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Big bucks raised in campaign for Denver preschool tax

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 22:17

Well over a quarter of a million dollars has been raised by the campaign to pass an increase in the sales tax that supports Denver Preschool Program scholarships.

The $277,900 dwarfs the amounts raised by even the largest-contribution campaigns for school district tax increases – see this Chalkbeat Colorado story for details on those efforts.

The Denver campaign war chest also is reminiscent of the hefty amounts donated in recent elections to pro-administration Denver Public Schools board candidates and to the effort to pass a DPS bond issue in 2010.

The list of donors to Preschool Matters also includes a lot of familiar names – corporate, philanthropic and individual – from those prior donation lists and from a variety of education reform initiatives.

For instance, the Gary Community Investment Co. kicked in $100,000 to pass the proposal, which is measure 2A on Denver ballots. (See the chart to the right and below for a full list of donors who’ve given $5,000 or more to the effort.)

The campaign’s income is expected to grow. A fundraiser was held Wednesday evening at Denver’s latest hot public space, the Great Hall at Union Station. Suggested contributions ran from $100 for a “guest” to $5,000 for a “host.”

The amount raised by Preschool Matters is a fraction of the $1 million raised – and $992,355 spent – in 2006, when the tax was approved on the third try. For all that campaign effort, the measure passed with only 50.6 percent of the vote.

The campaign so far has spent $136,822, primarily on mailers and online ads, according to Lynea Hansen of Strategies 360, the political consulting firm that has handling the campaign and that has received the bulk of committee spending.

This year’s 2A proposes to increase and extend the sales tax that funds tuition credits for families participating in the program. The measure would increase the tax from .12 to .15 percent and extend it until 2026.

Since 2007, the program has provided about $55 million in tuition credits to 31,816 four-year-olds. The credit is determined by family need and the quality of the preschool provider. The average tuition credit during the 2013-14 school year was $290. The program also conducts quality reviews and professional development for its partnered-preschool providers.

Curious about who else has contributed – and who hasn’t – to Preschool Matters? Peruse the September, August and July lists of contributors.

Categories: Urban School News

Developers, contractors, teachers union big donors in district tax campaigns

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 17:18

Campaign committees supporting proposed school district tax increases around the state have raised nearly $340,000, according to reports filed with the secretary of state this week.

The biggest donors were construction companies, bond advisors, real estate developers and education unions, who contributed more than half the $338,888 given to campaign committees in 20 districts.

Some two-dozen districts are seeking about $1.5 billion in property tax increases for construction projects and increased operating funds. (Get full details in this Chalkbeat Colorado story.)

The biggest war chests have been raised by committees supporting multi-million bond issues in two rapidly growing districts, Falcon in El Paso County and Brighton in Adams County.

Significant sums also have been raised by committees backing tax proposals in the Adams 12-Five Star, Boulder Valley and Mapleton districts.

In Falcon, Citizens for District 49 has raised $85,000 and spent $62,130. About half the contributions – $40,000 – has come from an independent expenditure committee named the Committee for Colorado Education Reform. That group, in turn, has been funded by MREC Oakwood CO Ranch LLC, a partnership that is developing the Banning Lewis Ranch, a large development in the district.

The committee also has received $25,000 from Falcon Community Builders for Classrooms, a construction-industry related group, and $20,000 from Stifel Nicholaus, an investment banking company that works with school districts.

Falcon is seeking voter approval for a $107.4 million bond issue to build new schools.

In Brighton, the IAM27J committee has raised $66,668 and spent $50,173. Large contributions include $3,500 from the Brighton Education Association, $4,000 from JHL Constructors and $10,000 from Oakwood Homes. (Oakwood is a partner in the Banning Lewis Ranch development referenced above.)

The district is proposing a $148 million bond issue for new schools and other projects.

Residential development in the two districts has sparked significant enrollment growth. Falcon grew from 8,660 students in 2003 to 18,880 in 2013, rising from 19th to 14th on the list of districts as ranked by enrollment. Brighton ballooned from 8,265 to 16,698 students in the same period, rising from 21st to 16th.

Both districts have a mixed history of persuading voters to pay for new buildings to hold all those students. A $125 million Falcon bond issue failed in 2010, and the last bond to pass was $28 million in 2001.

Over the last 14 years Brighton has passed three bond issues totaling $167.4 million but lost three others totaling $241.5 million.

Fundraising in other districts

The third largest amount of money, $58,020, has been raised by Citizens for Adams 12 Schools, which is backing the district’s $220 million bond and $15 million override. The largest contributions include $20,000 from real estate company WS-ACB Development, $17,000 from Stifel Nicolaus, $10,000 from Adophson & Petersen construction company, $5,000 from the district classified employees association and $4,000 from the Colorado Education Association.

In addition to Adams 12 and Brighton, three other districts in western Adams County have tax measures on the ballot. (Get details on those and all district tax proposals in the spreadsheet at the bottom on this story.)

In Adams 14 the We Believe committee has raised $10,259 and spent $5,451. RBC Capital Markets gave $2,500.

In Mapleton the Yes for Mapleton group has raised $17,415 and spent $14,279. Major contributions include $10,000 from Mountain States Toyota, which is in the district, and a combined $4,500 from construction firm Neenan Co. and three executives.

There’s no campaign committee in Westminster, where the district is requesting a $20 million bond. (State laws bars districts from spending public money in support of ballot issues, so independent campaign committees are formed in some, but not all, districts.)

The Boulder Valley school district is proposing this year’s largest tax measure, a $576.4 million bond issue. District enrollment — 30,546 in 2013 — has grown only about 10 percent in the last decade. But district leaders say years of budget cuts and deferred maintenance require the large bond issue.

The Yes on 3A committee has raised $33,623, including donations of $4,000 from CEA, $2,000 each from two executives of Adolphson & Peterson and $1,500 from the Boulder Valley Education Association, along with a large number of smaller individual donations. The committee has spent $24,021.

Cheyenne Mountain is the only other district where a campaign committee has raised more than $10,000. All of that money has come from relatively small individual and business contributions.

Overall contributions to district campaigns fluctuate election-to-election depending mostly on how many big districts have measures on the ballot. In 2012, the most recent election with a large number of districts on the ballot, nearly $1 million had been raised by mid-October. Aurora, Cherry Creek, Denver and Jefferson County all had proposals before voters. There also were a large number of district ballot issues in 2011, but the only big district was Douglas County, and mid-October fundraising totaled only about $263,000.

The next reporting deadline is Oct. 31.

This spreadsheet includes information gathered by the Colorado School Finance Project as of Oct. 6.

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Categories: Urban School News

Northfield’s “IB for All” a dramatically new model for Denver high schools

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 16:58

On the surface, the new Northfield High School slated to open in Denver’s Stapleton neighborhood next year might seem as traditional as can be — a large, comprehensive high school drawing students from the surrounding neighborhood.

But the school’s new principal, Avi Tropper, also has an audacious and unusual ambition for the school: to prove that all students — no matter their prior academic history — can thrive under the demanding International Baccalaureate course of study that’s typically targeted only to high-achievers.

Many other high schools have “de-tracked,” meaning they’ve placed all students in higher-level courses instead of tracking them into classes of varying difficulty based on their past academic performance. A few have implemented “IB for all,” in which every student spends ninth and tenth grades in rigorous preparatory classes and then transitions into the IB Diploma Program as a junior.

But Northfield may be the first school in the country to try “IB for all” with so high a proportion of low-income students.

Tropper, 34, plans to recruit at least a third of his student body from the lower-income neighborhoods of Far Northeast Denver, and an estimated 40 to 50 percent of the school’s students will likely be from low-income families, as measured by eligibility for federally subsidized school lunches.

“What Avi is trying to do will be challenging, and to be blunt it should be,” said Kevin Welner, a professor of education policy at the University of Colorado in Boulder, who has studied de-tracking efforts nationwide. “It should be hard.”

But, said Welner, there may be a moral imperative to try.

“The reason we have so much tracking is that people say, ‘de-tracking looks too hard. I am not going de-track,’” Welner said. “But when you put kids in low track classes you give up on them.”

LEARN MORE:
Northfield High School Principal Avi Tropper will be holding a series of informational meetings for parents over the next several weeks, including one Thursday Oct. 16 in Stapleton. Here are the dates, times and locations.Visit Northfield High’s Facebook page

Denver has already seen its share of resistance to the idea of making selective academic programs more inclusive. Last year, the district signaled its intention to open its well-known, 30-year-old IB program at George Washington High School, to students in its general-track program who have historically been barred from taking the more demanding courses. The move drew fierce protests from some parents, who fear that opening the program to a broader pool of students will dilute its rigor. Changes take effect next school year.

But Tropper is confident that his model will work, and he bristles at the suggestion that a student body with more low-income kids will be tougher to get over a high bar.

“I don’t believe that free- and reduced-lunch status determines whether a student can learn,” Tropper said during a recent interview. “At some level I just don’t accept the question. Underlying the question is a question I have thought a lot about, which is when you implement a program that is rigorous and challenging school-wide, how do you support every single student through it?”

PHOTO: Alan GottliebAvi Tropper

The answer, Tropper said, is relatively straightforward. Design a system where teams of teachers work closely with the same small group of students over four years. Use proven, engaging curriculum at ninth and tenth grades that ties seamlessly into the 11th and 12th IB Diploma Program. Provide a variety of extra supports for struggling students. And, perhaps most important, focus as much on the psychological well-being of students as on academics.

“Developing the ‘whole person’ is “an important part of high school, of working with adolescents,” Tropper said. “It is a time of exploration, a time of self-definition, a time to figure out who am I, what do I want to do with my life, what do I value, what’s important? Sometimes schools don’t do a good job of working with students as they explore these questions. We are focused on that.”

Will all that be enough to make Northfield work for all students?

Perhaps, but if the school truly intends to work with students at widely varying levels of academic preparation, then Tropper is taking on a huge challenge, said Frederick M. Hess, resident scholar and director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington D.C.-based think-tank.

“If your reality is some kids doing math at a fifth- or sixth-grade level, and you are trying to run an IB program, it will take an enormous amount of energy to get those kids up to grade level, much less to an IB level,” Hess said. “That time and energy will come at expense of other kids, most likely the more prepared kids.”

Northfield will launch with some advantages, Hess said. First, the fact that the school will open with only ninth-graders makes it possible to establish a strong school culture with the founding class. Also, hiring Tropper a year before the school opens gives the principal a chance to plan, build a program, and recruit an aligned and fired-up teaching staff.

Given those advantages, Hess said, It seems likely Northfield will get off to a strong start.

Then, “as you add grades, add teachers, add kids, it just gets harder to keep the web as tightly wound,” he said. “It’s easy to imagine a story of one to two years of great success but then to see things starting to get more challenging.”

Despite Hess’ cautions, Tropper and his plans have fans among educators who have implemented “IB for all” in their schools.

“Avi’s is a wonderful experiment,”  said Carol Burris, who has gradually rolled out an “IB for all” program at South Side High School in Rockville Centre, N.Y. over the past several years.

Although her school has a much lower proportion of low-income students than Northfield — about 14 percent — Burris said the way Denver Public Schools and Tropper are thinking about the school’s student composition gives it a real shot at succeeding.

“His school has a nice natural alignment of an attendance area that is predominantly upper-middle income, with lower-income kids choicing in because they have bought into the challenge and want the challenge,” Burris said. “I am so excited for him. He can count on me and the few other pioneers of ‘IB for all’ to give him support.”

Eric Hieser, who has run the Sturgis Charter Public School in Hyannis, Mass. for 10 years, said one key to Northfield’s success will be in carefully defining what the principal, staff, and district consider success to be.

Hieser said his school (where fewer than 10 percent of students qualify for subsidized lunches) does not measure itself based on how many students pass IB exams or earn the prestigious IB diploma. Rather, he said, staff focuses on helping each student achieve at his or her highest potential. Passing IB exams and getting college credit is not nearly as important as challenging oneself and putting forth maximum effort, he said.

“You take IB (classes) so you can move on and be successful, develop analytical skills that prompt you to question everything,” he said. “If you hustle, you will be better served for having been in IB, whether you pass exams or not, than going through a 11th or 12th grade history class that has no accountability to it.”

Tropper plans to help develop these critical and analytical thinking skills in part by giving students a major say in how their school operates. Students will play key roles in designing many aspects of the school’s culture, including its dress code and discipline policies. He has enlisted the services of Project VOYCE, a Denver nonprofit, to train students in advocating for their own empowerment.

Empowering students comes with risks, but Tropper said the payoffs are potentially huge.

“Sometimes I get questions about this: ‘well, students might make mistakes.’ I like to point out that adult government makes plenty of mistakes as well,” he said. “What  happens in high school is there is a space and environment of support where yes, we might make some mistakes, but we can support each other and move beyond that. That  is critical to success for a high school.”

 

Categories: Urban School News

Jeffco interrupted: Who’s writing what you’re reading?

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 14:57

The first post on JeffCoSchoolBoardWatch.org, a website created to track the efforts of a new school board majority who many fear will lead to radical change in their school district, was uploaded nearly a year ago on a January evening.

It reads, in part, “Specifically, we are worried about the ideological direction that they may try to take the district.”

Since then, hundreds of blog updates, links, videos, and comments have been posted on that website and several others that have sprung up. These websites, mostly critical of the Jefferson County Board of Education and its new majority, have served as part watchdog, part organizing tool, and part rumor mill.

While the motives driving the websites and their creators are clear, the identities of the individuals behind the sites and their financial backers are often not.

What’s happening in Jeffco is a smaller example of the phenomenon that’s happened all over the world of on-the-ground activism being spread and aided by online tools like WordPress and Twitter.

During a week’s worth of protests last month, students and adults panned a controversial proposal that would review an advanced history class. At the height of the protests, a hashtag “#JeffcoSchoolBoardHistory” was trending nationwide.

CHALKBEAT EXPLAINS: Jeffco interrupted 

“Social media has definitely become a player in how news is reported, but in some cases it also has a role in how news happens,” said Gil Asakawa, manager of student media at the University of Colorado-Boulder and an expert on social media. “Social media, because it gathers together all these voices of like mind, it can actually facilitate an event, like a protest. It happened in Iran during the elections there four years ago, and it has happened pretty much anywhere there’s a big policy protest.”

Both journalists and consumers of online media need to be wary.

“The accuracy of stuff that is out there in social media, well, you have to take it with a little bit of a grain of salt because of how easy it is to say whatever you want,” he said. “It’s the responsibility of the consumer, public to question everything and decide what sources you can trust.”

With promise of more websites and advocacy organizations to come, Chalkbeat Colorado decided to take a look at the who’s who of the online players in the debate as it’s unfolding.

Support Jeffco Kids

Position: Anti-board majority
Founded: February 2014
Founded by: Jeffco parents Shawna Fritzler and Jonna Levine. Fritzler has held many voluntary positions in the district, including serving as chair of the Strategic Planning and Advisory Council. Levine previously served on the district’s budget development committee.
Claim to fame: Support Jeffco Kids has a large library of videos, produced by another organization called Transparency Jeffco, from previous board meetings. The videos capture on film some of the board’s most controversial movements, giving viewers a sense of the tense atmosphere at board meetings. But, viewers should be aware, the videos are edited and are sometimes accompanied by commentary.
FYI: Support Jeffco Kids is a social welfare nonprofit that claims tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(4) of the federal tax code. Unlike other nonprofits, these organizations are allowed to endorse candidates and donate to candidates.
Social media: The group has a Twitter handle, @supportJeffkids, and is on Facebook.

JeffcoTruth.org

Position: Anti-teachers union
Founded: September 2014
Founded by: Unknown
Claim to fame: JeffcoTruth launched during a week of student walkouts with two videos. The videos intend to blame the Jefferson County Education Association for the student walkouts. In one video, a compilation of student interviews, the organization tries to reclaim the narrative of the curriculum review committee by attempting to discredit the students’ motives and highlighting the school board’s duty to review curriculum. Like some of the Support Jeffco Kids videos, the JeffcoTruth reels have a clear agenda. Unlike the Support Jeffco Kids video, they have a killer soundtrack featuring the ominous attack-ad themed music.
FYI: Rumors have circled across Jefferson County about who exactly is behind the website. Some point to local conservatives. Others suggest out-of-state money is behind the effort.
Social media: The group has a Twitter handle, @JeffcoTruths, and is on Facebook.

Stand Up For All Students

Position: Anti-board majority
Founded: Spring 2014
Founded by: Jefferson County Education Association
Claim to fame: More than anything, Stand Up has been more of a social movement and brand than a just website. The organization has launched and maintained a successful hashtag on Twitter, #standup4kids,” and “IRL” will begin to sell T-shirts. Other organizations have adopted similar branding. Stand Up has also led the organizing behind three countywide protests, including two along Wadsworth Boulevard that stretches 30 miles.
FYI: Critics of the union claim that rather than basing their arguments on fact, they’re using their outsized might and “field-tested” talking points of secrecy, waste, and disrespect to win emotional support. A union spokesman told Chalkbeat the union hasn’t polled on any language.
Social media: No official Twitter of Facebook presence. Advocates are encouraged to tweet with the hashtag “#standup4kids.”

JeffCo School Board Watch

Position: Anti-board majority
Founded: January 2014
Founded by: Unknown
Claim to fame: No other website spooks supporters of the board majority like JCSBW, short for JeffCo School Board Watch. Some believe it’s backed by local Democrats. But sources close to the organization and those who claim to have interacted with the organization say that’s not true. Perhaps JCSBW’s signature post is this breakdown of all the elements of a recall effort.
FYI: If you’re looking for shortcuts to specific pages on the actual Jeffco Public Schools website, JSBW is a great place to start. It has links to meeting agendas, school ratings, and email addresses for board members.
Social media: The group has a Twitter handle, @JCSBW.

Other organizations and resources

Before there was a new board majority, there was already an active online ecosystem surrounding Jeffco Public Schools. Here is a look at a couple of additional players who have continued to play an active role as the politics have intensified.

Jeffco Students First

Founded in 2011, Jeffco Students First has been leading the charge for education reform ever since. In 2013, the nonprofit’s political arm Jeffco Students First Action supported the candidates who now make up the board majority and has continued to do so. Its website features talking points and blog posts that generally back up — and sometimes elaborates — the reasons board majority’s thinking. Jeffco Students First also distributes the Jeffco Observer, an education only publication. The organization has a Facebook page and Twitter handle, @JCStudentsFirst.

Jeffco PTA

This isn’t your mother’s PTA bake sale. One of the organizations most critical of the board majority has been the Jeffco Parents and Teachers Assocation. Led by Michele Patterson, the Jeffco PTA is a regular at board meetings and played a role in several of the countywide protests. When not acting like a watchdog, the organizations help recruit parents to volunteer on a number of school committees. It has a Facebook page and Twitter handle, @JeffcoPTA.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Father of Arapahoe High shooter breaks his silence

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 06:32

Decision time

One year after a proposed billion dollar tax hike to fund public schools was spiked at the ballot box, there are plenty of education related issues and races for voters to decide this Election Day. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Arapahoe High School shooting

The father of Arapahoe High School shooter Karl Pierson said he's trying to rationalize how his son, a former Boy Scout, could be a killer. ( Denver Post )

Road show

Have opinions about the state's testing diet? The appointed task force that is studying K-12 testing in Colorado is going on the road to gather public opinions about the issue. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Human Resources

For the second time since 2009, the Greeley school board has approved a contract its teachers union didn't. Teachers told the board morale is at an all time low. ( Greeley Tribune )

Some Douglas County parents are upset over a teacher's abrupt departure. They believe the exit has something to do with a larger problem. ( Douglas County News-Press )

Cleveland's chief communications officer is taking a job at Denver Public Schools. ( Cleveland.com )

Student enrollment is down in the Brush school district. If voters don't approve a local tax increase, the district will have to cut more than a half million dollars from its budget. ( Brush News Tribune )

Categories: Urban School News

Testing task force wants to hear what you think

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 13:23

The appointed task force that is studying K-12 testing in Colorado is going on the road to gather public opinions about the issue.

The series of roundtable discussions kicks off at 5:30 p.m. next Monday in the library of Denver’s North High School, 2690 N. Speer Blvd. It’s the only meeting scheduled in the metro area.

Some members of the task force will attend all the roundtables, and they’re interested in hearing comments on the elements of a statewide testing system, how to improve Colorado testing and about local district testing.

The 15-member Standards and Assessments Task Force was established by a 2014 law and is assigned to study the state’s testing system and develop recommendations for the 2015 legislative session. It has met three times, and the clock is ticking for the group, which for now has four more full meetings scheduled before the Jan. 31, 2015, deadline for a report and recommendations on what’s probably the most contentious issue in Colorado education today.

Seven other meetings are scheduled throughout the state from Oct. 22 to Nov. 13. Locations include Edwards, Colorado Springs, Loveland, Monte Vista, Grand Junction and Fort Collins. See the detailed list of times and locations here. The task force also is accepting public comment by email at 1202taskforcefeedback@gmail.com.

Learn more about the group in this recent Chalkbeat Colorado story, and get more information on the task force webpage.

Categories: Urban School News

An education voter’s guide to the 2014 election

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 12:32
The political scene for education

The results of Colorado’s 2014 elections could have important implications for education policy, even if education hasn’t necessarily been a high visibility issue in many campaigns.

At the state level, a shift in partisan control of the governor’s office or the legislature could mean changes in academic standards (including use of the Common Core State Standards), testing and more flexibility for local school districts. But how such changes might play out is difficult to predict, given the possibility of split partisan control of the governorship and the two houses of the General Assembly.

Education groups with money – campaign committees affiliated with the Colorado Education Association and Democrats for Education Reform – are putting their campaign contribution bets on Democrats. And the reform-oriented group Climb Higher Colorado recently announced availability of a “truth squad” – executives of the Colorado Children’s Campaign, Colorado Succeeds and Stand for Children – for comment on issues like Common Core and PARCC tests.

Voters statewide will decide if school districts will receive a modest amount of additional funding from expansion of casino gambling and if district-union negotiation sessions will be conducted in public. Schools districts around the state have proposed a record total amount of bond issues and property tax overrides, and Denver voters will decide on a tax increase for the Denver Preschool Program.

And several seats are up for election on Colorado’s only two elected statewide education bodies, the State Board of Education and the University of Colorado Board of Regents.

Top of the ticket

Education has not been a high-profile issue in the race between Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and GOP challenger Bob Beauprez.

Hickenlooper campaign materials don’t promote any new education initiatives but tout education measures he supported in recent legislative sessions, including early literacy, district financial transparency, increased funding for higher education and college scholarships, improved K-12 funding and streamlining of state early childhood programs. (See the campaign statement on education policy here.)

For the most part Beauprez’ education platform is short on details, supporting “high educational standards,” promising teachers “more flexibility” and less time spent on tests and support for school choice. Beauprez does criticize “one-size-fits-all federal approaches to education” and promises to take Colorado out of the Common Core State Standards – all standard GOP talking points these days. (See his full education statement here.)

Beauprez repeatedly has talked about the importance of early literacy, supporting many provisions already required by the READ Act, and promising his wife will launch a privately funded foundation to provide a new book every month to all Colorado children under age 5.

Education takes an even lower profile in Senate and congressional races.

Democratic Sen. Mark Udall’s website makes a brief reference to legislation on refinancing college debt, while GOP challenger Cory Gardner’s site mentions saving for college and his support of “efforts to entrust parents and educators with improving curriculum in their communities.”

In the hot 6th Congressional District race, Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff’s site says, “Schools aren’t factories, and students aren’t widgets. We will continue to lose effective teachers if we force them simply to teach to a test.” GOP Rep. Mike Coffman’s site makes no mention of education.

The legislature

The fight for legislative control is focused on the Senate, where Democrats currently have only an 18-17 majority. Ground zero is Jefferson County, where three Democratic incumbents are spending big to hold their seats. Among them are Andy Kerr, chair of the Senate Education Committee, and committee member Rachel Zenzinger.

Other Senate races feature two high-profile former Democratic House members, Mike Merrifield of Colorado Springs and Judy Solano in Adams County.

Democrats are expected to have an easier time retaining House control.

See the charts below for information about legislative races of particular interest to education. Hover over the name of a district to see a breakdown of registered voters by political party or over a candidate name to see more information about them.

State Senate

State House

State Board of Education

There are two contested races this year. In the 3rd District Republican incumbent Marcia Neal Neal is being challenged by Democrat Henry Roman, former Pueblo 60 superintendent. Democratic incumbent Jane Goff faces Republican Laura Boggs, a former Jeffco school board member, in the 7th District.

Democratic newcomer Valentina Flores is unopposed in the 1st District. In the 5th District GOP incumbent Paul Lundeen is running unopposed for the state House so will be replaced by a Republican appointee after the election.

» Learn more

Statewide ballot measures

Two of this year’s four statewide ballot measure involve education.

The most visible is Amendment 68, the constitutional amendment that would allow creation of a casino in Arapahoe County, with some of the revenues earmarked for per-pupil grants to school districts statewide. Voters have been barraged with a heavy schedule of TV ads both for and against the measure. Education groups are neutral or opposed to the measure, as is traditional with proposed “sin taxes” to fund schools.

» Learn more

Proposition 104 has had a much lower profile. Backed by the conservative Independence Institute, the measure would require collective bargaining sessions between school district and employee unions be held in public. It also would require that school board strategy sessions be open. Education unions and interest groups are opposed.

» Learn more

Local district ballot measures

It’s a record year for school district tax proposals – some two dozen districts are proposing a total of about $1.5 billion in bond issues and tax overrides just a year after voters statewide rejected a $1 billion income tax increase for K-12 funding.

Most of the money – about $1.1 billion – is being requested from voters in just two counties, Adams and Boulder. Five districts in western Adams all are on the Nov. 4 ballot, an apparently unprecedented event.

Despite a modest bump in school funding provided by the 2014 legislature, district leaders say that additional money is far from enough and that they have to ask voters for additional local revenues to cover building and program needs that can’t be put off.

» Learn more

Denver Preschool Program tax

In Denver voters will decide whether to increase and extend a sales tax that funds tuition credits for families participating in the Denver Preschool Program. The measure would increase the tax from .12 to .15 percent and extend it until 2026.

» Learn more

CU Board of Regents

Three seats on the nine-member board are being contested, and some observers think Democrats have a shot at gaining the majority on the board.

In the 6th District Democrat Naquetta Ricks and Republican John Carson are seeking the seat vacated by Republican Jim Geddes, who’s now on the Douglas County school board, where Carson formerly served. Ricks is outspending Carson, and Romanoff is given a chance at unseating Coffman in the same district.

In the 7th District, incumbent Democrat Irene Griego faces Libertarian Steve Golter in the 7th Congressional District. Both the 6th and 7th districts registration is evenly split among Democratic, Republican and unaffiliated voters.

In the traditionally Democratic 2nd District Democrat Linda Shoemaker, Republican Kim McGahey and Libertarian Daniel Ong are running.

» Learn more (Boulder Daily Camera)

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Last of Boulder’s education excise tax awarded

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 09:36

role model

A math teacher at Monument's Lewis Palmer High School was named Colorado's Teacher of the Year. ( Chalkbeat Colorado, Gazette )

the more you know

Here's a guide to all of the education issues you might encounter on the ballot when it arrives this week. ( CPR )

And advocates and critics lay out the pros and cons of a proposal to open Colorado's teacher contract negotiations. ( Steamboat Today )

new faces

Metro State, currently home to the state's largest teacher training program, named a dean of its new School of Education. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

all gone

Boulder has depleted its education excise tax fund, distributing the last of the money to three schools and four community groups for projects that advance school readiness, close the achievement gap for school-age children or provide interventions that reduce youth risk factors.. ( Daily Camera )

aggrieved

The Aspen Education Association filed a grievance with Aspen High School administrators over a lack of teacher evaluations completed in the past year; it follows the union's vote of no confidence in the school's principal. ( Aspen Daily News )

following through

A three-year, $600,000 grant will help the state's school districts track students who are applying for college financial aid, continuing a project that had run out of funding earlier this year. ( Denver Post )

School safety

The Denver Post editorial board asks why Littleton Public Schools officials ignored warning signs in the behavior of Arapahoe High School shooter Karl Pierson. ( Denver Post )

Categories: Urban School News

Metropolitan State University of Denver names founding dean of new ed school

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 16:27

The former director of one of the largest teacher-preparation colleges in the country has been hired to lead the new School of Education at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

Elizabeth Hinde, who previously was a faculty member at Arizona State University since 2004 and served as director of the Division of Teacher Preparation at the university’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College since 2011, will be the founding dean of the new school at Metro.

The school has previously offered education degree programs through the College of Professional Studies; those existing programs will now be offered by the School of Education. Metro’s current teacher program is the second largest in the state. Last year it enrolled nearly 2,000 students in various programs.

The new school was formed based on recommendations of a $1.88 million Title III federal grant Metro received in 2010. The new school is expected to focus on teachers’ educational effectiveness within multi-cultural, bilingual, and historically underserved populations.

“I became a teacher to make a positive difference in the lives of students and that continues to be my anchor today,” said Hinde in a statement. “With MSU Denver’s strong reputation for teacher preparation, I saw the potential to be able to do some remarkable things in how we shape and deliver education, with an institution that really values the role of teachers.”

Before joining Arizona State, Hinde was also an elementary social studies teacher for more than 20 years in Arizona, serving at-risk students.

Disclosure: Chalkbeat reporter Nic Garcia is an adjunct journalism instructor at Metro.

Categories: Urban School News

Lewis Palmer math instructor named teacher of year

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 16:17

Kathy Thirkell, a math teacher at Lewis Palmer High School in Monument, has been selected as the 2015 Colorado teacher of the year.

As is traditional, Thirkell learned of the honor during a surprise ceremony at a school assembly.

The teacher of the year is the state’s nominee for national teacher of the year and serves as something of a teacher ambassador to communities and organizations.

Thirkell has spent her entire career as Lewis-Palmer and was selected based on experience, passion and expertise from her 33 years as a math teacher, according to a Department of Education news release.

“If I need to find Kathy before school, it’s easy,” said Principal Sandi Brandl. “She’s in her classroom helping kids. Outside of school she is constantly working to improve her craft, from learning how to incorporate technology in the classroom to updating curriculum to meet the needs of her students.”

Learn more about the teacher of the year program here.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Arapahoe High School shooter left detailed diary where he plotted “revenge”

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 08:50

out of the mouths of babes

Jefferson County students flirted with an effort to recall three members of the county's school board. But their rally lacked the hundreds of students that previous walkouts had. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

The students said their effort is due in part to a lack of respect from the board's majority. Meanwhile, Jeffco school board President Ken Witt said the county needs to focus on boosting ACT scores. ( Denver Post, Fox 31, ABC 7 )

Arapahoe High School shooting

Littleton authorities closed their case on the Arapahoe High School shooting. The shooter's diary painted a picture of a "psychopath." ( Denver Post, ABC 7 )

Read portions of the shooter's diary here. ( Denver Post )

Several students who got away recounted the shooting for The Denver Post. ( Denver Post. )

Parental involvement in assessing threats — especially at school — has been crucial since the Columbine High School shooting of 1999. ( Denver Post )

Lunch time

With 211 charter schools in Colorado, including 13 new this year, there's a wide variety of meal models and menus in place. We took a look at some of the offerings. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

It's National School Lunch Week. Meet some of the ladies behind the school lunches St. Vrain Valley School District. ( Longmont Times-Call )

it seemed like a good idea at the time

Colorado Spring's largest school district will continue to proctor state tests. District 11 had wanted to opt-out. But the district's school board isn't conceding defeat. ( Colorado Springs Gazette )

investing early

Some Colorado Springs business and civic leaders are pushing for a greater focus on early education. ( Colorado Springs Gazette )

A helping hand

Fort Collins geometry students have helped design and construct a Habitat For Humanity home. ( Fort Collins Coloradoan )

Election 2014

School districts across the state this fall are asking voters for more tax dollars. But the funds that could be raised might just be a drop in the bucket. ( Denver Post )

Claiming a proposed state constitutional amendment would hurt public education and put an a burden on taxpayers, an Aurora Public Schools board member urges you to vote no on Amendment 68. ( Denver Post )

The Denver Post has endorsed Jane Goff and Henry Roman in their respective races for Colorado's school board. ( Denver Post )

12 years later ...

It's 2014 and all public education students are supposed to be proficient in English and math. But they aren't. So, what went wrong and where do we go from here? ( NPRed via KUNC )

Categories: Urban School News

Take 5: Looking back at LSCs, elected school board tussle, bullying lawsuit, Sharkey takes over CTU

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 08:05

Education Week marks the 25th anniversary of the first LSC election with an article that looks at where they are today. One big question the article asks is why the local school council concept hasn't spread to other cities, if they are so successful (as proponents argue). It also questions whether the experiment was uniquely "Chicago," while also pointing out that mayoral control diluted some of the power and enthusiasm around LSCs and that their most important power--choosing principals--has been limited by the district in recent years. Few people run or vote in council elections, the article notes, quoting a Catalyst article that found 86 LSCs had no candidates and that the filing deadline had to be extended.

Currently, 40 percent of CPS schools are on probation and therefore the LSCs only serve in advisory roles.  In addition, more than 100 schools are charters or contract schools and are not required to have any parent or community  boards.  

Chester E. Finn, Jr., the president emeritus of the Washington-based Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education think tank, says LSCs are too locally focused to implement big reforms that really improve schools. However, the now-defunct Designs for Change found that schools with vigorous LSCs were more likely to improve while the Consortium on Chicago School Research found that a key component of a school improvement is strong community and parent involvement.

2. Another vote … Meeting at a school in Austin and then fanning out throughout the neighborhood, a coalition of parents and teachers on Monday are officially launching the push to get a referendum on an elected school board to voters on the ballot across the city. The coalition will meet at McNair Elementary School to start gathering petitions.

Though some precincts have had the question on the ballot in the past, the effort this year is to get it on in all 50 wards. Activists say part of their strategy is also to make the elected school board question a "litmus test" for incumbent aldemen and their challengers.

Collecting signatures is one of three ways to get a referendum to voters. The City Council could also place it on the ballot, but last week, an effort by a progressive group of aldermen was thwarted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his allies.

Ald. Bob Fioretti, who is running for mayor, says the Rules Committee last week violated state law by hastily approving two other proposed referenda that were never posted on the public agenda in order to avoid considering the school board item, according to DNAinfo . Fioretti says he’s filed a complaint with the state’s Attorney General to nullify the committee action.

3. Bully lawsuit.... The mother of a 13-year-old girl who committed suicide is suing CPS, according to DNAInfo. Last month, a CPS investigation found no "credible evidence" that McKenzie Philpots, a student at Pierce Elementary School, was bullied.  This finding stands in contrast to what her mother says and reportedly told the school before McKenzie killed herself. In addition, McKenzie talked about being bullied on social media.

This incredibly sad situation shines a light on the broader issue of how well CPS does in making sure staff know how to address bullying, especially in a big school system with few social workers or counselors who can focus on the social and emotional needs of students.

4. CTU without Karen... In a terse press conference on Thursday afternoon,  CTU's Vice President Jesse Sharkey announced that he will be taking over the reins of the union while President Karen Lewis deals with a  "serious health problem. " Such a role for Sharkey will not be new as he had been running the day-to-day operations as Lewis considered a run for mayor.  Sharkey said he had no news about whether Lewis is still contemplating a run for mayor.  

Even the Chicago Tribune editorial writers say they have been wondering if she will still run "though it is the wrong question for this moment. " While it seems hard to imagine that Lewis could muster a run in these circumstances,  the same Tribune editorial notes that Lewis promised her union would deliver a vigorous campaign against Mayor Rahm Emanuel: On a scale of 1 to 10, she said, a 15. The question however is who would the union get behind if not Lewis. Perhaps Fioretti?

5. Preparing teachers for the job … As the U.S. Department of Education focuses on improving the quality of teacher training programs, it has set aside millions of dollars in grants to districts with teacher residency programs that pair new teachers with experienced ones. The New York Times featured one such program, run by the Aspire charter system in California and Memphis, that helps its residents master the “seemingly unexciting — but actually quite complex — task of managing a classroom full of children.” The article describes the model’s lengthy and intense mentorship as “one of a number of such programs emerging across the country...a radical departure from traditional teacher training, which tends to favor theory over practice.”

A strong teacher training program isn’t always enough to keep new teachers from leaving the field. Earlier this year, Catalyst Chicago looked into the high rates of turnover at turnaround schools, most of which are managed by the non-profit Academy for Urban School Leadership, which includes a highly regarded teacher residency component. Not all teachers at turnarounds were trained by AUSL, but many of them were. Catalyst found that more than half of teachers hired in the first year of a turnaround left by the third year, at 16 of the 17 schools that underwent a turnaround between 2007 and 2011.

Categories: Urban School News

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