly debated last month. McMinimee said time will tell if he’s worth it, but he hopes in five years peoplewill consider his total $280,000 compensation as a “bargain.”

Budget

Another contentious issue the Jeffco Board of Education took up last month was the district’s budget. In the end the board approved an $18.5 million placeholder for increases in compensation and directed an extra $5 million to charter schools. McMinimee said he was “very comfortable” with how the budget ended up. And he’s confident he can sit down with Jeffco staff to find the $5 million in cuts — if necessary — the district’s finance team is projecting in subsequent years.

Categories: Urban School News

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