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Rise & Shine: Falcon 49 works to manage growth

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 08/06/2014 - 09:58

Seeking better service

The Aurora schools have reorganized the district's support service, linking schools in "communities" that serve various grades. The goal is to boost achievement and make life easier for principals and teachers. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Encouraging wellness

Widefield School District 3 is the latest district to add a free employee health clinic as a way to promote wellness and lower health care costs. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Share your experience

As teachers face increasing pressures (new standards, assessments, and evaluations), Chalkbeat wants to know if your school supply buying habits are changing because of these efforts to better student achievement. Please take a few moments to click the link and fill out our survey. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Starting a new year

The Falcon 49 district in El Paso County is coping with the area's growth as the school year starts and plans to ask voters to approve new construction spending. ( Gazette )

Reporting loophole

The fatal shooting at Arapahoe High School last December was apparently not included in the state's annual school violence report, likely due to a loophole in Colorado's law that only requires incidents in which a student is disciplined be disclosed to the public. ( The Denver Channel )

Young Learners

The small Norwood School District on the Western Slope has moved to full-day kindergarten, something the state doesn't require. ( Norwood Post )

Literacy boost

About 120 students at three Boulder public housing sites are getting an extra dose of literacy instruction through the Summer Shuffle program. ( Daily Camera )

iPads vs. Chromebooks

For an entire school year Hillsborough, New Jersey, educators undertook an experiment, asking: Is the iPad really the best device for interactive learning? ( Hechinger Report )

A better brain

Children learn their most important lessons on the playground, not in the classroom, researchers say. ( NPR )

Categories: Urban School News

Chalkbeat wants to know: Teachers, how much are you spending on your classroom?

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 08/05/2014 - 15:40

As a student, I spent all summer looking forward to one thing: back to school shopping. One fall, I bought so many new classroom supplies, I had two backpacks. Yes, I was a nerd. Yes, I am still a nerd.

For me, buying new supplies was a luxury. For many teachers it may be a burden.

According to the National School Supply and Equipment Association, the average teacher in 2013 spent nearly $500 of their own money to outfit their classroom and equip their students with the needed paper, crayons, and glue sticks. In total, more than $1 billion was collectively spent by teachers the year before.

As teachers face increasing pressures (new standards, assessments, and evaluations), Chalkbeat wants to know if your buying habits are changing because of these efforts to better student achievement.

Please take a few moments to fill out the survey below. While your answers will be aggregated to inform a story later this month, your personal information will remain confidential unless explicit permission is granted in a follow-up interview.

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Categories: Urban School News

A bureaucratic shuffle in Aurora to help schools get the support they need

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 08/05/2014 - 15:13

AURORA — As a principal at Vaughn Elementary School, Jocelyn Stephens sometimes found herself relying more on her personal connections to access support from her school district’s central office rather than the clunky and dawdling bureaucracy of Aurora Public Schools.

“The system was not responsive,” she said. “Support didn’t always happen through formal channels. I had to be creative.”

As a principal it could be time consuming to find help from any number of departments that makes up a school district: English language acquisition, special education, student engagement, technology and so on.

So when Stephens heard the suburban school district’s new chief academic officer, John Youngquist, was shuffling the district’s bureaucracy with the hope of providing better support  school leaders and teachers, Stephens jumped at the opportunity to be on the front lines of the “groundbreaking” movement.

Today, the first day of school for most of Aurora Public Schools’ 35,000 students, Stephens is taking charge of supervising, or as district officials like to say serving, 10 schools. She, along with four other Aurora administrators — who will each supervise their own networks of schools — will be the go-to people for teachers and principals as problems in the classroom arise.

The decision to restructure the district’s support services has been months in the making. The impetus came from an informal listening tour hosted by APS’s newest academic executive, Youngquist, and research from the University of Washington.

“The conversations were about relationships and how schools accessed support,” he said.

Previously, most schools operated in silos, Youngquist said. And professional development was cookie-cutter and usually targeted to grade levels.

“At meetings, it would be, ‘elementary school principals over there, middle schools over there, and high school principals over there,’” said Iowa Elementary School leader Luann Tallman.

John Youngquist

Too often, Tallman said, principals can get caught up focusing only on their students’ present and not their future. They can forget students age through a system of schools. The new approach is reminding Tallman she’s not just accountable to her students through fifth grade, but to their entire educational career. And she’s accountable to the teachers and principals who she will hand her students off too.

It’s for that reason these new networks, known as “P-20 Learning Communities,” will include schools that serve all grade levels in nearby neighborhoods.

“P-20″ is common education parlance for a coordinated system that extends from preschool through higher education. Aurora Public Schools, under former Superintendent John Barry, was an early adopter of the contemporary effort that links a student’s primary and secondary education to career-driven skills. The district’s signature initiatives, including the Vista PEAK P-20 campus and its “pathways” programs, have garnered praise from the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Youngquist’s new effort, a double-down of sorts, come at a crucial time for Aurora Public Schools. The district is the largest on the state’s accountability watch list. It has two years to improve student performances on Colorado’s standardized assessments and boost its graduation rate or face state sanctions.

In her role as director, Stephens will work to boost student achievement as some of APS’ lowest performing schools. Four of her 10 schools are considered chronically low-performing.

“That level of data tells me we’re not responsive to the students’ needs,” she said. “[We're going to ask] what do we need to learn about those students that we might not know from the data. We’re going to change the type of questions we ask. We’re going to be very root-caused focused.”

The targeted support approach to schools that APS hopes to roll out, Stephens said, is no different that what a teacher is expected to do in the classroom.

“Gone are the days of the one-size fits all approach,” Stephens said.

And the change, Tallman said, is creating a new team spirit and sense of a accountability among schools and one, she hopes, will last.

If the initiative does last, it would beat the odds, said Jennifer Dounay Zinth, a P-20 education researcher for the Education Commission of the States.

First of all, most P-20 efforts have been coordinated by states, not local school districts, Dounay Zinth said. And those efforts have focused more on the links between high school and college and the transmission of student data. Second, most of the P-20 efforts have puttered out.

For Aurora to be successful, Dounay Zinth said, they’ll need to make sure their effort is “more than just window dressing.”

It will be imperative, Dounay Zinth said, for the learning community directors and their teams to have the autonomy to make decisions, and those teams will need to have representatives from both the district’s early childhood services and post-secondary readiness team.

Youngquist acknowledged Dounay Zinth’s advice.

“The teams should be and will be immediately responding to requests of their communities of teachers and principals,” Younquist said, he hopes within 24 hours.

And the district is working to ensure the new support squads are equipped and empowered to make the decisions they deem necessary. Further, each team will have a representative from the district’s post-secondary readiness team and the district has hired, for the first time, an early childhood learning director. Once the new director is in place, a team will be assembled to work with the P-20 Learning Communities, as well.

“They’ll go where they need to go,” he said.

PHOTO: Nicholas Garcia Jocelyn Stephens, right, listens during a meeting of P-20 Learning Community directors July 31. In her new role, Stephens will coordinate a support team for 10 schools in the suburban school district.
Categories: Urban School News

Another district adds free health clinic for employees

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 08/05/2014 - 14:53

Widefield School District 3 is among a growing number of Colorado districts that are adding free employee health clinics with the goal of lowering health care costs and promoting wellness.

The 9,300-student district southeast of Colorado Springs opened its employee clinic inside a multi-use district building on July 9, with an open house scheduled for August 12. The clinic, open Monday through Friday, will provide free acute care, screenings, wellness coaching and prescriptions for around 700 employees covered by the district’s health plan, as well as their families.

The goal is to help employees suffering from basic illness like sinus infections or allergies get treated quickly and conveniently, said Samantha Briggs, Widefield’s director of communication. In addition, the clinic will provide school physicals to children of covered employees and wellness coaching on topics like weight loss and stress management.

“This in no way replaces anyone’s primary doctor,” she said.

Several Colorado districts have added employee health clinics in the last couple years, including the Mesa County Valley 51 and Steamboat Springs districts in 2012, and Poudre School District in 2013.

Briggs said the new clinic was first envisioned 10 years ago and has been in the works for the last four to five. The district’s partners include its health insurance company, CEBT, and Marathon Health, the Vermont-based company that will staff the clinic.

Categories: Urban School News

New principals group to weigh in on policy

Catalyst Chicago - Tue, 08/05/2014 - 11:07

Led by the two principals who wrote editorials critical of CPS administration, the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association has formed a new committee aimed at advocating for policy and amplifying principal voice.

The committee is calling itself Administrators Alliance for Proven Policy and Legislation in Education or AAPPLE. 

The committee plans to hold monthly forums, issue white papers and keep members better informed about what the CPAA is working on. It also has a discussion board on its website.

Topics for the first four forums are: Defining a successful school system; high quality teacher training and professional development; economics, poverty, segregation and education systems, and the role of schools and government in addressing the effects of poverty on school systems; and how do we build sustainable cities?

The first forum will be held on Aug. 21 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the University of Illinois-Chicago Pavilion.

Michael Beyer, principal of Morrill Elementary, said the forums are intended to help change the conversation and get at some core questions about the future of the CPS and the city. Blaine Principal Troy LaRaviere says he thinks it is important that the new committee broadens the conversation.

“On the surface, some of the forum topics don’t have anything to do with school, but they have everything to do with school,” LaRaviere says.

The moderators will include Terry Mazany, president of The Chicago Community Trust, and academics Charles Payne of the University of Chicago and David Stovall of University of Illinois – Chicago.  Mazany served for about a year and a half as interim chief executive officer of CPS, bridging the Richard Daley and Rahm Emanuel administrations, and Payne was his chief education officer.

Beyer says the forum panels will include charter-school advocates, and the panel for the forum on sustainable cities will include mayoral candidates. “We want to have a professional debate on solutions,” he says.

LaRaviere has been outspoken in his opposition to Emanuel, and it would run contrary to standard political practice for an incumbent mayor to participate in a panel with opponents, particularly if it includes Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, a frequent, harsh critic who is weighing a run.

LaRaviere and Beyer say they want the committee to be non-political and that inviting mayoral candidates is meant to influence them rather than give them a platform.

“Our contributions to policy discussions will come from the experiences of CPS principals and assistant principals as they provide feedback on the very real effects of district and state policies,” LaRaviere says.  “Our contributions will also derive from an already large body of research on what has been proven to work for great school systems.”

While principals tend to be extremely busy, Beyer says organizers are hopeful that they will see the value of carving out a few hours a month to attend the forums, which will be open to the public.

The committee’s leaders are also working on white papers that outline some of the issues they are concerned about. The first one will be on implementation of the new physical education policy, which requires daily PE, and the second one will be on student-based budgeting.

Beyer says the group is hopeful that CPS leaders will take heed of the positions advocated in the white papers and eventually see the value in gauging the committee’s opinion before moving forward on policy. He notes that currently the CPAA is often informed about decisions a week before they are announced and has little chance of changing them.

Working with CPAA

LaRaviere and Beyer say they and a group of about eight other principals considered forming a new entity, but met with CPAA president Clarice Berry and decided that it would be best to work with the existing organization. “We saw no reason not to work with CPAA,” LaRaviere says.

LaRaviere wrote an editorial in May, criticizing Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS leaders for not listening to teachers and principals and for forbidding them from talking to the press about what is going on in their schools.Then, in Catalyst, Beyer laid out the type of organization principals need to represent them.

CPS spokesman Joel Hood did not want to comment specifically on the creation of the new committee, but says CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has a principals’ advisory committee and listens intently to what those principals have to say. “We greatly value working with principals,” he says.

But LaRaviere says he does not think the advisory committee, chosen by Byrd-Bennett, can fully represent principals. He says the advisory committee’s function is to offer thoughts on subjects that Byrd-Bennett wants feedback on, not necessarily to look at issues that affect schooling or advocate for policies principals are concerned about.

Beyer also says CPS’ principal advisory committee is problematic as the only voice delivering the principal point of view to CPS. For one, no one knows who is on it, he says, so if a principal wants to communicate a concern, he or she doesn’t know whom to reach out to. Also, he says, those on it might be afraid to say what they really think.  

Berry, the CPAA president, says she has struggled to get principals to speak out on issues and welcomes the new committee. “First and foremost, the issue is fear. Principals are paralyzed,” she says.

Berry says she thinks the move to student-based budgeting sent principals “over the cliff.” “You have all these unfunded mandates and a mountain of accountability. It was like a volcano.”

 “Their colleagues see them as beacons,” Berry says. “They have confidence in them.”

LaRaviere says the feedback he has gotten from CPS principals is that they are hungry for such an entity. “I am hopeful,” he says.

 

 

Categories: Urban School News

New principals group to weigh in on policy

Catalyst Chicago - Tue, 08/05/2014 - 11:07

Led by the two principals who wrote editorials critical of CPS administration, the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association has formed a new committee aimed at advocating for policy and amplifying principal voice.

The committee is calling itself Administrators Alliance for Proven Policy and Legislation in Education or AAPPLE. 

The committee plans to hold monthly forums, issue white papers and keep members better informed about what the CPAA is working on. It also has a discussion board on its website.

Topics for the first four forums are: Defining a successful school system; high quality teacher training and professional development; economics, poverty, segregation and education systems, and the role of schools and government in addressing the effects of poverty on school systems; and how do we build sustainable cities?

The first forum will be held on Aug. 21 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the University of Illinois-Chicago Pavilion.

Michael Beyer, principal of Morrill Elementary, said the forums are intended to help change the conversation and get at some core questions about the future of the CPS and the city. Blaine Principal Troy LaRaviere says he thinks it is important that the new committee broadens the conversation.

“On the surface, some of the forum topics don’t have anything to do with school, but they have everything to do with school,” LaRaviere says.

The moderators will include Terry Mazany, president of The Chicago Community Trust, and academics Charles Payne of the University of Chicago and David Stovall of University of Illinois – Chicago.  Mazany served for about a year and a half as interim chief executive officer of CPS, bridging the Richard Daley and Rahm Emanuel administrations, and Payne was his chief education officer.

Beyer says the forum panels will include charter-school advocates, and the panel for the forum on sustainable cities will include mayoral candidates. “We want to have a professional debate on solutions,” he says.

LaRaviere has been outspoken in his opposition to Emanuel, and it would run contrary to standard political practice for an incumbent mayor to participate in a panel with opponents, particularly if it includes Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, a frequent, harsh critic who is weighing a run.

LaRaviere and Beyer say they want the committee to be non-political and that inviting mayoral candidates is meant to influence them rather than give them a platform.

“Our contributions to policy discussions will come from the experiences of CPS principals and assistant principals as they provide feedback on the very real effects of district and state policies,” LaRaviere says.  “Our contributions will also derive from an already large body of research on what has been proven to work for great school systems.”

While principals tend to be extremely busy, Beyer says organizers are hopeful that they will see the value of carving out a few hours a month to attend the forums, which will be open to the public.

The committee’s leaders are also working on white papers that outline some of the issues they are concerned about. The first one will be on implementation of the new physical education policy, which requires daily PE, and the second one will be on student-based budgeting.

Beyer says the group is hopeful that CPS leaders will take heed of the positions advocated in the white papers and eventually see the value in gauging the committee’s opinion before moving forward on policy. He notes that currently the CPAA is often informed about decisions a week before they are announced and has little chance of changing them.

Working with CPAA

LaRaviere and Beyer say they and a group of about eight other principals considered forming a new entity, but met with CPAA president Clarice Berry and decided that it would be best to work with the existing organization. “We saw no reason not to work with CPAA,” LaRaviere says.

LaRaviere wrote an editorial in May, criticizing Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS leaders for not listening to teachers and principals and for forbidding them from talking to the press about what is going on in their schools.Then, in Catalyst, Beyer laid out the type of organization principals need to represent them.

CPS spokesman Joel Hood did not want to comment specifically on the creation of the new committee, but says CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has a principals’ advisory committee and listens intently to what those principals have to say. “We greatly value working with principals,” he says.

But LaRaviere says he does not think the advisory committee, chosen by Byrd-Bennett, can fully represent principals. He says the advisory committee’s function is to offer thoughts on subjects that Byrd-Bennett wants feedback on, not necessarily to look at issues that affect schooling or advocate for policies principals are concerned about.

Beyer also says CPS’ principal advisory committee is problematic as the only voice delivering the principal point of view to CPS. For one, no one knows who is on it, he says, so if a principal wants to communicate a concern, he or she doesn’t know whom to reach out to. Also, he says, those on it might be afraid to say what they really think.  

Berry, the CPAA president, says she has struggled to get principals to speak out on issues and welcomes the new committee. “First and foremost, the issue is fear. Principals are paralyzed,” she says.

Berry says she thinks the move to student-based budgeting sent principals “over the cliff.” “You have all these unfunded mandates and a mountain of accountability. It was like a volcano.”

 “Their colleagues see them as beacons,” Berry says. “They have confidence in them.”

LaRaviere says the feedback he has gotten from CPS principals is that they are hungry for such an entity. “I am hopeful,” he says.

 

 

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Most Colorado Springs schools cited for health violations

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 08/05/2014 - 09:28

Election update

Backers of an initiative that would require school districts labor negotiations to be hashed out in public have gotten enough signatures to get on the ballot this fall. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

In other fights around the state, candidates and committees are building up their coffers as election season ramps up. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Not over yet

A fight over who actually won last year's Adams 12 school board race will go to the state Supreme Court. ( Westword )

Learning from lambs

In a program designed to get online high school students to build in-person relationships, two students raised and trained lambs for the state fair. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Are you sure you want to eat that?

Over half of Colorado Springs' schools have been cited for health code violations in the past two years, with some receiving as many as six. ( Gazette )

Teacher talk

Chalkbeat sat down with Elizabeth Green, co-founder and author of Building a Better Teacher, to talk about what we can learn from Japan and what makes teachers great. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Quiet time

Special education students at a Pueblo school will soon have a new place to go cool down and refocus for school work. ( Chieftain )

Science in summer

Pueblo high school students got a glimpse into what being a chemist is all about in a summer program run by the American Chemical Society. ( Chieftain )

First month on the job

A new rural superintendent faces the challenge of learning to run a school district, with some extra challenges thrown in. ( Steamboat Today )

Categories: Urban School News

Contributions flowing in education-related races

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 08/04/2014 - 21:36

With the November election only three months away, candidates and campaign committees are building their war chests in races with implications for education.

In battleground Jefferson County, two Democratic senators with seats on the Senate Education Committee each have raised more than $100,000 in the fights to hold their seats.

And both sides in the fight over Amendment 68, which would expand casino gambling and give a cut of revenues to school districts, already have raised a total of more than $13 million. Only about $11 million was spent in last year’s campaign for defeated Amendment 66, which would have raised income taxes by about $1 billion to support schools.

Campaign committees had to report their most recent and cumulative fundraising by last Friday. The next deadline is Sept. 2, after which reports have to be made every two weeks until the Nov. 4 election.

Key Senate races

In four pivotal Senate races, Democrats so far have outraised Republicans $356,586 to $158,323.

Andy Kerr, the Lakewood Democrat was chairs the Senate Education Committee, has raised $114,193 in his District 22 battle with conservative businessman Tony Sanchez, who was the victor in a tough Republican primary.

Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, who was appointed last December to replace Democrat Evie Hudak, has received contributions totaling $102,172, compared to $67,659 for Republican Laura Woods, a gun-rights activist who also prevailed in the District 19 GOP primary. Zenzinger also sits on Senate Education.

In Colorado Springs, former House Education Committee chair Mike Merrifield is trying to retake the District 11 seat for the Democrats. GOP Sen. Bernie Herpin won the seat last year in a recall election related to gun rights. The outspoken Merrifield, a former teacher, was generally critical of education reform efforts. He’s raised $80,381 to Herpin’s $40,277.

Former Democratic Rep. Judy Solano, a strong critic of standardized testing, is seeking to return to the Capitol as senator from District 24 in Adams County. She’s raised $62,840 compared to $4,859 for GOP candidate Beth Martinez Humenik. The seat is being vacated by term-limited Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton.

Democrats have only an 18-17 majority in the Senate, and these four races, along with a few others that don’t have education ties, are considered crucial for the future balance of power in that chamber.

House races to watch

Five Democratic members of the House Education Committee also are significantly outraising their Republican challengers.

Rep. Millie Hamner of Dillon has raised $43,240 compared for $13,519 for Debra Irvine, her GOP opponent in District 61. Hamner is chair of House Education and was a central figure in 2014’s school finance debates. She defeated Irvine two years ago.

First-term Rep. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood has raised $73,525 in her District 28 contest with lawyer Stacia Kuhn, who’s gathered $7,914 in contrubtions.

In Greeley, Rep. Dave Young has received contributions of $69,070 in his race with GOP businessman Isaia Aricayos, who’s raised $27,154.

Rep. John Buckner of Aurora has raised $37,113 in his District 40 race with Republican Aurora school board member JulieMarie Shepherd, who’s gathered a $5,786 campaign fund.

Also in Aurora, Rep. Rhonda Fields has contributions of $22,351, while District 42 GOP hopeful Mike Donald has raised only $845.

The Public Education Committee, a small-donor committee connected to the Colorado Education Association, reports having raised $230,000 in the current election cycle and having spent $137,850.

It’s given Kerr $4,900, and $4,500 contributions have gone to Buckner, Merrifield, Pettersen, Solano and Young. Fields and Hamner received smaller amounts. The committee also has made contributions to other Democratic legislative and statewide candidates and to campaign committees affiliated with the Democratic Party.

Big money anted in casino contest

The opposing sides in the Amendment 68 contest have raised a total of $13.2 million, with opponents in the lead at $9.1 million through June. (The group Don’t Turn Racetracks Into Casinos reported no new contributions in July.) The campaign is being bankrolled by companies that own existing casinos in Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek.

The $4.1 million raised by the committee Coloradans for Better Schools has been given almost entirely by Mile High USA Inc., the company that owns Arapahoe Park racetrack. A full casino would be built there if A68 passes.

Modest fundraising in SBE contests

Democrats also are raising the largest amounts of money in two contested races for the State Board of Education.

In suburban District 7, Democratic incumbent Jane Goff has raised $11,990 compared to $1,870 for Republican Laura Boggs, a former Jeffco school board member.

In District 3, which stretches from northwestern Colorado to Pueblo, GOP incumbent Marcia Neal has raised $6,050, all but $1,808 of which she spent on a primary race. Democrat Henry Roman, former superintendent of the Pueblo 60 district, has raised $10,754 and has $9,486 still in the bank.

In Denver-based District 1, Democrat Val Flores has raised $17,931 and spent virtually all of it in a primary. She doesn’t have a Republican opponent.

Taggart Hansen, Flores’ primary opponent, raised $36,448 in his losing effort. Two independent expenditure committees, which act independently of a candidate’s committee, also raised significant funds. The BSSC Committee, which is affiliated with Stand for Children, spent $49,291 in support of Hansen. Raising Colorado, a group connected to Democrats for Education Reform, spent $47,062. So, Hansen and the two groups raised more than $130,000, seven times the amount raised by Flores for a low-turnout race that she won with 59 percent of the vote.

This story was updated on Aug. 5 to correct information about Judy Solano’s district and JulieMarie Shepherd’s current position.

Categories: Urban School News

Backers of public negotiations initiative turn in signatures

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 08/04/2014 - 18:40

Supporters of a ballot measure that would require school district labor negotiations to be held in public have turned in 127,328 signatures to get the proposal on the Nov. 4 ballot.

What’s currently called Initiative 124 would change state law on executive sessions to require that contract negotiations between school boards – and district administrators representing boards – and labor unions be open to the public.

The proposal is being pushed by Jon Caldara and Mike Krause of the right-leaning Independence Institute. But open negotiations long have been a goal of some Republican officeholders and conservative school board members, and the idea is strongly opposed by unions like the Colorado Education Association.

The committee supporting the proposal, Sunshine on Government, had raised no money as of the most recent reporting deadline, which was last Friday. The opposition group Local Choices, Local Schools has raised $10,100, $10,000 of that from CEA.

The majority of Colorado’s 178 school districts don’t have collective bargaining agreements with teachers or other employee groups. But union contracts are common in the largest urban and suburban districts that enroll the majority of the state’s children.

Initiative 124 needs 86,105 valid signatures of registered voters to be placed on the ballot. The Department of State has 30 days to review the group’s petitions and determine if that requirement has been met.

If certified for the ballot would be second education-related issue on the ballot. A proposed constitutional amendment that would allow opening a casino in Arapahoe County, with some revenues earmarked for school districts, already has been certified as Amendment 68 (details here).

Read full text of open-meetings proposal here.

Categories: Urban School News

At the county fair, a shot at learning for online high schoolers

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 08/04/2014 - 18:05

The sight of two high school students in worn-in blue jeans, huge belt buckles and dusty boots, posing for photos alongside the lambs they’ve raised, isn’t unusual at the Adams County Fair.

But it’s not how they usually dress. Destiny Gonzalez and Zaria Schaffer are city kids, and they were wearing borrowed boots and belt buckles.

The two are rising juniors and seniors at Denver Online High School, and the four months they’ve spent raising their lambs, Bonnie and Leroy, are part of an effort to give students an unusual opportunity not typically offered at traditional schools, as well as to build bonds between students and staff.

“You’ve got to look the part,” said Kaci Sintek, the school’s marketing and communications specialist. Sintek, who raised livestock and did shows herself, loaned the girls her boots and belt buckles. She helped the girls raise and train the two lambs as part of the school’s 4-H Lamb Project.

“We didn’t know what it would be like,” Sintek said. “We learned together.”

Finding ways for students to get face time with other kids and teachers is a major concern in online education. Denver Online High School confronts that issue head-on by offering independent studies like the one Gonzalez and Schaffer did through a partnership with the Urban Farm at Stapleton.

Sintek said the school’s principal, Mike Clem, encourages students and staff to work their passions into learning and teaching. A grant Sintek applied for covered all costs — including feeding, watering and housing Bonnie and Leroy.

Gonzalez is not new to farm life. Her uncle owned a ranch where she helped him with chickens and horses. None of that, however, prepared her for the task of building the lambs’ pen and training the newborns.

“Training was the hardest,” Gonzalez said as she petted Bonnie. “At first all they did was kick us and run away.”

The girls meticulously recorded the animals’ eating habits and weight, as well as trained them to walk in showings. They had two presentations in showmanship — where Schaffer and Gonzalez showed off their handling of the lambs. Schaffer showed off Leroy’s skillful bracing, a technique used to show off their muscles.

Bonnie, and Leroy started at just 65lbs and 78lbs. By the time they were auctioned off at the fair, they weighed 105lbs and 122lbs and sold for a combined $1,500, which will be split between the girls to pay for college.

After a summer full of farm work and training, the girls said they would do it all over again. Sintek said she hopes the program can expand to include more kids next year.

“It was rewarding to watch the girls,” Sintek said. “Work ethic and self-confidence grew immensely in these students.”

 

Categories: Urban School News

Chalkbeat CEO and author Elizabeth Green on teaching, the Common Core, and more

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 08/04/2014 - 14:44

What makes a great teacher — and how do you make a teacher great?

Those twin questions would seem to get to the heart of improving the nation’s schools and yet, as Chalkbeat CEO Elizabeth Green found as a schools reporter, they rarely are raised in today’s big education debates.

That paradox drove Elizabeth on a six-year reporting quest (while she was also busy co-founding Chalkbeat) that took her from lab schools in Michigan to math classrooms in Japan to the elementary school where she was once taught. The result is her new book, “Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (And How to Teach It to Everyone),” which comes out today.

Chalkbeat recently sat down with Elizabeth to ask how the stories she tells in her book connect to ones we cover and what, exactly, made her fifth-grade teacher so great.

Continue the conversation by joining the Chalkbeat Book Club on Facebook, where we’ll be discussing “Building a Better Teacher” for the next month.

Your book makes clear that the new Common Core standards — an ambitious reform enacted with minimal support for teachers — continue a long tradition of similar education overhauls. Is there any reason to think the outcome this time will be different?

One thing I learned in reporting that I found really fascinating were the ideas of David Cohen, the education historian. He essentially studies attempts to change teaching, and that is the equivalent of studying failed attempts to change teaching in this country, unfortunately.

He also started to compare this country to other countries. He found that countries that successfully changed teaching had this one important ingredient in common, which was coherence. In the US, there are 17 different layers, if not more, of people telling teachers what to do and what supports to help teachers do them. It’s no surprise teachers feel confused often and even under assault because they are being asked to do so many different things, none of which are the same.

David Cohen calls this a blizzard, and the response that’s most rational to this blizzard of incoherence, as one educator in my book, Lovely Billups, says, is the motto, “This too shall pass.” The question about the Common Core is: Shall this too pass?

You write about visiting primary schools in Japan. What were the main differences from American schools that you saw?

I think there are two key things that are different: One is that there’s a totally different organization of work for the teachers. Whereas American teachers spend 1,000-plus hours per year teaching, Japanese teachers only spend 600 hours per year teaching. The other 400 hours they can spend learning from each other.

The other difference is that they have that coherent system of one common set of things that they’re all doing. They have common standards, so they can have a common curriculum, common assessments, so they have the tools they need to do something exciting.

There is growing consensus that traditional education schools have not done a great job preparing teachers. Have you seen any promising developments in the way teachers are trained?

One thing I found fascinating in my reporting was that we do have a tradition in this country of teacher education that is focused on teaching as a craft. And that is the history of “normal schools,” where teachers would learn from master teachers. They would go to class in a lecture, then the next minute they would be sitting watching a lesson in progress.

I think where we went wrong was when the university system took over teacher training from normal schools. Some of the early pioneers of education as a field of study had absolutely no interest in teaching.

What I think is promising is that there is a growing group of teacher educators at the university level and at institutions that are disconnected from higher education that are trying to resuscitate that normal-school tradition, sometimes in very parallel ways.

Most of the teachers we cover get evaluated in one way or another. Can teacher-accountability systems actually help teachers improve?

One of the inspirations of this huge focus on teacher evaluation is a set of assumptions we make about why high-performing charter schools have succeeded. We look at [the national charter-school network] KIPP and their test-score results and we assume that the kids are succeeding because the teachers operate outside of a traditional labor structure: There’s no labor union, so KIPP can hire or fire whomever they please.

But they spend proportionately less money, resources, and time, on evaluation than states currently do. They focus a lot more on giving teachers the time to learn, mentors to help them learn, materials from which they can learn, and good curriculums they can use.

We know teachers work in all kinds of schools, including ones where many students are far behind academically. Does good teaching look the same regardless of the school or students?

I think a surprisingly debated question, even among people who have dedicated their careers to working with high-poverty communities, is: Sure, you might be able to have this incredible dialogue about math or literature or science or history in your nice suburban school where you don’t face the challenges we face, but we can’t do that here, that’s not possible.

That is a debate that’s going on right now about what kind of learning level really is possible in each type of environment. Is there a need for more order and less student voice in some environments?

Personally, I don’t want to think it’s not possible for all kids, and I’ve definitely seen it happen for all kids, but I think it is a debate that’s going on.

You’ve covered education for several years now, but you’ve never been a teacher. What qualifies you to write about teaching?

I thought a lot about whether I had the right to write about teaching, given that I’ve never taught myself. I had a conversation with a good friend of mine who’s a teacher that’s probably lasted seven years. Her argument to me was always that somebody’s job needs to be to record what’s happening [inside schools], since teachers don’t have time to do that, and make sense of the big picture.

That’s why I ultimately decided I have the right to do this and all of us at Chalkbeat do. We come from a place of respect for this work, we know what we don’t know, and we’re here to learn.

Your book makes the point that good teachers are not born, they’re made. Considering that, what is one thing your favorite teacher did that other educators could benefit from learning?

I went back and I interviewed a lot of my own teachers for this book. One of them I spent extra time with was Lesley Wagner, my fifth-grade math teacher. She is remembered among my friends from elementary school as one of the greatest, best teachers we ever had.

She uses her Smart Board in the most brilliant way I’ve ever seen. Her smart board is like a Japanese blackboard, but better. The point of the blackboard in Japanese classrooms is that we should be able to have a trajectory for each lesson of the ideas that we’ve gone through, so students can look at not only at the specific thing we’re talking about right now, but they can connect back to where we came from that day.

Ms. Wagner does that with her Smart Board, basically a screen per day. But because it’s a Smart Board, she also has access to every other day, so if somebody references another day in the past, she just uses her Smart Board to go backwards in time and see what they were doing that day. I’m sure other teachers use it for that reason too, but I was just blown away.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Readers: What is one thing your favorite teacher did that other educators could benefit from learning? Share in a comment or tweet with #BABT.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Some Colorado students head back to school this week

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 08/04/2014 - 09:41

New Arrivals

A new child care center and preschool is just one of many new offerings pregnant and parenting Aurora Public Schools students may take advantage of this school year. The aim of the new programs are to keep teens that need those services in school. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Back to cool

Today is the first day Colorado students begin the track back to school. Here's a roundup of start dates for metro-area school districts. (Although some individual schools may vary.) ( 9News )

Home visits before the school year starts appears to be easing the first day of school for Denver teachers, parents, and students. ( Denver Post )

Some Colorado teachers are getting relief this school year as they stock up on needed supplies for their classroom. ( 9News )

The Poudre School District will pilot an early-release program this year for some of its students. The Fort Collins school district is sending those students home two hours early to keep them out of over-heated classrooms. ( Fort Collins Coloradoan )

In an effort to boost student outcomes, Aurora Public Schools is decentralizing its teacher coaches this school year. ( Aurora Sentinel )

One thing that likely won't be taught this school year to Colorado students is cursive handwriting. CPR attempts to answer whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. ( CPR )

summer reading

About 120 Boulder students are participating in a summer literacy program aimed to prevent any summer learning loss. Nearly 100 percent of 40 students who participated in last year's pilot program returned to school at the same reading level. ( Daily Camera )

The library is closed. Or is it?

The Cripple Creek City Council will likely have to settle an ongoing conflict between the mountain town's library and school district. ( Colorado Springs Gazette )

A little math never hurt nobody

A teaching resource organization hopes to change Jefferson County students' attitudes toward math this week. ( Arvada Press )

Suburgatory

The Douglas County school board will not be asking voters for additional tax dollars to fix its aging schools. The board, which voted unanimously to skip the election, claims Dougco residents don't need to pay more for their schools but that the state needs to fix its funding formula. Critics believe other motives are at play. ( Douglas County News-Press )

Fewer Dougco teachers belong to the county's union this year. The answer to why depends on who you ask. ( Douglas County News-Press )

Human Resources

Meet one of Teach For America-Colorado's new deputy directors. ( Colorado Springs Gazette )

Anatomy of a lesson

While some adults are playing hot potato with the Common Core State Standards, teachers in most states are still responsible for using them in the classroom. Here's a look at how a few are doing that. ( NPRed via KUNC )

Categories: Urban School News

Take 5: Absenteeism task force, principal eligibility and "lost" children

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 08/04/2014 - 09:21

The Chicago Tribune calls the reforms recommended by a state task force on absenteeism sweeping. The task force was created after a Tribune investigation found that about 13 percent of Chicago’s elementary school students miss more than a month of school or vanish without anyone in CPS knowing where they went. The recommendations include the return of truancy officers, changing the way districts report absenteeism and sharing real time information on absent students with other entities, like the Chicago Housing Authority.

But then, in the ninth paragraph, the story points out that since the series was published in November 2012 -- and based on data from the 2010-2011 school year -- chronic absenteeism has gotten worse in the elementary grades. As Catalyst reported in May, in every grade level during the 2012-2013 school year there was a substantial increase--an average of 5 percent. The Tribune notes that this past school year, the rates have gone down a bit, but are still higher than 2010-2011.

CPS officials say they do not know what caused the increase, according to the Tribune. One thing that was different in 2012-2013 was that school officials were threatening to close more than 100 schools, which caused some instability.  Ultimately, they closed 50.

2. Policy or political…. Despite failing the CPS’ principal eligibility test twice, Ald. Pat O’Connor’s sister Catherine Sugrue will serve as Gray’s interim principal, according to the Chicago Tribune. Many saw this coming when the agenda for the Board of Education included an item that gave CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett leverage to override the principal eligibility process. One change is that interim principals don’t have to meet the eligibility requirements, whereas before they did. Also, the CEO can now determine how long a candidate is excluded from consideration after failing twice; whereas the old policy called from them to be excluded for three years. 

CPS officials say the policy change was not pushed specifically for Surgue and that her brother, the alderman, did not intervene on her behalf. In fact, CPS officials say that Sugrue is the second principal appointed under the policy change, but the Tribune article does not name the second principal.

But the fact that leaders are willing to put more flexibility into the principal eligibility process is surprising. Making it harder to become a principal was one of the key provisions of the district’s “comprehensive, multi-tiered Principal Quality Strategy,” unveiled by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Byrd-Bennett in February 2013. The new process includes a “Day in the Life” simulation and criteria for assessing how well candidates interact with parents and communities.

However, having a stringent principal eligibility process erodes the power of Local School Councils to choose whomever they want. In the case of Gray, the LSC chose Sugrue. While not being specific, district officials told DNAinfo that Sugrue did not make it past the first stage of the process, which entails being interviewed by a two-person panel of experts.

3. Lost and found… Barbara Byrd-Bennett penned an op-ed for the Chicago Sun-Times patting herself and her administration on the back for locating the 847 students “identified by our critics as `lost.’”  Byrd-Bennett says that CPS found these students had transferred to the suburbs, out of state or to private schools. She writes that the location of these students was confirmed by ISBE, though ISBE spokeswoman Mary Fergus told Catalyst that she doesn’t know who at ISBE confirmed the information.

CTU President Karen Lewis raised the issue of "lost children" at the March board meeting, referencing the fact that CPS’ own information identified these students as “inactive.” At the time, CPS spokesman Joel Hood told Catalyst that CPS was working with ISBE to locate the students and that the information would be provided as soon as it was available. But rather than provide the data to Catalyst, CPS officials decided it would be better to write an editorial. Catalyst is still waiting for more detailed information, not only about where students went, but where the information came from.

4. Immigrant children and school districts... Children who have fled the violence in Central America are enrolling in Illinois public schools. Officials in Waukegan say 77 children from Honduras have enrolled as of the last week of July for the 2014-15 school year, bringing the total from the last two years to nearly 100, according to the Lake County News-Sun.

District officials here in Chicago can also expect to receive more of these students as Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently agreed to provide shelter to 1,000 children fleeing the gang violence in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

School districts from Miami to Houston are preparing for an influx of students, who frequently require special -- and expensive -- resources such as English language and mental health services. Obama administration officials recently reminded districts of a decades-old Supreme Court ruling that ensures all children the right to enroll in school, regardless of their immigration status.

5. As Chicago opens its doors… to children fleeing violence, the  city also is struggling to protect its own children from it. A Fenger Academy High School graduate featured on CNN’s“Chicagoland” was shot and wounded over the weekend. Lee McCollum Jr. was highligted as a young man who turned his life around. The 20-year-old was shot twice in the leg as he headed into work at a Wendy’s at 7:30 a.m. Saturday from his grandfather’s home in Roseland. He had graduated last year and was working to save money for college, family members said.

Fenger’s principal, Liz Dozier, who was also featured prominently in the CNN series, told the Tribune she’s kept in touch with McCollum since graduation, and hopes he enrolls in college this fall. "We are still trying to get him off to school … It's just better to get him out of the city," she said. "We're working on it for him."

 



Categories: Urban School News

What We’re Reading: On its five-year anniversary, what did Race to the Top accomplish?

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 08/01/2014 - 19:44
  • The latest pre-K fervor fails to recognize that pre-K is a means, not an end. (Flypaper)
  • As Newark’s schools are reshaped, one elementary-school student navigates the chaos. (Hechinger)
  • The textbook and testing company Pearson is shedding thousands of jobs. (Marketplace K-12)
  • New Jersey parents are suing their school district — because of a new policy barring lunch deliveries. (Bergen Record)
  • On Race to the Top’s five-year anniversary, questions remain about its effects. (PD Watch)
  • A teacher — who says he’s as guilty as anyone at telling glossy stories — calls for honesty from the classroom. (Atlantic)
  • Education reform advocate Checker Finn looks ahead as he retires. (Flypaper)
  • NPR explains the dividing lines between Gates and other funders and its education coverage. (NPRed)
  • A teacher’s internal, intellectual focus is an overlooked factor in his or her success. (Diana Senechal)
  • Improving math instruction may be a tougher task than many anticipate because of cultural norms. (Real Clear Education)
  • A blogger was fired because his boss thought discussing “homophones” evoked homosexuality. (Salt Lake Tribune)
Categories: Urban School News

New programs for teen parents on the way in Aurora

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 08/01/2014 - 11:57

Over the next 12 months, pregnant and parenting teens in Aurora will see big changes in local educational options for themselves and their young children.

These include Tuesday’s opening of the new $2 million “Early Beginnings” center, which will provide up to 72 child care and preschool slots for the babies and young children of teen parents enrolled in Aurora Public Schools. The district is also replacing its underutilized teen parent outreach program with a new mobile team of advocates.

In addition, a new charter school serving pregnant and parenting teens in Aurora and northeast Denver is set to open in the fall of 2015. That school, called New Legacy Charter High School, will accommodate up to 100 high school students—teen fathers included—plus 70 young children at its on-site child care center to be run by Mile High Montessori. While the exact location has yet to be determined it is likely to be in the 80010 zip code.

Quick facts on Early Beginnings center
Replaces:

      District-run child care center at William Smith High School

Location:

      On the campus of Jamaica Child Development Center, 820 N. Jamaica St.

Includes:

      6 classrooms with up to 72 spots for infants, toddlers and preschoolers of teen parents in the district.

Project cost:

      $2 million

Funders:

      Donor-advised fund at the Denver Foundation, Foundation for Educational Excellence, Gates Family Foundation, Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation and Qualistar Colorado

First day:

      Tues., August 5

Grand opening:

      Wed., August 20, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Administrators involved in the development of the new facilities and programs say the offerings reflect the need for more centrally-located facilities and responsive interventions to ensure pregnant or parenting teens stay in school and ultimately graduate.

“We have so many young mothers and young fathers,” said Deputy Superintendent William Stuart. “They need opportunities to remain engaged in school.”

Indeed, statistics shows that teen pregnancy and parenthood don’t bode well for school success. According to a brief from the advocacy group Colorado Youth Matter, 53 percent of Colorado young women who gave birth in 2011 didn’t finish high school or obtain a GED. In addition, nearly one-third of female students who dropped out of school cite pregnancy or parenthood as the primary reason for their decision.

“What are they going to do if they have no high school education?” asked Shirley Algiene, principal of Denver’s Florence Crittenton High School, which serves pregnant and parenting teens. “How are they going to take care of the baby?”

Need despite declining teen birth rates

Perhaps ironically, the development of Early Beginnings, New Legacy and the new teen parent outreach model over the last few years has coincided with gradual decreases in teen birth rates. In Colorado, the teen birth rate among youth ages 15-19 dropped 56 percent since 1991.

While advocates for teen pregnancy prevention herald such declines, they say there are still plenty of teenagers having babies, particularly in certain counties and demographic groups.

“It’s still not going down across the board,” said Lisa Olcese, executive director of Colorado Youth Matter.

For example, in Adams County, where part of the Aurora school district lies, there were 44.5 births per 1,000 females 15-19 during 2010-2012, compared to the Colorado average of 28.4.

Jennifer Douglas, the founder and principal of New Legacy, has drilled even deeper into local data as she’s planned the new school. She found that while there has been an overall decrease in the number of teens giving birth over the last decade in four zip codes in northeast Denver and northwest Aurora, the numbers actually increased slightly in 2013. A total of 182 teens, ages 14-18, had babies that year, up from 169 in 2012.

“Yes, there really is a need,’” said Douglas, who was formerly the director of new school development at the Colorado League of Charter Schools.

“At this point, even with the drop [in teen pregnancy] there are still of hundreds of students giving birth that need an educational option to help them finish school.”

Dwindling enrollment

For decades, Aurora’s “Young Parenting Program” was housed at William Smith High School, a small alternative high school that for many years was centrally located where Peoria Elementary School is now.

Enrollment by teen parents gradually dwindled after the school moved to a new building on the district’s east side in 2004 and a few years later adopted an expeditionary learning focus. At the end of last year, only three children of teen parents were enrolled in the 40 slots available at the school’s on-site nursery.

“Transportation was a big issue,” said Anita Walker, the district’s early childhood coordinator. “It was so far east it was challenging for parents to get to.”

In contrast, the Early Beginnings center is closer to the heart of the district on the same campus as Jamaica Child Development Center. It’s also less than a mile from Central High School, one of the district’s comprehensive high schools.

“A significant number of young parents reside in the north and northwest part of our district,” noted Stuart who helped oversee the former Young Parenting Program when he was principal of William Smith 15 years ago.

Administrators say the new center, which has two infant rooms, two toddler rooms and two preschool rooms, may not fill up immediately with children of teen parents, but the new four-member mobile outreach team is working on recruitment. Operating under the moniker “Young Parent Support Program,” the team includes two student engagement specialists, a health care specialist and a child care specialist.

The engagement specialists, who Stuart said may go door to door at times, will help pregnant or parenting teens re-connect with some type of educational program, whether it’s a traditional high school, New Legacy, an online high school or an alternative program focused on obtaining a GED or entering community college.

“We will reach far more young parents through the new format,” said Stuart.

In addition to the mobile team, there will be a family liaison and a nurse serving the campus where Early Beginnings is located, and eventually maybe a mental health professional as well.

Special schools for teen parents

Douglas first got the idea for New Legacy more than a decade ago when she visited Passages Charter School in Montrose. She was impressed with the school, which served pregnant and parenting teens, and realized that if the need existed in a small community like Montrose, it probably also existed in the much larger north Aurora and Denver region.

While Denver already has Florence Crittenton High School in the city’s southwest quadrant, Algiene is well aware that its quite a trek for some students. The school’s 130 high schoolers come from Denver and all corners of the metro area, including Aurora, Northglenn, and Jefferson County.

Algiene said three-quarters of her students rely on public transportation, facing the daily challenge of toting babies, diaper bags, back packs and strollers on buses or trains.

“I know it’s an issue to get over here,” she said. “I’m glad Aurora is opening up something.”

Coincidentally, Florence Crittenton will also be getting a new building next year, right across the street from its current location. The new space will include a school-based health center, room for 250 high school students and an on-site child care facility that will serve children from 6 weeks to four years old. (The school’s current child care facility only goes up to three years old.)

Despite the burst of new facilities coming over the next year, there’s a sense among the various administrators that the programs are complementary and will help fill a chronic gap. Douglas said she appreciates the new supports APS officials are putting into place for teen parents.

“I think the district recognized that that’s been a need and I’m really excited that they’re doing so much now,” she said. “We’re not in competition; we’re just options for students.”

For their part, APS administrators believe the planned opening of New Legacy next year coordinates nicely with their new programming.

“We want to demonstrate to our community that we have a commitment to these young students,” said Stuart.

This article originally misspelled the name of Aurora Deputy Superintendent William Stuart. We apologize for the error.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Morgridges emerge as key education funders

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 08/01/2014 - 09:24

Montessori del Mundo

A unique Montessori-dual language school has opened in Aurora, the first new charter to open within district boundaries since 2008. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Investing in learning

The Morgridge Family Foundation has become an important donor to Colorado education causes. Check a searchable database of their giving. ( Denver Business Journal )

Young migrants

Unaccompanied children who crossed into America illegally are now arriving in Colorado to be reunited with relatives. The Adams 14 schools and DPS are preparing for them. ( 9News (with video) )

Adams 12 election

Incumbent Adams 12-Five Star school board member Rico Figueroa and his supporters have decided to file an appeal disputing a ruling that claimed November's election had no winner. ( Denver Post )

Beat the heat

The Poudre schools will test a new system of letting some students out of school early on hot days. ( Coloradoan )

Categories: Urban School News

Scalding school closing report unlikely to get a hearing

Catalyst Chicago - Thu, 07/31/2014 - 23:09

A scalding report that criticizes CPS for the way it handled the mass closing of schools last year likely will not get a public hearing as requested by state task force members. 

As for why, that’s in dispute. 

State Rep. Linda Chapa La Via, chair of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, said she requested a hearing but has little hope that it will ever be held. “Everything is politics,” she said with a sigh.

However, Steve Brown, House Speaker Mike Madigan’s spokesman, said that Chapa LaVia doesn’t need permission to hold a hearing. He was incredulous as to why she doesn’t just move forward.

Chapa Lavia did not respond when re-contacted. Also, representatives Cynthia Soto and Esther Golar, both of whom sit on the task force, did not respond to calls and emails on the subject.

Members of the Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force said they are convinced that Madigan’s office—with the encouragement of Mayor Rahm Emanuel—is preventing the hearing. They suspect that Emanuel wants to avoid a discussion on the school closing process during an election year. 

“It was shut down,” said Clarice Berry, a task force member and president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association.  “There is tremendous political pressure not to hold a hearing.”

Cecile Carroll, chair of the task force, said she was told the request for a subject matter hearing was denied and was given the impression that it was over Chapa Lavia’s head. 

The final report criticizes CPS on a range of matters, from not announcing the school actions in time for students to apply to magnet or selective enrollment schools to not taking heed of the opinions of Independent hearing officers, some of whom recommended—to no avail—that a school not be closed. 

Mike Rendina, who at the time was CPS’ Chief of Policy, wrote a three-page rebuttal to the final report, accusing task force members of not consulting district officials as they were writing it. He said there are several instances where the report is inaccurate or misleading. 

One point of contention is that the report says CPS has not developed a defined system or policies to evaluate the school actions. Rendina notes in his letter that CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett issued a mid-year preliminary report that looks at attendance and other issues.  The task force report acknowledges Byrd-Bennett’s report, but notes that it is not online for the public to review. 

Catalyst reported that the gains touted by Byrd-Bennett in the mid-year report are minuscule. Catalyst also has asked for a final report now that the school year is over. 

The Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force was created after community activists, frustrated by earlier school closings made their case to state lawmakers. Based on the task force’s recommendations, state lawmakers passed a bill in 2011 that established a process for school actions as well as forced CPS to come up with a master facilities plan. Newly in office, Emanuel grudgingly supported the bill after getting a provision removed that would have allowed the task force to override school actions.

Ever since, the task force has been responsible for monitoring CPS’ implementation of the bill, and task force members have often grilled CPS officials. They also have drawn a lot of information out of CPS that had not been made public. Rendina, now in the mayor’s office, attended most of the meetings. 

What the task force’s next step is unclear, Berry said that even without a hearing, she is hopeful the task force’s report will send a lasting message.  “I am hoping to never see this kind of mass closings again,” she said. “It does not serve the children well.”

Categories: Urban School News

To prepare for the first day of school, a lesson on dinosaurios

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 07/31/2014 - 19:33

PHOTO: Nicholas Garcia

“Hoy vamos a jugar un juego de dinosaurios! Quien sabe cual es mi dinosaurio favorito?  Es tiranosaurio rex!”

So began a lesson on dinosaurs — nearly entirely in Spanish — Wednesday night at Montessori del Mundo, a new charter school in Aurora.

Karen Farquharson, center, led the lesson for 10 students including Lindsey Myers, right, and Sebastian Canon and their parents.

The school, founded and led by Farquharson, is a unique hybrid of dual language instruction taught with Montessori methods. The school is the first charter school since 2008 to open within the Aurora Public Schools boundaries. However, to secure more funding, Montessori del Mundo is authorized through the state. Chalkbeat Colorado is following the school’s progress throughout the year.

While Farquharson was teaching her new students about dinosaurs — in particular the eating habits of the tyrannosaurus rex — the evening was also meant for parents to understand how their students would be taught. Farquharson used her whole body and figurines to convey some of the lesson. She mimicked eating and rubbed her stomach when she tried to convey to her students how much a tyrannosaurus rex ate.

The lesson followed a more formal presentation for parents on how to prepare for the first day of school and what to expect throughout the year.

Montessori del Mundo is staggering its opening from Aug. 18 through Aug. 29. The goal, Farquharson told parents, is to ensure students and teachers are establishing their relationships in small groups and develop strong classroom habits early.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Marijuana taxes slowly come in for school construction

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 07/31/2014 - 08:42

Do the School shuffle

The principal of Denver's George Washington High School, who had become the target of much parent and teacher criticism, is leaving the school. ( Chalkbeat Colorado, Denver Post )

trickling in

Revenue from taxes on marijuana are very slowly going toward school construction projects. ( Denver Post )

student, know thyself

A new project seeks a way to measure students' non-academic skills like leadership and critical thinking. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

pov

A policy analyst at the conservative Independence Institute argues that charters are mirroring national trends in serving disadvantaged students, despite funding inequities. ( Greeley Tribune )

Around the network

Tennessee state officials said this year's test scores offer only a limited view of the effects of the Common Core on student learning. ( Chalkbeat Tennessee )

Indianapolis' mayor is making pre-kindergarten a centerpiece of his push to reduce crime. ( Chalkbeat Indiana )

Categories: Urban School News

Take 5: CPS grads hiring preference, Common Core money and governor endorsements

Catalyst Chicago - Thu, 07/31/2014 - 08:19

1. Touting it as a way to keep CPS students in school, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is defending a decision he made two years ago to give preference in firefighter hiring to Chicago Public School graduates. Now that the Chicago Fire Department has opened up hiring, writes Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown, several elected officials say they are getting complaints from families of private school students. And the fire chief says the hiring preference has caused an “outcry” among the rank-and-file, many of whom are second- and third-generation firefighters and would like their own children to have the same chance. About 12 percent of high schoolers in Chicago attend a private school, according to the U.S. Census.

Emanuel needs to make extra sure that the hiring process is fair for black candidates. When he came into office he settled a big lawsuit stemming from the city’s discriminatory handling of a 1995 firefighters entrance exam.

2. New standards, new market…. With schools adopting new standards and more of them buying smart tablets for students, there’s money to be made in education for technology developers. That’s what Phyllis Lockett told Technori Pitch, an event that showcases technology startups, according to an article on the Tribune’s Blue Sky Innovation site. As you will remember, Lockett was founding president and CEO of New Schools for Chicago, which raised money to invest in charter schools. Lockett now runs LEAP Innovation which aims to connect tech companies and educators. "Common Core is huge,” she told the group. “It’s inherently nationalized standards. What that means for technology developers is that if you develop solutions that are tied to the Common Core — 46 states have adopted them throughout the country — you can sell anywhere.”


3. Speaking of the Common Core... WBEZ looked at how a variety of Chicago-area schools are implementing the new Common Core State Standards, a set of academic standards that most states have signed onto. Illinois is one of them.

The standards, which are supported by -- but did not arise from -- the federal government, are supposed to encourage critical thinking. But they've been heavily criticized in some states by both unions, who fear over testing, and conservative activists, who worry about the broad reach of the federal government. Though the Chicago Teachers Union voted symbolically against the standards earlier this summer, they’ve been less controversial here in Illinois than in other states, such as Louisiana, where the governor is now in a legal tiff with his own state school board over his attempt to scrap them.

The WBEZ story sheds some light on what classrooms sound like when teachers implement lessons guided by the new standards.

4. A teachers' governor?... The Illinois Federation of Teachers announced this week it'll support Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn's reelection campaign. The state union (and parent organization pf the CTU) says Republican candidate Bruce Rauner is "out of touch” about “what’s best for education and Illinois families." The state's other major teachers union, Illinois Education Association, also announced it will back the incumbent.

Some of Quinn’s moves as governor have angered teacher unions, and his choice of former CPS CEO Paul Vallas, who supports charter schools and other so-called corporate reforms, have raised questions. But Rauner is an unabashed supporter of vouchers and charter schools.

"Don't compare me to the Almighty. Compare me to the alternative," Quinn said in April at the IEA convention’s gubernatorial debate.

 

5. Beautiful old building …. That’s what the new buyer of CPS’s headquarters says about the 125 S. Clark St. office building.

Crain’s Chicago business reports that a venture of the local Blue Star Properties Inc. has a contract to buy the 20-story building, which it plans to redevelop into loft office space for tech startups and creative firms.

Blue Star’s founder, Craig Golden, didn’t say how much the company is paying, but Crain’s reports that it’s believed to be well below the $35 million CPS expected to get from a previous potential buyer, Marc Realty Residential LLC. The 1907 building was designed by famed architect Daniel Burnham’s firm.

CPS, which hadn’t been making full use of the building in recent years because of downsizing, is set to move its 1,000 or so downtown employees to the  former Sears store at 2 N. State St. this fall.




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