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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.

Court of Appeals ruling DV.load('http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2093562-innovationrulingcoloradocourtofappeals.js', { width: 620, height: 600, sidebar: false, text: true, pdf: true, container: '#DV-viewer-2093562-innovationrulingcoloradocourtofappeals' });
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

Find your school district’s 2013 college-going rate

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 06/04/2015 - 15:38

Each year the Colorado Department of Higher Education tracks how many students from each of the state’s school districts go to college. They also track whether those students choose to go to an in-state or out-of-state institution.

Among the findings in this year’s report: 55.3 percent of the 2013 high school graduating class enrolled in a postsecondary institution in the fall immediately following graduation. The college-going rate is down nearly 2 percent from then in 2012.

Additionally, enrollment rates declined for all racial and ethnic groups with the exception of Asian students. Slightly more than 70 percent of graduating seniors in 2013 enrolled at a four-year institution and 28 percent enrolled at a two-year college. Hispanic students are the most likely to enroll at a two-year college, while Asian students are the most likely to enroll at a four-year institution.

This data is collected and presented as part of an annual legislative report on postsecondary success of high school graduates.

Use this database to find your district’s college-going rate. And read our story about other key findings in the report here.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Polis wants third party to investigate speech controversy

EdNewsColorado - Thu, 06/04/2015 - 09:37

Point counter-point

The Colorado Supreme Court will decide whether the "negative factor" is constitutional after the court heard from the two sides in the pivotal school funding lawsuit. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

The lawsuit, filed by a group of parents and schools, argues that money is being cut from the established minimum base that districts should get per student. ( Denver Post )

speech controversy

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis wants a third party to investigate why a Longmont charter school stopped its valedictorian from giving a graduation speech in which he outed himself as gay. ( Daily Camera )

transition at CDE

Elliott Asp, special assistant to the state education commissioner, has been nominated to be interim commissioner. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

The central issue

The Aurora school board gave Superintendent Rico Munn the green light Tuesday to move forward with creating an innovation zone for struggling schools in the suburb. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Pay Day

Denver Public Schools is upping its minimum wage for its lowest-paid employees with $20 million that would otherwise have been earmarked for pensions. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

School safety

Two measures intended to improve school safety were signed Wednesday by Gov. John Hickenlooper. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

One of the measures makes school districts and individual teachers subject to lawsuits if they don’t “exercise reasonable care” in guarding against major school violence incidents, such as shootings or sexual assaults. Now, the question school districts are asking is, what is reasonable? ( Grand Junction Sentinel )

Classroom care

A growing number of educators, spurred on by a body of research, believe that teaching social skills to reduce aggression in the classroom not only keeps kids out of trouble well into their adult lives, but helps with academics. Here's a look at how one teacher is doing it in Montbello. ( CPR )

Human Resources

The Cherry Creek School District on Wednesday disputed claims a former kitchen manager was fired for giving hot lunches to students who didn't have the money to pay for them. ( Denver Post )

The Thompson school board is considering a budget that includes pay raises along a salary schedule as well as money to cover increases of insurance and retirement premiums — the same compensation package included in the failed teacher contract. ( Reporter Herald )

school closings

Catalyst High School, a small, alternative private school in Lafayette, is closing Friday after eight years. ( Daily Camera )

After 35 years of operation, the Montessori School of Golden closed its doors May 27 because owner Debby Selitrennikoff decided to retire. ( Arvada Press )

Categories: Urban School News

Hick signs two school safety bills

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 06/03/2015 - 19:29

Two measures intended to improve school safety were signed Wednesday by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The most notable of the two measures is the Claire Davis School Safety Act (Senate Bill 15-213), which is named for the victim of a 2013 shooting at Arapahoe High School. Her parents, Michael and Desiree Davis, attended the news conference, along with legislative sponsors.

The bill allows school districts and charters to be held liable if they fail to exercise reasonable care in protecting students, faculty, or staff from reasonably foreseeable acts of violence, specifically murder, first-degree assault and sexual assault.

There is a cap on damages, and districts have a two-year grace period before they could be sued. The bill also requires districts to provide information about incidents to families.

The original version of the bill worried school districts, although the two-year delay eased some concerns. The measure had wide support among lawmakers and was skillfully lobbied. Michael and Desiree Davis testified repeatedly in committees in support of the bill.

The governor also signed a companion measure, Senate Bill 15-214, which creates a 14-member School Safety and Youth Mental Health Committee to study those issues. That group, whose members are yet to be named, is expected to begin meeting later this summer.

Check the 2015 Education Bill Tracker for links to full bill texts and other information about the new laws, as well as about all education bills considered during the 2015 session.

Categories: Urban School News

Lawyers offer clashing views on Colorado school funding shortfall

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 06/03/2015 - 19:26

The two sides in a key school funding case offered sharply different interpretations in oral arguments before the Colorado Supreme Court on Wednesday.

The lawyers’ cases were interrupted repeatedly by the justices trying to tease out the meaning of the lawyers’ arguments.

The arguments were a key step in a lawsuit named Dwyer v. State, which challenges the constitutionality of the formula that the legislature has used since 2010 to reduce annual K-12 support and balance the state budget.

Lawyer Sean Connelly, representing the plaintiffs, argued that the formula (known as the negative factor), was devised with “the sole intent of circumventing the plain language and intent of Amendment 23,” the constitutional amendment that governs school funding.

But Senior Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Fero, representing the state, argued that Amendment 23 has clear language requiring annual growth only in “base” school funding, not all K-12 support. The language “provides the only answer the court needs because its meaning is plain,” Fero said.

The two sides have different interpretations of such key terms as “base funding” and “per-student funding,” a gap alluded to by Justice Nathan Coats.

“Reading the two sets of briefs, it’s like two ships passing in the night,” Coats remarked.

The case has crucial implications for Colorado’s school funding system and the overall state budget.

A ruling in favor of the plaintiffs could mean hundreds of millions in additional school support in future years but a possible severe squeeze on other state programs, including higher education. High court rejection of the suit likely would set a “new normal” for K-12 funding and be a bitter disappointment for school districts.

Do your homework

At issue is the meaning of Amendment 23, the 2000 constitutional provision that requires annual K-12 spending increases based on inflation and enrollment growth.

In 2010, the legislature created the negative factor formula to control school spending as lawmakers struggled to balance the overall state budget. The legal reasoning behind the negative factor is that A23 applies only to base per-student funding, not to additional state funds districts receive to compensate for staff cost of living, size, number of at-risk students, and other factors.

Prior to the budget crisis brought on by the 2008 recession, the legislature calculated K-12 increases based on both base and factor funding.

Fero argued that Amendment 23’s definition of the base is clear, and “there can be no question what this language refers to.”

The plaintiffs argue that use of the negative factor is “a charade.” Connolly said, “We should win because the state’s premise is wrong.”

Timothy Macdonald, the second plaintiffs’ lawyer who spoke, said use of the negative factor “renders Amendment 23 a hoax.”

Connelly and Madonald argued that the actual effect of using the negative factor has been to cut base funding, not factor funding.

Fero stuck to his position, saying, “I think they are trying to overcomplicate the case.”

Coats summed up the back and forth by saying, “It’s a question of what the base consists of.”

Use of the negative factor has created an annual funding shortfalls of about $1 billion. Despite improving state revenues and district pressure on lawmakers, the legislature has been able to make only modest reductions in the negative factor. It’s pegged at $855 million for the 2015-2016 school year. School funding will be $6.24 billion next year, compared to $5.93 billion in the school year that ends June 30.

Background of the case

The suit was filed in June 2014 by a group of parents, school districts and education organizations. The lead plaintiffs are Lindi and Paul Dwyer, who have four daughters in the Kit Carson district, and the case takes their name. A Denver judge rejected the state’s motion to dismiss the suit last December, sending the case to the state’s Supreme Court.

In addition to Connelly and Macdonald, the plaintiffs are being represented by Boulder public interest lawyer Kathleen Gebhardt.

The Dwyer case has attracted several friend-of-the-briefs in both sides. Briefs supporting the plaintiffs have been filed by the Colorado Association of School Boards and the Colorado Education Association, among others. A brief supporting the state’s position was filed by several business groups, including the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.

There’s no set deadline for the seven-member high court to issue a ruling.

Dwyer is the second major school-funding case to reach the high court in two years.

In late May 2013 the court rejected plaintiffs’ claims in the long-running Lobato v. State suit, which was a much broader challenge to the state’s school funding system. (See Chalkbeat’s Lobato archive here.)

The court issued its Lobato ruling less than three months after hearing oral arguments.

Categories: Urban School News

Denver Public Schools to increase minimum wage with pension savings

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 06/03/2015 - 18:42

Denver Public Schools officials plan to set a new organization-wide minimum wage and increase stipends for teachers in high-needs schools next year using funds that would otherwise have been earmarked for pensions.

A bill that reduces the amount the district contributes each year to PERA, the state’s pension fund, was signed into law today. The new law frees up approximately $20 million per year.

DPS had previously contributed to PERA at a higher rate than other districts in the state and as a result has a retirement fund that is more fully funded than the rest of the state. (Read this Denver Post story for more on Denver Public Schools and PERA.)

“I was delighted to see the law pass to provide for equity between DPS and the state’s other school districts and fulfill the promise of the PERA merger.” said DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg.

DPS officials laid out their plans for the new funds at Gov. John Hickenlooper’s bill signing event this morning.

The new minimum wage for Denver school employees will be $12 per hour. The increase will affect some 1,700 employees, including paraprofessionals, cafeteria workers, and custodial staff. Some of those employees are currently paid $9 per hour.

DPS will double its subsidy for health insurance from $750 per year to $1,500 per year.

The district plans to use the funds to add 30 teachers to its turnaround schools, to hire an additional 150 teachers in each of the next two years, and to expand its teacher leadership program.

DPS also plans to create a new set of financial incentives for teachers in 30 high-poverty, challenging schools. (Teachers across the district are slated to get a 5.6 percent raise next year.) Teachers would receive between $2,000 to $4,000 depending their evaluation score.

Boasberg said those changes were spurred partly by the recommendations of a task force focused on teacher retention in high-needs schools.

Denver Classroom Teachers Association representatives had advocated for some PERA funds to go to teachers, but one representative said DCTA had not given input on the proposal laid out at the bill signing.

Categories: Urban School News

Aurora school board OKs Munn’s innovation zone

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 06/03/2015 - 13:19

AURORA — The city’s school board gave Superintendent Rico Munn the green light Tuesday to advance his most ambitious school reform efforts yet.

But, school board members made clear, if Munn fails to garner community support he’ll need to go back to the drawing board.

Munn’s proposal is that Aurora Public Schools allow a group of schools to be freed from a variety of district and state policies, to accelerate student learning at some of it’s lowest performing schools, including Aurora Central High School. Known as innovation schools, those buildings and programs would have greater flexibility over its calendar, curriculum, budget and staff.

Aurora Central is at the heart of Munn’s plan, known as ACTION Zones, because the school’s time on the state’s “accountability clock” has run out. Aurora Central has been labeled as failing for five years by the Colorado Department of Education, because most students score below grade level on state tests. The school’s ACT scores and graduation rate are far below the state average.

APS has 17 other schools on the accountability watch list. And the entire district is at risk of losing its state accreditation if student achievement doesn’t improve.

Four other schools were identified by name in a memorandum of understanding APS officials will present to the State Board of Education later this month. The nonbinding document spells out Munn’s plan and timeline. However, after board members criticized Munn for not engaging those school communities, they were removed from the memorandum.

Data center
Find your school’s state rating here.

About a dozen teachers from Boston K-8, one of the schools named in the document, attended Tuesday’s board meeting. Two teachers thanked the district for not explicitly naming their school in the document. But Munn said Boston, which is also considered failing by the state, was still part of the plan.

Teachers and parents from Aurora Central also packed the board room.

Sharon Summers, an English teacher, told the school board that a group of teachers was working on ideas they hope can be incorporated into the final innovation plan.

While the most drastic changes won’t go into effect at Aurora Central and other schools until the 2016 school year, parents urged the board to move swiftly.

“I hate that I look at my daughter’s homework and know she can do it with her eyes closed,” said Erika Flores-Rowe, an Aurora Central parent. “I’d like to think it’s because she’s smart like her momma. But it’s because it’s super easy. She’s not being challenged. And I’m afraid of what will happen when she goes to college.”

In an earlier interview, Munn acknowledged parents’ concerns about the dire situation at Aurora Central. He said he’d be meeting with the school’s principal, Mark Roberts, in coming weeks to develop a plan for the fall.

With the school board’s OK, Munn and his team will begin establishing a variety of committees to craft plans for the schools, most in the Original Aurora neighborhood.

Under state law, for a school to receive innovation status from the state, a majority of the school’s parent accountability committee, teachers, and administrators have to sign off on the proposal.

“This will not work if we don’t have all the stakeholders at the table,” board president JulieMarie Shepherd said.

Other board members, who have been debating the issue publicly since February, said they were finally convinced innovation status would allow the district the greatest flexibility and community input.

“Even though we’ve been talking about this for seven or eight months, we’re at the beginning of the process — not the end,” Munn said.

APS memorandum of understanding with State Board of Education DV.load('http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2092869-central-mou-draft.js', { width: 620, height: 600, sidebar: false, text: true, pdf: true, container: '#DV-viewer-2092869-central-mou-draft' });
Categories: Urban School News

Asp nominated to be interim education commissioner

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 06/03/2015 - 13:03

Elliott Asp, special assistant to the state education commissioner, has been nominated to be interim commissioner.

A subcommittee of the State Board of Education recommended this week that Asp be named to the interim job. If approved, Asp would fill in after current Commissioner Robert Hammond’s retirement becomes effective June 25. The full seven-member board will vote on the recommendation at its meeting next week.

Elliott Asp / File photo

According to an email circulated within the Department of Education, “Dr. Asp has indicated he will not seek the permanent position.”

Asp is a well-known and respected figure in state education circles. He joined CDE in November 2012 after retiring as Cherry Creek’s assistant superintendent for performance improvement. An assessment specialist, he previously held a similar position in Douglas County and also worked in Aurora and Littleton. He’s 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’s become a familiar figure at education meetings and at the Capitol explaining department work on those issues.

Hammond announced his retirement decision in late April. See this story about that announcement and read Hammond’s comments about the future of education in Colorado.

Another key Hammond aide, Deputy Commissioner Keith Owen, also is leaving CDE this month to become superintendent of the Fountain-Fort Carson district.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Cherry Creek fires employee who gave free lunches to low-income kids

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 06/03/2015 - 08:38

stressed out

The number of Colorado school districts tagged with one or more indicators of financial “stress” has dropped slightly in the past year, the state auditor reported Tuesday. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

no lunch for you

The Cherry Creek School District's nutrition services department fired the kitchen manager at Dakota Valley Elementary School in Aurora, for giving school lunches to students who didn't have the money to pay for them. ( Denver Post )

coming out

Twin Peaks Charter Academy will launch an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the canceled speech of valedictorian Evan Young, who planned to use his graduation oratory at the Longmont school to come out as gay. ( Daily Camera )

Emily Bruell is far from the first gay student, openly or otherwise, to attend Roaring Fork High School. But she is the first to come out publicly in her valedictorian speech to a standing ovation. ( Post Independent )

staying put

Teachers in Steamboat Springs are more likely to stay in their positions from year to year than teachers in nearby districts and many other districts across the state, according to state data published by Chalkbeat Colorado last week. ( Steamboat Today )

fitting tribute

Friends and family of State Rep. John Buckner, who died last week, have set up a scholarship fund in his memory ( Denver Post )

New supe

The Englewood Schools Board of Education has chosen the district's next superintendent: Chatfield High School Principal Wendy Rubin. ( Denver Post )

Two cents

A fifth-grade teacher says state standardized tests are getting more rigorous, but still fall short of the NAEP ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

test prep

The SAT is undergoing major changes for 2016. And, as of today, students — for free — can tap into new online study prep tools from Khan Academy, the online education nonprofit. ( KUNC/NPR )

Categories: Urban School News

Fiscal warning signs highlight pressures on districts

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 06/02/2015 - 20:25

The number of Colorado school districts tagged with one or more indicators of financial “stress” has dropped slightly in the past year, the state auditor reported Tuesday.

The latest Fiscal Health Analysis of the state’s 178 districts found that 70 districts missed one or more of the five benchmarks used by the auditor’s staff to gauge financial health. Last year 76 districts missed one or more benchmarks.

Missing benchmarks isn’t usually considered an indication of financial management issues. “Missing the benchmark may not necessarily mean there’s a problem,” said Gina Faulkner of the auditor’s office.

“We don’t necessarily have a problem with the indicators, but we want to hear the story behind it,” state Auditor Dianne Ray told members of the Legislative Audit Committee.

In recent years the story behind the benchmarks often has been districts making decisions in response to tight state support for K-12 schools. For instance, some districts have chosen to dip into reserves to cushion the impact of state budget cuts.

Missing benchmarks is “triggered because of very thoughtful, intentional decisions by school districts,” Jennifer Okes, director of public school finance for the Department of Education, told the committee. “They don’t take these lightly.”

Do your homework

The five indicators

  • Ratio of general fund assets to liabilities
  • Adequacy of revenue available for debt payments
  • General fund ending balance
  • Amounts added to reserves
  • Annual change in general fund balance

State auditors review three years of individual district audits to compile the report. This year’s document covered from 2011-12 to 2013-14.

The report noted that the most common missed benchmarks involved reserves and year-to-year changes in a district’s general fund.

The report found that 28 districts missed two or more benchmarks, and of those, “Twenty school districts reported that they have experienced the effects of the reductions in state school finance funding.” The other reason cited by some of those districts was the cost of needed building repair and maintenance.

The 28 districts with multiple benchmarks “showed some sign of fiscal strain,” said Crystal Dorsey of the auditor’s office.

Okes notes that “many of these districts are small rural districts, and many have declining enrollment.” She said half have enrollment of 400 students or fewer.

Only one district, Pueblo 70, missed four of the five benchmarks. Superintendent Ed Smith described some of his district’s challenges to the committee.

“It’s a combination of things,” he said, including planned spending of reserves for the last five years and incorrect income projections last year. “It’s a delicate balance” to juggle finances and classroom quality. The 9,200-student district is on a four-day week, and “the only place left for us to cut is in the classroom.” Smith said.

Four districts missed three benchmarks, Adams 50, Alamosa, Englewood, and Silverton.

Ray said a key function of the report “is to start those discussions” about finances in districts and between districts and CDE.

Okes noted that 15 of the 20 districts reported as missing two or more benchmarks in 2014 have improved their financial situations this year.

Categories: Urban School News

Colorado on the right path to close “honesty gap”

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 06/02/2015 - 16:45

As a veteran teacher of 13 years, I have witnessed many changes to Colorado’s education system. Among them were the adoption of the Colorado Academic Standards and the Colorado Measures of Academic Success test, or CMAS.

Unless you were living under a rock during the past few months, I’m sure you have heard about parents pulling students out of CMAS, or at least its math and English components, also known as PARCC. One of the more common arguments for opting out of the PARCC tests is that students will be labeled as failures.

But with the revealing data of the Honesty Gap Report, it is clear that Colorado’s old education system was the real failure.

On May 14, Achieve, a national education nonprofit, released data comparing the differences between what students were scoring on the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program, or TCAP, exams and the National Assessment of Educational Progress. NAEP, for short, is considered the “gold-standard” of student assessments.

The results of the comparison are sobering.

Achieve’s analysis for the 2013-14 school year in Colorado showed a 26-point discrepancy between students scoring “proficient” on TCAP versus NAEP in fourth-grade reading, and a 10-point discrepancy in eighth-grade math. While Colorado most recently reported that 67 percent of its fourth-grade students were proficient in reading, only 41 percent of Colorado fourth graders met NAEP proficiency requirements.

While there’s much work ahead to close this Honesty Gap, Colorado is ahead of its peers. In fact, more than half of all states had a 30-point or more discrepancy between what their state assessment and NAEP proficiency rates.

So what is Colorado doing right?

Colorado was the sixth state in the country to recognize the need to revamp education and adopt new standards and better tests. In 2010, we adopted the new standards in 10 subject areas for kindergarten through 12th grade. The standards outline what students should know and be able to do at each grade leading up to high school graduation.

With new material being covered, we needed new tests. Colorado chose to assess students in math and English using the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

I have experienced both sides of the spectrum when it comes to assessment. From the days of almost no testing to our current system, I feel I have seen it all.

This was the first year  of administering PARCC. My students told me they liked the passages, the multimedia aspects, and the opportunity to show off their growing abilities to solve complex problems. Many of them commented that they felt confident and knew the material on the test.

PARCC is an assessment that will continue to help our students demonstrate readiness for college and career. There will be growing pains, and that’s OK. With a more rigorous assessment, there will likely be a drop in the initial scores. It is important to keep in mind that these scores are an honest reflection of student learning. Yet they are just one piece of the puzzle and a place from which to grow.

This honest assessment will allow teachers to meet students where they are and help them improve.

In order to help all students attain success, we need high standards and quality assessments. We need to keep in mind the benefits of honest data from a test aligned to our standards that will help teachers improve instruction to get students ready for their lives after high school.

I believe that this is the right direction to push Colorado and I am confident that this path will close the Honesty Gap and set all kids up for success in the real world.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: High stakes for Bureau of Indian Education schools

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 06/02/2015 - 09:49

Scary Food

Some Denver students will be getting more meal options after a student member of Padres y Jovenes Unidos pushed for school board members to check out the less-than-appetizing meal options at her school ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Summer of Action

The Jeffco Education Association kicked off a "summer of action" with a protest yesterday. ( Arvada Press )

Birds, Bees, and Beyond

How do you teach sex education in an era when many teens think they already know everything? ( KUNC )

Teachers Who Care

9News features a teacher at KIPP Collegiate Denver who's making a difference for his students. ( 9News )

Rick Hess blog

A pair of researchers assert that more funding in schools with more low-income kids could make a big difference in those kids' educational attainment. ( Education Week )

technology

A look at blended learning in a working-class Rhode Island school. ( Hechinger Report )

Takin gCare

Schools run by the Bureau of Indian Education are in dire need of improvement. ( Education Week )

Learning Languages

The Eagle County district is one of only two in the state where students can earn a seal for biliteracy. ( Vail Daily )

Teacher Turnover

Chalkbeat's district-level teacher turnover database is featured on Colorado Matters. ( CPR )

Categories: Urban School News

Outspoken student, burned sandwich and frozen fruit spur meal changes in southwest Denver

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 06/01/2015 - 13:54

The story didn’t start with the burned sandwich bun or the still-frozen strawberries on the lunch tray at Kepner Middle School in Southwest Denver. It started months earlier with a slow simmer of dissatisfaction over the quality of the school’s food.

But when that meal was served on May 12 during a lunch visit by school board member Rosemary Rodriguez, a district administrator, and representatives from Padres y Jóvenes Unidos, it perfectly captured the ongoing complaints: Food wasn’t prepared properly, some items ran out before the end of lunch, and there weren’t enough choices.

It was a Kepner student named Stephanie Torres, speaking about Padres’ health justice platform, who helped sound the alarm about such problems at a school board meeting in April. Her remarks spurred plans for the lunchtime visit by district officials. The visit, while coordinated in advance by central administrators, was not announced to Kepner’s kitchen manager or principal.

Monica Acosta, lead health justice organizer at Padres, went along on the visit and snapped a photo of her lunch tray.

“It was heartbreaking. That’s the type of food Kepner students have been having all year long,” she said.

In the last three weeks, Torres, Acosta, and others who participated in the lunch visit have reported positive changes in Kepner’s cafeteria.

Questions or comments about DPS meals?
Contact: Theresa Pena
Regional Coordinator for Outreach and Engagement
720-423-5657
THERESA_PENA@dpsk12.org

There’s no more frozen fruit or expired milk, and there are more hot entrée choices. Next year, there are plans to put Kepner on a different meal model that will increase daily hot entrée offerings from four to six, in line with most other middle schools.

“We’re very thankful those changes were implemented immediately,” said Acosta.

She said officials from the DPS nutrition services department have twice met with Padres representatives, including parents from Kepner and other district schools where complaints have surfaced.

“It’s definitely on the right track,” she said.

Navigating a bureaucracy

By most accounts, the changes at Kepner represent a win, but they also raise questions about what caused the problems in the first place, how pervasive meal complaints are in the district, and what mechanisms exist for students and parents to air their concerns about school food.

Theresa Peña, a former Denver school board member and now a district employee, said the nutrition services department is willing to have conversations with students, parents and school personnel about food. In fact, that’s a large part of her new job as the department’s regional coordinator for outreach and engagement.

If there are concerns, she said, “we are absolutely willing to do something different.”The biggest complaint I hear from students is the lack of variety.

Still, she agreed that in a bureaucracy like DPS, which serves nearly 80,000 meals at 185 schools a day, it’s not always clear to students or parents whom to approach when there’s a problem. Closing that “communication gap” represents a big opportunity for the department, she said.

There’s been talk about putting kitchen manager’s photos and contact information up in school cafeterias and bringing parents on behind-the-scenes kitchen tours. Currently, the district seeks feedback about school food through student surveys conducted at three mobile food service kiosks. Peña also plans to work with the district’s student board of education to solicit feedback.

“The biggest complaint I hear from students is the lack of variety,” said Peña.

A varied landscape

The problems at Kepner represent a distinct contrast with what multiple observers say is an upward trajectory for meal program quality districtwide.

About five years ago, DPS began moving away from a menu of processed foods to majority scratch cooking. (Both Kepner’s kitchen manager and another employee there have participated in scratch cooking training.)

The district is also well-known for its robust school farm program, which provides thousands of pounds of fresh produce to school kitchens every year. In addition, all district schools have salad bars.

“DPS is really doing some great things,” said Rainey Wikstrom, a healthy school consultant and DPS parent. “I would say one bad apple doesn’t ruin the whole barrel.”

Still, it’s not clear why the burned bun–ironically one of the district’s scratch-made baked goods—or the frosty strawberries were served on May 12.

“In any large district there’s always going to be a difference between the best intentions of the central office and what actually happens in schools,” said Sarah Kurz, vice president of policy and communications for LiveWell Colorado.

While Peña agreed the bun should have been thrown out, she said the Kepner kitchen, like others across the district, has struggled with short staffing throughout the year. She recalled that the workers were barely keeping up when she went through the lunch line herself that day.

Wikstrom said when she recently read a job posting for a school kitchen manager, it hit her hard how much is expected for a relatively low wage.

“We don’t pay our food service staff well…We need to offer them more support and more financial support,” she said.

As for the reason that Kepner students had few entree choices for most of this year, that’s because the school’s kitchen provides meals to a nearby district preschool as well and therefore followed a K-8 menu model. That model includes fewer daily choices than a middle or high school model.

A broader problem?

Kepner is not the only DPS school where complaints have surfaced about school food.

In fact, while lunch was the culprit this time around, breakfast has been a target of complaints in Denver and elsewhere over the last couple of years. That’s because more schools have added breakfast in the classroom since the passage of the “Breakfast After the Bell” law in 2013.

That trend, which often means delivering coolers of food to individual classrooms, has contributed to the use of easy-to-distribute, prepackaged items. Thus, there can be a big disconnect between what is served at breakfast and what is served at lunch.

“Breakfast items are not up to par…with where the lunch programs are” said Wikstrom. “[They] meet the requirements but don’t match the message or the philosophy.”

Padres parent Leticia Zuniga, who has a preschool daughter and first grade son, said through a translator that she is unhappy with how many menu items are flour-based.

Her daughter is clinically overweight and Zuniga worries that school food is not teaching her healthy habits. Her son, meanwhile, is not overweight, but comes home from STRIVE Prep-Ruby Hill two or three times a week saying he didn’t eat lunch.

“He doesn’t like the food,” she said.

In February, two students at McAuliffe International Academy wrote an article for their student newspaper in which they skewered certain hot breakfast items.

The girls wrote: “…it is a disappointment when your teacher opens the hot food container and all you see is half burnt pizza in a bag or half melted omelet in a bag. Even teachers think it’s gross.”

Peña acknowledged such complaints and said the district’s breakfast pizza has drawn particular ire.

She’s heard from multiple parents: “We think the idea of breakfast pizza is just wrong.”

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Longmont valedictorian gives speech

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 06/01/2015 - 09:39

The central issue

Parents and community activists told Aurora school board members Saturday that the board has waited too long and needs to take drastic action now to improve academically struggling Aurora Central High. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Here's a closer look at some of the issues at Aurora Central. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

RIP

Rep. John Buckner, chair of the House Education Committee, died Thursday. He was 67. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

speech controversy

The Longmont charter school valedictorian who earlier this month was barred from giving a graduation speech in which he planned to reveal that he was gay, instead gave his speech to a wildly supportive crowd. ( Denver Post )

His parents said they have no intention Friday of pursuing the issue further. ( Daily Camera )

Healthy summer

Colorado Springs District 11 is expanding its summer food program. ( Gazette )

And the city of Longmont is partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the St. Vrain Valley School District to provide free meals to children this summer. ( Longmont Times-Call )

money matters

Proposed budgets for the upcoming school year aren't as dismal as they were during the recession, when Colorado lawmakers slashed public school funding. But Colorado Springs school leaders say it could still be better. ( Gazette )

Human Resources

Parents and students, following the removal of a second-grade teacher from their Douglas County school, protested outside are calling for the resignation of their principal, under whom they said numerous teachers have left and staff morale has fallen. ( Douglas County News-Press )

Two cents

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni says the U.S. Department of Education is necessary. ( New York Times )

Categories: Urban School News

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