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Rise & Shine: Lockdown at Morey Middle School after student fight

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 03/18/2014 - 08:53

You can't win them all

Two school districts, Grand Junction and Pueblo, moved their kindergarten cutoff dates, but in opposite directions. Both are now facing pushback from parents. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

On the Capitol

Bills strengthening student data privacy laws and allowing armed guards in charter schools passed the House Education Committee. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Dougco Vouchers

Dougco's embattled voucher program is continuing its journey through the court system. The Colorado Supreme Court has agreed to hear argument from the program's defenders and critics. ( Chalkbeat Colorado, Denver Post )

School safety

After concerns over a student involved in an off-campus fight surfaced, Denver's Morey Middle School went into lockdown yesterday. ( Denver Post )

Lunch is served

A district in southwest Colorado, Montezuma-Cortez, is one of several districts launching a program to provide healthier and fresher food options to students. ( Cortez Journal )

The road to college

In some areas of the country, college tuition has increased by over 70 percent in five years. A look at how college went from affordable to breaking the bank. ( KUNC )

Meanwhile, many eligible students fail to fill out a crucial piece of paperwork to receive financial aid. ( EWA )

Categories: Urban School News

In the News: Safe Passage workers get thanks from mayor, lunch

Catalyst Chicago - Tue, 03/18/2014 - 07:22

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday thanked safe-passage workers for a job well done  and urged them to finish the school year strong and carry child safety into the summer months at a celebratory luncheon at the UIC Forum. (DNAInfo)

IN THE NATION
'PLATOONING' TAKES HOLD: The relentless pressure of high-stakes testing keeps driving educational leaders to experiment with new ways to increase scores and emphasize their importance in this “accountability” era. One of the most recent examples is “platooning” of students beginning in kindergarten and first grade. “Platooning” ends the long-standing primary grade practice of homerooms where a teacher works with the same group of students throughout the year in all of the major subject areas. Instead, each group of students, or “platoon,” moves every 45 minutes or so to a different classroom to receive instruction from a “teacher  specialist” in math, language arts, social studies, science, music, art and physical education.  (The Washington Post)

VOUCHER BILL ADVANCES: A narrowed version of a special education voucher bill for Mississippi students is moving ahead. The measure now would bar using state money to home-school students and give state officials more control over how the money is spent. (Clarion Ledger)

INSTILLING TRUE GRIT: Around the nation, schools are beginning to see grit as key to students' success — and just as important to teach as reading and math. Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania who coined the term "grit" — and won a MacArthur "genius grant" for it. Others say teaching grit has become a fad in education, a convenient distraction that doesn't address the pedagogical and curricular problems in the schools. (NPR)

Categories: Urban School News

UNO teachers, staff ratify first union contract

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 03/17/2014 - 23:08

Teachers and staff at the United Neighborhood Organization’s 16 charter schools overwhelmingly voted to ratify their first contract on Monday, becoming Chicago’s biggest charter school network to operate under a labor agreement.

Union organizers say the contract, approved in a 445-to-16 vote, sets a “gold standard” for future charter school labor agreements across the country. It includes:

  • A salary schedule based on years of experience and educational attainment that will raise some employees’ salaries by as much as $10,000. Pay increases will be retroactive to the beginning of this school year.
  • Elimination of year-end bonuses based on evaluations that employees say used inconsistent metrics and fueled resentment among colleagues.
  • A “just cause” provision for terminations and a grievance procedure.
  • Paid and unpaid release time for bargaining unit members to do union-related work.
  • A longer summer break for teachers. Previously, teachers and staff had four weeks of summer vacation; now they will have five weeks under the new contract. However, the total number of instructional days remain unchanged.

 

“This contract will give a lot of people hope that [the charter network] is a place they can stay at for more than a year or two and grow as teachers and professionals without thinking their jobs are going to be on the line at the end of the year,” said Mallory Bruno, a special education teacher at UNO’s Octavio Paz Elementary School. “The salary schedule is so appealing now, I look forward to staying here for years to come.”

UNO charter school officials and board members – who approved the contract in a meeting last week -- did not respond to multiple requests from comment. UNO administrators and union members reached a tentative agreement in late February after months of negotiations.

The three-year contract will apply retroactively to the beginning of the school year. It covers about 520 teachers and professional staff at UNO schools, including information technology staff, office support, nurses and social workers.

Previously, only about 300 teachers and employees at 11 of the 126 charter schools in Chicago worked under labor contracts. The Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, or Chicago ACTS, an affiliate of the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers, is the bargaining agent for all organized charter schools in the city.

“The UNO effort is a great example of what can happen when teachers and charter management work together for what’s most important—the students’ success,” said IFT President Dan Montgomery in a written statement. “Strong staffs lead to strong schools, and their ability to advocate for high-quality education with a collective voice will greatly benefit the students and our communities.”

UNO staff unionized last spring in the midst of a corruption scandal at the charter schools network.

Former CEO Juan Rangel bowed out of both organizations last year after a series of revelations by the Chicago Sun-Times of nepotism and contract steering. Adding to UNO’s woes is a loss of millions of dollars in state grant money and an ongoing U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into a 2011 bond deal that helped expand the network.

Bruno said she hopes the contract ratification changes the public image of UNO for the better.

“I think people will start to respect UNO more than it’s already respected,” Bruno said.

 

UNO teachers and staff say their next step after today’s vote will be to schedule elections for union representatives and officers.

Categories: Urban School News

Student data privacy, charter security guard bills advance

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 03/17/2014 - 22:02

A bill designed to lock student data privacy protections into state law got some additional provisions tacked onto it Monday and won 12-0 approval by the House Education Committee.

The committee also passed a bill allowing charter schools to hire armed security guards, something school districts already may do. The measure is kind of a bipartisan consolation measure to replace another guns-in-schools bill killed earlier.

The data measure, House Bill 14-1294, applies primarily to the Department of Education, and its original version included things that CDE said it already is doing.

The bill does not address two things privacy activists have pushed for, data security mandates on local districts and parental opt out of data collection and disclosure. Legislators want to pass something on data this year to respond to rising public concerns. But lawmakers aren’t ready to impose new requirements on districts during a session when political tensions already are high over school funding and other earmarked programs.

Provisions added to the bill by House Education would require CDE to publicly disclose the names of outside agencies and companies with which it shares data, to develop specific criteria for how and when data is destroyed, to limit contractor disclosure of data and ban contractor use for commercial purposes. Language added to the bill also bans CDE from selling student data for commercial use. (The department says now it doesn’t sell data.)

Sponsor Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock, credited activists with helping her improve the bill. “We did hear some excellent testimony from the self-described ‘Jeffco moms,’” she said. “We have taken most of their suggestions.” (The committee heard testimony on the bill March 12.)

Provisions in the introduced version of the bill require CDE to prepare a publicly available “data inventory,” to comply with all relevant federal and other privacy laws, to set formal requirements for use of data by outside vendors such as testing companies and to formalize its process for considering outside requests for student data.

The bill also requires CDE to create a “data security template” for districts to use. Amendments added Monday require that template to include information about data security for online education and for other software and apps and also guidance for districts about publishing lists of outside vendors. Again, nothing in the bill requires districts to take any specific actions.

Strong vote for charter armed guards bill

The committee voted 11-1 to pass House Bill 14-1291, which would allow charter schools to hire armed security guards.

Existing law already gives school districts authority to hire school resource officers, who are certified police officers, or security guards who don’t necessarily have to have the same training but must have concealed weapons permits and who are hired by contract.

HB 14-1291 was offered as a bipartisan substitute after majority Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee killed a different measure, House Bill 14-1157, on Feb. 13 (see story). That bill would have given school boards the option to allow staff members with concealed carry permits to bring weapons to school.

Discussion Monday highlighted that current law pretty much allows districts to do what HB 14-1157 would have allowed. The security-guard law apparently does allow districts to designate current staff members, including administrators and teachers, as security guards, albeit with separate contracts to perform that function.

Rep. Jim Wilson, R-Salida, noted that the small school district in Dove Creek has done just that.

When Rep. Cherilyn Peniston, D-Westminster, asked if that was possible, sponsor Rep. Mike McLachlan, D-Durango, confirmed that it was.

“Is this an end-around on the issue of teachers carrying weapons?” Peniston contnued.

“I wouldn’t think of it as an end-around,” replied bill cosponsor Rep. Steve Humphrey, R-Windsor.

“This is in statute,” said Rep. Lois Court, D-Denver. “If that was an attempt to arm teachers it would have already happened.”

Peniston ultimately voted for the bill but said, “This statute raises some clear red flags for me.” Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, was the only no vote, saying, “I do not believe arming security guards and teachers is the right thing to do.”

The issue of guns in schools has gotten caught up in larger Democratic-Republican battles about gun control. But some small districts and charters support more local flexibility because they can’t afford to hire SROs, and some rural districts feel they need armed staff members because of remoteness from police and sheriffs’ offices.

Categories: Urban School News

A tale of two districts and their kindergarten cut-off dates

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 03/17/2014 - 17:05

Last month, the school board of Mesa County Valley District 51 in Grand Junction voted unanimously to move the kindergarten entrance cut-off date from September 15 to July 15, starting this fall. The move surprised and upset parents whose children have birthdays during that two-month window. Besides reversing course on the “you’re going to kindergarten” conversation, many now face the expense of another year of preschool or child care.

Meanwhile, 285 miles away in the Pueblo City Schools district, the kindergarten entrance date recently moved in the opposite direction — from its long-held June 1 date to October 1. That change, also unanimously approved by the school board, took effect last fall.

Kindergarten entrance dates can be a fraught subject, especially for parents whose children have birthdays just before or just after the cut-off. The changes in Grand Junction and Pueblo illustrate the anxiety entrance date changes provoke and raise questions about the long-term outcomes of such decisions.

The two districts had very different reasons for their respective changes. In Pueblo, there was concern that the district’s entrance date was out of sync with other Colorado districts, most of which have Oct. 1 cut-offs.

In Grand Junction, the worry was that kindergarteners with late summer birthdays struggled more and did worse academically. Lesley Rose, the district’s executive director of academic achievement and student growth, said a gradual increase in kindergarten rigor has contributed to such outcomes.

“Kindergarten doesn’t look like it used to,” she said. “There’s just no comparison.”

But some experts say that while raising the average age of the kindergarten cohort may seem like a pragmatic, data-driven change, it may represent the easy way out.

Kyle Snow, director of the Center for Applied Research at the National Association for the Education of Young Children, said pushing back entrance dates so that the youngest students are carved out of the cohort can seem like “changing the outcome to make it look like there’s a better system of education going.”

“You’re changing the composition of the kindergarten classroom,” he said. “You’re not changing how you do kindergarten.”

Another concern, he said, is that some kids in the two-month summer birthday window — those who don’t qualify for state or federal preschool programs but whose parents can’t pay for private preschool or provide an enriching home experience — will miss out on an important year of learning. In addition, he said the date change may have unintended consequences for the kids who will now fall on the oldest end of the cohort.

“You’re just moving that window forward,” he said. “If the kindergarten experience is not adequate [now], it’s probably not going to be adequate for the older kids in the room next year.”

Combatting academic woes

Data presented to the District 51 school board showed that kids with birthdays during the July 15 to September 15 window were held back more often. They also did worse on reading assessments in kindergarten through third grade and worse on TCAP reading tests in third, fourth and fifth grade.

One chart presented to the school showed that nearly half of kindergarteners retained last year were kids with birthdays between July 15 and September 15. Rose said that summer birthday students are not to blame for the academic difficulties.

“It’s not because they’re immature. It’s because they’re young. They’re exactly where they should be.”

This chart was one of several presented to the District 51 school board that broke out academic data by student birthday.

That said, recent research on kindergarten retention found that the youngest students in a cohort were held back more often than older students with similarly poor academic performance. The same held true for children who were short. In other words, age and height figured into a decision that most people would assume is based on performance.

Researcher Francis Huang, assistant professor in the University of Missouri College of Education, said he hopes the study will make educators more aware of the age bias in retention decisions. He said his findings also highlight the need for teachers to be responsive to the diverse populations in their kindergarten classes.

No matter what the entrance date is, he said, “You’re going to have an oldest child and a youngest child in the classroom….You’re going to have that gap.”

Snow said District 51’s new entrance date may well produce short-lived improvements in test scores and other indicators. Typically, he said, districts experience a one-year blip — either up or down — when they adjust entrance dates, but the results tend to flatten out in subsequent years.

Creeping cut-off dates

Over the last thirty years, there’s been a slow creep toward earlier kindergarten entrance dates nationally. While only about 30 percent of states had cut-offs in September or before in 1975, 82 percent did by 2010, according to a report from the Education Commission of the States. Michigan and California are two states in the process of moving their cut-off dates from early December to September 1.

Currently, most states have cut-offs between August 31 and October 1, with a handful requiring entering kindergarteners to turn five by July 31 or August 1. There are also several states, including Colorado and New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts, that allow school districts to set their own kindergarten entrance dates.

In the Pueblo City district, administrators say the June 1 date had been in place for at least a decade. Last year, when the school board asked administrators to research cut-off dates in other medium and large Colorado districts, they learned that 19 of 20 districts, including District 51, were using August 31 or later.

Daryl Gagliano, the district’s executive director of early childhood education, curriculum and instruction said Pueblo’s mismatch with other districts in the state posed a problem for families who moved in or out of the district. In addition, there were a healthy number of families—about 50 to 100 a year—who had their summer birthday children screened for early entrance.

As for concerns about the school readiness among “young fives,” she asked, “Is it that the child isn’t ready or is it that the school isn’t ready?”

Trepidation in Pueblo

It’s not surprising that kindergarten date changes, no matter the direction, are a source of stress for parents and teachers.

In Pueblo, which went from a 1,400-student kindergarten cohort to an 1,800-student cohort this year, “There was a high degree of trepidation,” said Gagliano.

Part of the issue, she said, is that the date change coincided with implementation of other new policies, such as the READ Act, a state law that requires special literacy plans for students in kindergarten through third grade who aren’t reading at grade level.  She said there will be focus groups with kindergarten teachers at the end of the year to solicit feedback on the change.

Megan Murillo, a Pueblo mother of three children with summer birthdays, didn’t have to worry about the date change this year because her two oldest children attend a charter school that kept the June 1 cut-off date and her youngest is still at home. But several of her friends decided to send their children to nearby districts because they were worried that District 60 couldn’t handle the sudden influx this year.

Although Murillo said she’s glad the charter school didn’t change its entrance date, she and her husband have considered moving elsewhere in the state, which could change kindergarten timing for youngest daughter and the age dynamic for her older children. She joked about her envy for children with winter birthdays.

“Couldn’t we have just had one in December?” laughed Murillo. “That would have been so much easier.”

Emotions run high in Grand Junction

In District 51, administrators say some parents and teachers have praised the date change in conversations or on social media. But staff members have also fielded plenty of phone calls from angry or frustrated parents. Rose said some parents have asked if they can get the school board to reverse the decision or if an exception can be made for their child.

“It’s been very emotional and very difficult for parents,” she said.

Part of the consternation may be due to the late-breaking nature of the date adjustment. While administrators had recommended the change take effect for the 2015-16 school year, the school board opted to speed it up by a year. This year only, the district is waiving the $90 fee charged to screen four-year-olds to determine if they are eligible to start kindergarten early.

Overall, the date change will affect around 250 children who will turn five during the two-month summer window. About 75 of those children — those who attend district-run preschools through the Colorado Preschool Program or because of special education status — will be guaranteed a spot in the same programs next year, said Kim Self, the district’s early childhood coordinator.

“They’ll just get an extra year with us,” she said.

It’s unclear what will happen to students who don’t make the new cut-off but aren’t currently in the Colorado Preschool Program, which serves at-risk students. There were about 160 students on the district’s CPP waiting list as of December. Self said if the legislature passes the school finance bill, which would provide additional funding for CPP or full-day kindergarten, she plans to request 60-64 additional CPP spots from the state.

The new entrance date change for kindergarten also applies to CPP preschoolers. Thus, children who will turn four from July 15 to September 15, will be eligible for the “threes” classes and children turning three during that period won’t be eligible at all.

“No matter what you do in this world, there will always be some unintended consequences,” said Rose.

Categories: Urban School News

For the Record: "Chicagoland" and Fenger High

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 03/17/2014 - 15:02

Last week’s episode of “Chicagoland”  on CNN once again featured Fenger High Principal Liz Dozier as a heroine trying to help her students get an education while coping with intense violence in the surrounding Roseland neighborhood. At the same time, Dozier has to deal with the fact that Fenger’s hefty federal grant, which paid for services to support students’ social and emotional needs,  was about to run out.

Fenger is one of 19 high schools in Chicago to be awarded a multimillion dollar School Improvement Grant. Along with Harper, Marshall and Phillips, Fenger was part of the first cohort of schools from 2011.

These grants targeted the bottom 5 percent of high schools in the nation. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s idea was to throw so much money at the schools that lack of resources would cease to be an excuse for low achievement.

The cliffhanger in the last episode of the Chicagoland series, which was filmed last year, is how Fenger will fare once it loses the $6 million grant. The answer: Fenger lost 36 of 100 staff members, including 10 teachers, four security guards and the school’s social worker.  

In fact, few CPS schools have a full-time social worker on staff. In 2012, Dozier fretted about the potential loss of a worker who ran much-needed group and individual therapy sessions on trauma and anger management. 

Altogether, Fenger and the other three schools that received School Improvement Grants in 2011 have lost 126 staff members as their grants ran out this year, according to a Catalyst Chicago analysis of CPS employee rosters.

These schools were hit with a double whammy:  losing the grant while continuing to lose students, which meant a loss in district funds. This year, Fenger has 87 fewer students compared to last year and the freshman class has just 75 students, down from 102 last year. 

Enrollment loss from neighborhood schools is a citywide trend caused by population loss from  distressed neighborhoods as well as the opening of charter schools that draw students away from traditional schools. 

The Fall 2011 Catalyst In Depth questions whether the School Improvement Grant initiative can save schools that are rapidly losing students. 

To get the grant, schools and districts had to promise to enforce one of several drastic strategies. Fenger and five other high schools fired the entire staff in a process called turnaround. Other schools have undertaken what is called transformation, a strategy in which school employees stay on but the school partners with an outside institution to improve education.

Schools were charged with using the grant money to develop programs that could be sustained once the money ran out. But that challenge is often nearly impossible. Therapy sessions, anti-violence training, tutoring and other supports require staff--and it is hard to “sustain” people without money to pay them.

The early results from the School Improvement Grant initiative, both in Illinois and nationally, have been mixed. A 2012 Illinois study found that attendance, truancy and mobility improved, but not academics.  The findings are similar in CPS.

However, Fenger has posted more impressive results, with the percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards doubling in three years.

A federally-funded national study released in November 2013 showed that two-thirds of schools saw an uptick in test scores, but the rest saw declines. 

Categories: Urban School News

For the Record: Chicagoland’s Fenger loses dozens of staff

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 03/17/2014 - 15:02

Last week’s episode of “Chicagoland”  on CNN once again featured Fenger High Principal Liz Dozier as a heroine trying to help her students get an education while coping with intense violence in the surrounding Roseland neighborhood. At the same time, Dozier has to deal with the fact that Fenger’s hefty federal grant, which paid for services to support students’ social and emotional needs,  was about to run out.

Fenger is one of 19 high schools in Chicago to be awarded a multimillion dollar School Improvement Grant. Along with Harper, Marshall and Phillips, Fenger was part of the first cohort of schools from 2011.

These grants targeted the bottom 5 percent of high schools in the nation. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s idea was to throw so much money at the schools that lack of resources would cease to be an excuse for low achievement.

The cliffhanger in the last episode of the Chicagoland series, which was filmed last year, is how Fenger will fare once it loses the $6 million grant. The answer: Fenger lost 36 of 100 staff members, including 10 teachers, four security guards and the school’s social worker.  

In fact, few CPS schools have a full-time social worker on staff. In 2012, Dozier fretted about the potential loss of a worker who ran much-needed group and individual therapy sessions on trauma and anger management. 

Altogether, Fenger and the other three schools that received School Improvement Grants in 2011 have lost 126 staff members as their grants ran out this year, according to a Catalyst Chicago analysis of CPS employee rosters.

These schools were hit with a double whammy:  losing the grant while continuing to lose students, which meant a loss in district funds. This year, Fenger has 87 fewer students compared to last year and the freshman class has just 75 students, down from 102 last year. 

Enrollment loss from neighborhood schools is a citywide trend caused families moving away from  distressed neighborhoods as well as the opening of charter schools that draw students. 

The Fall 2011 Catalyst In Depth questions whether the School Improvement Grant initiative can save schools that are rapidly losing students. 

To get the grant, schools and districts had to promise to enforce one of several drastic strategies. Fenger and five other high schools fired the entire staff in a process called turnaround. Other schools have undertaken what is called transformation, a strategy in which school employees stay on but the school partners with an outside institution to improve education.

Schools were charged with using the grant money to develop programs that could be sustained once the money ran out. But that challenge is often nearly impossible. Therapy sessions, anti-violence training, tutoring and other supports require staff--and it is hard to “sustain” people without money to pay them.

The early results from the School Improvement Grant initiative, both in Illinois and nationally, have been mixed. A 2012 Illinois study found that attendance, truancy and mobility improved, but not academics.  The findings are similar in CPS.

However, Fenger has posted more impressive results, with the percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards doubling in three years.

A federally-funded national study released in November 2013 showed that two-thirds of schools saw an uptick in test scores, but the rest saw declines. 

Categories: Urban School News

Colorado Supreme Court will hear Dougco voucher case

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 03/17/2014 - 14:22

Update: This article has been updated with comments from Dougco school board member Craig Richardson and from ACLU-Colorado legal director Mark Silverstein. 

Colorado’s highest court has agreed to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the Dougco Public Schools voucher program.

Among the points of the case the state Supreme Court will consider is whether plaintiffs, led by an organization called Taxpayers for Public Education, have have the legal right to challenge the program, which never went into effect because of litigation, and whether the program violates the Public Schools Finance Act.

A Denver judge, siding with a group of parents and civil-liberties organizations, put the program on hold in 2011. Last year, a three-member appellate court panel reversed the decision.

Dougco board member Craig Richardson said the district is confident in its case.

“The District welcomes the opportunity for the state’s highest court to review a case that presents such important issues for our state and our country,” Richardson said in a media release. “DCSD is committed to expanding choice for parents and one of the ways is our innovative Choice Scholarship Program. We believe the Court of Appeals will be affirmed and that the parents and children of our District will, someday soon, be afforded more educational choice.”

The Colorado branch of the American Civil Liberties Union was equally optimistic.

“The ACLU of Colorado is encouraged by the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to hear the Douglas County school voucher case, and we look forward to arguing before the court that it must strike down the school district’s misguided funding scheme, which compels taxpayers to subsidize religious education in clear violation of the state constitution,” said Legal Director Mark Silverstein in a media release. “We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will end this misguided and unconstitutional diversion of taxpayer dollars before it is adopted by other districts around the state.”

The voucher program, which was unanimously passed by the Dougco school board in 2011, would have allowed up to 500 Douglas County students to use 75 percent of the district’s per-pupil funding – or $4,575 at the time – to attend a participating private school approved by the district.

Students would have been able to use those funds to attend private religious schools.

Schools that were interested in participating in the program had to have met certain criteria.

Thirty-four private schools applied to participate in the voucher program, known as the Choice Scholarship Program. Dougco had approved 23 of those schools.

Of the 23 schools, 14 were located outside Douglas County, and 16 teach religious doctrine.

The voucher program was modeled after other programs across the nation that have prevailed in court. It gave students the right to “receive a waiver from any required religious services at the [participating private school],” according to court documents.

Categories: Urban School News

Republish our stories for free!

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 03/17/2014 - 13:56

At Chalkbeat Colorado, our mission is to give people the information they need to make smart, informed decisions related to education. For that reason, we want our stories to be shared as widely as possible!

Whether you run a blog, newspaper, radio or television website, we welcome and encourage you to reuse our content using the “Repost” button that appears in each of our stories’ share toolbars.

By using the Repost button, you will be able to publish our full stories, including photos and any ads we have attached.

Here’s how the Repost button works:

Above every story, there is a share toolbar, which includes the Repost button (highlighted by the yellow box below).

When you click that button, a window will pop up and give you that article’s embed code. Simply copy and paste the code into your website’s content management system (CMS). You will only be copying the story text, so when you post the article on your site, it will match your site’s design.

We are experimenting with this tool because it allows us to track where and how often our content is being republished. If you would like to use our stories or photos, but do not want to use the Repost widget, please e-mail our director of engagement Anika Anand to receive permission to do so. Re-using Chalkbeat content without our permission, or outside of using the Repost button, is prohibited.

You can also email Anika if you have questions about how Repost works or if you want to give us feedback on the tool.

To see our full guidelines on using Repost, visit our about page.

Categories: Urban School News

Comings & Goings: Moreno Cargie

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 03/17/2014 - 13:03

Nora Moreno Cargie, the director of global corporate citizenship at The Boeing Company’s Chicago office, is stepping down in April.  She is moving to Boston, where she will serve as vice president of corporate citizenship for Tufts Health Plan and executive director of its foundation.  Before her work at Boeing, Cargie was the vice president of external relations at Illinois Action for Children.  She has also worked for the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development, the Chicago Park District, the Chicago Department of Human Services and Chicago Public Schools.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: How some schools are using grit in the classroom

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 03/17/2014 - 10:15

#COLeg

More than 60 education bills have been introduced so far this year, about two thirds of them in the House. But only five bills of note have gone to the governor, and another 10 have been killed. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Buzzword

Can grit, the idea of tenacity in the classroom, be taught? Some schools think so. Here's how they're doing it. ( KUNC )

Higher ed

A new bill, introduced by Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino, proposes a new formula for dividing state support among Colorado colleges and universities. If passed, it would put more money into the resident tuition discounts known as College Opportunity Fund stipends and also base some college funding on student retention and graduation rates. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

The legislation could help some students who face the reality of taking on staggering debts. Among all students who graduated from four-year colleges in 2012, seven in 10 left with debt. ( NPR )

Ferrandino's plan has the support of The Denver Post's editorial board. They wrote: "... we support in broad terms the concept that Colorado House Speaker Mark Ferrandino is promoting in seeking to rewrite the higher education funding model. However, with less than eight weeks left in the session it's not clear there's enough time to fully vet the specifics." ( Denver Post )

Movers and shakers

Some Colorado schools and districts are increasingly making changes to mitigate the effects of frequent student moves, in part because of the potential impacts student mobility have on state accountability measures. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

money matters

As lawmakers this week get their final look at revenue projections for the next fiscal year, Colorado superintendents and school boards are rallying their parents to put pressure on the General Assembly to restore more education funding. ( Denver Post )

Classroom lessons

Colorado's poet laureate visited students in Moffat County. He consulted with students from all different walks of life on their poetic aspirations. He acknowledged that anyone from anywhere can follow the discipline, though some may have unfair advantages. ( Craig Daily Press )

After six hours of obstacles, including a furnace motor that burnt out, high school students at a Colorado Springs school learned many life lessons during the 2014 Iron Pour. ( Colorado Springs Gazette )

Flood Recover

Less than one month into his first school year as principal of Lyons Elementary School Andrew Moor became a communication hub for his community during last year's floods. Now, he's rebuilding a school community. ( Longmont Times-Call )

Categories: Urban School News

In the News: Moody's downgrades CPS

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 03/17/2014 - 09:15

Moody's Investors Service said its outlook remains negative for the Chicago Board of Education.The Wall Street credit rating agency reduced the Chicago Board of Education one notch to Baa1 from A3, the same downgrade the city got March 4. The rating applies to $6.3 billion in outstanding school-related general obligation debt. (Crain's)

CASTING A BAD LIGHT ON CPS STUDENTS: CNN’s "Chicagoland" contributes to the "one-sided journalism that highlights only the violence, only the failures, only the stereotypes that taint our low-income students in Chicago Public Schools," writes Ray Salazar on his blog The White Rhino: A Chicago Latino English Teacher.

IN THE NATION
PRE-K EXPANSION MOVES FORWARD: Even as he came under escalating attacks from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Legislature for his stance toward charter schools, Mayor Bill de Blasio last week stepped closer to securing state financing to expand prekindergarten in New York City. (The New York Times)

COMMON CORE GETS AXED: The Indiana Senate approved legislation that would void the national Common Core standards the state adopted in 2010. An hour after S.B. 91 was sent to Gov. Mike Pence for his consideration, members of the state board of Education discussed progress on new English and math standards that will replace those Common Core benchmarks. (Indiana Star)

Categories: Urban School News

In the News: Document shows CPS' plans to market shuttered buildings

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 03/17/2014 - 09:15

Chicago Public Schools last month quietly posted notice seeking to hire a real estate broker to help the district market and sell dozens of buildings left vacant by the historic closure of 50 schools. The request was withdrawn as quietly as it was posted, the district saying it wanted to "clarify" language. CPS refused to provide a copy of the original RFP, saying it would “cause confusion.”  WBEZ obtained the RFP through another source.

CPS DEBT DOWNGRADED: Moody's Investors Service said its outlook remains negative for the Chicago Board of Education.The Wall Street credit rating agency reduced the Chicago Board of Education one notch to Baa1 from A3, the same downgrade the city got March 4. The rating applies to $6.3 billion in outstanding school-related general obligation debt. (Crain's)

CASTING A BAD LIGHT ON CPS STUDENTS: CNN’s "Chicagoland" contributes to the "one-sided journalism that highlights only the violence, only the failures, only the stereotypes that taint our low-income students in Chicago Public Schools," writes Ray Salazar on his blog The White Rhino: A Chicago Latino English Teacher.

IN THE NATION
PRE-K EXPANSION MOVES FORWARD: Even as he came under escalating attacks from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Legislature for his stance toward charter schools, Mayor Bill de Blasio last week stepped closer to securing state financing to expand prekindergarten in New York City. (The New York Times)

COMMON CORE GETS AXED: The Indiana Senate approved legislation that would void the national Common Core standards the state adopted in 2010. An hour after S.B. 91 was sent to Gov. Mike Pence for his consideration, members of the state board of Education discussed progress on new English and math standards that will replace those Common Core benchmarks. (Indiana Star)

Categories: Urban School News

As students move in and out, districts and schools try to catch up

EdNewsColorado - Sun, 03/16/2014 - 21:30

Becky Zachmeier, the principal at Cowell Elementary in southwest Denver, knows where each child in her building is. She walks the halls all day, checking in on them and their progress.

But she doesn’t always know whether they’ll be back the next day.

On a recent Friday afternoon, Zachmeier pulled a quiet fifth grader aside to ask him, “what’s happening tomorrow?” His family is moving, but he doesn’t yet know what school he’ll be in come Monday. If he moves, it will be his seventh school move in five years.

Research indicates that those moves could have major impacts on his success with everything from academics to behavior. And schools and school districts are increasingly making changes to mitigate the effects of frequent student moves, in part because of the potential impacts student mobility have on state accountability measures.

“Frequent school changes are linked to likelihood of dropping out,” said Judith Martinez, the state’s director of dropout prevention. And for those who don’t drop out, “with each move they lose three to six months of academic progress.”

High poverty schools like Cowell, where over 95 percent of students live in poverty, will often see mobility rates of more than 20 percent, as families move around for work and affordable housing. Frequent school moves are also typical for homeless students and children in the foster care system, whose experiences have driven much of the understanding about what it takes for transitions to be successful.

“If [students] are not placed accurately, it can contribute to some behavior issues or course failures,” said Martinez. Those effects are compounded for students, like the boy mentioned, who move frequently.

Zachmeier said she sees those effects in the students in her school, including the boy and his sister — also at Cowell — who both struggle with emotional and behavioral issues

“We’ve gotten him to a point where he can be in classes and where he can be successful,” said Zachmeier, who asked that no student names be used. She is worried all of that work will go out the window if he has to move, especially since the uncertainty of his family’s move is already impacting his performance. “With moving, [he and his sister] have been off the wall.”

The impacts of mobility also extend beyond the students who move. Schools that see a large proportion of students moving in and out deal with a host of logistical challenges that threaten to overwhelm their staff time and systems.

Zachmeier and her staff have to request that previous schools send them student records, which include critical information about special education status and test scores. But those can take weeks to arrive, so she and her teachers have to use their own judgement about student needs.

And students often show up expecting to be placed in a class that same day. But Zachmeier says that’s not usually possible.

“You can’t just walk down the hall with the new kid,” she said. Many students arrive without even basic school supplies, and placing a student in the middle of a class without warning the teacher can disrupt class for students already present.

Big systems, big problems

Most student transfers in the state occur in just seven districts and nearly a quarter occur in three of the state’s largest districts: Denver, Jeffco and Aurora.

Many metro-area districts, including Denver and Jeffco, have undertaken district-wide initiatives to ease transitions, including streamlining the records request process and creating a pacing guide for all district schools.

“One of the most awful things, destructive things that happens to kids that move a lot is that they can lose instruction and critical pieces or they’re relearning things, rather than moving forward,” said former Jeffco superintendent Cyndi Stevenson.

Now, students moving between Jeffco schools should land within about a week of where they were in their previous school.

The district also established practices to ease students’ entry into new classes. Students are tested within days of arriving at a new school, using either internal assessments or standard skills tests like Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) used statewide.

“You do as much as you can to get [students] in the right place instructionally,” said Stevenson. Then, in the school, teachers and school leaders find out “where they have gaps and we try and fill them.”

And it’s not just Front Range districts. Mesa Valley School District 51 in Grand Junction did a whole-district curriculum alignment three years ago and officials say it has made a big difference.

“Whenever when you have mobility in a district, if our teachers in our systems aren’t in alignment, kids can grow up with gigantic holes,” said Lesley Rose, Mesa’s executive director of elementary schools. “We thought that wasn’t right for our families.”

Mobility and accountability

The impact of student moves on districts are apparent in the results of the state’s accountability system, with many low-performing districts posting high mobility numbers.

All but three school districts facing the end of the state’s timeline for making drastic performance improvements have mobility rates above the state average. Many had mobility rates over 20 percent, meaning more than one in every five students would move during the school year.

“Some schools of thought [say] that districts with high mobility rate, that contributes to their performance challenges,” said Martinez.

Vilas and Karval, the two districts who will see the clock run out on their turnaround efforts this year if they don’t improve, were both in the top 15 most mobile school districts in the state for several years in a row. Both districts have large online schools, which have a track record of high mobility and low performance.

The state only started tracking mobility in 2007, in an effort to fill a need  identified by school districts. Districts felt it was a crucial metric that was not considered in evaluating performance (officials said mobility is sometimes internally tracked by districts but not in state accountability systems).

Top level fixes

Officials at the state and national level have made changes in recent years aimed at both reducing mobility and easing the transition between districts.

One significant move was the introduction of statewide codes for courses, with the goal of easing credit transfers between districts.

For example, explains Martinez, “let’s say in Walsenberg, they have a course they call ‘solar flares, sunbursts and snow caps.’” If a student were to move to another school district, officials might not know whether it meets their requirements for a science course students need to graduate.

“Now with the common course code, you can name your course anything what you want but it will still count towards [that requirement],” said Martinez.

There have also been efforts at the national level to minimize transitions for the traditionally highly mobile foster care population.

The 2008 Fostering Connections and Adoptions law requires caretakers to keep foster students in the same school when their placements change, as long as it is in the students’ best interest. It also mandated, in the event of a transition, that the student’s record be transferred promptly, a process which currently can take as long as a month.

A similar decades-old law, the McKinney-Vento Act, provides similar provisions for homeless students.

But officials and observers agree that for both laws, enforcement is difficult and inconsistent, with each district adopting a different approach.

The strengths of being small

The influence student moves have on schools is most readily apparent in small, rural districts where the movement of just a few students can increase the rate of mobility substantially. In fact, the highest mobility districts in the state are predominantly small rural and remote districts like Agate on the eastern plains, the smallest school district in the state.

But while the districts may be small, student moves can have large impacts. Several districts saw substantial mid-year funding cuts due to drops in enrollment.

Those cuts hit hard in districts where, according to Martinez, their ability to help students is limited by resources.

“They may not have a systemic method in place so that a student who comes in is ready to go,” said Martinez. Instead, they employ smaller-scale strategies afforded by their size. “Rural districts do a good job of using students as ambassadors, [to communicate] even things like what’s the good lunch day, the inside track.”

While that won’t address academic deficits for the student, it can make a big impact on reducing the chance of dropping out.

“Students may not engage with the school immediately,” said Martinez. Having a way into the school community, whether through ambassadors or extracurricular activities, can help prevent students from feeling disconnected.

It’s a strategy Zachmeier uses at her urban school as well, to offset the effects of family moves.

“We constantly lose kids and get kids but we try to build community [anyway],” said Zachmeier. She and her teachers organize frequent trips to a local roller skating rink to reach out to students and families. She has also started working with Lake Middle School, the school Cowell feeds into, to provide family healthcare.

The challenges of frequent moves means that more responsibility falls on parents. Zachmeier meets regularly with parents about their student’s performance and the school’s efforts. She has an open door policy and is trying to figure out how to get more parents in the school helping out.

“It’s coming,” said Zachmeier, but not as fast as she’d like. The structure of her school means “we’ve got get more parents in to do the work of the school.”

Categories: Urban School News

Speaker Ferrandino pitches new higher ed funding formula

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 03/14/2014 - 20:19

The questions were flying like balls out of pitching machine Friday when House Speaker Mark Ferrandino defended his new higher education funding bill at a meeting of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.

Questions and comments by member Hereford Percy summed up what many of his colleagues: “What are we fixing?” and “Do we have time to do it adequately?”

Ferrandino’s bill proposes to create a new formula for dividing state support among Colorado colleges and universities, putting more money into the resident tuition discounts known as College Opportunity Fund (COF) stipends and also basing some college funding on student retention and graduation rates.

“For too long the budget was focused on the institutions and the needs of the institutions,” said Ferrandino, sitting alone at the witness table in the Capitol’s cavernous Old Supreme Court Chamber. ”We need to look at what are the needs of the public.”

The University of Colorado and the University of Northern Colorado would lose funding under the plan, along with Adams State University, according to a spreadsheet Ferrandino has circulated.

The biggest gainers would be the Colorado State University System and Metropolitan State University of Denver. The bill would produce only modest additional revenue for the community college system. Colorado Mesa University, Fort Lewis College and the Colorado School of Mines also would gain funding.

The Denver Democrat’s bill has been rumored for weeks, was first circulated widely early this week and was introduced formally on Thursday as House Bill 14-1319 with more than 40 cosponsors.

Ferrandino, who’s serving his last year in the General Assembly, wants a bill passed into law this session. It would go into effect for the 2015-16 budget year. The measure does include a provision allowing CCHE and the institutions to review the bill over the summer and suggest possible changes to the 2015 legislature.

“We have eight weeks in the legislative session left,” Ferrandino said. “I know some people think that’s not a lot of time [but] if there’s a will there’s a way.”

Higher education lobbyists “do a very good job of making sure that nothing changes the status quo too much,” he said. “The only way I see for this conversation to really happen” is for the bill to be considered this session, he said.

Several commissioners were skeptical of the rush, saying a shift in how colleges are funded needs a longer conversation.

Happy Haynes / File photo

“This is a huge endeavor [for] eight weeks,” said commissioner Happy Haynes. “Help me visualize what the work plan looks like to reach resolution, a work plan that involves any of us sleeping.”

Ferrandino stuck to his guns and stressed he’s open to changes in the bill. “I want to emphasize here that this is the start of the conversation,” he said.

Calling the current funding system “something of a black box,” Ferrandino said state support needs to be better aligned with state policy goals like increasing enrollment of underserved students, doing a better job of retaining students and raising the numbers of students who receive degrees.

“People don’t have that high a view of higher education,” he said. “I believe something like this changes that conversation with the public. Their view is you give money to the institutions and it’s squandered, it’s wasted [on] highly paid executives, football stadiums.”

He also said, “I like change. I like taking the apple cart and turning it over and seeing what happens.”

Commissioner Patricia Pacey quipped, “I don’t want to upset the apple cart unless I think the new apple cart will produce a better product.”

Commissioners also were skeptical that the bill would produce significant change.

The measure would allocate more than half of state support based on enrollment through COF stipends, and only 3.9 percent on funding would be based on student retention and 6.1 percent on degree completion, according to a Department of Higher Education analysis.

“I still have a hard time understanding what this bill is trying to improve upon,” said commissioner Luis Colon. “I just don’t see what the incremental improvement is.”

Several commissioners noted that state has an existing higher education performance-funding plan, which is supposed to go into effect in a few years if certain budgetary targets are met.

Ferrandino said that program is too small to influence institutional behavior but would remain on schedule if his bill passes.

(State support, by the way, supplies only about a quarter of higher education funding, with the rest of institutional revenue supplied by tuition.)

Pacey, who’s an economist with experience in government finance, said she needed more information. “Can we expect something more substantial in the next week or two?” she asked. “Can we get some scenarios across different institutions?”

A word from the institutions University of Colorado President Bruce Benson / File photo

Ferrandino left after spending more than 90 minutes with the commission. He was followed at the witness table by two of the state’s more prominent presidents, Kay Norton of UNC and Bruce Benson of CU.

“Certainly we at UNC agree with the fundamental goal of the proposed legislation … that policy ought to drive funding and ought to be student focused,” Norton said. “What we don’t agree on is how to have a thoughtful conversation,” indicating the remaining weeks of the legislative session don’t provide enough time.

Benson said, “We do have a problem with the further inequities that would be created” by the bill. “The most troubling issue with the bill is the impact it will have over time. When are we going to hit another bump in the road, when we will have another downturn.”

The bill does a provision that would cushion loss of support by individual colleges when overall funding drops. And if state support dropped more than 15 percent in a year, future legislatures could suspend use of the bill’s formulas.

Ferrandino said he hopes to meet with college and universities leaders late next week, prepare amendments based on that meeting and then get back to the commission.

Read the bill text here.

Categories: Urban School News

For the Record: Maintenance costs for closed schools cut by $300 million

Catalyst Chicago - Fri, 03/14/2014 - 20:15

To help sell its plans for closing 50 schools, CPS leaders claimed that it would cost more than $400 million over the next decade to keep the buildings open, repair them and maintain them. Closings the buildings would thus save a big chunk of money.

But now that the district is trying to get the shuttered buildings off the books, officials have dramatically reduced their initial estimate of maintenance costs.

CPS now says that it would cost only about $100 million to maintain the buildings, as schools, over the next 10 years, according to a Request-for-Proposals that was issued in February to solicit bids from real estate agents. CPS also includes TIF information for each school, showing how much money is available from tax increment financing, an incentive program that developers can access to pay for capital improvements.

Cecile Carroll of the grassroots group Blocks Together says she is alarmed that CPS is having brokers look at the schools before getting feedback from the community about what they would like to see the buildings used for. 

Carroll and a few other activists showed up on Thursday at the closed Ward school where, according to the RFP, district officials were going to conduct a walk-through for potential brokers. Unbeknownst to them, CPS had withdrawn the RFP and was rescheduling the walkthroughs.

CPS spokesman Joel Hood said the RFP was withdrawn because officials wanted to clarify some of the language around community involvement in the process. He said the solicitation for brokers was just in case the community couldn’t come up with a use for the building and a broker was needed. 

About four of the new estimates on the RFP don’t differ much from last year’s figure. But most of the differences are huge. For example, CPS estimated that it would avoid spending $25 million by closing Morgan in Auburn Gresham. Now, it says the cost to maintain it as a school is $287,000, and just $256,000 to maintain as a vacant property. 

A more typical example is Songhai on the Far South Side. Last year, CPS estimated it would avoid spending $8 million over a decade by the closing the school. Now, it is telling potential developers that it will only cost $340,000 yearly to maintain.

Hood said the estimates last year included "needed capital improvements."

"The maintenance numbers in the this RFP (as a school) are our own estimates about what it would likely cost someone to operate this building as a school or office building or whatever else," Hood wrote in an e-mail. "It only takes into account annual utility costs, janitorial services, landscaping, etc."

However, some of the criticism of the original cost estimates were that they included capital improvement projects, even though CPS often puts off improving buildings for decades.

From the moment that CPS put out cost-savings estimates last winter, principals and parents questioned the figures. One principal told Catalyst Chicago that when he saw the district’s huge estimate for maintenance, he immediately knew that the numbers would be used against his school and that it would be targeted for closure. 

A joint analysis by Catalyst and WBEZ/Chicago Public Media showed that the cost savings touted last year were significantly flawed, and were based on outdated assessments of building needs and other flawed information.

The RFP only included information for 41 schools because some of those shuttered are not being sold. About five already have new uses planned, such as Lafayette in Humboldt Park, which will become the new home for Chi Arts. Some schools shared a building with a school that is still operating: for instance, Wadsworth was consolidated with nearby Dumas, and the school that previously shared Wadsworth’s building, the University of Chicago Charter High School-Woodlawn, now has the entire building.

Categories: Urban School News

Lawmakers leave big decisions for last

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 03/14/2014 - 14:27

Each legislative session has its own rhythm, but one thing is true every year – the heavy lifting gets done in the session’s second half. That’s certainly the case for education bills this year.

School finance, the 800-pound gorilla of 2014, and virtually every other education bill of any interest are still far from decided.

Monday will be the 69th of the 120 calendar days the state constitution allows for each year’s session. Because lawmakers rarely convene on Saturdays and Sundays, that leaves 38 weekdays to work before the legislature must adjourn by midnight on May 7.

More than 60 education bills have been introduced so far this year, about two thirds of them in the House. But only five bills of note have gone to the governor, and another 10 have been killed.

A lot of bills have been passed by one committee – usually House or Senate education – and now are parked in one of the appropriations committees. Such spending bills – and measures proposing spending in other areas of state government – will be prioritized and culled by legislative leaders after the March 18 revenue forecasts give lawmakers a better idea how much money they have to play with in the 2014-15 budget.

Based on what survives that thinning, it looks like the Senate Education Committee could be pretty busy in late March and into April, give the larger number of education bills coming from the House than moving in the other direction.

The legislature does have a detailed list of deadlines for when bills are supposed to finish various steps in the process, but those often are waived, and there are separate, later deadlines for bills in the appropriations committees.

And still more bills may be on the way. Measures expected – or rumored – may involve teacher evaluation, early childhood, online education, college scholarships and teacher licensing.

For those of you keeping score at home, here’s the status of key education bills, starting with school finance and key policy measures, then listed alphabetically by topic.

School finance

More than half a dozen bills deal with this issue, and they involve not just school funding but also related matters such as enrollment counts, charter school facilities, spending transparency and kindergarten funding. The big measures are House Bill 14-1292, the Student Success Act, and House Bill 14-1298, the annual school finance act. This is complicated stuff – see this story for details of the debate.

The Building Excellent Schools Today construction program also is part of the finance discussion. Bills giving lawmakers greater oversight part of the problem and changing the calculation of local district matches already have gone to the governor. But broader questions about use of BEST revenues are still in play.

Other big issues

Testing is a simmering issue this year. House Bill 14-1202, which started as a district opt-out bill, has been converted into a proposed testing study and is in the House Appropriations inbox.

Two bills address the “data gap” that will be created after the state moves to the new CMAS tests in the spring of 2015. House Bill 14-1182 would give districts and the Department of Education flexibility in district and school accreditation during the testing transition. The bill has passed the House and Senate Education. Another measure, yet to be introduced, would provides some flexibility next year in the teacher evaluation system.

House Bill 14-1268, a controversial proposal to change some of the mutual consent provisions of the evaluation law, is awaiting its first hearing in House Education.

On the higher education front, Senate Bill 14-001, the proposed tuition cap and college and university budget increase, is pending in Senate Appropriations. The measure has wide support and is expected to advance. And House Bill 14-1319, a potentially contentious measure to change the higher education funding formula, was introduced Thursday.

The following sections list bills by number, with brief descriptions and status information.

Boards & districts
  • House Bill 14-1118 – Creation of a $2 million fund for grants to rural districts that offer Advanced Placement classes. In Appropriations
  • House Bill 14-1204 – Exemption of some small certain from certain state paperwork requirements. In Appropriations
Charters
  • House Bill 14-1291 – Allows charters to hire armed security guards. In House Education
  • House Bill 14-1314 – Gives charters a greater role in district mill levy override proposals. In House Education
Early childhood
  • House Bill 14-1039 – Requires integration of early childhood data with state K-12 data. In House Education
  • House Bill 14-1076 – Proposes a $12.5 million incentive program for quality improvements in preschools. In Appropriations
Higher education
  • House Bill 14-1124 – Makes certain Native American students eligible for resident tuition rates. In Appropriations
  • House Bill 14-1154 – Equalizes pay rates for full-time and part-time community college faculty at a cost of $86.2 million. In Appropriations
  • Senate Bill 14-114 – Allows CSU Global Campus to enroll freshman and sophomore students. In Appropriations
Parents
  • House Bill 14-1094 – Creates an August sales tax holiday on purchases of school supplies. Appropriations
  • House Bill 14-1156 – Expands eligibility for free school lunches. In Appropriations
  • House Bill 14-1288 – Requires parents to receive health information before opting out of immunizations required for school enrollment. Awaiting House floor debate
  • House Bill 14-1301 – Increases funding for Safe Routes to School program. In House Transportation
Students
  • House Bill 14-1102 – Increases by up to $6 million funding for gifted and talented student programs. In Appropriations
  • House Bill 14-1131 – Makes cyber bullying a misdemeanor. Passed House
  • House Bill 14-1276 – Provides grants for training students in CPR. In Appropriations
  • Senate Bill 14-002 – Moves Safe2Tell anonymous tips program to the Department of Law. In Appropriations
  • Senate Bill 14-150 – Expands the Colorado Counselor Corps program and increases funding by $5 million. In Appropriations
Teachers
  • House Bill 14-1175 – Requires CDE to conduct a study of minority teacher development, recruitment and retention. In Appropriations
  • Senate Bill 14-124 – Creates a $2 million program to train leaders for turnaround schools. In Appropriations
Past the post

The only important policy bill signed into law so far is Senate Bill 14-004, which allows community colleges to offer four-year bachelor of applied sciences degrees in technical and vocational fields. A similar bill died amid acrimony in 2013, and SB 14-004 is a classic example how easily a bill can sail through the legislature if compromises are reached before the session starts.

Two bills making mid-year K-12 funding adjustments also have been signed. Those measures were needed to account for enrollment changes and other factors.

Already dead

One job lawmakers are prompt about performing every year is killing bills, including ideological measures proposed by members of the minority party. And sometimes legislators ask for their own bills to be killed after figuring out the measures didn’t have support.

Bills that would have created a timeout on implementation of new standards and tests, allowed school staff to carry guns on campus, established a tax credit for private school tuition and paid bonuses to highly effective teachers who worked in low-performing schools all have been “postponed indefinitely,” which means exactly what it sounds like.

House Bill 14-1110, which would have set recording requirements for school board executive sessions, was killed Wednesday at the Senate sponsor’s request.

Measures proposing compensation for school board members, scholarships for early childhood educator training and tweaks to the Public Employees’ Retirement Association also have died.

This story doesn’t reference several technical bills related to education. See the Education Bill Tracker for a full list of this year’s education bills, links to texts and the latest status. The Tracker also shows all the bills that have been killed, when that happened and which committee did the deed.

Categories: Urban School News

In the News: Failure built into the system, researcher argues

Catalyst Chicago - Fri, 03/14/2014 - 09:41

A new book by Camille Farrington, a research associate (assistant professor) at UChicago Consortium on Chicago School Reform, argues that high schools were designed to generate widespread student failure and considers the changes that would need to occur for all students to have a legitimate shot at college.

Roughly half of all incoming ninth-graders across urban districts will fail classes and drop out of school without a diploma, suggesting an underlying flaw in the way high schools are structured. Failing at School: Lessons for Redesigning Urban High Schools proposes fundamental changes to high school design, based on what researchers know about how students learn, what motivates them to engage in learning, and what kinds of educational systems and structures would best support their learning. The book is available on Amazon. (Press release)

MURDERS AND TESTING: Homicides in a handful of Chicago neighborhoods "are affecting children's test scores, some studies show -- at the same time the school system is struggling to fund enough counselors, social workers and psychologists who could help students cope with the violence," according to CNN's docuseries "Chicagoland," which recently looked at the city's "crime gap."

LSC ELECTIONS: Earlier this week, the Chicago Public Schools’ Office of Local School Councils reported 4,474 candidates had filed to run in the April 7 and 8 elections for 5,771 LSC positions. That leaves 1,297 positions to fill by 3 p.m. today. (Austin Talks)

IN THE STATE
POOR FINANCIAL HEALTH: Statewide data show that Illinois public school districts are continuing to struggle financially, with 532 districts – or nearly 62 percent – deficit spending, using their reserves or borrowing, this year compared to 32.5 percent in 2008, according to an annual Illinois State Board of Education statewide review. The ISBE analysis shows that one third of students in state are in schools in poor financial health. (Press release)

IN THE NATION
PRESCHOOL EXPANSION: Starting in the 2011-12 school year, the 27,000-student St. Louis school system began increasing its number of preschool seats, using part of the money from a 2011 court settlement of a long-running desegregation case. The number of preschoolers enrolled grew from about 1,300 in 2011 to about 2,000 this school year. And now, the preschool program is counted as a bright spot in the troubled district, and an example of the working partnership between Kelvin R. Adams, 57, the district's superintendent since 2008, and Mary J. Armstrong, the president since 2003 of the St. Louis Teachers Union, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. (Education Week)

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Late start boosts grades, attendance

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 03/14/2014 - 08:55

Vaccination show-down

After a six-hour hearing and a late night vote, a bill to make opting children out of immunization more difficult passed the House committee. ( Chalkbeat Colorado, AP via 9News, Denver Post )

Where have all the teachers gone?

Fewer Coloradans enrolled in teacher prep programs last year, including in specialties already struggling with a deficit of qualified teachers. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Lawmakers near and far

A bill to increase funding for school counselors joined a growing list of bills waiting on the legislature to make 2014-15 budget decisions. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Colorado senator and former Denver superintendent Michael Bennet sponsored legislation supporting early childhood education, which passed Congress this week. ( Gazette )

And at the nation's capitol, a Denver official testified in support of charter school legislation. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

dramarama

After disagreement over a student's testing led a parent to pull her out of school, Denver released new guidance on opting students out of tests. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

P.E. meets Plato

A P.E. teacher says get out and get active! Oh and Plato said it too. And so did Kennedy. And Thomas Jefferson. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Hit that snooze button, kiddo

According to a study that will elicit cheers from high school students everywhere, later school start times for high school lead to higher grades and test scores and better attendance. ( AP via Denver Post )

Give me the money!

Mancos School District in southwestern Colorado joined a suit to force lawmakers to increase education funding, as the lead plaintiff. ( Cortez Journal )

Categories: Urban School News

House panel passes contentious vaccination bill

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 03/14/2014 - 01:06

A House committee late Thursday voted 9-2 to advance House Bill 14-1288, which would require parents who want to opt out of vaccinating their children to certify that they’ve received medical information about the benefits and risks of those shots.

The bipartisan vote came after a hearing of more than six hours before the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee, a session that got increasingly passionate and heated as the evening wore on.

The session, which started more than two hours late because of a lengthy House floor debate, drew a crowd comparable in size to those that showed up for recent hearings on testing and standards and on guns in schools.

Vaccination has become controversial in recent years for some parents, who believe shots are triggers for a variety of illnesses. On the other hand, public health groups fear declining vaccination rates could lead to resurgence of infectious diseases such as measles and pertussis and that unvaccinated children can pose a threat to other kids with compromised immune systems. Medical researchers also have found no link between immunizations and such conditions as autism.

HB 14-1288 is backed by more than 30 state medical, education and advocacy groups, ranging from the Colorado Children’s Campaign to Children’s Hospital to Democrats for Education Reform, not to mention hospitals and medical societies.

Colorado has a relatively high rate of unvaccinated children, 4.3 percent, according to bill sponsor Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver.

State law requires certain vaccinations for enrollment in licensed daycare centers, schools and colleges. But parents may opt out of vaccinating their children for religious or medical reasons, or merely because of a “personal belief” opposed to vaccination.

HB 14-1288 would require parents who want to use the personal belief option to either obtain a form signed by a medical professional certifying the parents have received written information about the risks and benefits of immunizations or have completed an online vaccination information program. The bill wouldn’t eliminate the personal belief opt out.

There were stark contrasts among the 45 witnesses who testified, with businesslike panels of doctors, childcare professionals, educators and parents supporting the bill. A much larger cast of opponents, many of whom identified themselves just as mothers or fathers, told sobering and emotional stories of their children’s severe reactions to shots, of autism, of disabilities and even of death.

(At the end of the evening, Pabon read the long list of supporting organizations, saying, “We kept the pro testimony very short. … We could have easily packed the room with proponents.”)

The contrasts were exemplified by two witnesses.

Dr. Jim Todd, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital and the University of Colorado Medical Center, said, “Our analysis of Colorado data over many years shows that vaccines are safe and effective,” noting “there’s a lot of misinformation that circulates.”

But Michael Gaeta, an acupuncturist and nutritionist, argued, “Vaccines do more harm than good” and that vaccines “have not eliminated or prevented any diseases.” Gaeta and several other opposition witnesses criticized the alleged self-interest of drug companies in pushing vaccines.

Opponents also argued that the notifications would just be used to pressure parents to have their children vaccinated. Others said they suspect the bill is just a step toward outlawing parental opt-out. Most of the opponents arrived at the witness table with stacks of reports and other paperwork for the committee. Critics also called the bill an attack on personal liberty and parent choice.

But the last witness, Sundari Kraft of a group called Vaccinate for Healthy Schools, said children need “freedom from” the risk of infectious diseases as much as some parents need “freedom to” opt out.

Supporters said the bill wouldn’t discriminate against people who have sincere objections but is rather aimed at those parents who opt out purely for convenience because they don’t want to take the time to have their kids vaccinated, for instance.

Things got heated late in the hearing when witness Mary Hendrick intimated that committee member Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, has a conflict of interest because his wife works for a pharmaceutical company.

Chair Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver, calmly came to McNulty’s defense, saying, “I have no reason to expect that Rep. McNulty would have anything but the utmost integrity in voting on this bill.” (Another witness tried to raise the same issue later, but McCann cut her off, again very politely.)

Another element of the bill would have required schools to publicly report the percentage of students who aren’t vaccinated. That provision was criticized by opponents as something that could lead to bullying of kids who haven’t had their shots. The committee approved an amendment that only would require such information be provided on request.

Read the bill text here and a legislative staff summary here.

Categories: Urban School News

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