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What We’re Reading: Building a better conversation about teaching

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 18:13
  • Don’t miss the first excerpt from Chalkbeat CEO Elizabeth Green’s “Building a Better Teacher,” out next month. (NYTMag)
  • Elizabeth shares tips, gleaned from reporting her book, for parents who want to help their children with math. (Motherlode)
  • An educator riffs off the excerpt to make the case for “slow reform.” (Storify)
  • A math teacher rounds up some of the research reflected in Elizabeth’s story. (dy/dan)
  • A researcher found that extra time in math classes didn’t pay off for sixth-graders. (Stanford Report)
  • A New Haven school that scrapped extra time for students in favor of time for teachers represents a trend. (Hechinger)
  • A mother says her preschooler’s experience bears out data about black boys being disciplined disproportionately. (WaPo)
  • A sociologist notes that implicit bias and real differences in behavior can be at play in discipline disparities. (Shanker)
  • The Achievement First charter network is starting its quest for “disruptive change” by overhauling one school. (New Haven Independent)
  • Teachers union contract negotiations are heating up in Los Angeles. (L.A. School Report)
  • From profiles to tragedies, here’s a rundown of New Yorker stories about education to read while you can. (Vox)
  • An educator describes her journey from naive Teaching Fellow to experienced teacher. (Atlantic)
  • Project-based learning is the focus at the teacher-run Workshop School in Philadelphia. (NPRed)
  • The author of “Up the Down Staircase,” the iconic book about teaching in New York City, has died at 103. (New York Times)
  • American principals are more likely than colleagues in other countries to say their students are poor. (Upshot)
  • Chicago has told its largest charter network to make it easier for students to apply. (WBEZ)
  • The start-of-the-school-year nightmares have set in. What’s yours? (Tween Teacher)
Categories: Urban School News

Comings and Goings: Price, King, Okezie-Phillips, new principals

Catalyst Chicago - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 16:03

John Price, former chief of schools of Network 4 for Chicago Public Schools, has been named assistant superintendent of schools for Evanston/Skokie Elementary School District 65. No replacement has yet been named.

Tim King, founder and president of Urban Prep Academies, a network of all-male charter high schools in Chicago, has been appointed a commissioner of the Chicago Park District.

Erica Okezie-Phillips, former education program officer at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, has embarked on a new career as an Independent Consultant specializing in International teacher training and Early Childhood Education development. Ozekie-Phillips left the foundation in May.

These interim principals have become contract principals at their schools: Antonio Acevedo, Whittier Elementary; Femi Skanes, Al Raby High School; Adam Stich, Hitch Elementary.

The following have also become principals: LaMonica Clemons Williams, Dett Elementary, formerly acting principal at Haley; Laura LeMone, Von Steuben High School, formerly assistant principal at Juarez High School; Raynell Walls, Drummond Elementary, formerly assistant principal at Volta Elementary; Mary Kay Richardson, Thomas Early Childhood Center, formerly Everett Elementary.

Categories: Urban School News

PARCC chief says new tests “beautiful tools”

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 15:37

“I think they’re really beautiful tools, but they’re just tests,” the CEO of the PARCC testing group told Colorado school administrators Friday. “The really important thing is what happens in the classroom every day,”

Laura Slover acknowledged rising criticism of standardized tests but said, “This is not a testing agenda; it’s a equity agenda.”

Slover spoke to the closing session of the Colorado Association of School Executive’s annual summer meeting in Breckenridge, which drew more than 1,000 administrators and others.

Calling the PARCC language arts and math tests “a huge game changer,” Slover said, “This is a quality test. It’s better than anything else out there on the market.”

Some Colorado schools field-tested the new exams last spring, and the tests are scheduled to be given in all districts next spring, replacing the TCAP tests. However, a new state task force is studying a variety of testing issues, and assessment is expected to be a major education issue during the 2015 legislative session.

“There is a lot of frustration about testing,” Slover acknowledged, particularly the perception of a growing testing burden. PARCC is working on a whole system of tests, including diagnostic and formative exams in addition to the end-of-year tests.

Slover asked, “Is this an opportunity to streamline and look at PARCC as a solution and not an additive extra thing you have to do?”

She also said, “The PARCC assessments do not require some separate kind of test prep. … If teachers teach the content their kids will do fine. It’s about good teaching, it’s not about drill-and-kill test prep.”

Slover started her education career as an English teacher and basketball coach at Battle Mountain High School in Eagle County. She recalled that she didn’t pay much attention to standards and assessments in those days.

“Those standards and those results sat in a nice cupboard and I didn’t use them much,” she said. “I wish I’d had tools like the PARCC states are developing now.”

Colorado educators who participated in a panel following Slover’s talk were generally supportive.

Tracy Dorland, chief academic officer of the Adams 12-Five Star district, said Common Core standards and new tests are “about raising the bar for all kids,” adding she hopes the change “re-energizes our teachers.”

She said she’s concerned “that we lack the courage to get it done and that we get derailed by the political rhetoric, whether it’s left or right.”

Dorland also said teachers can help ease public concern about new tests. “When teachers tell parents good things about the work they’re doing parents are really supportive.”

Dan Snowberger, Durango superintendent, said the old state-only standards “created an un-level playing field” and cautioned, “If we think the new standards are about tweaking what we do, we’ve missed the mark.”

Snowberger also said, “My fear is that there will be this groundswell of anti-Common Core and that some educators will get on board with that.”

Categories: Urban School News

District leaders start laying plans for 2015 session

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 14:24

The 2015 legislative session is five months – and one election – in the future, but school district leaders already are strategizing the issues they’re going to push in the new year.

School funding stays at the top of that list, Boulder Superintendent Bruce Messinger told the annual summer meeting of the Colorado Association of School Executives during a session Friday in Breckenridge.

“We’re continuing that work,” said Messinger, who’s co-chair of the group’s legislative committee and who was a leading figure in the 2014 lobbying effort that persuaded lawmakers to make a $110 million reduction in the state’s school funding shortfall, known as the negative factor.

Asked about the issue by Chalkbeat Colorado, Messinger said the group of superintendents working on the issue haven’t yet decided how much of an additional reduction to push for in 2015. “This is a multi-year effort,” he noted and said superintendents would “hope to match” the 2014 negative factor reduction next year.

He also acknowledged that other financial pressures on the legislature may make for a tough lobbying challenge. “We recognize it probably will be difficult.”

Messinger said superintendents also are focusing on accountability and testing but haven’t yet developed group positions on those issues.

He did say there’s “quite a bit of agreement around finding the right balance” of testing and that superintendents are closely watching a new state task force that is starting to study the issue.

Messinger also indicated that after more than five years of reform efforts some superintendents feel it’s time to look into the workings of those laws. “We’re just not seeing the positive impact” on student achievement.

In his comments to the group Messinger echoed other speakers who called for greater recognition of local leadership and local control.

When superintendents started lobbying on school finance last year, Messinger said they were confronted with “the belief [by some lawmakers] that we don’t control the future of education. … We challenge that, and we will control the future of education.”

CASE lobbyist Elisabeth Rosen opened the Friday meeting with some previews of the 2015 session, saying, “It is anticipated that the House will remain in Democratic control, but there will be leadership change.” She added, “It’s feasible Democrats could lose control of the Senate.”

While 2015 legislation is likely on enrollment counting, testing, turnaround schools and oversight of online schools, Rosen said she thinks lawmakers may not take up teacher licensing changes.

Rosen said CASE won’t decide until September whether to take a position on an initiative proposing casino expansion, with some revenues dedicated to school districts. But her mere mention of the plan brought skeptical chuckles from the audience. She said CASE will oppose a second initiative that would require district contract negotiations be conducted in public. Neither initiative has yet been certified for the ballot.

Categories: Urban School News

U.S. ed department issues new guidance to schools on student privacy

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 14:11

In an apparent response to growing concern from parents about student data collection, the U.S. Education Department this morning announced new “user-friendly” student data and privacy guidance for schools and districts.

The new guidance makes several recommendations including schools and districts share with parents what information they are collecting about students, how is the information protected, and if they share personal information with third parties.

The department also launched a new website that includes resources and information for parents regarding the federal student privacy laws.

“Now more than ever, schools need data to monitor academic progress and develop successful teaching strategies,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “At the same time, parents need assurance that their children’s personal information is being used responsibly. This guidance helps schools strike a balance between the two.”

Parents across the county — and in Colorado — have become increasingly anxious about student privacy as more schools are collecting more data points.

Locally, parents in Jefferson County have raised concern about student privacy in two separate matters: inBloom, a now expired project of the Gates Foundation that would have created a super-dashboard for teachers to find student information with just a few clicks, and TS Gold, a school readiness assessment. Earlier this year, the Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education dropped the district’s use of Gold in kindergarten but kept the tool in its preschools in order to continue to receive funding from the state’s preschool program.

Full release from U.S. Education Department

The U.S. Department of Education today announced new guidance for schools and districts on how to keep parents and students better informed about what student data is collected and how it is used.

In the guidance issued by the Department’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center, schools and districts are urged to be proactive in communicating how they use student data. Information should be available to answer common questions before they are asked.

“Now more than ever, schools need data to monitor academic progress and develop successful teaching strategies,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “At the same time, parents need assurance that their children’s personal information is being used responsibly. This guidance helps schools strike a balance between the two.”

The Department’s Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) also announced a new companion website that includes a variety of resources and information regarding the federal laws FPCO administers, and to help keep the public informed about the privacy and use of student records.

The new site, http://familypolicy.ed.gov, is aimed at being more user-friendly to help school officials, parents and students find the information they are seeking. In the coming months, the Department will post decision letters from prior complaints handled by FPCO, which administers the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The website will also feature an online “community of practice” for school officials to share best practices, information, templates and other resources.

The new guidance recommends that schools and districts provide parents with information, such as:

· What information are you collecting about students?
· Why are you collecting this information?
· How is the information protected?
· Do you share any personal information with third parties? If so, with whom and for what purpose(s)?
· Who should parents contact if they have questions about your data practices?

To respond to parental inquiries, the guidance recommends that schools :

· Keep the lines of communication open.
· Review parental questions, concerns and suggestions in a thoughtful and careful manner.
· Respond to parental or student requests in a timely manner.
· Periodically review old inquiries and resolutions to evaluate and improve communication and transparency efforts.

The guidance also advises schools to make information about their student data policies clear, consistent and easy to find on their public website. Members of the community should periodically review the site for ease of use, comprehension and completeness.

Today’s announcement addresses the increasing need for schools and districts across the country to collect data about students, including their test scores, grades, credits earned, and other related information, such as demographics, enrollment, discipline, and special education status.

Education agencies use this information to identify student talents and special requirements, check academic progress and develop successful learning plans. The guidance encourages schools and districts to take a hands-on approach in communicating with parents to help alleviate confusion and misunderstandings about the use of student records.

The Department’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center is a one-stop resource for education stakeholders to learn about data privacy, confidentiality and security practices related to student data. The center provides information and updated guidance on privacy, confidentiality and security practices through a variety of resources, including training materials and technical assistance.

Besides FERPA which protects the privacy of student education records, FPCO also administers another law related to the use of student personal information. Known as the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA), the statute addresses, among other matters, the use of personal information collected from students for marketing purposes and the administration of certain surveys and evaluations to students.

For more information on the work of the Family Policy Compliance Office, see its website here.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Union leaders plan to send teachers door-to-door for votes

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 09:56

Politics to the core

Those curious about how to lead Colorado away from the Common Core State Standards met at movie theaters across the state this week to participate in a live event hosted by conservative media personality Glenn Beck. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

bell out of order, please knock

Union leaders hope to make the most of their human capital. They plan to send teachers door-to-door to stump for progressive issues. ( Politico )

No brainer

Helmets used by girl lacrosse players have been proven to decrease concussions, a new study found. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

systemic racism

In an essay, a mother of two preschoolers attempts to rationalize why her students were suspended. Her conclusion: they're African-American. ( Washington Post )

implementation nation

The Louisianna state school board is considering whether to sue Gov. Bobby Jindal for his efforts to thwart the use of the Common Core standards in the state's public schools. There's just one catch — Jindal has to approve the hiring of any outside lawyers by state boards. ( AP )

Gov. Chris Christie's executive order that would tweak the use of new testing data in teacher evaluations is being dubbed a half-step by those who wish to see the tests and their data gone for good. ( North Jersey )

Meanwhile, in Texas, the state has decided to pilot its teacher evaluation system one more year. The new evaluation program is the first update to the system in 17 years. ( Texas Tribune )

Categories: Urban School News

Reporter’s notebook: After a night with Glenn Beck, anti-Common Core crusaders look toward election, legislative session

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 19:45

Anita Stapleton, one of the original Colorado crusaders against the Common Core State Standards, didn’t need the validation she felt on Tuesday night.

But it didn’t hurt, either.

That night, Stapleton was one of hundreds of theatergoers statewide who participated in a live event hosted by conservative-media personality powerhouse Glenn Beck, who recently authored a book of opposition on the matter.

Dubbed “We Will Not Conform,” the event — equal parts group therapy, sermon, strategy session, book-sale pitch — was filmed in Texas and beamed via satellite to cineplexes across the nation.

“For him to take this on, it’s been huge,” Stapleton said. Seeing the dozens of educators, parents, and politicians who stood with Beck Tuesday night “substantiated” everything Stapleton has done. “I’m not crazy,” she chuckled. “I’m not alone.”

Stapleton’s small but vocal protest against the standards, which Colorado adopted in 2010, has been a regular fixture at Colorado State Board of Education meetings for more than a year. Multiple times a month, she crisscrosses the state, sharing her reasons for opposing the standards with whomever will listen.

Opponents of the standards, like Stapleton, have a long list of concerns. Generally, they believe the standards — and new standardized tests created to match the standards — stifle local control of schools, parents’ and student privacy rights, and that the true intent of the new standards is to make money for private businesses — not boost academic performance.

Meanwhile, supporters of the new standards, which were designed by a coalition of states and later backed by the federal government, believe the benchmarks are more rigorous than previous standards and will help prepare students for the economy of the future.

“Beck’s book asserts that Common Core is ‘about creating workers, not thinkers,’” said Zack Neumeyer, chairman of Sage Hospitality and spokesman for Future Forward Colorado, the business coalition in support of the new standards and tests. “If he talked to Colorado’s CEOs, they would tell him that we need employees who can think deeply and solve problems. The Colorado Academic Standards, which include the Common Core, are higher expectations that give employers like me confidence that our job candidates will have the skills they need to run a hotel or restaurant or identify a good investment opportunity.”

The standards were also designed to ensure consistency in what schools are teaching across state lines. A student in Colorado, supporters argue, should neither be too far ahead nor too far behind when her family moves to Iowa. Their assessments, which debut next spring, are meant to allow states to compare results.

Beck’s aim was to catch up newbies to the issues and fire up those who have been opposed to the new standards.

And it worked, Stapleton said.

“This was a call to action — to help get the grassroots organized,” Stapleton said after the event. “It gave direction to those who didn’t have direction. We have needed help nationwide — to get to those areas where we haven’t been to raise awareness.”

The question now is whether the intended jolt of energy for those concerned citizens will translate into real political action and results.

To help ensure that translation, Beck’s team crafted a nearly 20-page “action plan” outlining next steps and emailed it to individuals who signed up for it at the event.

So far, three of the original 45 states that signed on to the standards have withdrawn from the Common Core. But in Colorado, as in a number of other states, efforts to abandon the standards have so far failed to gain substantial political momentum.

Stapleton’s organization, Stop Common Core Colorado, had organizers at 12 of the 21 theaters across Colorado that participated in the event.

The average theater, according to her organizers, had about 30 people. A theater in Grand Junction, she said, had the highest turnout with 165 people. In Aurora, where I caught the event, there were more than 60. Neither Beck nor a representative from Fathom Events, the distributor would comment on exactly how many tickets were sold at the 700 theaters that participated. But, in a statement, Josh Raffel, spokesperson for Glenn Beck said the event “would have placed it No. 2 on a per auditorium basis at the box-office when compared to movies showing the prior Tuesday.”

Stapleton said she heard reports along the front range of moviegoers staying out late into the night at nearby coffee shops and restaurants discussing their next steps.

But, she admitted, “I’ve been promised bus loads of people before” that haven’t materialized.

Turnout for a rally in February to support a bill that would delay the new standards and their aligned tests, organized in part by Stop Common Core Colorado and Core Concerns, was expected to be high, but in reality few materialized. (Plenty of folks showed up later to testify both in front of the State Board of Education and a legislative panel reviewing the bill — which later killed it.)

Still, Stapleton said she has renewed hope.

On Monday, Stapleton will kick-off a series of weekly statewide conference calls to better coordinate across the state. A leadership workshop is in the works to train activists across the state. Opponents to the standards are already eyeing the next legislative session.

And of course, there’s the 2014 midterm elections that includes a battle for control of the state Senate and the governor’s mansion. And when I asked if she and her cohorts would be taking an active role in the election, Stapleton replied: “Heavens yes.”

But other parents in Aurora were less committed.

“I’m still trying to digest it all,” said Jenae Hester, a mother of two. She pulled her daughter out of the Cherry Creek School District over her objections to the standards that she believes are a “one-size fits all” approach to education and age-inappropriate. “I took a lot of notes,” she said. “I’m going to some of the websites they mentioned.”

(For a national perspective on Beck’s event — and its possible impact on the debate — check out these articles from The Washington Post, and NPR here and here.)

Categories: Urban School News

Stop warring over fixed pie of education funding

Catalyst Chicago - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 18:37

This week, the Chicago Board of Education approved a $5.8 billion operating budget for the 2014-2015 school year. With a full year of student-based budgeting underway, this budget represents an effort to stabilize a challenged system and presents an opportunity to prioritize funding in the classroom.

Unfortunately, recent media reports on the subject have led to more confusion about what the budget actually does, particularly in the area of charter public schools and student-based budgeting. 

Several recent reports have characterized the CPS budget as one that invests in charter public schools at the expense of district-run schools. This same line of attack has been parroted by interest groups who have opposed any and all charter public schools, no matter their performance. Despite these attacks, the data reveal that charter public schools do not receive more funding than traditional district schools. Using CPS’ own enrollment projections, charter public schools will educate 14% of CPS students this year. They will do so on 11% of the overall budget. And on the capital side, this disparity is compounded by the fact that charter public school facilities costs continue to outpace facilities funding from CPS, an issue that does not affect traditional district schools.

Funding shift reflects enrollment shift

The related claim that charter public schools will receive more than $40M in “additional” funding has a basis in fact, though it is wildly misleading. Under the proposed budget, net operational funding for charter public schools will increase by a total of $41.6 million in FY15 compared to FY14.  This funding increase is simply due to increased enrollment at charter schools and the start-up funds provided to all new schools, including charter public schools. Enrollment at traditional district schools is projected to decline by 3,907 students, from 316,125 to 312,228. Enrollment at charters and contract schools is projected to increase by 3,416 students, from 57,244 to 60,660. Funding simply reflects this enrollment shift.

Those who oppose giving Chicago families school options frequently mischaracterize this as investing in charter public schools at the expense of district-run schools, but it is simply a rational way of distributing funds. If charter schools had lost students since last year, we certainly would expect their funding to be revised downward to reflect the enrollment shift.   

The idea of money being allocated for students is the core tenet of funding everywhere. It is how the federal government sends funding to states, how the State of Illinois distributes general state aid to districts, and how CPS distributes funding to schools. The alternative is that schools are funded for students they no longer educate, which is preposterous on its face.

In light of the recent controversy surrounding enrollment trends at selective enrollment high schools in Chicago, it is disappointing that some want to limit charter public school options. School choice is not just for affluent parents or for students whose test scores enable them to test into selective schools. Instead, school choice empowers families from all walks of life to find a school that best fits their needs. Charter public schools are also keeping families – and taxpayers – in the city. In fact, without charter growth over the past decade, Chicago’s declining enrollment (and subsequent loss of funding) would be much more severe.

Maximize spending to benefit students

The other misperception is that Chicago’s student-based budgeting (SBB) is causing funding cuts to schools. Most everyone agrees we should maximize spending at the school level so that it reaches individual teachers and students. Last year, CPS began a phase-in of a student-based funding model in which student need drives funding allocation, which is exactly what the model accomplished. Such weighted student funding models have been enacted elsewhere and ensure that funding arrives at the school as real dollars—not as teaching positions, ratios, or staffing norms—that can be spent flexibly.  In this model, accountability is focused more on results and less on inputs, programs, or activities. 

Student-based budgeting is a more fair and effective way to fund schools and the students they serve. It ensures schools do not retain tax dollars for students they no longer educate and that money meant for education follows the student to the school that their family chooses, whether it is a charter school, a contract school, or a district-run school. 

Why should the central office decide, for instance, whether a school on the Southwest Side of Chicago should allocate its funding for a program for English Language Learners or institute double periods of mathematics?  Or whether a school should use its professional development funding on literacy training for teachers or additional tutoring support for students? That choice should be left to decision-makers closest to the students – principals in consultation with teachers.  

Raise funding for all schools

Instead of warring over a fixed pie, education advocates should instead expend their energy to ensure that the State of Illinois invests in public education. Illinois is among the most regressive states in the country in equalizing resources among school districts, especially high-poverty districts, and has been ranked as the single most inequitable state in the country for education funding. We are seeing movement in Springfield to change that and a bill introduced by Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), Senate Bill 16, would ensure a more equitable distribution of state funding to districts. The key will always be money well spent on rational incentives and programs tied to student impact, but we also must change course on our state’s diminishing support for public education.

Andrew Broy is president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools.

Categories: Urban School News

Helmets could be a smart addition in girls’ lacrosse

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 17:52

A study on youth lacrosse injuries published earlier this week highlights the potential benefit of helmets for female players. In high school girls’ lacrosse, which typically requires only goggles and mouth guards, 63 percent of concussions are caused by a ball or stick striking players’ heads.

The study, published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine on Tuesday and co-authored by a researcher from the Colorado School of Public Health, explored the causes and rates of injuries in boys’ and girls’ high school lacrosse. The sport is the fastest-growing youth sport in the nation, with around 170,000 players participating at the high school level.

In contrast to concussions sustained in girls’ lacrosse, where full body contact is prohibited, 74 percent of concussions sustained by boys were due to collisions with other players. In boys’ lacrosse, full contact is permitted and helmets and pads are already the norm. Currently, Florida is the only state requiring helmets for female players, but the rule is new and won’t take effect until this fall.

Overall, sprains and strains were the most common injury sustained by both male and female lacrosse players. Concussions were the second most common for both genders, making up 22 percent of injuries in boys and 23 percent of injuries in girls.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Boulder second grader leads way to new playground

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 10:19

calendar conflicts

The Denver teachers union filed a formal complaint last week with district officials. They claim the principal at George Washington High School has cut his teacher leadership team out of designing next year's schedule. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

From the ashes

A Boulder second-grader is leading the way to build a new playground that was previously burnt down by an arsonist. ( Daily Camera )

Healthy schools

A new report found Colorado schools are becoming healthier based on their policies and programs. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

hot enough for you?

A summer program gives Colorado Springs girls a chance to build confidence and learn about fire service. ( Colorado Springs Gazette )

swimming gap

Swimming pool drowning rates among school-aged black children are more than five times higher than they are among white kids the same age. Here's why. ( KUNC )

ICYMI

Why do Americans stink at math? Chalkbeat CEO Elizabeth Green explains, in this excerpt (published by the New York Times) from her new book, "Building A Better Teacher." Hint: it isn't the curriculum. ( New York Times )

Categories: Urban School News

Take 5: Former CPS official's credentials in question, progressive politics, summer school

Catalyst Chicago - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 09:54

Terrence Carter, who went from principal at Barton Elementary School to chief academic officer at Academy for Urban School Leadership, is having trouble getting his contract approved as superintendent of New London School District in Connecticut. At issue is whether he overstated his credentials by claiming he holds a doctorate, not only on his resume, but for years among colleagues in CPS and on professional documents. He is scheduled to get his doctorate from Lesley University on Aug. 25, but previously he listed a PhD on his resume and in professional documents from an unaccredited university in London with a questionable reputation. The Hartford Courant reports that in conversations he seemed to misstate what the degree was for and which university issued it.

2. Bound to happen…  DNAinfo reports that Kenwood’s Academic Center is moving into Canter Middle School, which was being phased out. Kenwood is overcrowded and the two schools are only separated by a parking lot, so logistically it makes sense. But Kenwood’s local school council said they were never presented with the plan, though Ald. Will Burns told CPS Board President David Vitale that it had broad community support. Canter was created to serve seventh and eighth grade students from Hyde Park elementary schools, but it never got the promised resources and neighborhood parents never bought into the school. Slowly, but surely, several schools closed last year are getting repurposed in moves like this.

3. We missed… This Sun-Times story from last week about a progressive movement called the Working Families Party coming to Chicago. The movement, which propelled New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio into office, has already been working in New York; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Jersey City, New Jersey; Oregon; and Seattle. According to the article, the Working Families Party has been working with Grassroots Illinois Action and the groups are looking to run a slate of candidates in upcoming elections. It is not clear if this coincides with the political work that CTU has already been doing. But it seems like the values of the Chicago Teachers Union align with the WFP, and already the head of that group is saying that Karen Lewis, should she run for mayor, is the type of candidate they would like to support.

4. Two-generation learning… A mother’s level of education has a strong impact on children’s school achievement, but few programs aim to increase learning for both moms and kids. Yet a new report  from the Foundation for Child Development says that these “dual-generation” strategies offer great promise for helping kids do better in school and raise families’ economic status. Based on an analysis of 13 economic, education and health indicators, the report found that children whose mothers had a college degree or some college fared far better than children whose mothers didn’t finish high school. That’s not surprising, but the disparities between the two groups are striking. One example: only four percent of families in which the mother had a college degree were living at the official federal poverty level, compared to 53 percent of families in which the mother didn’t have a high school diploma. (The report doesn’t include an analysis based on race or ethnicity, or distinguish between single mothers and those who are married.) Catalyst recently reported on a pilot two-generation program in Evanston.

5. Summer school--at a cost... Nonprofit foundations in California are stepping in to fill a gap left by public school districts that cannot afford to provide summer school--that is, if families have the money to pay, according to a recent story in the Los Angeles Times. Classes in history, Spanish and creative writing are among those offered, at price tags of $600 to $800. Critics say the courses contribute to inequity. Foundations get around a state law that prohibits charging for educational activities by staying independent of the district and leasing space in high schools.

CPS this year scaled back the number of students it serves in summer school, though mandatory summer school is one of the few ways that students are able to go to summer school for free. As every parent in Chicago knows, quality summer programs with an academic component are super-expensive. Another example of how children whose parents have money are at an advantage.

Categories: Urban School News

$5.8 billion schools budget gets final stamp of approval

Catalyst Chicago - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 17:24

Criticism from watchdog groups aside, School Board members on Wednesday unanimously approved a $5.8 billion budget while conceding that it was problematic to use a one-time accounting maneuver to erase a deficit.

The Civic Federation and Access Living, two groups that analyze the budget, did not support the budget's approval and slammed the maneuver, which allows the district to include property tax revenue that typically would count for the 2016 fiscal year in 2015 instead. 

Using this maneuver and adding in reserve cash gives CPS about $916 million in one-time money to balance the budget and funnel an additional $250 per student to schools.

Board member Henry Bienen said that he and his colleagues realize that the 2015 budget is a “stop gap budget. …It is being done in the absence of real [funding] reform." Board President David Vitale said the board moved forward because it couldn't justify not using the maneuver and then cutting school budgets, citing the possibility of something happening to change the district's fiscal situation next year. “We all approach it with the interest of our children in mind,” he said.

District leaders and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have been accused of using the maneuver to avoid making difficult financial decisions in an election year.

Chief Financial Officer Ginger Ostro admitted that the maneuver does little to solve the problem long-term, with state funding down and pension payments due after a pension "holiday" expired.

Access Living’s Rod Estvan told the board it should pursue a property tax cap increase.  “This is not a popular issue,” he said, noting his neighbors want to lynch him for bringing it up. “We need to begin to have that discussion.”

Simeon's electrician program and other cuts

Despite the additional money given to schools, speakers at the meeting reiterated complaints about budget cuts. Under student-based budgeting, schools that lose enrollment lose money, and principals and local school councils, instead of district officials, must make decisions about what programs and positions to keep and which to drop. 

One example is the electrician program at Simeon High, reportedly the last electrician program in the city. Chief of Networks Denise Little said it was cut because there was little interest in the program and few students earned credentials, prompting an angry response from Ald. Howard Brookins (21st Ward) and Michael Brunson, Chicago Teachers Union recording secretary. They said that there should be some comprehensive central decision making process when it comes to cutting or putting in place vocational programs.

“These decisions should not be made on the school level,” said Brookins. He noted that Simeon still has two barber classes and that electricians have the potential to earn far more money than barbers.

Brunson added that he believes that the city’s violence is connected to poverty and joblessness, noting that electrician jobs pay well and that getting young people into such jobs could help solve the problem.

Vitale said he plans to ask for a briefing on the district’s career and technical education programs.

Another recurring theme was charter funding vs. funding for traditional schools. Board member Andrea Zopp asked Ostro to explain that money follows students and that much of the issue has to do with enrollment. (Yet charters are getting other increases, in addition to the $250 per student, Catalyst found, with the district's goal of making charter funding equitable with funding to district schools.)

Roberta Salas, whose children attend Murphy Elementary, said that this year’s increase didn’t make up for the money the school lost last year. Enrollment has been stable in the past three years, yet Murphy lost $600,000 last year while receiving only a $150,000 increase this year. She said her school is still struggling to come up for money for fine arts teachers.

“We don’t have money to fund our wonderful and vibrant neighborhood school,” she said.

But INCS executive director Andrew Broy said that it makes complete sense that charter schools, which are getting more students, are also getting more money.

“This is not about disinvesting in one school over the other,” Broy said. “This is not about pitting one school against the other. We think the policy prioritizes parent demand. Student based budgeting puts decision making where it should be."

Categories: Urban School News

Teachers at George Washington High file grievance over imposed schedule

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 14:38

Daniel Singer, an English teacher at Denver’s George Washington High School, has been stood up.

His principal was supposed to call him weeks ago, he said. But he’s still waiting.

The call, which was supposed to happen in early July, was to set a date for Singer, one of the building’s union representatives, to meet with the school’s teacher leadership team and the principal to finalize and approve the school’s master schedule, the document that sets teachers’ and students’ workload.

GW principal Micheal Johnson and his administrative team had published a draft schedule for teachers, but because that teacher leadership team was cut out of the process for next school year, union leaders claim, the document is invalid and in violation of its contract with Denver Public Schools.

With no signal from Johnson to collaborate, the Denver teachers union last week filed a formal complaint with city’s schools administrators.

A meeting has been scheduled for Aug. 12 between the district and the union.

The official grievance is the latest development to rile some of the southeast Denver community of parents and teachers since district officials announced their plans to open access to the high school’s storied International Baccalaureate program. School officials hope that the changes will expand educational opportunities for more of the school’s students. But the announcement sparked a firestorm among some parents who feared the move would water down the IB program’s academic rigor.

While the changes to the IB program aren’t supposed to take effect until the 2015 school year, the process by which officials made the decision has drawn the ire and skepticism of some teachers and a vocal group of parents.

And now anxiety over those changes appears to have been aggravated by their concerns over which teacher will be in which classroom and whether district officials will keep their word to leave the IB program as it is for one more year.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Billy Husher, a union organizer, referring to principal Johnson’s alleged disregard for collaboration.

A DPS spokeswoman said the district had no comment pending a full review of the grievance.

But Husher counters district officials have known about the lack of clarity in the scheduling process since late spring.

According to an email dated May 16 recapping a meeting between Husher and Greta Martinez, the district’s assistant superintendent of post-secondary readiness, the district in an earlier meeting had agreed that staff should provide input on the schedule.

Days after the school year ended, with still no meeting, Husher filed a grievance with the district. Husher said he withdrew his grievance at the request of the human resources department so that a school-level resolution could be found.

That’s when Singer, one of the building’s union representatives, reached out to Johnson.

“He said he was going to call me in early July and he never did,” Singer said. “In my seven years [at GW], it’s never been done this way.”

Meanwhile, many parents, already incensed over the changes to the IB program, began firing off letters in late May to district officials and school board members demanding to know who would be leading their students classrooms.

George Washington parent Joel Witter, who sent a letter, told Chalkbeat this week that district officials responded that because scheduling decisions are personnel matters, they wouldn’t be able to comply.

“We don’t know if the [IB] economics teacher and the biology teacher are going to be the teachers my son thought he was going to be spending time with,” Witter said.

And that ambiguity is feeding fears that teachers who haven’t previously taught in the IB program will end up teaching IB students for multiple years, Witter said.

“My son has loved the school so far, he loves his friends and teachers,” Witter said. “But, we have very serious concerns about the direction the school is going. We may send his younger brother somewhere else.”

Categories: Urban School News

Schools get improved ranking in annual health scorecard

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 14:10

A scorecard released today by the Colorado Health Institute found that Colorado schools have made progress over the last year in health policy and programming. Overall, schools were rated “mid-high” in the “Reaching Our Peak 2014: Scorecard for a Healthier Colorado” report, compared to “mid” last year.

Several state and federal legislative changes were highlighted for positively affecting the school health environment over the last year. These include $700,000 in new state funding for the Safe Routes to School programming, after federal funding for the program ended this month. Also cited was a new state law allowing third- to fifth-graders who qualify for reduced-priced school meals to henceforth get the meals for free. (Students in kindergarten through second grade already get this benefit.)

The scorecard also mentioned significant statewide increases in school breakfast participation over the last five years, with additional jumps expected this year and the following year as the state “Breakfast After the Bell” law phases in.

On the early childhood front, the report cites $45 million in federal Race to the Top funding earmarked for various initiatives aimed at improving school readiness. The report also praises the addition of 5,000 new preschool and full-day kindergarten slots in 2013-14 through the Colorado Preschool Program, but cautions that the gains are not keeping up with the need.

Also mentioned in the report is an effort by the Colorado Education Initiative, with financial support from Kaiser Permanente Colorado, to create a new streamlined school health data system called The Colorado Healthy Schools Smart Source. That system will be scaling up over the next year. In addition to legislative and policy trends, the schools section of the report highlights a program on the Eastern Plains that arms students with disposable cameras to document healthy and unhealthy aspects of their lives.

Besides rating schools, the annual Reaching Our Peak scorecard measured progress in four other categories, including aging, communities, health care and workplace. The only one besides schools that made improvements this year was communities, which moved from “low-mid” to “mid.” Aging stayed the same at “low” and workplace stayed the same at “mid.” Health care moved from “mid-high” to “mid.”

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Teacher, staff turnover rises in Dougco

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 10:06

Creative financing

Lower-than-projected marijuana tax revenues for school construction are the latest example of education’s disappointing experience with taxes on things like gambling and drugs to help fund schools. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Bang for the buck

A charter-friendly think tank found charter students — despite a lack of equal funding — on average meet or beat their peers enrolled in district-run schools on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Staff churn

Teacher and staff turnover has risen in the Douglas County schools but is on a level similar to the rest of the state. ( Castle Rock News-Press )

School bid advances

A proposed charter high school in Falcon School District 49 gained approval from the district's board of education Tuesday night, but it will not be tied to voter approval of a November bond issue. ( Gazette )

More time in Texas

Mike Miles, something of a reform darling when he was Harrison's superintendent, has won a contract extension as superintendent of the Dallas schools. ( Dallas Morning News )

Young philanthropist

An Erie second grader spearheaded a $2,700 fundraiser to help rebuild a school playground damaged by arsonists. ( Boulder Camera )

Perception and reality

A new study suggests that American principals overestimate the number of poor students in their schools, compared to international standards of economic disadvantage. ( NY Times )

Lawyering up

The Louisiana battle over the Common Core State Standards is going to court, with a suit filed Tuesday against Gov. Bobby Jindal, who's had a controversial change of heart on the issue. ( Huffington Post )

Categories: Urban School News

“Sin taxes” an unsteady revenue source for education

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 17:25

Revenue from marijuana taxes earmarked for Colorado school construction looks like it may be just a quarter of the amount projected this year — and that’s just the most recent example of education’s disappointing experience with taxes on things like gambling and drugs to help fund schools.

Education interest groups and policymakers generally haven’t pushed for such taxes and are skeptical of the reliability of those revenues. But gambling interests repeatedly have tried to attract votes by promising that education would get a slice of various schemes to expand gaming. Yet another such measure is expected be on this November’s ballot.

Why do non-education interests like to tie schools to ballot measures?

“If education is polling well, they figure out a way to tie education to it,” said Tracie Rainey, executive director of the Colorado School Finance Project, a research organization.

Jane Urschel, deputy executive director of the Colorado Association of School Boards, agreed that tying such tax proposals to education is a useful marketing tool. “They know that will help sell their measure,” she said. “People like sin taxes because they don’t themselves as being taxed. They think it’s fine for other people to be taxed.”

The problem for education leaders is that such targeted taxes don’t pay the bills.

“There aren’t enough sins in the state to fully fund the K-12 system,” said Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver.

Taxes on marijuana were initially projected to bring in $40 million a year, but the real figure may be closer to $10 million in the current budget year.

While marijuana tax revenues are expected to grow over time, the slow start is reminiscent of a 2008 constitutional change that was predicted to provide more than $50 million a year for community colleges from gaming taxes. The actual revenues are projected to be just $6.7 million in 2014-15.

“There aren’t enough sins in the state to fully fund the K-12 system.”
- Sen. Mike Johnston

“Dollars from sin taxes are so fragmented. … It’s always such a piddling amount,” Urschel said. “It’s never a solution to the funding of K-12.”

But others think education has little choice but to rely on such revenues. The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights requires public approval of all tax increases, and proposals to raise taxes for education historically have fared poorly at the ballot box.

“The legislature in Colorado cannot have a real and open debate on school finance and then fund it,” said former Sen. Bob Hagedorn, an Aurora Democrat who is a backer of this year’s casino initiative. “We’ve had to get creative in ways to find additional revenue.”

Marijuana revenues not living up to hopes

Amendment 64, the 2012 constitutional change that legalized adult recreational use, requires that the first $40 million in excise tax revenues go to the Building Excellent Schools Today construction program. In 2013 voters approved Proposition AA, a companion ballot measure that authorized the 15 percent excise tax rate on transfers of marijuana from greenhouses to retail stores, plus a 10 percent tax on retail sales.

Hopes & RealitiesMarijuana/Construction

  • $40M projected
  • $10M actual

Gaming/Comm. Colleges

  • $50M+ projected
  • $6.7M

Gaming/K-12

  • $100M projected
  • ??? actual

But BEST is projected to receive only about $10 million in the current budget year.

Tax revenues – and hence money for BEST – have been lower than projected for a variety of reasons. For starters, revenue projections for a business that didn’t exist legally were very difficult to make.

Experts and observers cite factors such as many users continuing to buy medical marijuana, which is taxed significantly less that recreational marijuana, and the fact that many local governments haven’t permitted sales of the drug as reasons that revenues haven’t lived up to expectations.

Another factor may that the excise tax hasn’t been collected on some transfers of marijuana inventories to recreational stores.

A complex marijuana tax law passed in 2013 established the tax on marijuana grown for retail sale, but it did not create a tax on medical marijuana. But only stocks of medical marijuana existed before recreation sales became legal last Jan. 1. So, following the law, the Department of Revenue allowed businesses to make tax-free, one-time transfers of medical marijuana inventory to retail operations. That had the side effect of reducing projected revenues to the BEST program by an undetermined amount.

“That is one factor why the excise taxes were lower,” said Larson Silbaugh, an economist with the Legislature Council, the General Assembly’s staff research arm.

The Department of Revenue wasn’t able to provide a number for the amount of tax-free transfers. But Matt Samuelson, a Donnell-Kay Foundation staff member who follows the BEST program, predicted that “it’s going to be a significant number, a seven-figure number.”

While there were no guarantees, that $40 million figure was widely assumed to be what BEST would receive.

“Everyone had been straight up assuming there would be $40 million,” said Mary Wickersham, former chair of the state Capital Construction Assistance Board and now director of the Center for Education Policy Analysis at the University of Colorado Denver.

That number certainly was tossed around a lot last spring as the 2014 legislature debated overall school funding. Lawmakers sometimes correctly hedged the amount as “up to $40 million,” but that qualification often got lost in the debate.

Samuelson, who said he always felt the estimate was too high, said, “I’ve always had concerns about the $40 million number as a talking point.”

Beyond talking points, there even was some vigorous fighting over how to use the money. BEST supporters wanted all of it go to the state’s school construction fund. But there also were bids to use the money for construction of kindergarten classrooms or for charter school facilities. In the end, BEST got most of the money, and charters got a small slice.

Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, tried to remove the earmarks from the marijuana excise revenues. “I told them the number would be smaller” than forecast. But I didn’t win that one,” said Steadman, vice-chair of the Joint Budget Committee.

Instead of the $40 million, legislative economists last month issued these estimates for excise tax collections:

  • $3.6 million for the second half of the 2013-14 budget year
  • $10.1 million for the current 2014-15 budget year
  • $10.6 million in 2015-16
Kathleen Gebhardt / File photo

“It’s going to be a long time before we see $40 million,” said Kathleen Gebhardt, a current member of the BEST board.

Despite the squishiness of the $40 million figure, Johnston said, “I think it was very worth having the debate” ahead of time over how to use the money. “This was the legislature’s correct place to step in, so I think it was very worthwhile.”

Officials who track marijuana revenues agree that the revenue picture may improve, but that’s difficult to predict as well.

In their June revenue forecast, legislative economists wrote, “The marijuana revenue forecast is based on only four months of data. … There will likely be changes in the price and consumption of marijuana as the adult-use market matures.”

Natalie Mullis, the legislature’s chief economist, said, “We are a lot more confident in our forecasts than we were a year ago” but that it may take as long as a decade for marijuana revenue forecasts to be as reliable as those for other taxes.

Any excise taxes above $40 million plus retail marijuana taxes go into a special fund that’s used for enforcement, health education, research and other programs related to marijuana. Retail tax revenues also are lower than projected.

A small slice of that money, $2.5 million, is supposed to go to the Department of Education for grants to schools districts to help train school nurses in recognizing signs of student marijuana use and in counseling.

Jeff Blanford, CDE chief financial officer, said, “Currently, we expect to receive the full $2.5 million, but we are also aware that may change.”

Why BEST supporters worry about the shortfall

The BEST program, created in 2008, combines revenues it receives from leases and royalties on state-owned lands with local district matching funds to pay back lease-purchase agreements that are used to build new schools and do major renovations, mostly in rural and smaller districts. The program also makes direct cash grants for smaller renovation projects.

But state law caps annual debt payments to $40 million a year. The program basically has reached that limit, meaning no big projects will be funded in the foreseeable future. BEST has recommended $67.9 million for 2014-15, significantly less than the $105 million in projects for 2013-14 and the $273 million in projects for 2012-13.

Urschel said it’s “frustrating that some of our capital construction is dependent on a growing and unpredictable industry.”

Johnston said he’s “hoping” it might be possible to find more BEST funding during the 2015 legislative session. “We’re in the midst of an all-of-the-above discussion.”

Gaming expansion no boon for community colleges

Amendment 50, a constitutional change passed in 2008 with nearly 59 percent of the vote, is a top example of a sin tax that hasn’t lived up to its promises of helping education.

Front Range Community College in Westminster

The measure increased betting limits and allowed longer opening hours at casinos in the historic mining towns of Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek, the only places in the state where casinos currently are permitted by the constitution. (There also are two Native American casinos in southwestern Colorado that aren’t subject to state jurisdiction.)

To sell the plan to voters, drafters of the amendment dedicated a slice of the expected additional gambling tax revenues to the state’s community colleges. The group behind the amendment even named itself Coloradans for Community Colleges.

Nancy McCallin, president of the community college system, recalled, “The gaming industry came to us after they decided to include us.”

She said community colleges endorsed the amendment because, “At the time is was important for us to have an alternative revenue stream. Yes, we got onboard because it was extra money.”

The state voter guide issued before the November 2008 election estimated the plan would raise $29 million for community colleges in the first year, rising to $63 million in the fifth year.

But the taxes raised only $6.5 million for community colleges in 2012-13, according to the Office of State Planning and Budgeting. Revenue is expected to be $7 million when the books are closed on the 2013-14 fiscal year, $6.7 million in 2014-15 and $8.8 in 2015-16. Estimates by legislative staff economists are slightly lower.

McCallin said she always felt the estimates were too high, noting, “It’s very difficult to project revenues” from a new tax.

After the new gaming rules went into effect, two unforeseen factors combined to reduce revenues, McCallin added. Those were the recession and a smoking ban that affected casino patronage.

Education a favorite cause for gambling promoters

Even before Amendment 50, promoters of various plans to expand gambling tried to attract voters by earmarking future revenues for education.

Ballot measures in 1984, 1992 and 1996 proposed allowing casinos in Pueblo, various eastern plains towns, Parachute and Trinidad, and all promised some revenue for schools. None of them passed, showing that voters don’t always go for sin taxes.

What’s currently labeled Initiative 135, which would allow creation of casino-style gaming at the Arapahoe Park racetrack in the metro area and in the future in Pueblo and Mesa counties.

The campaign committee behind the plan calls itself Coloradans for Better Schools, and it’s supported by Mile High USA Inc., the company that owns the Arapahoe Park racetrack and a subsidiary of Rhode Island-based Twin River Casino.

The group’s website promises the initiative “will provide more than $100 million in new funds every year to enhance K-12 education in our state – without costing taxpayers a dime.” The money would go into a K-12 Education Fund, which would be distributed directly to districts on a per-pupil basis, bypassing the state’s weighted school finance formula. The campaign says would be used for such things as reducing class sizes, buying new technology, enhancing school safety and improving facilities.

Former Sen. Bob Hagedorn, D-Aurora /File photo

The plan’s public proponents are Hagedorn and former GOP Rep. Vickie Armstrong, along with former Republican House Majority Leader Chris Paulson.

Paulson said, “We’re pretty confident we’re being conservative” about the $100 million estimate. Hagedorn called it “no small amount of money” even in the context of basic state and local K-12 funding of more than $5.9 billion a year.

Josh Abram, a legislative staff analyst who is helping prepare the 2014 voters’ guide to ballot measures, said his office estimates the plan would bring $80 million to schools during a partial year of implementation in 2015-16, including a one-time $25 million upfront payment by Arapahoe Park. Revenue could be $114 million in the first full year, 2016-17. (The ballot measure doesn’t include a dollar amount but says schools would receive 34 percent of adjusted gross casino proceeds – the money left over after winners are paid.)

The preliminary staff analysis assumes growth in gaming, based on the fact that Arapahoe Park is near population centers, but it also assumes existing casinos will lose business.

“About half of the money that the new casino is going to obtain from gamblers is a dollar not spent in the other towns. … There will be cannibalization,” said Abram.

The proposal already has sparked fierce opposition from mountain casino interests, whose spending helped defeat a similar measure in 2003. (That proposal wouldn’t have benefited education.)

“We really don’t understand how they got to their number,” said Michele Ames of the opposition committee Don’t Turn Racetracks in Casinos. “We’re just not clear on where the $100 million number comes from.”

She added, “It implies a rather large growth of gamblers in the state of Colorado that doesn’t seem realistic. … Their proposition is that they won’t affect the mountain casinos. That implies we’re going to double or triple the amount of gamblers.”

The Department of State is reviewing the 136,342 petition signatures submitted by the Better Schools group to determine if there are the 86,105 valid signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot.

Read the final text of proposed amendment here.

Education funding wasn’t really part of the discussion when the state’s two major gambling enterprises, the Colorado Lottery and the mountain-town casinos, were created. Voters approved the lottery in 1983, and a subsequent 1992 amendment restricted most of the revenue to open space and outdoor recreation projects. Casino gambling was approved in 1991, and a substantial portion of the revenue goes to historic preservation and the mountain communities.

Categories: Urban School News

Charter school funding changes budget landscape

Catalyst Chicago - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 16:45

In the past, charter school parents were a regular presence at CPS board meetings, carrying signs demanding that their schools get equal funding. But lately, these parents are nowhere to be found.

One reason for their absence is likely the negative publicity generated by the UNO Charter School Network, which sent busloads of parents but is now under federal investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. But another probable reason is the fact that charter school funding has increased substantially over the past three years.  Even leaders in the charter sector acknowledge that Chicago’s funding is close to equitable with the money given to district-run schools.

“We are substantially better off on the operating side,” says Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools. Broy and others, however, still believe that money for charter facilities remains inequitable.

Yet charter funding remains hotly contested, with advocates for neighborhood schools pointing out that district schools lost $67 million in budget cuts—a figure that is close to the $62 million increase for charter schools, which are expected to get thousands more students. On Wednesday, the School Board is expected to approve a $5.7 billion budget.  

While the Chicago Teachers Union and the parent advocacy group Raise Your Hand angrily accuse CPS of disinvesting in traditional schools, charter supporters insist they get no funding advantage and have gotten far less money in the past.  

“In the last two years, we have taken great steps forward,” says Beth Purvis, chief executive officer of Chicago International Charter School.

More or less?

Since fiscal year 2012, per-pupil funding for elementary charter schools has jumped 22 percent, to $7,166 from $5,873; and has risen 8 percent for charter high schools, to $8,194 from $7,188.

This year, all schools—traditional and charter alike—will receive $250 more per student. (Traditional schools say their budgets have been cut, though CPS maintains that custodians and building engineers now work under a centralized system and are no longer part of school-level budgets.) In addition to that $250, charter schools will receive another $250 for each elementary student and $50 more per high school student. 

CPS spokesman Joel Hood acknowledges that the district made budget adjustments that benefit charters above and beyond the $250 per student increase. Some charter schools are getting miscellaneous extra funding, such as for summer school, that charter schools have never been given before. 

Plus, one of the biggest “adjustments” is the additional federal grant money that will now be funneled to charters. District officials say it is the same share of federal grant money as district-run schools receive.

The federal money will include not just money for this year, but retroactive funding: Officials calculated an amount they believe charters should have been given last year and added it on to this year’s amount.

“We are really excited that charter students are now receiving their fair share of [federal] money,” Purvis says.

Finally, CPS officials made a change in how the district reports an administrative fee charged to charters. In previous years, the published per-pupil amount did not include that fee. This year, officials say they will publish the entire gross per-pupil figure, but will stipulate that the district will subtract a 3 percent administrative fee from that.

“This had the result of simplifying and making the fee more transparent, but also reduced the fee amount,” Hood says.

State funding task force convinced

CPS faced pressure to make adjustments to charter budgets from the state’s Charter School Funding Task Force. Made up of lawmakers, charter school operators and a representative from INCS, the task force was charged with making sure that district and charter schools are funded equally. Originally, the task force was focused on the provision in the Illinois law that calls for charter schools to be funded at 75 percent to 125 percent of the district’s per capita tuition, which is the amount a district would charge a non-resident to attend a school.    

Chicago’s per-capita tuition is $13,790, and the district has never come close to providing even 75 percent of that to charter schools.

After much discussion, CPS officials were able to convince the task force that per capita tuition was the wrong measure.

The task force’s final report recommended that student-based, or per-pupil, budgeting be used instead, with the range between 97 percent and 103 percent. (Districts that do not use per-pupil budgeting would use a different formula called the Charter Funding Calculation).

Though none of the task force’s recommendations have been incorporated into law, CPS officials write in the budget book that they had to make adjustments to satisfy the task force. As a result, CPS convinced the task force that its model “provides equity for operating funds," according to the budget book.

Purvis says that while charter schools are grateful for the additional money, they, like district-run schools, suffer because Illinois continues to under-fund education. The lack of money prevents some higher-performing charter networks from opening schools in Chicago, she says..

Purvis says that she and other operators are concerned about next year. It’s estimated that the district will once again have a big budget deficit, but that Mayor Rahm Emanuel (should he win re-election) and district leaders won’t be as quick to use one-time accounting tricks to close a budget hole, as happened this year.  

“It is a scary time,” Purvis says.  

 

Categories: Urban School News

Report: Charter school students do better on NAEP — despite less funding

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 15:22

Taxpayers are getting a better bang for their buck when students attend charter schools, a new report from the University of Arkansas’s Department of Education Reform concludes.

The charter-friendly think tank, in its latest report, found charter students — despite a lack of equal funding — on average meet or beat their peers enrolled in district-run schools on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, is administered every two years to a representative sampling of students in fourth and eighth grade. The Arkansas researchers compared results of students at both district-run and charter schools and how much each institution received in tax dollars to determine the taxpayer’s return on investment. 

The report found charter schools to be more cost effective: For every $1,000 invested, charters on average gained an additional 17 NAEP points in math and 16 points in reading compared to district-run schools.

Colorado charter schools were slightly above the national average in their return on investment, according to the report.

The authors concluded this happens for one of two reasons. Either students in charters, with fewer public dollars, score significantly higher on the NAEP or students in charters, with significantly fewer public dollars, score equal to or slightly lower on the NAEP.

The institution, which is financed in part by the Walton Family Foundation, stopped short of recommending more public dollars should be sent to charter schools.

“We can conclude from our evidence, that charter schools are more productive at current funding levels,” said researcher Patrick Wolf. “They are operating more efficiently. But if the funding gaps were closed, all bets would be off. Charter school performance could increase, stay the same, or shrink. We just don’t know.”

Both the NAEP and school finance data used in the report are from 2011. The report did exclude some states because they either don’t have charter schools or they don’t break out their charter school data in NAEP results. Between one and four percent of a state’s student population are enrolled in charter schools. The NAEP sampling reflects that.

In Colorado, NAEP data was collected and used in the Arkansas report from about 260 charter students and 2,400 district-run students who took the test in 2011.

Disclosure: Chalkbeat Colorado is a grantee of The Walton Family Foundation. 

Report: The productivity of charter schools DV.load('http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1227010-the-productivity-of-public-charter-schools.js', { width: 620, height: 600, sidebar: false, text: true, pdf: true, container: '#DV-viewer-1227010-the-productivity-of-public-charter-schools' });
Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Colorado slips in child well-being ranking

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 10:30

farm to school table

A northern Colorado school district is launching a food hub in an effort to get more local food into school cafeterias around the region. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

bad news

Colorado slipped in a national ranking of child well-being. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

charter on the horizon

An application for a new charter high school in Falcon School District 49 is up for consideration by the school board tonight, but the school would still be dependent on the passage of a bond issue that would pay for the school's building. ( Gazette )

colleges not ready

As schools around the country adopt the Common Core as an attempt to prepare students for college, a new report says colleges themselves aren't aligning their programs to the standards. ( Hechinger Report )

Categories: Urban School News

Report: Well-being of Coloradan children worsened in last year

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 08:31

Despite improvements in education and health, Colorado’s children’s overall well-being is worse than almost half the nation’s, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The annual report rates states using metrics in four areas, including education, economic well-being and health. Colorado ranked 22nd overall, a slip of one spot from last year.

According to the report, 18 percent of Coloradan children were living in poverty in 2012, up from 14 percent in 2005. The percentage of children whose parents lack secure employment rose from 24 percent in 2008 to 28 percent in 2012. Despite these shortfalls, Colorado’s national ranking in economic well-being rose from 19th to 18th place.

The state’s education ranking dropped from 9th in the country to 11th, despite an improvement in the number of children attending preschools, fourth-grade reading proficiency, eighth-grade math proficiency and the number of high school students graduating on time.

Melissa Colsman, executive director of the Colorado Department of Education’s Teaching and Learning Unit, said the state has made several changes in education over the last couple of years, so it is hard to see the impact yet.

Colsman did, however, attribute improvements in reading and math proficiency to the state’s new academic standards and an emphasis on tracking and promoting early literacy through the READ Act.

“We’ve had a focus on literacy for a number of years,” she said.

In health, the state’s ranking improved from 45th in the nation to 39th. But that improvement came despite some troubling indicators in the areas of health and well-being. For example, 30 percent of children lived in single-parent homes in 2012, up from 27 percent in 2005. There was also an increase in children living in highly-impoverished areas, up from 2% in 2000 to 9% in 2012.

Tara Manthey, communications director for the Colorado Children’s Campaign (CCC), said Colorado’s ranking is relative to the progress of other states. For example, Colorado’s child poverty rates are increasing at a much higher rate than many other states, which in turn affect its rank.

Bill Jaeger, vice president of early childhood initiatives for the CCC, said the report creates a jarring comparison between gains in education and losses in childhood poverty and economic security.

“Despite (increases) in childhood poverty, we’re seeing more kids in school, better scores in reading and math, and more (high school) graduates,” Jaeger said. “We need to celebrate the gains we’ve seen in these areas, especially with the hard times these families are facing.”

Read the full report here.

 

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