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Comings & Goings: Goren

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

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

Categories: Urban School News

Comings & Goings: Goren, Russo

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

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

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

Categories: Urban School News

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

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

Out and About

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

tardy to the party

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

Policing the Schools

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

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

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

money matters

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

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

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

Healthy schools

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

What not to do

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

Ready for business

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

Bossy

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

RIP

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

Categories: Urban School News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Urban School News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Urban School News

Dozens gather in Denver to discuss opt-out strategy

EdNewsColorado - Sat, 03/29/2014 - 12:39

Opponents of high-stakes standardized tests are gathering en masse this weekend in Denver to develop their strategy.

Organized by Colorado-based nonprofit United Opt-Out, the event, which will feature keynote speakers from around the county and working groups, is billed as the first of its kind.

“If this works, we’ll take it on the road,” said Peggy Robertson, one of the organization’s leaders.

While a small number of parents have always opted their children out of state standardized tests — about 1 percent here according to the Colorado Department of Education — the movement appears to be gaining traction.

Last fall, the Douglas County Public Schools Board of Education hosted a series of town hall forums to discuss “testing madness.” The board later drafted legislation to allow whole school districts the ability opt-out of the state’s standardized tests. That legislation has since been amended to create a testing panel to investigate the amount and efficacy of the state’s testing requirements.

And this spring, while student began to take the TCAP portion of this year’s standardized tests, schools around the state wrestled with how to reconcile state law, which requires all students to be tested, and the parental rights that opponents of the test they believe they have to opt-out.

How many students have and will be opted-out of the state’s standardized tests this year, a measurement of how effective the grassroots argument has come, won’t be known until later this summer when results are released. But some districts estimated as much as 30 percent of students would be opted out, according to one state official.

Schools and districts who do not test at least 95 percent of their students are penalized by the state. The department uses the results from the tests to measure school effectiveness. And soon, teacher evaluations will also rely heavily on the results of these tests too.

Supporters believe the tests hold educators accountable.

“Testing is designed to help us know how students, the system and the schools are performing,” said Scott Laband, president of Colorado Succeeds, a nonprofit coalition of business leaders that support education reform. “They tell us where we stand today and what we need to improve on. We haven’t seen enough improvement [yet in our schools]. And the data shows us there is a need for continuous improvement.”

Chalkbeat reporter Nic Garcia is at the opt-out conference. Below are his live, unedited updates:

Three takeaways

By time the three-day United Opt-Out conference ended Sunday evening, pads of poster-sized paper had been filled and scribbled over with goals, priorities, platitudes, and action.

Leaders of the movement, several of them teachers, are now combing through everything and lending support where they can as they would to a student grappling with a difficult text or math equation.

The conference, in and of itself, was a big first step for the opt-out movement. Once a loose network of concerned teachers and parents connected by chatrooms and social media, it’s on its way to having clear(-ish) defined strategies and goals.

What specific actions the opt-out movement will take next are unknown. And whether those actions will have any impact on the lawmakers and decision-makers is even muddier.

In the meantime, here are Chalkbeat Colorado’s three big takeaways from the United Opt-Out Conference:

  • Passion isn’t a strategy — The question hanging over the three-day conference was how the grassroots movement could sustain itself. United Opt-Out, the organization behind the event, is run by a group of six volunteers who have full-time jobs, and organizers say there’s no clear funding mechanism. The aim of the conference was to develop a network and clear next steps that included action — not just more dialogue. But action, especially for novice activists, can be a daunting task. Leaders consistently reminded those new to organizing to keep it simple. How invested the rest of the movement is in creating change and whether they’ll heed the advice of their leaders remains to be seen.
  • Tangible alternatives that are scalable — Some leaders who have been part of the anti-testing movement for years (in some case decades) acknowledge there’s a need to come up with alternatives to the high-stakes tests and standardization they seek to undermine. The data garnered from the tests has proven, as one conference attendee put it, that schools can be “racist” and “classist.” One of the strongest arguments proponents of testing make is that the exams have served to expose the inequities that exist in an education system that often fails to educate low-income and at-risk students compared to their affluent peers. Whether the movement can come up with something that can satisfy a system that has become increasingly hungry for data and do a better job at providing equity for all students will be what turns a movement into a revolution.
  • Shades of beige — The answer, or at least part of the answer, to both aforementioned issues depends on the movements ability to reach out to communities of color, English language learners, and poor families. At one breakout session a facilitator asked for volunteers to discuss how the movement could recruit those populations. No one immediately volunteered. Those at-risk communities have reaped reward of better schools because of accountability-based reforms, supporters of standardized tests claim. The success of the opt-out movement will largely hinge on how the opt-out movement will present its argument to those communities. As organizer Peggy Robertson put it, networking with other communities across Colorado has been the organization’s biggest challenge.
  • In their own words



    Programing note

    1:01 p.m.: Most of the conference has taken a break for lunch. When they return at 1:30 p.m. the six working groups will present their work to the larger conference. They’ll also be discussing direct actions the group can take in Colorado. That portion of the conference is closed to media. However, we’ll be posting some video and takeaways later.

    Sunday morning breakout sessions PHOTO: Nicholas GarciaMelissa Clark, a Denver parent, discusses possible actions she can take to share information about the opt-out movement and how it relates to human rights. Clark was one of about 120 participants at a opt-out conference in Denver this weekend.

    11:26 a.m.: Many involved in the modern education reform movement like to say their work is the civil rights issues of the day. But for some at the opt-out conference, their work is a human rights issue.

    Civil rights are governed by lawmakers, while human rights are not, said Sam Anderson of New York. He works with the Coalition of Public Education.

    The working group on civil rights is working toward specific actions that can be taken in Denver. But there’s a lot of apprehension and fear, Anderson said.

    “I’m inspired, but overwhelmed,” said Denver parent Melissa Clark. “It’s huge. The [movement] is a lot bigger than I thought it was going to be.”

    The group agrees they need to build a counter narrative to the education reform movement they oppose. Can Clark design a pamphlet to distribute to her friends or other parents at her school? Can she canvas a neighborhood? Can she network with the media?

    Clark takes a deep breath and looks over her carefully-taken and detailed notes.

    Another person at the table mentions her moms’ group. Start there, she suggests.

    Clark nods and smiles. She can do that.

    “A lot of [my friends] are on the cusp of deciding what to do,” Clark said.

    The next action, Anderson and others from out of town suggest to Clark, only needs to be small and local.

    Sunday morning keynote

    10:25 a.m.: Angela Engel, one of the Colorado’s opt-out movement’s early leaders, evangelized for the crowd this morning. She linked the education reform movement, which puts a huge emphasis on standards, testing and accountability, to big tobacco and other propaganda campaigns throughout history. She recalled for the crowd how some doctors endorsed cigarettes even though they knew that smoking was harmful.

    The reformers’ claim to be doing their work to help disadvantaged children is a red herring, she said.

    “People don’t matter [to them],” she said. “The data matters. The power matters.”

    And their tactics aren’t working. She said there are more at-risk students and remediation rates are climbing in Colorado.

    She was blunt: “This is work difficult. But it’s difficult because it’s important.”

    The crowd, which is visibly smaller than yesterday, is now working through the final hours of the conference in small groups. They’ll be presenting their goals, actions and takeaways later this afternoon.

    Why some people support standardized tests

    9:49 a.m.: Leading up to this weekend’s conference, we asked the Colorado Children’s Campaign, one of Colorado’s largest education advocacy organizations to share their point-of-view. Here’s what they had to say regarding opting-out and standardized tests:

    The Colorado Children’s Campaign supports the rights of parents to choose what is best for their children, and also want to ensure students of every background have every chance to succeed in school.

    We support assessments that give us feedback on how our schools are performing for every child. Advocates have worked for a long time to ensure that all students, regardless of ability, race, ethnicity, income or any other background, are included in all aspects of the school—including assessments. Parents and taxpayers need a complete picture of how schools are performing and serving all students.

    History has shown us that without policies that explicitly ensure all students have access to the same high standards and opportunities to measure levels of understanding we will not have a fair and equitable education system. The same high standards should be set for every child, and parents and educators can ensure that children of all backgrounds have every chance to meet those standards with the appropriate curricula and adaptations for assessments needed for students with special needs or those learning English as a second language.

    We agree that it’s important to examine how much time students spend being assessed throughout the year. Formative and summative assessments both have distinct roles and provide valuable feedback to children, educators, parents and schools. Finding that balance as we move into a new system of high standards and aligned assessments should be a priority.

    Without question, families are right to require the district to prove their child’s data is secure. Districts that have piloted advanced testing and evaluation systems have ensured the implementation of these important advances have been overseen by advisory councils comprised of parents, teachers, principals, business and community leaders and experts. Why would we deny our children and our children’s educators the same useful technologies most of us rely on daily? We need to embrace the real reforms we say we want.

    Providing a high quality education for all of our kids is a big task. When we face challenging tasks in life, we take advantage of the incredible technology advances we have come to rely on. If we want a better education for all our kids, we have to start making the same choices to embrace change, instead of letting fear prevent us from moving forward.

    Fox coverage

    9:43 a.m.Here’s a report from KDVR’s Kent Erdahl on this weekend’s conference.

    Saturday afternoon keynote PHOTO: Nicholas GarciaOpt-out activist and professor Ricardo Rosa speaks to the United Opt Out conference in downtown Denver Saturday.

    5 p.m.: Keynote speaker Ricardo Rosa just finished and is taking questions from the audience. His speech touched on many of the regular themes heard among opt-outers.

    “Standardized testing has become morally obscene,” he said. “It needs to be interrupted.”

    However, as a person of color, his speech did bring a unique perspective, especially to the mostly white audience.

    He suggested the reform efforts often tied to standardized tests negatively impact poor students.

    The opt-out movement, he said, needs to reach out to parents of color. What’s more, he said, is the movement needs to go where those parents are.

    “You need to move in those spaces with them and be comfortable there,” he said.

    He also argued, answering a question from an audience member, that the movement should cross boundaries beyond just education.

    “We should be struggling against the prison industrial-complex and immigration [issues],” he said.

    The opt-out conference continues Sunday with a keynote from Angela Engel. In the afternoon, all six working groups will present to the rest of the conference. Our coverage will resume at about 9 a.m.

    Saturday afternoon breakout session

    4 p.m. Participants in the opt-out movement have many different reasons why they don’t like standardized tests. Some fear for their students’ data; others do not believe in the high-stakes approach. The list can go on and is very complex.

    What maybe longer and even more nuanced is what they want in place of the current standardized testing model. Whether they’ll be able to come to any consensus on an alternative to testing may be the ultimate assessment of the movement.

    A group of about 15 participants at the United Opt-Out conference in Denver filled sheets of poster-sized paper with priorities and alternatives to standardized testing. They did identify four priorities including: building out the movement, identifying partners and schools already within the system that could join the movement, dispelling myths of negative consequences for opting-out, and diversifying the movement.

    But the conversation, while passionate, sometimes lacked focus. Mini-debates on whether assessments were needed at all,  if portfolios were a plausible solution, and how to hold teachers and schools accountable, if at all, without high stakes broke out.

    One member of the group, Monty Neill, suggested there had to be some standard measurement to make sure schools, especially those who serve marginalized communities, are helping their students learn. But those measurements should be closer to the schools, he said.

    “I don’t think it’s simple, but networks of schools can do it,” he said. ”Societies can.”

    But Neill’s idea was a non-starter for several members of the group.

    “I don’t want tests,” Neill said. “I want information.”

    Recognizing the working group was too big to discuss all of the solutions they’d need to come up with the group decided to break into smaller groups of three or four people to discuss one of the identified priorities.

    PHOTO: Nicholas GarciaOpt-out activist and author Angela Engel discusses legislation options at the United Opt-Out Conference in Denver with Douglas County residents Tamil Coyle, center, and Laura Welch.

    2:25 p.m.: This year was the year of moms at the Colorado Capitol, according to Denver Post reporter Lynn Bartels.

    And if the moms at the United Opt Out Conference have anything to say about it, they’ll be back.

    Six moms gathered around a table at the Denver Athletic Club to discuss how they could help others like them work the back rooms at the Colorado General Assembly and other state legislatures.

    The working group, led by opt-out activist Angela Engel, decided they need to create a legislative guidebook, a how-to on everything from how to contact elected officials to mobilize testimony for a bill.

    Moms need to know how to “get a good bill sponsor, write legislation and bring together testimony,” Engel said.

    They also said model legislation on issues like parents’ rights and withdrawing from the Common Core State Standards, a set of national standards adopted by 45 states, was needed.

    Before leaving the table, Engel also suggested Colorado moms need more representation at the General Assembly.

    “There are future legislators here at this table,” she said. “If we’re looking for leadership — it’s us.”

    Saturday morning breakout session PHOTO: Nicholas Garcia Diane Anderson, a Denver Public Schools employee, takes notes while Kris Nielsen, a New Mexican author, leads a discussion on the influence of corporate reform on standardized testing.

    12:45 p.m. After Sahlberg’s keynote, participants at the United-Opt Out conference broke out into one of six working groups. One, titled “Corporate Ed Reform 101,” had participants from Ohio, New Mexico and Iowa. Denver parent Stacey Johnson also participated. The group suggested the opt-out movement needs an umbrella organization with a strong digital presence that smaller organizations, like SPEAK Cherry Creek, could refer too.

    “Everything needs to be in one place,” another parent said. “If information is hard to find, some parents will give up.”

    Being an opt-out parent can also be lonely, the working group agreed. Having a digital community parents can access for support would be beneficial.

    Most of the working groups have taken a break  for lunch. When they return, their task is to formulate goals and develop strategies.

    “We’ve never done this before,” said Carmen Scalfaro, a grad student from Cincinnati, Ohio. “Coming up with something new is hard to do.”

    Saturday morning keynote PHOTO: Nicholas GarciaFinnish educator Pasi Sahlberg speaks at the United Opt-Out conference in Denver.

    10:26 a.m.: Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg is speaking. His morning keynote was interrupted by a fire alarm.

    He told the audience the United States needs to let go of its global competition in education and focus nationally on equity for all of its students.

    He also suggested there should be more women lawmakers in the U.S. That played well with the moms.

    10:53 a.m. Sahlberg says data and tests not innately bad; for example, he supports the PISA tests, an international measure of how much students around the world know.

    11:05 a.m. Citing data from the PISA tests, Sahlberg says the U.S. is actually doing well and is close to the international average on achievement and equity. “It’s a good place to be,” given how complex the nation is, he said. But if the U.S. wants to improve on a global scale it needs to focus on closing the current achievement gap. The current strategy of raising standards and expectations, is backward, he said. That strategy will only widen the gap.

    11:13 a.m. Sahlberg suggests most U.S. policies are contrary to one another. His example goes like this: The U.S. wants schools to innovate, through programs such as the federal grant competition Race to the Top. But, he argued, standards kill creativity. And you can only have innovation if you have creativity and freedom. Freedom can only exist in a safe environment. And there is no safe environment in U.S. education policy because of high-stakes standardized tests.

    11:43 a.m. “That’s the hardest thing I’ve had to do,” said organizer Peggy Robertson cutting off Shalberg’s presentation. This afternoon, she said, working groups will be goal setting and developing action plans for teachers, parents, students and other interested parties. They’ll present plans tomorrow.

Categories: Urban School News

Cincinnati leaders explain "cradle to careers" educational initiative at Chicago forum

Catalyst Chicago - Fri, 03/28/2014 - 17:43

As part of the 2014 Chicago Policy Forum Series, Cincinnati's schools and community leaders discussed a unique and collaborative effort to improve educational outcomes in their city.

Education journalist and consultant Richard Lee Colvin moderated the forum on Cincinnati's Strive initiative. The main speakers were Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Mary Ronan, and United Way of Greater Cincinnati CEO Robert Relfsnyder.

Event co-organizers Catalyst Chicago and Business and Professional People for the Public Interest (BPI) -- with the help of audience members -- live-tweeted the March 28, 2014, event at the Union League Club of Chicago. The following is a Storified version of the tweets.

 

[<a href="//storify.com/CatalystChicago/cincinnati-leaders-talk-about-cradle-to-career-ini" target="_blank">View the story "Cincinnati leaders talk about "cradle to career" initiative" on Storify</a>]

 

The Chicago School Policy Forum Series is sponsored by the Spencer Foundation, McDougal Family Foundation, Oppenheimer Family Foundation and the Union League Club of Chicago.

Categories: Urban School News

Cincinnati leaders explain "cradle to careers" educational initiative at Chicago forum

Catalyst Chicago - Fri, 03/28/2014 - 17:43

As part of the 2014 Chicago Policy Forum Series, Cincinnati's schools and community leaders discussed a unique and collaborative effort to improve educational outcomes in their city.

Education journalist and consultant Richard Lee Colvin moderated the forum on Cincinnati's Strive initiative. The main speakers were Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Mary Ronan, and United Way of Greater Cincinnati CEO Robert Relfsnyder.

Event co-organizers Catalyst Chicago and Business and Professional People for the Public Interest (BPI) -- with the help of audience members -- live-tweeted the March 28, 2014, event at the Union League Club of Chicago. The following is a Storified version of the tweets.

 

[<a href="//storify.com/CatalystChicago/cincinnati-leaders-talk-about-cradle-to-career-ini" target="_blank">View the story "Cincinnati leaders talk about "cradle to career" initiative" on Storify</a>]

 

The Chicago School Policy Forum Series is sponsored by the Spencer Foundation, McDougal Family Foundation, Oppenheimer Family Foundation and the Union League Club of Chicago.

Categories: Urban School News

School suspensions, expulsions down but racial disparities still exist in Colorado schools

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 03/28/2014 - 15:58

Fewer Colorado students were suspended or expelled last year after school districts across the state abandoned zero-tolerance policies.

But schools are increasingly referring students of color to law enforcement officials, according to a statewide report released today by advocacy organization Padres & Jovenes Unidos.

The results of how schools manage discipline infractions in an era sans zero-tolerance policies is a “mixed bag,” said Ricardo Martinez, co-executive director of Padres.

But, he said, “the report shows we’re moving in the right direction.”

Prior to the fall of 2012, students would be automatically suspended or expelled for any number of infractions including vandalizing school property or shoving a classmate. But that changed after the Colorado General Assembly passed the Smart Schools Discipline Law that did away with all but one possible infraction — carrying a firearm onto a campus — that could lead to an automatic expulsion.

The law also provided training for school resource officers, established a data collection partnership between schools and law enforcement agencies, and encouraged districts to implement more peer mediation and restorative justice practices.

State Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton, called the legislation and its impact a model for the nation.

“The country has been watching us,” she said. “I’m ecstatic we’re already seeing positive results. But our work is not done. We need to ensure our children walk out with a diploma, not a criminal record.”

Earlier this year, the federal departments of education and justice released guidance to schools across the nation on how to break the so-called “school-to-prison” pipeline. Colorado laws were already in compliance.

However, Daniel Kim, director of youth organizing for Padres & Jovenes Unidos, said there is huge variability on how schools are applying their new policies across the state.

“A student’s educational opportunity still hinges on where they live,” he said.

The report found across Colorado expulsion rates dropped by 25 percent, suspension rates dropped by 10 percent and law enforcement referrals were down by 9 percent.

But law enforcement referrals for black and Native American students increased by 8 percent and 3 percent, respectively.

Kim said his organization would begin to break down the district level data published today and collect anecdotes from students, teachers and parents on what kind of policies are working — and which aren’t.

“We want to know if the culture is really changing,” he said. “Are teachers getting the support they need?”

According to a survey of Denver teachers last year, they aren’t. In fact, they said the new policies that are supposed to keep students in their seats learning are now leading to more distributions and less instructional time for their peers.

Martinez said he hopes schools can provide teachers with the resources they need to turn discipline infractions into teachable moments.

“The end goal is for a safe learning environment for every student,” he said. “There needs to be a really good reason to deprive a student of learning.”

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Springs concurrent enrollment is up, but still behind state average

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 03/28/2014 - 09:47

Testing madness

An amendment to Colorado's budget that would have end Colorado's participation in new PARCC tests was defeated Thursday. ( Chalkbeat Coloardo )

This weekend, parents from around Colorado and the nation will meet to discuss opt-out strategies. News partner KDVR looks at the movement and how some schools and the state is responding to the movement that appears to be gaining traction. ( KDVR Fox 31 )

Higher-ish education

More Colorado Springs students are taking advantage of concurrent enrollment. But the Pike Peak region's is still trailing the statewide average. ( Colorado Springs Gazette )

Two cents

Find a student's strength in writing — or any subject — could do more good than pointing out errors, writes a retired educator. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Meanwhile, this Jefferson County resident believes critics of the Jeffco board have it all wrong. And he's excited to see what the new majority can do. ( Burlington Record )

Job interview

Four finalists will visit the Estes Park School District next to week to interview for the top spot. And of course, they're all very excited. ( Trail Gazette )

Erasing hate

Colorado native and trailblazing Harlem Globetrotter Fatima "TNT" Maddox visited with Loveland's Van Buren Elementary School on Wednesday. She was there to encourage students to stop bullying. She'll return to the area on Saturday for another round of talks. ( Reporter Herald )

Cherry on Top

Cherry Creek High School is one of 12 schools nationwide to receive a Grammy Foundation Signature School grant. The Grammy Foundation's Signature Schools program was created in 1998 to recognize public high schools in the U.S. that are providing excellent music education for their students. ( Your Hub )

Overland High School students are getting an early start in a field that very few get to study: aviation. ( Aurora Sentinel )

Categories: Urban School News

In the News: Science museum expands STEM training

Catalyst Chicago - Fri, 03/28/2014 - 07:31

The Museum of Science and Industry is expanding efforts it has made in recent years to train middle-school teachers in science as part of a broader initiative to motivate students to choose careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields. Since 2006, 800 teachers, most of them from Chicago Public Schools, have taken science courses at the museum’s teacher professional development program. (Tribune)

CROWDING SHUTS DOWN PRE-K: Southport-area parents have lost a pre-K option for next year, as Chicago Public Schools ended Blaine Elementary's last tuition-based pre-K class due to the school's overcrowding. Blaine is at 138 percent capacity and has been trying to expand for two years. (DNAInfo)

IN THE NATION
TIME WASTED: Principals spend only a small fraction of their day on instruction-related duties, and new research suggests that some of that time may be wasted. (Education Week)

TOPS IN SEGREGATION: New York state has the most segregated public schools in the nation, with many black and Latino students attending schools with virtually no white classmates, according to a report released Wednesday. (Education Week)

ANOTHER KIND OF MADNESS: In the middle of college basketball's March Madness, Jalen Rose, former NBA player and charter school founder pens an editorial in support of "more school choice," what he calls a "remedy for educational madness." (RedefinED.com)

CHARTER CONVERSION BILL PASSES: The Kentucky Senate passed a bill that would allow persistently low-performing schools to convert to charter schools. Currently, Kentucky gives consistently underperforming schools four options for improvement, ranging from re-staffing to closing down. (Associated Press)

Categories: Urban School News

Testing, K-12 funding roil House budget debate

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 03/27/2014 - 23:10

The hot-button issue of standardized testing finally got a House floor debate Thursday, but a proposal to cut the $16.8 million needed to pay for new Common Core-aligned tests was defeated.

That proposal was one of 45 proposed amendments to House Bill 14-1336, the 2014-15 state budget that was up for preliminary consideration in the House Thursday. (Not all the amendments were actually offered.)

The annual budget debate is a ritualized process that’s more about political symbolism than substance, given that minority party amendments – in this case from the Republicans – are almost always defeated. (And even majority party amendments that would make significant changes to the bill crafted by the Joint Budget Committee are discouraged.)

Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker

The testing amendment was proposed by Republican Rep. Chris Holbert of Parker, who’s a member of the House Education Committee. It would have removed the $16.8 million contained in HB 14-1336 for PARCC testing costs and diverted the money into reduction of what’s called the negative factor, the $1 billion K-12 funding shortfall that was created by budget cuts in recent years. The amendment would have had the effect of delaying for a year the 2015 rollout of the new CMAS tests, which include PARCC language arts and math tests that are aligned to the Common Core Standards.

Testing is an issue that’s been simmering below the surface of the 2014 legislative session. Despite growing backlash against testing among some parent groups, the issue so far hasn’t gotten beyond the committee level.

Senate Bill 14-136, a measure that would have delaying implementation of new academic standards (including the Common Core) and the PARCC online tests, was killed in the Senate Education Committee (see story).

House Bill 14-1202, which would have allowed school districts to opt out of statewide tests, was amended before it was even heard by the House Education Committee. It now just proposes a study of testing, and the bill is pending in the House Appropriations Committee.

So Holbert’s budget bill amendment managed to get the issue onto the House floor, where the discussion consumed 40 minutes.

Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock

Interestingly, much of the debate was between two Douglas County Republicans, Holbert and Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock.

Holbert made a spirited argument against education centralization, saying, “By voting no on this amendment you’re saying Washington, D.C., controls our schools. … We know what’s best for our kids. … Listen to your constituents.” He said the money would be better used to buy down the negative factor.

His argument was buttressed by Rep. Lori Saine, R-Firestone, who said, “The Common Core is something Colorado moms are rising up against.”

Murray responded with a emphatic defense of Colorado’s testing, accountability and educator evaluation systems.

Given the billions in state dollars that go to school districts, “We have to feel some responsibility for performance in those school districts,” she said, and accountability rests on test results.

“We should have standards, and they should be high standards,” she said, “Change is hard. … Is that what we want to do, give up on it because it’s hard?” (In a variety of debates this session Murray sometimes seems like the lone Republican who still stands squarely behind all the education reforms passed in the last six years.)

Holbert’s amendment was defeated on a voice vote.

At the end of evening, Holbert proposed his amendment again, as is allowed when the House is finishing preliminary consideration of a bill.

He, Murray and a few other members reprised the earlier debate for about 10 minutes.

“I want to get back to where we used to be in education,” Holbert said.

“Now is the time to step on the gas” of education reform, Murray said.

Holbert’s second attempt failed on a 25-39 recorded vote.

Republicans also proposed – and lost – five amendments that would have transferred various amounts of money from a variety of other state programs and used it to buy down the negative factor. And two amendments to put an extra $18 million into charter school facilities also were defeated.

Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland, later tried a do-over on a negative factor amendment, but that also failed.

Categories: Urban School News

Engaging the disengaged: strength-based teaching

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 03/27/2014 - 15:00

“…what would happen if teachers were as vigilant about looking for signs of brilliance as they are in finding the mistakes: What if teachers went on the hunt for strengths before spotting the deficiencies? What if we switched the deficiency model that too often reigns in classrooms to the asset model?” (Quate and McDermott, Clock Watchers, p. 111)

Nothing kills motivation quicker for students than having all of their errors pointed out, especially if they have worked hard to accomplish an assignment. After hearing about the wonderful things a student has done, they are often ready to work on a next step or goal.

When Alejandra came to me at the start of sixth grade her writing looked like this:

Alaska is so betaful but let me tell you how we got there. we are almost to canad. Just 1 more Houre. We just hite the border. We go thouth. And we got acrost the train track…

It took her one month to complete this bed to bed story that filled up seven pages of her rough draft booklet. A bed to bed story is one that tells all the events in a young child’s day or event from rising in the morning until retiring at night without regard to what might be interesting to an audience. These are often seen in very early writers but rarely in sixth graders. Her reading level placed her in my intervention class for extra help.

Alejandra fell in love with reading and writing that year; she spent numerous hours reading and writing both in school and at home. Exactly one year later, her writing looked like this:

I feel so angery. So alone. I can’t be hear. I have to get away. I can’t believe she’s gon. Maria was in her little cozy room crying as she wrote in her diary as a tear went down her check and plompled on to her paper leaving a clear mougy spot where she wrote. I have to get away. She close her diary and look out the window. The sun was still just above the tree tops as it slowly move an inch down. She grabed her diary, a jacket and a pichure of her mom. It was the only thing that survived the fire. (At this point in her story I interrupted and asked, “What fire.” She shushed me by stating, “Mrs. D, you will have to wait, I am foreshadowing.”) She could feel the memorie coming in like a tltle wave pushing her under. She started to sob more as she saw her mothers face the las time she was alive. She could hear her voice like it was yesterday.

Immediately after reading her draft in our revision group she looked up and said, “I don’t got no chapter titles yet.” Her best friend softly suggested, “Alejandra, if you write like this, you may no longer talk this way. It is, ‘I don’t have any chapter titles yet,’ not, ‘I don’t got.’”

This 47 page draft took her the same time to write as her seven page bed to bed story exactly one year earlier. Although Alejandra still needs much instruction in spelling, grammar and syntax, I believe the growth is apparent. Two things added to this growth: reading a vast amount of self chosen novels and having strengths pointed out in her writing during all conferences with me or another student. Early in the year, I had to search hard to find positives in her pieces, later it became hard to share all of the strengths in a timely manner.

Only after pointing out strengths in a student’s reading or writing should we move on to goals or next steps. We also must be very careful to work on one goal or area of weakness at a time. Overwhelming students with too many issues can be just as de-motivating as not noticing the positives. However, great teachers do move students forward with teaching points or goals; Alejandra took on many during our first year together.

“…we’re not talking about glossing over errors. Instead, we’re talking about having a healthy balance of praise and constructive criticism. ” (McDermott, Quate, Clock Watchers, p. 111)

I challenge you to see how many strengths you can notice in your students’ reading and writing in the next few weeks. Once again, we don’t have a moment to waste.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Federal aid programs to get a hard look

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 03/27/2014 - 09:04

wiggle room

A bill that would give districts one-time flexibility in how to use test scores in teacher evaluations cleared its first hurdle Wednesday, passing the Senate Education Committee. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Raising the grade

The health of Colorado's children have improved since last year, according the annual report card from the Colorado Health Institute. Last year, Colorado scored a D+ on children's health. This year, Colorado made a passing grade, receiving a C. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

But the Colorado Health Foundation said the state has a long way to go, especially in increasing physical education classes. ( CPR )

Pueblo politics

A Pueblo attorney has thrown his hat in the ring to become the district's new superintendent. The current superintendent is leaving at the end of the year. ( Chieftain )

But a former Pueblo school board president has withdrawn from the race to represent Pueblo in the House. ( Chieftain )

Taking on loans

The Senate will reexamine the 1965 bill authorizing federal aid for college tuition today. One senator says schools need to be held accountable for the aid they receive. ( NPR via KUNC )

Across the network

What makes a good school? Well, it's not necessarily what you might think. A look at Indianapolis' top performing schools and why they got that ranking. ( Chalkbeat Indiana )

Tennessee is looking at how to spend the last of its funds from its 2010 Race to the Top win. The funds will expire in July and many programs are facing cuts. ( Chalkbeat Tennessee )

New York state's schools are the most segregated in the nation, according to a report that looks at federal education data. It has raised the question of whether integration should be a goal of school systems. ( Chalkbeat New York )

Categories: Urban School News

In the News: CPS furniture proposal draws protesters

Catalyst Chicago - Thu, 03/27/2014 - 07:25

Parents, activists, teachers and administrators gathered outside Chicago Public Schools headquarters Wednesday morning to protest a proposal to spend nearly $10 million on new furniture as the district prepares to move to new offices. (Tribune)

BYRD-BENNETT'S ASSESSMENT ON CLOSINGS: Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett on Wednesday said that a district analysis of schools consolidated with the closed 47 elementary schools showed that incidents of misconduct were down in schools that took in children from closed schools in the second quarter of this year over last; grade point averages had risen; and the much-touted Safe Passage routes between the closed and new schools saw no major violent incidents while workers were at their posts. (Tribune)

SHOW OF SUPPORT: The Faculty Association of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools issued a statement to the Chicago Teachers Union in support of educators for families and teachers who opted out of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test in Chicago Public Schools. (Hyde Park Herald)

VICTORY FOR FOOTBALL PLAYERS: Northwestern University football players are employees of the school and are therefore entitled to a union election, Peter Sung Ohr, the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board, said in a ruling released Wednesday afternoon. (Tribune)

IN THE NATION
PRINCIPAL SUPPLY AND CAPACITY: Without a deeper bench of principals who specialize in overhauling chronically failing schools, the Obama administration's efforts to turn around low-performing schools will have a fleeting impact, city K-12 leaders told federal education officials Monday. Leaders in urban districts told those who wrote the rules for the school turnaround program that principal supply and capacity remain among the most pressing challenges for school districts. (Education Week)

UNFAIRNESS ALLEGED: The Bright Futures scholarship program in Florida is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights concerning allegations that its method of deciding who gets tuition assistance is unfair for minority groups. (Education Week)

Categories: Urban School News

Evaluation flexibility bill passes first test

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 03/26/2014 - 21:35

A measure that would give school districts one year of flexibility in use of student growth data to evaluate teachers was passed 4-2 Wednesday by the Senate Education Committee.

Supporters of the measure, which would apply to evaluations in the 2014-15 school year, say it’s necessary because of data gaps that will created by the transition to new state achievement tests. Those new tests will be given in the spring of 2015.

“It will be very hard for us to get reliable data in the early summer [of 2015] for evaluation purposes,” sponsor Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, told the committee.

The discussion over Senate Bill 14-165 provided a glimpse at how the political ground has started to shift since the evaluation law, Senate Bill 10-191, passed four years ago with strong Republican support. Two committee Republicans voted against the bill, and some GOP lawmakers this session have been critical of other elements of Colorado’s education reforms, especially statewide testing.

A key element of the SB 10-191 evaluation system requires that half of evaluations be based on student academic growth. (Growth is measured not just by student performance on statewide tests but also by results of classroom, school and district tests. Districts have wide latitude in choosing those tests. Fewer than a third of teachers in Colorado teach subjects covered by statewide exams.) The other half of evaluation is based on a supervisor’s rating of a teacher’s “professional practice.”

District evaluation systems that conform to state requirements were rolled out in every district this school year. But ineffective and partially effective evaluations received at the end of this year won’t count against teachers’ possible loss of non-probationary status.

Evaluation systems are supposed to be fully implemented in 2014-15 under SB 10-191, including the provision that two consecutive years of low evaluation ratings lead to loss of non-probationary status.

Under SB 14-165, schools still would be required to calculate student growth data for teachers. But individual districts could decide how much weight to assign to student growth. A district could keep the original 50-50 formula, or it could decide to base teacher evaluations solely on professional practice and assign no weight to student growth. That provision would be in effect for only a year, and low ratings, no matter how they’re derived, would count against loss of non-probationary status.

The problem is that results from the new 2015 CMAS tests (including the PARCC online tests) won’t be ready until late in the year or early in 2016. That’s because of the need to calibrate and norm the results. That’s too late to use in evaluations that are supposed to be done at the end of previous school year.

Second, because calculation of student academic growth requires at least two years of results, that can’t be done until after 2015-16 test results are available.

The data gap problem also affects the state’s district and school accountability system. A separate measure, House Bill 14-1182, addresses that problem and has passed both houses (see story).

Johnston said the bill also would give districts extra time to refine the student growth part of their evaluation systems. “We have some districts that are ready to go; we have some that are behind.”

Witness Jill Hawley, associate education commissioner, said, “It gives them time to continue practicing on the growth side.” (CDE doesn’t have a formal position on the bill.)

Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association, testified that the “overwhelming message” from CEA members “is that their districts are not ready to use student growth in teacher evaluations next year.”

Representatives of the Colorado Children’s Campaign, Democrats for Education Reform and the Colorado Association of School Boards also spoke in favor of the bill.

Natalie Adams, a Jefferson County parent activist, also supported the bill but had no praise for SB 10-191. “There has been a lot of very bad [education] legislation passed in Colorado, and this is one of the worst.”

Republican committee members also were critical.

Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, proposed an amendment that would have given school districts permanent flexibility in whether to use growth data in evaluations (thereby blowing up a key element of SB 10-191).

Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, liked that idea, saying, “This gets it back to local control … instead of us sitting in Denver deciding what needs to be done.”

But Aurora Democratic Sen. Nancy Todd, who was chairing the meeting, ruled Marble’s amendment out of order, saying it didn’t fit under the bill’s title.

The four committee Democrats voted to send the bill to the Senate floor, with Marble and Renfroe voting no. Sen. Mark Scheffel, R-Parker, was excused and didn’t attend the hearing.

No price sticker, no vote

Senate Education took testimony on Senate Bill 14-167 Wednesday but delayed a vote because the bill’s “fiscal note” hadn’t been prepared. (A fiscal note is a formal estimate by legislative staff of what a measure will cost.)

The bill is sponsored by freshman Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, D-Thornton, and would create a pilot program under which two groups of alternative education campuses would receive extra funding to develop programs to improve the graduation rates and overall success of their students.

Alternative campuses are schools that serve at least 95 percent students defined as at-risk. Those schools have a special definition of at-risk, including students who’ve been expelled or suspending multiple times, students with criminal records or gang involvement, homeless students and students who have far fewer high school credits than they should for theie age. Such school typically serve high-school age and older students.

There are 81 such campuses in the state, and their dropout rates typically are higher and their graduation rates lower than the state as a whole.

Although the fiscal note hasn’t been written, Zenzinger had an informal analysis done that puts the bill’s price tag at $1.2 million.

Given that the Senate will be tied up next week considering the 2014-15 state budget bill, Zenzinger’s bill may not come up for committee consideration for two weeks. That could put it at the back of line of spending bills being considered this year.

Get more information about alternative campuses on this CDE page, and see the current list of such schools here. Read the bill text here.

Categories: Urban School News

CPS touts minute improvements for students from closed schools

Catalyst Chicago - Wed, 03/26/2014 - 19:29

Ever-so -slight improvements in attendance, graduation on-track rates and grade-point averages among students from closed schools proved enough to please CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and board members.

In her first update on what has happened to the roughly 12,000 students whose schools were closed at the end of last school year, Byrd-Bennett told board members on Wednesday that dire predictions of chaos did not come true.

 “We’re stronger today than we were before and better positioned than we were before,” she said. “Students impacted by the consolidations are making academic gains.”

But the CEO’s preliminary report does not show substantial gains.

In every area, students from closed schools lag way behind and have made less progress than other students throughout the city. The on-track rate for students who did not experience any school actions last year was nearly 60 percent in Quarter 2 of this school year, up 2 percentage points from last year. Those numbers were nearly parallel for students from the welcoming schools, whose graduation on-track rates grew from 57 percent to 59 percent.

But students from closed schools have seen an increase of only 0.3 percent, to 48 percent.

Board members, who didn’t ask any questions about the report, lauded the CEO.

 “Congrats to you and the team,” said Board President David Vitale. “Frankly, it’s an incredible success to date.”

CPS has spent more than $225 million on capital and academic programming at the 50 welcoming schools to smooth students’ transition from the closed schools.

Byrd-Bennett said that the placement of additional monitors along routes used by students from closing schools led to no “major” incidents, and that attendance was up. During the first two quarters of the 2012-2013 school year, the average attendance of students from closed schools was 92.7 percent. During the same period this year, the average attendance was 93 percent.

The CEO also noted that just over half of students from closed schools improved their attendance. It’s unclear whether the other half fared worse off, or if their attendance did not change. CPS officials did not provide more detailed data.

Context missing from report

The 9-page midyear report does not take into account some factors that could have impacted data on student performance during the first two quarters of last school year – when a parsed list of potential closures was first made public.

A 2009 Consortium on Chicago School Research study on school closings found that the most precarious time for students of closed schools are the months around the announcement. The research indicates that the drama caused by knowing a school may close can affect attendance and conduct.

Also, some of the students in closed schools did not actually change buildings. In those cases, the staff and students from welcoming schools moved into their space. The children who did not change buildings would not have had to travel longer distances, something that many worried would affect attendance.

During her comments to the board on Wednesday, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said the CEO’s report doesn’t tell the entire story about the consequences of closing schools.

“There are still 800 students unaccounted for from the entire move last year,” Lewis said. “These are things that are never discussed publicly that need to be discussed publicly.”

The CEO said she would return to the board at the end of the school year with a more comprehensive analysis, and promised to provide annual updates during the next three years.

ISAT investigation “winding down”

Byrd-Bennett also briefly addressed the controversy surrounding an ongoing CPS investigation into teachers at Drummond Montessori School and Saucedo Scholastic Academy who refused to give the ISAT standardized test earlier this month.

CPS legal investigators interviewed Drummond students last week, infuriating their parents, who had not given their consent for the interviews. Investigators later talked with Saucedo teachers but said they did not interview students there.

“We are obliged to investigate the allegations of staff misconduct,” Byrd-Bennett said. “Our interviews are winding down and concluding, and after consultation with legal, I will bring back findings and recommendations for this board to consider.”

Many parents in the audience who spoke during the public comments section of the meeting criticized the district for the ISAT investigation. Parents said it was their decision – and not the teachers’ – to opt their children out of taking the ISAT.

“Who the heck thought it was a good idea to send an investigator in to question our kids?” asked Mary Zerkel, a Drummond parent. “Did our mayor approve this?”

School board silent on school turnarounds

Before the meeting, dozens of parents, teachers and community supporters rallied against a CPS proposal last Friday to “turn around” three elementary schools:  Dvorak in North Lawndale, McNair in Austin and Gresham in Auburn-Gresham. The board will vote on the proposal next month.

One Dvorak parent, Lisa Russell, asked the board to give the schools more resources to turn themselves around instead of turning over the management to an outside organization.

“I know we’re not moving as fast as you want us to, but we take every child from everywhere,” she said. “We take the children nobody wants.”

Russell also suggested that the board vote against a proposal to nearly double its budget for new furniture for CPS headquarters, which are changing locations later this year. Still, the board voted unanimously for the proposal, bringing the total furniture budget for the new office space to $9.5 million.

No more background checks for some volunteers

In other action, the board agreed unanimously to scale back CPS requirements on background checks for volunteers. The new tiered system makes it easier for parents and community members to get involved in schools, said Phil Hampton, who heads the district’s family and community engagement programs.

“We feel that the current policy and practice is somewhat restrictive and that’s why we’re here today,” he said. “We want to increase access to interested volunteers, in particular to parents and non-parents, while also providing the necessary safeguards for students and staff.”

Criminal background checks will now only be required for parent volunteers who spend more than 10 hours per week at the school their child attends, and non-parent volunteers who work five hours per week. Chaperones on overnight school-sponsored trips, coaches, one-on-one tutors and others with direct, regular contact with students will still have to undergo background checks.

Categories: Urban School News

CPS touts minute improvements for students from closed schools

Catalyst Chicago - Wed, 03/26/2014 - 19:29

Ever-so -slight improvements in attendance, graduation on-track rates and grade-point averages among students from closed schools proved enough to please CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and board members.

In her first update on what has happened to the roughly 12,000 students whose schools were closed at the end of last school year, Byrd-Bennett told board members on Wednesday that dire predictions of chaos did not come true.

 “We’re stronger today than we were before and better positioned than we were before,” she said. “Students impacted by the consolidations are making academic gains.”

But the CEO’s preliminary report does not show substantial gains.

In every area, students from closed schools lag way behind and have made less progress than other students throughout the city. The on-track rate for students who did not experience any school actions last year was nearly 60 percent in Quarter 2 of this school year, up 2 percentage points from last year. Those numbers were nearly parallel for students from the welcoming schools, whose graduation on-track rates grew from 57 percent to 59 percent.

But students from closed schools have seen an increase of only 0.3 percent, to 48 percent.

Board members, who didn’t ask any questions about the report, lauded the CEO.

 “Congrats to you and the team,” said Board President David Vitale. “Frankly, it’s an incredible success to date.”

CPS has spent more than $225 million on capital and academic programming at the 50 welcoming schools to smooth students’ transition from the closed schools.

Byrd-Bennett said that the placement of additional monitors along routes used by students from closing schools led to no “major” incidents, and that attendance was up. During the first two quarters of the 2012-2013 school year, the average attendance of students from closed schools was 92.7 percent. During the same period this year, the average attendance was 93 percent.

The CEO also noted that just over half of students from closed schools improved their attendance. It’s unclear whether the other half fared worse off, or if their attendance did not change. CPS officials did not provide more detailed data.

Context missing from report

The 9-page midyear report does not take into account some factors that could have impacted data on student performance during the first two quarters of last school year – when a parsed list of potential closures was first made public.

A 2009 Consortium on Chicago School Research study on school closings found that the most precarious time for students of closed schools are the months around the announcement. The research indicates that the drama caused by knowing a school may close can affect attendance and conduct.

Also, some of the students in closed schools did not actually change buildings. In those cases, the staff and students from welcoming schools moved into their space. The children who did not change buildings would not have had to travel longer distances, something that many worried would affect attendance.

During her comments to the board on Wednesday, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said the CEO’s report doesn’t tell the entire story about the consequences of closing schools.

“There are still 800 students unaccounted for from the entire move last year,” Lewis said. “These are things that are never discussed publicly that need to be discussed publicly.”

The CEO said she would return to the board at the end of the school year with a more comprehensive analysis, and promised to provide annual updates during the next three years.

ISAT investigation “winding down”

Byrd-Bennett also briefly addressed the controversy surrounding an ongoing CPS investigation into teachers at Drummond Montessori School and Saucedo Scholastic Academy who refused to give the ISAT standardized test earlier this month.

CPS legal investigators interviewed Drummond students last week, infuriating their parents, who had not given their consent for the interviews. Investigators later talked with Saucedo teachers but said they did not interview students there.

“We are obliged to investigate the allegations of staff misconduct,” Byrd-Bennett said. “Our interviews are winding down and concluding, and after consultation with legal, I will bring back findings and recommendations for this board to consider.”

Many parents in the audience who spoke during the public comments section of the meeting criticized the district for the ISAT investigation. Parents said it was their decision – and not the teachers’ – to opt their children out of taking the ISAT.

“Who the heck thought it was a good idea to send an investigator in to question our kids?” asked Mary Zerkel, a Drummond parent. “Did our mayor approve this?”

School board silent on school turnarounds

Before the meeting, dozens of parents, teachers and community supporters rallied against a CPS proposal last Friday to “turn around” three elementary schools:  Dvorak in North Lawndale, McNair in Austin and Gresham in Auburn-Gresham. The board will vote on the proposal next month.

One Dvorak parent, Lisa Russell, asked the board to give the schools more resources to turn themselves around instead of turning over the management to an outside organization.

“I know we’re not moving as fast as you want us to, but we take every child from everywhere,” she said. “We take the children nobody wants.”

Russell also suggested that the board vote against a proposal to nearly double its budget for new furniture for CPS headquarters, which are changing locations later this year. Still, the board voted unanimously for the proposal, bringing the total furniture budget for the new office space to $9.5 million.

No more background checks for some volunteers

In other action, the board agreed unanimously to scale back CPS requirements on background checks for volunteers. The new tiered system makes it easier for parents and community members to get involved in schools, said Phil Hampton, who heads the district’s family and community engagement programs.

“We feel that the current policy and practice is somewhat restrictive and that’s why we’re here today,” he said. “We want to increase access to interested volunteers, in particular to parents and non-parents, while also providing the necessary safeguards for students and staff.”

Criminal background checks will now only be required for parent volunteers who spend more than 10 hours per week at the school their child attends, and non-parent volunteers who work five hours per week. Chaperones on overnight school-sponsored trips, coaches, one-on-one tutors and others with direct, regular contact with students will still have to undergo background checks.

Categories: Urban School News

Annual report card shows improvement in child health in Colorado

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 03/26/2014 - 18:39

The health of Colorado children earned a C on the 2013 Colorado Health Report Card released today, up from a D+ last year.

The change appears due to a reduction in childhood obesity, a decrease in the percentage of uninsured children, and an increase in physical activity among children, three of six indicators tracked for the age group.

According to the report card, which is published each spring by the Colorado Health Foundation in partnership with the Colorado Health Institute, the child obesity rate fell from 14.2 percent last year to 10.9 percent this year. That said, officials from the Colorado Health Institute said the change isn’t statistically signficant because of the small sample size used to get those percentages. In other words, the actual change may be smaller than the 3.3 percentage points reported.

“It’s a marker, but it isn’t necessarily all the information,” said Sara Schmitt, director of community health policy for the Colorado Health Institute.

The report card also found that the percentage of children between the ages of 6 and 17 doing vigorous physical activity four or more days a week jumped from 64.1 percent last year to 67.6 percent this year. In addition, the percentage of children not covered by public or private insurance dropped from 8.6 percent last year to 7.3 percent this year.

Colorado scored about the same as last year on two other child health indicators—the percentage of children in poverty and the percentage who get routine preventive dental care. On a sixth indicator—the percentage of children with a medical home—the state fell from 59.3 percent last year to 55.3 percent this year.

Overall, the improvements in child health mean that Colorado now ranks  25th among states according to the report card. Being smack in the middle of the pack may not be ideal, but it’s better than the ranking of 31st the state earned last year.

While child health measures improved a bit this year, adolescent health stayed almost exactly the same, earning a B again this year and continuing to rank about 15th among states. The Healthy Beginnings category, which tracks indicators like smoking among pregnant women, infant mortality rates, and child vaccination rates, earned a C again this year.

The last two life stage categories on the report card—Healthy Adults and Healthy Aging—earned a B and B+ respectively this year.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Girl kicked out for shaving her head is back in school

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 03/26/2014 - 08:41

Cheers and Jeers

As Tom Boasberg wraps up his fifth year as Denver's superintendent, the question is what have those five years brought? Higher enrollment, some academic growth and the closure of 18 schools. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Ratng the rankings

Also in Denver, board members debated how to alter and improve the district's school ranking system, down to how the reports are laid out. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

School safety

Three Denver schools, including George Washington High School and the Denver Green School, went into lockdown yesterday after shots were fired in the nearby streets. ( 9News )

Media Frenzy

A Grand Junction school made the headlines nationwide after sending a girl home for shaving her head in solidarity with a friend stricken with cancer. The girl was back in school Tuesday after a vote to allow her back. ( GJ Sentinel, 9News, Denver Post )

Quick change

A Poudre school board member who was elected in November will be leaving his post to take a job in Florida. ( Coloradoan )

No takebacks

State board member Marcia Neal may have changed her mind and decided to run for re-election. But that doesn't mean that the fellow Republican candidate who signed up to take her place is going to drop out of the running. ( GJ Sentinel )

Big talk

On the fourth anniversary of Obama's Race to the Top initiative, officials say it has sparked "enormous positive change." But the analysis released Tuesday were more upbeat that the US Education Department's own progress reports. ( Washington Post )

Help in the front office

Legislation to fund additional counselors in schools would lower the ratio of students to often overwhelmed counselor. Districts currently receiving grant funding have seen their dropout rates decline. ( CO Springs Independent )

Categories: Urban School News

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