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Boasberg shuffles leadership team

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 06/13/2014 - 19:04

Denver Public Schools’ top boss has reshuffled his leadership team as the city’s school district moves toward rolling out its new strategic plan and after one of his top lieutenants departed for a new job.

In an email to district staff, Tom Boasberg announced Susana Cordova, formerly the district’s chief academic officer, will become the chief schools officer. Meanwhile Alyssa Whitehead-Bust, who previously oversaw the district’s innovation and reform office, will become the chief academic and innovation officer.

According to an email provided to Chalkbeat by DPS officials, Cordova will oversee all schools with the assistance of Ivan Duran, the recently minted assistant superintendent of primary schools, and Greta Martinez, who is newly appointed to assistant superintendent of post-secondary readiness.”

Martinez’s new title was previously held by Antwan Wilson. Wilson is leaving Denver to lead the Oakland Unified School District beginning July 1.

“The new structure will allow the chief schools officer to align our support, accountability, and implementation across all grade levels and all schools,” Boasberg said in his email. “By making the work of [the Office of School Reform and Innovation] in promoting innovation pilots and authorizing autonomous schools a part of the work of the chief academic and innovation officer, I am also excited about the increased opportunities to promote and share innovation and best practices across all our schools, regardless of governance type.”

Van Schoales, CEO of the education advocacy organization A+ Denver, said the announcement has promise.

“I think it’s smart and long overdue,” he said after being briefed on the transition this morning by Boasberg.

Schoales said the district’s academic and innovation offices previously worked independently of each other and weren’t aligned to provide the best support to its schools and school leaders were often getting direction from multiple central administration teams. He hope the reshuffle will change that.

“I think it potentially has big implications for the district,” he said.

The district did not immediately release new salary figures for Martinez or Whitehead-Bust.

Boasberg’s email

Dear Colleagues:
As we have worked together to craft our revised Denver Plan this spring, I have spent much time engaging with our teams on how to best accelerate our academic improvements and close our achievement gaps. You have been clear with me about the importance of coherence and alignment across all our schools and central school-support teams in order to support our educators and share our learning as we implement the new Common Core and Colorado Academic Standards.

I am pleased to let you know that we are going to restructure some critical roles on our senior leadership team to strengthen this alignment and coherence. To achieve these goals, Susana Cordova will serve in the newly-created leadership position of Chief Schools Officer, which will oversee the support and management of all of our district-run schools. Ivan Duran has been doing an excellent job as our Assistant Superintendent in charge of our elementary schools, and he will continue in that role. I’m pleased to share that Greta Martinez has been named as our Assistant Superintendent for Post-Secondary Readiness in charge of our secondary schools. Both Ivan and Greta will be reporting to Susana.

Alyssa Whitehead-Bust will be moving to the new role of Chief Academic and Innovation Officer. Alyssa will lead all of the departments that are currently part of the Chief Academic Office. She will also continue to lead the Office of School Reform and Innovation in all its current duties, with the exception of leadership and network support for innovation schools. Leadership of the innovation schools network will move under Susana as Chief Schools Officer; and she is committed to supporting the flexibilities in their innovation plans.

The new structure will allow the Chief Schools Officer to align our support, accountability and implementation across all grade levels and all schools. By making the work of OSRI in promoting innovation pilots and authorizing autonomous schools a part of the work of the Chief Academic and Innovation Officer, I am also excited about the increased opportunities to promote and share innovation and best practices across all our schools, regardless of governance type.

We are lucky to have such talented people here in DPS and incredible leaders like Susana, Alyssa, Ivan and Greta. They are caring, accomplished, equity-driven educators who have a fierce dedication to our mission.

While the shifting of responsibilities and teams always has sensitivities and challenges, we have worked through these conversations with an overriding goal of determining the right team structures to best support success for our teachers, our school leaders and our kids.

My overriding message to you as we make this leadership shift is: Don’t wait. Lead. Please continue the excellent work you are doing. Do not pause or second guess our current plans. We are deeply committed to the work we have underway this summer and in the new school year, and the better alignment on our leadership team will help drive results for our kids.

I have great confidence that our experienced and talented school-leadership team will help us move more quickly toward our shared vision of Every Child Succeeds.


CorrectionAn earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Susana Cordova. 

Categories: Urban School News

What We’re Reading: California court decision to end teacher tenure kicks off a firestorm

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 06/13/2014 - 17:23

We’re kicking off a new feature here (and an old favorite at Chalkbeat New York) with a roundup of the most interesting commentary and insight on education we read this week. Read on and tell us what you think (or what we should include next week) at

The big news of the week was a court decision to strike down California’s teacher tenure laws and well, everyone had an opinion.

  • Everyone from the loudest voice opposing education reform to a conservative pundit weighed on the idea that eliminating teacher tenure can improve outcomes for disadvantaged students. (Room for Debate)
  • “This lawsuit was never about helping students, but is yet another attempt by millionaires and corporate special interests to undermine the teaching profession and push their own ideological agenda on public schools and students while working to privatize public education” -president of the country’s largest teachers union. (EdWeek)
  • One potential wrinkle in the judgement? A crucial statistic the judge cited had little basis in research. (Slate)
  • But it also signals a major issue with the role of teachers unions in education. More and more, people see them as the problem. (Politico)
  • One take on Vergara: Tenure laws might not make much sense, but neither does firing lots of teachers. (Atlantic)

But that wasn’t the only thing riling up the education world. A Washington Post article looking at billionaire Bill Gates’ involvement in the rollout of Common Core got people talking.

  • One pundit says the article is bit too heavy on the conspiracy theories and ignores some of the realities of public funding. (This Week in Education)
  • Another thinks the reporter held the article until it couldn’t affect any of the state legislative decisions around Common Core implementation. (Deutsch29)
  • The article has also prompted calls for a Congressional investigation of the standards. (Common Dreams)

But the furor also raised the question: how much has it actually changed the classroom?

  • This article’s author took a look at how much the Common Core actually changed test questions in Mississippi. (Washington Post)
  • And students in New Orleans couldn’t even tell that they were being taught using the Common Core. (Hechinger Report)

Another school shooting in Oregon once again raised the question of violence in schools.

  • Here’s a map of all 74 school shootings that have happened in America since Newtown, the latest this week. (HuffPo)
  • Still, the big picture is that schools have gotten safer, not more violent, over the last two decades. (Vox)

What else?

  • A satirical take on charter school lotteries has New York City administering poison pills to most applicants. (The Onion)
  • A new-generation version of the classic science television show “The Magic School Bus” is headed to Netflix. (InsideTV)
  • After two rounds of admissions lotteries, 2,500 incoming D.C. students still don’t have a school. (Greater Greater Ed)
  • The surprise unseating of U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor has implications for education-related legislation. (Politics K-12)
Categories: Urban School News

State Board approves $1M shift of low-income funding to Dougco

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 06/13/2014 - 16:02

In an attempt to better match federal funds with the students the money is supposed to help, the state is piloting a program that will re-direct more than half a million dollars to the relatively wealthy Douglas County Schools.

The State Board of Education this week voted 6-1 to approve a pilot program under which the suburban school district will receive an additional $547,072 in federal Title I money next year to provide services for poor students.

The two-year pilot is intended to account for students who attend the HOPE Online Learning Academy – Elementary but who live in other districts that now receive the Title I funding for those children. The $547,072 is the estimated shift of funds in 2014-15. A similar amount likely would be allocated in 2015-16.

The plan drew vocal opposition from board member Elaine Gantz Berman at Wednesday’s meeting, and district leaders who stand to lose money aren’t happy either.

“We’re robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Berman said. Dougco “is the ninth wealthiest county in the United States. … I can’t in good conscience vote for this. I can’t take money away from Greeley and Aurora and DPS.”

Charlotte Ciancio, superintendent of the Mapleton Public Schools, told Chalkbeat Colorado that what CDE is doing “is absolutely the right conversation and absolutely the wrong solution.” Mapleton would lose $5,188 from its estimated $1.2 million Title I allocation.

“Five thousand dollars in a district our size is significant,” Ciancio said.

The four districts taking the biggest hits are Denver ($169,733), Aurora ($143,970), Adams 12-Five Star ($45,868) and Westminster ($45,905). See the list of districts that will lose money and the amounts here.

Summing up the dilemma, state school finance director Leanne Emm told the board, “It’s a zero sum game.”

The problem

The problem CDE is trying to address was created because Title I funding allocations are based on geography – primarily poverty rates within U.S. Census tracts and welfare caseloads. But students enrolled in online schools like HOPE live in many different districts, 21 districts in HOPE’s case.

In the bureaucratic words of a document presented to the board Wednesday, “Current methods for allocating Title I, Part A funds do not always accurately reflect where students are receiving services. Given the changing landscape of educational opportunities for students, studying the impacts of revising allocation methods will provide information necessary to make informed decisions moving forward.” (See the full presentation here.)

Although HOPE Online is authorized by the Dougco district, “very few of those kids live in Douglas County,” Keith Owen, deputy commissioner of education, told Chalkbeat Colorado in an interview. About 1,000 HOPE elementary students live outside the district.

“HOPE and Douglas County have been asking the department” for action on the issue for a number of years, Owen said, but no solution seemed workable until the idea for the pilot program came up. Senior Assistant Attorney General Tony Dyl indicated to the board he believes the program meets federal requirements.

The additional funds won’t necessarily go to HOPE but rather will allow Dougco to provide Title I funding for resident students in its own schools.

Owen told the board that Dougco’s current $1.2 million Title I allocation goes to HOPE and to certain set-asides like funding for homeless students. “They [the district] don’t serve other schools currently,” he said.

The bureaucratic backstory

Title I is massively complicated, and a major issue is that while overall district funding is determined by census-determined poverty rates, money is distributed to schools based on different criteria, usually the number of students eligible for free lunch or for both free and reduced-price lunch.

Ciancio, in a letter to the board urging rejection of the pilot project, noted that census-based poverty calculations indicate 1,486 Mapleton children are in poverty, but it has 4,287 free-lunch students. (Read the letter here.)

“We contend that the [Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates are] seriously underestimating the true impact of children in poverty in some districts,” she wrote. (SAIPE is the federal acronym for the census poverty calculation.)

On top of that, Title I funds come in four subcategories, for which districts have different levels of eligibility.

And, beyond a requirement that schools with 75 percent or more at-risk students get Title I funding, districts have latitude in how they spend the money. Some give it just to elementary schools, for instance.

“There’s never enough money to serve every student,” Owen said.

The complexity and the flexibility lead to varying amounts of Title I funding among districts. Owen said Dougco is spending $758 per eligible HOPE student. Berman said the DPS per-student amount is $438. Within a district, some schools may receive no Title I money, even if they serve some poor students.

See the list of all Colorado schools with their 2012-13 Title I status here (link downloads PDF).

The proposed solution

CDE developed criteria for online schools that could be eligible for the pilot, including minimum numbers of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, having a significantly higher percentage of such students than the authorizing district and participation in the federal school meal program. Of all the programs considered, only HOPE met all the criteria. It’s the only such school to participate in the meal program at its learning centers.

Owen said CDE will monitor use of the funds, including the strategies implemented for poor students, the impact on districts that lost funding and how to effectively use Title I funds in a multi-district online school. “A pilot gives us the opportunity to look at the impact,” he said.

Commissioner Robert Hammond told the board, “Ultimately the lessons learned could lead to statewide changes.”

In her letter, Ciancio wrote, “In our assessment, taking resources from one severely underfunded, highly impacted school district to support another underfunded school district feels inappropriate and unjust.”

She continued, “We ask you to charge the Colorado Department of Education to go back to the drawing board to find a solution that equitably funds districts and considers each child.”

She suggested that a more uniform way to allocate per-student funding could be developed by the state.

Owen told the board that such a statewide change might be possible but “is a massive undertaking” that CDE doesn’t have the capacity to handle now.

Shifting of Title I funds away from districts isn’t unprecedented. The state-run Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind in Colorado Springs and schools supervised by the Charter School Institute receive Title I funds based on their students’ districts of residence.

HOPE’s elementary program enrolls about 1,750 students, more than 60 percent eligible for free lunch. The school is in its fourth year at the priority improvement rating, Owen said. That’s the second lowest level in the state accountability system, and schools remaining at the level for five years are subject to state interventions including closure. (See the accountability report on all three HOPE schools here).

Categories: Urban School News

Talking With Principals, Part 4: Money matters

Catalyst Chicago - Fri, 06/13/2014 - 15:35

CPS has yet to release its official budget for next fiscal year, but principals have been grappling with their school-level allocations since April. In the last of four excerpts from a roundtable discussion hosted by Catalyst Chicago, Blaine Elementary Principal Troy LaRaviere, outgoing Peterson Elementary Principal Adam Parrott-Sheffer and Sullivan High Principal Chad Adams share their views on the district’s per-pupil budgeting system, now in its second year, and the district’s claim that the system gives principals more “autonomy” in spending decisions.

Gresham Elementary Principal Diedrus Brown also participated in the roundtable but did not have much to share: Gresham is slated to become a turnaround school and she will not be at the helm next year.

The vote on next year's budget was supposed to be held at the June board meeting, but has been delayed for unspecified reasons. According to state law, the budget must be published 30 days before the required public hearing. CPS’ fiscal year ends on June 31, but it is not unusual for the board to approve the budget in July or August.

Last year, officials made a dramatic shift in its system for allocating money and resources to schools: Instead of allowing schools to have a certain number of teachers based on enrollment, schools now receive a specific amount of money for each student. In addition, the overall amount allocated to schools was cut by $80 million.

CPS officials said that the new scheme would give principals more freedom that would offset the pain of budget cuts. But many principals said that, with scarce resources, the new system merely shifted the responsibility for bad decisions onto their plate, such as cutting an art teacher in order to afford a recess monitor. Plus, new requirements such as daily physical education are a drain on budgets.

For next year, officials announced a $250 increase per student, raising the per-pupil stipend to an average of about $4,390 from $4,140.

Catalyst: Are you being asked to buy specific books or specific programs?

Parrott-Sheffer: I’m not, but I have colleagues who had to meet with their network person and they were handed a list. I got to see it and it said, what level of Achieve 3000 are you buying? They’re being told how to spend their budget, whether they have the funds or resources.

Catalyst: What side of town does that principal work on?

Parrott-Sheffer: West-ish.

Catalyst: Some principals have said they are also being forced to get Compass Learning (Compass Learning and Achieve 300 are online education programs.)

LaRaviere: Compass Learning is the big company, and they have a program called Odyssey. We have Odyssey. It’s a big initial price, $25,000, and it’s like $4,000 a year. Nobody made me get it. My old principal, who I respect a lot, was using it. I went and saw a demo of it. I liked it. I still like it. It is not some miracle-working program. It has some good content that otherwise kids might not be exposed to. You can get an additional opportunity at home to expose them to some content and skills and practice. It is actually decently-designed instruction, not just practicing what you already learned. You can be introduced to new content through the program.

Parrott-Sheffer: it’s a good fit for you, but you made that decision. There’s other places where that decision is being made for you. If you’ve got a small school with 200 kids, that’s [taking all] your money.

The other issue is that you can’t buy [on your own]. Math curriculum, reading curriculum, are all on hold. It’s quite a maneuver to purchase anything, because in theory we’re moving to district-wide curriculum. It is unclear where they are in the process of that right now. [Not being able to purchase books] puts you behind the eight ball, unless you use non-school funds.

Adams: And we need to be careful of going down the district curriculum road. We went down this road a while back with [High School] Transformation. (High School Transformation was a 2010 initiative to have low-achieving high schools choose between a vetted list of curriculum.)

Catalyst: How are your projections for enrollment for next year?

Adams: Mine are way down. I think there was an over-projection when I started, so I think what I’m looking at now is probably the reality of what’s going to happen.

(Like most neighborhood high schools, Sullivan’s enrollment has fallen in recent years. Last year, Sullivan was projected to get 858 students but had enrolled only 708 by the 20th day audit of enrollment. Technically, schools that were underenrolled were supposed to be stripped of the money they received for students that did not show up. But CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett—perhaps sensing the mayhem such an action would cause—let the schools keep the extra money.)

LaRaviere: We will know in the fall, but it is about what we expected. We keep growing on one end, but we have to keep cutting on the other end because we don’t have space. So every time our kindergarten numbers rise, and they rise every year, we have to cut a preschool class. So we had seven preschools, and we’re down to three.

Catalyst: Chad, you come from a charter school. Tell us how the schools are different.

Adams: I thought I had a good shot at a charter, and could really make it happen. That charter is actually being closed – Chicago Talent Development. I went back to [traditional] public education because the charter world was hard in so many ways. The way that charters and neighborhood schools that are near each other interact is something that definitely needs to be looked at.

I have an UNO charter that is drawing students from [Sullivan]. Slowly but surely throughout the year, I got more and more kids from UNO because they didn’t want to have to wrap their arms around those families and work with those kids, despite their needs. That can be said about some other charters that are near me: Chicago Math and Science Academy. We don’t have the liberty of just kicking students out of school and having them never coming back. I do fear what some of the long-term effects on those children could be. I worry about the amount of trauma they’re being exposed to because of [being pushed out], and then landing at my school. I probably think about it more than anything because I was a part of it. I did the same damn thing that is being done to me.

LaRaviere: Wow …

Adams: But I quit, in the middle of the year. I couldn’t take the social injustice behind it.

Categories: Urban School News

Southwest Denver parents, community propose changes for school improvement

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 06/13/2014 - 13:53

Southwest Denver parents and community members demanded Thursday that the Denver Public Schools Board of Education create a task force to address the lack of resources and poor performance in the area’s schools.

Their requests follow last week’s rally, where parent and student leaders of Stand of Children Colorado and Padres y Jovenes Unidos voiced their disappointment in the board’s lack of involvement and interest in the schools’ success.

report issued by A+ Denver in April put what parents already knew into numbers, Mateos Alvarez, the Denver metro director for Stand for Children Colorado, said. The report states that only one-in-10 graduating high school seniors is college ready. Out of the 42 schools in southwest Denver, only seven received a grade of B or higher on the state’s system.

Parent Ana Munoz represented 55 families from the area’s one failing school — Val Verde Elementary. Munoz told the board that she and other parents had brought their concerns to the school’s principal, but they were ignored. Val Verde parent Ariana Hernandez said the principal was upset when she found out the parents would be addressing the board about the failing school.

Maria Galvan, a parent leader for Stand for Children Colorado, said the students in southwest Denver deserve the same educational opportunities that are offered in the far northeast. Angelica Castro, parent of three, said the board is responsible for these schools’ success.

“Success in an elementary school is based on good leadership,” Castro said. “We all feel very disappointed at the academic level (the schools) are at, and in the leadership we have in southwest Denver.”

Padres y Jovenes Unidos member Sandra Reva presented the board with a list of changes parents and students want to see in the southwest: longer school days and years, prompt academic interventions for children who are struggling, better food options, and restorative justice as school discipline in lieu of suspension, expulsions and police involvement, which parents said only aids the school-to-prison pipeline. Reva said longer school days and years would allow the inclusion of sports and tutoring for all students.

“We are certain that by incorporating these points, we can prepare southwest Denver students for college and to be active community members,” Reva said.

The district’s turnaround plan for Kepner Middle School has sparked more interest in the state of other schools in the southwest, as parents and advocates have demanded the district focus more of its efforts there.

Parents were pleased with the news that the former Kepner Middle School campus would be replaced with an expeditionary learning school, but said more needs to be done. With a population that is more than 80 percent Latino and 90 percent impoverished, the success of schools plays an important role in bettering the community.

“Education lifts people out of poverty,” southwest Denver community member Denise Maes said. “It keeps them out of prison.”

Three schools have been approved to open in the area for the upcoming 2014-15 school year: STRIVE Prep Southwest Middle School, Southwest Community Denver School and a to-be-determined district-run middle school. The board approved the co-location of one of its new district-run schools with STRIVE Prep Southwest Middle School.

Categories: Urban School News

DPS board OKs name for Stapleton campus for late civic leader Paul Sandoval

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 06/13/2014 - 13:50

While much attention was paid to the board’s final decision on new programs for the 2015 school year, the board took a few votes on other key issues at their meeting last night. Here’s a rundown:

  • The city’s new high school campus in the Northfield Stapleton neighborhood, north of Interstate 70, will be named after the late civic leader and politician Paul Sandoval. More than a dozen friends and family members — including former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar — spoke in favor of naming the new campus, which will be built with 2012 voter-approved bond money, after Sandoval. Sandoval died in 2012 after battling pancreatic cancer. One family who plans to attend the high school spoke out on the naming process. They accused the board of ignoring the community’s input in favor of honoring one of their own.
  • The board also approved the attendance boundary lines for the high school on a 6-1 vote. Board member Arturo Jimenez said the boundaries don’t go far enough in creating equal opportunities for the city’s students of color — which is what the committee that drew the lines set out to do.
  • Passed with unanimous support was an agreement between the district and the city’s teachers union. The update to the teachers contract includes two extra workdays to be added to the calendar by the 2015 school year. The district agreed to a 1.2 percent bump in compensation. Denver will also provide its teachers with a $750 health subsidy and match the first $250 a teacher contributes to a health savings account.
Categories: Urban School News

State gets updated evaluation of its R2T efforts

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 06/13/2014 - 13:04

Colorado continues to make progress on reaching its Race to the Top goals but has a few things to work on, according to an evaluation released Friday by the U.S. Department of Education.

The state received $17.9 million in late 2011 as part of a round of R2T “consolation” grants.

The four goals in Colorado’s application were increasing state capacity to implement reform goals, helping schools and districts transition to new standards, implementing the new educator evaluation system and integrating STEM knowledge in all content areas.

The DOE evaluation said, “In Year 2, Colorado continued to develop and successfully implement most aspects of its Race to the Top plan.” The evaluation specifically cited improved project management by the state Department of Education, expanded communications by CDE, development of a state sample curriculum and assistance to districts on educator evaluation.

On the negative side, the evaluation concluded  that “Colorado continued to grapple” with helping districts choose and weight various measurements of educator evaluation, “also struggled with” helping districts review different kinds of assessments and “had difficulty” making districts aware of available STEM resources.

Jill Hawley, Colorado associate commissioner, said felt the DOE report was “a pretty accurate assessment” of how the state is implementing the grant.

Read the DOE’s full Colorado report for December 2012-December 2013 here.

Colorado’s educator effectiveness system requires that half of the evaluations be based on student academic growth. That growth is measured not just with data provided by statewide tests but by growth information from multiple kinds of tests. A key part of CDE’s effort has been to help districts evaluate and choose what tests to use.

The evaluation system is still being rolled out. All districts were required to use state-compliant systems in the just-finished school year, but the results won’t count against possible future loss of non-probationary status by ineffective and partially effective teachers.

Next year, to account for a “data gap” caused by the switch to new tests, districts will have flexibility in how much to weight student growth when evaluating teachers. So the full rollout of the evaluation system launched in 2010 won’t come until the 2015-16 school year.

The state has lost three R2T bids but won two consolation grants, including the $17.9 million award. The state also won a $29.9 million R2T-Early Childhood Learning Challenge consolation grant in late 2012, and that award that was supplemented with an additional $15 million last year.

The federal R2T program made its first awards in 2010 and has given more than $5 billion to 24 states and the District of Columbia. Some $1 billion in grants to 20 states have been given in the early learning program. And more than $500 million has been awarded in R2T-District grants.

In 2012, the St. Vrain Valley district won a $16.6 million district grant. The district is using the money to expand and improve STEM programs.

Categories: Urban School News

In the News: Cheers for the end of teacher tenure

Catalyst Chicago - Fri, 06/13/2014 - 10:23

A Tribune editorial applauds a California judge's decision earlier this week on teacher tenure, saying it hopes the ruling and reform efforts across the country, eventually lead to the end of tenure.

RAIDING SCHOOLS: FBI raids last week targeting Concept Schools included the charter-school operator’s Des Plaines headquarters and a school in Rogers Park. (Sun-Times)

GRADING TEACHERS: The Ohio legislature decided that grades and ratings of Ohio's teachers shouldn't depend as much on student test scores. (The Plain Dealer)

DISMISSING TEACHERS: A bill making it easier to fire abusive educators heads to Gov. Jerry Brown two days after a judge found California's teacher tenure laws unconstitutional.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: New leader takes over Pueblo charter

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 06/13/2014 - 08:56

New kids on the block

Last week, board members heard from parents, community members and students about the potential new schools that could open in Denver. Among the most controversial questions: who will take over a brand new southeast Denver campus where a charter and a district-run school were vying for approval. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

The district-run school won out last night during the board vote on new schools, although members vowed to find a building for the charter. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

As we go on, we remember

On the last day of school, a first grade classroom in Englewood celebrate the year and look to next school year. ( 9News )

More of the same

A Pueblo charter will be getting a new leader next year, but that doesn't mean a new face since the school's current dean will be taking over. ( Chieftain )

Where are the watchers?

Some Pueblo community members are objecting to the elimination of a school district budget oversight committee. ( Chieftain )

Sprucing up

Pueblo also got the go-ahead on a state building grant to update fire protections at one of the city's high school. ( Chieftain )

And a San Luis Valley middle school will get a new roof through the same program. ( Valley Courier )

The road less traveled

A new self-directed teen learning center is a blessing for some students struggling to find a path outside of traditional education. ( Gazette )

School violence

A lot of numbers - and debate - are flying around concerning school shootings. A closer look at the 74 shootings in schools since the infamous Sandy Hook shooting reveals a "Sandy Hook-like" incident occurring every five weeks in the United States. ( KDVR )

Weighing in

The Sentinel editorial board says teacher tenure laws, which were struck down in California this week, harken back to a time when teachers could be fired for where they went to church. That's not true anymore. But teacher pay also needs to get better. ( Aurora Sentinel )

Categories: Urban School News

Denver board green lights 14 schools to open in 2015

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 06/12/2014 - 23:56

School board members vowed Thursday night to find a building for a new Rocky Mountain Prep charter school after they approved a district-run school to open in a new building the charter school had its eyes on.

Both schools were approved to open a new school for the 2015-16 school year in southeast Denver. And both potential school communities lobbied district officials and board members extensively for the new building in the Hampden Heights neighborhood, built with dollars from the 2012 voter-approved bond.

But last week, Alyssa Whitehead-Bust, the district’s chief of innovation, cited the district-run school’s inclusion of the campus’ natural surroundings in instruction as a primary reason for its selection for the new building. The school will have an expeditionary learning focus.

The board heeded Whitehead-Bust’s recommendation.

“It has been a long journey to this point,” said Anne Rowe, the board’s vice president who represents southeast Denver, before taking a deep breath and describing her rational for her yes vote.

She said both schools will open and serve kids well.

“It’s incredibly inspirational” to have two new schools open in the neighborhood, she said. “[And] we will work very hard from a district level to find a place to serve those [Rocky Mountain Prep] kids.”

Board member Mike Johnson echoed Rowe.

“Rocky Mountain Prep is a fantastic school,” he said. “What I really want to do, is urge staff to work very hard with Rocky Mountain Prep [to find a building]. And if there is anything I can do to help find a facility [let me know.] Let’s help them find a school.

The Hampden Heights vote, which was approved 6-0-1, accompanied more than a dozen others on new schools the board considered that will open in 2015 and where the those schools should be located.

Board member Barbra O’Brien abstained from this vote and two others regarding new schools because of conflicts of interest.

In total 12 new charter schools and two district run schools were approved to open in 2015:

  • Banneker Jamison STEM Academy
  • KIPP Colorado Far Northeast Elementary
  • KIPP Montbello Collegiate High School
  • Near Northeast Community Engagement School
  • REACH Charter School
  • ROOTS Elementary
  • STRIVE Prep Far Northeast Elementary School
  • STRIVE Prep Far Northeast  High School
  • STRIVE Prep Southwest Middle School
  • Hampden Heights School of Expeditionary Learning
  • Rocky Mountain Prep – Hampden Heights
  • Southwest Community Denver School
  • YouthBuild Charter School
  • To-be-determined district-run southwest middle school

Two schools — the Denver Dual Language Expeditionary School and Westside Academy — that applied to open in 2015 were rejected by the board.

The board also approved the co-location of one of its new district-run schools and a STRIVE middle school at the southwest Denver Kepner Middle School campus.

District officials announced a the phase-in, phase-out intervention at the middle school, one of the district’s lowest performing, earlier this year.

The co-location of STRIVE and a district-run school was announced earlier this week.

The district selected the STRIVE network over the DSST network — which earned a charter approval last year to open a campus in southwest Denver in 2015 — because of STRIVE’s track record with teaching a sizable population English language learners.

District officials called it a tough choice. But at its Monday meeting, and Thursday night, board members congratulated each other and district staff on a successful community engagement process.

Co-locating the two schools at the Kepner campus is “very important to our commitment to modified consent decree” and “a solution all parties can agree with,” said board member Arturo Jimenez, despite splitting his vote between supporting the district-run program and voting against placing STRIVE at the Kepner campus.

The modified consent decree is a court order outlining how the district is to serve its English language learners.

Jimenez raised concerns STRIVE would provide only minimal services for English language learners and that would run counter to an earlier resolution the board passed claiming the district would go above and beyond the consent decree.

Board member Rosemary Rodriguez, who represents the southwest Denver community and played an oversized role in community meetings discussing the Kepner turnaround plans, disagreed.

“STRIVE has embraced the challenge and the charge of serving any learner who wants to enter their program,” Rodriguez said. “I’m really confident it won’t be the lowest level of service — it will be aspirational college prep.”

As part of the final agreement, which will be submitted for board approval, STRIVE will agree to share an attendance boundary with the district run program, hire bilingual teachers who will provide core curriculum in Spanish, and serve as a zone school for English language learners.

Zone schools are campuses that students who are learning English as a second language can attend if the school in their attendance boundary does not offer the English acquisition program that parents choose for their child.

More than 60 percent students at Kepner are identified as speaking a language other than English at home.

And while the decision to co-locate a district-run program with the STRIVE program at Kepner was celebrated at Thursday’s meeting by the Congress of Hispanic Educators, some Kepner parents who participated in evaluating possible school models feel the district pulled a bait and switch.

Bernabe Valdvis speaking on parents’ behalf said, through a translator, the end result was a surprise and disappointment.

That’s because an application for a district-run school, designed by some of Kepner’s current administration and teachers, that was presented to parents as an option to replace the district’s current program was withdrawn. Parents were under the impression they would review all options and now feel cut out of the decision.

Valdvis said if DPS officials are certain a district-run school will be in the building they should not wait to phase-in a new program but make changes now.

“Its DPS’s responsibility to guarantee a quality education for all students,” Valdvis said.

Last month DPS announced veteran DPS principal and administrator Elza Guajardo will lead the phase-out of the district’s current program through 2018. Another school leader is expected to be hired to design the district-run concept to phase-in later this summer.


Categories: Urban School News

Talking With Principals, Part 3: Evaluating educators

Catalyst Chicago - Thu, 06/12/2014 - 16:03

Our third installment of a conversation between principals focuses on how educators are being evaluated, an issue that has taken on greater importance because state law now requires that test scores be part of these evaluations.

Participants in the roundtable Catalyst Chicago recently hosted included principals Troy LaRaviere of Blaine Elementary, Adam Parrott-Sheffer of Peterson Elementary, Deidrus Brown, of Gresham Elementary and Chad Adams from Sullivan High. Our first two stories covered why principals speak out publicly—or don’t— about school district policies and the controversial SUPES Academy.

Last year CPS changed the way it evaluates principals in order to meet new state standards that hold them accountable for student academic growth. 

In addition to data that show students’ academic growth, principals are also to be graded on ”practice criteria” that include less easily measured indicators, such as whether they champion teacher and staff excellence through continuous improvement, build a school culture focused on college and career readiness and “create powerful systems of professional learning.”  Network chiefs conduct two formal observations of each principal annually, and provide feedback to discuss the observations, the data and the school’s goals.

Most principals were graded as “proficient”—squarely in the middle--last year. 

Principals at Catalyst’s roundtable discussion expressed dissatisfaction with the evaluation system, comparing it to the similarly data-driven teacher evaluation system, Recognizing Educators Advancing Chicago Students (REACH). In both cases, principals said the evaluation process was bogged down by paperwork and gave limited opportunities for detailed feedback that could help them – and their teachers – grow.

Catalyst Chicago: What has the principal evaluation process been like so far ? What has the interaction been like between you and your network chiefs?

 Troy LaRaviere: The time and energy put into it is as much a waste as the time and energy put into REACH. Getting in and observing teachers and giving feedback is important. REACH is not designed to do that. It’s designed to collect evidence to justify a number you give a teacher, a 1, 2, 3, or 4 -- an unsatisfactory, a satisfactory, a proficient or a distinguished. All of the feedback you give them is designed to justify that label, not improve their practice. It would be as if I’m coaching a baseball team, and I decided we’re going to improve a team by creating a rating system, and the feedback is to justify the rating. I’ve put so much time in creating the system to justify the rating, that I’ve taken away 80 percent of the time that I had previously used to actually coach them to help them become better players. That is what’s happening with CPS, on the teacher level and with the principal evaluation. You pull this mountain of documentation together, spend a lot of time doing it, and you take away that time from your responsibilities at the school. I told my chief that, frankly, of all the things I did last year to improve my students’ performance, the work I put into that evaluation contributed to it the least. So I decided I would not put any more effort than I had to in this year’s evaluation--you can give me whatever mark you want.

 Chad Adams: My school has been on [academic] probation for a number of years, and probation basically strips the power from the Local School Council (LSC). My LSC rating was pretty good, I was really happy with it, and I liked the feedback they gave me. I’m not so sure the size of the network allows the chiefs to spend the amount of time they need in schools to really help a first-year principal, or principals in general. So I was putting more stock in my LSC, because they live and breathe the school a little more than the chief. At the same time, my chief’s rating of me, at this point, carries more weight as far as me having employment and me being able to feed my child than the LSC rating. So I have to put some time into it, because that allows me to have a livelihood.

Catalyst: Did your chief give you good feedback on your evaluation?

Adams: I got air time, where they came and did walk-throughs in classrooms with me and talked about what we were seeing, what my next moves were going to be, and after that they had a conversation with me, saying “These are the things you need to think about.” My chiefs are former principals, I don’t have the experience they have, so I listen to them. I was happy they were able to give me that. But I don’t think they have enough time to give me the time you really need as a first-year principal.

 Adam Parrott-Sheffer: That’s where you get the sense that it’s a design flaw. If you take it from the abstract, we definitely need a common language around what effective instruction and effective leadership looks like. All good organizations do. When I think about REACH, that’s a positive thing to have – a common vocabulary around what we say good instruction looks like. We might disagree around the edges, around certain pieces of it, but to have a common language? Good thing. To have feedback? Really good thing. But we’re talking about networks that have 50-some schools in them. You could probably get somebody in to observe your school every two months, if that’s all that they did. My evaluator is phenomenal, she’s brilliant, and then I have to wait six months before I get that sort of feedback again. And by then we’ve moved all sorts of ways with it.

 Deidrus Brown: I would have loved to have a person evaluating me that had some experience with elementary schools, and would have visited my school more than two times, and knew the culture of elementary schools. My chief did not have that experience, so I took the evaluations with a grain of salt.

Categories: Urban School News

DPS board expected to approve new schools tonight

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 06/12/2014 - 15:14

The Denver Public Schools Board of Education is expected tonight to approve 12 new schools throughout the city, as well as two new district-run schools at the Kepner campus in southwest Denver and the Hampden Heights campus in southeast Denver.

Two new school applications — Westside Charter and Denver Dual Language Expeditionary School — are expected to be denied.

The board heard recommendations from Denver’s innovation department, which reviews new school applications, last week. It also heard from community members at a special comment meeting.

Before tonight’s meeting here’s a look at what some members of the public had to say:

[View the story "DPS hears public's recommendations for new schools" on Storify]
Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Calif. tenure ruling reverberates across U.S.

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 06/12/2014 - 10:09

Pile of homework

The State Board of Education has gotten the details of just how much work the Department of Education has to do because of 2014 legislative action. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Back to the voters

City leaders will ask voters in November to renew and raise the sales tax that supports the Denver Preschool Program. ( Chalkbeat Colorado, Denver Post )

Pedaling is freedom

Bicycles are opening new frontiers for some Englewood special education students. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Students wade in

Aspen H.S. students start petition in support of the school's embattled principal. ( Aspen Times )

Teacher tenure

This week's court ruling in California is expected to lead to copycat suits in other states. ( NY Times )

Several states already use factors other than seniority to decide if teachers can keep their jobs. ( AP via )

Common Core

Fewer than half of superintendents surveyed believe that teachers in their school districts are well prepared for teaching the Common Core Standards, according to results from two new Gallup/Education Week polls. ( EdWeek )

More than 200 higher ed leaders have created a new organization to support the Common Core Standards. ( Christian Science Monitor )

UCD on the move

The University of Colorado Denver is expanding into the southern suburbs with a center in Parker. CSU also has plans to establish a footprint in the area. ( Colorado Community Media )

Digital campuses

Colorado State University, Indiana University, the University of Michigan and the University of Florida have partnered to share a common digital infrastructure whose content-storing and sharing services will allow instructors to share materials while maintaining control over use of their intellectual property. ( Coloradoan )

Editorial roundup

"It was good to see Denver District Court Chief Judge Michael Martinez dismiss a lawsuit on behalf of teachers who were let go by Denver Public Schools." ( Denver Post )

"One cannot escape the lugubrious conclusion that teacher unions defend the indefensible: retention of incompetent teachers; that is, indifference to the best interests of the children." ( Intermountain Jewish News )

"If the state wants better results in the classroom, it has to pay for them. And if teachers want better pay, it will mean more accountability, transparency and almost certainly, the end of long summer vacations that could be spent on evaluations, testing themselves for competency in the subjects they teach and honing their subject and teaching skills." ( Aurora Sentinel )

Categories: Urban School News

In the News: A new day for CPS principals?

Catalyst Chicago - Thu, 06/12/2014 - 08:38

Troy LaRaviere, principal of Blaine Elementary in Lakeview whose op-ed in the Sun-Times a month ago sparked a citywide conversation on how Chicago Public Schools are run, says he's one of some 35 CPS principals organizing, in his words, "to speak directly to the public on matters of concern regarding education policy."  (Chicago Reader)

CAUSE FOR INVESTIGATION: The apparent identity thefts of more than 40 former and current New Trier High School employees have prompted the school district to ask local and state law enforcement authorities for help with the investigation, New Trier officials confirmed this week. (Tribune)

WISH FULFILLED. NOW WHAT?: When the Los Angeles school district was rocked by the largest abuse scandal in its history two years ago, Supt. John Deasy wanted one thing from the Legislature: the ability to quickly fire offending teachers. He didn't get it from lawmakers. He got it this week from an L.A. County Superior Court judge who ruled that school districts should have more authority over who they hire and fire. Now, the question is: Will this victory pay off in the classroom? (Los Angeles Times)

LAUNCH DELAYED: The state has backed away from its planned July start date for a new mandatory quality rating system for early childhood education and officials now say they are aiming for a November launch. (Chalkbeat Colorado)

SHORT-LIVED UNION VICTORY: A Detroit charter school joined a small group of charters in Michigan where the staff have voted to unionize. But it could be a short-lived victory for the staff, because a new management company is taking over the school July 1 and just a small number of the existing staff will remain at the school. (Detroit Free Press)

Categories: Urban School News

CDE, State Board sort through homework assignments

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 06/11/2014 - 21:16

How would you feel if your teacher gave you nearly two-dozen homework assignments and then left school for the next seven months?

That’s kind of the spot the Department of Education and the State Board of Education are in with the work assigned to them by Colorado legislators, who finished their 2014 session more than a month ago and won’t be back at the Capitol until January.

The state board was briefed Wednesday on all those tasks, which range from significant policy work like writing new regulations for English language learner programs to little stuff like organizing a way to award trophies to high schools with high academic growth.

“It’s heavier relative to last year,” department lobbyist Jennifer Mello told Chalkbeat Colorado. She also said there’s a “big difference in the number of new programs [and] program expansions.”

The legislature “always puts a load on us,” said education Commissioner Robert Hammond, but he feels CDE can handle it. “I think we’re fine.”

The new laws provide about $6.6 million in new money to CDE – most of which will go out in grants to districts and payments to contractors – and authorize 6.2 new department positions, Mello told the board.

Board member Marcia Neal of Grand Junction commented that legislators like “pet projects.”

“I’m sure the school districts would have been very pleased to see a bigger reduction in the negative factor” rather than spending on special programs, she said.

Mello focused on the bills she said would “create the most work for the department.” They include:

  • The Student Success Act (House Bill 14-1292), primarily its provision that the state create a website containing information about district spending, broken out by school. “It’s going to take some work to get there,” said Mello, even though an outside vendor will be hired to gather data from districts and build the website. The department got $3 million for this project.
  • The portion of the School Finance Act (House Bill 14-1298) that overhauls state law on and CDE supervision of ELL programs. “There are a lot of changes the department has to make,” Mello said. The bill provided an additional $17.5 million for districts to run ELL programs. Among other tasks, the state board will have to approve two new sets of regulations for the program.
  • A $1.9 million measure (House Bill 14-1102) that requires CDE to review district plans for gifted an talented students and to run grant programs for districts that want to screen all students for G&T and hire qualified administrators to oversee their programs. CDE got an additional staff member out of this bill.

Depending on how one parses the new laws, CDE got assignments from 23 bills passed by the 2014 session, including 14 that include funding and provide new staff or money for contractors. Another nine legislative mandates for the most part require tinkering with existing laws and programs, without additional staff or funding. And the new laws will require CDE lawyers and the board to draft and deal with nine sets of rules and regulations.

(By the way, state bureaucrats aren’t unhappy when lawmakers go home for the year, just like kids don’t necessarily miss the teacher. Ask most anybody at CDE or any other state agency how they feel when the legislature adjourns, and the universal reaction is relief.)

See the full list of and details on CDE’s homework here.

Berman wants to make sure testing group has Dems

Another 2014 law, House Bill 14-1202, creates a 15-member task force to study testing issues (details in this story).

Members of the task force will be appointed by a variety of legislative officers and by SBE chair Paul Lundeen, a Republican from Monument who has three picks.

Elaine Gantz Berman, a Democrat from Denver, raised the issue with Lundeen during Wednesday’s meeting, saying, “I know you have not consulted with the board … it is my expectation that one of three would be a Democrat. I’d like to hear what your thinking is.” (The board has a 4-3 Republican majority.)

Lundeen said, “It’s early in the process” for the selections (even though the appointment deadline is July 1) and that “applications are coming in to the speaker’s office.” (The speaker of the House is coordinating the appointments and convening the task force.)

“It’s a foregone conclusion that it [the task force] will be Democrats and Republicans,” Lundeen said.

HB 14-1202 doesn’t specify party representation on the group, but it is highly proscriptive about the interest groups to be represented. The task force has to include three administrators, two school board members, two teachers, two charter school representatives, two parents, one student, two business people and a representative of the PARCC testing group. The usual interest groups suspects – Colorado Association of School Executives, Colorado Education Association, etc. – also are supposed to be represented by some of the members.

Neither Lundeen nor Berman – the board’s ideological polar opposites – will be around next year to receive the task force’s recommendations. Berman isn’t running for re-election from the 1st District, and Lundeen is running for the legislature in a heavily Republican House district. Once he’s elected he’ll have to resign from his 5th District seat on the state board.

New testing labels

For years Colorado students have borne the labels of “advanced,” “proficient,” “partially proficient” and “unsatisfactory” based on their scores on CSAP and TCAP tests.

That – and a lot of other things – apparently will change after the new online CMAS tests (including multi-state PARCC tests in language arts and math) roll out in 2015.

“We’re looking at new labels,” state testing director Joyce Zurkowski told the state board Wednesday during a briefing on how the state’s new science and social studies tests will be scored.

The new labels could be “distinguished command,” “strong command,” “moderate command” and “limited command.”

See Zurkowski’s presentation on science and social studies scoring here. Because those two tests were new this spring, a panel of teachers and testing experts still have to set the “cut points” that will determine whether a kid had “distinguished” or “limited” command. Those cut points will be developed this summer and considered by the board in August.

If the board approves the eventual plan, students and parents will get their scores in September, Zurkowski said.

Categories: Urban School News

Bikes open up new frontiers for Englewood students

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 06/11/2014 - 18:54

The idea came to Callan Clark, director of student services for Englewood Schools, after she saw a bike secured to the front of a city bus last winter.

What if some of the district’s special needs students had the opportunity to learn about biking as a form of transportation, one that could help get them to future jobs, connect them to region’s bus and light rail system, or simply enhance their independence?

“A lot of these kids, for various reasons, may never get their drivers licenses,” she said of the 18- to 21-year-old students in the “Transition In Englewood Schools” program, also known as TIES.

Clark said the special needs of TIES students vary widely, stemming from conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy, developmental delays, spina bifida and traumatic brain injury.

The bike idea was intriguing, but administrators knew that buying 15 new cruiser and recumbent bicycles, plus helmets, baskets and inner tubes, had the potential to be pricey. Nevertheless, they decided to get a cost estimate from a local bike shop, Any and All Bikes.

Administrators realized there had been a miscommunication when the shop called to say the district’s new bikes and gear had arrived.

“Oh, we were in such a panic,” said Clark.

The bill was around $10,000 and the district had no money to pay for it. But as is often the case, necessity is the mother of invention, or in this case vigorous fund-raising. The district applied for and won a $20,000 Kaiser “Thriving Schools” grant, half of which was earmarked for the bikes.

In addition, the TIES bike initiative received small sums from anonymous donors, proceeds from a craft fair at Englewood High School and a 25 percent discount from Any and All Bikes, which district officials say was extremely accommodating throughout the process.

Starting in March, eight students in the TIES program, including two who’d never ridden before, started using their fluorescent green bikes, first in the parking lot and later for outings in the community.

“They were so excited,” said Clark. “This is really going to bring independence and freedom to these students.”

The TIES biking program, which emphasizes both life skills and wellness, finished for the year last week, but will return next fall. While a few other Colorado districts incorporate biking into physical education classes, Clark said Englewood is the only one she knows of to incorporate biking into a program for special needs students.

It was, she said, “a self-fulfilling prophecy that they ordered the bikes.”

Categories: Urban School News

Denver leaders plan to ask voters to extend, raise sales tax for preschool program

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 06/11/2014 - 17:13

Flanked by some of Denver’s most savvy politicos — and four-year-olds — Mayor Michael Hancock today announced plans to ask city voters in November to renew and raise a sales tax to fund the Denver Preschool Program.

The program, which Hancock and others said has become a model for other cities around the nation, uses tax dollars to fund the nonprofit that provides preschool tuition support for families and fund professional development and research to boost quality in city’s preschools.

Voters narrowly approved the 12 cent sales tax on every $100 dollars in 2006, and the tax is set to expire in 2016.

The ballot question that Denver City Council will likely refer to voters will ask them to raise the sales tax to 15 cents on every $100. If approved, the sales tax would extend for another 10 years.

“The Denver Preschool Program has proven that high quality early childhood education helps prepare Denver’s youngest students, no matter where they live or what color their skin to enter kindergarten ready to learn,” Hancock said. “It’s not just about closing the achievement gap, but eliminating it all together.”

The new revenue will be used to restore cuts to year-round preschool that were made during the recession, meet the growing demand for full- and extended-day programing, and keep up with the rising cost of tuition, according to a media release from Preschool Matters, the campaign supporting the pending ballot question.

The campaign, emboldened by early success of the Denver Preschool Program and a recovering economy, plans to build and mobilize a constituency of former families who have benefited from the program to ensure a higher margin of victory in November.

“We have families and children to point to that prove the program’s success,” Hancock said. “We have the data.”

An independent study paid for by the program found that 64 percent of Denver Public Schools third graders who had previously attended a preschool in the program scored proficient or advanced in reading on the state’s standardized tests. That was compared to 58 percent of third graders who did not attend preschool.

PHOTO: Nicholas Garcia Preschoolers attending the Hope Children’s Center in northeast Denver listen to speakers at a June 11 press conference announcing a campaign to ask voters to renew and raise a sales tax to fund the Denver Preschool Program.

Councilman Albus Brooks, whose own children have participated in the program, highlighted generally accepted research that proves a correlation between third grade reading scores and graduation rates. He said local research found Denver students who are reading at third grade have a 90 percent graduation rate.

Since the program launched in 2008, more than 34,000 students have graduated from a participating preschool, including 5,400 who graduated just a few weeks ago, said Jennifer Landrum, the program’s president and CEO.

As of April, about 65 percent of students attended a DPS school, Landrum said. The other 35 percent attend a variety of private programs.

Tuition support — which is based on family size and income, quality of the preschool, and type of program — accounted for 75 percent of the program’s expenses last year. Monthly payments, made directly to the preschools, range from about $36 a month to $485 a month, Landrum said in a subsequent interview. The average tuition credit during the 2013-14 school year was $290.

The program received $11.8 million in tax revenues last year.

More than half of the families that utilize the program have a combined household income of $30,000.

The Denver Preschool Program works with more than 250 different preschools that are either run by DPS or independently, including faith-based and family care organizations. Each school must participate in an annual quality review and improvement process, Landrum said. That’s led to nearly 200 more quality preschools, as defined by the program, in Denver today than when the program started in 2008.

No immediate opposition to the proposed 2014 question is known at this time.

However, the Anti-Defamation League opposed the 2006 ballot initiative because the program would provide tuition support toward faith-based organizations.

Supporters of the program said giving families a choice of the city’s best programs was paramount and religious waivers were provided.

The proposed ballot question’s first step toward November is to clear the city’s Health, Safety, Education and Services, which is chaired by Brooks. He said he expects the committee to hear the proposal within two weeks.

Chairing the campaign will be Brooks, President of the Denver Children’s Museum Mike Yankovich, and Chief Revenue Officer for Entravision Communications Corp. Mario Carrera.

Categories: Urban School News

Talking With Principals, Part 2: SUPES Academy

Catalyst Chicago - Wed, 06/11/2014 - 14:26

CPS officials seem to be forging ahead with the second year of a principal professional development contract with the SUPES Academy, despite lingering questions about the quality of the training  and the relationship between CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and the founders of the for-profit business, for whom she previously worked as a consultant.

The Inspector General’s investigation into the circumstances surrounding the award of the $20 million contract is ongoing. At last year’s June board meeting, members approved the no-bid contract, the largest such contract in at least three years. Some Board of Education members have said they want to review the three-year contract annually. Yet they don’t need to wait: According to the board report, they can terminate the contract anytime with 30 days written notice.

Responding to complaints by principals that the training has been too elementary for leaders of struggling urban schools, and that the Saturday sessions forced them to give up weekend time, principals have twice been given the chance to opt-out of the sessions (the most recent opt-out form was due June 9). Yet some principals say the form’s language is intimidating. It reads: “I understand … I will still be held accountable for the content of the sessions and will be expected to demonstrate professional growth in the same fashion as my colleagues who attend CELA.”

CPS spokeswoman Lauren Huffman says few principals have officially opted out and the district has no plans to redesign the program. On its website, SUPES highlights the academy, called CELA for Chicago Executive Leadership Academy, as one of its success stories. Principals, however, say they are showing their discontent by simply not attending.

One principal told Catalyst that at the last training in early May, 75 name-tags were made for principals. In the morning, 45 principals attended. By lunch, fewer than 35 principals remained.

Principals also say they were frustrated to learn that the state has not yet approved the training, which means they cannot receive credit with the Illinois Administrator Academy for attending. Principals must obtain at least one IAA credit per year to stay certified.  

Meanwhile, as recently as November, Byrd-Bennett apparently participated in the 2014 National SUPES Academy. A Facebook picture from Nov. 16, 2013 has this caption: “Chicago Public Schools CEO - Dr. Barbara Byrd-Bennett fields questions from our 2013 Cohort about her tenure as superintendent in Chicago and former districts.” CPS spokesman Joel Hood says Byrd-Bennett “sometimes informally stops by SUPES Academy trainings for aspiring superintendents around the country and will talk to participants. She is not paid for these visits.”

A Catalyst investigation showed that several of the superintendents who were being paid to act as speakers and mentors for CELA ran school districts that also had contracts with SUPES. One of them S. Dallas Dance, the superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools, was forced to give up the consulting gig after Catalyst revealed his participation. Dance failed to disclose the job to his school board.

During Catalyst’s recent principal roundtable, the subject of SUPES emerged as Deputy Editor Sarah Karp, Associate Editor Melissa Sanchez and the principals discussed why some school leaders speak out about policies they disapprove of and other principals stay silent. (Read Speaking out from the trenches, Part 1 of our series.)

The roundtable included Adam Parrott-Sheffer, principal of Peterson School (who is leaving CPS for the suburbs); Troy LaRaviere, principal of Blaine; Chad Adams, a new principal from Sullivan High; and Diedrus Brown, whose school, Gresham, has been slated for turnaround. Of the 10 SUPES sessions, Parrott-Sheffer did not attend any; LaRaviere and Brown each attended one; and Adams went to seven.

Catalyst:  How do you get principals who are maybe on probation, in a much more vulnerable position, to speak out?

Parrott-Sheffer: If you design the job in a certain way and create systems and culture around it, you end up starting to attract a certain type of person. So have we created a system where the type of people going through the eligibility process, who are being appointed to interim contracts--are they the type of people who are willing to stand up? I don’t have an answer to that. … When you talk about the people at SUPES [sessions] it’s people who are afraid of speaking up. We are talking about being able to say, “The professional development you’re providing is not very good. It’s on a Saturday for 10 hours, and that’s somewhat disrespectful because you did not ask or include me in the process.” You should feel comfortable saying that. We have people who are not even willing to bring it up and go under duress. I wonder can we change it unless we intentionally decide, who are the leaders we want in our schools, and how are we supporting local school councils or giving LSCs that power again to make those sorts of decisions?

Catalyst: How were the sessions?

LaRaviere: At the first one, I sat around for about an hour being encouraged to tell other people how great they were, and hearing them be encouraged to tell me how great I was. I left feeling like I wasted my time. It did not get any better as the weeks progressed. The second was about marketing your school. A very polished gentleman led the workshop – Dallas Dance from Baltimore. He made the statement that perception is reality. You have to alter people’s perception of your school. I told him and everyone gathered that I altered the perception of my school by doing what it takes to increase our student achievement. I told him it seems to me that CPS is more interested in changing people’s perception of CPS than with changing CPS itself. And the fact they paid you $20 million to come in and took money from my students and gave it to you to tell me how to market my school is evidence of that fact. That, I believed, was going to be my last training. [He was then switched to another cohort.] The new one was the best one I had been to. Principals were talking to each other, getting ideas from each other. I’ll never forget, at the end, the guy who ran it said “I know I went off script and let you guys talk.” I realized the reason it went so well was he decided to stop and not do the SUPES curriculum and actually just let us talk to each other. CPS didn’t have to pay SUPES $20 million to put principals in a room together and let us talk to each other.

Adams: That was the best part, being in the same room and talking to each other. .. I’m a New Leader [New Leaders is a principal training program in Chicago and 11 other cities and metro areas]. So I was able to retain my mentor. A lot of the curriculum was the stuff I’d learned through the leadership program. There might have been some misalignment.… The hardest part for me was I got my principal contract on June 30, and July 1 became a principal. Within the first or second day [I was told to be in SUPES]. I hadn’t even been in my building yet.

Parrott-Sheffer: The email was sent at 4:58 p.m. by [Chief of Talent Development] Alicia Winckler on the Thursday before the Fourth of July weekend. You were expected to be there at 7:30 a.m. the next Monday, which is why I never went.  I thought it was so disrespectful that two minutes before a long weekend, you expect me to be somewhere the following Monday. If you want to get on my summer calendar, you better start scheduling things in February. Because we are planning professional development with teachers, we are planning interviews if we have to do any hiring, and all these others sorts of things. To expect people to be able to clear everything is dismissive of the job and the role and the profession.

Catalyst: CPS told us just one person opted out.

LaRaviere: I don’t know if that one was me. I gave it to my clerk to email in.

Parrott-Sheffer: The language [on the opt-out form] was intimidating. Anyone who can read between the lines can see--if you don’t go and your school doesn’t perform as well as we expect, we are coming after you. ..  If you’re spending $20 million, we should have the best people here. We should have Grant Wiggins [a nationally-recognized assessment expert] here for a week teaching people how to do unit planning and lesson design. If you gave him a million dollars, I bet you could get him for half the year, and then some.

LaRaviere: Bring in [Stanford University education professor] Linda Darling-Hammond.  

Adams: Customize it for principals.

Parrott-Sheffer: Do it from the best, not some wackadoo person you found in Wisconsin. I mean, come on. CPS doesn’t do anything based on who is the best person doing the work.

Categories: Urban School News

Illinois Humanities Council will host panel discussion on school closings coverage

Catalyst Chicago - Wed, 06/11/2014 - 12:25

On June 19, the Illinois Humanities Council will host The (Untold) Stories Behind the Story, a public forum on how the media have covered Chicago’s school closings.

Co-sponsored by Catalyst Chicago and Free Spirit Media, the forum will feature Sarah Schulte of ABC 7 News, Sarah Karp of Catalyst, Linda Lutton of WBEZ, Sidney Trotter of Free Spirit Media, and Charles Whitaker of the Medill School of Journalism. Catalyst publisher Linda Lenz will moderate.

Last year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s appointed School Board voted to close 49 elementary schools and the high school that shared space with Mason elementary and middle schools, the largest school closing in Chicago’s history. The closings rocked the city and have been a focal point of Chicago news coverage.

Whitaker, a magazine journalist and professor at Medill, will present a content analysis of selected media, documenting the kinds of stories that have been written and broadcast.

Clips from “Chicagoland,” the CNN documentary that features Fenger High School, and “The School Project,” a multi-platform documentary on school issues now under development by four local companies, will serve as prompts for discussion, as will a variety of school closing stories aired on WBEZ.

The forum is part of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation’s three-year, $6 million “Why News Matters Initiative,” a grant-making program designed to increase media literacy and help people become better informed and more engaged in their communities.

“This is a great opportunity for people to hear what reporters are learning and thinking about the issue, and engage in informed discussion,” said Mark Hallett, senior program officer for the McCormick Foundation.

The free open forum will take place in the Wells High School auditorium, 936 N. Ashland, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 19. Registration is required

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Teacher tenure protections struck down in California

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 06/11/2014 - 09:58

wallet drain

The cost of childcare can eat up the majority of a Colorado single mother's income and a significant chunk of married couples' as well. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

a big deal

A California judge ruled that state's teacher tenure protections unconstitutional. ( Los Angeles Times )

new faces

Denver officials recommend that a new STRIVE charter school be located alongside a new district-run school at the Kepner Middle School campus. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

slow it down

A Gates Foundation executive wrote in a letter that states should allow more time before high stakes be attached to the results of standardized tests. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

a bad trend

The frequency of school shootings has picked up rapidly in the 18 months since the Sandy Hook killings. ( Los Angeles Times )

not inspirational

A St. Vrain principal resigned after he admitted to plagiarizing part of his graduation address from Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg. ( 9News )

building questions

Boulder's school board is continuing to consider a $576 million capital package that would build a new school and expand kindergarten and pre-school options. ( Daily Camera )

A little extra cash

Poudre School District is planning out how it will use the slight increase in state school funding it will receive next year. ( Coloradoan )

Categories: Urban School News

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