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Why creating opportunities for students of color to become teachers is important

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 01/21/2015 - 13:29

The Colorado Department of Education recently published a study to explore the current landscape of teacher diversity in the state. The report, Keeping up with Kids: Increasing Minority Teacher Representation in Colorado, is a call to action.

The highlight of the report is the list of specific strategies to increase the recruitment and retention of teachers of color and why this is an important issue to address.

I sincerely hope that all stakeholders, from legislatures and policy makers to school district leaders and teacher preparation programs are planning to respond to that call.

I know I am.

Why? Teacher diversity matters for all students. As an associate professor at UC Denver, my scholarship centers on issues of diversity and equity in urban schools. Whenever I present my research at professional conferences around the country, I ask conference participants to think about and respond to this question, “what message is conveyed regarding the authority of knowledge and positions of power when students experience school with a predominantly white (and mostly female) teacher workforce?” Our conversations are lively and center on a few important themes including: students’ perceptions of whose voice matters and whose views count, students’ sense of belonging in school, and the need for all children to learn from and interact with teachers who bring a variety of perspectives and lived experiences to their classrooms.

A sad reality exists. Given that 90 percent of Colorado teachers are white, it is entirely possible for a Colorado student to go through her entire K-12 public school education and never have a teacher of color. The same student can continue her education and complete her BA, MA and PhD and still never have a teacher of color.

For these reasons and many more, I created the Pathways2Teaching program in 2010.

Pathways2Teaching is a concurrent enrollment program designed to engage high school students of color in exploring the teaching profession as an avenue for engaging with, giving back to, and righting wrongs within their communities. In collaboration with the University of Colorado Denver and high schools in Denver Public Schools and Adams County School District 14, the Pathways2Teaching program has served over 300 high school juniors and seniors over the last five years.

Our potential future teachers look vastly different from the current teacher demographics in Colorado. Nearly 60 percent of our current and former students are Latino/a, 35 percent African American and 42 percent male.

As the authors of Keeping up with Kids: Increasing Minority Teacher Representation in Colorado point out, there are a number of early outreach programs aimed at recruiting high school students into the teacher workforce. Not all, however, focus specifically on recruiting students of color. If we really want to diversify our teacher workforce and build effective early outreach programs, these programs must be culturally responsive. They must feature a curriculum specifically designed to engage students by explicitly pointing out why they are desperately needed as our future teachers – not just because of the color of their skin, but because of their lived experiences in the same communities that need them the most.

How? It is not always an easy sell. For many students of color, particularly those who live in poverty, schools do not always feel welcoming or safe. This is especially true for African American, Latino and Native American males. One only needs to examine national or state data by race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status to see the disproportionate rates of school disciplinary actions, suspensions, special education placements, and lower graduation rates for students of color to better understand the level of disenfranchisement often felt by these students.

The marginalization students experience can become the catalyst for helping them understand how they can disrupt the inequities they have experienced. The Pathways2Teaching curriculum has an explicit focus on having students critically examine the complex educational issues and inequities that exist in poor, urban communities- the very issues that have contributed to the marginalization that they’ve experienced in schools.

Through the Pathways2Teaching program, students also learn about the importance of dedicated, culturally responsive teachers who come to school each day to empower students and make a difference in students’ lives. Students gain a better understanding of the important roles teachers of color play for all students as they read the published work of national scholars (and sometimes have the opportunity to interview these scholars via video conference calls).

Beyond the scholarship of effective teaching for diverse learners that students study, they get to experience it firsthand. The program incorporates a weekly field experience where students work in local elementary one day a week throughout the year. In fact, our research indicates that this experience is a significant factor in motivating high school students of color to seriously consider becoming a teacher. Students better understand that effective teaching is a complex task – one that involves content knowledge, culturally responsive pedagogy, and unwavering dedication – but above all “revolutionary love.”

The call to diversify our teacher workforce is clear and urgent. I know we have a lot of work to do. The Pathways2Teaching program is one small contribution to answering this call.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Obama didn’t mention No Child Left Behind rewrite plan during speech

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 01/21/2015 - 09:59


President Barack Obama didn't use the words teacher or test in his State of the Union address last night. But he did share a lot about expanding preschool and making community college free. ( Huffington Post )

Talk to us

Answer our question of the week: How can Colorado schools become more equitable? ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

No room at the Inn

Jeffco Public Schools is running out of room and the district's board is having a hard time agreeing to a solution. ( Arvada Press )

meeting of the minds

Five Colorado school board presidents, including those from Jeffco and Douglas County, met at a suburban Mexican restaurant. Conspiracy theories and vague answers follow. ( Adams County Sentinel )

Two cents

Here are the three education issues Colorado Senate Republicans and Democrats agree on. ( Denver Post )

Human Resources

Northwest Colorado BOCES Executive Director and Special Education Coordinator Amy Bollinger will leave the organization after her contract expires June 30. ( Steamboat Today )

under investigation

Denver Public Schools is investigating a bus driver after a family claims the driver tied down their autistic 3-year-old grandson. ( The Denver Channel )

It takes a village

KidsTek, a nonprofit that aims to make kids more technologically literate, is celebrating its 15th anniversary. ( 9News )

Denver Public Schools will create a defined career path into the health and bioscience field for high school students after receiving a $650,000 grant from Kaiser Permanente Colorado. ( Denver Business Journal )

Longmont-based nonprofit Colorado Friendship aims to expand its weekend meal program for students across the St. Vrain Valley School District this year following a donation from Whole Foods. ( Times-Call )

Categories: Urban School News

Talk to us: How can Colorado schools be more equitable?

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 01/20/2015 - 18:48

Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Denver’s annual “marade” broke attendance records. The Denver Post described the scene this way:

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock estimated 30,000-plus gathered at City Park on Monday morning and marched downtown as part of the city’s annual Marade. The crowd called — or rather bellowed — for more than just progress in race, marching also for social justice, education reform and health care equality.

Monday’s celebration was bolstered by thousands of first-time participants, motivated to march by the protests over the deaths of black men at the hands of police. Activists said this year’s parade was especially significant in the aftermath of the “black lives matter” movement.

Many school reform efforts, in Colorado and across the nation, have been undertaken in the name of equity. Some have worked and some haven’t. Other’s are just getting off the ground.

That brings us to our question of the week: How can Colorado schools become more equitable?

Each week, we ask readers a question about a timely or timeless question about their experiences in education. Readers who want to share their opinions should leave a response in the comment section below, tweet us @ChalkbeatCO, send an email, or leave a comment on our Facebook wall. Every Friday we round up the responses. Here’s last week’s.

Categories: Urban School News

Take 5: Aldermanic endorsements, extended learning time, GED pass rates

Catalyst Chicago - Tue, 01/20/2015 - 11:30

The Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates voted to endorse another batch of aldermanic candidates at last week’s meeting -- but not without a little bit of soul-searching first. Union officials have kept mum about what exactly happened -- as George Schmidt wrote last week in Substance News -- but a number of delegates gave Catalyst Chicago the rundown.

Delegates voted down one candidate who had been recommended by the union’s political action and legislative committee -- Patrick Daley-Thompson (11th Ward), a nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, with many questioning why the union would want to be linked with a name synonymous with Chicago machine politics. Instead, delegates proposed and voted to endorse one of Daley’s opponents, Maureen Sullivan. Some frustrated delagates compared the process to the November endorsement of Jesus "Chuy" Garcia for mayor, a last-minute decision that came after CTU President Karen Lewis was diagnosed with a brain tumor, effectively ending her own political aspirations.

The House did approve a number of other recommended candidates, including Matt O'Shea (19th); Michael Zalewski (23rd); Rafael Yañez (15th); Chuks Onyezia (18th); and Frank Bass (24th).

Finally, delegates proposed and voted on two additional candidates for endorsement: Ed Hershey (25th), a teacher at Lindblom, and Zerlina Smith (29th), a community activist who helped lead last year’s opt-out movement at Saucedo. (See our story on teachers running for office in our fall In Depth.) There was apparently some debate about whether to endorse Hershey because of another progressive, education-focused candidate in that race -- Byron Sigcho. While not a CTU member himself, Sigcho has been a CTU ally with strong community support in Pilsen. Hershey, Sigcho and others -- including a socialist candidate, Jorge Mujica -- are vying to unseat incumbent Danny Solis.

Since November, the CTU has endorsed four other teachers running for aldermanic seats, including Sue Sadlowski-Garza (10th), Tim Meegan (33rd), Tara Stamps (37th) and Dianne Daleiden (40th), in addition to others. The CTU’s political arm has contributed $10,000 to the campaigns of Garza, Meegan and Stamps, according to financial reports filed with the state this month.

Meanwhile, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) also endorsed another batch of aldermanic candidates. These include incumbents Patrick O’Conner (40th), Howard Brookins (21st) and Walter Burnett (27th), as well as candidates Elise Doody-Jones (32nd) and James Dukes (17th).

“Our children’s education future is at stake in this election in every ward and neighborhood of this city,” Rebeca Nieves-Huffman, DFER-IL state director, said in a statement. “We are committed to bringing parents, students and teachers together to rally around candidates who will fight to ensure that Chicago can deliver a world-class education to our kids.”

DFER-IL previously endorsed incumbent aldermen Will Burns (4th), Michelle Harris (8th), JoAnn Thompson (16th), and Emma Mitts (37th), in addition to Michael Diaz, a candidate in the 45th Ward. So far, the group has only reported a $500 contribution to Burns.

2. Fixing funding at last?....State School News Service’s Jim Broadway writes that Senate Bill 16, the overhaul of the school funding formula that was percolating last year, has re-emerged, but this time as Senate Bill 1. Senate Bill 1 is still just a title and the details of what state Sen. Andy Manar will propose has yet to be laid out. But last year’s bill sought to address the disparity in school funding by combining nearly all of the state education department’s grant money into the General State Aid formula, a move that ends up increasing state funding for property-poor school districts and cutting the amount for wealthy areas.  

Broadway notes that the only way to prevent well-heeled areas from losing substantial state funding would be to greatly increase the overall money in the GSA pot. “That shouldn't be so difficult in a state as wealthy as ours, especially since Gov. Bruce Rauner pledged as a candidate last year to "restore" the $1 billion he said the schools lost while Gov. Pat Quinn was in office,” writes Broadway. Though Broadway acknowledges the state budget problems will make it hard for Rauner to keep his promise.

Despite those problems, though, the Chicago Tribune tells Rauner to make good on his promise to deliver more money for education. The solution proposed, however, is a little different than Manar’s. In an editorial, the Tribune writes that a lot of money is already flowing into education, but that bureaucracy is bloated. They advocate consolidating school districts and regional offices.

3. Rise in low-income students … We already knew that, for the first time ever, just over half of Illinois students in public schools were considered low-income. It now looks like that’s also true across the country.

Researchers at the Southern Education Foundation found that 51 percent of public school children qualified for free or reduced-price lunches in 2013, a big jump from 38 percent in 2000.

This article in the New York Times -- which includes a telling map of poverty across the country -- clarifies that children who are eligible for these lunches don’t necessarily live in poverty. “Subsidized lunches are available to children from families that earn up to $43,568 for a family of four, which is about 185 percent of the federal poverty level,” Mokoto Rich writes. In addition, the numbers have likely increased because the federal government “now allows schools with a majority of low-income students to offer free lunches to all students, regardless of whether they qualify on an individual basis or not.”

This year, CPS signed onto the program and meals at all schools -- including “well-off” schools -- are free. “Entirely free meals reduce the labor of cash collection and tracking which students have to pay full and reduced prices for their food,” WBEZ reported last fall. “This tiered system (with incentives for schools reporting higher poverty levels) led to fraud among CPS employees in the past.”

4. Extended learning time provides boost… Increasing time spent in the classroom can have a serious effect on achievement for low-performing schools, according to a new report out from the Center for Education Policy. Looking at 17 schools in four states, the report compared different approaches to federal grants that provide incentives for longer school days. Results varied, but most suggested that extended learning time can boost schools in more ways than one. The principal of one school in Oregon, for example, said “everyone is benefiting” from a 30-minute extension to teachers’ workday. A handful of other schools, in Colorado, saw bumps in their graduation rates after extending school hours into the late afternoon.

Still, the report notes, extended learning time brings up some challenges. Most notably, rigid teacher contracts will often become a snag in district efforts to increase classroom time. This was the case in Chicago in 2012, when the Chicago Teachers Union dug its feet in opposition to the added work hours that came alongside Mayor Emanuel’s extended school day initiative. The union ended up agreeing to a deal in which hours were added to the school day but required time for staff meetings was cut, meaning that teachers would more or less work the same total number of hours.  

5. Higher bar to pass the GED… In 2014, the number of people who took and passed the GED plummeted as the test changed, reportedly to make it more in line with employers' expectations, according to a National Public Radio story. The new test is taken via computer, is more expensive and more difficult. Designers of the new test are hoping that it will carry more weight now that it is harder. But critics are worried that it will take away the second chance that many people desperately need to earn high school credentials

The early numbers show that less than 60,000 passed the GED (the numbers do not include those in prison who took the test). Typically hundreds of thousands take and pass the test, and in 2013, as people rushed to take it before the change, more than 500,000 got the equivalency degree. More than 20,000 people passed the test in Illinois in 2013. The GED Testing Service has yet to post the 2014 annual statistical report.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Aurora teachers say co-teaching, time with peers helps students learn English

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 01/20/2015 - 07:09


Colorado legislators introduced several more bills focused on testing. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )


At a school where students speak 47 languages, teachers say students benefit from co-teaching and being with their peers. ( Aurora Sentinel )


In honor of Martin Luther King , Jr. Day, reflections from schools on race relations in America. ( KUNC )


Denver superintendent Tom Boasberg will testify to the U.S. Congress about testing and accountability. ( Education Week )

The Times, They Are A-Changing

Silver Creek High School in Longmont is dropping home economics in favor of a business program. ( Times-Call )

Student Profiles

Seventh grader Enrique Hernandez Salcido dreams of being a teacher. ( Daily Camera )

Speaking Up

An eleven-year-old challenged young people to get involved in tough issues at a summit at Colorado College. ( Gazette )

Growing, Growing

A charter school in Arvada has plans to rapidly expand. ( Denver Post )

Categories: Urban School News

Testing, standards bills keep piling up

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 01/19/2015 - 10:24

Two new Republican testing bills and a proposal on flexibility for rural districts were introduced in the House Friday before lawmakers left the Capitol for a three-day weekend.

The new measures bring to five the number of testing and standards bills introduced so far, three in the House and two in the Senate. The House bills all are sponsored by Republicans, who are in the minority in that chamber. On the other hand, the Senate bills are by Democrats, the minority party there.

Here’s a look at the new bills:

House Bill 15-1123 – Allows district and charter boards to administer only the language arts, math and science tests required by federal law and to stop administering the ACT test to 11th graders. The bill also allows districts to choose their own school readiness and early literacy tests rather than following current state requirements. It also would require the Department of Education to adjust the growth model and accountability requirements to accommodate local district choices. Prime sponsor: Rep. Jack Tate, R-Centennial.

House Bill 15-1125 – Withdraws Colorado from the Common Core State Standards and the PARCC testing consortium, reduces state testing and makes numerous other changes in the testing and standards systems, including creation of a schedule for updating standards. Prime sponsors: Republican Reps. Paul Lundeen of Monument and Terri Carver of Colorado Springs; Sen. Chris Holbert, R-Parker.

House Bill 15-1124 – Permits rural school districts to receive the same waivers from various state laws and rules as those allowed to charter schools. It also allows rural districts to request waivers from the state system of school readiness assessments. Prime sponsor: Rep. Perry Buck, R-Windsor.

Categories: Urban School News

Defying state, CPS will test just 10 percent of schools

Catalyst Chicago - Fri, 01/16/2015 - 21:39

CPS officials say that the district will go against the state's testing plans and refuse to give all students the controversial new PARCC exam. Spokesman Bill McCaffrey said Friday evening that district leaders plan to have only 10 percent of schools take the PARCC, the new state-mandated test that is geared to the Common Core standards. McCaffrey called it an expanded pilot and said that the schools taking the PARCC will be representative of the entire district.

He said he was not immediately certain of the possible consequences for CPS. State officials, who have insisted that all school districts in Illinois administer the PARCC to all students, said they will continue to work with Chicago.

New Governor Bruce Rauner has not taken a stand on the PARCC or whether the state should go forward with full implementation. Several states that originally said they were going to administer the PARCC have pulled out and now only 11 states are still committed, according to PARCC's website.

“It is a big victory for right now,” said Raise Your Hand’s Wendy Katten. Katten’s group, More than A Score, and other active parents fought diligently against the PARCC. They gathered more than 4,000 signatures on a petition and met with more than 20 legislators.

The parent groups argued that the PARCC is not yet ready to be rolled out, asserting that the test questions are confusing and the test is too long. In general, the groups also are against high-stakes standardized testing.

While the delay is something to celebrate now, Katten said it could be short-lived if the PARCC isn’t improved and the state insists on keeping it for next school year. Katten said her group will continue to push for a bill allowing parents to opt their children out of standardized tests. As it is now, students must refuse the tests themselves. 

Sarah Chambers, a special education teacher at Saucedo Elementary who helped lead a testing boycott last year, said she thinks CPS made the decision because they were afraid that large numbers of parents would have their children opt out.

Earlier this week, the Chicago Teachers Union approved a resolution encouraging teachers to talk to parents about their option to opt their children out of taking the PARCC. Last year, CPS officials threatened teachers who participated in the boycott with disciplinary action, although according to Chambers, none was ever taken.

In October, CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett publically announced that she wanted a delay of the PARCC. In the letter, she said that CPS’ pilot of the PARCC last year had “yielded generally positive results.”

The main reason why Byrd-Bennett wrote that she didn’t want to implement the PARCC is that the district planned to continue giving elementary school students the NWEA and high school students the ACT. As they have been for the past few years, the NWEA and the ACT were to be used for district accountability purposes, such as school ratings and promotion.

“The testing demands on students and the burdens on teachers and principals with the addition of the PARCC will be overwhelming,” she wrote in her letter to ISBE.

 However, she had already been told by the state that the district will not be granted a waiver.

State Superintendent Christopher Koch has insisted that the PARCC has been vetted enough. Further, he said the state could face sanctions or other consequences if it does not administer the PARCC. Federal law requires that states administer a test aligned with standards to students. State law requires that students take the PARCC by this school year.

In his weekly message from the first week of January, Koch included a letter from the federal government outlining the consequences that the state could face for not having every district give the same standardized test. The consequences ranged from a letter to financial sanctions.

Still, it is unclear what if anything the state or federal government will do to CPS, considering it is so large. Last year, the state of California took a “snow” year on standardized testing and it was not sanctioned.

Melissa Sanchez contributed to this story.

Categories: Urban School News

Weekend Reads: Most public school students now come from low-income families

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 01/16/2015 - 18:20
  • Most public school students in the U.S. now come from low-income families. (Washington Post)
  • American education may not be experiencing the dramatic crisis we’ve grown so used to hearing about—and black and Latino students, in particular, are doing better over time. (FiveThirtyEight)
  • Public school teachers write about testing, joy, and gray hairs in an essay series on Gawker. (Gawker)
  • Teachers are more likely to injure their voices than any other professionals—but most don’t know how to tend to their voices. (Chalkbeat Tennessee)
  • Is a clash in “blue collar” and “white collar” values behind some of the current pushback to education reform? (CRPE)
  • The GED just got way harder. (KUNC)
  • Bilingual preschool programs are becoming more popular in New York. (Chalkbeat NY)
  • Could the idea of the mad—male—genius hold back women in the classroom? (KUNC)
  • Children’s innate sense of how numbers work doesn’t necessarily line up with how math is taught in schools. (Radiolab)
  • Annual assessments and the federal role in education are all on the table as Congress dives into the the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. (Education Week)
  • An educational consultant argues that differentiation works better in theory than in practice. (Education Week)
  • How toxic stress can take a toll on student learning. (Latino USA)
  • “Engaging multiple modalities.” “Measures of student growth.” Why is education reporting is so boring? Let’s talk about jargon. (The Atlantic)
  • More and more is being expected academically of Kindergartens. (Education Week)
  • And, a weekend listen: Education reporters discuss some of the top issues for 2015. (Bloomberg EDU)
Categories: Urban School News

Readers: Congress should expand choice, wrap-around services

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 01/16/2015 - 13:44

There has been a lot of talk in Washington this week about Congress rewriting the nation’s education laws: here, here, and here.

So with reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in view, we wanted to know what our readers top priorities would be for the revamped federal law.

Reader Melanie emailed that she hopes Congress does something to make school choice more available:

It would be great to see real school choice.  It is not fair to those who are “locked in” to less proficient schools because of zip codes.  I would love to see more options for families and students to choose as well as more incentives for great principles to take on the challenge of turning around less proficient schools.

Meanwhile, Eden Messutta, a middle school English development specialist, said in an email that Congress should ensure that schools serving the neediest students have all the wrap-around services they need.

… we are not meeting the social-emotional needs of our students. And, despite having oodles of interventions in the areas of academics, we are lacking truly effective intervention, programming and supports to meet the needs of at-risk students and students that struggle socially and emotionally. This is an area that, considering Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, must be addressed as we ask students to engage their brains in academic tasks. If our students are not getting their basic needs met and are not getting their social-emotional needs met, we cannot expect young people to be emotionally available to learn if they lack coping skills and/or means to acquire those skills.

On Facebook, reader Kelly Johnson suggested that testing mandates and their results shouldn’t be tied to funding:

I don’t like money tied to testing mandates. We need assessments but we also need more time spent on teaching — and LEARNING (and lots of the important lessons cannot be “tested”). I think preschool funding would be grand, but how about K funding?? Agree there could be a better distribution of federal dollars – but also think Colorado needs to step up and invest in education.

But reader Doug Fresse took the contrarian view on Facebook and said the feds should just butt out of education.

Return to local control of schools. Get the feds out of our neighborhoods. Arnie isn’t listening. The states will undo this mess.

As always, we invite you to join the conversation on our website, Facebook page, or on Twitter. Chalkbeat is off on Monday, it’s Martin Luther King Jr., Day. But we’ll be back with a Question of Week on Tuesday! Thanks for chiming in.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Hick urges caution on testing cuts

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 01/16/2015 - 10:07

Jeffco strikes first

The Jefferson County school board didn’t wait long to seek a waiver from a portion of the state’s new standardized assessments after the State Board of Education cracked open the door on that option last week. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Warning from the gov

Gov. John Hickenlooper urged lawmakers to be cautious about trimming the state testing system in his 2015 state of the state speech Thursday. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Second thoughts

A group of legislative Republicans Thursday introduced a bill that would roll back many of the education reforms passed by the legislature over the last six years. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Spend, spend, spend

The DPS board has approved new spending plans targeting technology, buildings, and other improvements. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Musical chairs

Denver Public Schools, running out of space to house new programs as enrollment surges, is playing policy catch-up to clarify which programs merit space in district buildings. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Counting kids

Colorado public school enrollment grew 1.4 percent in 2014 to 889,006 students, the Department of Education has reported. ( Chalkbeat Colorado, Denver Post )

Data privacy

President Obama's proposals for protecting privacy of student data are drawing attention from Coloradans, including Congressman Jared Polis. ( Denver Post )

guns in schools

Frontier Academy, a Greeley charter school, is considering arming some non-teaching staff members. ( Greeley Tribune via Denver Post )

Growing pains

Increasing enrollment has put a strain on some schools in the Pikes Peak region. ( Gazette )

Categories: Urban School News

School board, on split vote, directs Jeffco to seek waiver from state tests

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 01/16/2015 - 00:26

GOLDEN — Jeffco Public Schools’ board didn’t wait long to seek a waiver from a portion of the state’s new standardized assessments after the State Board of Education cracked open the door on that option last week.

The suburban school board voted 3-1 Thursday night to direct Superintendent Dan McMinimee to seek a waiver from the Colorado Department of Education, knowing that the waiver might not be legal.

Board member Lesley Dahlkemper voted against the resolution, despite agreeing with the conservative majority that the district needs to address over-testing. Board member Jill Fellman abstained from the vote because she believed the resolution violated a board policy and such a request could be illegal.

The Jeffco vote comes a little more than a week after the State Board of Education voted to allow school districts to apply for waivers from a portion of the state’s standardized assessment system in math and English, known as PARCC.

Prior to the state board’s resolution, the Montrose and Colorado Springs District 11 school districts applied for testing waivers. But the Colorado Department of Education rejected those applications, saying the department didn’t have the legal authority to grant them.

Colorado Education Commissioner Robert Hammond said last week his department won’t honor any new waiver applications until the Colorado attorney general issues an opinion on the matter. A top deputy from the attorney general’s office told the state Senate Education Committee Thursday that waivers from the English and math tests weren’t legal. But his assertion carried no legal weight.

“This is premature at best,” Dahlkemper said of the waiver request.

The legal ambiguity didn’t seem to bother the board majority. Board attorney Brad Miller assured the board they faced no legal repercussions for seeking a waiver.

“We need to take the step now,” said board chairman Ken Witt. “We don’t need to wait for the attorney general’s office to drag their feet.”

The Jeffco vote has been months in the making. The board has had several conversations about the PARCC exams and the Common Core standards to which the tests are aligned. While board member Julie Williams has pushed this issue for months, debate never turned into action, mostly because Witt recognized the district’s legal obligation to test students.

Most of  Thursday’s debate regarding the resolution didn’t center around the merits of the PARCC test, but whether the board followed its own policies.

“Are you or are you not in favor of opting out of PARCC?” board member John Newkirk asked.

“We’re in favor of following board policies,” Dahlkemper replied.

Jeffco’s PARCC waiver resolution DV.load('', { width: 620, height: 600, sidebar: false, text: true, pdf: true, container: '#DV-viewer-1503340-jeffcoresolution' });

Update: This article has been updated to provide context why board member Jill Fellman abstained from voting on the testing waiver. 

Categories: Urban School News

DPS approves additional bond spending on technology, buildings

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 01/15/2015 - 23:26

Denver Public Schools will spend $35.7 million from a pot of reserve bond funds on a slate of building and technology improvements around the city, the school board decided Thursday night.

The projects range from replacing stage curtains at Bromwell Elementary School in the Cherry Creek neighborhood to supporting a school for disabled students to a $25-per-pupil investment in new computers and other electronic devices for students. The district is pulling from $46 million in reserves from a $466 million bond issue approved by voters in 2012.

DPS officials said that current bond projects have come in either at or under budget, which allowed the district to fund additional improvements.

Superintendent Tom Boasberg said the district plans to ask voters to approve another bond issue for school improvements in 2016.

“We are the fastest-growing city district in the country,” Boasberg said. “The demand for improvements vastly outstrips the supply.”

Board members commended the district’s plan to make improvements in all parts of the city.

“We heard through this process about leaky roofs and old buildings…and we know those are directly related to equity and putting kids first,” said board member Landri Taylor.

Check out our board tracker for a rundown of how board members voted on each item on tonight’s agenda.

A slightly adjusted budget for the current fiscal year also passed on a unanimous vote. That budget includes an increase in $1 million for compensation from the district’s ProComp fund, and a slight increase in spending on materials.

The board also approved tonight a list of the first members of the DPS District Accountability Committee, or DAC. 

The committee replaces the School Improvement Accountability Committee, or SIAC, that previously made recommendations to the board on policy decisions involving school authorization, among other responsibilities.

The district had not been in compliance with a state regulation detailing requirements for how accountability committees are created.

During the meeting’s public comment session, several parents spoke against the district’s plan to replace a dual language program at CMS Community School with a Transitional Native Language Instruction, or TNLI, program. That plan would leave the southwest part of the city with no dual language options.

All of the items on tonight’s agenda passed unanimously.

Categories: Urban School News

Republican bill would roll back six years of ed reforms

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 01/15/2015 - 22:44

A group of Republicans legislators introduced a bill Thursday that would roll back many of the education reforms passed by the legislature over the last six years.

Those reforms were backed by a Democratic-Republican coalition that no longer exists, given that many of those Republicans have left the legislature.

The bill has little chance of passage in its original form, given Democratic control of the House and Gov. John Hickenlooper’s support of past reforms. But House Bill 15-1105 likely will help shape the legislative debate over academic standards, testing, student data privacy, and teacher evaluation.

The bill was introduced by Republican Rep. Justin Everett of Littleton and Sen. Vicki Marble of Fort Collins. Its key provisions include:

  • Repeal of current state academic standards in language arts, math and social studies.
  • Creation of new Colorado-only tests in those subjects. The bill specifies that new test questions “cannot be designed to collect or measure data, including metadata, concerning students’ noncognitive, behavioral, emotional, or psychological characteristics, attributes, or skills and that the vendor cannot collect biometric data, except handwriting.”
  • Development of a new standards by an advisory committee.
  • Withdrawal from the multi-state PARCC testing group.
  • Repeal of the requirement that all high school juniors take the ACT test.
  • Grading of tests by Colorado teachers.
  • A requirement that school boards adopt policies allowing parents to opt children out of tests and allowing students to take tests on paper if requested.
  • A change in the teacher evaluation system that would affect the current requirement that 50 percent of evaluations be based on student academic growth. That would be reduced to 15 percent, although individual districts could use up to 50 percent if they choose.
  • A ban on any agreements with vendors or the federal government that would cede state control over assessments and standards.

Everett and Marble have signed on 13 Republican cosponsors in the House and Senate. Interestingly, none of the senior Republican lawmakers on education issues have signed onto the bill, including Sens. Owen Hill of Colorado Springs and Chris Holbert of Parker, or Reps. Jim Wilson of Salida and Kevin Priola of Henderson.

A group of Republicans also introduced a bill Thursday on student data privacy. Prime sponsors of House Bill 15-1108 are Rep. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, and Sen. Laura Woods, R-Arvada. They have a dozen other GOP cosponsors in the House, but neither Priola nor Wilson are among them.

A key feature of the bill is a requirement that “prior to conducting any survey, assessment, analysis, or evaluation that would include the collection of specified personal information, a school or school district shall obtain the written consent of a minimum of 85 percent of the students’ parents or legal guardians.”

Holbert is working on a separate data bill that’s being developed from discussions between both parent activist groups and school district interests.

Two other education-related bills were introduced Thursday:

House Bill 15-1104 – The bill creates a state educator expense deduction on state income taxes. Prime sponsor: Rep. Clarice Navarro, R-Pueblo

House Bill 15-1116 – A technical bill repealing requirements that school boards adopt policies on annual school inspections. Prime sponsor: Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio

Categories: Urban School News

Hick: Be careful with testing cuts

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 01/15/2015 - 20:56

In his 2015 state of the state speech Thursday, Gov. John Hickenlooper urged lawmakers to be cautious about trimming the state testing system.

“Easing the testing demands on 12th graders in social studies and science; and streamlining tests in early years and finding flexibility with approaches to social studies might be among the right answers,” he said.

“There is no doubt, however, that maintaining consistent assessments in English and math through high school is fundamental.”

He led up to those comments by saying, “We need to confront the truth about whether Colorado’s kids are getting the education they need to compete and succeed in the job market.

“But how do we know if we are getting the job done unless we accurately measure individual student growth?”

Parent activist groups and some legislators are pushing for more drastic reductions in high school testing, including elimination of 9th and 11th grade tests and even junking all current high school tests in favor of a single college entrance exam like the ACT.

Learn more

The governor spoke for about 45 minutes in the House chamber, which was packed with lawmakers, other state officials, legislative staff, and visitors. The governor’s acknowledgements and introductions alone consumed seven minutes; he spoke about education for about eight minutes.

Here are the highlights of what he said on other K-12 issues:

  • While touting a proposed $480 million overall education funding increase, he warned, “As we look beyond this year, the ability of the State General Fund to protect the negative factor from rising even higher is uncertain.”
  • “Colorado must also become the best state in the country to recruit, retain and grow great teachers. Licensure reforms, career ladders and a fair evaluation system are critical.” (Most observers doubt there will be significant legislation on this areas this year.)
  • “Our goal should be to ensure that every Colorado child has equal access to a great education. That means taking a hard look at funding equity, strategies to turn around struggling schools, promoting innovation, and supporting charter schools.”

Turning to higher education, Hickenlooper said:

  • “Chief among our priorities is reducing the cost of higher education for students and their families. Our Colorado Commission on Higher Education has set a goal that 66 percent of 25-34 year olds hold a post-high school credential by 2025. But that’s a long way away, and we should target 55 percent by 2020.”
  • Noting that he has requested a $107 million higher education funding increase, he urged “a cap in the undergraduate tuition growth at no more than 6 percent.” (Such legislation already has been introduced.)
  • And he sounded a gloomy note about future higher education, as he did with K-12: “We are doing what we can as a state to educate and graduate a homegrown workforce. But, we know that its not enough, and our ability to continue funding higher ed at this level may not last much longer. We must continue to identify and develop creative solutions.”

Part of the squeeze on education funding is caused by conflicting constitutional provisions, including the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

The last panel in Allen True Capitol water murals looks to the future, at least as envisioned in 1940.

Hickenlooper closed his speech on that issue, calling it a “fiscal thicket.” He noted the seriousness of the problem but offered no suggested solutions other than a more intense public focus on the problem.

“We are facing the mathematical and inevitable conclusion of a system of tax and spending rules that evolved over decades. … If we do nothing, if we pretend the future will take care of itself, and we’re back here in two years facing what was clearly an avoidable crisis, history will show that we failed future generations of Coloradans. … While we will continue to strategically prune, our state budget can only endure so much cutting,” he said.

Citing a recent series of talks and negotiations that led to a draft state water plan, Hickenlooper said, “We should be coming together, dealing with the facts of what we know, and take a hard look at what is the most strategic way to allocate our resources; and ask ourselves: What will be of maximum benefit for all Coloradans?”

A recurring theme in Hickenlooper’s speech was the series of murals in the Capitol rotunda that illustrate Colorado’s development. “We can paint our own panel for the mural, one that will benefit generations of Coloradans to come.”

Categories: Urban School News

State P-12 enrollment moves up at usual rate

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 01/15/2015 - 18:41

Colorado public school enrollment grew 1.4 percent in 2014 to 889,006 students, the Department of Education reported Thursday.

The percentage growth was slightly below both 2013’s 1.6 percent and the 20-year average rate of 1.7 percent. The number includes students enrolled in preschool through 12th grade.

The new figure is based on enrollment counts conducted statewide in a window around last Oct. 1 and will be the official number for the current 2014-15 school year. Despite recurring discussions about changing the state student counting method, the single Oct. 1 count remains the way Colorado calculates enrollment.

The annual counts are closely watched because enrollment is a key factor in district funding.

The state added 12,007 students from 2013 to last fall, a number equivalent to the size of the Westminster district. (See this CDE chart for enrollment by district, listed from highest to lowest.) Nearly half that growth, 5,564, came in districts classified as urban or suburban.

Denver Public Schools, with 88,839 students, remains the largest district. DPS grew by 2,796 students, a 3.3 percent gain. Only the state Charter School Institute had a larger gain, 3,573 students. (That was because the institute added schools.)

The other largest districts are a familiar list – Jefferson County (86,547), Douglas County (66,702), Cherry Creek (54,499), Aurora (41,729) and Adams 12-Five Star (38,701).

Some 83 districts lost enrollment, by a total of 6,115 students. Adams 12 lost 3,529 students (8.3 percent) because the Colorado Virtual Academy switched to the Byers district as its authorizer. Enrollment in a handful of districts fluctuates every year because of such charter school moves.

Here are some other key statistics from the latest enrollment report. The 2013 figures are in parentheses.

  • At-risk students – 41.6 percent of state enrollment (41.9 percent)
  • White students – 54.5 percent (55 percent)
  • Hispanic students – 33.1 percent (32.8 percent)
  • Black students – 4.7 percent (4.7 percent)

The enrollment count also reported 126,840 students classified as English language learners for 2014-15 and 89,602 special education students. The comparable figures for 2013-14 were 126,750 and 88,190.

Enrollment in online schools increased to 17,060 students compared to 16,215 in 2013-14.

The department slices and dices enrollment data in a wide variety of ways and breaks it down by district, school and grade. See this CDE page for links to all the new enrollment reports.

Categories: Urban School News

Colorado’s second largest school district may seek PARCC waiver — if legal

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 01/15/2015 - 18:32

The Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education tonight may ask its superintendent to seek a waiver from the state allowing the district not to administer portions of Colorado’s new standardized testing system.

But whether Jeffco, the state’s second largest school district, can even ask for such a waiver remains open to question.

The board’s debate on a resolution about seeking a waiver will come a little more than a week after the State Board of Education, in a split vote, told the state’s education commissioner to accept waiver applications from school districts.

Commissioner Robert Hammond told the state board earlier this month that he doubted the legality of such waivers and has asked the state’s attorney general’s office for an opinion on the matter.

While the attorney general’s office has not issued an official opinion, a top staffer for the attorney general told the State Senate Education Committee today that such waivers could not be granted.

“The State Board of Education does not have the authority to grant a waiver,” said David Blake, chief deputy attorney general. “The General Assembly has limited the board’s authority to grant a waiver” by laws passed previously. “The black letter of the law is clear.”

The Colorado Department of Education previously rejected two testing waivers on the same legal grounds — that the department didn’t have the legal authority to grant them. Those districts were Montrose and Colorado Springs District 11.

The resolution the Jeffco board will debate tonight acknowledges the legal uncertainty. If the forthcoming decision from the attorney general’s office prohibits districts from applying for waivers, Jeffco Superintendent Dan McMinimee will need to come up with a plan for administering the online-based exams known as PARCC.

Hammond told Chalkbeat he expects about a dozen districts to apply for waivers.

Tonight’s Jeffco debate and vote will be the board’s first attempt to tackle directly the highly political issues of testing. While conservative board member Julie Williams has pushed the issue before, the board hasn’t yet taken any sort of action on testing. That’s because board chairman Ken Witt has previously stopped debate on the topic, citing legal requirements to test. The state board’s vote last week may change that.

The waivers, if found to be legal, would allow school districts to skip the first part of PARCC test scheduled to be administered between March and April. Those school districts with a waiver would still be required to give the end-of-year portion of the PARCC exam in May.

States including Colorado that make up the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, the organization that is designing and implementing the new standardized exams, decided to split the tests into two parts.

Colorado education officials stress the two parts make up one complete assessment.

“Failure to take a portion of the test would not give a full picture of students’ mastery of the standards, and the score would not be valid,” said Dana Smith, a spokeswoman for CDE. “It’s really no different than previous tests – TCAP and CSAP – which were also broken down into sections of about an hour or so. If students don’t take the whole test, their scores will be incomplete.”

It’s unclear what sort of consequences a waiver from the tests would have for the state’s school accountability and teacher effectiveness systems, which are dependent upon the results of both parts of the assessments.

The first part the PARCC test is designed to asses a student’s critical-thinking skills. During the English tests, for example, students read multiple passages and then write what they’ve learned. In the math portion, students are asked to solve multi-step problems that require reasoning.

The second part of the exam, to be administered near the end of the school year, gauges comprehension of both literary and mathematical concepts.

Both sections of the exam will be used to determine a student’s proficiency in English and math. The state will also use that data in teacher evaluations and school ratings.

The discussion by the Jeffco school board to seek a waiver is the most recent development in an ongoing debate about testing in Colorado and across the nation.

Last year, the Douglas County School District’s Board of Education pitched a bill to the Colorado General Assembly that would have allowed some school districts to completely opt out of the state’s entire testing system — if they could prove they were academically successful. But that bill was watered down to instead create a committee to review the state’s testing system. The panel wrapped up the majority of its work earlier this week.

As computer-based exams were rolled out for the first time last spring, education officials across the state raised concerns about how much time is devoted to testing and the drain it takes on physical resources like computer labs.

And this fall, seniors at mostly suburban and affluent schools ditched their required tests in science and social studies claiming the results meant nothing to their future college or career ambitions.

And as Congress takes up the issue of the nation’s education laws, how much testing is required by the federal government will be a cornerstone issue. Under current law, schools across the nation are required to test all students in English and math in grades three through eight and once in high school. They’re also required to test one grade in elementary, middle, and high school in science.

A bill just introduced by Democratic lawmakers at the Colorado statehouse would roll back the state’s testing system to the so-called federal minimum.

Categories: Urban School News

Denver Public Schools ‘ahead of the curve’ with proposed facilities policy

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 01/15/2015 - 17:52

Denver Public Schools, running out of space to house new programs as its student population surges, is playing policy catch-up to clarify which programs merit space in district buildings.

The proposed facilities policy, which applies to both charter and district schools, would tie placement decisions to schools’ academic performance, student enrollment patterns, and other district priorities. “It’s about transparency,” said Superintendent Tom Boasberg.

The policy is unusual, said Paul Hill, the founder of the Center for Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington, which focuses on school choice and urban education systems. While other districts may informally base decisions about building use on schools’ performance or other priorities, he said, “[DPS] is ahead of the curve in making it explicit.”

Currently, no clear rules dictate which schools have access to buildings and why. As more programs vie for fewer spaces, the need for a clear policy has become increasingly urgent, district officials said.

“We’re starting from scratch,” said DPS board member Barbara O’Brien. “Before, there was free or available space all over town. Now we’re finding we have to be much more intentional. It’s not easy to find a place for everyone.”

The board plans to vote on a revised version of the policy during its meeting in February. At a meeting on Monday, board members were still recommending tweaks to the policy document. The current draft names factors ranging from a school’s ability to foster socioeconomic integration to its track record operating other schools as criteria in placement decisions.

Pressing needs

DPS has opened 59 school programs since 2008 and plans to open more than two dozen more. Student enrollment in the district has increased by close to 25 percent in the past decade, from 72,000 in 2004 to close to 89,000 this year.

That rapid growth is a dramatic shift. In 2007, after years of stagnant enrollment, then-superintendent Michael Bennet led an effort to close eight schools that had space for many more students than they actually served. Six school buildings remained closed in 2011.

The district now has just one empty school building, the former Rosedale Elementary School in south Denver.

Boasberg said the district plans to request additional funds for buildings from taxpayers in 2016.

But in the meantime, the increasing premium on space as the district pushes to bring in new school programs has at time caused conflict between district leaders and communities.

Nora Flood, president of the Colorado League of Charter Schools, said her organization has heard concerns from charter school leaders that favoritism has played a role in some decisions about which schools are placed where. Co-location plans aimed at making use of empty classrooms and a slew of temporary placements have also proved contentious.

Not all of the flare-ups over space have involved charter schools, especially as the district has begun creating its own new school programs that sometimes start without having permanent homes.

The district’s plans to place the Denver Montessori Junior/Senior High School, a district school, in the former Smedley Elementary building, for instance, drew the ire of local community members who wanted a neighborhood elementary school in its place.

“As buildings have become more scarce, absolutely they’ve got to have some kind of policy that’s transparent and objective,” Flood said.

Such a policy, and especially its openness to both charters and non-charters, would be unique in the state, Flood said. Denver is already more inclusive of charter schools in its facility planning than most districts. For instance, while the nonprofits that run charter schools are expected to pay rent for public buildings in some districts—a major cost—that’s not the case in DPS. “Denver is really one of the only districts in the state that shares facilities with charters at all,” she said.

Reiterating priorities

The proposed facilities policy says decisions about placing schools should be based on schools’ quality, mostly as reflected in the district’s school performance framework; schools’ ability to meet the district’s “priority needs,” which might include offering specialized programs or the ability to replace a low-performing program; and enrollment demand in certain areas in the city.

The draft also says schools may be obligated to meet certain requirements, such as offering programs for English learners.

Those guidelines largely line up with the priorities the district laid out in the “Call for New Quality Schools” released in December, which describes where the district is interested in placing new charter or district-run schools.

District officials said the draft policy is based on the set of criteria they had used internally to decide how to place schools in buildings. “There’s no change here in what we’ve been doing. But it’s an effort to put in one document, in a real coherent form, exactly how these choices are made,” Boasberg said.

Still unfinished

The policy was initially scheduled for a vote this week. But at the board’s work session on Monday, board member Arturo Jimenez suggested some tweaks. He said the district should emphasize, for instance, that board members must be informed of plans for buildings in a timely manner.

He also cautioned that the policy might be read as favoring charter schools with already-existing programs over new district-run programs, given its emphasis on previous academic performance.

Charter school leaders commended the explicit focus on academics and diversity. “To have DPS leadership formally link academic performance to facility allocation is a great step for Denver kids,” said James Cryan, the founder of Rocky Mountain Prep, a Denver charter school. “Facilities are often the largest barrier to growth for high-performing public schools.”

“We want to be creating integrated schools. Denver is a diverse city, and we want to be careful that our schools reflect that,” said Bill Kurtz, the founder of the DSST network of charter schools. “It’s a great opportunity to say explicitly, these are the things we value in our schools and these are the places we want to invest.”

Kurtz said he wondered how changes to state testing policy might affect the measures the district used to place schools.

Van Schoales, the director of A Plus Denver, an advocacy organization focused on schools in the district, said that it would be helpful to have a rubric along with the policy so stakeholders could see exactly which factors influenced each decision.

And Thomas Carr, the parent of a student at the Denver Montessori Junior/Senior High School, said he thought that the policy looked thoughtful and comprehensive. But, he said, he was concerned that it represented yet another instance of test scores holding the most sway in decisions about education.

“With the performance framework listed as criterion number one, I worry that the well-funded schools and/or schools with teaching philosophies that teach to the test will get preference in the process,” he said.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: The gap between Colorado school funding and other states is growing

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 01/15/2015 - 10:07


Two bills to reduce testing in Colorado were introduced by Senate Democrats. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Distance Matters

The factors that drive school choice aren't quite what policymakers think they should be, according to a new report from New Orleans. ( KUNC )

Denver Public Schools

Denver's school board tonight will vote on $35 million in projects using bond funds. ( Denver Post )

Growing Gaps

Colorado schools receive even less money per pupil compared to other states than they did in 2011-21. ( CPR )

mental health

School districts participated in a conversation about suicide prevention in Colorado. ( 9 News )


Michele Dubois, a teacher at Columbine Elementary in Boulder, is the Colorado Association of Gifted and Talented's Outstanding Educator of 2014. ( Daily Camera )

Come and Go

A team recommended that the Colorado Springs school district not renew the charter of STAR Academy. ( Gazette )

What Comes Next?

North Carolina is reviewing its commitment to the Common Core State Standards. ( KUNC )


A gun was reported on the campus of two Denver high schools. ( Denver Post )

Categories: Urban School News

Take 5: Education assemblies, middle grades to college, Duncan's pro-testing stance

Catalyst Chicago - Thu, 01/15/2015 - 09:11

A diverse group of parents, students, teachers and educational activists came together on Wednesday evening to plan what they are calling "education assemblies." Details are still being worked out, but the idea is to hold two assemblies a year and use a democratic process to develop a progressive education platform. Smaller groups would push the agenda between assemblies. They hope to have the first assembly in late spring.

Anton Miglietta, who is co-director of the Chicago Grassroots Curriculum Task Force, told the group of about 75 people at Wells High School that other progressive movements, such as the Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico, used the same process to determine an agenda and advocate for it. Mayoral candidates Bob Fioretti and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia came to the planning meeting for a short time. Other familiar faces were Raise Your Hands’ Wendy Katten, More than a Score’s Cassie Caswell and Ross Floyd, a Jones College Prep student who helped launch the Chicago Students Union. Along with Miglietta, Morrill Principal Michael Beyer and University of Illinois Professor David Stovall are organizers.

Most of the ideas that they talked about were not new. For example, they discussed an elected school board with a voting student, eliminating high stakes testing and no new charter schools.

2. Texting to the rescue… Chicago will launch a 311 texting service this fall sending tips and information to the city’s parents, according to a recent press release from the mayor’s office. The service, called “Connect4Tots,” will give advice to parents on issues from immunization and nutrition to literacy and social services. The city will collaborate with child advocacy group EverThrive Illinois to roll out the service. Connect4Tots will “provide a central place for Chicago parents to receive maternal and child health as well as early childhood education information, in a quick, easy to use, and free manner,” said Janine Lewis, executive director of EverThrive. The messages will come from experts at public institutions  like the Chicago Department of Public Health as well as private groups like Ounce of Prevention and Everthrive.

The service will be modeled on Text4Baby, a nationwide texting network launched in 2010 that now reaches more than 500,000 pregnant women and new mothers with maternity tips.  Services like Text4Baby have been gaining popularity in recent years, and they’re backed by some pretty substantial research. The National Bureau of Economic Research released a study last year that found a similar texting service gave a substantial boost to the literacy scores of the children whose families it reached. Also owing to the success of texting services is their extremely low cost: According to the New York Times, they typically cost less than $1 per child, where home visiting programs can run up to $10,000 per household.

3. Hard transitions… Following up on an earlier report, the University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research  published two briefs last week examining indicators of college readiness in middle school and high school. Among the findings: Middle school attendance is critical to determining whether students are on-track to graduate in high school. Small variations in eighth-grade attendance, the middle school report found, lead to drastic differences in high school on-track records. Students with 96 percent attendance had a 77 percent likelihood of being on track for college by ninth grade, for example, but when attendance drops to 90 percent, that likelihood falls to 44 percent.

Another major takeaway from the study is that the transition from middle school to high school takes a toll on nearly all students: Across the board, attendance drops significantly between those two years. What’s more, the majority of off-track high school students had shown few signs of struggling before they arrived in high school. According to the most recent numbers, 79 percent of high schoolers at-risk of being off-track boasted attendance rates of at least 95 percent in middle school.

4. Ogden anti-Semitic bullying … The bullying of a Jewish student at Ogden Elementary school is in the top 10 of the worst anti-Semitic incidents in the Midwest last year, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish watchdog group. The Chicago Tribune article on the situation said that a group of boys told the student that “he should wear striped pajamas” and that he could be put into an oven. The school talked to the boys and suspended them for a day.

However, the student’s mother told the Tribune that she didn’t think it was enough of a punishment for tormenting her son for an extended period of time. The school also held parent forums on anti-semitism. The Wiesenthal group notes that CPS did not take a strong stand against until the mother went to the media.

5. Duncan wants testing… U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan wants to replace No Child Left Behind, but keep its hallmark policy: yearly, mandatory high-stakes testing. In an unveiling of the White House’s 2015 education agenda, Duncan gave an urgent defense of standardized testing, saying “parents and teachers and students have both the right and the absolute need to know how much progress all students are making each year toward college and career readiness.” Instead, he harped on NCLB’s punitive treatment of underperforming schools, saying the 2002 law’s replacement should “recognize that schools need more support, more money, more resources than they have today.” The announcement rattled Republican lawmakers as well as teachers unions, who by and large warn that yearly high-stakes testing put too much pressure on students and stifle school curriculums.

Duncan also called for a $2.7 billion increase in federal spending on education, including a $1 billion boost in Title I funding, which is directed at the country’s poorest students. The federal government currently spends about $79 billion annually on education, including $14.4 billion for Title I programs. Duncan said he hopes to join a bipartisan effort to reform national education law, but it’s unlikely a Republican-controlled Congress, with an eye toward scaling back federal intervention, will approve the spending boost. At the same time, Republican efforts to gut yearly standardized testing--beginning with a familiar plan recently proposed by a former GOP education secretary--are likely to die at President Obama’s desk.  

Categories: Urban School News

Pair of testing reduction bills pop up in Senate

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 19:52

The first testing bills of 2015 have been introduced in the Senate, one that would make extensive trims to the current assessment system and the second of which would cut back social studies testing.

Senate Bill 15-073, sponsored by Sen. Mike Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs, would require the state to cut testing to the so-called federal minimums and to ask federal authorities for a waiver that would allow use of the ACT test as the only assessment in high school. While such a request was pending, the ACT test would temporarily be eliminated.

Senate Bill 15-056 is a repeat of Sen. Andy Kerr’s unsuccessful attempt to trim social studies from the closing days of the 2014 session.

The two were among a flurry of education bills introduced this week, including an extensive “parent’s bill of rights” proposed by Republicans, a Democratic bill to cap student loan interest rates, a proposal to change admissions policies at Metropolitan State University, and a plan to boost compensation of community college faculty.

The Merrifield and Kerr bills are the first of what are expected to be several proposed measures on assessments. Republicans are likely to weigh in on the issue and also propose pulling Colorado out of the Common Core State Standards. It’s widely assumed the legislature will take some action on testing but most likely through a compromise, bipartisan bill.

Sen. Mike Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs / File photo

The Merrifield proposal to reduce testing to federal minimum requirements likely would eliminate science and social studies testing in the 12th grade, although the federal government does require a science test sometime during high school. It also would eliminate language arts and math tests in the 9th and 12th grades, tests Colorado gives now but that aren’t required under federal law.

Social studies tests, including those in lower grades, also are a Colorado-only policy. (See this Chalkbeat Colorado story for background on the implications of such testing cuts.)

The bill suggests temporarily eliminating the ACT test, now given to all 11th graders, but also would require the state to ask the U.S. Department of Education for a waiver that would allow the ACT to be the only test given to Colorado high school students. (The state currently gives language arts and math tests in 10th grade.)

Merrifield’s bill would retain the school readiness and READ Act assessments and evaluations used in grades K-3 but reduce the frequency in some cases.

“It’s a work in progress,” Merrifield said of his bill. “I’m willing to listen to other ideas, [but] I think the bill as drafted now is a huge step.” He added he’s “optimistic” the legislature will be able “to make some advances” on testing.

Senate Bill 15-056, the social studies measure introduced by Kerr, a Lakewood Democrat, would allow the state to give the new social studies tests only once every three years in every school. Only “a representative sample” of schools would administer the tests in any given year. Currently the tests are given to all 4th, 7th and 12th graders. Rollout of the tests last fall sparked boycotts by high school seniors in some districts.

The last-minute 2014 bill on social studies was killed in the House Education Committee. Kerr commented recently that passing the bill then would have saved some disruption last fall. The high school scores haven’t been compiled, but the 4th and 7th grade scores from tests last spring showed room for improvement (see story).

Lawmakers awaiting testing recommendations

Republican Sen. Owen Hill of Colorado Springs, chair of the Senate Education Committee, has promised that he won’t hold hearings on testing bills until after the advisory Standards and Assessments Task Force presents its recommendations to lawmakers on Jan. 28.

Durango Superintendent Dan Snowberger, who chaired the task force, briefed the House and Senate education committees on the group’s work Wednesday but, by pre-arrangement with Hill, didn’t discuss recommendations. (The group’s direction, based on its last meeting Monday, is fairly clear. See this story.)

Snowberger did say the diverse group generally agreed that “It does seem like we’ve reached the point where it feels like we’re over-assessing.”

Two Republican lawmakers used the occasion to ask about SchoolVault, an electronic tool developed by the Durango district to help teachers track student progress on locally designed classroom tests. Some testing critics have intimated that Snowberger somehow has a conflict of interest because of his involvement with School Vault and chairing the task force.

When Rep. Justin Everett, R-Littleton, tried to press the issue, Hill cut him off, saying, “Save that for a personal conversation afterwards.”

Fresh bills cover wide range of issues

Other new education bills introduced as of Wednesday include:

Get texts, bill details in the Education Bill Tracker

Senate Bill 15-068 -Caps the annual interest rate that a private lender may charge for a student loan to 2 percentage points above the rate charged by the federal government. The bill also makes student loan payments deductible on state income taxes. The measure has been assigned to Senate State Affairs, usually considered the kill committee. Prime sponsors: Sen. Matt Jones, D-Louisville; Rep. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City.

Senate Bill 15-070 – Would eliminate state licensing of childcare centers that serve fewer then 10 children. The current cutoff is five children, although centers with five-10 children can apply for an exemption. Prime sponsors: Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud; Rep. Janek Joshi, R-Colorado Springs.

Senate Bill 15-072 – Reclassifies Metro State as a “moderately selective” institution. Metro currently is classified as “modified open admission,” which means students aged 20 or older only need a high school diploma or GED for admission. Metro officials didn’t request the change and say they are studying the bill. Prime sponsors: Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs’ Rep. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument.

Senate Bill 15-077 – Creates a comprehensive “parent’s bill of rights” covering disclosure and parent consent on such matters as school records, health care decisions, making audio or video recordings of children, curriculum, sex education and other matters. It contains various opt-out provisions but doesn’t appear to include a testing opt-out. Other bill provisions cover medical issues. The bill was assigned to Senate Education. Prime sponsors: Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton; Rep. Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock. (The two new legislators are father and son, respectively, and are among the legislature’s more conservative members.)

Senate Bill 15-080 – Expands participation in the defined contribution pension program offered by the Public Employees’ Retirement Association, most of whose members are in the defined benefit plan. Prime sponsor: Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs.

Senate Bill 15-094 – Represents this year’s attempt to improve pay and benefits for part-time community college faculty. Prior efforts have failed because of the considerable cost involved. Assigned to State Affairs. Prime sponsors: Sen. John Kefalas, D-Fort Kefalas; Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton.

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