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School rating system gets tweaked

Catalyst Chicago - Wed, 08/27/2014 - 19:14

Just one year after unveiling a new School Quality Rating Policy that’s based on a range of indicators from attendance to academic growth, the Board of Education voted on Wednesday to now allow schools to be ranked entirely on their test results.

The change to the rating policy comes because high-performing schools would show less academic growth, thus affecting their SQRP scores, explained John Barker, the district’s chief of accountability.

Ultimately, this would “make it more difficult for schools that are performing at those top levels to [have] much growth that’s higher,” Barker told reporters after the meeting.

Under the revised policy, schools will get two ratings: one based on the SQRP and one based solely on test scores. The higher of the two ratings would be their official rank in the district’s 5-tier system.

Elementary schools that rank in the top 90th percentile nationally in both reading and math on the NWEA will automatically land in Tier 1, regardless of their SQRP score. A Catalyst Chicago analysis of the data shows that 50 elementary schools would be automatically ranked in the highest tier based on test scores, including 21 selective enrollment or magnet schools.

For high schools, the rating will be based on the composite scores for EXPLORE, PLAN and ACT.

Cassie Creswell from the anti-testing group More Than a Score says she finds it "bizarre" that CPS is revising a performance policy before even issuing its first ratings based on it.

 "The performance policy seems to ignore social science, which shows that when you put pressure on one measure then people start to juke the stats. They will do whatever they can to get high test scores," she says.

The ratings, which will be released in about three weeks, are important because they determine whether a school may be targeted for actions – such as a turnaround or closure. And parents are more likely to try to send their children to a highly rated school, which impacts enrollment.

Delay of PARCC?

During the public comment portion of the meeting, parent activist Wendy Katten told the board she was concerned about the state’s implementation of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (known as the PARCC), which is supposed to take place this spring.

“The issue with the PARCC test is not that it’s rigorous or challenging,” said Katten, of Raise Your Hand Illinois. “But the instructions are confusing, and the answers are often vague.” Katten added that some parts of the computer-based version of the test are clunky.

Illinois is one of several states that are using the PARCC to comply with federal requirements related to aligning curricula to the Common Core State Standards. CPS will not consider it a high-stakes test, meaning that it will not be tied to evaluations for teachers, principals or schools.

CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said she’s discussed the PARCC with Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis and both agree that there hasn’t been sufficient discussion around the piloting of it last spring. But her explanation of whether the district plans to ask the Illinois State Board of Education for some sort of waiver or delay was not totally clear.

“I’ve had additional conversations with the state superintendent and the president of the [state] board of education to say that we’d like further discussion around – and we presented why think that we should not – I’m not looking for a long-term waiver, but the opportunity for us to really to ensure that everything is in place so that our children will be the best they can be on that test,” Byrd-Bennett said.

After the meeting, Barker told reporters that school district officials from across the state have had “a number of conversations” regarding how the PARCC will be handled in the spring. Some school districts have expressed concern about the technology required to offer the assessment on computers, although there is also a paper version, while the Peru superintendent recently questioned whether states were putting too much emphasis on the test.

Barker said CPS is investigating its options but did not explain whether the district intends to seek a waiver or delay.

Meanwhile, ISBE spokesman Matthew Vanover said the state has no authority to provide a waiver or delay for the federally mandated tests.

“We did have an extensive field test this spring where about 500 districts, 1,200 schools and 110,888 students in Illinois took part in PARCC field testing,” he wrote in an e-mail to Catalyst. “The field test was a ‘practice run’ to gather input from teachers and students and to identify and correct problems with this assessment system before its first official administration in spring 2015. This field test did include the online and pen and paper versions.   These assessments are required under NCLB and we have no authority to waiver them.

NWEA analysis

Since CPS released school-level NWEA test scores a few weeks ago, it has been difficult to figure out how to analyze them. This is the first time CPS released the detailed scores and tied them to a performance policy. But the revised performance policy passed Wednesday reveals that the district is looking at the national attainment percentile—the average score of students, compared to the national average--as a measure.

Using that indicator, here are some findings:

  • Charter schools and neighborhood schools did about the same on average, while selective enrollment elementary schools and magnets did way better. Eight charter schools, including all the LEARN campuses and Alain Locke, did not provide NWEA scores.
  • The schools in Riverdale on the Far South East Side and Fuller Park on the South Side did the worst; while the schools in Edison Park and Forest Glen on the Far North Side did the best.
  • In reading, 87 schools or nearly one-fifth scored below the 10th percentile in national attainment. Ninety percent of them are mostly black and/or neighborhood schools.
  • Of the schools that scored above the 90th percentile in national attainment in reading and math and were therefore automatically given the highest rating: 28 are neighborhood schools, one is a charter school and 21 are either magnet or selective enrollment schools. Of the neighborhood schools, only one, Hefferan in West Garfield Park, is mostly black.
Categories: Urban School News

School rating system gets tweaked

Catalyst Chicago - Wed, 08/27/2014 - 19:14

Just one year after unveiling a new School Quality Rating Policy that’s based on a range of indicators from attendance to academic growth, the Board of Education voted on Wednesday to now allow schools to be ranked entirely on their test results.

The change to the rating policy comes because high-performing schools would show less academic growth, thus affecting their SQRP scores, explained John Barker, the district’s chief of accountability.

Ultimately, this would “make it more difficult for schools that are performing at those top levels to [have] much growth that’s higher,” Barker told reporters after the meeting.

Under the revised policy, schools will get two ratings: one based on the SQRP and one based solely on test scores. The higher of the two ratings would be their official rank in the district’s 5-tier system. (See revised policy in pages 19-30 of meeting agenda.)

Elementary schools that rank in the top 90th percentile nationally in both reading and math on the NWEA will automatically land in Tier 1, regardless of their SQRP score. A Catalyst Chicago analysis of the data shows that 50 elementary schools would be automatically ranked in the highest tier based on test scores, including 21 selective enrollment or magnet schools.

For high schools, the rating will be based on the composite scores for EXPLORE, PLAN and ACT.

Cassie Creswell from the anti-testing group More Than a Score says she finds it "bizarre" that CPS is revising a performance policy before even issuing its first ratings based on it.

 "The performance policy seems to ignore social science, which shows that when you put pressure on one measure then people start to juke the stats. They will do whatever they can to get high test scores," she says.

The ratings, which will be released in about three weeks, are important because they determine whether a school may be targeted for actions – such as a turnaround or closure. And parents are more likely to try to send their children to a highly rated school, which impacts enrollment.

Delay of PARCC?

During the public comment portion of the meeting, parent activist Wendy Katten told the board she was concerned about the state’s implementation of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (known as the PARCC), which is supposed to take place this spring.

“The issue with the PARCC test is not that it’s rigorous or challenging,” said Katten, of Raise Your Hand Illinois. “But the instructions are confusing, and the answers are often vague.” Katten added that some parts of the computer-based version of the test are clunky.

Illinois is one of several states that are using the PARCC to comply with federal requirements related to aligning curricula to the Common Core State Standards. CPS will not consider it a high-stakes test, meaning that it will not be tied to evaluations for teachers, principals or schools.

CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said she’s discussed the PARCC with Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis and both agree that there hasn’t been sufficient discussion around the piloting of it last spring. But her explanation of whether the district plans to ask the Illinois State Board of Education for some sort of waiver or delay was not totally clear.

“I’ve had additional conversations with the state superintendent and the president of the [state] board of education to say that we’d like further discussion around – and we presented why think that we should not – I’m not looking for a long-term waiver, but the opportunity for us to really to ensure that everything is in place so that our children will be the best they can be on that test,” Byrd-Bennett said.

After the meeting, Barker told reporters that school district officials from across the state have had “a number of conversations” regarding how the PARCC will be handled in the spring. Some school districts have expressed concern about the technology required to offer the assessment on computers, although there is also a paper version, while the Peru superintendent recently questioned whether states were putting too much emphasis on the test.

Barker said CPS is investigating its options but did not explain whether the district intends to seek a waiver or delay.

Meanwhile, ISBE spokesman Matthew Vanover said the state has no authority to provide a waiver or delay for the federally mandated tests.

“We did have an extensive field test this spring where about 500 districts, 1,200 schools and 110,888 students in Illinois took part in PARCC field testing,” he wrote in an e-mail to Catalyst. “The field test was a ‘practice run’ to gather input from teachers and students and to identify and correct problems with this assessment system before its first official administration in spring 2015. This field test did include the online and pen and paper versions.   These assessments are required under NCLB and we have no authority to waiver them.

NWEA analysis

Since CPS released school-level NWEA test scores a few weeks ago, it has been difficult to figure out how to analyze them. This is the first time CPS released the detailed scores and tied them to a performance policy. But the revised performance policy passed Wednesday reveals that the district is looking at the national attainment percentile—the average score of students, compared to the national average--as a measure.

Using that indicator, here are some findings:

  • Charter schools and neighborhood schools did about the same on average, while selective enrollment elementary schools and magnets did way better. Eight charter schools, including all the LEARN campuses and Alain Locke, did not provide NWEA scores.
  • The schools in Riverdale on the Far South East Side and Fuller Park on the South Side did the worst; while the schools in Edison Park and Forest Glen on the Far North Side did the best.
  • In reading, 87 schools or nearly one-fifth scored below the 10th percentile in national attainment. Ninety percent of them are mostly black and/or neighborhood schools.
  • Of the schools that scored above the 90th percentile in national attainment in reading and math and were therefore automatically given the highest rating: 28 are neighborhood schools, one is a charter school and 21 are either magnet or selective enrollment schools. Of the neighborhood schools, only one, Hefferan in West Garfield Park, is mostly black.
Categories: Urban School News

On a new teacher’s first day, some success and many challenges

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 08/27/2014 - 14:45

“Let’s get all our first day wiggles out,” Mary Young told her class of roughly 30 first graders at Denver’s Gust Elementary, the largest school in the district. As the students vibrated around the room, Young joined them, getting her own first day wiggles — and jitters — out.

Monday was Young’s first day as a teacher — ever. Two hours in, things were going smoothly. No one spilled too much juice or milk during breakfast and only a few students shed tears during the goodbyes with parents.

Not long into the morning, she already had an idea of what the dynamics of her classroom might be. One student who cried when his mother left had smaller breakdowns throughout the day. Another was unable to sit still during reading times and distracted Young and the other students.

What was less clear was how many students she’d have by the end of the week. Passing each other in the hall, Young and another teacher compared notes. Her colleague had one new student arrive before the morning ended. Young had three.

And Young was quickly beginning to understand the challenges she’d face in order to get all her students working on grade-level. When asked to find their nametags at the start of class, several were unable to identify their own names. Just four could read at grade level.

“[My principal and I] had that conversation of what it would be like,” she said. “I didn’t know it would be that low.”

Young is one of nearly 700 new teachers hired on for the new school year in Denver, many of whom were hired to fill the needs of the district’s rapidly growing enrollment. If national trends are true here, most of them will also be in their first year of teaching. Experts say the challenges Young faces are typical of new teachers: daunting classroom management, enormous academic hurdles and a sense that they may not be as well-prepared as they’d like.

In fact, Young was more prepared than most to enter the classroom. She spent a year working in classrooms as part of her teacher training program and is transitioning out of a career as a social worker. Her mother and her mother’s friends, all teachers, had warned about the challenges and came to help her get setup in the week before school started.

“Being a first-year teacher is really hard,” Young said they told her. But they also said, “It’s not going to be perfect and that’s ok.”

Still, there were some challenges she hadn’t prepared herself for.

“I’ve started a list of things I needed to know,” Young said. That list included learning what exactly a scope and sequence for classes are — and how to use them. She’d never encountered the idea of having to teach to a district-mandated lesson day by day for the year.

The list also included one that will shape the next two years of her teaching: how to instruct students who don’t speak English.

Denver teachers must be certified to teach English language learners within a year of starting in the classroom. But that doesn’t help Young in her first year, while she works on getting the certification.

Many of Young’s students speak Mandarin or Spanish as their first language and only four could read at grade level. Students are scored on an 18-level scale for reading proficiency and several students who scored in the lowest tier will have to jump a reading level every two weeks all year to reach grade level.

She received a half day of training during the district’s new teacher induction, but that left her with just a short list of tips: move slowly, work in small groups and give them the start of sentences to complete themselves.

That experience is typical for many teachers, said Lynn Kepp, the vice president of the New Teacher Center, which helps support early career teachers.

“The preparation, even if it’s an excellent preparation program, may not perfectly align with your student demographics,” said Kepp. “You could be a nanny but when you have your own kids, nothing prepares you.”

Still, Young was hopeful about the year, based on what she saw on the first day.

“I was surprised by how much they talked,” said Young. Most students enthusiastically answered her questions about their favorite colors and favorite foods, including several of the most struggling kids.

That’s her goal for the first few days: create a warm environment where students feel comfortable sharing, talking and making mistakes, so that the hard work of getting her students to literacy can happen.

For example, Young and her classroom aide will be distributing the free breakfast that nearly all her students qualify for, due to their family income level.

“There’s something very powerful about being the person giving them the food,” said Young. And she tried to quickly learn and call students their names.

She has also tossed out the “stoplight” discipline strategy that most teachers in the school use, which she called “public shaming.” Instead, she is using more subtle cues to allow students to calm themselves, including a chair called “Australia,” a name taken from a children’s book, where students can go if they need a quiet moment.

She’ll plans to use herself to destigmatize it for her students and to take the biggest piece of advice her fellow teachers gave her: “Just breathe,” because the hardest work still lies ahead, experts say.

“[First-year teachers] are super excited about the first day,” said Kepp. “As they begin to go through the first year, and they face these complexities, they start to feel overwhelmed. [They] feel alone.”

Soon, Kepp said, she’ll have to make tough decisions as the challenges of trying to get her students on grade level. Most first-year teachers benefit from extra support, mentoring and professional development.

The key for even the most prepared teachers like Young, Kepp said, is having someone there when you don’t meet your own expectations.

“That’s why you need people there to realize you’re doing ok,” said Kepp. Those relationships Young will have to start building to make it through the year. She has started to reach out to other teachers for help with English language learners and the school has assigned her a mentor.

But for now, she’s focused on building relationships with her students.

And they’re excited to reciprocate. Students jostled to sit next to her during class meeting. During independent reading, students called out to her to show them what they were reading. One student, summed it up when asked how she felt about the first day, “I’m excited to meet my new teacher.”

Tell us your first day of school stories and we’ll collect the best ones in an article next week. Email us or tell us on Facebook or on Twitter.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: Brighton board asks for tax increases

EdNewsColorado - Wed, 08/27/2014 - 09:52

New year, new duties

The new school year is bringing changes for Denver Public Schools’ two most influential administrators: Alyssa Whitehead-Bust and Susana Cordova. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Opening day shuffle

Teachers at Martin Luther King Jr. Early College are being asked to take attendance with paper and pencil and pop in a movie for upperclassman Wednesday while school and district officials work hurriedly to finalize student schedules. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Cost of growth

The Brighton school board is asking voters for a $148 million bond issue and a $7.5 million tax override in the November election. The district is one of the state's fastest growing. ( Denver Post )

Performance pay

The Eagle County school district spent more than $759,000 in performance bonuses this month as part of its performance pay program. ( Vail Daily )

Fewer sore shoulders

All 500 freshman at Denver's South High Schools are getting a Kindle Fire HD tablet, loaded with software, to replace backpacks full of books. ( The Denver Channel )

Moving ahead

The Greeley school board has named an interim superintendent and hired a search firm to find a permanent one. ( Greeley Tribune )

Boulder boom

Both of Boulder County's school districts say enrollments are up as the school year starts. ( Boulder Camera )

Full circle

Nathan Dirnberger, once an at-risk student in Colorado Springs District 11, has returned as the district's executive chef. ( Gazette )

FAFSA woes

Counselors and students agree with Sen. Michael Bennet's effort to drastically simplify the federal student financial aid application form. ( Denver Post )

Categories: Urban School News

Students to report to MLK Jr. Early College despite scheduling snafu

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 22:08

Teachers at Martin Luther King Jr. Early College are being asked to take attendance with paper and pencil and pop in a movie for upperclassman Wednesday while school and district officials work hurriedly to finalize student schedules.

Wednesday is the first day for 10th, 11th, and 12th graders at the combined middle and high school in Far Northeast Denver. But a computer glitch is preventing the school from finalizing and printing student schedules.

A district spokesman said he was unsure of the nature of the technology glitch. But he said the delay “isn’t because the staff wasn’t doing their job.”

The technical difficulties may lead to more confusion than just which classes students are supposed to attend.

Teachers, parents, and students were notified mid-afternoon Tuesday that classes were going to be canceled for those students who did not have a final schedule. However, district officials, including Superintendent Tom Boasberg, later told the school to stay open. A second notice was sent out.

“As this matter was brought to my attention, the decision was communicated to cancel instruction the rest of the week,” wrote Kimberly Grayson, the school’s principal, in a second letter to parents announcing that school would, in fact, remain open. “After careful discussion and consideration, and thanks to support from district and Superintendent Boasberg, we have decided that school will continue tomorrow for middle school and begin for high school as originally planned.”

In a schoolwide email to teachers, obtained by Chalkbeat, Grayson apologized for “jumping the gun.”

“[T]omorrow we will be sending students to their advisory class and the students will remain there all day,” she wrote. “You will take attendance via paper attendance. Please bring a few movies to watch with your students tomorrow (a clean movie).”

In that email, sent shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday, she also suggested teachers research some ideas for team-building activities.

Advisory classes are akin to home rooms.

Had classes remained canceled, the school would have been Denver Public Schools’ second false start this school year. Last week, district officials told parents school would start later than expected for students at Bromwell Elementary.

Monday was the first day of school for most DPS students.

Categories: Urban School News

Denver’s top two deputies on their new jobs and the district: “We’ve evolved”

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 18:32

A new school year usually guarantees changes for students — whether its a new teacher, a new subject, or a new friend.

But this school year is also guaranteeing changes for Denver Public Schools’ two most influential educators: Alyssa Whitehead-Bust and Susana Cordova. During summer break, Superintendent Tom Boasberg announced a reconfiguration of his cabinet that effectively made Whitehead-Bust and Cordova his top lieutenants when it comes to teaching and learning.

In their new roles (Whitehead-Bust is chief academic and innovation officer while Cordova is chief schools officer), no two people within the district’s bureaucracy will have more to do with what and how leaders lead, teachers teach, and students study.

Wanting to know more about their new roles, what they learned from last year, and what’s on their minds as a new school year starts, Chalkbeat reporters sat down with Whitehead-Bust and Cordova (and some chips and guacamole) earlier this month.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Kate Schimel: You guys worked together for a while now?

Alyssa Whitehead-Bust: We have.

Susana Cordova: You joined three years ago? It starts to feel like one really long school year.

KS: So then you know how to work with each other.

AWB: Yeah we’re getting to know each other. We’ve spent a lot of intentional time together. We spent several weeks together before you made a decision, talking about how do we want to work together? How do we want to be together?

SC: Alyssa’s going to be my work wife.

Nicholas Garcia: You two are close. We’ve established that. It’s interesting, Alyssa, that you said “before you made a decision.” What role did you have in this shift? Was this something Superintendent Tom Boasberg tasked you with, to kind of reimagine?

SC: Tom’s been grappling for a while. You know, we’ve made some really nice incremental gains. But when we look at the Denver Plan, incremental gains aren’t going to get us there. So he’s been really grappling with what is the right structure to help really accelerate the pace of reform.

AWB: I just want to add and I think this is really important. In my mind, organizational structure is contingent on the status of the organization. So I think the structure we formerly had served us really well for that moment in time. But we’ve come to a different place. We’ve evolved. We’ve got a new baseline. So to think about how we move from the current baseline to the expectations of the Denver Plan, now we need something different.

KS: So to make a comparison, for a school it might be the difference between “we don’t have systems in place” to “our staff’s on board. Let’s get ready to take the next big leap forward.”

AWB: Yeah, that’s exactly right. The theory is called contingency theory, that the structure that supports an organization is dependent on the organization’s strengths and weaknesses. One would imagine that as a learning organization, our strengths and weaknesses are different at different moments in time.

NG: That next leap forward for DPS is to 2020 and the Denver Plan.

AWB: Susana’s point is that we’ve been really successful in making several point gains every year and we’re nationally applauded for the fact that we’ve been on a positive trajectory for so many years because of Tom’s leadership, Michael’s leadership before him. And we know that that trajectory needs to look entirely different to meet the Denver Plan goals. So I think this is a very responsive move to think about how are we going to get where we need to be by 2020.

KS: If a parent were to wander up to you on the street and be like, “what do you and Susana do, each of your roles?” do you think you could give us that sort of understanding? Because we’re trying to wrap our head around it.

AWB: So my team is very much a service center, developing academic and innovation policy and practice. Susana’s team is very much about implementing those policies and practice. For them to be successful, we obviously need to be collaborating on both sides of that so I don’t want to suggest it’s a handing of a baton. It’s more like running alongside one another.

SC: We’re doing a lot of work from the support team side in terms of tiers of service, like what are the things you can just use as a school leader on your own and it’s on our website, it’s in a toolkit, you can access it, you can get at it. What are the things that need teams of people that go out and do coaching in your building or things like that.

NG: What was your big lesson learned last school year and how are you going to implement that learning into this coming school year?

SC: So I would say the concept of focus was really really critical for us. One of the places where we’ve seen some bright spots in terms of gains has been a couple areas where we saw very intense focus. So the progress of our English learners on TCAP, Lectura, and Access is one of the places where we saw really nice gains, nice movement.

(Editor’s note: Lectura and Access assessments measure English proficiency levels of students identified as English language learners.)

It was an area of incredible focus on always setting up the right teacher training,making sure kids are in the right classrooms, making sure that we had the right structures, more than we’d had as a district in the 20-plus years I’ve been in the system for sure. And it definitely paid off in terms of that level of focus.

Another area, at least  our early analysis is some really nice gains around math tutoring that was a really focus at some specific grade levels.

NG: So what are you going to be focusing on this year? How are you going to be applying that this year?

AWB: I think I would say what you heard me talk about earlier, the label “executional excellence,” focus is an enormous part of that. That is an enormous lesson learned for all of us. So I think the idea for this year is how do we really ensure some consistency and coherence around a whole variety of strategies — some as simple as using the same vocabulary.

KS: To take that down to the ground, what might be different about the experience of a teacher in a classroom this year?

SC: So things like LEAP (DPS’s teacher evaluation tool). We’ve got a really great framework and some really good systems for peer observers and principals to observe and give feedback to teachers. What we really want to work on this year is how are we getting into classrooms, how are we setting the expectations. So the focus this year is how do take what we’ve learned about observational feedback and turn it into these smaller, more manageable opportunities for teachers to focus, practice, get better and measure it.

KS: So that’s essentially going to be a change in the principal’s day. So they might go into a classroom for ten minutes, tell that teacher at lunch, “hey this is what I saw”—

SC: Or tomorrow at the latest.

KS: And come back the next week and see if it made a difference.

AWB: That’s exactly right.

NG: I want to get into a couple specific issues from last year that might turn into trends for the coming year. There were a lot of apparent changes happening to some pretty high-profile high school communities in late spring — changes at George Washington and at East and Manual. We heard some very vocal parent backlash. What are your takeaways?

SC: I was a DPS grad and have worked in DPS for my entire career. So I’m not really surprised by the kind of backlash that we experienced and will say — kind of humbly — that I don’t know that we always go into these large, really complicated situations, with all of the right information, with all of the right community engagement strategies.

I don’t know that we get all of the pieces right. What is pretty clear in the couple of examples that you talked about that we could have done a better job in how we do that.

What I will say is that where parents are, but not just where parents are but where communities are, schools are really important to people who have a long history in the community.

People are really committed and caring about the concept of what they believe their school has to offer. Whether or not the concept of what they believe the school can offer and what the school is actually offering is sometimes not well synced. And sometimes what it’s offering to some kids versus what it’s offering to other kids is also not always well synced.

AWB: One of the elements of the Denver Plan is that by 2020, 80 percent of schools in every neighborhood must provide a quality option to families who live in that neighborhood. fully concur that we have a lot of learning to do on how we engage in those conversations in a manner that leaves everybody feeling heard and respected and also allows us to push with urgency to make sure that all kids do have access to the kind of education they deserve.

NG: So on the East side, we had parents who were angry because there was change coming or apparent change coming, On the West side, we saw parents that were angry because they feel change isn’t happening fast enough.

SC: I know.

NG: Did you hear their message and if you did, what’s the game plan in southwest Denver?

SC: Yeah, you know, I was really engaged in the southwest Denver process and Alyssa’s team was for sure. It’s really clear we need to do a better job for our kids in southwest. It’s certainly the case at Kepner. We’re really hard at work in terms of trying to recruit a leader for the district-run school at Kepner, as well as thinking about the region and how we can do a better job for the kids that are there right now. And this is a place where I feel like we have to — it’s a moral imperative for us to learn from our colleagues in our charter schools. Because same kids, same region, much different performance. We have the obligation to learn from what is working in those place and replicate it. So that’s definitely one of the highest priorities that I have is how do I help our leaders, our teachers and the networks learn from what is working in other places.

NG: Is there a specific timeline or anything that you can share as a big next step for you?

SC: One of the things that I’m starting with is how can we set up a consultancy around what is happening currently in specifically some of those southwest Denver schools and inviting folks from Alyssa’s team, folks from our charter schools, to come listen to “here’s our approach to managing these schools. Here’s our problem. Let’s engage around what we’re getting right, what we’re getting wrong” so that we can really embrace that opportunity for conversation.

NG: We’ve talked a lot about the Denver Plan. A blue or green school in almost every neighborhood. Name your exemplar for the current district-run school that’s already or very closely meeting the goals of the Denver Plan.

AWB: I think McMeen Elementary has just consistently knocked it out of the park. They are incredibly diverse, serves a population of students for whom in other schools we are trying to get it right. And they get it right.

SC: There are like 100 different languages spoken at McMeen.

AWB: And they’ve been blue for years.

KS: Is there a story that folks should know about that they don’t know about, whether it’s about a school, whether that’s about a moment you had in a classroom?

AWB: I’d say there were a few. At Grant Beacon students there are really starting to own the school culture. The emphasis in that building has been on student leadership and seeing the influence that’s had on student culture and engagement and then on outcomes.

SC: A place some really great things are going on at the classroom level is Skinner Middle School and both around this idea of kids knowing and owning their data and their performance and their academic core classes. But I was in a Skinner Spanish class with seventh graders and I have a seventh grader myself in a Spanish class in our district and I was just so intrigued at what a great classroom culture this teacher had set up. Other teachers from other schools were there. They were watching, they were briefing her. It was just a fabulous example on multiple levels. What it did the for the kids, what it did for the school, what that teacher was doing for her teacher colleagues from around the city was great.

Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: State pot campaign raises hackles

EdNewsColorado - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 09:33

A Chat with chalkbeat

In an interview with Chalkbeat, Denver's superintendent discusses some of the controversies of last year and the district's push for diverse schools. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Turn that gap upside down

Denver's largest charter network, which opened its third high school yesterday, celebrated a rare benchmark: closing and even reversing the achievement gap at two campuses. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Don't call me a rat

The state's campaign to inform teens of the risks of marijuana is coming to districts around the state but Boulder school officials are opposing the campaign over the use of a human-sized rat cage. ( Daily Camera )

No clean bill of (financial) health

More and more of Colorado's schools have financial issues, a state audit found. The eastern plains saw the most red flags for schools' financial health. ( Chalkbeat Colorado, Denver Post )

Hit that snooze button, kiddo

Pediatricians are now recommending that schools start later, especially middle and high schools, for teens' health. ( AP via Aurora Sentinel )

Dollars for tests

More Colorado students will soon have the costs of AP and IB tests covered, thanks to a federal grant. ( Pueblo Chieftain )

City or school

Steamboat Springs school board members are skeptical of an urban renewal plan that could draw money away from schools and the county. ( Steamboat Today )

Categories: Urban School News

After unusual accomplishment, Denver charter network opens third high school

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 18:17

Just moments after Ben Cairns dismissed his teachers and freshman from their morning meeting, he huddled with DSST Public Schools’ head of schools Rochelle Van Dijk.

Cairns, a former Denver Public Schools employee, is founding school director of  the charter network’s newest high school at the Cole campus in northeast Denver. Monday was the first day of school for most of Denver Public Schools including freshman at DSST Cole High.

“Going to college starts today,” Cairns told his students during their morning check-in. “Everything you do matters … Your grades matter.”

Students at DSST schools are expected to move quickly in the halls and between tasks, be respectful, continually push themselves toward higher academic goals. So are the adults.

Setting the school’s high expectation and culture immediately was job number 1 for today.

Van Dijk, who previously opened DSST Green Valley Ranch, pointed out what Cairns did right and what he needed to work on. Cairns could of have had a little more fun with the freshman and built excitement about it being the first day of school, Van Dijk said.

Then it was off to check-in on classrooms with the associate school director Becca Bloch.

“If you don’t practice it right on day one, you’re not going to get it right on day two,” Cairns said.

PHOTO: Nicholas GarciaFreshmen at DSST Cole High School in Dexter Korto’s morning advisory class look to the back of the class where English standards are posted. Korto, standing, taught at DSST Cole Middle School before following the freshman to open the new high school in northeast Denver.

Getting it right from day one and continually improving systems and instruction within the network are in part what several DSST leaders believe have led to the charter networks most recent and unusual accomplishment.

For the first time in DSST history, tenth graders who qualify for free- or reduced-lunch prices at both DSST high schools outperformed their more affluent peers in some subject areas on state tests last spring.

“One paradigm we haven’t been able to shift is the income achievement gap,” said DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg at a recent meeting with the staff at Green Valley Ranch High. “What’s so shocking about the results here is that you’ve turned the gaps upside down.”

At DSST Stapleton, 92 percent of low-income 10th graders scored proficient or advanced on the state’s reading test, compared to 89 percent of their middle-income peers. Eighty-five percent of low-income 10th graders scored proficient or advanced on the state’s writing test compared to 81 percent of their middle-income peers.

At DSST Green Valley Ranch, 63 percent of low-income 10th graders scored proficient or advanced on the state’s math test, compared to 58 percent of their middle-income classmates.

At both campuses and in all subject areas, DSST’s 10th graders who qualify for free- or reduced-lunch, a proxy of poverty, either met or beat the district’s middle-income students proficiency rates.

While Stapleton’s low-income student population is below 50 percent, Green Valley Ranch’s rivals the districts at 71 percent.

Results like DSST’s inverted achievement gap are rare but not unprecedented, said Daria Hall, K-12 policy director at The Educational Trust, an education advocacy group that focuses on income and racial disparities in public education.

“To be clear, there are not nearly enough of these schools that points to a real change in high schools,” Hall said. “You see across the board high school’s aren’t doing as well, that’s why success at the high school level is that more important to celebrate and understand.”

PHOTO: Nicholas Garcia DSST Cole High School Director Ben Cairns and DSST Director of Schools Rochelle Van Dijk discuss Cairns’ first morning meeting.

Hall said her organization has identified four traits most schools that serve mostly low-income or large populations of African American and Latino students and that post high results on standardized tests share. Those are a belief that all students of all backgrounds can achieve at high levels; a commitment to developing leadership; a tight correlation between instruction and assessment; and quality teacher requirement, retainment, and development. 

Leaders at both high schools echoed Hall when asked what led to the surprising results.

Further, specific instructional changes last year at the charter’s high schools could have also contributed to DSST’s 10th graders beating the gap. At Green Valley ranch there was an emphasis on more complex problem solving and written statements in math. And at Stapleton there was a shift to more nonfiction texts, deeper readings, and evidence-based writing.

“It’s not about softening it for them,” said Jeff Desserich, school director at DSST Stapleton High.

Cairns has no plans on softening the DSST model at the Cole campus. After all, he was one of dozens of parents who lobbied for a high performing program to come to the northeast corner of the city.

“We didn’t want a pathways school,” he said, recalling the community’s feelings in 2007 when DPS was considering options for the campus. “We had enough of those in northeast Denver.”

This morning Cairns led the first morning meeting with the first class of freshman of DSST Cole High.

“We’re creating a school together,” he told the class of 2018 sitting in front of them.

Categories: Urban School News

Auditor’s review highlights financial stress for districts

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 17:05

Tight state funding and enrollment declines in some areas have taken a toll on the financial health of more and more Colorado school districts, according to a new report from the state auditor.

According to the report, in the 2012-13 school year, 20 districts missed two of more of the financial benchmarks the Office of the State Auditor uses to evaluate the financial health of districts. In 2011-12, only nine districts missed two of more benchmarks.

In 2012-13, a total of 76 districts missed one or more benchmarks, compared to 48 the year before.

Most of the 20 districts missing two or more benchmarks were small and rural, and several of those also experienced declining enrollment, which further stretched their finances. State K-12 funding cuts and the cost of construction and maintenance needs forced many districts to dip into their reserves. One of the auditor’s benchmarks relates to reserves.

“Rural districts, particularly on the eastern plains, are showing signs of financial stress,” Crystal Dorsey, deputy state auditor, told the Legislative Audit Committee Monday morning. She said 15 of the 20 district have 1,000 or fewer students.

Leanne Emm, associate commissioner at the Colorado Department of Education, agreed that eastern Colorado districts have been hardest hit.

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 to 2010-11 to 2012-13.

She noted that 12 of the 20 districts have fewer than 400 students and most have declining enrollments. “Normally those have maybe one building,” she said. “You cannot cut your fixed costs” when enrollment drops.

“You still have to turn the lights on, you still have to maintain the building, you still have to have your principal, who’s probably also the superintendent. … So these small districts are going to see significant strains.”

Emm predicted that even more districts will be on the missed-benchmarks list next year after the auditor reviews district information for the 2013-14 school year.

“Absolutely there will be more,” she said. Even though state K-12 funding has improved somewhat, “You can’t pull out of it that fast,” she said.

Only one of the 20 districts, 64-student Silverton, missed three benchmarks. In a response provided to the auditor, the district said it debt burden was up because of a 2010 bond issues, its operating margin and fund balance ration were down “due to severe decreases in state funding.”

The only larger district that missed two benchmarks in 2012-13 was 9,257-student Pueblo 70. District officials told the auditor’s office that “the district has made multiple cuts over time, however, without the spend-down of reserves, drastic cuts would have been required and the impact on student achievement would have been devastating.” Pueblo 70’s use of reserves affected its operating margin and the amount of change in its fund balance, two of the benchmarks.

Two of Colorado’s largest districts, Jefferson County and Adams 12-Five Star, missed two benchmarks in 2011-12 but none in 2012-13. The annual Colorado School Districts Fiscal Health Analysis report includes information from a three-year period.

The period covered by the new report was a time of budget cuts for districts. In 2010-11, statewide average per-pupil funding was $6,814, down from $7,078 in 2009-10.

In the following year, 2011-12, the statewide average was $6,474. That rose very slightly to $6,479 in 2012-13.

Small rural districts receive significantly higher per-pupil amounts than the statewide average – more than $15,000 per student in a few cases. But at that amount even the loss of a few students can have significant financial impacts.

The annual district financial health study is not an audit in that it doesn’t assess the compliance of districts’ financial practices with accepted procedures. Every district is required to have an outside audit done annually, and Emm said CDE didn’t find problems in the latest round of audits.

And, auditor’s office staffer Gina Faulkner noted, “Missing the benchmark might not necessarily mean there’s a problem.” But the report does highlight the steps some districts have had to take to maintain programs during a time of budget cuts.

Categories: Urban School News

Teachers get creative to find time for professional development

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 13:37

On a sunny August morning, several dozen teachers from a range of schools crowded into the cafeteria of Prieto Math and Science Academy in Belmont-Cragin. No children were in the room. On this day, teachers were the students, and the class was the Lesson Study Alliance’s summer institute.

In one corner, teachers from South Shore Fine Arts Elementary School presented their plans for teaching two-step word problems involving addition and subtraction to third-graders. Over several days, they explained, one teacher would go over addition and subtraction problems separately. On the sixth and final day, she’d combine both concepts into a single word problem about someone collecting and discarding rocks while on a nature walk.

The other teachers in the cafeteria asked how they thought students would respond, including the kinds of wrong answers they might offer. They also discussed the best order in which to write out students’ answers on the board, and how that might be important for future lessons on the order of math operations.

“When you’re working with a team, you think of things you wouldn’t have thought of on your own,” says Kelly Miller, one of the South Shore teachers. “We’ve all been to PD where it’s just a waste of time. This isn’t like that.”

Teachers and CPS leaders say workshops like those offered by Lesson Study Alliance are an example of quality professional development that both improves their teaching and fulfills requirements for state certification renewal and salary advancement.

But with limited time and resources, many teachers say it’s harder to get access to good PD during the school year. Even though 10 days for PD are built into the calendar year, teachers say it’s simply not enough.  In some cases, time is eaten away by administrative announcements or other school business – especially at schools that have cut support staff that used to handle those duties.

That means educators have to be creative to find and take advantage of opportunities, by applying for them over the summer and sharing with colleagues who don’t get to attend.

Mariel Laureano, the principal at Prieto, for example, offered to host the summer Lesson Study institute in exchange for allowing teachers from her school participate for free.

“It’s a win-win for everybody, as it really deepens their understanding of learning overall so that they want to be here,” she says.

Teacher-led trainings

In the meantime, CPS is trying to improve in-school opportunities by using a model of teacher-led PD. The district says the shift, which began two years ago, has less to do with saving money than it does taking advantage of the trust teachers have in their own colleagues.

The district trains so-called “teacher leaders” from each school on specific skills or curricula, and the teacher leaders are then expected to go back to their schools and share what they’ve learned, explains Susan Kajiwara-Ansai, executive director of Professional Learning at CPS.

The model has its pros and cons, teachers say. On the one hand, teachers can learn more from colleagues than outside providers because they have an intimate understanding of the local context and student body.

“It can be a powerful thing because of the local knowledge and relationships,” says Mark Sidarous, a biology and chemistry teacher who has done trainings for his colleagues at Community Links High School.

But on the other hand, many teachers said trainings are limited to what people in the building already know or happen to learn at one of the district’s trainings. And it’s extra work for which teachers don’t get paid.

To avoid burdening the same teachers repeatedly with extra work, CPS asked principals to develop plans for one of the district’s learning priorities, the Common Core, during a three-day summer training.  Annette Gurley, chief of the Office of Teaching and Learning, says this should have a positive impact on the overall professional development of teachers.

“We asked, ‘Who are you counting on to help you do this in your building,  to make sure we are not pulling on the same people all the time?’” she says. “It’s a rare opportunity to stop and really reflect on who we’re using without overloading them.”

Building trust, camaraderie

At Wadsworth Elementary, administrators and staff spent part of the summer developing a plan to encourage more teachers to lead trainings among their colleagues, especially on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subject areas. The idea is not only to spread knowledge, but to build camaraderie and trust in a school that has had a tumultuous past year. Wadsworth was recently designated a STEM school and last year welcomed students from closed schools, at the same time making a move to the former Dumas Elementary building when a charter high school took over the former Wadsworth building.

Many teachers seemed disinterested last year in learning more about STEM. “But when teachers were motivated and [got the chance to] train others, they would come in and share their personal narratives, and that was really the key that broke down some of the walls,” says Michelle Warden, the school’s STEM technology specialist.

The Wadsworth group worked on the plan to promote teacher-led training during the recent Summer Design Program, a project of The Chicago Public Education Fund. The Summer Design Program brought teams of teachers and principals from 40 schools together to find solutions for specific school challenges.

About 80 schools applied for the free summer program, which itself was a form of professional development that can count toward teachers’ requirements for certification renewal. Heather Anichini, president and CEO of The Fund, says she was pleased at the level of interest even though the program is only in its second year.

“People are really hungry for professional development that takes into account what teachers know and experience in schools,” she says. “So much of the professional development that’s out there is lecture-driven, non-engaging, kind of rooted in the idea that someone has one solution and it’s going to work in all schools.”

On their own time, educators are also seeking professional learning opportunities around the Common Core State Standards and the Framework for Teaching, on which teachers are now being evaluated, says Lynn Cherkasky-Davis, who heads the Chicago Teachers Union Quest Center.

“We are seeing a lot more people attending the study sessions we’ve developed around the Framework for Teaching,” she says. “Ratings are coming up this year and teachers want to know what they need to do to improve.”

Menu for principals

Meanwhile, the district is trying to make it easier for networks and schools to vet outside professional development providers.  Earlier this summer, CPS issued a broad request for proposals from PD providers that could support the implementation of some of the district’s top priorities, including the Common Core and Framework for Teaching. Principals and network chiefs will be encouraged – though not required – to use the approved vendors.

Last year, CPS issued a similar but more narrow RFP. Lesson Study Alliance, which offered the summer institute at Prieto earlier this month, was one of 19 providers that made the cut. Thomas McDougal, executive director of the organization and a former teacher himself, says what makes the “lesson study” model so useful to other educators is the opportunity to practice lessons in a controlled setting before taking them into the classroom.

 “Imagine a soccer player watching a video of a new move. That’s a helpful start, but does that mean he’s ready to go out and play?” McDougal says. “That’s how most American professional development is structured. You learn about ‘unpacking’ the Common Core or talking about ‘differentiated instruction.’ But does this mean teachers are ready to go out and teach this stuff?”

The RFPs also help the district itself to know what kinds of professional development opportunities are offered across CPS and how much is being spent, which is a challenge for any school district. In addition, district officials say the process will ensure providers charge schools the same rate for the same trainings.

Gurley says giving principals a go-to “menu” of pre-approved PD providers should save them from wasting time doing their own research.

“As the instructional leaders in a building, principals are very busy. We really want them to spend the time in the classroom monitoring and supporting instruction,” she said. “Whatever we can do to take something off their plate that is the focus of Central Office.”

Categories: Urban School News

Teachers get creative to find time for professional development

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 13:37

On a sunny August morning, several dozen teachers from a range of schools crowded into the cafeteria of Prieto Math and Science Academy in Belmont-Cragin. No children were in the room. On this day, teachers were the students, and the class was the Lesson Study Alliance’s summer institute.

In one corner, teachers from South Shore Fine Arts Elementary School presented their plans for teaching two-step word problems involving addition and subtraction to third-graders. Over several days, they explained, one teacher would go over addition and subtraction problems separately. On the sixth and final day, she’d combine both concepts into a single word problem about someone collecting and discarding rocks while on a nature walk.

The other teachers in the cafeteria asked how they thought students would respond, including the kinds of wrong answers they might offer. They also discussed the best order in which to write out students’ answers on the board, and how that might be important for future lessons on the order of math operations.

“When you’re working with a team, you think of things you wouldn’t have thought of on your own,” says Kelly Miller, one of the South Shore teachers. “We’ve all been to PD where it’s just a waste of time. This isn’t like that.”

Teachers and CPS leaders say workshops like those offered by Lesson Study Alliance are an example of quality professional development that both improves their teaching and fulfills requirements for state certification renewal and salary advancement.

But with limited time and resources, many teachers say it’s harder to get access to good PD during the school year. Even though 10 days for PD are built into the calendar year, teachers say it’s simply not enough.  In some cases, time is eaten away by administrative announcements or other school business – especially at schools that have cut support staff that used to handle those duties.

That means educators have to be creative to find and take advantage of opportunities, by applying for them over the summer and sharing with colleagues who don’t get to attend.

Mariel Laureano, the principal at Prieto, for example, offered to host the summer Lesson Study institute in exchange for allowing teachers from her school participate for free.

“It’s a win-win for everybody, as it really deepens their understanding of learning overall so that they want to be here,” she says.

Teacher-led trainings

In the meantime, CPS is trying to improve in-school opportunities by using a model of teacher-led PD. The district says the shift, which began two years ago, has less to do with saving money than it does taking advantage of the trust teachers have in their own colleagues.

The district trains so-called “teacher leaders” from each school on specific skills or curricula, and the teacher leaders are then expected to go back to their schools and share what they’ve learned, explains Susan Kajiwara-Ansai, executive director of Professional Learning at CPS.

The model has its pros and cons, teachers say. On the one hand, teachers can learn more from colleagues than outside providers because they have an intimate understanding of the local context and student body.

“It can be a powerful thing because of the local knowledge and relationships,” says Mark Sidarous, a biology and chemistry teacher who has done trainings for his colleagues at Community Links High School.

But on the other hand, many teachers said trainings are limited to what people in the building already know or happen to learn at one of the district’s trainings. And it’s extra work for which teachers don’t get paid.

To avoid burdening the same teachers repeatedly with extra work, CPS asked principals to develop plans for one of the district’s learning priorities, the Common Core, during a three-day summer training.  Annette Gurley, chief of the Office of Teaching and Learning, says this should have a positive impact on the overall professional development of teachers.

“We asked, ‘Who are you counting on to help you do this in your building,  to make sure we are not pulling on the same people all the time?’” she says. “It’s a rare opportunity to stop and really reflect on who we’re using without overloading them.”

Building trust, camaraderie

At Wadsworth Elementary, administrators and staff spent part of the summer developing a plan to encourage more teachers to lead trainings among their colleagues, especially on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subject areas. The idea is not only to spread knowledge, but to build camaraderie and trust in a school that has had a tumultuous past year. Wadsworth was recently designated a STEM school and last year welcomed students from closed schools, at the same time making a move to the former Dumas Elementary building when a charter high school took over the former Wadsworth building.

Many teachers seemed disinterested last year in learning more about STEM. “But when teachers were motivated and [got the chance to] train others, they would come in and share their personal narratives, and that was really the key that broke down some of the walls,” says Michelle Warden, the school’s STEM technology specialist.

The Wadsworth group worked on the plan to promote teacher-led training during the recent Summer Design Program, a project of The Chicago Public Education Fund. The Summer Design Program brought teams of teachers and principals from 40 schools together to find solutions for specific school challenges.

About 80 schools applied for the free summer program, which itself was a form of professional development that can count toward teachers’ requirements for certification renewal. Heather Anichini, president and CEO of The Fund, says she was pleased at the level of interest even though the program is only in its second year.

“People are really hungry for professional development that takes into account what teachers know and experience in schools,” she says. “So much of the professional development that’s out there is lecture-driven, non-engaging, kind of rooted in the idea that someone has one solution and it’s going to work in all schools.”

On their own time, educators are also seeking professional learning opportunities around the Common Core State Standards and the Framework for Teaching, on which teachers are now being evaluated, says Lynn Cherkasky-Davis, who heads the Chicago Teachers Union Quest Center.

“We are seeing a lot more people attending the study sessions we’ve developed around the Framework for Teaching,” she says. “Ratings are coming up this year and teachers want to know what they need to do to improve.”

Menu for principals

Meanwhile, the district is trying to make it easier for networks and schools to vet outside professional development providers.  Earlier this summer, CPS issued a broad request for proposals from PD providers that could support the implementation of some of the district’s top priorities, including the Common Core and Framework for Teaching. Principals and network chiefs will be encouraged – though not required – to use the approved vendors.

Last year, CPS issued a similar but more narrow RFP. Lesson Study Alliance, which offered the summer institute at Prieto earlier this month, was one of 19 providers that made the cut. Thomas McDougal, executive director of the organization and a former teacher himself, says what makes the “lesson study” model so useful to other educators is the opportunity to practice lessons in a controlled setting before taking them into the classroom.

 “Imagine a soccer player watching a video of a new move. That’s a helpful start, but does that mean he’s ready to go out and play?” McDougal says. “That’s how most American professional development is structured. You learn about ‘unpacking’ the Common Core or talking about ‘differentiated instruction.’ But does this mean teachers are ready to go out and teach this stuff?”

The RFPs also help the district itself to know what kinds of professional development opportunities are offered across CPS and how much is being spent, which is a challenge for any school district. In addition, district officials say the process will ensure providers charge schools the same rate for the same trainings.

Gurley says giving principals a go-to “menu” of pre-approved PD providers should save them from wasting time doing their own research.

“As the instructional leaders in a building, principals are very busy. We really want them to spend the time in the classroom monitoring and supporting instruction,” she said. “Whatever we can do to take something off their plate that is the focus of Central Office.”

Categories: Urban School News

Latino Youth Alternative School teachers to vote on union contract

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 13:22

Nearly five years after they started organizing to form a union, teachers at the alternative Latino Youth High School in Pilsen say they’re preparing to vote on their first labor contract.

Organizers said they are still finalizing the details on the tentative agreement with the school’s operator, Pilsen Wellness Center. The 12 teachers included in the contract won’t vote on it until after school begins in September, and the school’s board also has to ratify the contract.

The tentative agreement includes language on due process and the formation of committees for teachers to participate in making decisions about the school, including on social-emotional and academic issues. Teachers will also work with management to develop the process and tools to be used in their own evaluations.

The tentative agreement also creates a step and lane system for salary increases, a first in any union contract for charter teachers in Chicago.

“This makes it more attractive to teachers with advanced degrees to work for the school, and encourages people who are already there to continue their educations,” said Chris Baehrend, an English teacher at Latino Youth and the vice president of Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (Chicago ACTS). “Overall, we’re satisfied with the contract.”

Administrators of Pilsen Wellness Center and an attorney representing the non-profit organization did not respond to requests seeking comment on the negotiations.

Teachers at Latino Youth had voted to unionize under state labor law in 2010, but the school appealed to the National Labor Relations Board, arguing that the state’s education labor laws didn’t apply because it was a charter school. After a protracted fight, teachers again voted under federal labor law last fall, and have been negotiating their first contract ever since.

Baehrend said the process helped rebuild the relationship between teachers and management.

“Sitting down with that board and having discussions really created trust in that we all want to do what’s in students’ best interest,” he said.

Latino Youth is one of 20 alternative schools that operate under the umbrella of Youth Connection Charter Schools (YCCS), the non-profit organization that hold the charter with Chicago Public Schools. Last year Latino Youth reported an enrollment of about 200 students, grades 10 through 12.

It’s one of 29 unionized charter schools in Chicago, representing about a quarter of all charter schools in the city. Apart from Latino Youth, the only other school that lacks a contract is Chicago International Charter School (CICS) ChicagoQuest.

Teachers there voted to unionize in May after a months-long standoff with CICS. Those teachers are currently in contract negotiations with the school’s management group, ChicagoQuest Schools. Another three CICS schools managed by a separate management group already have a contract.

Categories: Urban School News

Latino Youth Alternative School teachers to vote on union contract

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 13:22

Nearly five years after they started organizing to form a union, teachers at the alternative Latino Youth High School in Pilsen say they’re preparing to vote on their first labor contract.

Organizers said they are still finalizing the details on the tentative agreement with the school’s operator, Pilsen Wellness Center. The 12 teachers included in the contract won’t vote on it until after school begins in September, and the school’s board also has to ratify the contract.

The tentative agreement includes language on due process and the formation of committees for teachers to participate in making decisions about the school, including on social-emotional and academic issues. Teachers will also work with management to develop the process and tools to be used in their own evaluations.

The tentative agreement also creates a step and lane system for salary increases, a first in any union contract for charter teachers in Chicago.

“This makes it more attractive to teachers with advanced degrees to work for the school, and encourages people who are already there to continue their educations,” said Chris Baehrend, an English teacher at Latino Youth and the vice president of Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (Chicago ACTS). “Overall, we’re satisfied with the contract.”

Administrators of Pilsen Wellness Center and an attorney representing the non-profit organization did not respond to requests seeking comment on the negotiations.

Teachers at Latino Youth had voted to unionize under state labor law in 2010, but the school appealed to the National Labor Relations Board, arguing that the state’s education labor laws didn’t apply because it was a charter school. After a protracted fight, teachers again voted under federal labor law last fall, and have been negotiating their first contract ever since.

Baehrend said the process helped rebuild the relationship between teachers and management.

“Sitting down with that board and having discussions really created trust in that we all want to do what’s in students’ best interest,” he said.

Latino Youth is one of 20 alternative schools that operate under the umbrella of Youth Connection Charter Schools (YCCS), the non-profit organization that hold the charter with Chicago Public Schools. Last year Latino Youth reported an enrollment of about 200 students, grades 10 through 12.

It’s one of 29 unionized charter schools in Chicago, representing about a quarter of all charter schools in the city. Apart from Latino Youth, the only other school that lacks a contract is Chicago International Charter School (CICS) ChicagoQuest.

Teachers there voted to unionize in May after a months-long standoff with CICS. Those teachers are currently in contract negotiations with the school’s management group, ChicagoQuest Schools. Another three CICS schools managed by a separate management group already have a contract.

Categories: Urban School News

Boasberg: Despite controversies, push for equity, diversity in schools will continue

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 09:52

As the 2013-14 school year ended in May, a number of Denver Public Schools communities were roiled by impending changes or rumors of changes that could fundamentally alter the education landscape at those schools.

In particular, a move to open the exclusive 30-year-old International Baccalaureate program at George Washington High School to more students, and rumors about a possible shared ninth-grade academy for East and Manual high school students created uproars. It wasn’t the only change Denver school officials are pushing as an effort to increase equity and diversity in its flagship schools. In 2013, the DPS board decided to move the popular and successful McAuliffe International School from the predominantly white and affluent Stapleton neighborhood to Smiley Middle School in a more racially and socioeconomically diverse section of the Park Hill neighborhood. That move takes effect with the start of the 2014-15 school year.

Historically, DPS leadership has been reluctant to cross swords with the powerful parent constituencies at places like Stapleton, East and George Washington, let alone come into conflict with multiple groups simultaneously. But with Superintendent Tom Boasberg entering his sixth year on the job, backed by a school board more unified than in recent years, could it be that district leadership decided that now was an opportune time to fight some tough battles?

Chalkbeat sat down with Boasberg this summer to discuss these moves, and the guiding principles that underlie them. This Q&A has been edited for length.

Can you talk about the core beliefs or grand vision that underlie some of these moves?

These issues are the most emotional and some of the most important in our society, around race and class and neighborhood, and they all get played out around the schools. The first core belief in play here is quality. Our goal first and foremost is to have our schools be quality schools that deliver quality education for kids; rich or poor, brown black or white. [This means] they have good teachers and strong  leaders and rich course offerings and strong collaborations that challenge kids. Because unless your schools are high quality, nothing else matters, right? Everyone is going to try to go to a place where they perceive that they can get a higher quality education and that is true for affluent folks, it is true for folks  in poverty, it is true regardless of the color of your skin.

Paired with that is a core belief in equity and diversity. It is a publicly stated core belief. The new revised Denver Plan starts with our core beliefs around students, around equity being at the core of our mission, and diversity being a real gift. Our kids tell us how much they want to be in schools that reflect the diversity  of the commuity they’re a part of. Most of our parents support that, some with greater degrees of enthusiasm  than others.

Many families live in Denver because of the diversity. Kids want to be in schools and want to be in programs that are diverse. It doesn’t mean there aren’t tensions. Yes, of course there are. It doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of long held suspicions and biases and mistrusts and fears. Yes, there are. But ours is a society that has centuries of issues and concerns around issues of race. So I think we start with those core beliefs in quality, core beliefs in diversity, and a real belief that those two go hand in hand. They are not in any way opposed to each other or inimical to each other, but that they go hand and hand and that’s what our kids want and  our families want. They want high quality schools that are diverse schools.

Some would argue that the best way to get high quality is through diversity.

It is not the sole way; there are absolutely schools [whose students] are overwhelmingly low-income kids, kids of color that are very high quality schools. But I do think there is a lot of research that shows that low-income kids do better generally in mixed-income schools and higher income kids do very well in mixed income schools. That evidence is compelling.

In recent months, you’ve made decisions around boundaries for the new Stapleton High School that include a lower-income community. You’ve moved McAuliffe to Smiley. Now you’re taking on IB at George Washington and possibly East/Manual. Why now? Why all of these almost simultaneously?

Actually, we have been taking very significant steps toward this for multiple years…We took two years in conversation with Stapleton and Park Hill over removing Quebec Street as a boundary line between [the two neighborhoods] and having the community enrollment zone. This has been a pretty constant and consistent thread that we’ve had. And as we go into each of these, we ask how do we structure enrollment systems and boundaries in a way to promote diversity as opposed to lessen diversity?

What prompted the effort to open up the IB program at George Washington, which has been highly successful for 30 years as an exclusive offering to top students?

I tremendously admire the strength of the IB program. I think it is an extraordinary program and absolutely I am 100 percent committed to continue having a wonderful, first-class rigorous IB program at George. But I think it’s fair to say [its lack of diversity] has been a question and concern that has been going on for quite some time. We thought it was important that we be willing to work with the community and try and bring  forward the changes we are proposing. We are committed to change and absolutely to working with the community on the changes. We are very committed to making the changes real.

There have been several attempts in the past to make changes to this program, and they’ve always failed. Why is it different this time?

I think we all know some of the political pressures and political opposition on this particular issue. Why now? We have very strong feeder patterns for the school. You see real strength in the elementary schools; the middle schools are significantly stronger too. This gives us confidence. We have a lot of families who want a really, really good high school and have said to us that [George Washington] as it currently exists isn’t right for my kid. My kid is not an IB kid and the tradiitonal program is not as strong as it needs to be and I have concerns about going to a high school with the degree of  separation that we have. So we’ve  got a lot of families knocking on our door saying we want the change.

Are there families that are opposed to the change? Yes, there are. And I respect and understand their concerns and I think  we are going to be extremely strong in continuing to emphasize and reemphasize that we will continue to have an extraordinarily rigorous IB program at GW. I had the remarkable opportunity to go to a very rigorous school [the private St. Albans school in Washington D.C.] and it gave me incredible opportunities in terms of the kind of college I could go to and then opportunities later in life. I want our kids to have exactly that kind of extremely rigorous and challenging opportunity that I had and that kids in IB at GW have benefitted from.

How significant will the changes to IB be?

I believe we can have the IB program at GW look like every other IB program in every other high quality IB school in the state that I’m aware of. That means don’t put all ninth and 10th-graders into an all-or-nothing choice, where you have to take all IB courses or you take none, and you separate the kids from the moment  they even seek to come to the school. Sometimes we try to play these issues of quality and diversity against each other and say these are opposing values. I don’t think they are. Will every kid in George Washington go into the IB Diploma Program? Absolutely not. That’s not true at any other high quality IB program. Those  ninth and 10th grade courses, they will be equally as rigouous as they are today; more kids will access them, that is great. Many kids won’t be prepared for them, and they won’t be in those courses.

At George, we’ve had a program for 30 years, and while it has had wonderful, wonderful aspects, the degree of separation is too high. There is a large degree of support and consensus around that. we need to work very closely and carefully with the school and parent community on what this transition will look like. For example: What are the  sequence of courses to go into the AP program? Wha are the right set of standards to make sure the kids who  take the pre-IB courses are absolutely prepared and supported in taking those courses? We’re really committed to having those conversations and at the same time committed that the level of separation that currently exists needs to go down.

You stirred up the hornet’s nest with talk about a East-Manual ninth-grade academy. Where does that stand?

The proposal on the partnership between East and Manual has been something East has been considering for a long time, that long predated [current principal] Andy Mendelsberg. I do think we have heard loudly and clearly the questions  and concerns there. From the beginning we’ve said in that conversation we should start with the basic question of should there be some form of partnership between East and Manual. Then if the answer is yes, what  are the diffeent partnership structures?  What could they potentially look like? This was one where some of the folks in the advisory groups had said ‘stop talking philosophically and give us  an example and let us comment on an example.’ And in retrospect we probably would have been better off saying no to that. We need to have the broader conversation first. That’s where  we’re going to go back and start in August.

One of the never-ending debates concerns neighborhood schools vs. diverse schools. In a largely segregated city, how can you have both?

We deeply believe in neighborhood schools and deeply believe in having good schools in communities for kids to be able to go to. That’s the overarching goal of the new draft Denver Plan, great schools in every community. At the same time we have worked, particularly at the secondary level, to examine creations of community enrollment zones. Instead of having for example one middle school in a boundary, having a somehwat larger boundary and having multiple  choices for families in that community to go to.

Historical and current patterns of housing segregation are very real. At the same  time Denver is going through significant demographic changes. In Denver in many neighborhoods if you put a compass point down on the map and draw a very small radius out from it a half mile, you will often find within that circle you draw, not a lot of racial and economic diversity. But if you take that compass and `draw it out a little further, maybe a mile, mile and a half, so you have a three-mile diameter circle, there are many, many places that are very richly diverse.

What does success in this regard look like 10, 15 years down the road?

Success looks like more and more families insisting and demanding that their schools be high quality and diverse. That we’re able to make significant progress from some of the conversations we’ve been having for the last several decades: that quality and diversity somehow can’t go hand in hand. So what I would like to see 10 years from now is high quality and diverse schools; schools that look more like our community.

Categories: Urban School News

Take 5: Dyett's future, summer of SUPES, Duncan re-thinks testing

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 09:16

The Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization announced today that CPS officials called some of Dyett’s remaining students last week to encourage them to transfer to another school. During a press conference this morning, KOCO leader Jitu Brown said the move indicates CPS intends to close the school one year earlier than planned and that the students, all seniors, “are now being displaced for the last year of their high school.”

CPS officials confirmed late Monday afternoon that they "have contacted the remaining 21 students [...] to explore their interest in transferring" and said 12 of those students are in the process of transfering out. Though that leaves just nine students, CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said the district does not intend to close the school: "If students want to stay at Dyett, they can stay at Dyett."

Since 2011, KOCO activists, students and parents have led a full scale effort to save the school, noting that it is the only neighborhood high school in the area. They came up with a plan called the Bronzeville Global Achievers Village, to align the curriculum of feeder schools with Dyett’s.

In recent months, Brown said, some students at a local alternative school called Little Black Pearl Art and Design Academy had told him they were moving into Dyett. But then he said local officials told him that they wanted to keep a neighborhood school there.


2. Rare plaudits… What is ironic is that KOCO planned a press conference Monday for a rare move: applauding the U.S. Department of Education. KOCO and a national coalition of activists called the Journey for Justice Alliance are impressed with a new provision included in the application for federal School Improvement Grants for low-achieving schools.

Until now, the SIG program required one of four drastic actions that the Alliance has fought because they rely on private entities and mass firings: closure; restart, which means closure and re-opening as a charter; turnaround, which entails firing at least half of the staff, including the leadership; or transformation, under which an outside entity comes in to help improve the school and the principal must be relatively new. A fifth provision is being added this year: the “proven whole school reform model.” It will allow schools to keep their staff and adopt a strategy that has been proven to work in other similar schools.

In a press release, Brown, who is national director for Journey for Justice, said: “This is an opportunity for the U.S. Department of Education to begin to right a wrong.” The press conference will be at 11 a.m. Monday at City Hall, 121 N. Lasalle. At least 10 groups in other cities will also be holding actions.

3. Summer of SUPES… Principals, assistant principals and other network leaders have spent a lot of time this summer going to Chicago Executive Leadership Academy professional development, organized by SUPES Academy, according to an e-mail sent to principals and forwarded to Catalyst. The e-mail sent out last week boasts that 56 sessions were held over the summer with more than 600 participants and they are getting better ratings. It also says that 67 administrators have coaches and that they have “touched base” more than 2,000 times. The principal who forwarded the e-mail is skeptical, though, especially since the trainings she attended had low attendance that dwindled through the day.

Getting principals to buy into the expensive training has been difficult, especially as they have been struggling with tight budgets. SUPES is the Wilmette-based outfit that last year was given a $20 million, three-year no-bid contract to provide training and individualized coaching to principals and other administrators. The SUPES contract has been met with deep suspicion because Barbara Byrd-Bennett worked for SUPES prior to becoming CPS CEO, and it had contracts with her former school districts. What’s more, principals complained that the training was a waste of time and that their coaches did not have enough experience with urban schools to be helpful.

That the trainings and coaching are led by some current superintendents has also been controversial. These trainers and coaches are paid thousands of dollars, according to sources, though SUPES officials have refused to divulge the exact amounts. Some of the superintendents getting paid by SUPES run school districts that have awarded contracts to SUPES. This revelation has led to a world of trouble for Dallas Dance, the Baltimore County School superintendent. Dance’s consulting work with SUPES led to an ethics complaint. Also, it led to the state prosecutor announcing last week that he was investigating his school board for its contract with Dance, according to the Baltimore Sun.

4. Back to testing… U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is giving states the go ahead to delay for one year using test scores in teacher evaluations, the New York Times reports. But perhaps even bigger news is Duncan’s acknowledgement in his “Back-to School Conversation” blog post that testing has become a problem. “Testing---and test preparation---is taking up too much time,” he writes. Yet he also makes a case for why testing is important. Assessment plays an important role in learning and teaching, especially as it sheds light on students and groups of students who need help, he writes. But Duncan writes that as schools transition to more rigorous standards, called the Common Core Standards, testing is “sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools--oxygen that is needed for a healthy transition to higher standards, improved systems for data, better aligned assessments, teacher professional development, evaluation and support, and more.”

Getting Race to the Top federal grant money was predicated on having a law in place that, among other things, tied test scores to teacher performance evaluations. Forty states, including Illinois, passed such laws. In 2011, Illinois was awarded $42.8 million under the grant program. Catalyst will check with the state board to see if they plan to delay the use of test scores in teacher evaluation. However, CPS has already started the practice with probationary teachers and in the coming year all teachers will be partly evaluated based on test scores.

 

5. Grading private schools … For the parents who can afford it, Chicago Magazine has put together a guide of the area’s private high schools for its September issue. Here’s the story and a useful chart with data on tuition, average financial aid award, admission rates, teacher-student ratios and average ACT scores. The data isn’t perfect, largely because not all schools volunteered information to the magazine, including most schools that are part of the Archdiocese.

But the story does include a lot of interesting facts, including the fact that tuition at independent private schools has gone up by 3 to 5 percent each year since 2010, reaching an average of $19,898 last year. At the same time, enrollment at archdiocesan high schools has fallen during each of the past five years, from 26,333 in 2009–10 to 23,228 last year.



Categories: Urban School News

Take 5: Dyett's future, summer of SUPES, Duncan re-thinks testing

Catalyst Chicago - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 09:16

The Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization announced today that CPS officials called some of Dyett’s remaining students last week to encourage them to transfer to another school. During a press conference this morning, KOCO leader Jitu Brown said the move indicates CPS intends to close the school one year earlier than planned and that the students, all seniors, “are now being displaced for the last year of their high school.”

CPS officials confirmed late Monday afternoon that they "have contacted the remaining 21 students [...] to explore their interest in transferring" and said 12 of those students are in the process of transfering out. Though that leaves just nine students, CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said the district does not intend to close the school: "If students want to stay at Dyett, they can stay at Dyett."

Since 2011, KOCO activists, students and parents have led a full scale effort to save the school, noting that it is the only neighborhood high school in the area. They came up with a plan called the Bronzeville Global Achievers Village, to align the curriculum of feeder schools with Dyett’s.

In recent months, Brown said, some students at a local alternative school called Little Black Pearl Art and Design Academy had told him they were moving into Dyett. But then he said local officials told him that they wanted to keep a neighborhood school there.


2. Rare plaudits… What is ironic is that KOCO planned a press conference Monday for a rare move: applauding the U.S. Department of Education. KOCO and a national coalition of activists called the Journey for Justice Alliance are impressed with a new provision included in the application for federal School Improvement Grants for low-achieving schools.

Until now, the SIG program required one of four drastic actions that the Alliance has fought because they rely on private entities and mass firings: closure; restart, which means closure and re-opening as a charter; turnaround, which entails firing at least half of the staff, including the leadership; or transformation, under which an outside entity comes in to help improve the school and the principal must be relatively new. A fifth provision is being added this year: the “proven whole school reform model.” It will allow schools to keep their staff and adopt a strategy that has been proven to work in other similar schools.

In a press release, Brown, who is national director for Journey for Justice, said: “This is an opportunity for the U.S. Department of Education to begin to right a wrong.” The press conference will be at 11 a.m. Monday at City Hall, 121 N. Lasalle. At least 10 groups in other cities will also be holding actions.

3. Summer of SUPES… Principals, assistant principals and other network leaders have spent a lot of time this summer going to Chicago Executive Leadership Academy professional development, organized by SUPES Academy, according to an e-mail sent to principals and forwarded to Catalyst. The e-mail sent out last week boasts that 56 sessions were held over the summer with more than 600 participants and they are getting better ratings. It also says that 67 administrators have coaches and that they have “touched base” more than 2,000 times. The principal who forwarded the e-mail is skeptical, though, especially since the trainings she attended had low attendance that dwindled through the day.

Getting principals to buy into the expensive training has been difficult, especially as they have been struggling with tight budgets. SUPES is the Wilmette-based outfit that last year was given a $20 million, three-year no-bid contract to provide training and individualized coaching to principals and other administrators. The SUPES contract has been met with deep suspicion because Barbara Byrd-Bennett worked for SUPES prior to becoming CPS CEO, and it had contracts with her former school districts. What’s more, principals complained that the training was a waste of time and that their coaches did not have enough experience with urban schools to be helpful.

That the trainings and coaching are led by some current superintendents has also been controversial. These trainers and coaches are paid thousands of dollars, according to sources, though SUPES officials have refused to divulge the exact amounts. Some of the superintendents getting paid by SUPES run school districts that have awarded contracts to SUPES. This revelation has led to a world of trouble for Dallas Dance, the Baltimore County School superintendent. Dance’s consulting work with SUPES led to an ethics complaint. Also, it led to the state prosecutor announcing last week that he was investigating his school board for its contract with Dance, according to the Baltimore Sun.

4. Back to testing… U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is giving states the go ahead to delay for one year using test scores in teacher evaluations, the New York Times reports. But perhaps even bigger news is Duncan’s acknowledgement in his “Back-to School Conversation” blog post that testing has become a problem. “Testing---and test preparation---is taking up too much time,” he writes. Yet he also makes a case for why testing is important. Assessment plays an important role in learning and teaching, especially as it sheds light on students and groups of students who need help, he writes. But Duncan writes that as schools transition to more rigorous standards, called the Common Core Standards, testing is “sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools--oxygen that is needed for a healthy transition to higher standards, improved systems for data, better aligned assessments, teacher professional development, evaluation and support, and more.”

Getting Race to the Top federal grant money was predicated on having a law in place that, among other things, tied test scores to teacher performance evaluations. Forty states, including Illinois, passed such laws. In 2011, Illinois was awarded $42.8 million under the grant program. Catalyst will check with the state board to see if they plan to delay the use of test scores in teacher evaluation. However, CPS has already started the practice with probationary teachers and in the coming year all teachers will be partly evaluated based on test scores.

 

5. Grading private schools … For the parents who can afford it, Chicago Magazine has put together a guide of the area’s private high schools for its September issue. Here’s the story and a useful chart with data on tuition, average financial aid award, admission rates, teacher-student ratios and average ACT scores. The data isn’t perfect, largely because not all schools volunteered information to the magazine, including most schools that are part of the Archdiocese.

But the story does include a lot of interesting facts, including the fact that tuition at independent private schools has gone up by 3 to 5 percent each year since 2010, reaching an average of $19,898 last year. At the same time, enrollment at archdiocesan high schools has fallen during each of the past five years, from 26,333 in 2009–10 to 23,228 last year.



Categories: Urban School News

Rise & Shine: State’s student homeless population has tripled in last decade

EdNewsColorado - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 08:47

Fact check

Chalkbeat breaks down fact from fiction in a new string of ads that support a ballot initiative that if approved by voters would expand casino gambling in the state. ( Chalkbeat Colorado )

Trying to live, trying to learn

The state's homeless student population has tripled in the last decade. In a special report, The Denver Post shares the stories of two families struggling with homelessness and what impact it has on their students' education. ( Denver Post )

Testing madness

The superintendent of District 11 in Colorado Springs planned to ask his school board to seek a waiver from state mandated testing. Instead, the district will end mandatory progress monitoring assessments. ( Gazette )

Our bad

Denver Public School admitted it was a mistake to wait until Friday to notify parents school at one elementary school would be delayed until later. ( 9News )

breakfast after the bell

More Aurora Public Schools students will be provided breakfast this year. A new law implemented this year requires districts to provide free breakfast to all students at schools where 80 percent or more of the students are eligible for a free or reduced price lunch. ( Aurora Sentinel )

Denver Plan

The Denver Post editorial board praised DPS's new streamlined strategic plan. ( Denver Post )

Locked and loaded

The Centennial Gun Club is offering Colorado teachers a free concealed carry classes. Many disagree with the policy of arming teachers in order to keep classrooms safe. ( 9News )

Helping hand

A federal grant will help low-income students in Pueblo take International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement assessments. ( Pueblo Chieftain )

Honesty is the best policy

A Puebloan has lost his teaching licenses after lying to the state about his criminal record. ( Pueblo Chiefain )

Inside the classroom

As part of its plans to implement the state's new standards, STRIVE Prep is asking students to discuss nonfiction texts. ( Denver Post )

Boulder County students partnered with Homes of Living Hope, a Louisville non-profit, to build and ship a mini medical and dental clinic with solar panels to Mexico. ( Daily Camera )

Pencil it in

A Douglas County high school is adding classroom time and cutting its lunch period after a routine audit by the state. The high school utilizes a controversial bloc schedule that was adopted in 2012 to save money and decrease class size. ( Douglas County News-Press )

Categories: Urban School News

What We’re Reading: What does Ferguson mean for schools?

EdNewsColorado - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 16:52

The turmoil in Ferguson has spread from the streets to schools in town — and across the country.

  • With classes cancelled in two separate districts, Ferguson area teachers used the days off to send a message about civic responsibility. (NPR)
  • An Alabama teacher is out of the classroom (most likely temporarily) after students reenacted the shooting that sparked unrest in Ferguson. (EdWeek)
  • Don’t be fooled, says an educator. Preschool and early childhood reform won’t fix the systemic issues that led to the shooting of Michael Brown. (Dissent Magazine)

And the release of last year’s test scores around the country raised questions about what, if anything, we can learn from them.

  • What is a statistician’s responsibility when people criticize tests? A metaphor. (Grand Rounds)
  • Absolute measurements of performance — like proficiency rates — don’t say anything about a school’s quality — just where its students came in. (Shanker Blog)
  • For schools with high test scores, how to share what they’re doing well — and to make sure they really are. (Ecoschools)

What else?

  • A study following Baltimore students from first grade until their late 20s finds that, in many cases, fate is fixed at birth. (NPR)
  • A new survey shows opinion of the Common Core standards — which once received bipartisan support — becoming increasingly politically polarized. (Education Next)
  • White students will no longer make up the majority in American schools this fall. (Atlantic)
  • A back-to-school take on Sir Mix-A-Lot’s classic “Baby Got Back.” (Huffington Post)
  • Philadelphia’s union head held open office hours in outside to allow members to air concerns. (The Notebook)
  • What’s wrong with the Common Core math standards? A diagnosis. (Curriculum Matters)
  • Thousands of California middle schoolers never make it out of middle school. But you won’t see that in the state’s dropout numbers. (Hechinger Report)
  • A retiring first grade teacher got a sendoff that included one of her very first students, from 41 years ago. (IJReview)
  • Why is teacher turnover so high in charter schools? What do schools do about it? (City Limits)
  • How to bridge the divide between scrappy edtech innovators and educators. (EdSurge)
  • What do education reporters have to say about the districts they cover? Chicago reporters spill. (Chicago Reader)
Categories: Urban School News

Keeping Simeon program only a start to improving career education

Catalyst Chicago - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 14:14

Brandon Davenport scored in the top 3.5 percent on the apprenticeship test he took this spring. Takaia Butler recently graduated from Eastern Illinois University with a B.A. in applied sciences. Timothy King was named valedictorian of his high school class, went on to earn a degree in electrical engineering from Southern Illinois University and has been accepted to graduate school. Malcolm Zeno and Aaron Moore have just successfully completed their first year of apprenticeship school and are well on their way to good careers as union electricians.

They are all alumni of the electricity program at Simeon Career Academy, and theirs are just a few of its names and faces of hope. These young people, who hail from neighborhoods with some of the highest unemployment rates in the city and state, were trained, mentored and equipped for success in the only remaining electrical shop in the Chicago Public Schools. Last month, a decision was made to terminate this proven school-to-career pipeline and, with it, the hopes and dreams of the dozens of youths enrolled each year in Latisa Kindred’s classes.

As legislators proudly representing the communities Simeon serves, we were moved to raise our voices in opposition to the steady erosion of opportunities for our youth, and we were honored to stand alongside the students, families, advocates and community partners who refused to yield.

We thank Mayor Emanuel and CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett for listening to our concerns and responding appropriately, reinstating this vital program in time for the start of the new school year. And it is with tremendous gratitude and excitement for the future that we recognize Local #134 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which has committed to offering jobs to students who complete the three-year program. Local #134, which has long partnered with Simeon and vocational education, will also begin an outreach campaign to make middle school students aware of career opportunities in electricity.

Expand career offerings

Now is not the time to rest. College is more expensive than ever, and America’s total student loan debt has supplanted its credit card debt as the heaviest millstone holding back the next generation from financial freedom. Many students in our public schools are not college-bound but deserve the chance to take pride in a trade, provide for themselves and their families, contribute to economic growth and give back to their communities. It is essential that CPS not only maintain its existing career and technical education programs but expand on them, forging new partnerships and reaching out to students in more effective ways.

We stand ready to continue working with CPS and, most importantly, the extraordinary citizens who cared enough about our youth and neighborhoods to get organized and achieve this victory for Simeon’s students.

State Sen. Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago 16th), State Sen. Donne E. Trotter (D-Chicago 17th), State Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago 31st), State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (D-Chicago 8th)

Categories: Urban School News

Keeping Simeon program only a start to improving career education

Catalyst Chicago - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 14:14

Brandon Davenport scored in the top 3.5 percent on the apprenticeship test he took this spring. Takaia Butler recently graduated from Eastern Illinois University with a B.A. in applied sciences. Timothy King was named valedictorian of his high school class, went on to earn a degree in electrical engineering from Southern Illinois University and has been accepted to graduate school. Malcolm Zeno and Aaron Moore have just successfully completed their first year of apprenticeship school and are well on their way to good careers as union electricians.

They are all alumni of the electricity program at Simeon Career Academy, and theirs are just a few of its names and faces of hope. These young people, who hail from neighborhoods with some of the highest unemployment rates in the city and state, were trained, mentored and equipped for success in the only remaining electrical shop in the Chicago Public Schools. Last month, a decision was made to terminate this proven school-to-career pipeline and, with it, the hopes and dreams of the dozens of youths enrolled each year in Latisa Kindred’s classes.

As legislators proudly representing the communities Simeon serves, we were moved to raise our voices in opposition to the steady erosion of opportunities for our youth, and we were honored to stand alongside the students, families, advocates and community partners who refused to yield.

We thank Mayor Emanuel and CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett for listening to our concerns and responding appropriately, reinstating this vital program in time for the start of the new school year. And it is with tremendous gratitude and excitement for the future that we recognize Local #134 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which has committed to offering jobs to students who complete the three-year program. Local #134, which has long partnered with Simeon and vocational education, will also begin an outreach campaign to make middle school students aware of career opportunities in electricity.

Expand career offerings

Now is not the time to rest. College is more expensive than ever, and America’s total student loan debt has supplanted its credit card debt as the heaviest millstone holding back the next generation from financial freedom. Many students in our public schools are not college-bound but deserve the chance to take pride in a trade, provide for themselves and their families, contribute to economic growth and give back to their communities. It is essential that CPS not only maintain its existing career and technical education programs but expand on them, forging new partnerships and reaching out to students in more effective ways.

We stand ready to continue working with CPS and, most importantly, the extraordinary citizens who cared enough about our youth and neighborhoods to get organized and achieve this victory for Simeon’s students.

State Sen. Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago 16th), State Sen. Donne E. Trotter (D-Chicago 17th), State Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago 31st), State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (D-Chicago 8th)

Categories: Urban School News

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