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Weekend Reads: The three big strategies driving the United State’s rising graduation rates

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 06/12/2015 - 18:57
  • Graduation rates have been rising steadily since 2002. A team of reporters around the country go deep on the strategies schools have been using to drive that increase. (NPR Ed)
  • The national movement to extend the school day with after-school programs is prompting school districts and community organizations to share data and strategies in new ways. (EdWeek)
  • One in four black young people are neither in school nor employed in nine American cities featured in a new report. (The Atlantic)
  • Don’t miss WNYC’s series on a transgender third grader attending a Brooklyn public school. (SchoolBook)
  • A group of students is petitioning the College Board to let them retake the SAT for free after an error caused scores from one section of the test to be thrown out. (Answer Sheet)
  • Here’s what test-taking looks like in Baltimore, India, Pakistan, South Korea and more places around the world. (The Atlantic)
  • And in China, officials are using drones to identify students who cheat on the country’s college entrance examination. (CBS News)
  • Renovations at an Oklahoma school uncovered 100-year-old chalkboard drawings. (NewsOK)
  • A fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute takes a deep look at the changes that have reshaped New Orleans schools since Hurricane Katrina. (Washington Monthly)
  • Michael Petrilli used a linguistic algorithm to analyze the tweets of prominent education policy officials, teachers and writers and found a lot of upbeat, analytic people. (Education Next)
  • Even though college tuition in Norway is completely free, the children of parents without a college degree are just as unlikely to attend as American children of parents who didn’t go. (Hechinger Report)
  • The Mexican government has reinstated its new teacher evaluation plan after the country’s June 7 elections, which the teachers union had threatened to disrupt, were carried out smoothly. (EdWeek)
  • The New York teenager who spent more three years on Riker’s Island, much of it in solitary confinement, waiting on a trial that never happened committed suicide last week after many struggles returning to school and society since his release. (New Yorker)
Categories: Urban School News

Here’s Jeffco’s first draft of a new teacher contract

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 06/12/2015 - 12:33

In an effort to accelerate negotiations with its teachers union, Jeffco Public Schools has developed a working-draft of a contract and sent it to the Jefferson County Education Association.

The two sides will discuss the 25-page document Monday afternoon.

“It is not intended to be a formal district proposal or a final product — there are a number of provisions that still need to be bargained, and we anticipate that JCEA will be bringing additional provisions to the table,” wrote Jim Branum, the district’s lawyer and lead negotiator, in an email to reporters. “The intent is to give everyone a more focused goal to work toward.”

Contract negotiations between the Jefferson County school district and its union have become strained. Complicating matters is that the two parties must negotiate not only a new contract for subsequent school years, but they must also work out how to pay new hires for the next school year after a judge put the district’s plans on hold.

JCEA had little response Friday morning to the district’s overture.

“We look forward to returning to the negotiations table on Monday,” said JCEA President John Ford.

At first glance, the contact developed by the district is influenced by its goal to give schools more flexibility about how it uses its resources. For example, in Article 8, class size will be determined at the school level. That’s a departure from the current contract, which gives ranges for class sizes depending on the level.

What’s in? What’s out? Help us compare and contrast the district’s proposed contract language with the existing contract. Leave your observations below or email them to We’ll post a story later today with analysis. 

Jeffco’s proposed teacher contract DV.load('', { width: 620, height: 600, sidebar: false, text: true, pdf: true, container: '#DV-viewer-2097057-draft-negotiated-agreement-2015-v1' });
Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Parents raise concern about Jeffco principal

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 06/12/2015 - 09:51

Chaos at CDE

State Board of Education Chairwoman Marcia Neal resigned Thursday. She said the growing dysfunction and her health are two reasons why she is stepping down. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Neal, in interviews, refused to call out any specific board colleague directly. But she dropped plenty of hints about who (Steve Durham) she is at odds with. ( Denver Post )

Neal almost didn't win re-election to the board. That's because she had a tough primary opponent. ( Grand Junction Sentinel )

Some of Neal's colleagues (not Steve Durham) and observers are concerned about the uncertain future of the board and the Colorado Department of Education. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Meanwhile, Elliott Asp has been officially named interim-education commissioner. He'll serve in that role until a replacement for Robert Hammond is found. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )


Some Jefferson County parents say the principal of an elementary school treats families of Hispanic students differently than non-Hispanic families. And they plan to file a formal complaint with the federal government. ( 9News )

summer learning

More low-income Aurora students have access to summer programs after the COMPASS program expands. ( Denver Post )

Healthy schools

Colorado schools will begin compiling data on students who get busted for using or distributing marijuana. ( AP via Denver Post )

Turnaround trends

More states are getting into the school turnaround business by setting up their own districts. ( Ed Week )

Teacher Turnover

The average starting salary for a teacher in the state's school districts with the highest turnover is $28,407. ( Pagosa Daily Post )

Two cents

After the Twin Peak Charter School controversy, professors at CU argue that charter schools might need more diversity training. ( Longmont Times-Call )

Colorado should offer a private-school choice option to its students, argues Ross Izard is an education policy analyst for the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver. ( Greeley Tribune )

Categories: Urban School News

State board members, education officials see an uncertain future after Neal’s resignation

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 06/11/2015 - 17:47

The future of the Colorado State Board of Education and its department is unclear after chairwoman Marcia Neal resigned this morning, education officials and advocates said today. Even some of Neal’s board colleagues are scratching their heads.

“Truly, I have no idea,” said Angelika Schroeder, a Democrat and vice chair of the board.

In statements and interviews with Chalkbeat Colorado, fellow board members and education leaders thanked Neal, a Republican, for her service. Some, like board member Debra Scheffel, rejected Neal’s accusations that the board has become dysfunctional. Others, like education reform advocate Van Schoales, worried that the board is heading toward more chaos.

A Republican Party vacancy committee in the 3rd Congressional District will choose Neal’s successor, likely by August. The board will also need to pick new leadership.

Here’s how fellow board members, education officials and leaders are responding to Neal’s resignation.

State board Vice Chairwoman Angelika Schroeder, D-Boulder, said in an interview: 

I’m sad. She’s been a terrific board member. I think we’ve spent exactly the same about of time on the board and I’ll miss her very much.

I have no idea [where the board goes from here]. Truly, I have no idea. There will be a revote for the leadership of the board and there is a group of four that often votes the same way and I don’t expect that to change. I’m at a loss to make any meaningful guesses.

This doesn’t mean we won’t be able to hire an effective commissioner. It’s a challenging job. I’ve been around long enough to know that if we pick a commissioner who doesn’t have the respect of the state’s school districts, the districts will do whatever they can to ignore what the board has done.

Until this year, we had at least three board members who had been on school board members. In that environment you learn to be effective. You learn to work through the superintendent or the commissioner. You don’t micromanage. That’s really hard to do. It took me a while to learn my role.

Maybe it’s a philosophical difference of how you work as board.

State board member Debra Scheffel, R-Parker, said in an interview:

We always hate to see good people leave. Marcia has served with distinction. We appreciate her service.

We do have different opinions about how to accomplish reform in education. It’s good to have those disagreements and robust discussions. We represent different constituencies. Having those conversations in public is healthy.

I think what is happening is that the reforms that have been passed are really kicking in. And parents and teachers are really seeing the intricacies of these reforms. Implementing something on the front end is all idealistically. When they actually begin, problems begin to surface. We’re seeing the details in how these things work in reality and not just in the abstract. That accounts for the chaffing that appears to be happening on the board. This really has been a consequence of where were are in the timeline of the initiates.

I hope we get a board member who is ready to engage in a rigorous discourse around the important issues of public education.

Again, I will miss Marcia and I wish her well.

State board member Val Flores, D-Denver, said in an interview:

This is so sad. I really like Marcia. I had no idea. She was a great moderate. And she had all that experience. I’m going to miss her.

My head’s spinning right now. I didn’t expect the commissioner to resign. I’m concerned about all the people who have left [the department]. Yes, I’m worried aboout the department and of course the board right now.

I think this change might have been to much to [Marcia]. I wasn’t expecting to come on board and have [Commissioner Robert Hammond] retire. It’s a lot on the board’s plate right now. I have respect for my fellow board members. And I think we’re all trying to do the best we can. And I’m very sorry to see Marcia leave.

State board member Pam Mazanec, R-Larkspur, said in an email statement: 

I was surprised by her resignation, and she’s entitled to her opinion about the board. I sincerely appreciate her service and I wish her all the best.

State Rep. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, and former State Board of Education chair, said in an interview:

Marcia has been a steadfast champion of students and improving education in Colorado for a long time starting back when she was a teacher and her time on her local school board. I certainly appreciated the time we had shoulder to shoulder when she was vice chair and I was chairman.

I’m sure her voice won’t go away. That wouldn’t be in Marcia’s nature.

Van Schoales, executive director of A+Denver, said in an interview: 

Marcia did a remarkable job as chair. We gave her a game changer award last year from A+ because of her leadership as it related to standards assessment and being supportive of schools and districts that were making improvements and holding those that were not accountable

Obviously this has huge implications for the state. Without knowing exactly what will happen, I’m guessing that [Republican] Steve Durham will become chair. With that happening, it’s unclear as to where CDE is going to go in terms of the commissioner search. And it’s not clear as to whether CDE will take on the federal government [on issues including waivers and testing].

This is the demarcation line. We’re now going to enter a new era. More important than the appointment of a new commissioner is Marcia stepping down.

Bruce Caughey, the executive director of the Colorado Association of School Executives, said in an interview:

When I think about Marcia – she was such a stabilizing force on the state board – and I think we’re going to miss her moderate viewpoint. In her words – how much she cares about public education. She gets it, deeply, because she was a longtime teacher.

Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association, said in an email statement: 

CEA members across Colorado salute Marcia Neal today for her dedicated service to public education. She was a great advocate for the students, parents and educators she represented on the State Board of Education and we will miss her thoughtful approach to serious, complex issues. We thank Marcia for her leadership and wish her the very best in her future endeavors.

Jen Walmer, the state director of Democrats for Education Reform in Colorado, in an email statement:

DFER-CO was greatly disappointed to hear of Marcia Neal’s resignation from the State Board of Education this morning. While we sit on opposite sides of the political fence, we were strong allies around maintaining high levels of accountability, standards and assessments. We applaud her years of service for Colorado’s kids and we also echo her words in her resignation letter that we hope the State Board will put kids interests first, instead of their own, and get back to working together as a team.

Jane Urschel, deputy executive director of the Colorado Association of School Boards, said in an interview:

Rumors were strong and had been for a while that Marcia would be deciding to step down.

But Marcia has been a great friend of local school boards. She walked in the shoes of a teacher and then also as a local school board member. While serving on her local board, she was a member of CASB’s legislative committee for a number of years.

Her dedication to public education and her straightforward thinking was never tainted by political or personal ambitions.

And we all will miss her and wish her well.

The board is facing some major decisions, and those decisions will affect the direction of public education in the state. I think everybody will be watching closely and will be very hopeful that the board comes together and makes good decisions.

Scott Laband, president of Colorado Succeeds, in an email statement:

Colorado Succeeds and the state’s business leaders thank Marcia Neal for her service to the State Board of Education. Colorado’s kids benefitted from her wisdom as a teacher and thoughtful policymaker dedicated to working on both sides of the aisle. In particular, we applaud her for her commitment to early literacy, tenure reform, and graduation guidelines. The state’s education system is better today thanks to Marcia’s contributions.

Leslie Colwell, vice president of K-12 education initiatives at the Colorado Children’s Campaign, said in an interview:

I think – it was unexpected and really unfortunate — Marcia has been an advocate for children her entire career, and she took incredibly seriously the board’s main duty of supporting student learning. She’s always been a strong supporter of high standards and I think she’s always been looked to by colleagues and partners like the Colorado Children’s Campaign as a really thoughtful and moderate voice on education issues. She was willing to work across the aisle to do what’s right for kids. We’re sad to see her go.

Categories: Urban School News

State board chair Marcia Neal resigns, citing “dysfunction”

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 06/11/2015 - 13:23

Marcia Neal, chair of the State Board of Education, announced her resignation Thursday morning. In an interview with Chalkbeat Colorado, Neal said board dysfunction was one reason for her decision.

“You know how dysfunctional we are, and that is really difficult for me,” Neal said. “I find it really difficult to deal with that.”

In a letter sent to fellow board members Thursday morning, Neal wrote:

“While under better circumstances, I would like to stay on the board to work toward common goals and mutually agreed upon aspirations for improving learning for all students. In fact, I don’t hear any board discussions about the benefits of our work in supporting student learning – making students better prepared for the world they’ll encounter after graduation. We don’t talk about how we’re improving their education to truly make them fully prepared for college or a career of their choice. If we’re not working for these things, what are we doing to meet our responsibilities for preparing our students for success? Unfortunately, I do not see that the current board is interested in working together and reaching consensus.”

(Read the full letter here.)

She also said health issues were the other reason for her decision. Neal is still recovering from the effects of a fall last winter.

“It’s been a struggle,” she said.

Neal’s departure comes at the same time as education Commissioner Robert Hammond is preparing to leave the department. He announced his retirement, effective later this month, in late April.

The composition of the seven-member board and the tone of its meetings changed after new members elected last November took their seats in January.

The new members were Republican Steve Durham of Colorado Springs and Democrat Val Flores of Denver. Neal, a Republican from Grand Junction, was re-elected to a second six-year term last November.

Neal was elected chair in January. Democrat Angelika Schroeder of Boulder was elected vice chair, something that didn’t sit well with the board’s three other Republicans, Durham, Pam Mazanec of Larkspur and Deb Scheffel of Parker. The vote for vice chair was by secret ballot. Because there are only three Democrats on the panel, one Republican – presumably Neal – voted for Schroeder.

SBE’s wild ride

The new board started things off with a bang in January, with members voting 4-3 on a surprise Durham proposal to allow school districts to request waivers from the first part of standardized testing this spring. The move ultimately came to nothing because the attorney general ruled that neither the board nor the department had the legal power to grant such waivers.

At meetings later in the spring, the board – often with majorities led by Durham and including Mazanec, Scheffel and Flores – criticized the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, refused to set cut scores for last fall’s 12th grade science and social studies tests and declined to accept staff recommendations for changes in upcoming high school graduation guidelines. (For background on the board’s tumultuous spring, see this story about the April meeting and this article about its May session.)

In her letter, Neal also criticized fellow board members for lack of communication and cooperation.

“Sadly, our current board has become dysfunctional,” she wrote. “Past protocols were very effective with regard to communicating and the sharing of information. Those protocols are now largely ignored by several board members.”

For the last five months board meetings often have been marked by confusion and delay as Neal at times struggled to maintain procedures and keep to the agenda, particularly when proceedings were interrupted by Durham or Flores.

Neal also expressed concern about high-level departures from the department. “We’ve recently had a surprising number of resignations and notices of retirement. One has to wonder how much of the board’s seemingly destructive behavior has contributed to this exodus.”

In addition to Hammond, Deputy Commissioner Keith Owen and Associate Commissioner Jill Hawley are leaving. Owen will be superintendent of the Fountain-Fort Carson schools, and Hawley is taking an administrative job with Denver Public Schools. Carey Markel, the board’s top administrative officer, left for a job with the Boulder city attorney. And Thursday afternoon Janelle Asmus, CDE’s chief communications officer, informed colleagues that she is leaving to take a communications position with the Adams 14 district.

The board is just starting its search for Hammond’s replacement and has yet to hire a search firm. Elliott Asp, special assistant to Hammond, was chosen Wednesday as interim commissioner.

Neal’s replacement will be chosen by a Republican Party vacancy committee in the 3rd Congressional District, which she represents. She said she expects that to happen by August. That person will have to run for election in November 2016.

Neal is a retired social studies teacher and Mesa 51 school board member who was first elected to the board in 2008. She previously served as vice chair and often was a swing vote on the board.

Categories: Urban School News

Asp to lead education department until new commissioner is found

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 06/11/2015 - 13:18

Longtime Colorado educator Elliott Asp will lead the Colorado Department of Education until a permanent successor for outgoing Education Commissioner Robert Hammond is found.

The State Board of Education voted to appoint Asp as interim commissioner at their Wednesday meeting.

Asp most recently served as special assistant to the state education commissioner. He will fill in when Hammond’s retirement becomes official on June 25. Asp has indicated he will not seek the permanent position of education commissioner.

Board member Debora Scheffel was the sole vote against Asp’s appointment. She said that while she approved of Asp’s qualifications, the board had not had enough time to consider candidates for the interim position.

Hammond announced his retirement in late April.

At Wednesday’s meeting, vice chairwoman Angelika Schroeder choked back tears as she read a resolution thanking Hammond for his service.

The resolution reads in part, “The Colorado State Board of Education formally commends Robert K. Hammond for his outstanding service as Colorado Commissioner of Education, his indefatigable efforts to increase academic achievement, champion academic civil rights for all students and develop continuous improvement systems to benefit all educators, students, parents and communities across Colorado.”

PHOTO: Susan Gonzalez Colorado Education Commissioner Robert Hammond at his last State Board of Education meeting June 10.

Asp joined CDE in November 2012 after retiring as Cherry Creek’s assistant superintendent for performance improvement. He previously held a similar position in Douglas County and also worked in Aurora and Littleton. He has worked in education for more than 35 years and has been a teacher and assistant principal.

At CDE, Asp has worked on projects related to assessment, accountability, educator effectiveness and the Colorado Growth Model. He has become a familiar figure at education meetings and at the Capitol explaining department work on those issues.

Steve Durham said he hopes no one at the department thinks they can slack off due to the lack of a permanent leader.

“I hope no one in the department or the new acting department that this is just housekeeping for the next six months, because it shouldn’t be,” Durham said.

Durham said he has received complaints from charter schools that need to be addressed promptly and that he hopes the department can move forward with new rules on student data privacy.

Hammond isn’t the only top executive leaving the department this month. Two of his deputies,  Keith Owen and Jill Hawley, are also leaving the department. The board thanked both at its meeting Wednesday.

Chalkbeat Capitol Editor Todd Engdahl contributed to this report.

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Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Investigation into blocked grad speech by gay valedictorian continues

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 06/11/2015 - 09:49

moving forward

The State Board of Education gave Aurora Public Schools the OK to move forward with reform efforts, pending a more detailed plan. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Under review

The St. Vrain Valley school board sent a letter to Twin Peaks Charter Academy stating that they support the school's decision to conduct a broader investigation of the blocked grad speech by gay valedictorian Evan Young. ( Daily Camera )

Hard bargain

As the expiration date for the JeffCo teachers' contract approaches, negotiators from both sides are frustrated with the little progress made. ( 9News )

Free at last

A religious freedom lawsuit filed by a nonprofit legal organization against Pine Creek High School was dropped. ( The Gazette )

Granting more to schools

After school programming for North Aurora kids gets a boost after a grant expansion. ( Denver Post )

A new addition is coming to the De Beque School District 49JT campus in 2015-16 thanks to a $5.35 million state grant. ( The Daily Sentinel )

Categories: Urban School News

Aurora’s school improvement plan earns blessing from state board, with some reservations

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 06/10/2015 - 17:23

The State Board of Education has given Aurora Public Schools the green light to move ahead with freeing some of its struggling schools from bureaucratic red tape in order to improve student learning.

But two board members who voted against the proposal on Wednesday said they were not comfortable backing the plan without more details about how the district plans to use the proposed flexibility.

Those details must come before the state board can give final approval to let Aurora exempt schools from state requirements. The board’s 5-2 vote on Wednesday gave the suburban school district only preliminary approval to create what is known as an “innovation zone.”

The district’s bid reflects Superintendent Rico Munn’s efforts to ward off state sanctions for its schools that are so low-performing that they must either close or be overhauled. Under the state’s school accountability law, schools that are deemed failing for more than five years must close, be turned over to a charter operator or private management organization, or apply for innovation status.

Innovation status confers flexibility around state and district regulations related to school calendars, budgeting, curriculum, and hiring. So far, it has shown only mixed results: A 2014 report found that most innovation schools in Denver, which has more such schools than any other school district in the state, fared no better than schools with no flexibility.

Munn’s pursuit of innovation status is aimed at allowing Aurora to overhaul the schools on his timeline, rather than the state’s.

“What we are asking is that you come alongside us, come alongside our community, come alongside our students and recognizing that we need to start that work now,” Munn said.

Most of Aurora’s 17 struggling schools still have some time before the state must mandate action. But one high school, Aurora Central, has run out the time on Colorado’s “accountability clock.”

After months of debate, Munn convinced the Aurora school board last week that preemptively seeking innovation status from the state board would provide the district the most flexibility and local control.

But while the sate board responded positively to the district’s request, dissenting members Pam Mazanec and Debora Scheffel said they were concerned that the unofficial plan the district asked the board to sign off on was short on details. Mazanec said she thought it was not “appropriate for the board to have a vote at this time.”

Scheffel echoed the same sentiment, adding that she was confused about why the board would need to endorse the APS plan so early on.

“I would want to know the parents are on board with it, the community is on board,” Scheffel said.

Marcia Neal, the state board’s chair, countered by saying that Wednesday’s vote was merely a “gentlemen’s agreement” that would not prevent the board from ultimately turning down Aurora’s request for flexibility.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: New charter to open to at Holly Square, site of past gang violence

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 06/10/2015 - 09:45

Practice Makes Perfect

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said soon-to-be teachers need more time practicing in the classroom. Duncan made these comments during a town hall in Denver. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

dollars and sense

Colorado may get a "C" for school funding. But it gets an "F" for effort. ( CPR )

A community reborn

A new Denver charter school will build a campus at Holly Square. In 2008, gang members set fire to Holly Square — once a shopping center in Northeast Park Hill — causing a center of the community to be lost. ( 9News )

A (financial) head start

About 2,000 Head Start preschoolers will receive $50 from Colorado to start college savingss account this November. The pilot program is for 3- and 4-year-olds and will run for three years. ( Denver Post )

Healthy Summers

Englewood schools hopes to provide 100 free lunches daily to its students throughout the summer. ( Englewood Herald )

Church and state

Claiming its goal has been achieved, a nonprofit legal organization has withdrawn a federal civil rights lawsuit over prayer practices at a Colorado Springs high school. ( Gazette )

Human Resources

The St. Vrain Valley school board is expected on Wednesday to approve a 16 percent pay increase for superintendent Don Haddad, bringing his salary to $250,000. ( Longmont Times-Call )

Categories: Urban School News

Duncan: Soon-to-be educators need more time in classroom

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 06/09/2015 - 22:00

Denver Public Schools is “way ahead of the curve” in teacher preparation due in part to the Student Teacher Residency, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Tuesday.

The residency programs is offered through the University of Colorado Denver and the Metropolitan State University of Denver.

Teacher preparation was the subject of a town hall Duncan held Tuesday afternoon. Duncan and other participants said that soon-to-be educators need as much time as possible in the classroom, and DPS is achieving that through the residency program.

The program, which launched a year ago, pairs each student at the university with a DPS mentor for a yearlong residency that allows the would-be teacher to work in the classroom full-time.

Duncan has focused on teacher preparation in recent months. In November, his department pitched new guidelines to improve programs for aspiring teachers by requiring states to report annually on the performance of programs – including alternative certification programs – based on a combination of retention rates, new teacher and employer surveys, and student data.

Keeping new and effective teachers in Denver classrooms has also become a concern for school officials here. A report in February found DPS has a high teacher turnover rate.

At the town hall, CU Denver student Linda Abeyta said that spending time in the classroom is an essential prerequisite for becoming a proficient teacher. Abeyta is finishing the Student Teacher Residency program at Denver’s McMeen Elementary School and said she has found time in the classroom beneficial to her future career.

“I feel that student teacher preparation programs need to have their teachers in the room with the kids as much as possible so they’re comfortable and confident and ready to get to know the whole child,” said Abeyta, who will begin teaching third grade at High Tech Elementary later this year.

Panelist Tania Hogan, who works at Greenlee Elementary School in DPS, said aspiring teachers can’t prepare themselves for all the issues students face outside of school by sitting in a university classroom. But they can become more familiar with these issues by being in a public school classroom.

“You start to realize….that many of your kids are suffering from PTSD, homelessness, poverty, abuse. Different things come into play that the new teacher might have not been as prepared (for),” Hogan said. “They become emotionally drained on top of everything else they have to do.”

Abeyta said she got to know her students outside of the classroom setting by making home visits to her students, accompanied by her mentor.

McMeen Elementary participates in the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project, which encourages educators to visits student homes. Schools that participate in the project see an increase in student attendance and test scores, according to the project’s website.

“The dynamic of that relationship completely changes with that student,” Abeyta said. “You get to know the whole child – their interests, their fears, what’s going on with mom and dad. Getting to know that side of that student can really change the entire energy of the classroom. It can really help guide instruction…it builds an atmosphere of trust.”

Update: A previous version omitted the Metropolitan State University of Denver’s participation in the Student Teacher Residency.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Colorado gets a C for fairness in school funding

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 06/09/2015 - 09:37


The Greeley school board approved a new budget, but there are no raises for the district's teachers. ( Greeley Tribune )

Funding Gaps

Colorado's education funding got a "C" for fairness from the Education Law Center. ( Colorado Public Radio )

Teacher Turnover

Several districts near Colorado Springs struggle with teacher retention, but they're not alone. ( Gazette )

Up and Up

St. Vrain's superintendent is up for a 16 percent raise. ( Daily Camera )

Checking Out

A Longmont school's fundraising efforts are being investigated by GoFundMe, a popular crowdfunding website. ( Daily Camera )


The Colorado Springs School District 11 is expanding its school bus service. ( The Gazette )

School Boards

A Douglas County group is planning to play watchdog in the upcoming school board election. ( Douglas County News-Press )

Student Voice

In letters to the state school board, Aurora Central students say their school needs to stay open. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )


Some teachers can make more money selling lessons than teaching. ( The Billfold )


What has Denver learned in the 20 years since desegregation busing ended? ( Front Porch Stapleton )


Sesame Street's educational impact is comparable to preschool's. ( Denver Post )

Categories: Urban School News

In letters to state board, Aurora Central students say their school needs to stay open

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 06/08/2015 - 18:32

When long-term substitute teacher Edith Glapion shared a letter with her English language learners from the district’s superintendent about possible changes at Aurora Central High School, her students had a lot of questions and even more concerns.

So she encouraged her students to put their thoughts and feelings into letters addressed to the State Board of Education.

The state board is expected on Wednesday to sign off on a plan that would allow Aurora Public Schools to create what is known as an innovation zone. The zone would consist of a group of schools — including Aurora Central — that would be freed from a variety of district and state policies governing budget, curriculum, and hiring, among other things.

Aurora Superintendent Rico Munn said he believes if Aurora Central and other schools in the proposed zone have more freedom to make decisions at the building level student achievement will improve. Aurora Central, along with 17 other schools in the suburb east of Denver, are on Colorado’s accountability watch list for poor academic performance.

Editor’s note: In an effort to demonstrate her students’ range of English-language skills, teacher Edith Glapion did not edit their letters to the State Board of Education. Chalkbeat has lightly edited some of the excerpts for clarity.

Under state law, schools on the watch list that don’t improve within five years face state sanctions, including possible closure. Munn has championed innovation status as a possible solution for months. The city’s school board gave Munn the OK to pursue innovation plans last week.

The students’ letters, which Glapion dropped off at the Colorado Department of Education, offer the state board an unfiltered view of what it’s like to be one of Aurora Central’s neediest students: a refugee living in poverty with limited English skills.

“I needed their voices to be heard,” she said.

Some of the letters mention the school’s “smelly” bathrooms and students who ditch too often.

A few suggest the school be closed.

“Dear members of the department of education,” wrote Marvin Gomez Rochin Augusto. “I just want to say you should shut this school down because this school is dirty and nasty. the reason that i say that is because some student’s talk dirty and they need help and fast.”

(Aurora school officials have stressed that closing Aurora Central is the last option.)

But most advocate keeping the school open.

“I know we had some problem in school but if we guys would make some more rules then our school will be in control,” Kiran Adhikadi wrote. “I hope you understand our problem and also I hope yogis put a vote in the favor of keeping Aurora Central High School open thanks.”

A second motive for the letters, Glapion said, was that she wanted the state board to see the range of her student’s writing skills. Many of her students, she said, have only been studying English for a few months.

You can read all 34 letters below, but here are eight paragraphs, with light editing by Chalkbeat, that grabbed our attention:

In her letter, Debra Muhigirwa said Aurora Central has helped her learn to be responsible:

“I am from Congo, raised in Uganda. Came to Colorado in 2012. I have [experienced] alot, for example school, food, people, friends, rules, and so many others stuff, but through all ACHS have taught me alot, how to be a responsible girl, how to be strong and never give up … i am asking you guys to vote a favor to leave ACHS OPEN.”

Biak Tha Cung said Aurora Central will get worse before it gets better. But she has hope the school will improve; that’s why she continues to go there:

“One day I hope bad students will change into good students because all the teachers are trying their best to change their bad attitude. There are a lot of schools but I chose this school because I know one day this school will be well-known and great school. Though our school is going down currently. The people from this school are working hard and trying their best to improve for this school. I assure their hard working will not be in vain.”

Aantony Abinash said to improve Aurora Central, students need more time during the school day:

“Instead of closing this school you can increase the school days like a half day school in Saturday that would be useful to others who doesn’t have enough credit to graduate. Please don’t close this school and destroy all of our ambition, our dream, our friends, and our great relationship with others.”

DarReh MaTTIa suggested Aurora Central should be shut down but reopened:

“What I’ve seen the most is students ditches every day. Some stay in class doesn’t pay attention … I don’t know why they bother coming to school without learning. Students on their phone every day when teaching. I THINK we should close the school open it back in a year or two with these same teacher but different rules.”

Amrit Niroula said to Aurora Central is a home to many homeless students:

“If you close this school hundred and hundred student will have nowhere to go. Many people are homeless and they want move on and have better life. If you close this school many students will have no future and they may be living poverty or become homeless.”

Eh Paw Htoo Htoo Wah suggested uniforms for students and engaging lessons would make Aurora Central a better place to learn:

“For my opinion to make this school to be better, you should make uniform for this school. If you make uniform for central, and when [visitor] comes they will think that this school is so organizes. For teachers when they teach US History they should do something fun not to boring like it is now.”

Benjamain Kinkaku said he fears if the school closes many students will just stop going to school instead of transferring to another:

“Another reason that you shouldn’t close the school most of the students will drop out of school. This school is close and students dislike going to fa school. Some students won’t have transportation to get to school.”

Jose Morales said the school should be closed because he believes some teachers just don’t care:

“… there are teachers that they don’t care if you learned or if you do your work and they don’t even pay attention to you. some other teachers they don’t even teach what they need to teak you they just talk all period.”

An APS spokeswoman said the district was unaware the letters were given to the state board. But she said officials were looking forward to reading the letters.
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Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Controversy surrounding valedictorian speech by gay teen continues

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 06/08/2015 - 09:38


After preventing the valedictorian from coming out as gay in his graduation speech, Twin Peaks principal BJ Buchmann started a GoFundMe page to raise $50,000 for anticipated legal fees due to increasing backlash. The page was no longer active on Sunday. ( Longmont Times )

Twin Peaks principal sought donations to pay for anticipated legal fees even though student's family nor advocacy groups planned to sue. He urged the school community to donate and use #BelieveTPCA to promote the page. ( Denver Post, Daily Camera )

Measuring up

Beginning in 2016, an additional category will be used to evaluate Denver Public Schools: equity. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Rallying around teachers

Shaken by the departure of 10 teachers, Saddle Ranch Elementary held an appreciation day for the staff on the last day of school. ( Douglas County News Press )

Budgeting for the future

The Thompson School District is considering adding career centers to the district budget. ( Reporter Herald )

Below zero

A Centennial teacher will be heading to an Arctic expedition as part of a national teaching fellowship. ( Daily Camera )

Early investment

Six foundations came together this spring to launch a new statewide non-profit aimed at improving early childhood education. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Neighborhood watch

The Manual community heard proposals from potential neighborhood middle schools that would allow students to attend school in the community from elementary through high school. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Categories: Urban School News

Weekend reads: In the face of a school budget crisis, a call for more…cursive instruction?

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 06/05/2015 - 18:20
  • The Schools of Opportunity project’s Carol Burris and Kevin Welner praise a Jefferson County, Colo., school for its model of student-directed learning projects. (Answer Sheet)
  • It’s the five-year anniversary of the Common Core, and to one reporter covering the shifting political winds around the standards, those years feel much longer. (Curriculum Matters)
  • Philadelphia’s city council passed a resolution urging the school district to mandate the teaching of cursive, prompting criticisms that the city should focus on the school budget crisis instead. (Metro)
  • Email correspondence between Jeb Bush and the U.S. Department of Education show that the former Florida governor offered to help the Obama administration re-authorize No Child Left Behind. (Buzzfeed)
  • The stress that accompanies poverty can be just as harmful to young children’s developing brain as drug or alcohol abuse. (New Yorker)
  • Many experts believe that teaching nonacademic skills is vital to ensure students’ success, but there’s far less agreement on what those skills should be called. (NPR Ed)
  • In California, parents say they are using the threat of the parent trigger law to prompt changes in schools rather than voting to turn a school over to a charter manager. (Hechinger Report)
  • Alexander Russo rounds up the different attitudes towards charter school backfill that the most prominent advocates, researchers, school districts and charter networks are taking. (The Grade)
  • The solution to educational inequity isn’t giving poor students more technology, one writer argues; it’s giving them more high-quality time with adults. (The Atlantic)
  • When a parent feels a teacher is bullying their student, it can be hard to separate perceptions on both sides from reality, but there is some recourse. (Voices of San Diego)
Categories: Urban School News

Manual community hears proposals from potential neighborhood middle schools

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 06/05/2015 - 17:20

Members of the Manual High School community heard pitches Thursday night from potential middle school programs that, if opened, would send students to Manual after eighth grade.

The programs discussed Thursday could be co-located at Manual or in a different building.

Barbara Allen of The Denver School for Speech, History, and Debate and Kurt Dennis, the principal of McAuliffe International Middle School, appealed to the community to win support for their potential programs.

The two outlined how they would partner with Manual, described possible curriculum, and shared why they thought they were quality school leaders.

Thursday’s meeting was the latest piece of a long conversation about a middle school for the Manual community in northeast Denver. The academically struggling school has been without a direct feeder pattern, in which students follow a line of neighborhood schools from elementary to high, for decades. Some believe a middle school that partnered with Manual would reverse trends of low enrollment and subpar academics.

The audience hesitated with the idea of constructing a new building or having a middle school share the Manual campus with the high school program.

Some, instead, urged to redraw the current boundaries so an already existing middle school could partner with Manual.

“Why not simply put Bruce Randolph back to the feeder school it was, and have those high schoolers come over here to Manual instead of all this rigamarole,” Marge Taniwaki, a Manual alum, said. “The answer to that is politics.”

Allen’s and Dennis’ proposals were the first step in the next phase of Denver Public Schools’ improvement efforts at Manual.

Earlier, DPS hired Nick Dawkins to lead the school next fall.

Dawkins will be responsible for introducing a biomedical training program at the school. District leaders hope this program will create a pathway to college or career for Manual students.

“After reviewing data from other schools we saw that sort of program prove to be very successful,” said Lainie Hodges, a member of the Manual Thought Partner Group and board chair for Friends of Manual. “Students that participate in career and technical education and career tracks tend to have higher, and better grades.”

Manual’s history of low academic performance has been well documented. As the city’s oldest high school, it has endured a constant churn of leaders and failed reform efforts in the 20 years since court-ordered busing ended.

Today, 84 percent of students who live within Manual’s boundaries choose to go to other schools. Some people have pointed to the attendance boundaries drawn after busing ended in 1995 for the school’s struggles.

Allen, who proposed the Denver School for Speech, History, and Debate as the primary feeder for Manual, wants high community involvement with her new school.

“If you want to bring about change you’re going to need numbers, we’re going to need people to turn out,” Allen said.

Dennis said he wants students at the future McAuliffe to go to Manual.

“Our goal in wanting to start a middle school here would be to help create that feeder, that’s going to get kids to this campus and then allow Mr. Dawkins to meet those kids, to be present every day, shake their hand and greet them every day,” said Dennis.

Categories: Urban School News

Denver to include equity in annual rating

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 06/05/2015 - 13:23

Starting in 2016, Denver Public Schools’ school report card will include a new category: Equity.

And for the first time, non-white Denver students will be referred to as students of color rather than minorities on the district’s School Performance Framework. That category will be expanded to include Asian and multiracial students, who were previously included in a category with white students.

The idea is that including equity alongside the current three measures (Engagement, Growth, and Status) will spotlight gaps between groups of students within schools on the School Performance Framework, or SPF, and encourage schools to serve all their students well.

“In order to better align the SPF with Denver Plan Goals and to call attention to achievement gaps that exist within DPS, we’re proposing to add the equity indicator in 2016,” said Maegan Daigler, an accountability manager in the district’s Assessment, Research, and Evaluation department, at a meeting of the district’s board last night.

DPS uses the framework to inform decisions about everything from school closures to teacher compensation.

Increasing equity and closing gaps in achievement between students of color, English language learners, students with disabilities, and their peers is one of the priorities in the district’s Denver Plan 2020.

“It lifts it up and aligns to a lot of what we were talking about in terms of equity and working with students in our opportunity quartile,” Happy Haynes, the Denver school board chair, said of the change. The opportunity quartile refers to students in the bottom 25 percent of the district in academic performance.

The equity rating will be based on measures of differences between groups’ graduation rates, test scores, and growth, most of which are currently included in other sections of the framework. Schools will have to earn a yellow, the third-highest rating, in equity to be deemed a blue or green school (the two top ratings).

The changes mean a number of schools schools will have lower rankings than they do under the current system, according to officials. The district is temporarily removing schools’ overall ratings next year, due to changes in state standardized testing, but plans to reinstate overall ratings in 2016-17. (Read about other changes planned for the 2016 SPF in last night’s presentation to the board.)

Many schools’ scores on the SPF are already likely to drop next year: The district plans to give schools’ status — their test score proficiency percentages — a heavier weighting than in the past, which means some schools with lower overall test scores but higher growth will see their rankings go down. And schools around the state are expecting test scores to go down due to new, more difficult assessments tied to the Common Core State Standards.

At a meeting of the school board Thursday night, board member Michael Johnson raised concerns that changing the requirements will make it harder for the district to reach its goal of having 80 percent of students in schools in the two highest rating categories by 2020.

“We’ve raised the bar and moved the goalpost,” said Haynes.

“That’s worth considering,” said DPS superintendent Tom Boasberg. “But we’ve had discussion about the fact that status matters and we want to know how our kids are doing.”

Board members and officials said the idea is not to punish schools but to more accurately reflect what’s happening for all the district’s students.

Board member Barbara O’Brien said that the district needs to hold schools accountable as it plans to give more independence to individual schools. “They have to go hand in hand,” she said.

She said the hope is that information about achievement gaps will encourage schools to make changes. “We’re presuming that with better information, some schools are going to change what they’re doing to address that problem, that it’s not going to be static,” she said.

Categories: Urban School News

New statewide early childhood non-profit launches

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 06/05/2015 - 13:15

A new non-profit backed by several influential foundations launched this spring with the goal of improving the state’s early childhood systems.

The Denver-based organization, called Early Milestones Colorado, is meant to accelerate innovation by serving as an intermediary to the various state agencies, community organizations, and private sector groups that do early childhood work in the state.

Six funders contributed a total of $300,000 to launch Early Milestones. They include the Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, the Denver Foundation, Rose Community Foundation, Chambers Family Fund, and the Cydney and Tom Marsico Family Foundation.

Jennifer Stedron, the group’s executive director, compared Early Milestones’ mission in the early childhood world to the Colorado Education Initiative’s mission in the K-12 world. The latter group collaborates closely with the Colorado Department of Education and local school districts to incubate innovative programs.

Bill Jaeger, vice president for early childhood initiatives at the Colorado Children’s Campaign, said one of the challenges of early childhood work is that it touches on many different domains, including early learning, physical health, mental health, and family support.

“That makes it incredibly difficult to work across the siloes we’ve built,” he said.

“Milestones has the opportunity to serve as this hub of information and a sort of conduit across these siloes.”

National context

Intermediary organizations like Early Milestones are relatively new. One of the country’s first in the early childhood arena was the North Carolina’s Partnership for Children, founded in 1994.

Leaders from other states soon become so interested in the partnership’s work that the group secured foundation dollars to provide technical assistance grants to states that wanted to improve their own early childhood systems. Colorado was one of the grantees.

One of the recommendations that emerged from that technical assistance process here in the early 2000s was the creation of an early childhood intermediary organization.

“I really see this type of organization as a partner with government, but it also plays a unique role in questioning the system and requiring accountability for children,” said Karen Ponder, former president of the North Carolina Partnership.

Ponder estimated that 20 states have some kind of early-childhood intermediary organization, though they differ significantly in size, scope and structure.

Elsa Holguín, president of the Early Milestones board and a senior program officer at Rose Community Foundation, said, “This whole concept of creating intermediaries is going to make more and more sense as time goes by.”

Bruce Atchison, executive director of policy and operations at the Education Commission of the States, said while some other states have or are launching similar efforts, it’s not widespread.

“I think what Colorado is doing is kind of in the forefront, in that it’s a separate (non-profit). I think that’s kind of exciting,” he said. “I think it will be a nice model for other states if they’re successful.”

Third leg of the stool

Early Milestones leaders describe the group as the critical third leg on the three-legged stool of early childhood infrastructure. In other words, without that leg the stool tips over.

While there are different versions of the stool analogy, the other two legs are often state agencies and the local early childhood councils across the state.

In Colorado, one of the key state agencies overseeing programs for young children is the Office of Early Childhood, which was created in 2012 within the Department of Human Services. Meanwhile, the top of the stool is the Early Childhood Leadership Commission, a state advisory panel established in 2010.

Holguín said the creation of those two entities, along with an influx of early childhood funding in 2012 from the federal Race to the Top grant, were promising developments, but not enough.

There needed to be a non-profit group that could work as a convener and collaborator. Not only would it bring together government, philanthropy, the business community and other early childhood stakeholders, it would serve as a place to test ideas and programs.

Since state government can’t typically experiment with promising but unproven practices, Early Milestones can help fill that gap.

Starting last fall, Holguin and other foundation leaders presented the concept to groups around the state. While some groups wanted more concrete details, she said there was near universal interest.

“Every time we met with somebody…at the end of every meeting, they would say, “Oh, and I have a project that I need you to do.”’

Three projects underway

While Early Milestones won’t have its official unveiling until later this year, Stedron and her team already have three projects underway.

First is an update of the Early Childhood Colorado Framework, which was first published in 2008. Since then, state and national developments like the Affordable Care Act and a new rating system for child care providers have come along, rendering the original version out of date.

The framework, which outlines the state’s vision and strategy for achieving a strong early childhood environment, is meant to guide the work of local, regional and state leaders.

Sheryl Shusan, manager of the Early Childhood Leadership Commission, said Early Milestones played a vital role in facilitating the revision process.

Early Milestones has also developed an expansion plan for Project LAUNCH, a federally-funded program to improve early childhood mental health. That effort came out of a push by several health and early-childhood foundations to use local philanthropy dollars to expand the program’s reach in Colorado.

Stedron said the organization’s work to help plan Project LAUNCH’s expansion is “a great example of the intermediary’s role as a thought partner…someone to help accelerate what is a really good idea.”

Third, Early Milestones is conducting a national scan of state models for educating parents about the importance of and their role in their children’s earliest years.

“It’s been thrilling to embark on some of these projects as we’re in development,” said Stedron.

Chalkbeat Colorado is a grantee of the Walton Family Foundation, the Denver Foundation and the Rose Community Foundation. 

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Speech controversy heats up in Longmont

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 06/05/2015 - 09:55

Hold up wait a minute

The Denver school district and board broke state law when they pre-approved plans to create innovation schools in 2011 and 2012 without first gaining consent of the schools’ current staff members, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Thursday. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

speech controversy

The St. Vrain Valley school board will vote next week on sending a letter to a charter school affirming the decision to hire an independent law firm to investigate the decision to not allow its valedictorian to give his graduation speech. ( Daily Camera via Denver Post )

Food fight

Cherry Creek School District officials posted extra security at an elementary school on Thursday after receiving threatening phone calls and emails in the wake of a kitchen manager’s firing. ( Aurora Sentinel )

Post-Secondary Success?

Hispanic and African-American male students are less likely to enroll in and more likely to drop out of college when compared to their white peers, according to a new report by the Colorado Department of Higher Education. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Find your school district's college-going rate here. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

In a different report, the rate of new college students needing to take remedial classes to ensure their basic skills are adequate for college-level coursework dropped by 3 percent. ( Denver Business Journal )

school discipline

The Garfield School District Re-2 has a higher expulsion rate than most school districts in the state, including other districts in Garfield County. ( Post-Independent )

Survey says

RE-1 Valley School District teachers said they're concerned with the district's professional development and evaluations. ( Journal-Advocate )

Demanding answers in Dougco

Several angry elementary school parents asked the Douglas County School Board for action and answers during its June 2 meeting. They did not immediately get either. ( Douglas County News-Press )

Human Resources

The principal at Prairie Heights Elementary School will also serve as the Hanover school district's new superintendent. ( Gazette )

Home improvement

The JeffCo school board approved a motion allocating $15 million to fund construction of a new school in northwest Arvada to ease pressure of packed classrooms resulting from a massive housing buildout in the area. But where the other $10 million is going to come from is unclear. ( Denver Post )

Categories: Urban School News

DPS broke innovation law, appeals court rules

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 06/04/2015 - 20:25

The Denver school district and board broke state law when they pre-approved plans to create innovation schools in 2011 and 2012 without first gaining consent of the schools’ current staff members, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

The ruling reverses an earlier decision from a Denver District Court judge, who found that most of the district’s innovation plans did not break state law.

The state’s Innovation Schools Act became law in 2008 and was intended to give some schools flexibility over areas like staffing, scheduling and budgeting. It requires at least 60 percent of a school’s teachers to approve the innovation plans, which have typically included provisions like longer working hours or at-will employment contracts.

Denver Public Schools had approved innovation plans for 11 schools before teachers voted on the plans. The Colorado Education Association and Denver Classroom Teachers Association sued the district, saying that those plans violated the Innovation Schools Act.

Learn more

In today’s ruling, the appeals court remanded the issue to the district court, which will determine what actions DPS must take to be in compliance with the law. The court wrote that teachers in nine Denver innovation schools may need to re-vote to approve innovation plans at their schools.

Colorado Education Association President Kerrie Dallman said the ruling validated teachers’ voices.

“With this ruling, the Court reaffirmed the importance of listening to the voices of teachers, parents and administrators in transforming their schools,” Dallman said. “Change works best when it is collaborative. Districts who are seeking to utilize this law need to work closely with those in the classrooms and community to create the best learning environment for all students.”

DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg said the ruling has no immediate impact on current innovation schools or innovation plans. “It’s an important clarification on the technical question of the sequencing of the votes,” he said.

In an email to staff, Boasberg elaborated on that point. “The case is being sent back to the trial court to determine for the nine current innovation schools affected by the case what the appropriate steps should be. Pending appeal to the state Supreme Court, we expect this issue to be resolved within the next two years, with the possibility that the innovation schools involved will at that time have to take another faculty and staff vote on their innovation plans and resubmit them to the Board of Education. Again, in the meantime, there are no changes to any school’s innovation plan.”

Denver Classroom Teachers Association President Henry Roman said the ruling has implications for any new innovation schools. “Upcoming innovation plans will have to follow the process as outlined in the innovation law,” he said. “There needs to be a vote of the faculty before an innovation plan is submitted for approval to the Board of Education.”

Denver District Court Judge Ann B. Frick upheld Denver’s innovation plans in 2013, with the exception of its innovation plans for McAuliffe and Swigert international schools, which she determined violated the state’s Innovation Schools Act. Those two schools, Frick wrote, were not opened to replace struggling schools or as part of clear school improvement efforts in neighborhoods without quality school options.

After that ruling, Swigert and McAuliffe were ordered to establish a task force of staff, parents and community members to review their innovation plans and either re-submit the original plans or submit new, modified proposals.

While the appeals court left how the district should resubmit its innovation plans to the lower court, it suggested something similar to what Swigert and McAuliffe went though as a reasonable option.

Staff at all 11 schools have voted to renew their schools’ innovation plans since the initial ruling.

After Thursday’s appeals court ruling, district officials held off on recommending that the board approve innovation plans for Northfield, Denver School of Innovation and Sustainable Design, Shoemaker, and Legacy.

DPS General Counsel Alex J. Martinez said the ruling will likely be appealed to the state’s supreme court.

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Categories: Urban School News

Colorado Hispanic, African-American students still struggle at collegiate level, report finds

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 06/04/2015 - 15:40

Hispanic and African-American male students are less likely to enroll in and more likely to drop out of college when compared to their white peers, according to a new report by the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

The disparity between the percentage of students who graduated from high school in 2013 and enrolled in college the following fall was greatest for Hispanics, the report showed. Hispanic students made up more than one-fourth of graduating seniors, but accounted for less than one-fifth of the students who went to college the following fall.

Many of the state’s K-12 education reform laws passed during that last decade have been aimed at getting more black and Latino students to college. But once those students arrive on college campuses, they’re having a difficult time succeeding, the report found.

Nate Easley, the executive director of the Denver Scholarship Foundation, said this isn’t a surprising revelation.

“Latino students were less likely to enroll in college and less likely to complete it if they enrolled,” Easley said, referring to research his organization completed in 2007. “Black students are more likely to enroll than the national rate but less likely to complete (a degree compared to) the national rate.”

That trend stayed consistent in the most recent report by the CDHE, which studied high school graduates from 2009 to 2013.

Search for your district’s college-going rate in Chalkbeat’s Data Center

The percentage of African-Americans who graduated from high school in 2013 and enrolled in college the following fall stayed roughly the same, accounting for roughly five percent of the total population in both instances. Black students, as well as their Hispanic peers, faced problems once enrolled in college.

About a quarter of Hispanic students had a GPA of 2.0 and were at risk for not graduating or being placed on academic probation. African-American students fared worse. A quarter of them had a 1.7 GPA average.

Additionally, black and Latino students have the overall lowest first-year retention rates.

The bottom line, Easley said, is that students of color are at a disadvantage in Colorado.

“College success is a challenge for minority students,” he said. “Kids who are low-income, first-generation, an ethnic minority are more likely to face social and academic challenges to college graduation and college success than kids who are not.”

The problem is multi-dimensional, Easley said. But a big factor boils down to “cultural capital.” Students from ethnic cultures are less likely to have the money for college and more likely to be a first-generation college student, he said. This means they most likely don’t have the same support network as white students.

“To be successful in college you have to know how to advocate for yourself and you have to know when you need help and where you can go get it,” Easley said. “Kids who are not low-income, first-generation are more likely to have that kind of network than kids who are.”

In an effort to correct the disparity DSF does several things, including working with Denver Public Schools through their Future Centers. By being embedded in 21 high schools, DSF is able to advise students about financial aid and college options.

Another program that aims to reduce these gaps is the First Year Success Program at the Metropolitan State University of Denver. The voluntary program is designed to help first-year students, especially students of color, succeed.

The program uses “learning communities” that offer courses in pairs, which means students are enrolled in at least two classes with the same peer. The communities help students establish a network of peers and faculty members, which can be critical for student success, said Cynthia Baron, acting director of FYS.

“I think it’s especially important for high-risk students or underrepresented students, like African-American and Latino students,” Baron said. “Many of those students come from families where they are the first to attend college. It’s really important for them to have that sense of support. Not just academic support, but social and peer support.”

From fall 2013 to spring 2014, the retention rate for Hispanic students in FYS was about 81 percent. In comparison, Hispanic students at Metro State not in FYS had a retention rate of approximately 68 percent.

“This program makes a huge impact in terms of not just access for students who may not traditionally go to college, but also in terms of retention and graduation,” she said.

Categories: Urban School News

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