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Meeting miscue puts Haynes ethics request on hold

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 09/16/2015 - 14:29

At the appointed hour Wednesday morning, members of the Denver Board of Ethics were all set to consider how Allegra “Happy” Haynes might be able to successfully navigate heading up the city parks and recreation department while remaining a Denver school board member.

Only a key player was missing from the table – Haynes.

While it was not clear at the moment, digging through emails revealed that Haynes was not informed of the time, date or place of the meeting, or that she was expected to attend, said board director Michael Henry, who acknowledged fault.

Long story short: the board may convene a special meeting to consider Haynes’s request for an advisory opinion about how she can fulfill both roles in harmony with the city’s ethics code, Henry said. Otherwise, the issue would need to wait for the board’s next meeting in late October.

Haynes is to assume her $139,293-a-year role as executive director of the city parks and recreation department on Monday after her appointment earlier this month by Mayor Michael Hancock. Haynes, the school board president, is running for reelection for her at-large board seat in the Nov. 3 election.

“A number of people have asked the question, ‘Can you do both of those?’” Haynes said in an interview Wednesday after explaining how she was not in the know about Wednesday’s meeting. “I wanted to make sure that I dotted all the ‘i’s and crossed all the ‘t’s in terms of addressing my dual role as a member of the board and as a member of the mayor’s team.”

Haynes said she has received advice from the city attorney and will rely on guidance of the DPS general counsel, as well. She said that in cases in which the city department and DPS have a contract, agreement or other legal relationship, she would recuse herself from being involved in either role.

In her Sept. 9 request for an advisory opinion, made public Wednesday by the ethics board, Haynes notes that school board members are not paid and work as volunteers.

She wrote that any contracts between the school district and the city must be approved by the City Council, and that it is unlikely the parks and recreation executive director would take “direct official action” as defined by the city ethics code over matters related to DPS.

Regardless of the circumstances, Haynes’s absence Wednesday at a meeting others knew about illustrates the difficulties in juggling both roles, said Robert Speth, a northwest Denver parent who is running against Haynes for the at-large seat.

Speth, who attended Wednesday’s ethics board meeting, said both parks and recreation and DPS are large, complicated organizations that deserve full attention. He highlighted past conflicts between the two, including an ongoing legal battle over a controversial land swap in southeast Denver.

“I believe there should be absolute separation between the management and leadership of those two entities,” Speth said.

In 2001, the ethics board issued an advisory opinion that laid out ground rules for then-school board member James Mejia as he also simultaneously led the parks and recreation department.

Mejia pledged not to take part in any “contract requests, grants, cooperative agreements, as well as negotiations, progress reports, vouchers or other forms of payment receipts of revenues and associated correspondence” involving DPS, instead delegating those duties to a subordinate.

The advisory opinion said that the dual roles themselves do not represent a conflict of interest. The code, it noted, prohibits a city official from taking “direct official action” on a matter before the city if the employee has a “substantial employment, contractual or financial interest in that matter.”

However, the board urged Mejia to take additional steps to make sure he wasn’t involved directly or indirectly as a DPS board member in any matter involving parks and recreation.

Here, you can review Haynes’s request and the board’s 2001 opinion on the Mejia situation:

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Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Parents fight school traffic with carpools

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 09/16/2015 - 08:28

With record enrollment in the St. Vrain Valley and Boulder Valley school districts, traffic congestion at schools is at an all-time high, and parents are turning to an online program called Schoolpool to organize carpools. Daily Camera

Teen marijuana use

An annual report by law enforcement officials finds youth and teen marijuana use in Colorado has “skyrocketed.” KOAA5

Athletic angst

The job status of a longtime high school baseball coach in the northern Colorado town of Eaton remains in limbo as debate from community members persists. Denver Post, 9News

Thompson troubles

The Thompson school board will discuss a lawsuit filed against the board by the teacher's union in both closed and open sessions on Wednesday. Reporter-Herald

Fundraising flap

The size of a professional fundraiser’s fee for running an event at a Poudre district school has sparked controversy. Coloradoan

STEM rising

Students at a Colorado Springs elementary school learned some surprising STEM skills just by making bread. Gazette

Job done

Almost three years after Pueblo County District 70 voters approved a $59.5 million bond program, all projects promised have been completed. Chieftain


The Greeley school district is selling 2.7 acres of land to Habitat for Humanity, enough to build about 20 single-family homes for needy families. Greeley Tribune

New life for old school

Another former elementary school in Colorado Springs may be getting a fresh look, this time as a community gathering center and retail space. Fox21

Teacher licenses

The Colorado Department of Education is considering increases in teacher licensing fees. Chalkbeat Colorado

Categories: Urban School News

Cost of being a Colorado teacher may be going up

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 09/15/2015 - 12:38

Colorado teachers could see a 12.5 percent increase in their license fees under a plan being considered by the state Department of Education.

Out-of-state applicants could feel an even bigger bite – 37.5 percent. Resident fees would rise from $80 to $90, while non-resident rates would jump from $80 to $110.

The alternative to increasing fees is reduction of licensing staff and deterioration of customer service, including longer wait times for licenses, CDE officials say.

The department is considering a number of options, and licensing office head Colleen O’Neil presented them to the State Board of Education last week. The board is expected to make a decision in October. Any increases would go into effect Jan. 1.

The reason for the increase is budgetary.

“We absolutely won’t have enough money if we don’t increase fees,” O’Neil told the board.

Learn more

The licensing office is funded entirely by the fees and receives no revenue from CDE or the tax-supported state general fund. As its name implies, the Office of Educator Preparation, Licensing and Enforcement is responsible not only for licensing and special endorsements but also teacher background checks, investigation of license revocation cases and review of teacher preparation programs operating in the state.

Teacher licensing was in the spotlight a few years ago – including at the legislature – when wait times were running about six months.

“We now have a four- to six-week turnaround time, and in the slower months of the year, two weeks,” O’Neil said. “I don’t ever want to go back to six months, but we definitely would be increasing licensing times” without a fee increase.

Longer wait times can directly affect school districts because it delays their ability to hire, O’Neil noted.

Here are the three options she outlined for the board:

No fee increase – Without cuts, the office would have a $150,582 deficit at the end of 2015-16 and be $443,022 in the red at the end of $443,022.

Recommended increase – Raising fees $10 for residents and $30 for non-residents would allow the office to hire three more staff members, the office would stay in the black and no future increases would be needed for at least five years.

Minimum increase – Only non-resident fees would be raised — by $20 a year — no additional staff would be hired and another increase likely would be needed in two years.

O’Neil said the number of license applications has stayed relatively stable in recent years but that increasing amounts of time are required for investigations, review of preparation programs, customer service and license revocations. The office has a current annual budget of about $3 million and a staff of 24.

About half of initial license requests come from out of state, and those take twice as long to process than resident applications.

More than 37,000 license applications are received each year, and the office issues about 33,000 licenses, credentials and authorizations.

The last fee increases were in 2004 and 2011.

Most teachers don’t have to pay annual license fees. Initial licenses are good for three years, professional licenses run for five years before renewal, master teacher certificates are valid for seven years and substitute licenses are good for one to five years depending on the license type.

Board members asked O’Neil how Colorado compares to its neighbors.

O’Neil said Wyoming charges $150 for residents and $200 for non-residents, while Utah charges $40 and $75. New Mexico charges $125 for both but hits non-residents with $95 fees for each endorsement. Endorsements recognize that teachers have received appropriate training in fields such as special education.

The options
Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Colorado to revisit Native American mascots at public schools

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 09/15/2015 - 08:49
Mascot makeovers

Ernest House Jr., executive director of the Colorado Commission on Indian Affairs, says a commission to study Native American mascots at Colorado public schools is likely to be established within weeks Durango Herald

higher ed access

President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced a streamlined application for college and for aid. The changes, Duncan said, should encourage more students to apply for college and grants. NPR

Meanwhile, a panel will discuss the importance to Colorado of increasing access to higher education as part of the inauguration of the University of Denver’s 18th chancellor Rebecca Chopp. University of Denver

Helping hand

An organization that helps newly arrived refugees and immigrant students learn English at Greeley West High was awarded a $3,200 grant. Greeley Tribune

Election 2015

The St. Vrain Valley School District, with no contested races for its four open seats, has canceled its November school board election. Daily Camera

Happy Haynes is seeking guidance from the Denver Board of Ethics about her imminent plans to take over as executive director of the city’s parks and recreation department while continuing to serve as Denver school board president. Chalkbeat Colorado

The Loveland 912 Project will host a forum Thursday for candidates running for the Thompson School District Board of Education. Reporter-Herald

ACT results

Continuing a multi-year trend, the average composite ACT scores for Boulder Valley and St. Vrain Valley juniors held steady in 2015. Daily Camera

The circle of life

A Woodland Park elementary school received a grant called "The Lion King Experience," which will bring a new arts- and literacy-based curriculum to all students. Gazette

up close and personal

Roots Elementary, a new charter school in northeast Denver, emphasizes personalized learning by asking students to followed learning schedules that are programmed onto their personal iPads. Chalkbeat Colorado

School safety

Four northeast Denver schools were on lockout Monday because of police activity in the area. Denver Post

At the same time, three schools in Adams County were put on lockout while authorities searched for an armed suspect Monday morning. 9News

Categories: Urban School News

Haynes seeking ethics guidance on plans to hold DPS board seat while heading parks and rec

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 09/14/2015 - 20:42

Allegra “Happy” Haynes is seeking guidance from the Denver Board of Ethics about her imminent plans to take over as executive director of the city’s parks and recreation department while continuing to serve as Denver school board president, Chalkbeat has confirmed.

Haynes requested an advisory opinion, which the city board will consider at its regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday morning, said Michael Henry, the ethics board’s executive director.

The board will likely advise Haynes on whether the dual roles might violate any section of the Denver code of ethics, and possibly provide restrictions or boundaries if she were to do both, he said.

The veteran civic leader is running for reelection for her at-large board seat, and her plans to juggle the two demanding roles are expected to emerge as a campaign issue.

Haynes said in an interview after the announcement she didn’t foresee any problems. She couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Monday.

Not one but two precedents exist involving a school board member heading the very same department.

In 2001, the city ethics board was in its earliest days when it issued an opinion setting boundaries for then board-member James Mejia after he was named parks and recreation director by then-Mayor Wellington Webb, Henry said. In 2008, Kevin Patterson was representing District 4 on the school board when he, too, became director of parks and recreation.

DPS’s history with parks and recreation has not been without controversy. A land swap between the school district and the city involving 11.5 acres of open space in southeast Denver was the target of a lawsuit brought by Friends of Denver Parks. A district court judge ruled in favor of the City and County of Denver last year, and a DPS-run elementary school opened this school year on the former park property.

Amber Miller, a spokeswoman for the city, said the ethics board opinion will help the city determine what, if any, guidelines are appropriate for Haynes to navigate the two roles.

“The mayor and the administration have no doubt that Happy will be able to give this position her all, as well as continue to dedicate her time to the DPS board,” Miller said.

Luis Toro, executive director of Colorado Ethics Watch, a Denver-based watchdog group, said it is difficult to see how Haynes could serve in both roles given how frequently public schools use parks and recreation facilities. At the very least, he said, Haynes would have to delegate responsibilities to others when inevitable conflicts arise.

“Sometimes, they will get along fine,” Toro said of DPS and parks and recreation. “But there may be conflicts between the two over liability, or scheduling. That is the situation where it’s hard to see how she’d be able to to function wearing both hats because she’d be on both sides of the dispute.”

Toro credited Haynes — who draws no salary serving on the school board —  for being proactive and seeking the advisory opinion.

Assistant city attorney David Broadwell declined comment Monday, citing the pending ethics board meeting.

Haynes gained a last-minute challenge for her board seat from Robert Speth, a relatively unknown northwest Denver parent active in schools issues who is running against what he describes as a rubber-stamp board.

Haynes has largely supported the reforms of DPS superintendent Tom Boasberg’s tenure.

Earlier this month, Mayor Michael Hancock named Haynes to replace Lauri Dannemiller, whom Hancock did not reappoint. Haynes, whose salary will be $139,293, is to begin the role Sept. 21. She is leaving her position with lobbying firm CRL Associates.

Categories: Urban School News

Northeast Denver charter puts a new spin on teaching and learning

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 09/14/2015 - 19:04

One hundred kindergartners and first-graders scrambled to get their iPads from black metal cases around the lunchroom on a recent morning at Roots Elementary, a new charter school in northeast Denver.

A few stared blankly at the screens, which displayed large letters or symbols showing the children their first learning station of the day. Some swarmed around teachers for help while others figured out their destinations and headed off with little fuss.

The September morning marked a new beginning for students at Roots, which opened its doors in mid-August in the Holly Square neighborhood’s Hope Center. It was the first day that each child was following a personalized schedule, moving to a new station every 15 minutes for much of the day.

Principal Jon Hanover, a former business consultant and kindergarten teacher, said, “It’s literally the first time something like this is happening with elementary school.”

The scene—with 5- and 6-year-olds checking iPads and navigating along colored tape lines to get to their appointed stations—does appear to be a huge departure from the traditional school model. Students no longer have a single teacher, classroom or a standard sequence of lessons.

But Hanover said such a drastic shift is needed in an area that’s not been well served by traditional neighborhood schools.

“When you look at the achievement data of the schools in the region, there’s a crisis at the elementary level,” he said.

The percentage of third-graders reading proficiently at five nearby district schools — Smith, Barrett, Hallett, Columbine and Stedman — ranged from 35 to 47 percent, according to 2014 state tests. All have large populations of low-income students.

Roots, where about 80 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals, won’t have a comparable third-grade achievement data until 2018. Still, when the time comes, Hanover’s goal is that 90 percent of students who’ve been at Roots for at least two years will be proficient or advanced in all subjects.

It will be an immense challenge, he said, but one that can be overcome by teaching “the right objective to the right scholars, at the right time, in the right way.”

For parents like Adam Harmon, who lives a few blocks from the school, Roots is a godsend.

“This is a new school with a revolutionary idea,” he said. “I don’t see the traditional elementary school surviving in 20 years.”

He believes Roots’ personalized approach will allow his 5-year-old son, Sir Adam, to advance unfettered by traditional grade levels.

“Their structure…is blended so you don’t know where kindergarten stops and first grade starts,” he said. “My son is in kindergarten but he just learned to count to 120.”

Differentiation with a twist

On the inaugural day of personalized schedules, 5-year-old Leilani was confused at first. She followed the crowd into The Grove, the large open room where students work independently at stations like the “Writing Center,” the “iPad Center” or the “Flex Center.”

Roots Principal Jon Hanover helps 5-year-old Leilani find her next station.

Hanover came to the rescue, reminding her that the orange symbol on her iPad corresponded with the orange sashes hanging from the ceiling above the Writing Center. After a couple reminders by a supervising teacher to find her portfolio, she settled in to draw a picture of a house.

A few minutes later, chimes sounded, signaling students throughout the room to move to a new station. Some stayed in the Grove and others followed a blue tape line called “The Trail” to mini-classrooms around the perimeter.

It’s in these spaces, named for the neighborhood’s flora-themed streets, that students will work more directly with teachers. All told, the children will spend about half their academic time in these rooms, but the size of the group and the lessons they’ll focus on will depend on their personal needs.

In the “Birch” mini-classroom, the scene was similar to that in any early elementary classroom—though it was impossible to tell which students were officially kindergarteners and which were first-graders.

During one rotation there, writing and social studies teacher Mackenzie Wagner led 18 students as they practiced tracing then writing their names on paper attached to clipboards. During the next rotation, Hanover, subbing for a teacher who was sick, read the classic book, “Where the Wild Things Are” to a group of 24 students.

Students work independently at stations in this large open room, called “The Grove.”

Students do have breaks from shuttling between stations. Besides lunch and recess, they have “opening circle” and “closing circle” each day. Staff members called coaches lead these sessions, which focus on social-emotional skills and always include the same group of students.

“It’s very familiar there,” said coach Debbie Van Roy, a former teacher who will follow a cohort of 50 students throughout their Roots career.

In addition to working with children in groups and individually, coaches spearhead communication between home and school.

“We’re constantly in touch with kids’ families,” she said.

Another piece of the puzzle

While Roots may be a school to watch for its re-imagination of instructional delivery, it’s also distinctive for the gap it will fill in the geography of the Holly Square neighborhood.

Its permanent building, set to open next fall, will soon rise a stone’s throw away from its current quarters, on a plot once occupied by the Holly Shopping Center. That building was burned down in 2008 in a gang-related arson.

Roots Elementary’s permanent building will go up where these temporary basketball courts are now.

The new school will be nestled among a complex of buildings that includes a Boys & Girls Club, the Hope Center, a library and a city recreation center. It was selected for the spot, which is owned by the Urban Land Conservancy, by a group of community stakeholders.

“This idea of creating a children’s campus…really resonated with everyone around the table,” said Tony Pickett, vice president of master site development at the Urban Land Conservancy.

“Seeing Roots fit into that was a sort of natural evolution.”

That evolution is set to continue in the fall of 2016 with the opening of a new charter middle school, the Near Northeast Community Engagement School, inside the Boys & Girls Club space, Pickett said.

“I think there is a tremendous opportunity to really change the life course of young people in that community,” he said.

While Roots, like any charter, is technically open to students from across Denver and even outside the district, Hanover and his team have put a premium on attracting students from the neighborhood.

“We knocked on every door in Northeast Park Hill at least four times during the enrollment process,” Hanover said.

Pickett noted that Hanover and other school leaders have consistently showed up to community meetings and worked to build relationships with parents.

Those efforts seem to have paid off. About 80 percent of students are from the immediate neighborhood.

National influences

Before Hanover taught kindergarten for two years at Rocky Mountain Prep charter school, he worked at the Broomfield-based Charter School Growth Fund.

That organization, which gave Roots a $200,000 “Next Generation” grant, funds expansion of high-performing charters across the country and provides start-up grants for promising schools.

Given Hanover’s background, it’s not surprising that Roots is heavily influenced by certain high-profile charter sector practices. Examples include the school’s gray and blue uniforms, the way teachers address students as “scholars” and reminders for children to track the speaker.

But it extends beyond that. For example, the school’s math program, Cognitively Guided Instruction, is drawn from the high-achieving Success Academy charter network in New York City. Summit Public Schools, which operate in California and Washington, was the model for Roots’ “Habits for Success.”—reminders like “I stop, think and make a good choice when I’m upset.”

Finally, the school’s approach to culture, which emphasizes core values like kindness and respect as well as community-building activities, comes from the Brooke Charter Schools in Boston.

Hanover describes the various charter school influences as “taking the best from the best.”

At the same time, he believes working closely with other local youth-serving groups is critical to the school’s success.

“A great elementary education is super important but not enough,” he said. “The only way for us to meet our mission is if we’re really smart in how we’re partnering with other entities in the community.”

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Dougco criticized for not need seeking bond issue

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 09/14/2015 - 08:40
Election 2015

Some parents and community members are criticizing the Douglas County School District for failing to put a bond measure on the November ballot to help pay for $275 million in construction and maintenance needs. Castle Rock News-Press

A school board candidate in Colorado Springs District 11 had to go to court to get on the ballot. Gazette

The vast majority of Colorado school districts are taking a pass on proposing tax increases this year. Chalkbeat Colorado

Sports matters

Controversy over the future of a legendary high school baseball coach has divided the Weld County town of Eaton. Greeley Tribune, 9News, Denver Post, KOA Radio

Denver reform

In another step to turn around performance in southwest Denver, the Denver Public Schools board will vote Thursday on two new schools that could replace a low-achieving school. Denver Post

Dougco in court

It’s anybody’s guess whether the U.S. Supreme Court will accept the voucher case appeal by the Douglas County schools. Castle Rock News-Press

Teacher Prep

Teachers who are in training will spend more time in the classroom before graduating from Metropolitan State University of Denver with a degree in education. Denver Post

ACT results

Liberty Common High School, a Fort Collins charter, has posted the state’s highest average composite ACT score for the fourth consecutive year. Coloradoan

Colorado composite scores remain much the same. Chalkbeat Colorado, Denver Post

Four graphs tell story about how districts and schools performed. Chalkbeat Colorado

Search for individual district, school results. Chalkbeat Colorado

Testing burden

Colorado students will see fewer tests this school year, but some would like to see more cuts. 9News

Bus safety

Federal officials are looking at the issue of whether seat belts should be required on school buses. KOAA5

Public participation

The St. Vrain Valley School District recently was honored for its dedication to including the public in its work. Daily Camera

New leadership

Dorothy Horrell, a veteran higher-education leader and former CEO of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, has been named sole finalist for chancellor of the University of Colorado Denver. 9News

Categories: Urban School News

Tell us how Chalkbeat can better serve you

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 09/14/2015 - 05:37

At Chalkbeat Colorado, we’re ready for another year of high-impact education coverage. And that’s why we’re coming to you, our readers, for some feedback.

What do you like about reading Chalkbeat? What can we do to improve?

Suggestions, questions and comments are all welcome — just fill out the survey below. It should take you less than 10 minutes to complete, and we hope you’ll pass it along to your friends and colleagues, as well.

As always, thank you for supporting Chalkbeat!

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Categories: Urban School News

Weekend reads: Seattle teachers strike the latest dramatic education development in Washington

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 09/11/2015 - 16:38
  • A teacher strike has delayed the start of the school year in Seattle after contract negotiations broke down over issues of teacher pay and staffing; district officials say they have no plans to force teachers back into classrooms through legal options and are hoping instead for a swift resolution. (Seattle Times, New York Times)
  • The Washington state Supreme Court ruled late last week that charter schools are not public schools because their boards are not accountable to voters; now the state’s nine existing charters are trying to raise money to stay open and begin a lobbying movement for a state constitutional change. (Seattle Times)
  • A dozen Chicago parents and activists are closing in on nearly a month of their hunger strike to determine the fate of Dyett High School; one of those protestors explains why the district’s proposal to reopen the school as an arts program isn’t good enough. (The Takeaway)
  • The California drought is taking a quiet but devastating toll on many of the state’s school districts, which are seeing students (and funding) disappear as the families of farm laborers leave in search of work. (The Atlantic)
  • For the principal of a high poverty middle school, finding teachers willing to put in long, taxing hours for the low salary he can offer is an exhausting annual ordeal. (Hechinger Report)
  • Four teachers explain how their work has changed because of the Common Core standards. (Slate)
  • Teachers are taking advantage of the sharing economy to buy and sell  lesson plans and other classroom tools. (New York Times)
  • A look inside the three-year journey of starting the International Charter School of New York, which just opened in downtown Brooklyn. (New York Times)
  • The New York City school buildings designed by C.B.J. Snyder remain impressive. (Brownstoner)
  • As Professor Pedro Noguera departs for Los Angeles, Jose Vilson explains his impact on conversations of race and education in New York City. (Jose Vilson)
  • Cure the kindergarten jitters with this school advice from much older and wiser second graders. (WBEZ)
  • When an outsider superintendent arrived to shake up Newark’s failing public school system, she discovered that disrupting even a totally broken status quo can have harmful consequences. Read an excerpt from Dale Russakoff’s new book on Newark public schools and enter to win a copy. (Chalkbeat)
Categories: Urban School News

What we learned from Colorado’s ACT scores in four graphs

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 09/11/2015 - 16:14

The Colorado Department of Education on Friday released results from the ACT exam high school juniors took this spring.

Like so many years before, the results were flat. You can read a wrap-up of state trends here.

Here are some stories we found by digging deeper into the data, told in four graphs:

In Colorado’s largest districts, results didn’t budge much.


Data source: Colorado Department of Education. jQuery(function () { jQuery('#10ACT').highcharts({ chart: { type: 'column' }, title: { text: ' ' }, xAxis: { categories: ['Denver', 'Jefferson County', 'Douglas County', 'Cherry Creek', 'Aurora', 'Adams 12', 'St. Vrain', 'Boulder Valley', 'Poudre', 'Colo. Springs D11' ] }, yAxis: { min: 0, title: { text: '2015 ACT Composite scores' }, }, tooltip: { headerFormat: '{point.key}', pointFormat: '{point.y:.1f}', footerFormat: '', shared: true, useHTML: true }, credits: { enabled: false }, legend: { enabled: false }, plotOptions: { column: { pointPadding: 0.2, borderWidth: 0 } }, series: [{ name: '10 largest districts', color: '#2BA8E0', data: [18.3, 21.1, 21.9, 21.8, 17, 19.3, 20.5, 23.3, 22.5, 19] } ] }); });

Not one of Colorado’s 10 largest school districts were able to move the needle on ACT scores by a full point. Then again, they didn’t lose much ground either. Four of the state’s most populous districts fell below the state average of 20.1: Denver, Aurora, Adams 12, Colorado Springs’ District 11. Those district, compared to the other six that scored above the state average, serve more living in poverty.

Some of the state’s best and worst scores came from charter schools.


FRL = Students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.
Data source: Colorado Department of Education. jQuery(function () { jQuery('#5stateACT').highcharts({ chart: { type: 'column' }, title: { text: ' ' }, xAxis: { categories: ['Liberty Common Charter, Fort Collins, 3% FRL', 'Thomas MacLaren State Charter School, Colo. Springs, 24% FRL', 'D-Evelyn Junior/Senior High School, Jeffco, 6% FRL', 'Peak to Peak Charter School, Lafayette, 7% FRL', 'Fairview High School, Boulder, 9% FRL', 'New America School, Thornton, 80% FRL', 'Southwest Open Charter School, Cortez, 67% FRL', 'Excel Academy, Denver, 84% FRL', 'New America School – Lowry, Denver 81% FRL', 'Lester R Arnold High School, Commerce City, 49% FRL' ] }, yAxis: { min: 0, title: { text: '2015 ACT Composite scores' }, }, tooltip: { headerFormat: '{point.key}', pointFormat: '{point.y:.1f}', footerFormat: '', shared: true, useHTML: true }, credits: { enabled: false }, legend: { enabled: false }, plotOptions: { column: { pointPadding: 0.2, borderWidth: 0 } }, series: [{ color: '#F6C241', data: [27.1, 27.1, 26.5, 26.3, 26, 13.7, 13.6, 13.6, 13.3, 12.8] } ] }); });

Independent third parties operate three of the five schools that earned the highest ACT scores in the state. Independent third parties also operate four of the five schools that earned the lowest ACT scores in the state. The district-run school that earned the highest score was Fairview in Boulder. D’Evelyn Junior-Senior High School in Jefferson County, which is co-managed by the district and a community-based steering committee, also ranked in the top 5. The district-run school that earned the lowest score was Lester R. Arnold High School in the Adams 14 school district.

In Denver, non-neighborhood schools lead while alternative schools lag.


FRL = Students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.
Data source: Colorado Department of Education. jQuery(function () { jQuery('#5ACT').highcharts({ chart: { type: 'column' }, title: { text: ' ' }, xAxis: { categories: ['DSST: Stapleton, 53% FRL', 'Denver School of the Arts, 12% FRL', 'East, 36% FRL', 'DSST: Green Valley Ranch, 69% FRL', 'Denver Online High School, 29% FRL', 'P.U.S.H. Academy, 85% FRL', 'West Career Academy, 89% FRL', 'Denver Center for 21st Learning at Wyman, 85% FRL', 'Justice High School, 85% FRL', 'Excel Academy, 84% FRL' ] }, yAxis: { min: 0, title: { text: '2015 ACT Composite scores' }, }, tooltip: { headerFormat: '{point.key}', pointFormat: '{point.y:.1f}', footerFormat: '', shared: true, useHTML: true }, credits: { enabled: false }, legend: { enabled: false }, plotOptions: { column: { pointPadding: 0.2, borderWidth: 0 } }, series: [{ color: '#EF0F52', data: [24.1, 24.1, 22.2, 21.9, 21, 14.1, 13.9, 13.8, 13.7, 13.6] } ] }); });

Only one of the schools to place in the top five composite scores in Denver was a traditional neighborhood school: East High. The others were DSST charter schools, the selective-magnet school Denver School of the Arts and homeschool program Denver Online High. Meanwhile, all five schools with the lowest scores in Denver serve students who are in credit recovery programs or attempting to earn their GED.

At Colorado’s lowest performing high schools, ACT scores aren’t climbing.


FRL = Students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.
Data source: Colorado Department of Education. jQuery(function () { jQuery('#turnaround').highcharts({ chart: { type: 'column' }, title: { text: ' ' }, xAxis: { categories: ['Manual High School, Denver, 90% FRL', 'Adams City High School, 67% FRL', 'Aurora Central High School, 74% FRL', 'Colorado Provost Academy, Greenwood Villiage, 40% FRL', 'Southwest Early College, Denver, 69% FRL' ] }, yAxis: { min: 0, title: { text: 'ACT Composite scores' }, }, tooltip: { headerFormat: '{point.key}', pointFormat: '{}: ' + '{point.y:.1f}', footerFormat: '', shared: true, useHTML: true }, credits: { enabled: false }, legend: { enabled: true }, plotOptions: { column: { pointPadding: 0.2, borderWidth: 0 } }, series: [{ name: '2014', color: '#333333', data: [16.1, 16.1, 15.2, 19.1, 16.4] },{ name: '2015', color: '#C2C932', data: [16.2, 15.9, 15.1, 18.1, 16.7] } ] }); });

ACT scores at five of the state’s chronically low-performing high schools didn’t see the kind of increases likely needed to stave off state sanctions. In fact, one school dropped a point — significant on a test like the ACT. High schools, like middle and elementary campuses, are rated on how well students do on the state’s standardized tests. However, student results on the ACT and graduation rates are also factored into a high school’s rating. If a school’s composite ACT score doesn’t climb, its state rating likely won’t either. If a school is dubbed as either “turnaround” or “priority improvement” by the state for more than five years in a row, the state may ask the school district running the school to close it or turn it over to a charter school.

Update: This post has been updated to include the role of a school-based steering committee that co-managed D’Evelyn Junior-Senior High School in Jefferson County. 

Categories: Urban School News

Colorado ACT test scores remain flat

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 09/11/2015 - 14:39

Colorado’s run of flat test scores continued with the release Friday of ACT results that showed high school juniors recorded a composite score of 20.1 on the college readiness test last spring, down from 20.3 in 2014.

State scores on the test have budged very little since 2008, from a low of 20 to last year’s scores as the high.

The composite score is drawn from the scores of all students on the test’s four sections – English, reading, math and science. Composite scores in individual subjects were down except for science, where the score was 20.5 compared to 2014’s 20.4. The perfect score on all SAT test sections is 36.

The scores, released by the Colorado Department of Education, are the second set of data from the spring testing season to be made available.

Scores on state science and social studies tests, released in July, showed a modest uptick from 2014. Scores for the new PARCC language arts and math tests will be made public in November.

The 2015 ACT scores showed familiar gaps between different groups of students. Some examples:

Search for your school
To check on ACT scores at your school or others, click here.
  • The composite scores were 20.3 for females and 20 for males.
  • Students who qualify for free- and reduced-price lunches had a composite score of 17.3.
  • White students scored 21.7, while scores were 17.3 for Hispanics, 17.1 for blacks, 22 for Asians and 17.9 for American Indians.
  • Students with non-English language backgrounds scored 13.7.
  • Students receiving Title I services, with individual education plans and other special services scored 16.8.
  • Immigrant students scored 15.7.

The ACT scores are one element used by the state accreditation system to rate how well districts and schools are preparing students for college and the workforce. All juniors are required to take the test. While the scores aren’t used by schools to rate students, ACT results are vital for students who are applying to college.

Results from the ACT or a similar test may take on greater importance in the future.

A testing law passed earlier this year requires that Colorado students take a college and career readiness test in the 10th grade as well as the 11th grade exam. The two tests are supposed to be aligned, so they are expected to be provided by the same testing company.

The new law also requires that the contract for the two tests be put out to bid, so ACT won’t necessarily be the winner. The department hopes to select a testing company by November.

Results of college entrance tests also are one indicator that districts can use to meet new state high school graduation guidelines approved this week by the State Board of Education.

There’s also talk among some policymakers and legislators of adapting the ACT or another 11th grade test so its results can be used to fulfill federal requirements for giving a science test once in high school. Doing that would eliminate the current 11th grade science test.

The results released Friday – officially known as the Colorado ACT – differ somewhat from national results provided recently by the testing company. The state results cover only public school students who took the test as juniors. The company’s results cover 2015 high school graduates and include non-public students and students who took the test as seniors.

Categories: Urban School News

Find your school’s 2015 ACT scores

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 09/11/2015 - 14:28


Colorado’s ACT college readiness exam scores were flat in 2015. Again. Use this tool to see how your school — and others — performed:

Categories: Urban School News

Brighton bond issue tops a short list of district tax-hike requests

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 09/11/2015 - 13:45

Only about 14 of Colorado’s 178 school districts are asking voters for property tax increases this year to pay for building projects or for operating revenue.

The biggest request is from the Brighton school district, which is proposing a $248 million bond issue to build new schools and renovate others.

The only other significant proposals are a $92 million bond in Steamboat Springs and a Roaring Fork School District bond issue of $122 million.

This year’s short list is in sharp contrast to recent elections. In 2014, about two-dozen school districts sought some $1.5 billion in property tax increases for construction projects and operating funds. About half were rejected.

The 2015 ballot includes bond issues totaling about $500 million — and Brighton’s request accounts for half of that. Requests for tax hikes to fund operating expenses total only about $5 million. (See the full list at the bottom of this article.)

In three districts, voters will face requests for two tax increases.

Steamboat Springs is seeking the bond to build a new high school, convert a middle school to elementary use and renovate and expand other buildings. The district also is proposing a $327,500 increase in operating revenue to staff the new facilities. That levy would rise to $1.9 million in its third year.

Bond & Mill

  • Bond measures are voter-approved increases in property taxes for facilities needs. Districts sell bonds to raise the cash to pay for construction, then use the additional tax revenues to pay the bonds off.
  • Mill levy overrides are voter-approved hikes in a district’s general property tax rate that a district generally uses for operating expenses or special needs like technology purchases. (A mill is equal to one-tenth of a cent and is used as a mathematical device to calculate taxes.)

Voters in the Fort Lupton district will consider both a bond issue and proposed continuation of an existing tax override for operating expenses. The Kit Carson district is proposing both a general operating revenue increase and a second increase earmarked for technology expenses.

Brighton’s bond issue is designed to pay for a new high school, a new middle school and two new elementary schools. It also would provide funding for building upgrades and for two charter schools.

The rapidly growing, 17,000-student district has long struggled with overcrowding. Brighton is trying again after a $148 million bond was defeated a year ago.

The 96-student Hinsdale County district in remote Lake City has a more modest request — a $5.9 million bond to build a gym. According to the election list compiled by the Colorado School Finance Project, Hinsdale is the “only district in [the] state without a gymnasium.”

Education observers give a variety of reasons for the low number of tax proposals planned for the Nov. 4 ballot, including highly contested board races in some districts. (See this Chalkbeat Colorado story for more analysis of this year’s election.)

The list of tax proposals may be longer in 2016. Several larger districts — including Denver, Cherry Creek and St. Vrain — are reported to be considering requests next year.

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Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Colorado professors help discover ancient human ancestor

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 09/11/2015 - 08:23
‘Homo naledi’

A team of scientists, including one from the University of Colorado Denver and another from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, announced the discovery of a new species of hominin that raises questions about our evolutionary past. 9News

Bond ... school bond

The St. Vrain Valley School District has all but finished its $189 million construction program financed by a voter-approved bond issue in 2008. Daily Camera

School safety

The father of a student slain by an adult intruder at Platte Canyon High School in 2006 is spreading the message of school safety. 9News

Police in Longmont arrested a man who reportedly was chasing students walking to school. 9News

Great Schools Policy

Denver school board members are anticipating a lot of questions from constituents about a policy that would clearly spell out what happens to poor-performing schools. Chalkbeat Colorado

Healthy Kids

Adams County District 50 is among many districts offering free breakfasts to large numbers of students - and the French toast is a hit. Fox 31

testing testing

After many months, the states in the PARCC testing consortium are getting clarity about cut scores and when they'll learn actual results. Chalkbeat Colorado, Education Week

budding advocate

A Colorado Springs student who sees a connection between math and figure skating also found a way to connect her passion for skating with her advocacy for recycling. Gazette

Total Recall

In videotaped interviews, the three Jefferson County school board members targeted for recall defend their records. High Timber Times

Categories: Urban School News

DPS eyeing tougher stance on poor-performing schools, with closures on the table

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 09/10/2015 - 17:05

Denver Public Schools is drafting a new policy that would set clear expectations for consistently poor-performing schools, including giving the district a roadmap to act swiftly and close those that haven’t turned things around despite extensive efforts.

Called the Great Schools Policy — at least for now — the initiative is designed to push DPS toward its goal of vastly improving the quality of schools in every neighborhood by 2020.

The policy would both establish a consistent definition of a “persistently low-performing school” and spell out how the district can step up help for struggling schools so they can avoid facing either closure or being relaunched with a new approach and staff.

District staff and a committee of school board members have been working on the proposal behind the scenes, and an early vision was introduced Wednesday at a school board retreat.

Many questions remain because of a lack of detail about how exactly it might work. DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg said the board is expected to vote on the policy in November and use it this school year.

The proposal is all but certain to be contentious — few issues in public education stir emotions more than the prospect of closing a school, no matter how troubled.

“Whenever this happens, there is a lot of pain,” Boasberg said at the retreat, held in the offices of a downtown law firm. “But this isn’t about punishing anyone … It’s trying to say, ‘How do we get the best schools possible for kids?’”

‘Holistic’ approach

As it stands, fewer than 10 DPS schools would be affected under the draft policy framework, Alyssa Whitehead-Bust, the district’s chief academic and innovation officer, told the board.

Whitehead-Bust emphasized the holistic approach of the proposal, saying the district is committed to giving schools everything they need to turn around before resorting to closure.

That may include giving schools more money for turnaround work, more full-time employees to strengthen school culture or partnerships with outside groups such as City Year, which sends AmericaCorps members into classrooms in high-poverty schools.

Boasberg said in an interview that while DPS closing or reinventing low-performing schools is “nothing new,” the new policy is needed to bring greater clarity and transparency to the process.

Whitehead-Bust said the major new addition would be drawing a “very concrete designation line” for when the district would move to close or restart a school. Under a restart, a principal may stay on but reinvent the school model and bring in an entirely new staff.

One possible scenario — laid out in a report from DPS staff and fleshed out at the retreat — would go like this:

First, schools would be flagged if they’ve been designated “red” or “orange” on the three most recent School Performance Frameworks — or identified as red on two consecutive frameworks.

Orange and red are the two lowest levels on DPS’s color-coded report card of how schools are doing on everything from whether students are at grade level to student academic growth, enrollment, parent satisfaction and more. The district gives student growth the most weight. Each school performance framework takes in data from two academic years.

Some board members questioned whether that gave schools too much time. Others suggested it may be too little.

Next, the district would scrutinize the most recent year’s student growth data, to give credit to schools that have shown progress. That could lead to schools being crossed off the list.

Finally, the district would hire an outside firm to conduct a “school quality review” to get a picture of the current year, including looking for leading indicators of turnaround success.

Only after all those steps would a school be eligible for takeover by a new operator — either charter- or district-run — to be chosen through a public request-for-proposal process.

District data shows at least a handful of schools would be under scrutiny using this approach: Gilpin Montessori Public School, Centennial ECE-8 School, Columbine Elementary School, Greenlee Elementary School and Wyatt Academy. Another school on the list, Trevista ECE-8 at Horace Mann, is in a different category because its middle school was closed last year, lifting the overall performance of the school.

Others schools that would be affected are either already slated for closure or in the process of being phased out — West High School, Kepner Middle School and Venture Prep Middle School. Another, Escuela Tlatelolco School, operated under a contract with the district and the contract has not been renewed.

DPS in recent years has taken a variety of approaches to schools that are falling short, including phasing schools out over time and phasing in new ones in their place, bringing a variety of programs under one roof, and other strategies. Buildings are at a premium in DPS, so any shuttered schools would undoubtedly be replaced by something else.

A difficult balance

DPS’s success with turning around struggling schools is decidedly mixed.

Boasberg said in the district’s experience, once a school has continued to struggle for a significant period, restarting and replacing the school has much better odds of success than continuing to try smaller fixes.

Among the difficulties district officials will wrestle with is balancing a sense of urgency with a recognition that fixing problems can take time, especially in larger schools.

Boasberg cited a couple of “decent-sized” middle schools — Skinner in northwest Denver and Grant Beacon in southeast Denver — that were struggling five or six years ago but have improved to the point where they boast waiting lists.

“It’s fair to say our record is mixed at all levels … but the largest schools raise the greatest questions about the length of time necessary,” he said.

The new policy grew out one of the more ambitious goals in the Denver Plan 2020, a strategic planning document the district adopted last year. Five years from now, DPS wants 80 percent of school seats in every neighborhood to be “blue” or “green,” the two top levels on the School Performance Framework.

District-wide, the figure now stands at 61 percent. But some neighborhoods are far worse off than others. All southeast Denver schools are blue or green, while just 38 percent of students in northwest Denver attend such schools.

School board president Happy Haynes, meanwhile, took issue with the “Great Schools Policy” name.

“This is a lower performing schools policy,” she said. “Let’s call it what it is.”

Board vice president Anne Rowe, one of the members who has been working on crafting the plan, said the idea behind the name was “going toward our ambition and goals versus coming down on folks not doing so well.” District staff indicated they would take another look at the name.

Dealing with public reaction was on the minds of board members, as well.

“This is a contract with the kids in the district,” said board member Rosemary Rodriguez, who represents southwest Denver. “Once we adopt it, it’s a guarantee we’re going to act.”

Rodriguez said she may frame the policy that way — as honoring the community she serves — “because there are people who want to defend the indefensible sometimes.”

Categories: Urban School News

High school students get one-year pass on social studies tests

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 09/10/2015 - 13:52

Colorado high school students won’t have to take the statewide social studies test this year, the Department of Education announced Thursday.

Interim Commissioner Elliott Asp broke the news to the State Board of Education, saying the department needed another year to set up the new rotating schedule of social studies exams required by a new testing law.

The tests will be given to some elementary and middle school students this year, as scheduled.

The statewide social studies exams first rolled out in the spring of 2014, when all 4th and 7th graders took the tests. High school seniors took the exams and state science tests the following fall, marking the first time 12th graders had to take any statewide test. There was significant boycotting of those assessments, and the statewide participation rate was 83 percent.

Because of that backlash, the omnibus testing bill passed by the 2015 legislature, House Bill 15-1323, banned any statewide testing of high school seniors.

A companion bill changed the system for social studies testing, creating a rolling schedule under which students in a third of the state’s schools would be tested every year. The law left it up to the education department when to give the test in high school.

Asp told the board that the department decided “to forego the high school social studies assessment this year,” a decision he said was supported by district leaders, social studies educators and legislators. He also alluded to the possibility that the 2016 legislature will make further changes in testing law.

The social studies tests will be given in a third of elementary and middle schools next spring. The list of schools will be announced in November. To meet the law’s requirement that all schools be tested on a three-year cycle, the high school tests will be given in half of schools in 2017 and the other half in 2018.

Learn about the 2015 social studies and science test results, including a searchable database, here.

The board also was briefed on other testing developments, including:

Federally required science tests will be given to 11th graders this year. The law left this decision up to CDE.

A bid proposal will be ready by the end of September for vendors who want to provide the new 10th and 11th grade college readiness tests required by HB 15-1323. Asp said he expects ACT to bid and perhaps the College Board, which runs the SAT test. Board chair Steve Durham of Colorado Springs said the vendor should be subject to strict data privacy standards. “That’s what we plan on doing,” Asp said.

Statewide results of last spring’s PARCC language arts and math tests will be released at the Nov. 11-12 meeting. Results for individual districts and schools will be released later in the month. Asp warned the board that some PARCC states will release results earlier but that CDE decided on a later release to ensure the data is complete and error-free. “We’ve always been particular about giving you results that are final.” Full opt-out data also will be released in November.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Greeley at impasse with teachers union

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 09/10/2015 - 08:44
labor day

The Greeley school district declared an impasse with the Greeley teachers union, setting the stage for federal mediation hearings and furthering the chances of unsuccessful contract negotiations for the second-straight year. Greeley Tribune

building a future

Cherry Creek School District officials are crafting a new strategic plan that will shape much of the district’s future. Aurora Sentinel

Bond work in the Littleton school district, which will have upgraded all 26 district buildings by the end of 2017, is about halfway done. Denver Post

The Jefferson County Board of Education unanimously selected the Candelas neighborhood as a site for a new school and started the conversation about the district’s next bond issue to build more. Arvada Press


After a months-long effort, the Sheridan school district has failed in its bid to improve its state accreditation rating. Chalkbeat Colorado


A Greeley Tribune analysis found that Greeley school employees used their district-issued credit cards to the tune of $9 million last year. Though there were interesting purchases the Tribune’s analysis of more than 20,000 purchases found nothing amiss. Greeley Tribune

Human Resources

A bus driver shortage has prompted Falcon School District 49 officials to consider boosting wages by another $1.20 an hour — on top of a 15 cents an hour raise already allocated for this school year — in the hopes of attracting more drivers. Gazette

Total Recall

After noticing a trend of politicization among local and national school boards, Jeffco dad and physician's assistant Matthew Dhieux decided he needed run for the Jefferson County Board of Education. Arvada Press

Healthy schools

Students at 11 Pueblo elementary schools are getting snacks for free, thanks to a federal grant. Pueblo Chieftain

diploma time

The Colorado State Board of Education on Wednesday approved a new menu of options for how districts can require students to earn a high school diploma, changing requirements approved two years ago. Denver Post, Chalkbeat Colorado

Categories: Urban School News

Sheridan loses bid to upgrade state quality rating

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 09/09/2015 - 21:29

After a months-long effort, the Sheridan school district has failed in its bid to improve its state accreditation rating.

The State Board of Education voted 5-2 Wednesday to reject the district’s request to change its 2015 rating of “priority improvement” to “improvement.”

The district had argued that the change was warranted because it should be permitted to exclude the performance of its alternative high school from the district’s overall rating. But Department of Education officials who analyzed Sheridan’s bid concluded Sheridan didn’t meet the requirements for excluding results from the alternative school.

The district’s ratings are about more than bragging rights. State law makes districts subject to state intervention if they’ve been in the two lowest of the five rating categories for five consecutive years. Those classifications are priority improvement and turnaround. Sheridan is in that situation but is not in immediate danger of state action because the accreditation clock is stopped for this school year.

Sheridan is one of the metro area’s smallest districts, with 1,536 students, and it’s also one of the poorest. Superintendent Michael Clough told the board that 85 percent of the district’s students are minorities, more than 90 percent qualify for free or reduced priced lunch, and 25 percent are homeless.

Clough and leaders of some similar districts feel the state’s rating system unfairly penalizes them and doesn’t fully recognize the growth such districts are making. The Mapleton school district, which also has high rates of poverty and low achievement, lost a similar ratings appeal in 2013.

“Nobody likes a mark on their community. I don’t feel it [the rating] is an accurate reflection on our community,” Clough said.

The superintendent found a sympathizer in Democratic board member Val Flores of Denver, who said the accountability system punishes “districts that have a large percentage of minority students. … It just isn’t fair when know the state just isn’t providing the resources.”

Sheridan argued that its three regular schools are each rated more highly than the district as a whole and that the district would move up on the rating scale if performance of its alternative campus, SOAR Academy, were removed from calculation of the district rating. State law allows that, but only under certain conditions.

Alternative education campuses serve high school and older students who meet certain risk factors, such as being dropouts and being far behind grade level. There are about 80 such schools around the state.

The district and education department staff disagreed over the improvement data provided by Sheridan for the district and for SOAR.

“They really are starting to see some improvement,” said Alyssa Pearson, interim associate commissioner. “Unfortunately when we saw the data it just didn’t merit reconsideration.”

The board was persuaded by its staff and voted 5-2 to reject Sheridan’s appeal, Flores and Republican member Debora Scheffel of Parker voted no.

See a summary of Sheridan’s case here and CDE’s reasoning here.

Colorado’s waiver application remains on hold

The board’s long day also included an update on the state of the state’s application to the federal government for flexibility in meeting some requirements of the No Child Left Behind law.

The application hasn’t been formally filed yet as education department staff continue to negotiate terms of the deal with the U.S. Department of Education. The board took no action Wednesday.

The most interesting part of the update was new information about how Washington regards widespread test boycotting in Colorado last spring.

Here’s a summary of what CDE staff told the board:

USDE has indicated that the following would meet their requirements for addressing participation

  • Calculate and report state assessment participation rates for all schools and districts and disaggregated groups.
  • Schools and districts that fall below 95 percent participation in one or more of the state-administered English Language Arts or Math assessments address low participation rates as part of their Unified Improvement Plan.
  • Raise the issue of low participation rates, when applicable, with all Priority Improvement and Turnaround districts as well as priority schools, focus schools, and all other Title I schools with participation rates below 95 percent.
  • Provide information to low assessment participation rate schools and districts to share with their communities regarding the state assessments, including reasons for administering the assessments and how the results are used.

Board member Pam Mazanec of Larkspur summed it up this way: “So they want us to address the less than 95 percent participation by providing lots of data [and] we promise we try to get more participation.”

“They’ve indicated they will not take any direct action with those districts that are falling short” in participation, said Pat Chapman, CDE director of federal programs. “They’re quick to point out the conversation isn’t over yet.”

But, he added, “The indication is we’re close to what they want to see.”

See the full CDE update on the flexibility application here, and get more details on the issue in this Chalkbeat story.

Categories: Urban School News

State board finally gives approval to grad guidelines

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 09/09/2015 - 20:53

The State Board of Education Wednesday voted 6-1 to approve a revised menu of choices school districts will use to set their requirements for high school graduation.

Districts will have to choose at least one item from the menu of graduation guidelines, described in the board motion as a “floor.” Districts can choose one, some or all of the menu items and add whatever additional graduation requirements they want, such as a certain set of classes in high school.

Students wouldn’t have to meet all the benchmarks on the state menu but could choose from them in addition to meeting local requirements.

Most of the menu items are standardized language arts and math tests such as the ACT, SAT, Accuplacer, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate. The menu sets scores students would need to achieve to meet the requirements.

Other items on the menu include passing grades in college classes taken by high school students, district-approved independent study or class projects and industry certificates in various trades. The original list included PARCC tests, but the board voted to remove that option, reasoning that the test only will be given in 9th grade moving forward.

The board’s motion also allows districts to seek waivers from the guidelines.

The graduation guidelines have a long history of stops and starts.

Because the state constitution gives local school boards control over instruction, it’s long been considered unconstitutional for the state to impose any uniform requirements for high school graduation.

A 2008 education reform law tried to work around that by directing the Department of Education and the board to develop graduation guidelines that districts had to “meet or exceed.”

The board didn’t act on a set of guidelines until 2013, when it approved a menu that included measures of not only language arts and math but also science and social studies.

That list drew criticism from many administrators and school leaders, who complained that the menu was unfair to smaller districts that wouldn’t be able to offer as many choices to their students as larger districts.

The department went back to the drawing board with a large task force of educators who developed the revised menu — dropping science and social studies — that was approved by the board Wednesday.

Some business and education reform groups criticized the new menu, arguing it watered down the original guidelines.

The revised menu was presented to the board earlier this year, but some board members weren’t happy with it and delayed action.

But the timetable laid out in that original 2010 law finally forced the board to act. The guidelines are supposed to apply to students who graduate at the end of the 2020-21 school year – students who will enter 8th grade next fall. It’s common practice for districts to inform incoming 8th graders of graduation requirements.

The decision seems to leave no one happy.

Several members of the task force that developed the second menu testified to the board and had qualified support.

Bret Miles of the Northeast Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services said, “The second menu is definitely much improved.” But his endorsement was nuanced. “Determining the graduation requirements is best done at a local level,” he said. “We believe there are still enormous equity issues even in the second menu.”

The guidelines likely will be revised in the future. The board’s motion directs the education department to convene a study group to find more career and technical education options that can be added. The motion also requires creation of a second group of parents, educators and industry representatives to study other possible additions.

And board chair Steve Durham told his colleagues that if any of them come up with menu additions, he’d be happy to add those suggestions to the next board meeting agenda.

The lone board no vote, Debora Scheffel of Parker, criticized the menu’s reliance on standardized tests.

“I think that’s a huge problem,” she said.

Hunt for new commissioner ramps up

The board was briefed on the search for a new education commissioner by Gary Ray, president of the search firm Ray and Associates.

The company is conducting meetings this week to gather educator and public comment on desired characteristics of a new commissioner. Get information about the meetings and take an online survey here.

Ray will brief the board on the survey and the meetings on Sept. 21, and the deadline for applications is Nov. 7.

“We’ve had some inquiries, but people keep asking me what they’re looking for,” Ray said. “The word is out there. I can tell you that.”

The board will receive applicant names in mid-November and conduct interviews in early December.

Robert Hammond retired as education commissioner in June, and Elliott Asp is serving in an interim role.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: School board candidates hard to find in Weld

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 09/09/2015 - 08:15
Election 2015

An historic lack of interest in Weld County school board positions leaves many districts without elections. Greeley Tribune

Some 45 school board seats are on the ballot in the Pikes Peak region, and it’s mostly incumbents versus newcomers. Gazette

A group opposing the Steamboat Springs School District’s $92 million bond question has come together under the name Citizens for a Better Plan. Steamboat Pilot

All three Basalt schools will get improvements and makeovers if voters approve a $122 million Roaring Fork School District bond proposal slated for the Nov. 3 election. Aspen Times

Residents of the tiny Western Slope town of Rico fear their 16-student school could be on the chopping block if the Dolores County schools don’t seek and win a tax override in the November election. Cortez Journal

Standing room only

A video from a student at Cresthill Middle School showed students standing in an overcrowded, moving school bus prompted the Douglas County School District to open an investigation. Fox31, CBS Denver

Off the books

A 2009 state law that required large employers to give workers time off for certain school activities is expiring. National Law Review

Growing pains

With another school year comes a fresh set of challenges for the growing Windsor school district and new Superintendent Dan Seegmiller. He said his biggest challenge will be accommodating growth in the community. Coloradoan

A proud moment

The South Conejos School District flung open the doors to its new school building recently to give the community a look at the $19.5 million school. Chieftain


The Aurora school district is moving ahead with plans to request innovation status for some of its schools. Chalkbeat Colorado

Two cents

An editorial argues that standardized tests remain invaluable tools for identifying differences in performance across class and ethnic lines, as well as charting the academic growth of individual students. Denver Post

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