Chalkbeat https://chalkbeat.org Education news. In context. Wed, 21 Aug 2019 03:59:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.2 Why Chicago’s $198 million gain buys just 100 more support staff: Teachers want to know https://chalkbeat.org/posts/chicago/2019/08/20/chicago-public-schools-budget-raises-questions-about-case-managers-social-workers-nurses/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/chicago/2019/08/20/chicago-public-schools-budget-raises-questions-about-case-managers-social-workers-nurses/#respond Wed, 21 Aug 2019 03:48:54 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?p=225150 Why Chicago’s 600-plus schools won’t immediately see a bigger surge in support staff was a central question at a budget hearing before the city's new school board.

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Despite Chicago Public Schools reaping $198 million more for the coming school year for its $6.1 billion operating budget, the district will add just around 100 more special education case managers, social workers, and nurses to schools.

Why Chicago’s 600-plus schools won’t immediately see a bigger surge in support staff was a central question at a budget hearing Tuesday. Of the expected increase, the district proposes earmarking $73 million for school sites.

At the first of two back-to-back hearings, educators wearing teachers’ union T-shirts — the union bused members over after a meeting about their lapsed contract — described conditions at their schools and demanded to know how Chicago plans to shore up its support staff. 

The school board votes on the plan on Aug. 28. 

Educators described students needing medical attention but schools having a nurse on campus only one day a week, and shortages in social workers at one school where several children lost parents to gun violence.

One teacher, Yvette McCaskill, from Morrill Math and Science Elementary on the Southwest Side, said her school library was shuttered and the librarian redirected to fill a special education vacancy, while McCaskill was asked to teach a class for English language learners.

“Spoiler alert: I’m not bilingual,” she told the school board.  

During the hearing, district leaders set out to explain the discrepancies between long-range plans and the reality on the ground. And they stressed areas of new investment, from supplemental bilingual and special education teachers, to program expansions, to opening more preschool classrooms, to awarding “equity grants” to spread desirable programs to under-enrolled schools.

In July, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and schools chief Janice Jackson announced that the district would hire hundreds more social workers, nurses and case managers for special education students.

But those positions will be spread across five years, said Matt Lyons, the district’s chief talent officer. He acknowledged schools face a critical shortage of credentialed workers, even though the district has ramped up hiring.

Already, the district has increased the number of social workers by 7% from last year to 490, he said. “We will start this coming school year with more social workers than any point this last decade.” 

Timing and supply-demand issues also work against a large district. The mayor’s pledge to add support staff came in July, well after the normal January-February hiring season, he said. And opening positions for special education case workers in one area of the city could end up poaching staff from others. 

“If we open five case manager positions on the North Side, we likely create three to four teacher vacancies on the South Side,” he said, adding that the district is trying to be “very deliberate” about how it rolls out positions. 

Lyons said the district has been trying to broaden the field of candidates by covering tuition for some registered nurses and social workers to earn credentials to work in schools. His team has also focused on recruiting from top-flight programs in the region, like the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration, to boost supply. 

Administrators also described ongoing financial pressures. Since a 2015 budget crisis, Chicago Public Schools’ financial position has improved in part because of increased state revenues. Illinois passed a new state funding formula in 2017 that directed more money to schools statewide. 

But Chicago is still short $2 billion from what the state’s formula estimates it needs to educate its 361,000 students, most of whom are low-income. And it is the second most indebted school system in the country, which means a chunk of the overall budget — some $700 million — will be diverted this school year to pay down the district’s $8.4 billion long-term debt. Another $450 million will go toward short-term debt and $855 million will go toward teachers’ pensions. 

Because it still has a negative cash balance, the district regularly takes out short-term loans, and pays interest on them, to help cover day-to-day operations between influxes of tax revenue. 

Including $800 million more for building repairs and upgrades, Chicago’s total projected spending for the 2019-20 school year is $7.7 billion. To see which schools are in line for immediate improvements, click here. 

Chicago plans to employ 20,080 educators, 1,100 school-level administrators, and another 10,800 support staff this school year. Staffing costs the district $3.3 billion in the plan. 

The district’s central office will grow by slightly more than 100 positions with the bulk of new hiring concentrated in the department that will steer a $135 million curriculum overhaul project, in the inspector general’s office, and in the office that protects students.   

By the 2021-22 school year, Lightfoot promised two full-time special education case managers to schools with 240 or more special education students, and one full-time case manager to schools with more than 120 special education students. 

The mayor proposed adding 200 social workers to Chicago schools over the next five years, along with 250 full-time nurse positions. 

Staffing has been a key teacher ask in contract negotiations with the district. Besides raises, the union wants the district to hire nearly 5,000 teachers, professionals and aides, at a cost of $880 million over three years.

The union has complained that, despite Lightfoot’s campaign pledge to increase government transparency, the budget remains opaque. For instance, public documents don’t clearly account for the added positions.

The district responded that it hadn’t listed all proposed new positions in the budget document yet, but the money for them was there in a contingency line item.

On Tuesday, that response appeared to satisfy the school board, which asked leaders to consider preparing a list of common questions and answers to help explain details to the public.

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Raising the bar or moving the goalposts? Changes pending for Colorado school rating system https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2019/08/20/colorado-school-rating-system-changes-pending/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2019/08/20/colorado-school-rating-system-changes-pending/#respond Wed, 21 Aug 2019 02:56:10 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?p=225162 It could soon be harder for Colorado schools to earn the state’s top ratings.

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It soon could be harder for Colorado schools to earn the state’s top ratings.

Currently, the large majority of Colorado schools earn the state's highest rating, even as most of their students are not meeting grade-level expectations in reading, writing, and math, according to state assessments.

This disconnect prompted members of the Colorado State Board of Education last fall to push for changes to the rating system so that it more closely follows test results. A series of proposals on the table could bump as many as 256 schools from the top rating to the second-highest and put a half dozen additional schools onto a watchlist for low-performing schools.

The state rating system or school performance framework has four tiers: performance (green), improvement (yellow), priority improvement (orange), and turnaround (red). Schools that receive one of the lowest two ratings for several years in a row get extra state assistance to improve, but if those efforts aren’t successful within five years, they could be closed down, converted to charter schools, or face other intervention.

“What we were looking for is some alignment,” said Angelika Schroeder, chair of the State Board of Education. “When you have 73% of schools that are at performance and the (state test) results are what they are, there’s a big disconnect.”

Some education advocates say a change is badly needed. Parents can’t make informed decisions when schools with good ratings have low achievement, they say.

But many Colorado school district leaders are watching the debate with concern. They accuse the state of moving the goalposts for “political” reasons that don’t have a connection to the quality of education.

The debate over the school performance framework ties into local and national conversations about how to calculate school quality. A collection of rural Colorado districts have been testing their own accountability systems that are less reliant on test scores, and the Denver district, the state’s largest, is about to embark on a process to revamp its rating system.

Achievement on state assessments closely correlates with race and income, and the highest scoring schools and districts serve mostly white students from more affluent families.

The state also calculates a growth score that looks at how much academic progress students have made compared with other students who got similar test scores last year.

Many testing experts consider this growth score to better reflect the work that teachers do. At the same time, many high-poverty schools with impressive growth scores still have many students who can’t read or do math at grade-level, leaving parents and education activists fearful for their long-term prospects.

“Outcomes matter to families,” Nicholas Martinez, co-founder of the advocacy group Transform Education Now, said bluntly at a recent state board meeting.

Right now, 60% of Colorado middle and elementary school ratings are based on growth, while 40% are based on achievement. At the high school level, 40% is based on growth, 30% on achievement, and 30% on measures of postsecondary readiness like graduation rates and college enrollment.


Related: Most Colorado students not proficient in reading and math — but there’s some good news


Colorado isn’t doing away with growth measures, but all the proposals would add a new metric that measures how long it would take a student growing at a particular rate to move up one level. State education officials want to see growth rates that would allow a student who partially meets grade-level expectations in third grade to be at least approaching expectations two years later, in fifth grade, and for the fifth-grader who is approaching expectations to have met them by seventh grade.

This catch-up measurement, a version of what’s called “growth to standard,” would count for 10% of elementary and middle school ratings, with the previous growth score counting for 55% and achievement for 35%. The changes to high school ratings are still a year or more away.

The various proposals also raise the bar to be considered a top-rated school, and some would add a “distinction” category for the highest performers. If the State Board makes a decision by November, its changes would affect the ratings that come out in August 2020. The ratings that come out next week, based on 2019 test scores, will not be affected.

Colorado Department of Education

Most Colorado schools would be unaffected by these shifts. But more than 200 would likely lose their top status, seven would move from the second tier to the third, and another six would move from the third tier to the bottom. A handful of low-performing schools would move up a level — and between 120 and 185 schools could qualify for “distinction,” if that model is adopted.

Schools that move into the lowest two ratings are subject to intervention by the State Board of Education. The State Board last year ordered the Adams 14 district to hire an external manager after eight years of low performance.

“I'm concerned about putting schools and districts on the clock by ratcheting up the expectations,” said Jeffco Superintendent Jason Glass, referring to the “accountability clock” that counts down the years to state intervention. “Even if it doesn't lead to state takeover or being handed over to an outside entity, it uses public naming and shaming. … Do we really think these shifts will shame and compel the schools to perform at a higher level? I would look back at the last 20 years and call into question this whole theory of change.”

Oliver Grenham, chief education officer of Westminster Public Schools, said the accountability system measures just one thing: outcomes on tests.

“And that is important, but that is not all that schools do,” he said.

Westminster improved enough last year to avoid state intervention, but district officials have long maintained the current system doesn’t properly measure student progress under its competency-based learning system. Changes to the rating system could throw some schools that recently improved back “on the clock,” though state education officials haven’t determined which ones.

Board member Rebecca McClellan said she favors making changes but wants to avoid a “violent jolt to the system,” beyond the state’s ability to support school improvement efforts.

“How will this relate to the budget we have?” she asked at a state board meeting. “We don’t want to throw more schools into categories requiring help than we have resources to offer.”

At a recent state board meeting, a tense exchange between Schroeder, the chair, and member Val Flores, underscored the connection between the ratings debate and broader concerns about the role of testing in education.

“I don’t think the districts want us to keep changing things,” Flores said, “and if we do change things, what they’ll probably end up doing is teaching more to the test than actually getting to the purpose of teaching content and teaching skills and ...

“Teaching kids to read and write,” Schroeder said, cutting in. “Isn’t that what we want?”

“Hopefully they’ll add other things like social studies and science and really fun things that make kids want to come to school,” Flores continued.

The Education Trust, which supports test-based accountability, has advocated for evaluations that lean more heavily on growth-to-standard.

“Parents and other stakeholders want to know if their student is on track to meet grade-level standards or to graduate college- and career-ready,” said Terra Wallin, associate director of accountability and special projects for Ed Trust. “They don’t just want to know if their student is growing relative to other students.”

Others see growth-to-standard as replicating many of the problems with achievement, in that schools serving better-off students will always do better.

“If you’re a school serving low-performing kids, you have to get more growth out of them than schools serving high-performing kids,” said Cory Koedel, a University of Missouri economist who has studied accountability systems. That’s a hard task, he added, and if the schools with the highest growth rates for students in poverty still don’t have students who meet expectations, it suggests they need more resources.

Wallin said disparities in scores might speak to real differences in how students are being educated, and we shouldn’t build ratings systems that obscure those inequities.

But Koedel said that if good ratings are out of reach for high-poverty schools, it’s deeply discouraging to the educators who work there — and a potential loss to the rest of the state.

“There is a lot of positive innovation happening in those schools that we could learn from, but if we label them as failing, we never learn from them,” he said. “To pretend that all schools serving needy kids aren’t doing a good job is kind of silly.”

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Federal investigators seek student records and spending details at Indiana Virtual School https://chalkbeat.org/posts/in/2019/08/20/federal-investigators-seek-student-records-and-spending-details-at-indiana-virtual-school/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/in/2019/08/20/federal-investigators-seek-student-records-and-spending-details-at-indiana-virtual-school/#respond Tue, 20 Aug 2019 23:00:07 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?p=225141 The subpoena summoned representatives of Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy to testify in front of a grand jury Aug. 6 with requested documents.

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Federal investigators are scrutinizing the enrollment and financial practices of two Indiana virtual schools on the brink of collapse amid allegations that they took funding for students they never educated, according to a subpoena made public Monday.

And investigators also want to know who got paid with the millions of public funds that flowed to Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment Tuesday. The Federal Bureau of Investigation did not respond to a request for comment.

But a subpoena was included among dozens of documents provided Monday night by the two virtual schools in response to a move to revoke their charters.

The subpoena summoned representatives of Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy to testify in front of a grand jury Aug. 6 with requested documents, ranging from student files to bank information.

But in front of the Daleville school board on Monday, the online schools’ attorney, Mary Jane Lapointe, disputed any errors in enrollment, contending that “there were no overpayments — in fact, that there were no miscalculations, none. And that in fact, there were always more students enrolled than they were getting paid for.”

The subpoena does not spell out exactly who is being investigated, and why. Grand jury proceedings are secretive — prosecutors present evidence to a grand jury behind closed doors. The 16 to 23 grand jury members are tasked with determining whether there is probable cause to charge an individual with a crime.

Often, grand jury considerations only come to light if an individual is indicted. Then, a case proceeds in court. If a grand jury decides not to indict someone, the public often never finds out, and grand jurors are ordered by law not to disclose their discussions.

Lapointe indicated Monday night that the schools are still compiling their response to the request for documents. She did not return a call for comment Tuesday.

“There’s a tremendous amount of virtual and hard paper that is being collected by the attorneys handling the subpoena,” Lapointe said.

Here’s what we know so far.

Investigators are digging into the schools’ enrollment practices.

A couple of lines in the subpoena appear to be redacted, but the document request includes student files and records on “attendance, course participation, or student presence.”

The subpoena also asks for extensive documentation on enrollment — communication from families or other schools about students enrolling, enrollment applications, and both incomplete and complete enrollment forms. It seeks information about whether people were paid based on recruitment, and any discussions the schools may have had with its authorizer, the state education department, or the U.S. Department of Education about enrollment.

Two other agencies have already looked into enrollment issues at Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy. Daleville Community Schools, which oversees the two online schools, analyzed course data and said most students never earned any credits throughout the year, and many were not even signed up for any classes.

State auditors discovered that the schools reported re-enrolling students who had moved out of state or students who had been kicked out of the schools for not participating. In one case, Indiana Virtual School kept a student on its rolls after he had died.

State auditors deduced that the schools were likely reporting twice as many students as they actually had enrolled, and their examination of the schools’ finances is still ongoing. The state education department said the schools should return $47 million in state money and cut off future funding.

A line in the subpoena also asks about special education funding — federal dollars that come with strict regulations on how they’re spent.

Lapointe provided numbers on monthly enrollments and withdrawals, pointing out that students enroll throughout the year and that the schools did not have a process for removing inactive students. The numbers contradicted Daleville’s findings, claiming that most students were enrolled in five or more courses.

On Monday night, Lapointe said the schools were holding off on making copies of copious student records for the response to the subpoena. Officials could also waive their right to appear and provide them to an FBI agent to present to the grand jury instead, according to the subpoena.

Investigators also want to know where the money went.

The documents requested through the subpoena could create a detailed map of who has been involved in running and providing services to the two virtual charter schools. The subpoena asks for information on who’s in charge of the two virtual schools and who has any ownership interests in the schools’ businesses. It looks for a list of vendors, contracts, invoices, and receipts.

A Chalkbeat investigation in 2017 raised the question of conflicts of interest between the school’s founder, Thomas Stoughton, and lucrative contracts that the school forged with businesses led by him and his son. An attorney for the schools contended at the time that they could not have started up without support from Stoughton’s business.

Stoughton stepped down from Indiana Virtual School’s board and sold his interest in a business hired to manage the schools, AlphaCom, Inc. It’s unclear whether he is still affiliated with the schools or businesses contracted by the schools.

AlphaCom — which has no online presence — was allowed to charge the schools monthly fees for each student, with extra fees for special education services, according to contracts. AlphaCom could charge more for “supplemental services,” developing or modifying courses, or other special projects. At one point, Indiana Virtual School agreed to pay AlphaCom up to $500,000 for “course gamification.”

In 2018, however, it appears a company called American Pathways Academy took over many of the services that had been provided by AlphaCom. The company is listed at the same address used by both AlphaCom and the schools. An attorney that formerly represented AlphaCom described it as “defunct,” though it still appears active in state business records, and its name repeatedly came up in Monday night’s discussion in Daleville about the problems at the virtual charter schools.

The subpoena hones in on any communications that Stoughton had with the two schools. It also names another individual: Merle Bright, who once signed an agreement with Indiana Virtual School as president of AlphaCom. Contracts show Bright also managed a Florida company called Cyber Educational Services that worked with Indiana Virtual School in 2016 and 2017.

An attorney for Stoughton declined to comment. Bright could not be reached Tuesday.

On Monday night, Lapointe said AlphaCom was building its defense against the allegations of enrollment miscalculations and overpayments.

The group's response, she said, “is going to be, ‘didn’t do anything wrong at all.’”

It’s possible that some information might never come to light.

The subpoena indicates that investigators are preparing for the possibility that some of the records they have requested may no longer exist. The final line instructs recipients to share information about missing records — including who is responsible for their absence.

"If you have knowledge of any documents that would be responsive to this Subpoena, but has been lost, destroyed, redacted, or discarded,” the subpoena reads, “you shall identify the document to the extent possible, and provide an explanation of the loss, destruction, redaction, or discarding, including identification of each person authorizing or having knowledge of the loss, destruction, reaction, or discarding."

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Q&A with Detroit schools chief Vitti: ‘Some doors ... are opening up to what DPSCD can do.’  https://chalkbeat.org/posts/detroit/2019/08/20/qa-with-detroit-schools-chief-vitti-some-doors-are-opening-up-to-what-dpscd-can-do/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/detroit/2019/08/20/qa-with-detroit-schools-chief-vitti-some-doors-are-opening-up-to-what-dpscd-can-do/#respond Tue, 20 Aug 2019 22:03:37 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?p=225115 Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, in a wide-ranging interview with Chalkbeat Detroit, talked about facilities, curriculum, and his dream job.

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Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti is entering what could arguably be considered his most critical year at the helm of the city school district — his third year that could see the emergence of solutions to mounting school facility problems.

During a lengthy interview earlier this month that covered a number of topics, Vitti hinted that business leaders have worked with the district to come up with a fix for the key question of how the district can fund facility improvements in its crumbling buildings. More details, he said, will be forthcoming.

Vitti also became emotional at times as he talked about his dream job as Detroit superintendent, the lessons he’s learned from past mistakes, and after the recorder had stopped, the childhood museum trips he took with his mother that made him want all Detroit children to have that kind of experience.

“For me to be here, with my history and at this moment, that’s special. No other district can provide that to me,” said Vitti, a Dearborn Heights native who came to Detroit after a five-year stint as superintendent in Jacksonville, Fla.

In his first two years, the district has adopted a new literacy and math curriculum, increased pay for teachers and other staff, cited data that shows decreased chronic absenteeism, and shown improvement on internal exams.

But there are challenges. The district has posted the worst results among big-city schools on a rigorous national exam. As many as 800 students in the district could be held back under the state’s third-grade reading law, which requires retention for children who are a grade level or more behind in reading. Facilities, too, are an issue.

Last year, a review of buildings found the district has $500 million in facility needs. And while a small amount of those needs are being taken care of using reserve funding, a larger solution is needed. 

The district will begin holding community meetings in October to hear from residents, input that will go into deciding on a formal plan. 

School closings are likely on the horizon, but Vitti said the district will take a different approach and is committed to phasing out schools rather than abruptly closing them. 

“We’re not going to replicate the sins of the past.”

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

What will make year three successful? 

I think we are where we should be going into year three. We’re starting to see districtwide improvement on attendance, reduction in chronic absenteeism, we’re seeing overall districtwide  improvement in literacy and math. Then, if you drill down to individual schools, you’re seeing some double-digit improvement at individual schools in isolation. Really, that’s what we wanted and expected to see after year two. 

After year three, I think we should see more schools with those bigger increases. Year three moves more to the high school level for reform, where we’ll see new curriculum for literacy and math, we’ll see a sharper focus on the SAT and becoming more specific on students being eligible for the Detroit Promise, (which provides college scholarships to eligible Detroit high school grads) defined by GPA and SAT, trying to increase the graduation rate. You’ll see the build out of the career academies at the high school. 

And then, the big issue, aside from all of this...  is to start [in October] to engage the community on the facility challenge. We’ll have a conversation about what did the facility review really say about the schools in that constellation. What is the need and what does enrollment look like? How many school age children are in that area. ... Are we going to see an increase in school age kids in the next five-10 years, are we seeing a decrease, is it stagnant? How many kids are in charter schools in that area, and private schools? What’s the right kind of investment? Does it make sense to make a $30 million investment in a building, or does it make better sense to build a new building? Or to take three very old buildings and build a new building, where the three schools can be put together. 

We would phase schools out and phase grade levels out rather than abruptly closing schools. But, part of this process has to be rightsizing the district. We have too many open seats. In that whole process we will always listen to and do right by the community. I want to be in a position and the board wants to be in a position to be authentic and transparent about our challenge. In the end we’re going to come up with a plan that keeps communities whole and is committed to traditional public education, where there is an accessible school within a two-mile radius across the board. We’re not going to replicate the sins of the past. People are going to know what the challenges are and they’re going to offer a solution because that’s our responsibility, but we’re not going to impose that solution without listening to people and people in that community saying, ok, we hear you, we understand this has to be done and there needs to be changes. What about this instead? 

What are the solutions?

The engagement process is more about defining the problem and then coming up with the solutions that keep everyone whole, that protect traditional public education into the future. The back end financial solution, we’re still working on, but we’ve had a lot of support from the business community to analyze what our options are — from local taxation to a state solution. So, it has been encouraging to have a group of CEOs that have been committed to solving the problem. 

That wasn’t the case a year ago. DTE especially has stepped up to help us problem-solve beyond what we’re able to do as a district because we’re limited in our resources and time. They have put some energy into analyzing the issue from a statute point of view and from a taxation point of view. So we’re not ready to announce yet what the solution is. But we’ve made inroads to look at financially what the options could be moving forward. I think it’s a combination of a local/state solution. I don’t think we can do it simply at the local level, and I don’t think we can expect the state to fix our problems, either.  There has to be accountability and ownership for the legacy of disinvestment over the last decade. But at the same time, to be pragmatic, we also can’t expect the state to solve the problem, in and of itself, either. So I think we’re going to come up with a balance between the two.

Can the district seek a bond proposal? 

We’re still analyzing it. But that’s what we’re exploring. What I can say is the initial thought was that we couldn’t do something but that’s what we’re exploring legally and I think there are some doors that are opening up to what DPSCD can do moving forward. A lot of that is tentative. We’re still exploring it. It’ll be something that we announce more formally when we feel we’ve crossed all the T’s and dotted all the I’s. 

How confident are you that you can get buy-in from a community that has been opposed to closing schools? 

What’s needed more than anything else is investment in current facilities. And I think that’s what people will see. In the past the majority of the conversation has been, this is what we’re taking away. And it was constantly taking away neighborhood schools, taking away legacy schools. That’s not what this conversation is about. The conversation is what is our plan to invest in infrastructure, to create sustainability and longevity, and at the same time, how do we rightsize the district in a logical, thoughtful way that even when that’s done, people don’t feel like you’re taking away? But it’s only logical to have to make difficult decisions at the same time when we have about 50,000 students in the school district, yet we have about 100,000 seats. 

You’ve said the culture in the district is changing. How?

One, it’s just how principals talk about their schools. They’re focused more on what they’re doing and what they can do or what they’re going to do rather than being in a place of “I don’t,” “I can’t,” or “I don’t get this,” or “I don’t have that.” It’s not as much a resource conversation, it’s more about their intentionality and what they’re doing as a leader to improve their school. They’re more connected to teaching and learning than they were before. They’re in classrooms more. They’re more thoughtful about who are their stronger teachers, who are the weaker teachers. They’re talking more about how they use the master teacher to support teachers. They’re talking more about curriculum. They can talk to you more about how student performance looks across the board, what they’re doing about it. Those are all examples of the culture changing. Whereas before, it was more about just managing the   day-to-day, rather than being visionary about where students would eventually go. 

What would principals say is different about the kind of support they get from central office?

Probably, when you look at just how we’ve worked through the teacher contract collaboratively to recognize experience from outside Detroit, to offer the hard-to-assign bonus, to accelerate steps for social workers and psychologists. To just accelerate teacher salary, to create more school level positions like master teachers, deans, attendance agents. I just think they see a more active district, involved and supporting their work. I think those individuals would also say that district staff is more school-centric and more experienced in schools. So you have more people that are leading the district that have been principals, they have been teachers. So they know the work, they know the language. So those are the positives. The negatives would be just more involved, and that means more accountability, more oversight, more monitoring. There’s more investigations, there’s more follow-up and that’s because we’re more active. I think if you’re doing your job the right way and you’re comfortable with your body of work, then that’s not a threat, it’s just a reality.

How can the double digit increases in achievement you’ve seen at some schools be replicated?

A lot of it comes down to instructional leadership from  the principal. The principals in those schools are deeply and authentically involved. They roll up their sleeves and problem-solve with teachers on implementation of the curriculum. They go to after-school sessions with the teachers to analyze the lessons. They’re in classrooms providing feedback. You’re facilitating teaching and learning conversations and then you’re empowering your teachers to see what they don’t see and work with each other on that as well. And faculties are buying into the work and owning it as well. That’s where you’re seeing the greatest improvement. These schools are for the most part fully staffed. And the minute you walk into the school you feel the culture and the energy and the purposefulness of what they’re doing. 

You were surprised that some teachers weren’t teaching phonics. Does the new curriculum address that? 

We’ve supplemented the K-2 curriculum with more foundational skills work. We started this summer with Orton-Gillingham training, which is a multisensory way to teach reading. I started to learn this based on my children being dyslexic and what it took to move them to being at grade level. We’ve got a long way to go, but at least we’re starting to build up that knowledge. In year three, year four, we’re going to have to start thinking differently about the schedule and time and what we’re doing, with students that are two or three grade levels below where they should be in reading. We’re not ready to do that at scale yet. I think this year has to be another year of just refining the curriculum, refining the intervention process within schools, the academic interventionists within small groups, moving forward with the high school curriculum. 

But one area I think we’re going to start talking about at the end of year three, going into year four is how do we catch up those students who are two or more grade levels behind. We almost have 50% of our kids that are in that category. The traditional curriculum, and the traditional time, is not going to move those students to being at grade level. That’s the next phase of the challenge. So the Orton-Gillingham training is a step in the right direction, which is phonics focused. But it’s not just calling out letters and sounds. It’s a multisensory approach to do it where you’re connecting the left and the right hemispheres of the brain with the neurons that are not naturally connected. That’s why a lot of our students aren’t naturally reading because the synapses are not connected. So, by using a multisensory approach, that’s what connects the two. So you’re not just reading letter “A,” but you’re drawing it in sand, you’re using the multiple functions in your brain. We just have not taught our teachers to do that. It’s not their fault. But we’re going to start moving in that direction.

You’ve said you want to move the high schools to start later in the morning, which is a nod to research that shows early school-starts are harmful to teenagers. 

The vision is to start later for high schools. We just have to work with our teachers to do that. I’m optimistic that it’ll be done. We just didn’t have the time to do it last year and I felt that if we did it, we would just create tension that would just distract us from doing the work. This year we’ll do more engaging of teachers to understand the rationale with starting later and how that would benefit students. There’s a way to do it, we just have to get people on board and understand the benefit from doing that.

I also think in the future we have to think differently about the [school year] calendar. I started that conversation last year. Starting earlier would be more beneficial, and having more professional development embedded in the school year would allow for greater training and impact. I also think we need to start thinking about summer and going longer and thinking differently about the calendar as a whole. So, not extending the year, but giving more breaks throughout the year, where you have two to three weeks off. 

What will be important when the district begins negotiations at the end of the coming school year?

There’s so much to deal with, to problem-solve around. The challenge for us will be to renew the Wayne County millage (enhancement millage for schools). It’s going to be essential to sustain what we’re doing. If we lose $15 million in the budget, that has a big impact. We have negotiated in good faith and I think we have made compromises to focus on the reform and I have no reason to believe we’re not going to continue to do that. DFT knows and acknowledges that we have been problem- solving on behalf of teachers. And when we disagree, it’s really more about what can we afford right now to keep the district solvent. Nine out of 10 things, we agree on. 

What would you say have been your biggest successes? 

I’m really proud of the relationship I have with the board. Because it’s a strong relationship, it doesn’t get a lot of attention and that’s a good thing. A lot of people want conflict, and there isn’t sensationalism when people are actually working together, which is what kids deserve. But we work together and we trust each and we like each other. And for me that means a lot and it means a lot for this community, and it’s understated. And it’s undervalued. Because, if we start fighting we’re going to lose the reform and then it’s just a bunch of adults bickering with each other, where we lost sight of children. We don’t always agree. That’s the reality. But, we have put aside ego and delusions of grandeur and say we’re going to get this right for kids and for the district, and we’ve done a lot of important work in a short amount of time. 

How about regrets?

I’ve been doing this for 15 years. I’ve learned a lot from the mistakes I’ve made in the past. I’ve said this countless times, and you have to really understand who I am to believe me when I say this [choking up]: I’m here for a reason. It was a long road, but a difficult one, personally and professionally for me to be the superintendent right here at this time. And I made a lot of mistakes getting up to this point. I think I’ve learned and reflected on those and been a better leader because of those. And I have a great board that has empowered me and trusted me, so that's helped. Things I would do over? I think there are a couple personnel things that – people that I picked initially that weren’t the right fit but I think I cleaned that up. I would have redone some personnel decisions. 

From a pure reflection point of view, there are moments when I went in deep on charter schools and that was purely authentic and that was me reacting to a place where the district didn’t have a voice and people didn’t have political space to be honest. And more people than not in the system supported what I said and felt like I spoke truth to what they felt for a long time, but it distracted people from what I’m trying to do. I will always speak out to what I think is wrong, especially when it comes to what I think is best for children, but there are moments when I have to create balance between that because then that’s what everyone is talking about and then all my time and energy gets shifted to that and that’s not going to change what’s happening to 50,000 students in the school district. I don’t apologize for what I said, but there are moments where I think the organization got distracted because I spoke out. 

How confident do you feel in the complete turnaround of the district?

I have no doubt that it’s going to happen. What keeps me up at night, to answer that question with complete conviction, is the things that cannot be controlled with the process of reform. And that’s school board elections, who decides to run, who doesn’t. That’s the major factor. And then just the strength of the economy, how that influences K-12 funding. And, the political whims of the legislature. Those are factors that I can’t control.

Have you had moments where you regretted the decision to take on such a big job?

No. You can’t do this work with full authenticity and energy and commitment and not feel disappointed at moments because it’s not going fast enough, it’s not scaled enough, you don’t have the right resources and there’s just a ton of problems. So, if you’re honest and reflective, you have those moments of disappointment when you’re disappointed in yourself. But those are moments, not an overwhelming feeling. 

I’ve always said that my dream job is to be chancellor of New York City. And I said that because it was the largest school district in the country. And I was just challenged by the greatest scale. I lived in New York. I worked in New York. Two of my kids were born in New York. But, that’s no longer my dream job. I don’t want another superintendency after this. And it’s not because I don’t want to be superintendent anymore. What could possibly be more fulfilling than being superintendent here? If and when we turn the district around, it’s always going to be the example of what could and should happen in urban school districts. 

And any kind of dream has to have a personal side. So, that’s when I get sentimental [choking up]. For me to be here, with my history and at this moment, that’s special. I can look out the window and think of being here as a kid and hearing stories through my grandfather and my uncle and that’s who I am. Where am I going to get that? There’s no other place that can do that. When you grow up and you’re connected to a city and a history and the people and you’re a part of that, you can’t replicate that. The only way that I leave is if I’m forced out or if I don’t feel like the board is supporting the reform. 

 

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This turnaround model is spreading. Is it a better way to help struggling schools or just a new brand of takeover? https://chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2019/08/20/school-turnaround-empowerment-zones/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2019/08/20/school-turnaround-empowerment-zones/#respond Tue, 20 Aug 2019 21:41:43 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?p=225095 A school turnaround strategy that's shown promise in Springfield, Mass. is spreading to districts across the country with the help of a group called Empower Schools.

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Principal Lisa Richardson knows it will take a lot to turn around Navarre Middle School. 

Two years ago, a state review laid bare the many issues plaguing the school. Administrators had low expectations for students and staff. Teachers received little feedback. Suspension rates were high. The school, which enrolls Latino students and English learners at twice the rate of the South Bend district, isolated English learners and used untrained, uncertified staffers to serve them. Parents reported communication with the school was poor. One staffer summed it up this way: “We need help!”

Now Richardson, newly hired from another Indiana district, is trying everything she can to lift the school’s academic standing. She hopes to grab students’ attention with new dance and theater electives and more exposure to engineering. She plans to make the building more inviting with cooking classes for parents and murals by local high school artists. And she’s hired a new crop of teachers to fill critical staffing gaps.

“Here at Navarre, our tagline is ‘Take another look,’” she said on a recent school tour.

As she makes those changes, Richardson has tools that other South Bend principals don’t — the ability to pay her teachers to attend extra training and to opt out of the district’s reading and math programs in favor of her own choices.

Her new powers stem from an arrangement known as an “empowerment zone.” South Bend officials agreed to let Navarre and its four feeder elementary schools operate independently from the school district for five years, reporting to their own board — a shift big enough to prevent the state from taking over or shuttering Navarre after it received its sixth straight “F” grade from the state.

Some see the strategy as a more collaborative middle ground than a typical state takeover. Others, including some teachers unions, see a takeover in disguise, and say proponents downplay the importance of the elected board’s loss of control. 

“Is this really a choice?” said Domingo Morel, an assistant professor of political science at Rutgers University, Newark who wrote a book about state takeovers of local school districts. “There’s just a lot of concerns that come along with that absence of public accountability.”

A few early but encouraging academic results, though, plus enthusiasm from education philanthropists, have fueled the strategy’s spread. South Bend is modeling its changes on a similar empowerment zone in Springfield, Massachusetts. And like several other districts, South Bend is turning to Empower Schools, the organization that designed the Springfield playbook, to help them do it.

“When people go to see transformation zones and … the work that Empower is doing, we don’t want them to go to Springfield, we want them to come here,” said Todd Cummings, South Bend’s recently promoted schools superintendent.

So far, Empower has helped start 10 empowerment zones in five states, though not all of them are aimed at improving struggling schools. Five are new this school year, including ones in South Bend, St. Louis, and Lubbock, Texas. 

And Empower Schools could be working in more cities soon. Co-founder Chris Gabrieli says the organization is exploring four more zones in Texas. (Gabrieli is also a Chalkbeat supporter.) And a spokesperson for the Rhode Island education commissioner said Empower Schools had “reached out to offer more information about their work and how it may be helpful in Providence,” where the state is about to take over the city’s schools. Gabrieli said Empower had provided that information upon request.

How this works — and how it’s spreading

The changes coming to South Bend are part of a larger movement to offer schools some of the powers that district central offices have traditionally held — the kind of autonomy usually granted to charter schools. Sometimes the efforts are branded as “innovation” or “partnership” zones. Often, they involve bringing in charter school operators to run district schools. Sometimes they weaken the local teachers union. In Indianapolis, for example, innovation school teachers aren’t covered by the local union contract.

In Springfield, the elected school board and the teachers union agreed to the changes. In 2015, a nonprofit board was appointed to oversee the zone schools. One charter school did step in to manage a struggling middle school, though there’s been no other charter involvement. Teachers in the zone, who work more hours for higher pay than other district teachers, have their own union contract.

Several school districts have sent officials to visit Springfield to learn about the model, including South Bend and St. Louis.

“Many people in the ed reform movement act as if the only people who want to help change and improve the opportunities for kids are outsiders,” said Gabrieli, who chairs the Springfield zone board. While there’s room to bring in new talent, he says, “mostly the people making all the good stuff happen” in Empower’s zones are local teachers and civic leaders.

The work is being fueled by national and local philanthropies, as well as states, local districts, and nonprofit boards that run zone schools. In recent years, the Dell and Walton foundations together have given Empower Schools more than $2 million. (The Walton foundation also supports Chalkbeat.) And in Texas, where Empower is one of seven organizations pre-approved to set up a “transformation zone” with low-performing schools, the state education agency invests heavily in these initiatives. Waco, for example, has used almost $500,000 in state money to pay for Empower’s help with its zone. 

Beth Schueler, a University of Virginia assistant professor of education who studied the Springfield effort, says this model addresses common criticisms of school boards — sometimes seen as dysfunctional and dominated by special interests — and state takeovers, which have led to academic gains in some places but are often politically difficult and disempowering, especially in the majority-black school districts where they are most likely to occur.

“We don’t have a lot of bright spots and positive stories that we can look to as models to apply in other places,” Schueler said. “Because there are so few models out there, I think it makes sense that people want to try this.” 

zone leaders
PHOTO: Kalyn Belsha/Chalkbeat
Cheryl Camacho, Lisa Richardson and Todd Cummings are leading the work this year to improve academics at Navarre Middle School.

How much of a choice is this?

Gabrieli says that local districts choose to work with Empower Schools. But districts often find their model when a state intervention is looming. 

In Waco and Lubbock, Texas — home to two of Empower Schools’ zones — the local school districts were faced with closing schools, allowing a state takeover, or creating a zone. In Springfield, Massachusetts, the district had also faced a state takeover, and in St. Louis, the district has been under pressure to raise student performance to avoid going back into state receivership.

“When you create this type of crisis, this type of urgency and then you provide these options, what is a community to do?” said Morel, the Rutgers-Newark professor. “You’re going to try to pick the least disruptive, the least problematic option. But does it mean that it’s good?”

He says some of the same concerns raised by state takeovers apply here. First, it’s unclear how accountable the appointed nonprofit board will be to the community. Second, when you break up a larger school district into smaller groups of schools, it can make it harder for communities to organize. Morel questions whether this is another “shortcut to address major challenges,” like inequitable school funding.

The local union in Springfield has also soured on the changes. Maureen Colgan Posner, who heads the teachers union in Springfield, says the union was initially swayed by the threat of a state takeover. Now, though, she’s concerned that the “stripped down” contract that zone teachers have doesn’t do enough to protect teachers’ time, and about the impact of the loss of an elected board.

She’s since testified against legislation that would expand empowerment zones in Massachusetts, and questions whether it should be held up as a national model.

“You don’t need an empowerment zone to have collaboration,” she said. “They’re selling this, but we don’t have any proof that it’s absolutely the solution.”

Another challenge Empower faces is wariness from officials in places that have experienced a slew of unsuccessful reforms. That’s been the case in St. Louis, which is launching an empowerment zone with two of the lowest-performing schools in the district. 

The district itself was only returned to local control last month after 12 years of state management. Though the elected board supports the plan now, members initially raised concerns that it could again take power away from schools. 

“The pushback from the elected board is coming from a place of distrust, given the history of what has happened here in St. Louis,” said Priscilla Dowden-White, an associate professor of history at the University of Missouri-St. Louis who was chosen to lead the nonprofit board. “They’re not being paranoid. There’s some good reason for that distrust.”

Do these changes help students learn?

There is some evidence that the strategies used by Empower’s go-to districts have led to academic improvements, especially in cases where the schools added learning time for students. While this is a common feature of other turnaround strategies, a zone structure can make it easier to have teachers work longer hours for extra pay.

Schueler and two other researchers found that interventions in Lawrence, Massachusetts — where Empower’s co-founders were involved in a state takeover of schools before starting their organization — led to sizable gains for students in math and modest gains in reading, compared with similar school districts in Massachusetts. Lawrence students who received intensive tutoring with teachers over their vacation breaks saw especially large gains in math. In a separate study, Schueler found that students in Springfield who attended similar “vacation academies” also made notable gains in math.

There haven’t been rigorous studies elsewhere, and early results on state tests have been mixed. A state progress report on the first two years of the Springfield empowerment zone showed students were growing faster in reading, but not in math. One year in, some schools in Waco, Texas’ zone saw their scores improve in math and reading, but others saw them drop.

Schueler cautions that it’s difficult to say if the gains will be long-lasting, and if they can be repeated in districts with different student demographics and state policies. Springfield and Lawrence are both mid-size, majority-Latino districts with a high proportion of English learners, and both are also located in Massachusetts, which spends more on education than most states. And not all of the zones will use their flexibility to make the same changes. 

In South Bend, the zone is now up and running. It’s led by Cheryl Camacho, who was recruited by an Empower-recommended search firm. Camacho, a former teacher and principal, moved to South Bend after getting her doctorate in education from Harvard. She’s enrolling her own two children in a zone school.

What happens next will largely depend on what South Bend officials decide to do with their new powers. This year, teachers and principals will have to decide whether to change their school calendar and, if so, what to do with the extra time. Camacho also has to decide how, exactly, she will hold schools accountable for improving, and how to show school communities that she’s serious about giving them more support than they’ve had in the past.

“It’s easy to look at a community and say parents don’t care, they’re not showing up,” she said. “But that comes from experience. We have to prove that we’re doing right by their children in order for them to trust us.”

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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has trusted this deputy to oversee schools. What’s her plan? https://chalkbeat.org/posts/chicago/2019/08/20/sybil-madison-update/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/chicago/2019/08/20/sybil-madison-update/#respond Tue, 20 Aug 2019 16:23:21 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?p=225073 Most of Madison’s role so far has played out behind the scenes. 

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When Mayor Lori Lightfoot unveiled a new school board she also named Sybil Madison deputy mayor for education and human services. But while Chicagoans have seen the board in action at lively monthly meetings, most of Madison’s role so far has played out behind the scenes. 

Since her first official day at work in early July, Madison said she’s been busy getting to know the leaders, assets and challenges at the eight departments under her purview, especially Chicago Public Schools. 

“My role isn't to run the schools; that's taken care of, because you know [schools CEO] Janice Jackson has that down, and her team is doing a great job,” Madison said. “My role is to forward the mayor's vision, to work closely with that team to achieve that vision, and to understand where the mayor's office, me and my team can add value to that work.”

Related: Here are 8 items getting more funding in Chicago schools budget

Madison, who co-chaired Lightfoot’s education transition team, will oversee education and youth-related policies as deputy mayor of education and human services. While Lightfoot’s predecessor, Rahm Emanuel, at times had a chief of staff who led City Hall’s education agenda, the new deputy mayor position elevates the role to the second-highest level in city government. Madison, a clinical and community psychologist by training, brings to the post 20 years experience in the education world as a school improvement coach, researcher and leader.   

Madison is the former director of the Chicago City of Learning, a coalition of youth-serving organizations focused on connecting students to out-of-school learning opportunities, particularly in the sciences. She’s also a former research associate with Northwestern University’s Office of Community Education Partnership, and former director of education and leadership for Chicago Quest Schools, one of the charter operators under the umbrella of Chicago International Charter School. 

Chalkbeat caught up with Madison for a phone interview to ask her about what she’s been up to and how she’ll work with schools from the mayor’s office.

PHOTO: Adeshina Emmanuel/Chalkbeat
Chicago's new deputy mayor for education and human services, Sybil Madison (third from left) stands with schools CEO Janice Jackson (center) and chief academic officer LaTanya McDade at a press conference announcing her appointment June 3, 2019.

What is your job?

I'm the deputy mayor for education and human services, and there are about eight departments and agencies that I connect with, including Chicago Public Schools and City Colleges of Chicago, but also family support services, the department of public health, parks, library, Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities and the Cook County Workforce Partnership.

What is your mandate from the mayor as your work pertains to CPS, and how will you work with the school district?

My mandate is to work very closely with the school district and city colleges to achieve her goals for education. She has a focus on strengthening our neighborhood schools. She wants to ensure that every young person in Chicago, particularly every young person in CPS, has a pathway beyond high school to a viable and sustainable future, whether that’s through college or that through a career path. She wants to make sure that our youngest children are in supportive and nurturing environments where they can learn and grow. 

My role is to work very closely with CPS leadership, and leadership at city colleges and across all of those departments to make sure that we're creating an ecosystem that is gonna support young people learning and growing. The opportunity here with this office is to think about how all of those departments play a role in the health and well-being of children and youth. 

Does Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson report to you?

Janice is accountable to the board of education, and she certainly does not report directly to me. We work together collaboratively and we're all working toward the mayor's vision. 

How does the mayor envision your office working with CPS?

My role sometimes might be to remove barriers to help problem-solve. There are some ways in which the mayor will push us all to be bolder and to do more for the students in the city. For example, when she made the announcement about increasing the number of youth who have workforce-based learning experiences in a career tech program. So there'll be times when the mayor is kind of charging us to figure out how to get someplace maybe faster than we were going to get there. And we'll work together to do that. 

What issues at the school district are your biggest priorities this coming school year?

We're thinking about things like, “what does it take to strengthen neighborhood schools?”

I'm really excited that Dr. Jackson is planning to engage the community this school year around understanding what equity looks like at a local funding level.

I'm bringing with me an interest in out-of-school-time learning, and understanding how we can complement what happens during the school day by better organizing, coordinating, connecting opportunities that happen outside of the school day. 

But I'll have more to say about priorities when I've been here a little longer.

What is the added value of having someone like you helping to address an issue like declining enrollment that has a lot to do with Chicago neighborhoods, community development and broader?

That’s why this office was structured around education and human services, to think about the intersecting systems that impact young people and families and individuals in Chicago. We also have a deputy mayor of public safety, and a deputy mayor for business and economic and neighborhood development, because these issues are bigger than simply education. 

It's going to take all of us developing strategies across our offices and across the departments to really tackle those kinds of issues, to move toward a city where everyone feels safe, to support the prosperity of our young adults and create situations that make folks want to stay in the city. That's not just about education. A big part of what our work is will be collaborating across departments so that we can actually strengthen the city by strengthening neighborhoods. 

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These free New York summer schools for English learners are in demand https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2019/08/20/these-free-new-york-summer-schools-for-english-learners-are-in-demand/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2019/08/20/these-free-new-york-summer-schools-for-english-learners-are-in-demand/#respond Tue, 20 Aug 2019 16:12:41 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?p=225059 Roughly 7,500 New York City children attended free summer programs that are designed to help multilingual students continue developing their language.

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At home, fifth-grader Aileen Shao usually speaks Mandarin with her family. So when she heads to the hallways of P.S. 1 in Brooklyn for summer school, she helps her classmates connect to one another. 

“Most of the time I need to translate for my friends,” Shao said of her peers who speak Mandarin and want to talk with students who are also learning English. 

Shao is among the roughly 7,500 New York City children who attended free summer programs that are designed to help multilingual students — children who are learning English as a new language — build skills in core subjects, such as math, while developing their language skills. Depending on the program, there’s also lighter summer fare, such as field trips and cooking classes. 

Students can lose their grasp of a new language over the summer because they might only be speaking it in a limited capacity, if at all, educators say. There's not a lot of research around summer learning loss among English language learners, but one 2012 study found that students from non-English speaking homes experienced a bigger loss of English vocabulary while school was out compared to students from homes where English is spoken. 

Even as the city has added new programs, the demand continues to grow. Compared to last year, about 1,000 additional students took part this summer as the city added options for current first-graders, an education department spokeswoman said. Still, some school leaders who tout the program’s benefits would like to see the program expanded further in years to come.

While New York City has mandated summer programs for students it identified as being at risk of falling behind, the program Shao attends is voluntary. Families can choose to send their children to one of the city’s 99 summer programs for English learners.

Getting the word out about free programs can be challenging in immigrant communities. For some parents, a language barrier keeps them from understanding the promotional materials and, for others, there’s a distrust of who’s actually running the show. But P.S. 1’s principal, Arlene Ramos said she has the opposite problem, noting, “The challenge is not having enough classes to offer.” 

The demand was so high at P.S. 1, which welcomed students who attend four schools in the neighborhood, that they doubled the number of seats for first through fifth-grade classes. That program served a total of about 200 students, which still left about 60 to 70 families on the waitlist, Ramos said. 

The education department added 11 multilingual learner summer programs this year and for the first time offered seats for first-graders, according to Danielle Filson, an education department spokeswoman.

Waitlists are managed at each school so it’s not clear how many of the nearly 100 programs were oversubscribed. The department said it works with schools to monitor demand. Multilingual learners in K-8 can choose to attend any program in their district, and a spokeswoman said they had enough seats to meet the demand citywide this year. But some families may not want to travel beyond their neighborhood to where there were open seats.

At P.S.1’s program — during the school year, the student population is 43 percent multilingual —  there are STEM classes like the one Shao was in, a popular cooking class called “Small Bites,” and an arts course. 

Students also go on multiple field trips, including one to the Prospect Park Zoo. One of the goals of these off-sites: to encourage English use in social, out-of-school settings. 

When students talk about the program, their grasp of English is not top-of-mind. Instead, like other 9-year-olds, they discuss their initial nervousness about meeting students from different schools, say, or how much fun they are having in their cooking class. 

Olga Islas, who like Shao is a fifth-grade English language learner, was looking forward to more math lessons. “I was excited because I knew I’ll learn more,” Islas said, while taking a quick break from her STEM lesson. 

But the language benefits are real and noticeable when the school year starts, said Jessica Knudson, principal of P.S. 516, one of the schools whose students attend P.S. 1’s program. She and Ramos are hoping the school can offer even more seats next summer, noting that it’s apparent that “parents really want these programs.” 

“Being able to offer this to all our language learners would be wonderful,” Knudson said.

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Rise & Shine: Stocking classrooms with books, pencils — and lockdown supplies https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-stocking-classrooms-with-books-pencils-and-lockdown-supplies/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-stocking-classrooms-with-books-pencils-and-lockdown-supplies/#respond Tue, 20 Aug 2019 14:01:09 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224987 Rise & Shine is Chalkbeat’s morning digest of education news. Subscribe to have it delivered to your inbox. NEW NORMAL A Jeffco teacher was taken aback by some of the supplies she was given during a routine back-to-school training. Chalkbeat LEGALESE Federal law requires that parents of students with disabilities receive a special document meant […]

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NEW NORMAL A Jeffco teacher was taken aback by some of the supplies she was given during a routine back-to-school training. Chalkbeat

LEGALESE Federal law requires that parents of students with disabilities receive a special document meant to inform them of their rights. In practice, it's unreadable and intimidating, says this early childhood special education teacher. Chalkbeat

NO MORE TIME As in much of the state, Aurora Central High School’s average SAT scores dropped this year — but the consequences of that decline could turn out to be particularly heavy. Chalkbeat

SURVEY SAYS Striking teachers have been successful at drumming up support for a raise, a new national poll suggests. Chalkbeat

LOOKING TO UTAH State lawmakers and experts are looking at ways to link the state's Safe2Tell reporting system and the Colorado Crisis Line to improve services. Colorado Sun

SWEATY Monday was the first day of class for 95,000 Denver Public Schools students, and it was also a scorchingly hot day with a record-breaking high of 98 degrees. CPR, Denver Channel

AND CROWDED Some Denver classrooms were jam-packed Monday on the first day of school. Westword

HIGH SCORE For the second year in a row, the incoming senior class at Liberty Common High School in Fort Collins posted the highest mean SAT score in the state, according to 2019 results released by the Colorado Department of Education. Coloradoan

PREVENTION As part of a suicide prevention effort, a researcher will spend time with Mesa County youth over the next year to see how they seek help when they need it and how they provide help to peers. The Daily Sentinel

CLOSE CALL A young teen walking home from school in Broomfield foiled a kidnapping attempt Monday, running to safety, police said. Denver Post

SAFETY UPGRADE As the school year starts in Pueblo's District 60, all schools will have a new communication equipment that will make it easier for district officials to talk to first responders quickly in the event of an emergency. KOAA 

TRAINING DAY A student journalist describes a school safety briefing at a special facility designed to simulate active shooter incidents. ColoradoKids

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Rise & Shine: 3 out of 4 Americans support giving teachers a raise, the highest in a decade https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-3-out-of-4-americans-support-giving-teachers-a-raise-the-highest-in-a-decade/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-3-out-of-4-americans-support-giving-teachers-a-raise-the-highest-in-a-decade/#respond Tue, 20 Aug 2019 12:27:21 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224972 TEACHER PAY Striking teachers have been successful at drumming up support for a raise, a new national poll suggests. Chalkbeat CLIMBING UPWARD A Memphis rock climbing gym is boosting its after-school programming for students. Fox13 Memphis CONFUSING VOTE The Jackson-Madison school board is walking back an earlier decision to evaluate more sites for a new school – and […]

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TEACHER PAY Striking teachers have been successful at drumming up support for a raise, a new national poll suggests. Chalkbeat

CLIMBING UPWARD A Memphis rock climbing gym is boosting its after-school programming for students. Fox13 Memphis

CONFUSING VOTE The Jackson-Madison school board is walking back an earlier decision to evaluate more sites for a new school – and instead is falling in line with the county commission. The Jackson Sun

MOVING ON Although Metro Nashville Public Schools showed improvement on this year's TNReady tests, surpassing the state average in math and literacy, officials say they must put in place plans to continue that upward trajectory. The Tennessean

STUDENT SAFETY As an additional safety measure, Williamson County Schools has implemented a technology program Gaggle, which tracks and identifies red flags that indicate threats or harm to students. The Tennessean

OUT OF WATER Tennessee Aquarium to host students for special "Sleep in the Deep" event. Times Free Press

OVER BUDGET Williamson County Schools' purchase of Chromebooks and security cameras to halt after budget cut. The Tennessean 

$$$ Alcoa City Schools receives $100,000 for advanced manufacturing during a record-breaking gala. The Daily Times

FROM NEWARK Merit pay was the heart of a ‘revolutionary’ teachers contract. Now the Cory Booker-era policy is disappearing. Chalkbeat

NATIONAL VIEW Labor Dept rules IEP meetings a valid reason for family and medical leave. Education Drive

XQ NEWS Powderhouse Studios was supposed to open this fall after winning a $10 million startup grant from XQ Institute. But after nearly seven years of planning, school committee members unanimously rejected the high school. The Hechinger Report 

OPINION "While I can reminisce and enjoy the excitement of a new school year as a grandparent, as governor, I am committed to fully supporting our teachers and fully challenging the status quo," says Tennessee leader Bill Lee in an opinion piece. Medium

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Rise & Shine: IPS poised to commission real estate study https://chalkbeat.org/posts/in/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-ips-poised-to-commission-real-estate-study/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/in/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-ips-poised-to-commission-real-estate-study/#respond Tue, 20 Aug 2019 11:01:14 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=225006 Rise & Shine is Chalkbeat’s morning digest of education news. Subscribe to have it delivered to your inbox. VIRTUAL TROUBLE: As two scandal-plagued virtual charter schools face losing their charters, their attorney appeared before an authorizing board Monday night and described the schools as effectively closed. Chalkbeat PAY? An Indiana teacher who spoke about how […]

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VIRTUAL TROUBLE: As two scandal-plagued virtual charter schools face losing their charters, their attorney appeared before an authorizing board Monday night and described the schools as effectively closed. Chalkbeat

PAY? An Indiana teacher who spoke about how her pay had stagnated then declined over her 30-year career was one of many educators at the first public meeting of the state teacher pay commission. Chalkbeat

SCHOOL CLOSINGS: Before deciding which schools to close as part of its cost-cutting plan, Indianapolis Public Schools will commission a study of all 71 of its schools and other buildings. A report is expected by August 2020. IBJ

BREAKUP: A school in Georgia wants to stop working with K12, a company that provides online education. Now, the school and its service provider are in a very public battle. EdWeek

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Rise & Shine: What you need to know about this year's test scores, out soon https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-what-you-need-to-know-about-this-years-test-scores-out-soon/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-what-you-need-to-know-about-this-years-test-scores-out-soon/#respond Tue, 20 Aug 2019 10:18:27 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=225031 TEST PREP What you need to know about this year's easy-to-compare, especially interesting test scores. Chalkbeat MEMBERSHIP DRIVE The union that won big raises for its daycare workers is making a push to recruit new members. Chalkbeat UNSUCCESSFUL In an op/ed, a Queens mother asks Mayor Bill de Blasio why he hasn't resolved Success Academy's […]

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TEST PREP What you need to know about this year's easy-to-compare, especially interesting test scores. Chalkbeat

MEMBERSHIP DRIVE The union that won big raises for its daycare workers is making a push to recruit new members. Chalkbeat

UNSUCCESSFUL In an op/ed, a Queens mother asks Mayor Bill de Blasio why he hasn't resolved Success Academy's request for middle-school space in her neighborhood. New York Post

REFLECTION At an uncertain time for New York's charter sector, a longtime advocate looks back on the schools' growth. Gotham Gazette

PAYOFF After years of educator activism, three-quarters of Americans now support giving teachers raises. Chalkbeat

 

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Rise & Shine: Come hear what Detroit students have to say about life in school https://chalkbeat.org/posts/detroit/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-come-hear-what-detroit-students-have-to-say-about-life-in-school/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/detroit/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-come-hear-what-detroit-students-have-to-say-about-life-in-school/#respond Tue, 20 Aug 2019 10:00:16 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224929 Rise & Shine is Chalkbeat’s morning digest of education news. Subscribe to have it delivered to your inbox. STORY SLAM You’re invited to a live storytelling event this Friday. Six Detroit youth will share their experiences in the city’s schools. Chalkbeat SCHOOL FUNDING Pay schools based on student need, not zip code, says a superintendent. […]

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STORY SLAM You’re invited to a live storytelling event this Friday. Six Detroit youth will share their experiences in the city’s schools. Chalkbeat

SCHOOL FUNDING Pay schools based on student need, not zip code, says a superintendent. Bridge

ADVISORY COMMITTEE After months of controversy over a state effort to close the struggling high school in Benton Harbor, officials are taking another tack: An advisory committee that would bring representatives from the state and the community together to improve the district. Michigan Radio

STARTING TOO LATE? Michigan is one of only a few states that seeks to boost tourism by asking school districts to open their doors after Labor Day. Most districts opt out of the requirement. Is it time for a change? Crain’s WDET

BREWERY A brewery paid off lunch debt for every student in this Michigan school district. WGAU

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3 out of 4 Americans support giving teachers a raise, the highest in a decade https://chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2019/08/20/poll-teacher-pay-raise-charter-schools-vouchers-choice/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2019/08/20/poll-teacher-pay-raise-charter-schools-vouchers-choice/#respond Tue, 20 Aug 2019 04:01:23 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?p=224930 Nearly three in four Americans think teachers should be paid more, the poll shows.

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Striking teachers have been successful at drumming up support for a raise, a new national poll suggests.

Nearly three in four Americans think teachers should be paid more, the poll shows.

That points to a potentially strong base of support for the proposals by a number of Democratic presidential candidates to dramatically raise teacher pay and ramp up federal investments in high-poverty schools.

“The tenor of these provocative ideas is resonating with the American public,” write the researchers who released the poll for Education Next, a Harvard-based research journal, which is generally sympathetic to school choice. “Support for increasing teacher pay is higher now than at any point since 2008, and a majority of the public favors more federal funding for local schools.”

But a separate recent poll shows that support has limits, as many say they are also wary of increased taxes. That’s consistent with recent ballot initiatives in Colorado and Los Angeles, where voters soundly rejected tax increases for schools in the wake of teacher protests.

The Education Next poll also shows some evidence of increasing support for policy ideas often at odds politically with teachers’ groups: expanding alternatives to district public schools, like charters and private school vouchers. Although protesting teachers in a number of places have targeted their ire at charter schools or vouchers, that does not appear to have dampered support for these policies.

Overall, Americans still disagree about these issues: 48% say they support charter schools, while 39% percent oppose them, for instance. Democrats are divided, too, with black and Hispanic Democrats more supportive of school choice initiatives than white Democrats.

Here's more detail about the findings.

[promo]

1. The public wants to pay teachers more — at least in the abstract.

Education Next, which conducts an annual poll on education issues, asks about teacher pay in two ways. For one group, they simply ask whether public school teacher salaries should go up, go down, or stay the same. Asked this way, 72% of Americans think teachers’ salaries should go up, an increase of several points since 2017.

The poll also asks the same question after telling respondents how much the average teacher actually makes in their state. (Nationally, the average is about $59,000. Neither version of the question mentions that teachers tend to make less than other college graduates.) In this case, 56% want teachers to be paid more.

That’s a 20-percentage-point jump in two years — a large increase that’s likely attributable to the teacher protests that spread through states including West Virginia and Arizona and cities like Los Angeles and Denver in 2018 and 2019.

Some states that have seen teacher protests have substantially increased education spending, which recent research has linked to better outcomes for students. Elsewhere, though, voters haven’t been willing to accede to teachers’ demands. In Los Angeles, for instance, only 46% of voters backed a proposed tax increase for schools — far short of the two-thirds needed to pass — just months after the high-profile strike.

That aligns with another recent poll issued by PDK, a professional organization for educators, which found that most people support increasing education funding — but want to do so by cutting other government programs rather than by raising taxes.

2. More people are making up their minds on charter schools.

More people are opposed to charter schools now (39%) than in 2016 (28%). At the same time, support for charters has followed a V-like pattern — after tumbling to 39% in 2017, it climbed back up to 48% this year.

This offers only mixed evidence for the theory that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — a school choice advocate whose fumbled confirmation hearing helped make her one of President Trump’s least popular cabinet members — has turned the public against charter schools.

“In sum, the potential collapse of public approval for charters that had appeared imminent in 2017 has not occurred, but opposition has solidified among a significant minority,” write the researchers.

This also means more people have staked out a position on charters. Only 13% of Americans say they neither support nor oppose charters, down from 25% two years ago.

Still, many people are poorly informed about charters, the poll shows. The vast majority of respondents didn’t know — or answered incorrectly when asked — whether charter schools can hold religious services or charge tuition. (Legally, they can’t do either.)

3. Democrats’ racial divide on charters persists.

Between 2016 and 2018, Education Next polls found that white Democrats were growing substantially less likely to support charter schools, while support largely held steady among black and Hispanic Democrats.

The latest poll finds that racial gap is still there. (A recent poll from the pro-charter group Democrats for Education Reform shows something similar, though the margins of error in that poll are quite large.)

Black Democrats tend to back charters (55% support, while 29% oppose); Hispanic Democrats are fairly split (47% vs. 42%); and white Democrats are the most skeptical (33% vs. 57%).

Support among white Democrats has fallen substantially since 2016, and opposition among Hispanic Democrats has jumped from 24 to 42 percent. But among black Democrats, support for charters has increased 10 points since 2016, even though the NAACP has called for a ban on new charters.

Republicans are more supportive of charter schools than Democrats. And combining voters of all political leanings, there isn’t a large racial divide on the issue. That’s in part because strong support among white Republicans balances out the opposition from white Democrats.

4. Private school vouchers see an uptick in support, but voters have generally rejected them.

Education Next shows that public support for vouchers or voucher-like programs has been on an upward trajectory. Fifty-five percent of respondents say they back a universal voucher program, up 10 points from 2017. Forty-nine percent favor such a program targeted to low-income families, a 12-point jump in four years. Here too, black and Hispanic Democrats are much more supportive than white Democrats.

These findings undermines the idea of a “DeVos effect,” since the education secretary has championed public funding for private schools.

“School vouchers have gained popularity since President Trump took office in 2016,” said Marty West, a Harvard professor and the editor in chief of Education Next. “That’s something that I did not expect to see.”

Polling on school vouchers can be tricky, though, as wording matters a great deal. Voters tend to like “tax credits” more than “vouchers,” even though the policies are extremely similar. They also are fans of “choice” but not of “public expense.”

In 2017, for instance, 52% of Americans said they would oppose allowing “parents to choose a private school at public expense,” according to PDK. Asked that same year by Education Next about the same policy, voters supported it 45% to 37%. One key difference was the question wording: Education Next asks whether people back “government helping to pay the tuition” for private school.

Notably, vouchers have seen little success when put before voters directly. Just last year, Arizona voters roundly rejected a proposal to expand voucher eligibility.

“We do not claim that our results are a reliable indicator of what would happen if you put the concept on the ballot,” said West. “Political scientists have shown that there is a strong bias toward the status quo in ballot campaigns regardless of the topic.”

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‘This is not rocket science’: Indiana educators bring ideas for raising teacher pay to Holcomb’s commission https://chalkbeat.org/posts/in/2019/08/19/this-is-not-rocket-science-indiana-educators-bring-ideas-for-raising-teacher-pay-to-holcombs-commission/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/in/2019/08/19/this-is-not-rocket-science-indiana-educators-bring-ideas-for-raising-teacher-pay-to-holcombs-commission/#respond Tue, 20 Aug 2019 02:51:36 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?p=225007 Monday night was the public’s first chance to provide input to the state commission tasked with making recommendations for how to improve teacher salaries.

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When Robin Robinson stood in front of the governor’s teacher pay commission on Monday, she came prepared with a script: a paper listing her salary, year by year.

As the eighth-grade social studies teacher for the Monroe-Gregg School District recited her annual salaries, a trend became clear. She has been teaching for more than 30 years, but around 15 years ago her salary stopped growing. Then it started shrinking, landing below $60,000.

The seven-member commission panel — made up of former corporate executives, a philanthropist, and non-profit leaders — heard many similar stories as teachers offered their ideas and pleas for better pay.

The suggestions put forth over more than two hours largely reiterated familiar calls: to reallocate funding from charter schools to public schools, strengthen teachers’ power to bargain their contracts, and bring back a pay scale that guarantees more pay for teachers each year they work.

Many teachers said they were thankful for the opportunity to be heard — but said they had shared these suggestions before.

“There are so many seemingly obvious solutions,” said Marydell Forbes, an English teacher at West Lafayette Jr./Sr. High School. “With all due respect, this is not rocket science. And while we are passionate, we are not the Peace Corps.”

Monday night was the public’s first chance to provide input to the state commission tasked with making recommendations for how to improve teacher salaries. Until now the group has only met privately — a decision the state’s public access counselor previously said was legal although it stirred controversy, especially among educators.

Monday’s meeting — the first of three scheduled this month around the state — was also the group’s first opportunity to provide a public update on its work.

Commission Chairman Mike Smith didn’t say exactly what changes the commission is considering. He opened the meeting by saying the group has met at least once a month for more than six months, reviewing national and state data and sifting through more than 2,000 suggestions from at least 800 teachers that were submitted online. Members also met individually or in small groups with state Superintendent Jennifer McCormick, he said.

Both current Indiana State Teacher Association president Keith Gambill and former president Teresa Meredith were among those who called for the state to allow districts to reinstate salary schedules that would allow them to set a predetermined pay increase for teachers each year, or with each added degree or certification.

Mark Hodson, a language arts teacher at Anderson High School in Anderson, said he started teaching in Indiana prior to 2011, when lawmakers abolished salary schedules in favor of tying teachers’ raises to their evaluations.. Knowing that his pay would increase helped when his starting salary was low, he said.

“I had a plan,” he said. “I knew that one day I would be all right. I could buy a home, I could buy a car, we could send our kids to school.”

Teachers also called for the commission to consider the rising cost of insurance. In May, Robinson said teachers in her district got a raise. But after insurance costs increased, Robinson said she ended up taking home $21 less per paycheck.

One teacher suggested having one common insurance plan for all public educators in the state to try to keep costs to teachers lower, an idea that Smith told Chalkbeat afterwards is “worthy of review.”

More ideas included trying to use money from the Hoosier lottery, large tax breaks for teachers (one teacher suggested protecting $20,000 of teachers' earnings from being taxed), and making bargaining public so teachers would know what is being negotiated.

Hoosier teachers’ discontent over low pay has recently boiled up, like in many states around the country, with some rallying for bigger paychecks. It’s a critical issue that has become contentious for public school teachers against the backdrop of Indiana’s fiscal conservatism and proliferation of school choice, which some criticize for drawing dollars away from school districts.

Indiana has consistently ranked among the lowest states in teacher pay, lagging so far behind neighboring states that it would cost nearly $658 million to increase teacher salaries to competitive levels, a report by Stand for Children Indiana and Teach Plus Indiana found.

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that Indiana teachers made an average salary of $50,554 in 2016-17. Some of the state’s lowest-paid teachers make closer to $30,000 a year.

“We’re not asking to be rich,” Forbes said Monday. “We’re asking to be treated as the college-educated professionals that we are, and to have a living wage with which to raise our families.”

The majority of the crowd of about 100 people had taught for more than 20 years, according to a show of hands.

In an effort to help districts boost teacher salaries, this year lawmakers sent more money overall to schools and relieved pension expenses for districts. But the funding increase is expected to keep education spending about on track with inflation, and there was no requirement that districts put any savings from pensions toward teacher pay. A proposal to raise the starting salary for Indiana teachers to $40,000 was also shot down.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb introduced the commission and its advisory council during his January State of the State address. The commission is expected to submit recommendations to the state legislature by its next budget-writing session in 2021.

Two more public meetings are scheduled:

  • 10 a.m. (Central Time) Saturday, Aug. 24, at the Central High School auditorium, 5400 First Avenue, Evansville
  • 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 27, at the Concord Jr. High Cafeteria, 59397 County Road 11, Elkhart

Smith said the commission does not have plans for any other public meeting, but said the commission will continue traveling the state and talking to teachers.

Who’s on the Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission:

  • Commission Chairman Michael L. Smith (Indianapolis), former chairman, president, and CEO of Mayflower Group and former executive vice president and CFO of Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield
  • Jená Bellezza (Gary), COO of Indiana Parenting Institute
  • Tom Easterday (Zionsville), former senior executive vice president, secretary, and chief legal officer for Subaru of Indiana Automotive
  • Marianne Glick (Indianapolis), chair of the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Family Foundation and board member of the Gene B. Glick Company
  • Bob Jones (Evansville), recently retired chairman and CEO of Old National Bancorp
  • Katie Jenner (Madison), senior education advisor to Gov. Holcomb
  • Nancy Jordan (Fort Wayne), senior vice president of Lincoln Financial Group

Who’s on the advisory council:

  • Melissa Ambre (Noblesville), director of the Office of School Finance for the Indiana Department of Education
  • Lee Ann Kwiatkowski (Greenwood), director of public education and CEO of Muncie Community Schools
  • Emily Holt (Arcadia), math teacher at Westfield High School
  • Dan Holub (Indianapolis), executive director of the Indiana State Teachers Association
  • Denise Seger (Granger), chief human resource officer for Concord Community Schools in Elkhart
  • David Smith (Evansville), superintendent of Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation
  • Rebecca Gardenour (New Albany), member of the New Albany-Floyd County Board of School Trustees and member of the Indiana School Boards Association

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As they ask for more money, two Indiana virtual schools say they are all but closed https://chalkbeat.org/posts/in/2019/08/19/as-they-ask-for-more-money-two-indiana-virtual-schools-say-they-are-all-but-closed/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/in/2019/08/19/as-they-ask-for-more-money-two-indiana-virtual-schools-say-they-are-all-but-closed/#respond Tue, 20 Aug 2019 02:06:47 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?p=224997 Despite painting a picture of schools that are all but shut down, an attorney for Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy asked to keep them open.

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As two scandal-plagued virtual charter schools face losing their charters, their attorney appeared before an authorizing board Monday night and described the schools as effectively closed: Students have been told to wrap up their work this week. Teachers haven’t been paid. School bank accounts have been shuttered.

Federal investigators have been looking into enrollment discrepancies and how Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy spent tens of millions in public dollars, the schools’ attorney, Mary Jane Lapointe, confirmed to the board.

But despite painting a picture of schools that are all but shut down, she asked the oversight agency, Daleville Community Schools, for money to finish closing the schools — or even to keep them open, saying the schools’ problems could “go away eventually.” Lapointe also disputed the state auditors’ recent findings that the schools had over-reported enrollment and taken in $47 million more in state funding than they should have.

Monday night’s meeting was the two virtual schools’ chance to defend themselves as the Daleville school board considers for a second time revoking their charters — a largely symbolic move, since the schools have already agreed to close and appear to be shutting themselves down even earlier than mandated.

Lapointe said she didn’t know how many students were still enrolled in the two troubled schools.

Daleville has been bearing down on the two virtual charter schools since February, when the small rural district outside of Muncie revealed data showing the schools had been enrolling thousands of students who never logged in or signed up for classes. The schools came to an agreement with Daleville to wind down their operations, and the state cut off funding.

If the schools close, Lapointe said, they will still need money to pay staff members to help students transfer elsewhere.

According to Lapointe, AlphaCom Inc., which had been under contract to manage the schools, claimed “there were no overpayments — in fact, that there were no miscalculations, none. And that in fact, there were always more students enrolled than they were getting paid for.”

The confusion, she said, “lies in the difference between virtual and brick-and-mortar schools.”

The virtual schools have been subjects of Chalkbeat stories for years, with a 2017 investigation revealing ties between the schools’ founder, Thomas Stoughton, and companies hired by the schools, including AlphaCom.

Reached by phone Monday night, the attorney listed for AlphaCom told Chalkbeat he had stopped representing the company and believed the business was no longer in existence. In more than 300 pages of documents the schools sent to the Daleville school board, the index notes AlphaCom’s “successor” as a company called American Pathways Academy, which appears to share an address with the former AlphaCom.

The documents also included a subpoena for school officials to testify in front of a grand jury earlier this month and provide information on student enrollment, school contracts, and payments made to vendors. Daleville board members said the papers, including another stack that Lapointe handed to them at the meeting, contained information that they had been seeking for months.

“When you refuse to provide information that is in your charter that you are to provide, it definitely makes you suspicious,” Vickie Rees, a board member, said. “Why would you have not come forward with that early on?”

When Daleville board members criticized the virtual schools’ superintendent, Percy Clark, apparently the only remaining staff member, and members of the schools’ board of directors for not showing up to defend the schools, Lapointe said Clark was “at his wits end,” and volunteer board members seemed “not willing to do much more.”

During the meeting, Daleville board members asked why the schools had run out of money, to which Lapointe responded, "I don't know."

Even though the Daleville school board is scheduled to meet again next Monday to make a final decision, revoking the charters may not have a practical effect. Indiana Virtual School had already been scheduled to close Sept. 17, and students had been referred to its sister school. Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy is slated to close at the end of the school year, though classes are apparently winding down this week.

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Newark parents can now enroll their children at neighborhood schools https://chalkbeat.org/posts/newark/2019/08/19/newark-parents-can-now-enroll-their-children-at-neighborhood-schools/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/newark/2019/08/19/newark-parents-can-now-enroll-their-children-at-neighborhood-schools/#respond Mon, 19 Aug 2019 23:36:19 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?p=224976 Starting Monday, Newark families can visit their neighborhood school to enroll their children in schools for the fall.

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Starting Monday, Newark families can visit any neighborhood school to enroll their children in schools for the fall, according to information posted on the Newark Board of Education’s website.

Newark schools will now serve as “family support centers” capable of enrolling students in district schools and charter schools that participate in the citywide enrollment system, called Newark Enrolls, the district said.

The update comes after Newark Public Schools announced plans to revamp the city’s online enrollment system to make it easier to use. The new system also will allow families to register in schools via their phones.

The online enrollment system has been down for more than a month while the district transitions to the new system — causing frustration among some parents and school employees. During that time, many families have been visiting the downtown Family Support Center to get enrollment assistance.

As schools now take on the role providing enrollment support, the district will close the downtown enrollment center on Sept. 20, according to the district website. At that point, families will need to visit any district school to get help with enrolling in or transferring schools.

Families should bring their children's birth certificate or passport, a proof of address, and parent ID, according to the district. Schools can provide assistance from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., or by appointment.

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Chalkbeat en español: Los resultados de los últimos exámenes estatales ya están aquí https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/rise-and-shine/chalkbeat-en-espanol-los-resultados-de-los-ultimos-examenes-estatales-ya-estan-aqui/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/rise-and-shine/chalkbeat-en-espanol-los-resultados-de-los-ultimos-examenes-estatales-ya-estan-aqui/#respond Mon, 19 Aug 2019 23:34:08 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224974 EXÁMENES ESTATALES El Jueves, el departamento de educación de Colorado publicó los resultados de los exámenes estatales que tomaron los estudiantes esta primavera. Es el quinto año que los estudiantes toman el mismo examen, lo cual quiere decir que podemos comparar hacía años atrás. A nivel estatal hay muy poco movimiento, pero los oficiales del […]

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Una maestra da clases en Aurora Central High School en Abril del 2017. (Foto por Yesenia Robles, Chalkbeat)

EXÁMENES ESTATALES El Jueves, el departamento de educación de Colorado publicó los resultados de los exámenes estatales que tomaron los estudiantes esta primavera. Es el quinto año que los estudiantes toman el mismo examen, lo cual quiere decir que podemos comparar hacía años atrás. A nivel estatal hay muy poco movimiento, pero los oficiales del estado dicen que el mejoramiento, aunque sea poco, es real. Los estudiantes del tercer grado al octavo, toman el CMAS. En la preparatoria, los estudiantes del grado nueve y diez toman el PSAT, y los estudiantes del grado 11 toman el SAT. Busca datos de tus escuelas en los respectivos artículos.

CMAS En la lectura del tercer grado, mas estudiantes de Colorado están leyendo a nivel. Chalkbeat

SAT Más de la mitad de las escuelas que dieron el SAT vieron sus resultados bajar a comparado al año pasado. En el area metropolitana, solo un distrito, el de Westminster, vio aumentos en sus resultados del SAT. El examen del SAT también es usado para entrar a las universidades. El promedio de todos los estudiantes del estado es más alto que el promedio de los estudiantes que toman el examen a nivel nacional. Chalkbeat

YA ES TIEMPO Aunque para muchas escuelas preparatorias, sus resultados bajaron este año, para una escuela, las consecuencias pueden ser más grandes. La preparatoria de Aurora Central fue puesta bajo un plan de mejoramiento en el 2017. El estado le dio a la escuela dos años para mejorar. La calificación que el estado le da a cada distrito y cada escuela será hecha pública el Lunes 26 de Agosto. Esa calificación es basada en gran parte en los resultados de los exámenes estatales que publicamos justo arriba. En algunos lugares si tuvo aumentos Aurora Central, pero en otros exámenes, bajo. Si este año no aumenta su calificación, la escuela Aurora Central podrá enfrentar planes más drásticos del estado, incluso que la conviertan a una escuela charter, o que la cierren. Unas cuantas otras escuelas enfrentan el mismo problema incluso HOPE Online (los años de primaria solamente), y la preparatoria de Manual en Denver. Chalkbeat


¿Tienes preguntas? ¿Tienes ideas de artículos que debemos de escribir? ¿O ideas para hacer este informe más útil para ti?

Llámame, o mándame un mensaje
Yesenia Robles
303-446-7633
yrobles@chalkbeat.org

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Aurora Central High School faces deadline to show improvement plan has worked https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2019/08/19/aurora-central-high-school-faces-deadline-to-show-improvement-plan-has-worked/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2019/08/19/aurora-central-high-school-faces-deadline-to-show-improvement-plan-has-worked/#respond Mon, 19 Aug 2019 22:22:14 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?p=224913 Aurora Central High School needs to receive a higher state rating this year to avoid further state action.

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As in much of the state, Aurora Central High School's average SAT scores dropped this year — but the consequences of that decline could turn out to be particularly heavy.

The 1,900-student high school in northwest Aurora has been working under state orders to improve. Now time is up, and state test scores for ninth, 10th, and 11th graders released Thursday show that the school failed to make big gains and even dropped in many cases.

Aurora Central High School is in the bottom 10% among high schools statewide, although the ranking excludes small schools with scores concealed by the state for student privacy. The school’s average scores on the SAT are also lower than Adams City High School's, another chronically low-performing school under state orders for improvement.

State test scores will play a big role in school ratings that the Colorado Department of Education plans to release next Monday. Aurora Central needs to receive a higher rating this year to avoid further state action.

Graduation rates, college enrollment, and growth scores — a measure of how much students improved compared to their academic peers — also factor in. Growth scores for high schools haven’t been released yet this year.

Through a spokesman, the Aurora district declined to answer questions or make the Aurora Central principal or other district officials available to discuss the school or its test scores until after ratings are public.

The State Board of Education in 2017 approved Aurora Public Schools’ plan to grant its high school the autonomy to try to improve on its own, with help from an outside company.

The state gave the plan two years to show improvement.

Time’s up for these schools

  • Manual High School, Denver
  • Montbello Career And Technical High School, Denver
  • eDCSD, Douglas
  • Mesa Elementary School, Montezuma
  • Central Elementary School, Adams 14

On plans, with a deadline this year:

  • Aurora Central High School, Aurora
  • Aguilar Junior-senior High School, Aguilar
  • HOPE Online Elementary, Douglas

On plans, without a deadline this year:

  • Adams City High School, Adams 14
  • Risley International Academy Of Innovation, Pueblo
  • Minnequa Elementary School, Pueblo

Although Aurora Central’s latest scores decreased, the school’s dips were in some cases smaller than for other better-performing Aurora schools. Aurora Central’s average SAT score, for instance, dropped 18.7 points from last year, compared with Aurora West College Preparatory Academy, which saw its average SAT score drop by 39.6 points.

Bruce Wilcox, the president of the Aurora teachers union, said those signs offer hope that the school is improving.

“They’ve had pockets of growth in some areas,” Wilcox said. “It would be interesting to see if they can build on that growth this year.”

A state progress monitoring report from a year ago reported that changes were going well. Attendance had improved, student referrals were down, and more students were taking concurrent enrollment courses to earn college credit. However, achievement remained low.

“Local data show positive trajectories in some areas, but state performance data has yet to reflect significant increases in academic achievement and growth, which remain far below state expectations for all groups of students,” the report states.

If the school fails to earn a higher state rating this fall, the school would likely face the State Board of Education this year to determine if it should order a new improvement plan.

The State Board has limited power in trying to improve chronically low-performing schools and districts, but it can request the school be handed over to a charter operator or it can order it to close.

The state can also order an outside company to take over management. That’s what the state did after the Adams 14 school district failed to meet a deadline for improvement last year. Teachers unions have filed a lawsuit to challenge that order.

To avert such an order, Aurora voluntarily put two other low-performing schools under external management.

Keelie Gray, 18, who graduated from Aurora Central in May, said that as a high-performing student at the school she felt the school’s improvement focus wasn’t on her. She said she didn’t feel that many of the recent efforts to improve the school made much of a change.

But, she said, Aurora Central is still a good school.

“I want people to know there are good students that are working hard,” Gray said. But she added, the school could use “an extra boost” of outside help.

This year’s state test scores will also determine the future of two Denver schools: Manual High School and the Montbello Career and Technical High School. Both schools have had five years of low performance ratings, meaning failure to move up this fall will trigger the state to hold a hearing to weigh ordering an improvement plan.

State officials typically weigh Denver schools against their school district’s performance rating, instead of the state’s. Denver crafted its scale taking more factors into account, but still relies heavily on state test scores. Schools often don’t fare better under the district ratings than they do under the state’s system.

Test scores for Manual show a lack of big gains. Manual’s ninth graders on average scored higher than last year’s ninth graders, but 10th and 11th graders decreased across the board.

The Montbello Career and Technical High School is classified as an alternative education campus, meaning its ratings are calculated differently than for conventional schools, and because it is a smaller school, much of its data is suppressed for data privacy.

HOPE Online’s elementary, authorized by Douglas County but operating in multiple districts, also faces a deadline to improve after already being put on a state-ordered improvement plan. Literacy scores rose slightly at the online school, but overall math scores declined, despite gains made by third-graders. It could face further action if it doesn’t improve this year.

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Back-to-school supplies in some Colorado schools include kitty litter and buckets for lockdowns https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2019/08/19/back-to-school-supplies-in-some-colorado-schools-include-kitty-litter-and-buckets-for-lockdowns/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2019/08/19/back-to-school-supplies-in-some-colorado-schools-include-kitty-litter-and-buckets-for-lockdowns/#respond Mon, 19 Aug 2019 22:10:42 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?p=224942 “We want to give our kids dignity in the middle of this type of crisis."

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Beyond the supplies themselves, which she’s grateful to have, it was the nonchalant way the buckets, kitty litter, and Sharpie marker were handed out during a routine back-to-school training that shook Jeffco Public Schools teacher Cassie Lopez.

“We were doing [professional development], and it was like, ‘Oh, get your buckets, and this is what your buckets are for,’” Lopez sad. “It was shocking. I was pretty upset afterward.”

The buckets and kitty litter are for students to use as toilets in case of a prolonged lockdown triggered by a threat inside the school. The Sharpie is for teachers to write the time they applied a tourniquet to a bleeding student, so paramedics know how long it’s been on. Lopez also got a kit that includes normal first-aid supplies, as well as candy to give to students with diabetes in case they experience low blood sugar while hiding in the classroom.

The head of school safety for Jeffco Public Schools described the supplies, and other new safety efforts, as innovative approaches to a problem with which the suburban Denver district has firsthand experience. Jeffco Public Schools is home to Columbine High School, where two teens murdered 12 of their classmates and a teacher 20 years ago.

“These events aren’t specific to us, but we have associated experience that is on the front page of the paper constantly,” said John McDonald, executive director of the district’s department of school safety. “Part of our responsibility is to be on the leading edge and take it seriously.”

The day Lopez received the supplies, she made a short video expressing how she felt.

Lopez wants to be clear: She’s not upset at the school for providing these supplies. She’s upset that teachers today have to worry about things like tying tourniquets.

“It feels like as a whole, America doesn’t care about our school children, which I don’t even have words for how awful that is,” Lopez said. “It feels like there’s this pressure for teachers to put your life on the line. That’s a lot to ask from teachers.”

This isn’t the first year Jeffco teachers have been given “go buckets,” and Lopez’s school isn’t the only one that uses them. McDonald estimates that more than half of Jeffco’s 158 schools have the buckets, along with pop-up tents or shower curtains meant to give students privacy.

The idea was born a few years ago after one school in the district, Alameda International Junior/Senior High School, experienced an hourslong lockdown due to a report of a gun in the school, McDonald said. Students ended up relieving themselves in trash cans and closets, he said.

The buckets aren’t required, though McDonald said they are highly recommended.

“We want to give our kids dignity in the middle of this type of crisis,” he said.

The Sharpies are part of a broader effort to teach educators to better respond in situations in which students or colleagues may be wounded. It includes what McDonald describes as a new, unique-to-Jeffco “school nurse response team” of 33 school nurses with emergency room and trauma experience who can provide medical care in the case of shootings or other crises.

Jeffco Public Schools has also started offering “stop the bleed” training to teach educators how to tie tourniquets and pack wounds. Eventually, McDonald said the hope is to train students, too.

“We really start with a belief that training creates a fundamental climate and culture of school safety, and you can be emergency prepared without being emergency scared,” he said.

Lopez hasn’t yet received the training. In fact, when her supervisors handed out the Sharpies, she said even they weren’t sure of the purpose. Teachers in the training began guessing and settled on the theory that the markers were to write the time a tourniquet was applied.

It turns out they were right.

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New York's state test scores are expected soon. Here’s what we’ll be looking for. https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2019/08/19/new-yorks-state-test-scores-are-expected-soon-heres-what-well-be-looking-for/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2019/08/19/new-yorks-state-test-scores-are-expected-soon-heres-what-well-be-looking-for/#respond Mon, 19 Aug 2019 21:42:45 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?p=224912 State test scores are expected this month. Here’s what we’ll be looking for.

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The wait is almost over: State test scores will be released by the end of this month, education officials confirmed. 

Despite the state’s steady shift away from how standardized tests are used to hold schools and teachers accountable, the exams still carry weight — and provoke anxiety — among New York City parents and educators. 

For one, the city’s most competitive high schools consider students’ scores on these exams when deciding who should get a seat. And while other factors, such as academic progress, are now considered, these scores still have the biggest influence in helping state officials determine how well a school is doing — and how much it’s struggling. 

Though the state hasn’t said when exactly the results would be released, they are expected before the end of August. That's about a month before they came out last year, which officials blamed on changes to the testing format. This year’s release will be the first time since 2017 that New Yorkers will be able to compare scores year over year, and it will be the first year ever to include test-takers who were part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first expansion of universal pre-K. 

Here’s what we’ll be looking at when the scores come down. 

Apples to apples 

In 2018, state tests were administered over two days instead of three, prompting education officials to warn against comparing the results to 2017 results. And in 2016, state education officials said year-over-year comparisons were unreliable because of policy changes that gave students unlimited time on the tests and cut the number of questions.

But the tests remained unchanged in 2019, so we’ll be able to see how New York City students performed on the exams, compared to 2018, and how their results stack up to those of children across the state. Last year, city students continued the trend of notching higher scores than other large cities and did better than the rest of the state on reading exams, though they lagged slightly behind students statewide in math proficiency. 

We’ll look for how many students are opting out of taking standardized tests. That rate has remained relatively low, though inched up slightly in New York City last year to 4.4 percent. Statewide, about 18 percent of students chose not to take the exams last year, a 1 percent drop from the year before, even though the state moved to ease the penalties on schools where more than 5 percent of students consistently sit out the tests.

Score disparities 

We’ll examine how students of color performed, compared to their white peers, who have on average scored higher on these tests than black and Hispanic students. While that disparity between racial groups has narrowed over the years, it’s an issue education officials continue to describe as troubling and in need of more work. Last year, some members of the state’s Board of Regents were alarmed by the disparities and called for a deeper analysis of why the so-called achievement gap still exists.

We’re also curious about how students learning English as a new language are scoring on these tests. Though there’s been some modest improvement over the years, this group has historically passed the exams at lower rates than their English-speaking peers.

Pre-K 

This year’s test-takers included the inaugural class of students enrolled in the first expansion wave of the mayor’s signature universal pre-K program. That early push expanded full-day pre-K to about 53,000 students — 33,000 more children than before it was rolled out. 

It will be tough to judge the program’s exact effect using test scores, even if reading and math proficiency rises for third graders. (We don’t know how many third graders took the tests this year, but 68,675 students took the math test, while about 67,000 took reading portion last year). Not all of those test-takers will be universal pre-K alums, and it won’t be clear how many of the children who first enrolled in the program are still attending New York City schools.

But the results could serve as a starting point in assessing universal pre-K’s effect on literacy down the road. Mayor Bill de Blasio has acknowledged that “multiple measures” should be used in assessing the program’s success, but he’s expecting progress. 

I think we’ll start to see [in 2019] more of the results of having a universal literacy approach,” de Blasio said at a press conference last year about state test scores. “But even that, I think, could take another year or more to really fully play out. I do expect progress.”

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Scores of Illinois schools taught abstinence last year. They could continue despite questions about the message https://chalkbeat.org/posts/chicago/2019/08/19/illinois-schools-taught-abstinence-last-year-they-could-continue-despite-questions-about-the-message/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/chicago/2019/08/19/illinois-schools-taught-abstinence-last-year-they-could-continue-despite-questions-about-the-message/#respond Mon, 19 Aug 2019 21:07:11 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?p=224911 More than 150 schools in Illinois, including 22 in Chicago, used a sex education curriculum last year that taught abstinence only. 

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More than 150 schools in Illinois, including 22 in Chicago, used a sex education curriculum last year that focused on abstinence as birth control.

Under state law, the schools were required to also provide information about contraception.

Last week, the Illinois State Board of Education re-upped its $1.8 million annual federal contract to offer abstinence-based sex ed in Illinois schools, even as research shows that encouraging young people not to have sex does little to limit pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease.  

Sex education is optional in Illinois. However, the state requires any district, like Chicago, that chooses to teach must include information about both contraception and abstinence.

Only one State Board of Education member protested the grant, when the board OK’d it earlier this month on an 8-to-1 vote. “What has been reported to us is there is no evidence of measurable outcomes,” board member Cristina Pacione-Zayas said. “We have no understanding of behavioral outcomes.” 

The board passed the vote without an extended discussion, but board head Carmen Ayala said she didn’t want to cut off the grant, which the state administers, because districts relied on it to fund some of their sexual education classes. 

The Sexual Risk Avoidance Education program, administered by the state board since 2017, uses an abstinence-based curriculum targeted at young people ages 10 to 19 that does not include contraception. It was created under the 1996 federal welfare reform act signed by then-President Bill Clinton that tied efforts to change people’s behavior.  

Fifteen other states also receive the grant, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Related: The birds, the bees and consent: How one Chicago classroom navigates evolving sexual education 

In Illinois, Scott Phelps, who runs A & M Research, a company contracted to provide supplemental abstinence-based curriculum and teacher training to schools around Illinois, said his group sees abstinence as a tool in combating poverty. 

“We are tasked with helping young people understand that, if they reserve sexual activity and childbearing until marriage, their children have a much better chance of avoiding poverty,” Phelps said. 

But research by the Brookings Institution found that idea was simplistic, and that it works better in communities not struggling under the impact of low-wage work and generational poverty

Phelps said that schools use his curriculum, which runs from two to eight class periods, in addition to comprehensive sex education. “It wouldn’t make sense to repeat what the comprehensive sex education does,” he said. 

Chicago Public Schools mandates sex education in its schools. Health educators put together what advocates consider a mostly comprehensive sex-education curriculum, but schools can also hire a non-profit to teach lessons approved by the district’s Office of Student Health and Wellness. 

The district, however, denied a request to bring an A&M Research curriculum into Chicago schools because it did not meet its standards.

Principals of the 17 schools in Chicago did not respond to requests for comment.

In a statement, Chicago Public Schools said it is committed to providing comprehensive sexual education. “Any curriculum or partner organization that doesn't meet our standards is not authorized in our schools," the statement read.  

Any abstinence-based education alarms some sexual health educators in Chicago. 

"When sex outside of marriage is shamed and stigmatized, young people miss out on critical — and sometimes lifesaving — information and skills,” said  Lisa Walker, assistant vice president of programs and strategic learning at Peer Health Exchange, which contracts with district schools to teach sexual education. “This is particularly true for queer and trans young people, whose identities are often invalidated through programs that focus exclusively on abstinence." 

The board’s approval of the contract comes as some immigrant Latino parents in Chicago are pushing the school district for more comprehensive sex education to counter sexual abuse and gender-based violence. 

Since 2017, Illinois has received and spent more than $5 million on the abstinence-based program for more than 17,000 young people across the state. 

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Come hear six Detroit students as they take the stage Friday to share their school experiences https://chalkbeat.org/posts/detroit/2019/08/19/come-hear-six-detroit-students-as-they-take-the-stage-friday-to-share-their-school-experiences/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/detroit/2019/08/19/come-hear-six-detroit-students-as-they-take-the-stage-friday-to-share-their-school-experiences/#respond Mon, 19 Aug 2019 17:07:44 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?p=224871 Detroit students will take the stage this Friday to share their school experiences with the community.

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Detroit students face many challenges and it’s not every day they get to talk about them publicly. But this Friday, they get a chance to share them with the community. 

Six students will take the stage in Mosaic Youth Theatre’s Blackbox to share the experiences that inspired some to take action to improve their schools. Although they come from different schools around the city, they have one thing in common: their passion for improving public education in Detroit. 

The student story slam will be sponsored by Chalkbeat and 482Forward, an education advocacy group in Detroit. The event will be at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 23rd. 

From worries about long-term substitutes in the classroom to a school that misplaced more than 100 students just weeks before the first day of school, the stories are meant to inspire and inform the audience. 

“I want them to see that they matter, and their stories matter and they shouldn’t be afraid to tell their stories. Because it’s who they are, and it’s helped shaped them,” said Detroit Cristo Rey High School alumnus Juanita Zuniga, a youth organizer with 482Forward and a junior at Kalamazoo University. 

Zuniga believes the event will allow attendees to hear stories they won’t hear anywhere else. 

“I think it’s important for people to come because the only way to get to know what’s happening is to hear it firsthand from the people experiencing it,” she said. “The more people that come, the more people that know what’s going on and that can change what’s going on.”

The goal of the event, Zuniga says, is to inspire people to take action to improve public education. She’s played a large role in planning the story slam, and says she’s excited to present these experiences to the community. 

For more information about the free event, please RSVP here, because seating and food are limited. 

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As pre-K teachers celebrate pay raises, day care union seizes the moment to reach more schools https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2019/08/19/as-pre-k-teachers-celebrate-pay-raises-day-care-union-seizes-the-moment-to-reach-more-schools/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2019/08/19/as-pre-k-teachers-celebrate-pay-raises-day-care-union-seizes-the-moment-to-reach-more-schools/#respond Mon, 19 Aug 2019 16:23:11 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?p=224856 On the heels of a labor agreement to boost teacher pay, and with a merger with its much larger counterpart, DC 1707 is seizing the moment to try to grow.

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All of the teacher groups that Jennifer Corre follows on Facebook were buzzing with the news: A just-announced deal would significantly boost pay for unionized pre-K teachers working in community-run classrooms.

Thanks to a decision Corre and her colleagues made just days earlier, the deal between the city and the union representing many preschool teachers meant they would get a raise — and a big one at that.

The Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, preschool staff had recently joined District Council 1707, the union that brokered the agreement. Corre rushed to tell Oksana Grebenyuk, the education director at the school where she teaches, Early Childhood Development Center Kaleidoscope.

“I got excited. I told Ms. Oksana, ‘We’re going to get a pay raise,’” Corre said.

Most independent preschools in New York City are not unionized. But on the heels of a $15 million labor agreement that has been hailed as historic — and with a pending merger with its much larger counterpart, District Council 37 — the union that represents daycare workers and preschool teachers is seizing the moment to try to grow. 

The new deal will boost salaries by as much as $20,000 over the next three years for teachers with advanced degrees and certification, bringing their pay on par with starting salaries in public schools. Corre is certified with a bachelor's degree. Teachers like her will see their salary go up by about $17,000.

The agreement was ratified in early August. Now, union recruiters are knocking on center doors, launching a text message campaign, and setting up tables at city events for new hires in publicly funded programs. They’re also showing up at centers like Kaleidoscope, which had taken it upon itself to reach out to the union.

So far, only a handful of new centers have come on board.

“This is a start for us,” said Indira Mohan, an organizing director for DC 1707. “Our intention is to touch all of the centers, nonunionized, to let them know, ‘Hey, this is an opportunity here for your employees to benefit.’”

Grebenyuk has been running private preschools for a decade now, and she began to expand Kaleidoscope just as the city’s universal preschool program for 4-year-olds, Pre-K for All, rolled out in 2014.  

Enrollment boomed, but Grebenyuk struggled with teacher turnover. Some realized they could earn more for the same job at a public pre-K, and they left for public schools as soon as they got the required credentials.

In order to make room for so many students in Pre-K for All, new classrooms were opened in public schools. But mostly, the city contracted with independently run centers, like Kaleidoscope, and providers say they are funded at rates that assume much lower salaries for their teachers. Pre-K teachers in public schools are public employees, so they are represented by the powerful United Federation of Teachers; it affords them higher salaries and a benefits package.

Kaleidoscope offers paid days off on federal holidays and a few weeks of paid vacation a year. Grebenyuk tried offering health insurance, but the plans she could afford were of little use to her teachers, so they opted out and she dropped it. 

“It’s very hard to keep the professional teachers, who are certified, because they’re looking for benefits, they’re looking for more money,” said Grebenyuk. A couple years into Pre-K for All, she said her teachers were earning their credentials and seeking employment at public schools. 

Pre-K teachers in public schools earned as much as 60 percent more than their community-based counterparts, depending on years of experience. City leaders have said the union deal will serve as a template for how eligible teachers at Pre-K for All centers would be paid, union membership or no, so it's possible non-unionized preschool staff could eventually see their pay go up, too.

One day this past spring, Grebenyuk and other independent preschool directors working with the city program gathered to air their grievances. Someone mentioned DC 1707, and Grebenyuk decided to reach out. The issue of pay parity has been simmering for years in the city, but negotiations with the city had not yet begun. 

A DC 1707 representative visited the school and made his pitch. The staff was on board. Rather than taking a staff vote, Grebenyuk, on behalf of management, simply recognized the union — officially on June 30.

Kaleidoscope is one of about 300 independent pre-K centers in New York City are members of DC 1707, out of a total of more than 1,000 similar independent programs, both for-profit and nonprofit, participating in Pre-K for All. To date, the decision to unionize is relatively uncommon, and management’s voluntary recognition of the decision rarer still. 

Nationwide, an estimated 10 percent of teaching staff in community-based early childhood programs are unionized, according to the Center for the Study of Childcare Employment, based at the University of California, Berkeley. In New York City, union shops range from some of the largest social service providers in the city to centers that have just a handful of teachers, such as Kaleidoscope. 

The extra pay Grebenyuk’s teachers receive won’t come from her own budget, but rather through her contract with the city. The center is now bound to union agreements around work issues and job protections, which plenty of managers would rather avoid. For teachers and support staff including custodians and cooks, union dues are on a sliding scale based on income, with the highest coming in around $45 a month, according to DC 1707.

Corre can expect a $4,000 pay boost in October, the first of the three raises that will kick in under the recent deal. Beyond a little extra financial security, she said the raise has shaped how she feels about her job, four years in.  

“It’s definitely about respect,” she said. “And that’s really important to me.”

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Complicated language excludes parents from the IEP process. It doesn't have to be this way. https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2019/08/19/complicated-language-excludes-parents-from-the-iep-process-it-doesnt-have-to-be-this-way/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2019/08/19/complicated-language-excludes-parents-from-the-iep-process-it-doesnt-have-to-be-this-way/#respond Mon, 19 Aug 2019 15:56:21 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?p=222900 Special education documents should be more readable so families can truly advocate for their children

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I don’t agree with the school’s evaluation of my daughter. What do I do?

The school suspended my son for “being physical,” but he has a disability. Can you help? 

The teacher moved my child to a different type of classroom and didn’t tell me. Can she do that?

These are real questions parents have asked me, and they're likely familiar to special education teachers. For the past 12 years, I have worked with young children in a wide variety of settings from New York to Colorado, where I’m now a preschool inclusion teacher. My passion lies in advocating and supporting young children with disabilities.

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These questions make me feel anger — not with the families, but with the procedural safeguard notice, a document mandated by the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act that's meant to inform families of their rights at least once a year.

The more I look at this document, the more frustrated I become. In theory, parents have the answers to their questions, but in reality, these notices are unreadable, impractical, and intimidating. Procedural safeguard notices require such high level reading skills that they alienate families from participating in their children’s education, forcing them to take a backseat to educators and state officials.

To help, I have spent countless hours counseling parents on their rights, directing them to reliable websites, providing “cheat sheets,” and connecting them with advocacy groups. Some parents seek further support by reaching out to family and friends, utilizing prior knowledge, and, on occasion, engaging the services of a lawyer.

I consider these parents to be the luckier ones. For thousands of families, supplemental resources are unavailable, too intimidating to access, or just as confusing as the procedural safeguard notice itself.

When parents sign to acknowledge that they have received this notice, the implication is that they also understood it. This is a false assumption. According to a 2014 assessment, only 13% of U.S. adults score within the highest reading levels. Yet a newly released study showed that in my state of Colorado, the procedural safeguard notice is written at the reading level of someone with a graduate or professional degree — in other words, 19-plus years of formal schooling.

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Colorado isn’t alone in this problem: This same study showed that nearly all state procedural safeguards are written at a college reading level or higher.

Consider the following examples, pulled from the discipline section of two of these documents. The first is from Colorado:

To the extent that they also take such action for children without disabilities, school personnel may, for not more than 10 school days in a row, remove a child with a disability who violates a code of student conduct from his or her current placement to an appropriate interim alternative educational setting (which must be determined by the child's individualized education program (IEP) Team), another setting, or suspension. 

The second statement, addressing the same topic, is from New Jersey’s procedural safeguard notice, which is written at an 11th-13th grade level:

Can the school district remove my child from his or her current placement for disciplinary reasons? 

Yes. School authorities can suspend (remove) your child from his or her current placement for not more than 10 school days at a time for any violation of school rules if nondisabled children would be subjected to removal for the same offense. 

Colorado’s procedural safeguard notice falls into the most difficult readability category. New Jersey’s document, which is one of the most accessible, is somewhat more straightforward. Yet it is still three to five grade levels higher than the recommended reading level for these documents.

When I have spoken with state special education officials about my concerns, they have pushed back, saying procedural safeguards cannot be legal without being highly technical and jargon-filled. I’ve been told that school staff, like myself, must take responsibility for ensuring parents understand their rights.

School personnel certainly can and do spend a significant amount of time helping families understand their rights. However, I've come to believe that the current documents perpetuate a system in which parents lose their sense of autonomy and competence. By putting the responsibility on me to explain safeguards, it elevates my position to that of an "expert" and reduces parents to mere guests in their child’s education.

As people who should be equal members of our IEP teams, how can I help parents feel valued if they must defer to my knowledge? And what might happen if my knowledge is wrong?

I know exactly what can happen. Ten years ago, as a new special education teacher, I attended my first preschool-to-kindergarten IEP meeting in New York City. Full of nervous anticipation, I was greeted by a representative who informed me that the IEP meeting would consist of just the two of us. No general education teacher, administrator, parent advocate, none of the professionals who had evaluated the child for her placement, and ... no parents.

Bewildered, I inquired about the family’s whereabouts. Surely we could reschedule? The representative waved off my concerns, nonchalantly stating the parents were out of the country but, “That’s fine. I’ll just get them to sign later.” When I tried, meekly, to protest, she became annoyed, saying that if I didn’t do the meeting that day then she had no time for it the rest of the year; it would be my fault if the child did not have a school placement.

This powerful woman was as convinced of her knowledge as I was suddenly questioning mine. So I deferred to her. I stayed. Together we placed a child in a non-neighborhood school, in a specific setting, with a specific plan, without the parents ever offering their input or even reading the document (as it was never translated into Spanish).

I think about that child and her family to this day. How many more families are being taken advantage of because they do not know their rights? How many are receiving the bare minimum of services, the wrong services, or no services at all because they are unable to advocate for their child?

Despite the progress that years of advocacy have made for the rights of children with disabilities, procedural safeguards have been left largely unexamined. Not only have states failed to improve their readability, they have become significantly worse.

We can help change that. We already know what improves readability, including utilizing plain language, glossaries, Q&As, tables of content, using visuals instead of text in some cases, and other strategies.

It is time for us to hold our state education agencies responsible for creating a more user-friendly procedural safeguard. If we continue to accept these documents as they are, if we continue to allow state agencies to push responsibility down to school staff, then we continue to perpetuate a system of disempowerment for our families.

Brenna Aversano is an early childhood general and special education teacher in Colorado. She is currently a third-year doctoral student at CU Denver in the Educational Leadership for Educational Equity program.

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Rise & Shine: New teachers in Jeffco would get a $2,000 raise https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-new-teachers-in-jeffco-would-get-a-2000-raise/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-new-teachers-in-jeffco-would-get-a-2000-raise/#respond Mon, 19 Aug 2019 13:54:13 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224792 Rise & Shine is Chalkbeat’s morning digest of education news. Subscribe to have it delivered to your inbox. ELECTION 2019 Stand for Children Colorado announced its endorsements for Denver school board Friday. A committee of parents and community members informed its decision. Chalkbeat Three people are so far running unopposed for seats on the school board for Cherry Creek […]

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Rise & Shine is Chalkbeat’s morning digest of education news. Subscribe to have it delivered to your inbox.


ELECTION 2019 Stand for Children Colorado announced its endorsements for Denver school board Friday. A committee of parents and community members informed its decision. Chalkbeat

Three people are so far running unopposed for seats on the school board for Cherry Creek schools. Aurora Sentinel

BACK TO SCHOOL Denver students face sweltering classrooms in record heat as they go back to classes. ABC 7

As Denver Public Schools students go back to school, Denver police are ramping up outreach and enforcement for commuters driving, riding and walking near school zones. Denver Post

MORE ON TESTS Aurora shows test score improvements while Cherry Creek is stable. Aurora Sentinel

TEACHER PAY New teachers in Jeffco Public Schools would get a $2,000 raise if the union membership agrees with a proposed contract. Denver Post

FOOD ASSISTANCE About 90,000 individuals in Colorado, including about 11,000 children, would be cut from food assistance if a new eligibility proposal moves forward, reducing maximum earning to qualify for things like free school lunch. Denver Post

DIFFICULT YEAR In the overall summary of his evaluation, the Douglas County superintendent is praised for his “exceptional performance” and “extreme professionalism and skill through the number and intensity of issues that were dealt with.” Colorado Community Media

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How student-led conferences changed the way this teacher does her job https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/rise-and-shine/how-student-led-conferences-changed-the-way-this-teacher-does-her-job/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/rise-and-shine/how-student-led-conferences-changed-the-way-this-teacher-does-her-job/#respond Mon, 19 Aug 2019 12:19:00 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224801 FIRST PERSON Here what, Alyssa Patel a math teacher in Nashville, has to say about student conferences. Chalkbeat HEATWAVE In Memphis, schools opened Aug. 12 amid an excessive heat warning issued by the National Weather Service as the heat index rose above 110 degrees. When is it too hot to go to school? The Washington […]

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FIRST PERSON Here what, Alyssa Patel a math teacher in Nashville, has to say about student conferences. Chalkbeat

HEATWAVE In Memphis, schools opened Aug. 12 amid an excessive heat warning issued by the National Weather Service as the heat index rose above 110 degrees. When is it too hot to go to school? The Washington Post

NEW CENTER Previously called the Shelby County Youth Assessment Center, the renamed Shelby County Youth Advocacy Center will offer help for children 12-17 without any involvement from law enforcement. Daily Memphian

GIRLS HEALTH Shelby County Schools is now providing basic hygiene products to about 10,000 students thanks to a $90K grant. Fox13 Memphis, WREG, Daily Memphian

CHILD SAFETY Investigations of child sex abuse in Nashville have been "egregiously incomplete" in recent years, according to a top prosecutor who said there were "fundamental and systemic failures" within the police unit that handles those cases. The Tennessean 

ADDING UP The Jackson-Madison school board votes to pay for completed studies, but terminate remaining studies on where to place a new school due to high costs. The Jackson Sun

SAFE SCHOOLS Experts explain how parents can help their children prevent bullying. Fox13 Memphis

COMMEMORATION Pointing to a recent law passed in Tennessee requiring high school students to pass a civics test before graduation, Joy Fulkerson, director of leadership and civic engagement at ETSU, said an upcoming celebration of the 19th Amendment presents an opportunity to encourage more participation in government. Johnson City Press

SCORES NEWS Here are more TNReady test score release roundups from around the state.  Citizen Tribune, Cleveland Daily Banner, Kingsport Times-News, Fox17 Nashville

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How student-led conferences changed how I see my students https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2019/08/19/student-led-conferences/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2019/08/19/student-led-conferences/#respond Mon, 19 Aug 2019 12:14:49 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?p=221912 The honesty of my students during their conferences never ceases to amaze me.

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We love to ask middle school students what they want to be when they grow up. But what happens when we ask them to explain how they will get there — with a volunteer they’ve never met?

Welcome to student-led conferences, something that has changed the way I think about my students.

Each January, my Nashville students flip the script on traditional parent-teacher conferences. Instead of parents and teachers gathering to discuss a student’s grades or behavior, students reflect on their behavior and gather work samples and fun facts. These portfolios serve as a starting point for students to reflect on their progress in the fall semester.

I had my doubts during my first round of these. I knew there were kids who would take it seriously. But then I thought of some of my students who struggled at school. Would they be honest? Would they even participate? How effective can it be for a middle schooler to lead a conference?

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But the honesty of my students during their conferences never ceases to amaze me.

Poor grades due to goofing off in class? They’ll write about it. Lots of detentions? They’ll write about it. How they need to be more committed to completing their homework in all their classes? They’ll own it.

Last year, I conferenced with a student who had a tough first semester. I fully expected needing to lead the conversation — there was no way this student was going to honestly discuss the impact of the choices they made. 

Within minutes, however, the student admitted to being frustrated with their grades and behavior. After some analysis about why the first semester was difficult, the student independently came up with some ways to have a more successful second half of the year, like completing homework more regularly and asking for help when work was difficult.

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The conference ended with the student setting a goal for the following quarter. The next day at school, I was met with a hug and a commitment to have an excellent day.

As it turns out, after four years of teaching, I was the one who had to adjust to the new structure. If I attended a conference led by one of my own students, I found myself assuming the role of teacher too quickly, reaching for pep talks or potential interventions. I sometimes forgot to listen. So, I always try to conference with students whom I don’t teach. 

I find that students leave the conference with a renewed focus on their own goals and another adult whom they know is invested in their education. Sometimes that’s a parent or other family member, and other times it’s a volunteer from the community. (Sometimes it’s even my own mom and dad, who have gotten to meet my students through conferences over the past several years.)

Friends, family, and volunteers aren’t there to judge or lecture, but rather to listen, learn, and sometimes provide strategies for success. Ultimately, students are only accountable to themselves. And that allows some students to drop their guard.  

As a teacher, these conferences have reminded me of how reflective and aware many of my students are. During the year, it’s easy to lose sight of this fact, especially as behavior ebbs and flows. Quick one-off conversations with students don’t always allow for deep reflection, but student-led conferences help remind me that my students have built these skills.

Ultimately, these conferences are where I see my students turn into young adults before my eyes. They move forward into second semester knowing they can succeed, not because of what someone else has told them, but because they have taken ownership of their own path.

Alyssa Patel is a math teacher at LEAD Cameron College Prep, a zoned-neighborhood middle school in Nashville.

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Rise & Shine: Indianapolis Public Schools runs afoul of federal funding rules with a healthy snack program https://chalkbeat.org/posts/in/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-indianapolis-public-schools-runs-afoul-of-federal-funding-rules-with-a-healthy-snack-program/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/in/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-indianapolis-public-schools-runs-afoul-of-federal-funding-rules-with-a-healthy-snack-program/#respond Mon, 19 Aug 2019 11:00:37 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224817 Rise & Shine is Chalkbeat’s morning digest of education news. Subscribe to have it delivered to your inbox. ICYMI: The governor appointed a commission to study teacher pay. So far, they’ve met behind closed doors. Chalkbeat FOOD FIGHT: Indianapolis Public Schools was apparently misusing federal money to provide fresh fruits and veggies as snacks at […]

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Rise & Shine is Chalkbeat’s morning digest of education news. Subscribe to have it delivered to your inbox.


ICYMI: The governor appointed a commission to study teacher pay. So far, they’ve met behind closed doors. Chalkbeat

FOOD FIGHT: Indianapolis Public Schools was apparently misusing federal money to provide fresh fruits and veggies as snacks at all its elementary and middle schools. IndyStar

LUNCH AND LEARN: Warren Township will provide free lunches for all students for the next four years. WISH

CATHOLIC CONTROVERSY: Roncalli High School has been accused of retaliating against two students who supported a guidance counselor who was fired because of her same-sex marriage. IndyStar

SCHOOL SAFETY: A parent raises concerns over a Muncie school playing a clip of a 911 call from the Columbine shooting as part of an active shooter training presentation for students. WTHR, WISH

A student was arrested after he brought a gun to Lawrence Central last week, police said. Fox59, IndyStar, RTV6, WTHR

Some Franklin Township parents worry about crowded buses where students sit three to a seat. RTV6

TESTING, TESTING: Evansville schools no longer allow homeschool students to take proctored exams — like the SAT, ACT, or AP tests — on its campuses. Courier & Press

MAKING HISTORY: Indianapolis Public Schools appoints the first African American woman to lead the district’s police department. Indianapolis Recorder

UNION BARGAINING: Some teachers union officials take issue with a new law meant to bring transparency to the collective bargaining process. Tribune Star

COURT CASE: State Attorney General Curtis Hill asked the Indiana Supreme Court to take up a case disputing retirement payouts for two former Munster superintendents. NWI, AP

HELP, PLEASE: Rose-Hulman students provide free math and science tutoring throughout the school year. AP, Tribune Star

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Rise & Shine: State comptroller launches audit of NYC schools serving students with disabilities https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-state-comptroller-launches-audit-of-nyc-schools-serving-students-with-disabilities/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-state-comptroller-launches-audit-of-nyc-schools-serving-students-with-disabilities/#respond Mon, 19 Aug 2019 09:15:17 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224809 STATE AUDIT The state comptroller has launched a probe regarding "health, safety and accessibility conditions" in the city's District 75 schools, which serve students with more complex disabilities. New York Post SCHOOL WASTE A recycling advocate found a Manhattan school repeatedly throwing away supplies such as glue sticks and notebooks, some of them in their […]

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STATE AUDIT The state comptroller has launched a probe regarding "health, safety and accessibility conditions" in the city's District 75 schools, which serve students with more complex disabilities. New York Post

SCHOOL WASTE A recycling advocate found a Manhattan school repeatedly throwing away supplies such as glue sticks and notebooks, some of them in their original packaging. New York Post

BOOK REVIEW Opinion: Robert Pondiscio's new book, based on a year of reporting embedded in a Success Academy school, is "revealing, moving and fair." Washington Post 

MONEY MATTERS The number of education department executives making more than $200,000 has increased from 21 to 36 in the last year. New York Post

CHARTER CHATTER Opinion: Mayor Bill de Blasio's changing perspectives on charter schools is "not a surprise to New Yorkers, as the one thing most consistent about candidate de Blasio and his school policies is their inconstancy," argues NYCAN's Derrell Bradford. The 74

SUMMER PROGRAM At August Martin High School in Queens, some students participated in a summer program geared toward science and environmental issues. QNS.com

CASH GRAB Rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine showed up at his former school in Brooklyn last year and threw cash at students. New York Post

 

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‘Will we rise to the occasion?’ Mayor Lori Lightfoot issues a challenge to Chicago school administrators two weeks from start of school. https://chalkbeat.org/posts/chicago/2019/08/16/will-we-rise-to-the-occasion-mayor-lori-lightfoot-issues-a-challenge-to-chicago-school-administrators-two-weeks-from-start-of-school/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/chicago/2019/08/16/will-we-rise-to-the-occasion-mayor-lori-lightfoot-issues-a-challenge-to-chicago-school-administrators-two-weeks-from-start-of-school/#respond Fri, 16 Aug 2019 23:11:28 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?p=224793 Friday’s event put her on stage in front of the school leaders charged with leading Chicago’s more than 600 schools. 

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot said that one of the toughest questions she faced on the campaign trail came from a graduating senior at Whitney Young High School, who asked at a student-led candidates forum: “What are you going to do in the next four years to convince me I should come back to Chicago, and make Chicago my home?”

Lightfoot, reflecting on the question Friday during a speech at the school district’s fifth annual administrators summit about three weeks after her inauguration, asked the same of the hundreds of principals, assistant principals, and teacher leaders sitting before her. 

“Of course it was an intentionally provocative question,” she said, to laughs. “But it’s the right question, it’s what we should all be focused on. What are we doing every single day, each of us, in our own way, to make our city better, stronger, fairer for young people to be able to thrive?”

Related: Here are 8 items getting more funding in Chicago schools budget

The mayor holds vast power over Chicago schools, from control of the district's budget and strategic priorities to decisions about district leadership and school board appointments. Friday’s event put her on stage in front of the school leaders charged with administering Chicago’s more than 600 schools. 

Chicago Public Schools held the event at the city’s Symphony Center for school leaders to rally and plan ahead of the new school year around the vision of an equitable school district.  

Also in attendance were decision makers who help steer the district, including schools CEO Janice Jackson, Chief Academic Officer Latanya McDade and school board member Elizabeth Todd-Breland, whom Lightfoot appointed earlier this summer after completely overhauling the previous mayor’s board.

For weeks, most of the focus on Lightfoot in the education sphere has been whether she would be able to resolve contentious contract talks with the Chicago Teachers Union. She's also pledged to reconsider how much money Chicago spends for students and campuses with the most need, promised to bring hundreds of additional school support staff to the district and, with Jackson, announced a $7.7 billion budget, a 1.5% increase over last year.

Chalkbeat and other media members attended the start of the administrators event before being ousted by the mayor and the district's communication teams. 

Related: Lightfoot promises hundreds of new school support jobs, but few specifics on how to fund them

Lightfoot said convincing graduates to build lives and raise families in Chicago hinges on how well the district prepares students for well-paying jobs and the opportunity for social mobility. She said she and Jackson are committed to bringing resource equity to the district to ensure that schools have the support they need, characterizing the district as “the most important institution in our children’s lives.”

Related: 5 big questions for Mayor Lori Lightfoot about Chicago school funding reform

“What can we do to strengthen the lives of our children so that they grow up with hope and inspiration in their heart — not fear, not trauma, but hope and inspiration?” she said. “Our children’s eyes are on us...will we rise to the occasion?”

Lightfoot emphasized the importance of schools and city officials collaborating, and offered advice to help educators weather the stresses of their job.

“Think about the necessity of self-care, and how you can embrace that need, to make sure that you’re doing everything that you can to be strong and supportive of our kids, our families, our teachers and all the support personnel that go into making the classroom environment as productive as possible and as nurturing as possible for our children,” she said.

Related: This principal helped heal a South Side school after Chicago tried to close it. But now she’s leaving.

The mayor also praised Brooks College Prep seventh-grader Alannah Stanley, who delivered a powerful performance of the national anthem to rave reviews Friday morning.

“There are so many amazing children in the city who are doing incredible things every single day,” she said to the administrators, using Stanley as an example. “You know this because you see it in the classroom. But we need to make sure we tell the stories of those children every single day.”

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https://chalkbeat.org/posts/chicago/2019/08/16/will-we-rise-to-the-occasion-mayor-lori-lightfoot-issues-a-challenge-to-chicago-school-administrators-two-weeks-from-start-of-school/feed/ 0 The Denver Post
Stand for Children endorses three candidates for Denver school board https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2019/08/16/stand-for-children-endorses-three-candidates-for-denver-school-board/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2019/08/16/stand-for-children-endorses-three-candidates-for-denver-school-board/#respond Fri, 16 Aug 2019 21:22:42 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?p=224768 The group has spent more than $200,000 over the past eight years to elect pro-reform candidates.

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An advocacy organization that has spent big over the years to elect pro-reform Denver school board candidates has endorsed three candidates in November’s election: Alexis Menocal Harrigan, Tony Curcio, and Diana Romero Campbell.

Stand for Children Colorado announced its endorsements Friday. A committee of nine parents and community members reviewed questionnaires and interviewed candidates to inform its decision, the organization said. Although there are eight candidates running for three open seats on the board, Stand said only six candidates sought its endorsement.

The slate of candidates endorsed by Stand is the same as the slate endorsed last month by a group called Students for Education Reform Action Network Colorado. The Denver teachers union, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, endorsed a different slate.

Denver school board elections have traditionally been a contest between candidates who agree with the district’s reforms and those who don’t. The reforms have included collaborating with charter schools, encouraging school choice, and closing low-performing schools.

While “reform” has become a loaded term that many candidates avoid, this year’s election is to some degree following the same pattern, as evidenced by where the candidates agree and disagree.

All eight candidates have said teachers should be paid more and the district should provide more mental health support for students. But they disagree on whether the district should close struggling or under-enrolled schools, and on whether charters play a positive or negative role in the district.

Menocal Harrigan, Curcio, and Romero Campbell have said they support charter schools, as long as the schools are serving students well. And rather than calling for an end to school closures, as some of their opponents have done, all three said the district needs to take a realistic approach to dealing with schools where enrollment is declining or test scores are low.

All three candidates are Denver Public Schools parents. Menocal Harrigan and Romero Campbell attended Denver schools as children, and both work for nonprofit organizations that serve students. Curcio is an engineer and longtime volunteer in his neighborhood schools and districtwide.

Menocal Harrigan is running for a school board seat representing the city at large. Romero Campbell is running for a seat representing southeast Denver, while Curcio is running to represent northwest Denver.

Stand’s announcement includes quotes from members of its endorsement committee. The organization has focused in recent years on pushing Denver Public Schools to improve its early literacy rates and help more young students read on grade level.

“I loved Alexis because she knows the existing inequity in DPS against our Latino students, and she will work to support us parents to push our kids forward so they can graduate high school prepared and can pursue their dreams,” said Nallely Antunez.

About 50,000 of Denver’s nearly 93,000 students are Latino, and test scores show the district isn't serving them as well as white students. Scores released Thursday showed 29 percent of Latino students met or exceeded expectations on the state literacy test, while 74 percent of white students did — a wide gap that Denver hasn't closed.

“I liked Tony because he has a lot of experience in DPS schools,” said committee member Roxana Baraza. “I loved hearing that he had been involved with his kids’ education from the start, and I am especially excited to see how he continues to work with the community.”

Committee member Sarah Titus said she liked that Romero Campbell, who heads an after-school tutoring organization, has “firsthand knowledge of the need for literacy support.”

“With her dedication to giving children access to resources and support needed to get a quality education regardless of their background, economic status, or the barriers they face, we believe she will do a great job for all of us in the DPS family,” Titus said.

Stand’s endorsements this year will likely come with significant financial support, as in years past. In the last school board election in 2017, an independent expenditure committee associated with Stand for Children spent $96,000 in support of two candidates, Barbara O’Brien and Mike Johnson. O’Brien won, but Johnson lost.

Here’s a list of all the Denver school board candidates running this year, in alphabetical order. Candidates have until Aug. 30 to jump into the race. The election is Nov. 5.

At-large

Tay Anderson
Alexis Menocal Harrigan

Northwest Denver, District 5

Julie Bañuelos
Tony Curcio
Brad Laurvick

Southeast Denver, District 1

Scott Baldermann
Radhika Nath
Diana Romero Campbell

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No worksheets here: This Chicago kindergarten teacher wants to bring play back to classrooms https://chalkbeat.org/posts/chicago/2019/08/16/no-worksheets-here-this-chicago-kindergarten-teacher-wants-to-see-more-play-happening-in-classrooms/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/chicago/2019/08/16/no-worksheets-here-this-chicago-kindergarten-teacher-wants-to-see-more-play-happening-in-classrooms/#respond Fri, 16 Aug 2019 19:34:34 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?p=224650 The misconception that play cannot be rigorous and meaningful robs students of their opportunity to learn in a developmentally appropriate manner.

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Here, in a feature we call How I Teach, Chalkbeat asks educators who’ve been recognized for their work how they approach their jobs. You can see other pieces in the series here. 

On assignment for a fellowship earlier this year, Kathryn Cannady started asking early education teachers around Illinois about a new state tool to gauge kindergarten readiness. The assessment had been celebrated as a first-of-its-kind way to identify gaps in early education statewide — one step toward building up a fractured preschool system that reaches only a small percent of eligible Illinois students.

A theme began to emerge in Cannady’s interviews: That teachers felt like the assessment rewarded an academic focus in the classroom, even though research largely supports schools taking a different approach with young children.

“Research shows that children learn best from play,” said Cannady, a Teach for America veteran who has taught in China and in the United States and worked in Chicago charters since 2015. “A lot of times when people think about early childhood, they have this idea that kids are playing and teachers are sitting back with their feet up. But that’s not at all what happens, and play is actually this really amazing thing that kids use to take what they understand in the world and build on it.” 

One of her favorite lessons, she said, illustrates that idea, and it started simply with some boxes that were delivered to her classroom. The children started pretending they were cars, and she went with it. “They said they need wheels — so I started talking about shapes. That’s geometry! Then they said we needed police officers — and so we started talking about the role of police and rule-setting. That’s social studies! They said we need signs — so we talked about how to spell STOP. At the end of a week, we had roads and signs and each kid had their own car. It was a great experience and one of my favorite lessons," she recalls.

As part of our How I Teach series, Chalkbeat asked Cannady, a kindergarten teacher at Acero Brighton Park, about other ways she disguises learning as play, what captivates her about teaching, and another favorite lesson that involves a monster named “Blue.”

Was there a moment when you decided to become a teacher? 

I spent many years doing different forms of teaching, loving them, and then not actually wanting to be a teacher. In my senior year at Northwestern, I got involved with a group called Peer Health Exchange. Through this organization, I taught health classes in CPS, and realized that I could make a career out of the one thing I’d tried to avoid.

Kathryn Cannady

I moved to China, started teaching and doing college application consulting. Many of my students took it for granted that they would be accepted to and attend American universities, and I became frustrated that it was so much easier for a Chinese student to attend college than it was for students who actually lived in the U.S. 

I wanted to come home and try to work so students in Chicago felt they had the same right to access college and education that Chinese students had expressed. In 2015, I joined Teach For America, and have been in the classroom ever since. 

How do you get to know your students?

In the beginning of the year, my classroom apprentice and I set aside extra time to go around and play and interact with each student and get to know them better.

We like to start our day with a classroom survey about what students prefer (think ice cream or cookies; biking or running; playing with blocks or Legos), and then give students a chance to share with their friends. 

I also try to make sure that when students come up to me and share that I pause what I’m doing and really engage with them. Five-year-olds are so eager to share and you can tell it means a lot to them when you stop what you’re doing to listen to them and ask questions. 

Tell us about a favorite lesson to teach. Where did the idea come from?

When we’re working on letter sounds in class, I bring out our friend “Blue.” She’s a “monster” painted on a board with a mouth cut out so students can “feed” her. Blue asks students to feed her different letters or objects that start with a sound, and the kids get so excited to play with her. If we’re off task or really energetic in class, I always like to bring out Blue and some letters to take a break and feed her. 

I got the idea of feeding letter sounds to her from a professional development I did online through the Rollins School’s Cox Campus, and it’s a fun way to build play and engagement into a lesson that could be really dry for a young learner.

Because Blue is always hungry, she can change what she wants to eat throughout the year (from letter sounds like ‘F’ and ‘R’ to blended sounds like ‘fr’ to short words like ‘frog’) as the students get stronger in their literacy skills, which makes it easier for me to scaffold for different levels and build in more difficult skills. 

What is an issue in the current policy discussion that could use more on-the-ground input from educators?

Since I’ve started teaching, I’ve grown frustrated about not being able to implement play in my classroom. Play is such a contentious topic in today’s education sphere: Schools are increasingly implementing what they consider to be “academically rigorous” curricula — that include math worksheets or letter tracing pages — to close the opportunity gap.

But research shows that children learn best from play. Children learn and create meaning through play, which means that a child will still learn to count if they count blocks or trains instead of dots on a worksheet. Instead of having children work on copy-and-trace worksheets, we should be helping them practice writing for a menu in a pretend cafe or label a drawing of a building in a blocks center.  

The misconception that play cannot be rigorous and meaningful robs students of their opportunity to learn in a developmentally appropriate manner. If policy makers and district leaders spent more time talking to teachers who are really knowledgeable and experienced with implementing play, it would enhance student experience and improve early childhood education. 

What’s something happening in the community that affects what goes on inside your class?

I work with predominantly Spanish-speaking students and parents. I’ve seen some hesitation around using Spanish. I can’t say that this is due to the growing backlash against Latinx immigrants and Spanish within the United States at large, but it’s hard to imagine that the growing hate and bias hasn’t in some way trickled down. 

I try to combat this by teaching in both English and Spanish, and even taking traditionally white characters in stories and altering them to represent my students. In our literacy curriculum, one of the characters was a white student, so I took the content of the lesson and rewrote it for the student to be a Latina student. With our fairytale units, I look for books that have Spanish language or are traditional Spanish tales to make sure that my children see themselves in our content. 

Even though my Spanish isn’t perfect, I try to show them that I’m learning their language and building confidence so they can feel the same way about English.  I’m grateful to have the opportunity to celebrate both my students’ backgrounds and language in a way that can counter this external narrative, and work so hard to ensure that students feel proud of their emergent bilingual status and backgrounds. 

Tell us about a memorable time — good or bad — when contact with a student's family changed your perspective or approach. 

In my third year of teaching, I had a parent walk into my classroom and say “Oh, not another white lady,” before walking out of the room. I’d been working in the school for two years, and felt like I’d built a strong relationship with the school and community, but this moment reminded me that our work as people working in diverse spaces isn’t ever finished.

This parent was absolutely within reason to be nervous about having a teacher who didn’t represent her child or match their background, and I appreciated her honesty. It reminded me that a big part of my job was working to make sure that parents felt comfortable having me as their child’s teacher, and that I had to continuously work to represent their needs and background — even if it wasn’t my own.

The shock of the comment wore off, and I sat down with the parent to ask what she needed from me and how her child best succeeded. We ended the year with a great relationship, but it took me realizing that I have to do the work with every family, every year. 

What part of your job is most difficult?

The hardest part of my job is the feeling that you always want to or can do more for your students. I feel so much responsibility to make students’ experiences meaningful and supportive, and that makes it hard to leave my work at school. I am always thinking about lessons or interventions or supports I can change in my classroom, and it’s so difficult to turn that side of me off. 

What was your biggest misconception that you initially brought to teaching?

When I first was told that I was going to teach preschool as a TFA corps member, I was a bit disappointed. I thought that kindergarten was just going to be playing with kids and that it wouldn’t have an impact. 

This was a misconception for two huge reasons. One, play is such a meaningful way for children to build their meaning of the world, and it might look like nothing to adults, but it is the childhood equivalent of work. Two, being a teacher isn’t about being the life-altering savior of children riding in on a white horse. It’s about being a servant to families and students, and starting their educational journey off in a way that empowers them and makes them love learning and school. 

 What are you doing this summer?

This summer I’m a Policy and Advocacy Summer Fellow through Leadership for Educational Equity. I’ve been placed with the Illinois State Charter School Commission and am doing research on Special Education Cooperatives.  

What’s the best advice you’ve received about teaching?

I think the best advice I’ve ever received is that you can always apologize and try again. My students can benefit from me making a mistake and apologizing, because it shows them that even adults aren’t perfect. If I am teaching a lesson and it doesn’t go well, I’ll stop, “rewind” and tell the students “Hm, Mrs. Cannady didn’t do that well, did I? I’m sorry, can I try again and do this differently?”. 

 

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Rise & Shine: There's a few encouraging trend lines in Colorado test results https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-theres-a-few-encouraging-trend-lines-in-colorado-test-results/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-theres-a-few-encouraging-trend-lines-in-colorado-test-results/#respond Fri, 16 Aug 2019 14:20:40 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224714 Rise & Shine is Chalkbeat’s morning digest of education news. Subscribe to have it delivered to your inbox. FOCUS ON GROWTH When test score data is released, Denver district leaders don't go to the schools with the highest scores. Instead, they heap praise on the schools showing high rates of growth for students of color, who have traditionally not […]

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Rise & Shine is Chalkbeat’s morning digest of education news. Subscribe to have it delivered to your inbox.


FOCUS ON GROWTH When test score data is released, Denver district leaders don't go to the schools with the highest scores. Instead, they heap praise on the schools showing high rates of growth for students of color, who have traditionally not been well served by the district. Chalkbeat

TEST RESULTS More than half of Colorado students in grades three through eight didn’t meet grade-level expectations in reading, writing, or math on state tests they took this past spring, but state education officials see a few promising trend lines in the 2019 test results, including in the state’s literacy scores, which have edged up every year since this more rigorous CMAS test was first administered in 2015. Chalkbeat Colorado Public Radio

Use our searchable databases to find your school's CMAS results and SAT results.

Most groups of students saw small changes in their test performance compared to 2018, but English language learners recorded big drops, a change that educators attribute to local disruptions like snowstorms and national ones like immigration politics. Denver Post

Many Colorado Springs-area districts posted above average test results, as did students in Boulder County. Gazette Daily Camera

Students in District 51 in Mesa County showed gains across grade level, economic class, and race and ethnicity. Grand Junction Sentinel

TEACHING HISTORY Led by education journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, the New York Times has published The 1619 Project, a deep look at how slavery transformed every aspect of American society. The project comes with educational resources for every grade level. The Pulitzer Center

HELPING HAND A new national center is trying to better equip rural teachers to help students with mental health issues. WFYI

SCHOOL CALENDAR Chalkbeat's Philissa Cramer talks about why school starts in August or even July in some places and after Labor Day in others. Not all the factors are academic. WBUR

PAY RAISE Employees of the Pueblo 60 district — not just teachers, but paraprofessionals, custodians, food service workers, and others — will start the school year with 3.29% raises. Chieftain

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Rise & Shine: Early education leader plans $36 million expansion in Memphis https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-early-education-leader-plans-36-million-expansion-in-memphis/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-early-education-leader-plans-36-million-expansion-in-memphis/#respond Fri, 16 Aug 2019 12:02:27 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224680 EARLY CHILDHOOD A Memphis prekindergarten giant plans to build three new childcare academies over the next three years – and announced Thursday that one of them will be in partnership with the University of Memphis. Chalkbeat TNREADY ROUNDUP Tennessee students across the state improved on TNReady tests. How did your school do? Chalkbeat At a […]

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EARLY CHILDHOOD A Memphis prekindergarten giant plans to build three new childcare academies over the next three years – and announced Thursday that one of them will be in partnership with the University of Memphis. Chalkbeat

TNREADY ROUNDUP Tennessee students across the state improved on TNReady tests. How did your school do? Chalkbeat

At a make-or-break moment for the Achievement School District, its 30 schools have collectively delivered another round of low test scores. Chalkbeat

State test scores for Shelby County Schools increased this year in every subject except English for elementary and middle school students. Chalkbeat, The Commercial Appeal

More than 400 schools across 85 Tennessee districts made the state’s 2019 list of “reward schools.” Chalkbeat

TNReady scores show 19 schools from five suburban Shelby County districts won Reward school designations. Daily Memphian

Nashville public school students made improvements last year in math but saw a slight drop in proficiency in English language arts.  The Tennessean

Sumner County Schools had a record-breaking year, standardized test results show. The Tennessean

The state released growth, accountability and TNReady achievement results on Thursday showing that Williamson County Schools earned the status of an "Exemplary" school district, based on 2018-19 data. The Tennessean

Despite the majority of students still performing below grade level, Hamilton County students did better than their peers across the state in a variety of areas. Chattanooga Times Free Press

Fewer than half of students in Knox County's public schools and statewide are proficient in the areas of language arts, math and history — but in most subjects, they're improving. Knoxville News Sentinel

GIFTED GAP Most Memphis area school districts have a gap between the demographics of elementary school students and gifted and talented elementary school students, according to local, state and federal data analyzed by FOX13 Investigates. WHBQ

NOT THIS YEAR Lawmakers hoping to revisit the much-maligned voucher vote in an Aug. 23 special session likely will have to wait until the Legislature convenes in 2020. Daily Memphian

 

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$7.7 billion CPS budget: More administrators, more money for watchdog https://chalkbeat.org/posts/chicago/rise-and-shine/7-7-billion-cps-budget-more-administrators-more-money-for-watchdog/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/chicago/rise-and-shine/7-7-billion-cps-budget-more-administrators-more-money-for-watchdog/#respond Fri, 16 Aug 2019 11:59:56 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224724 We’re Cassie Walker Burke, Adeshina Emmanuel, Yana Kunichoff and intern Catherine Henderson, and we’re rounding up Chicago public education news for the week. Please send any tips, story ideas, or general shoutouts our way: chicago.tips@chalkbeat.org.  Want to see early childhood education investments get a prime discussion spot at a national event? Voting is open for a 2020 […]

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We’re Cassie Walker Burke, Adeshina Emmanuel, Yana Kunichoff and intern Catherine Henderson, and we’re rounding up Chicago public education news for the week. Please send any tips, story ideas, or general shoutouts our way: chicago.tips@chalkbeat.org

Want to see early childhood education investments get a prime discussion spot at a national event? Voting is open for a 2020 SXSWEdu Panel on the topic, and it would feature our own Cassie Walker Burke. The deadline to cast your vote is Aug. 23.

Week in Review

#TrackingtheContract: In an appearance this week on WTTW-Channel 11, Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey said negotiations between City Hall and the teachers union were behind, but the soonest a strike could happen would be late September. Chalkbeat Chicago has been documenting the talks in a contract tracker.

Pre-K vacancies: With 8,000 vacancies for preschoolers at community-based programs and schools, Mayor Lori Lightfoot took to the podium to urge more families to sign up. Chalkbeat noted the significance of the announcement and what it could mean for the program.  

Parent survey: What questions do parents have about schools and how can we help? As the start of the school year nears, Chalkbeat Chicago wants to hear from families. Take a brief survey here. 

A lens on teacher diversity: Public schools across the country are increasingly becoming less white, but districts are far behind on hiring teachers to reflect the demographic shift. WBEZ looked at how one suburban district is wrestling with the issue.

School buses in August: Though Chicago still sticks to its post-Labor Day start, more and more Illinois schools are starting in mid-August. The Sun-Times noted the shift.  

DeVos next door: U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has made several visits to our neighboring state of Indiana during her tenure. In a visit this week to a coding program in a juvenile correctional facility north of Indianapolis, she called the program a “good model” for second-chance education, saying it’s “very consistent” with President Donald Trump’s criminal justice reform agenda. Chalkbeat tagged along. 

Looking ahead

We’re having a party and you’re invited! Don’t sleep on Chalkbeat Chicago’s upcoming back-to-school bash for educators at Marz Brewing in Bridgeport. There will be free beer, food, and storytelling from some of the city’s most literary teachers. Seats are going fast. RSVP today. 

CPS budget hearings: Chicago Public Schools will discuss its proposed $7.7 billion budget and its capital plan on Tuesday and Wednesday. Find locations here.

#HighFive

Each week we use this space to spotlight an outstanding educator, student, or school-related program. We’d love to hear your suggestions! Email us at chicago.tips@chalkbeat.org and put #HighFive in the subject line.

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Rise & Shine: Changes are coming to the high school admissions process https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-changes-are-coming-to-the-high-school-admissions-process/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-changes-are-coming-to-the-high-school-admissions-process/#respond Fri, 16 Aug 2019 11:30:41 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224707 CHANGE AHEAD The high school admissions process will no longer include a second application round, and students will now be placed on waitlists for schools they want to attend. Chalkbeat GRIEF SUPPORT A Brownsville middle school has become a model for providing emotional support for grieving students. Chalkbeat BALANCING ACT Opinion: Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza […]

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CHANGE AHEAD The high school admissions process will no longer include a second application round, and students will now be placed on waitlists for schools they want to attend. Chalkbeat

GRIEF SUPPORT A Brownsville middle school has become a model for providing emotional support for grieving students. Chalkbeat

BALANCING ACT Opinion: Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza is trying to reverse damaging education policies of the past, but focusing on specialized high schools as the city's most high profile integration goal is "disingenuous." Amsterdam News

CASE FILED Among the lawsuits filed under a waived statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse survivors is a woman who says her public school teacher assaulted her. New York Times

SHOWN THE DOOR A Queens principal with a controversial past won't have his position renewed. New York Post

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Rise & Shine: A shooting inspired this school’s ‘grief sensitive’ approach https://chalkbeat.org/posts/in/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-a-shooting-inspired-this-schools-grief-sensitive-approach/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/in/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-a-shooting-inspired-this-schools-grief-sensitive-approach/#respond Fri, 16 Aug 2019 11:11:34 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224628 Rise & Shine is Chalkbeat’s morning digest of education news. Subscribe to have it delivered to your inbox. GRIEF IN SCHOOLS: A shooting that killed one person and injured 11 others happened one mile away from a New York middle school in July. By the next day, the principal pulled together a “social-emotional support team.” […]

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GRIEF IN SCHOOLS: A shooting that killed one person and injured 11 others happened one mile away from a New York middle school in July. By the next day, the principal pulled together a “social-emotional support team.” They’re approaching the new school year with a “grief sensitive” approach. Chalkbeat

LISTENING TOUR: State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick is touring Indiana with Senator Eddie Melton. At their most recent stop, teachers said they feel disrespected. WFYI

SUPREME COURT: Attorney General Curtis Hill Jr. is asking the Indiana Supreme Court to hear his case against two former Munster superintendents who he says received hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra retirement pay. NWI

TEXTBOOK FEES: Indiana is one of eight states that allows schools to charge families fees for textbooks, according to the Indiana Coalition for Public Education. WISH

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Rise & Shine: Why open a new school when enrollment is declining? https://chalkbeat.org/posts/detroit/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-why-open-a-new-school-when-enrollment-is-declining/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/detroit/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-why-open-a-new-school-when-enrollment-is-declining/#respond Fri, 16 Aug 2019 10:49:40 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224712 Rise & Shine is Chalkbeat’s morning digest of education news. Subscribe to have it delivered to your inbox. NEW SCHOOL The head of quality for a large charter school management company explains why they're opening a new school near Detroit. Chalkbeat PREVENTING SUICIDES A Michigan school district is partnering with a local hospital to pilot […]

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NEW SCHOOL The head of quality for a large charter school management company explains why they're opening a new school near Detroit. Chalkbeat

PREVENTING SUICIDES A Michigan school district is partnering with a local hospital to pilot a program to prevent suicides. MLive

PAYING FOR LUNCH A brewery has paid off the lunch debt for a Michigan school district. MLive

MICHIGAN LIBRARIANS On the heels of a Chalkbeat report last week on the disappearing Michigan librarian, the writer of this blog says the problem could be solved by changing the state’s licensing laws. Mackinac Center

WAITING FOR A BUDGET With no state budget deal in sight, Michigan schools are forced to gamble with their spending. 9&10 News Yahoo

SCHOOL HEAT WAVE How schools handle the extreme heat without air conditioning. WOOD TV

VACCINATIONS URGED Michigan health officials urge parents to get their children immunized. News Herald

SCHOOL SUPPLIES Some metro Detroit teachers have joined a grassroots social media campaign to get more school supplies for their classrooms. Macomb Daily

 

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Q&A: This charter school leader says his company’s new school will 'be better' than the neighboring district https://chalkbeat.org/posts/detroit/2019/08/15/new-charters-michigan-westfield/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/detroit/2019/08/15/new-charters-michigan-westfield/#respond Thu, 15 Aug 2019 22:58:22 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?p=224687 This charter leader explains why he's opening a new school in a state that's losing students.

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Several new charter schools will open their doors this fall in metro Detroit. Why?

After all, Michigan has been losing students for nearly two decades, and many districts have struggled financially, pushing some to close schools.

Some education leaders argue that Michigan needs fewer schools, and that charters should stop expanding. Shawn Leonard, director of quality for National Heritage Academies in Michigan and Georgia, argues the opposite.

He says more public schools are needed — particularly new charter schools that will produce better academic outcomes than the neighboring traditional schools.

National Heritage Academies, one of the largest for-profit charter operators in the U.S., with more than 80 schools in nine states, has been taking that approach for a quarter century.

The results have been promising, but mixed. One widely cited study found that its schools produced improved student test scores in math, though not in other subjects. Higher-income students benefited the most from attending the network’s schools.

Regardless, the company is still expanding. The latest addition is Westfield Charter Academy, a K-12 school set to open this fall in Redford, Michigan, west of Detroit. The school will be the company’s 50th in the state.

Westfield will operate on two campuses within a mile of each other in Redford, one serving students in grades K-6 and the other serving students in grades 7-12. The high school will only serve grades 7-9 at first, but there are plans to expand year-by-year.

We spoke with Leonard to find out more about the school, and to ask why he plans to open a new building in a neighborhood that already has lots of them. Researchers have found that charter schools hurt nearby traditional districts financially.

His answer, in short: “When we open up a school, our goal is to be better than the schools in the area.”

Drawing on his own experience as a student in Detroit, Leonard believes his work helps give students educational opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise have.

Our interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

 

Why is NHA opening a school in Redford?

We have a team that does a lot of research around the academic performance of schools within certain areas to help with determining if there’s a demand or need for a new school.

We began to do research with families in Redford to see to see if there would be some interest or demand, mostly through surveys.

We don’t open schools in every area that we research. This happened to be an area where we saw a need.

How many students can you attract in a neighborhood that already has almost 10 schools?

We think we’ll have enrollment between 500 and 550 students, which is pretty much on par with what we were projecting. We had strong demand in our parent information meeting meeting. And we’ve had quite a few applications. But at the end of the day, we know that what matters is the first day of school. We’re working very hard to keep our parents engaged.

At the end of the day, we’ve had 800 applications.

Has it been a challenge to hire teachers?

It is a challenge to find a high quality teacher, especially when you’re hiring an entire school.

We’re looking for teachers who are willing to be accountable for student learning, and who are willing to grow. 

We’re probably looking at a staff of about 30, not including our support staff. We’ve been working on this opening for more than a year.

How do you respond when folks tell you you’re hurting Redford schools financially by opening a new charter there?

I graduated from Detroit Redford. At the time, Detroit Redford wasn’t considered a great option. When I graduated high school, I think there may have been 35 or 40 high schools in Detroit. There were only three that were considered high performing: Cass, King, and Renaissance. The only way you got into those schools was through a test in middle school. If you didn’t get a high enough score on that test, and you had to go to the other 37 low performing schools, what were your chances of having a high quality education 9-12 grade?

Back then, there were no other options. My family had to send me to Redford.

I distinctly remember my first English class in college [at Northwood University] my freshman year. I turned in a paper, and at the end of class one day my professor Carol Messing released the class and asked me to stay back. She said, ‘Hey, I had a chance to read your paper. What high school did you go to?’

I told her with pride, I graduated from Detroit Reford. She said, ‘Well, I have something to tell you, and this is going to be hard to hear. Detroit Redford did not prepare you for college. This paper that you just submitted is not college writing. Now, fortunately for you, I’m your professor, and I’m going to help you. But I needed to let you know that if this is the type of work that Redford was expecting from you, you’re not ready for college.’

For the next year I spent time after class with her, working on writing.

If I didn’t have Carol Messing, I wouldn’t be standing in front of you today. 

So I think it’s important that families are provided an option. I know that there are high performing district public schools, and that there are high performing charter public schools, and I know there is the opposite.

At the end of the day, the goal is to produce the best results. Whichever group can do that, that’s fine.

Is National Heritage Academies planning to open any other schools?

I don’t think Westfield is going to be our final NHA school. But at the same time, I don’t think there’s a strategic plan to open five schools in the next five years, or 10 schools in the next 10 years. We want to be sure that we’re being the best we can for the families we serve now.

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Facing big test score gaps, Denver praises schools where students of color making progress https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2019/08/15/facing-big-test-score-gaps-denver-praises-schools-where-students-of-color-making-progress/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2019/08/15/facing-big-test-score-gaps-denver-praises-schools-where-students-of-color-making-progress/#respond Thu, 15 Aug 2019 22:57:44 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?p=224674 “We have a lot of work to do in closing gaps,” Superintendent Susana Cordova said.

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On a day teeming with test scores, it’s possible to tell what the Denver school district is most proud of by where it holds its annual press conference.

This year, district leaders stood in the sun outside Dora Moore ECE-8 School, where black and Hispanic students posted some of the highest year-over-year progress on literacy and math tests in the entire city.

“We know that we need more and more schools like Dora Moore to make the kind of gains we want to see and close the gaps for our kids," said Superintendent Susana Cordova, who named improving education for students of color a focus when she became top boss in January.

The 2019 state test scores released Thursday reveal that Denver’s results held steady. Students in the state’s largest school district continued to make above-average progress, but still lag behind the state average when it comes to the percentage scoring on grade level.

Find your school's 2019 test results

In literacy, 42.8% of Denver students met or exceeded expectations of the Colorado Measures of Academic Success, a modified version of the PARCC test given to students in third through eighth grades. That’s below the state average of 45.8%.

In math, 32.7% of Denver students met that bar. The state average was 34.7%. The differences between Denver’s scores and the state averages were unchanged from 2018.

High school students take the PSAT and SAT college readiness tests. Denver’s 9th-grade PSAT scores improved, while the 10th-grade PSAT and 11th-grade SAT scores decreased, mirroring statewide patterns. Denver’s PSAT and SAT scores also lag behind state averages.

Big gaps in Denver’s test scores based on students’ race, income, and disability status remain. Some of the largest are between white students and black students. For example, 73.6% of Denver’s white students met or exceeded expectations on the CMAS literacy test, while only 28.9% of black students did — a glaring gap of nearly 45 percentage points.

Denver has committed in the past year to better serve its black students, who make up about 12,000 of the district’s nearly 93,000 pupils. Hispanic students, who comprise about 50,000 of Denver’s students, have similar test score gaps with white students in literacy and math.

That’s part of the reason Denver Public Schools so highly values a separate score that measures how much year-over-year progress students made on the tests. Called a growth score, it is generally seen as a better gauge of how good a job districts or schools are doing.

Each year when results are released, Denver leaders focus on schools with high growth scores, not schools with the highest test scores, which generally serve more advantaged students.

The state average growth score is about 50 on a 100-point scale. In 2019, Denver continued a long trend of exceeding that with overall growth scores of 55 in literacy and 53 in math.

But to close its glaring gaps, the Denver district would have to help black and Hispanic students make even higher growth year over year. On the whole, that’s not happening.

In 2019, black students in Denver had growth scores of 49 in literacy and math. While that’s higher than the average for black students in Colorado, Denver’s white students had growth scores of 62 in math and 63 in literacy — a difference that ensures the gaps won’t budge.

Some schools are bucking the trend. They include Dora Moore, where black students earned growth scores of 66 in literacy and math, and Hispanic students earned scores of 67.

Principal Karen Barker credited the school’s intensive focus on the academic needs of its students of color, coupled with the adoption of a discipline system called restorative practices that focuses on repairing harm rather than doling out punishments.

“Looking at our CMAS growth data brought tears to my eyes yesterday,” Barker said. “The work to meet the whole child and the intentionality of planning, it paid off. It paid off big.”

Dora Moore is a district-run school serving a diverse group of students in preschool through eighth grade in central Denver. Standing behind Cordova at the press conference were leaders from three Denver charter schools that also posted high growth scores: Wyatt Academy elementary school, DSST at Noel middle school, and STRIVE Prep Federal middle school.

DSST and STRIVE Prep are part of multi-school charter networks. Wyatt Academy is a standalone charter in northeast Denver. One of the city’s oldest charter schools, it was on the verge of being closed by the district for poor performance a few years ago.

But Wyatt’s growth scores tell a compelling comeback story. The school — where 95 percent of students are black and Latino, and 96 percent qualify for free or reduced price lunches — posted growth scores of 80 in literacy and 84 in math. The latter was the highest in the district.

Despite high growth, three of the four schools highlighted at the press conference, including Wyatt, still trail behind the district average in students scoring on grade level. That has been a source of ongoing frustration for parents and community activists of color. Students at DSST at Noel, a new school that opened last fall, scored higher than the district average in both literacy and math.

“We have a lot of work to do in closing gaps,” Cordova said in an interview after the press conference, “but getting strong growth is one way we will do that.”

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the correct scores for DSST at Noel.

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Porter-Leath announces partnership with University of Memphis as part of major early childhood expansion https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2019/08/15/porter-leath-announces-partnership-with-university-of-memphis-as-part-major-early-childhood-expansion/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2019/08/15/porter-leath-announces-partnership-with-university-of-memphis-as-part-major-early-childhood-expansion/#respond Thu, 15 Aug 2019 22:10:07 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?p=224636 A Memphis pre-K giant plans to build three new childcare academies over the next three years. One of them will be in partnership with the University of Memphis.

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A Memphis prekindergarten giant plans to build three new childcare academies over the next three years – and announced Thursday that one of them will be in partnership with the University of Memphis.

Porter-Leath raised $36 million to build the academies, which will be similar in size and quality to its prized Early Childhood Academy in South Memphis, according to documents made available at a Shelby County Schools board committee meeting this week.

The expansion comes at a time when school, city, and county officials are discussing expanding quality pre-K seats. Research shows that students benefit from both well-funded schools and access to quality early childhood education. That’s particularly important in Memphis where 35 percent of children live in poverty and have limited access to many childcare services.


Related: Memphis is about to open a major pre-K center. Advocates hope it’s just the start.


Porter-Leath President Sean Lee emailed the district on Monday to inform leaders of the proposed centers. The change could relocate existing Porter-Leath Head Start sites in Memphis to those neighborhoods.

“Replacing these centers will improve the overall health/safety of the program and will put more funds into programs that are currently spent maintaining aging facilities,” Lee wrote.

What’s unclear is whether or not Shelby County Schools will approve the Head Start classrooms to move to new locations.

“This is the first step in a process to get approval from the district to continue scaling early childhood quality across the county,” said Porter-Leath spokesperson Rob Hughes. "We look forward to engaging in each neighborhood."

The organization announced earlier this month that it would build one of the centers in the Frayser neighborhood in partnership with Girls Inc., a Memphis nonprofit organization. The center working with the University of Memphis would be located on Park Avenue, and both centers are set to open in 2021.

The Park Avenue center would allow the university to expand its elementary and secondary reach in Memphis – the University of Memphis already operates an elementary school and middle school in partnership with Shelby County Schools.

A third potential center, which would be located in Hickory Hill, is set to open in August 2022.

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede/Chalkbeat
Porter-Leath educates most of Shelby County Schools prekindergarten students. The nonprofit opened its South Memphis campus in 2017.

Porter-Leath has served the city’s poorest children since its founding in 1850 as an orphanage. Its offices are in the former orphanage building on land donated by Sarah Leath, a widow and mother who took the lead in organizing the charity. Today, the nonprofit organization has emerged as the leading provider of early childhood education in Memphis. Through a contract with Shelby County Schools, it provides Head Start classrooms across the city and wraparound services such as special education screenings and health care.

At its South Memphis center, which opened in 2017, Porter-Leath has trained more than 500 Memphis educators in an effort to boost the quality of early education instruction in Memphis.

According to a statement, the organization would be able to provide similar training at the University of Memphis center, as well as research opportunities for university professors.

A number of seats will be available to children of university students, faculty, and staff, but Porter-Leath and university officials declined to say exactly how many.

“We are excited about this partnership and the support it will provide for the children of our faculty, staff, students, and community members in addition to the robust research, training, and observation opportunities it will promote for our academic programs,” said Sally Parish, the university’s associate vice president for educational initiatives.

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Merit pay was the heart of a ‘revolutionary’ teachers contract in Newark. Now the Cory Booker-era policy is disappearing. https://chalkbeat.org/posts/newark/2019/08/15/merit-pay-was-the-heart-of-a-revolutionary-teachers-contract-in-newark-now-the-cory-booker-era-policy-is-disappearing/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/newark/2019/08/15/merit-pay-was-the-heart-of-a-revolutionary-teachers-contract-in-newark-now-the-cory-booker-era-policy-is-disappearing/#respond Thu, 15 Aug 2019 21:52:33 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?p=224651 The new contract highlights the waning popularity of many ideas associated with the education reform movement.

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In 2012, Newark teachers agreed to a controversial new contract that linked their pay to student achievement — a stark departure from the way most teachers across the country are paid.

The idea was to reward teachers for excellent performance, rather than how many years they spent in the district or degrees they attained. Under the new contract, teachers could earn bonuses and raises only if they received satisfactory or better ratings, and advanced degrees would no longer elevate teachers to a higher pay scale.

The changes were considered a major victory for the so-called “education reform” movement, which sought to inject corporate-style accountability and compensation practices into public education. And they were championed by an unlikely trio: New Jersey’s Republican governor, the Democratic-aligned leader of the nation’s second-largest teachers union, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who had allocated half of his $100 million gift to Newark’s schools to fund a new teachers contract.

“In my heart, this is what I was hoping for: that Newark would lead a transformational change in education in America,” then-Gov. Chris Christie said in Nov. 2012 after the contract was ratified.

Seven years later, those changes have been erased.

Last week, negotiators for the Newark Teachers Union and the district struck a deal for a new contract that scraps the bonuses for top-rated teachers, allows low-rated teachers to earn raises, and gives teachers with advanced degrees more pay. It also eliminates other provisions of the 2012 contract, which were continued in a follow-up agreement in 2017, including longer hours for low-performing schools.

“All vestiges of corporate reform have been removed,” declared a union document describing the deal.

The new contract highlights the waning popularity of many ideas associated with the education reform movement, including performance-based pay, and the success of educators across the country in demanding higher pay for all teachers — not just top-performers.

But the downfall of the 2012 contract — once touted as “groundbreaking” and “revolutionary” — also reflects conditions unique to Newark. The contract relied on a finite pool of private money, which helped fund the changes and convince skeptical teachers to sign on. And many educators remained wary of the contract even after it was approved, with a majority of teachers saying in a 2015 survey that they did not consider the new compensation system to be fair.

“It was a rigged system,” said a Newark high school teacher, who declined to give his name Wednesday as he left the union headquarters where officials were answering members’ questions about the contract deal. The new contract, he said, “is a step in trying to make whole the damage that was done to the pocketbooks and the hearts and souls of Newark teachers.”

The 2012 contract was forged under extraordinary circumstances. Zuckerberg had made clear to Christie and Cory Booker, the former Newark mayor who is now a U.S. senator and presidential candidate, that he wanted a contract that would reward high-performing teachers and make it easier to remove low-performers. With Newark schools under state control at the time, Christie appointed a hard-charging superintendent, Cami Anderson, to carry out the plan.

The resulting contract prevented teachers from earning yearly salary increases if they received unsatisfactory ratings under a new evaluation system based on students’ test scores and classroom observations. It also established $5,000 bonuses for teachers deemed “highly effective,” who could earn additional rewards if they taught hard-to-staff subjects, like math and science, and worked in struggling schools.

Teachers unions have traditionally opposed performance-based or “merit pay” systems, arguing that they force teachers to compete for bonuses and rely on evaluation systems that many educators distrust. But Newark’s union agreed to the system in exchange for $31 million in back pay — funded by Zuckerberg — for two years when teachers worked without raises. Many teachers suspected that if they didn’t accept the deal, the billionaire’s gift would be snatched away.

“We had an opportunity to get Zuckerberg’s money,” Joseph Del Grosso, Newark’s former union chief, said at the time, according to Dale Russakoff’s 2015 book “The Prize.” “Otherwise, it would go to charter schools. I decided I shouldn’t feed and clothe the enemy.”

The contract’s changes were symbolically significant and attracted national attention — but they directly affected fewer teachers than some realized.

About a third of Newark teachers took advantage of an option that let them remain on the traditional pay scale. And fewer than 200 teachers per year — about 7% of the current teaching force — received the “highly effective” bonuses, while a similar number of low-rated teachers were prevented from earning raises, according to union and former district officials.

It’s also not clear that the bonuses have convinced high-performing teachers to remain in the district — which was one of the stated reasons for offering merit pay. 

Newark does retain almost all of its top-rated teachers: In the 2016-17 school year, 97% of teachers who were rated “highly effective” the previous year stayed in the district, compared to just 54% of teachers rated “ineffective.” 

Yet researchers hired by the district have said they could not find “strong evidence” that the new pay system is the reason that top-rated teachers decide to keep working in the district. In a 2016 report, the researchers said it was possible that differences between teachers who get high versus low ratings were leading to the different retention rates — not the incentives offered by the district.

Meanwhile, as the Zuckerberg money dried up, the district was forced to discontinue the bonuses for working in hard-to-staff subjects and struggling schools.

At the same time, clashes erupted over the implementation of the contract. For instance, the contract replaced higher salaries for teachers with master’s degrees or doctorates with a one-time $20,000 bonus for teachers who completed approved graduate programs. But the union complained — and an arbitrator agreed — that the Anderson administration violated the terms of the contract when it unilaterally approved a single graduate program.

“Cami Anderson, immediately after that contract was signed, acted in complete bad faith,” said Randi Weingarten, the American Federation of Teachers leader who helped negotiate the 2012 contract, during an interview earlier this year. “It was a complete catastrophe.”

Newark looks very different today than it did in 2012. The Zuckerberg money is gone, the state no longer controls the district, and a veteran Newark educator — Roger León — is now superintendent.

Under those conditions, the district agreed to a heap of contract provisions long sought by the union. Besides ending the performance-pay measures, the five-year deal also raises teachers’ salaries by about 3% per year. It gives teachers more planning time, a later return from summer break, and more money to help pay for classroom supplies and graduate courses. Teachers will also earn more for working after school or over the summer, and for spending 20 or more years in the district.

District and union officials have not commented publicly on the deal or said how much it will cost. The union’s 4,000 or so members will vote on the contract later this month.

Shavar Jeffries, who led the Newark school board in 2012 and is now president of the national advocacy group Democrats for Education Reform said he is happy to see teachers get more money under the new agreement. But he said it is disappointing that teachers’ performance will no longer automatically influence their pay — a disconnect, he argued, that many families do not support.

“There’s almost no parent in the city of Newark,” he said, “who thinks that there shouldn’t be a relationship between pay and whether you’re actually doing a good job for babies each and every day in the classroom.”

This story was updated to include the findings of a 2016 study of Newark's pay system.

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How I Teach: This career-changer was inspired by her toddler https://chalkbeat.org/posts/us/rise-and-shine/how-i-teach-this-career-changer-was-inspired-by-her-toddler/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/us/rise-and-shine/how-i-teach-this-career-changer-was-inspired-by-her-toddler/#respond Thu, 15 Aug 2019 19:03:25 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224515 Welcome to the August edition of How I Teach! How do you go from tax accountant to special education teacher?  For Danielle Felicissimo, it was a two-phase journey. Although she spent a dozen years after college as a bookkeeper and accountant, she yearned for work that was more meaningful (and less boring). Then her toddler […]

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Welcome to the August edition of How I Teach!

How do you go from tax accountant to special education teacher? 

For Danielle Felicissimo, it was a two-phase journey. Although she spent a dozen years after college as a bookkeeper and accountant, she yearned for work that was more meaningful (and less boring). Then her toddler son was diagnosed with autism and she saw firsthand the many challenges he faced. That’s when she decided to go back to school to become a teacher. 

Today, Felicissimo works in a high school that exclusively serves students with severe disabilities. Although her students don’t mingle with typically developing peers, she believes the setting works for them. 

“They are stars of the school plays, music and fashion shows, color guard, cheerleading, student council,” she said. “No one can convince me they would have the same opportunities in an inclusion or general education setting.” 

Read on to learn more about Felicissimo and catch up on two recent pieces in our “How I Teach — Retirement Edition” series.  

As always, if you have feedback about this newsletter, drop me a line.

— Ann


HOW THEY TEACH
In their own words.

LAURIE KINGSBERRY, retired, middle school math, New York City
During her 35-year career, she mostly taught middle school math, but also found time to start choral groups at three different schools and write grants when budgets were tight.

DANIELLE FELICISSIMO, special education, New York City
For years she was a bookkeeper and accountant. Then her toddler son was diagnosed with autism. She now teaches at a Bronx school that serves students with the most severe disabilities.

ETHAN HOFFMAN, ninth grade math, Indianapolis
Working with recent immigrants from dozens of countries, Hoffman loves helping them see the beauty of math and its power to describe the world and make predictions about the future. 

IMELYA EBERHARDT-ELLISON, third grade, Detroit
Throughout her long career, she hasn’t shied away from change. In part, it’s because a professor once told her, "Don’t ever do anything for more than five years because you’ll burn out." 

MELINDA ELKIND, retired, third grade, Aurora, Colorado
Elkind says she won’t miss the meetings or sticking to a strict schedule, but never regretted going into education. “I love being a teacher and know I chose the right career.”


FROM CHALKBEAT
Other stories you might have missed.

MUMMIES, NOT MAIN IDEAS Background knowledge plays a huge role in helping kids learn to read. We have an excerpt from a new book on the subject by Natalie Wexler. More

OUTSIDE THE SCHOOL WALLS A New Jersey educator convinced his colleagues to walk the neighborhoods where their students live. He says it changed their minds and hearts. More

NO MORE TEST Amid an ongoing teacher shortage, Illinois will scrap a basic skills test that critics have argued poses a barrier to candidates of color. More

LEGAL STANDING Lawsuits brought by teachers unions to stop external managers from taking control of a suburban Denver school district and a middle school in southern Colorado raise the question: Do teachers have the right to block outside intervention? More

MINTING MORE TEACHERS OF COLOR Presidential candidate Kamala Harris proposed infusing $2.5 billion into teacher preparation programs at historically black colleges and universities to help produce more educators of color. More

BETTER TOGETHER At a recent job fair for educators, an unlikely pair teamed up to fill a vacant Spanish teaching position at a New Jersey high school. More

DENIED LOAN FORGIVENESS Saddled with $88,000 in student loan debt, this New York City art teacher joined a lawsuit against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. More

DISAPPEARING BREED In Michigan, 92% of schools don’t employ a full-time, certified librarian. Even if you count part-time librarians, the numbers hardly budge. More


YOU RECOMMEND …

A Letter to White Teachers of My Black Children” by Afrika Afeni Mills. Recommended by Shannon Saglio, technology instructional coach and former high school social studies teacher, East Lyme, Connecticut. “Afrika Afeni Mills speaks a painful truth that we can no longer ignore: It is our duty as educators to confront the implicit racial biases that promote inequalities. We can and must do better.”

The Innovator’s Mindset” by George Couros. Recommended by Paul Dlugonski, third grade teacher, Tulare, California. “I loved the book because it challenged me to create a learning environment that encouraged risk-taking, problem-solving, creating, and perseverance within my students and myself.” 

Do you have a reading recommendation for other educators? Let us know what it is and why you liked it, and it may get featured in a future newsletter. Just send Ann an email at aschimke@chalkbeat.org or fill out this short form.

Photo: Laurie Kingsberry

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Middle school near Brownsville playground shooting counsels students with ‘grief-sensitive’ approach https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2019/08/15/middle-school-near-brownsville-playground-shooting-counsels-students-with-grief-sensitive-approach/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2019/08/15/middle-school-near-brownsville-playground-shooting-counsels-students-with-grief-sensitive-approach/#respond Thu, 15 Aug 2019 18:00:55 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?p=224572 Mott Hall Bridges Academy, a middle school in Brownsville, has been acknowledged for its commitment to counseling students, who are no strangers to deaths of loved ones.

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The Brownsville Old Timers Day annual block party celebrates Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood with food, song, and street performances. This year, though, as the event was winding down, shots rang out — killing one person, wounding 11 others, and making national headlines

That was July 27. By the next day, Nadia Lopez, the principal and founder of Mott Hall Bridges Academy — a middle school located just a mile away from the shooting — had assembled the school’s “social-emotional support team,” comprising a school guidance counselor, social worker, director of programs, assistant principal, and Lopez herself. One current student had a family member who had been wounded, and a recent Mott Hall graduate was related to the person who’d been killed; the school’s support team checked in with them both, offering up grief counseling and other resources.

Helping bereaved students is an ongoing endeavor for many New York City educators — especially in neighborhoods like Brownsville, where the rate of violent crime is higher than the city as a whole. At Mott Hall, some 92 percent of the nearly 200 students live in poverty, and poverty often correlates with decreased life expectancy.  

The school’s support team is used to working with bereaved students, and in recent years it has become a citywide model for emotionally responsive education amid crises and also on a day-to-day basis. 

Lopez has all her students take a survey at the beginning of each school year to identify those who may be quietly dealing with a loss and at risk for academic or social slumps. The school also has a weekly, counselor-led grief support group, where students and share their feelings, write, or create memorial art projects. And if there’s a violent incident in the community, whether or not a student has been personally affected, Mott Hall organizes school-wide assemblies where students can share their feelings.

Since Mott Hall opened in 2010, it has worked closely each year with at least one grieving student, and sometimes as many as 15 such students. Some lose loved ones to old age, complications from illnesses or accidents, and some to violence. 

“It's often forgotten that the school is a representation of the community it serves,” Lopez said. “When you have a crisis where there's a shooting and there's a death involved, it does require a higher level of support.”

Since it first opened its doors, Mott Hall has placed a premium on the social-emotional well-being of its students, according to Lopez. 

Back in 2015, the school was featured in a viral Humans of New York post. In that online feature, Lopez was praised for her dedication to students. The post led to a $1.4 million fundraiser, and Lopez went on to meet President Barack Obama, give a TED Talk, and start a college scholarship fund for her students. 

“Poverty has a direct effect on the quality of living that these students have, and mental health services are not adequate in our community,” she said. “All of these things play out into their well being and their ability to think and be present in the classroom.” 

Arkeema Chandler, 19, and Dominique Harrell, 18, are Mott Hall alums and current college students. Both of them lost a parent while at the middle school and took part in the school’s grief support group. 

Harrell learned of her mother’s death after being pulled out of her lunch period by her older sister. She came back to class the same day and was greeted with immediate concern from every staff member she encountered.

“When they say support, they mean support,” Harrell said, noting the school guidance counselor brought her food and talked her through the initial shock of her loss. “I was just one kid and it felt like they put everything on pause to focus on me," she said. "I’ll never forget that.”

Chandler, meanwhile, enrolled at Mott Hall a few years after the death of her father. In May of her sixth-grade year, her mother died.  When she started having suicidal thoughts after her parents’ deaths, it was Lopez and Wesley McLeod, the school’s guidance counselor, who intervened — reaching out to Chandler, her grandmother, and her little sister “constantly.” 

She noted, “If I didn't have that push I don't know if I’d be here now.”

McLeod knows the work of grief support is not limited to the initial aftermath “because grieving is a life-long process, and every day the student may feel differently about the loss than they did the day before,” he said. “But I tell them if you need to talk to somebody, you always have someone here at Mott Hall to do that with.”

The New York Life Foundation, which has provided grants to pay for relevant books and trainings, and free bereavement resources to over 1,000 schools nationwide, has designated Mott Hall a “grief-sensitive” school. Mott Hall has received a $500 grant from the foundation for its commitment to addressing childhood bereavement.

Such work can be life-changing, but only 7% of teachers say they’ve received any bereavement training, even though 93% say they’ve had at least one grieving student, according to a 2012 survey the foundation conducted in collaboration with the American Federation of Teachers. 

“One of the main things that we hear time and time again from educators is that they want to support a grieving student, they just don't know how, or where to go,” said Maria Collins, vice president of the foundation. “But if a grieving student is not supported, they're just at a higher risk for social-emotional learning loss.”

Mott Hall is among 34 New York City public schools to have received grants from the foundation. Meanwhile, across the country, entire school districts, in places such as San Diego, California, Savannah, Georgia, and Miami-Dade County, Florida, have signed on to implement the “grief-sensitive” model in all their schools. 

That kind of district-wide focus is what some parents and advocates at a recent town hall in the Bronx said they would like to see from New York City's education department. The Aug. 7 gathering, which was held to discuss how city schools can better address childhood trauma, drew hundreds of attendees who expressed frustration with the lack of attention given to trauma, including grief, in schools.

Dana Ashley, the director of Positive Learning Collaborative, which provides city teachers therapeutic crisis intervention training, was at the meeting. So far, the training has been administered at 25 schools. Its implementation coincided with an 82% decrease in suspensions at the first six schools the collaborative worked with, the group reported.

“Our goal really is about teaching people to have relationships with kids where they can really connect, and kids feel safe to talk about whatever is going on — traumatic or not,” Ashley said. 

Lopez said that in recent years she’s seen more New York City public schools investing in students social-emotional wellness, including following a loss, “but there are a number of schools with no programs, with little funding, who really need that support,” she said.

Years on Chandler and Harrell, now young adults, often return to the middle school that helped carry them through their grief to support younger students. Lopez and her staff will “always have my back,” Chandler said.

And when a traumatic event happens locally, such as last month’s deadly shooting, they try to relay the same messages of community and resilience that they were taught years ago. 

If you were going through something at Mott Hall you’re not going through it alone,” Harrell often tells students. “Even when you’re at your lowest, you’re walking through the doors to people who want you to feel your best.”

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Find your 2019 Colorado CMAS scores — and compare schools https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2019/08/15/find-your-2019-colorado-cmas-scores-and-compare-schools/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2019/08/15/find-your-2019-colorado-cmas-scores-and-compare-schools/#respond Thu, 15 Aug 2019 18:00:31 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?p=224297 Use our searchable database to look up statewide and school-by-school results for both math and English language tests given to Colorado students last spring.

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The state released results Thursday for the annual battery of tests given to Colorado’s public school students every spring.

Use our searchable database below to look up statewide and school-by-school results for both math and English language arts. Students in third through eighth grade took the tests. For each school, you’ll see what percentage of students met or exceeded state standards on the tests, as well as a measure showing how much a school’s students grew academically year-over-year.

State officials say that a school’s growth number — officially called the median growth percentile — ideally should be higher than the state median, which is about 50. But they say it’s also important to consider a school’s overall achievement level when examining growth data.

            More testing coverage

  • Search school-by-school SAT results
  • Trends across the state and in 15 metro Denver districts

For example, a school where many students are below grade level would need a growth rate well above 50 to ensure students are making enough progress to catch up. In contrast, a school with a high-achieving population probably wouldn’t.

Together, achievement and growth results from state tests play a major role in school and district quality ratings. Those ratings are expected to be released later this fall.

To learn more about key trends in state and school district achievement, read our report here. Also, don’t miss our searchable database showing SAT results for Colorado high schools.

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Most Colorado students not proficient in reading and math — but there’s some good news https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2019/08/15/2019-colorado-test-results/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2019/08/15/2019-colorado-test-results/#respond Thu, 15 Aug 2019 18:00:16 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?p=224539 Colorado test results released Thursday paint a student performance picture that is substantially similar to past years, but there are promising signs in literacy.

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More than half of Colorado students in grades three through eight didn’t meet grade-level expectations in reading, writing, or math on state tests they took this past spring, and glaring disparities based on income and race remain essentially unchanged.

The 2019 Colorado test results released Thursday paint a student performance picture that is substantially similar to past years. In literacy, 45.8% of students met or exceeded expectations on the Colorado Measures of Academic Success, a modified version of the PARCC test given to students in third through eighth grade. That’s 1.3 percentage points higher than last year. In math, 34.7% of students did so, roughly the same percentage as last year.

However, state education officials see a few promising trend lines in the 2019 Colorado test results, including in the state’s literacy scores, which have edged up every year since this more rigorous CMAS test was first administered in 2015.

In 2019, 41.3% of third-graders met or exceeded expectations on state tests on English language arts, compared with 38% in 2015, and 48% of fifth-graders did so, compared with 41% in 2015.

Colorado test results in math are more mixed, with third-graders making gains since 2015 but fewer sixth-graders — just 30% in 2019 compared with 32% in 2015 — meeting or exceeding expectations.

Find your school's 2019 Colorado test results

In a call with reporters, Joyce Zurkowski, Colorado’s chief assessment officer, said she considers the literacy gains, made every year at every grade level, to be “real,” even if much smaller than anyone would like.

“When we're looking at (English language arts), we're definitely seeing a trend of improved achievement across all the grade levels, and that is good news,” she said. “We would like to see gains be made more quickly, and for our gaps to show narrowing.”

Across tests and grade levels, there’s a gap of roughly 30 percentage points between students who qualify for subsidized lunches, an indicator of poverty, and students from middle- and upper-class families. There are similar gaps based on race and ethnicity. For example, 60.1 percent of white fifth-graders met or exceeded expectations on literacy tests, compared with 31.6 percent of black students and 31.5 percent of Hispanic fifth-graders.

Students with disabilities have the largest gaps.

“It is gratifying to see such accomplishments in the performance of so many students across the state, but it is still difficult to see large groups of students who are not advancing as they should,” Colorado Education Commissioner Katy Anthes said in a press release on the results.

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Anthes said closing these gaps would continue to be a top priority, even as she noted that Colorado is hardly unique in struggling to raise test scores and reduce disparities, despite more than a decade of education reform policies, including expanded school choice and availability of charter schools, teacher effectiveness requirements, and an accountability system that allows for intervention in low-performing schools, including closure. Scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as “the nation’s report card,” have also been relatively flat over the last decade.

Student growth

Across districts and schools, there are strong correlations between student demographics and CMAS performance. In addition to achievement or proficiency, Colorado calculates growth scores that show how much progress students have made compared with students who had similar scores the year before. This score is generally seen as a better measure of how good a job schools are doing and contributes to school and district ratings that will be released later this fall. There is increasing concern, however, among some policymakers and advocates that even students with high growth scores won’t catch up in time to have the necessary knowledge and skills when they graduate high school to go on to college or good jobs.

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Because growth is calculated relative to other students, the state average is always around 50 on a 100-point scale. Racial and income disparities also appear in growth scores, though they are less dramatic. In 2019, fourth- through eighth-grade students in poverty had average growth scores of 47 in literacy and math and students of color had average growth scores of 48, while white students and more affluent ones had growth scores in the low 50s.

English language learners have similar growth scores to the state average, while students with disabilities have the lowest growth scores — 43 in literacy and 44 in math.

These gaps are significant because students who score lower on state assessments need to make more growth to catch up.

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Low-income students in Denver do better than the state average, but the district, the largest in the state, also has some of the largest gaps in growth scores in the metro area. Better-off students had growth scores above 60 while those in poverty were around 50. But in Denver and a number of other metro area districts, including Jeffco, Adams 12, Littleton, Boulder Valley, and Englewood, these gaps have narrowed slightly in recent years.

The tiny Sheridan district, where a quarter of students are homeless and the vast majority live in poverty, boosted its math growth scores for low-income students to 54.

Similarly, black and Hispanic students in Denver had higher growth scores than the state average for students of color, but they lagged 12 to 14 points behind their white counterparts. The largest racial gap in the metro area was in Douglas County, where black students make up less than 2 percent of the student population and have math growth scores 17 points lower than their white counterpoints.

SAT scores

Starting in 2017, Colorado has given high school students the SAT instead of state assessments in an effort to increase participation rates in a state that had become a center of the “opt-out” movement, in which students refused to take standardized tests as an act of protest.

That shift has been largely successful, with 92.6% percent of 11th graders taking the SAT this spring. The statewide average composite score this year was 1001, down slightly from 1014 in 2017 but still above the national average of 973.

This year more than half of all high schools in the state recorded lower SAT test scores when compared with last year. The decreases come as more students are taking the test, once reserved for students intending to go to college.

Data for about a quarter of high schools is suppressed due to the state's data privacy rules. Among those schools that did show an increase in their student test scores were several charter schools and the Denver Center for International Studies.

Third grade reading

Just 26 out of 178 Colorado districts have more than half of their third-graders reading at grade level. They are mostly tiny rural districts serving small numbers of students and districts that serve mostly students from middle- and upper-class families, such as Douglas County, Littleton, and Boulder Valley, along with Steamboat Springs, the Poudre district in Fort Collins, and Academy 20 and Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs.

In Denver, just 39.4% of third-graders met or exceeded grade-level literacy expectations on the CMAS, up 1.6 percentage points from last year. In Jefferson County to the west, it was 46.3%, slightly down from last year. In Aurora, which serves one of the most diverse student bodies in the state, it was 22.8%, up 1.5 percentage points.

In the Commerce City-based Adams 14 district, third-graders made 6 percentage points’ progress from 2018, but that still left just 22% of students meeting or exceeding expectations. The district serves the highest percentage of English language learners in the state. Last year, the State Board of Education ordered an external manager to take over day-to-day operations after years of low performance.

Incremental progress on literacy scores comes amid a national and state debate over how schools teach reading. Under Colorado’s 2012 READ Act, the state has invested more than $230 million in extra help for young struggling readers, but the number of students identified as having a significant reading deficiency has actually gone up slightly. This apparent lack of progress caused significant concern among advocates, policymakers, and parents.

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Legislation passed earlier this year requires additional training for teachers and more accountability for how districts spend READ Act dollars. Many districts that had previously used this money to cover the cost of full-day kindergarten should have more money available starting this year to give more attention specifically to struggling readers.

But state education officials said the steady progress on state assessments indicates existing efforts are having some impact.

“Our teachers are becoming more familiar with the standards and expectations at each grade level,” said Floyd Cobb, executive director of teaching and learning for the state education department. “Beyond that, there has been a tremendous focus on early literacy.”

Chalkbeat reporters Ann Schimke and Yesenia Robles contributed reporting. Sam Park did the graphics.

Correction: This story has been updated to properly attribute a quote. 

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SPECIAL ALERT: Colorado releases 2019 state test results https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/rise-and-shine/special-alert-colorado-releases-2019-state-test-results/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/rise-and-shine/special-alert-colorado-releases-2019-state-test-results/#respond Thu, 15 Aug 2019 18:00:03 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224563 The post SPECIAL ALERT: Colorado releases 2019 state test results appeared first on Chalkbeat.

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SAT scores are slightly down in Colorado. Find your school's 2019 results https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2019/08/15/sat-scores-are-slightly-down-colorado-find-your-schools-2019-results/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2019/08/15/sat-scores-are-slightly-down-colorado-find-your-schools-2019-results/#respond Thu, 15 Aug 2019 17:59:23 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?p=224351 More than half of Colorado’s high schools recorded lower SAT scores last spring when compared with the past year, according to data released Thursday.

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More than half of Colorado’s high schools recorded lower SAT test scores last spring when compared with the past year, according to data released Thursday.

Look up your school’s achievement in our searchable database below.

SAT scores can range from 200 to 800 each on the literacy and math tests, with a maximum composite score of 1600.

The statewide average composite score this year was 1001, down slightly from 1014. The national average was 973.

More 2019 test results

Among districts, the Westminster school district is the only one in the Denver metro area that increased its average SAT score for juniors, compared with its juniors who took the test last year.

The state began requiring Colorado juniors to take the SAT test in the spring of 2017. Students in 9th and 10th grades now also take the PSAT. Both tests are meant to measure college readiness, and SAT test scores can be used on applications for most colleges and universities.

Officials hoped that by offering high schoolers a test with more of a link to their college readiness — rather than an unrelated state achievement test — they would be more motivated to take the tests. Participation rates in some districts are still lower than government officials would prefer. In the metro area, for instance, the Englewood school district had just 81.9% of its 11th graders take the SAT.

The state withheld test score data for about a quarter of all high schools because of the small number of students who took the tests there. The practice is meant to protect student privacy, but several advocacy and research organizations have criticized the policy, saying it is too broad and hides important information from the public.

Growth scores, which are calculated based on how much students with comparable test history improve from one year to the next, will not be available until later this month.

Look back at our coverage of scores from the 2018 tests here.

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Your one-stop shop for TNReady scores https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/rise-and-shine/your-one-stop-shop-for-tnready-scores/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/rise-and-shine/your-one-stop-shop-for-tnready-scores/#respond Thu, 15 Aug 2019 17:24:54 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224561 The post Your one-stop shop for TNReady scores appeared first on Chalkbeat.

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Goodbye round two applications, hello waitlists: NYC announces changes to high school admissions https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2019/08/15/goodbye-round-two-applications-hello-waitlists-nyc-announces-changes-to-high-school-admissions/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2019/08/15/goodbye-round-two-applications-hello-waitlists-nyc-announces-changes-to-high-school-admissions/#respond Thu, 15 Aug 2019 16:30:13 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?p=224519 The city will allow students to sit on waiting lists and is eliminating the second round of admissions.

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New York City students applying to high school next year will encounter a new system with waitlists instead of a second round, the first significant change to high school admissions in 16 years. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the overhaul is meant to streamline admissions, but it's far from clear whether the changes will have the intended effect.

“It’s actually going to be simple to apply to schools for your kids for the first time in a long time,” de Blasio said, standing at a podium emblazoned with the words “Save Parents Time and Stress.” “Obviously these are things that should have been done a long time ago.”

Starting next year, the city will allow students to sit on waiting lists for schools they wanted to attend, but didn’t get into. The city is also eliminating the second round of admissions, which it now uses to for students who aren’t matched to a school they applied to during the typical process.

It’s unlikely the changes will make the application process less burdensome, as de Blasio suggested. The crux of the admissions system will remain the same, requiring families to invest time and resources into researching and applying for schools in a process that is often difficult to track. 

Now, thousands of students will be placed on waitlists that didn’t previously exist, leaving families to wonder through September whether they’ll get a more desirable assignment. Last year, only 34,000 students received their top school pick — meaning another 44,000 would have ended up on at least one waitlist. 

Though the city and mayor are under heightened pressure to address persistent school segregation, which many say is fueled by the complicated admissions process, the changes aren’t designed to alter those patterns. New York City schools are among the most segregated in the country but de Blasio has been reluctant to make systemic changes, largely leaving integration efforts up to motivated local communities. 

What’s changing: New waiting lists for schools

In New York City, students must apply to high school, a rite of passage for nearly 80,000 students a year. Students list up to 12 schools they want to attend, and a complicated algorithm matches each student with a single high school. (Students can also be accepted to one of the city’s specialized high schools, like Stuyvesant, outside of this process.) 

That algorithm is not changing. But until now, a student matched with his third-choice school, for example, would simply have been assigned there. Now, the student will be assigned to that third-choice school, but also put on a waiting list for their first and second choices. Students can also add themselves to additional waitlists, even among schools they didn’t list on their initial application.

The city says students will be told their place on each waiting list and can track updates in real time. Students on waitlists will be offered seats as soon as they become available. Still, a spokesman said, "We don’t expect a dramatic increase in students getting a higher choice" as a result of the waitlist process.

“It’s like going to a store and getting the ticket, you know what number you are, and you know how many folks are ahead of you, and you’ll be able to watch the process go,” said Deputy Chancellor Josh Wallack. “You’ll also be able to talk with an administrator in a school who can give you a sense of how much waitlists move each year and that varies a bit by school.”

City officials said they would provide training to school officials to help them manage their waitlists, suggesting that schools will have new authority over the admissions process. That’s likely to raise concerns about whether savvy families will be able to influence their place on that list, or their movement off of it.

Other big questions remain about how this will work. How much oversight will there be regarding how students are called off of the waitlists? Will in-demand schools receive any extra support for managing those lists? When, exactly, will those waitlists close?

One Brooklyn high school principal said students moving off of waiting lists could create a domino effect, making it harder to create student schedules or finalize the budget.

“It’s definitely extra work for the schools, but to me it’s more about the uncertainty of knowing that any kid who’s on your roster might just disappear to another school at any time because they got in somewhere else,” said the principal, who spoke on condition of anonymity. 

Robin Broshi, a parent on the Community Education Council in Manhattan’s District 2, said knowing your child’s rank on a waiting list brings more transparency to an opaque process. Still, the changes will not do much to make the system easier to understand or more fair, she said.  

“To me, this is a logical way this should work,” she said. “We’ve gone from really cumbersome, to a little less cumbersome.”

What’s changing: No second round of admissions

The other big shift will be what happens to students who aren’t matched to a school they listed on their application. 

For years, students who didn’t receive a match — because they listed few schools on their application, didn’t meet the entrance criteria for their choices, or the schools they applied to were simply oversubscribed — would enter a second application round. That allowed the students to rank schools again, choosing among those with open seats. 

This year, the city began assigning those unmatched students to a school, while still allowing the students to enter a second round. Now, the city is eliminating round two altogether — a move that may be welcomed by schools that dedicated staff time to information fairs. 

"It will make principals' in schools jobs easier because they will no longer have to do recruitment for the second round," said John Wenk, former longtime principal of Lower Manhattan Arts Academy. "Going back to the recruiting fairs is a pain in the butt."

Families “will be able to access in-person support at Family Welcome Centers, rather than wait to participate in a second process,” the city said in a statement.

Doing away with the additional admissions round could also save families time by eliminating the need to explore other options. But that process affected relatively few families. Laura Zingmond, an editor with the review site Insideschools, said only about 7% of students weren’t matched to a school they chose every year. 

On the other hand, the second round gave families more choices about where to apply — a process that now will now go away. 

Some principals said doing away with the second round of admissions could complicate their efforts to recruit families who may not have initially considered them.

“We think it’s a time to shine because they’re looking beyond their first choices — they’re looking at the schools with the less established reputations,” said an administrator who oversees a grade 6-12 school in Brooklyn that typically does not fill all of its open seats. “I would want to read through the details to find out: Where’s our chance to fight for those kids?”

What’s changing: Middle and elementary school admissions 

In middle and elementary school, parents will also be able to see and track their position on school waiting lists online. 

What’s not changing

The admissions timeline will be unchanged, the city says, with applications opening in October, a December submission deadlines, and offers sent in March.

Reema Amin contributed to this report. 

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25 Memphis schools named among the top performing in Tennessee https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2019/08/15/25-memphis-schools-named-among-the-top-performing-in-tennessee/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2019/08/15/25-memphis-schools-named-among-the-top-performing-in-tennessee/#respond Thu, 15 Aug 2019 15:33:01 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?p=224494 427 schools across 85 Tennessee districts made the state’s 2019 list of “reward schools.”

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More than 400 schools across 85 Tennessee districts made the state’s 2019 list of “reward schools.”

The 427 schools make up the largest number of top-performing schools, breaking last year’s record of 318 schools.

This is the third list of reward schools the state has published since it created the designation in 2015. A 2016 list wasn’t created due to a lack of state test score results after some exams were canceled amid technical difficulties. This is the second year of using the following criteria:

  • State test scores, which measure state standards of proficiency in core subjects like reading and math, as well as growth in academic achievement scores from year to year
  • English language learners — meeting the state standard for proficiency;
  • Chronic absenteeism, which research has linked to subpar academic performance, higher drop-out rates, and more frequent involvement in the criminal justice system;
  • Graduation rates and ACT test scores, which are used to measure college readiness.

Previously, the Department of Education highlighted the 5% of schools that showed the most academic achievement and the 5% with the most annual growth.

Last year, Shelby County Schools had a district record 39 reward schools, the highest number of any district in the state. This year, Nashville’s Davidson County district snagged that distinction with 37 reward schools. With 25 reward schools this year, Shelby County had the fourth-most of all districts in Tennessee. Twenty-two of those are district-managed schools, while three are independently managed, district-authorized charter schools.

At least six reward schools received the sought after designation for the second consecutive year: A.B. Hill Elementary; Holmes Road Elementary; Lucie E. Campbell Elementary; Middle College High; Riverwood Elementary and Richland Elementary.

Below is the complete 2019 reward list, which is sortable based on school and district. You can learn more on Tennessee’s accountability system here.

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Rise & Shine: Sheridan installs indoor shooter detection system in its schools https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-sheridan-installs-indoor-shooter-detection-system-in-its-schools/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-sheridan-installs-indoor-shooter-detection-system-in-its-schools/#respond Thu, 15 Aug 2019 13:13:34 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224387 Rise & Shine is Chalkbeat’s morning digest of education news. Subscribe to have it delivered to your inbox. DATA DIVE A new study finds that Denver students are making more progress on standardized tests than the state average, regardless of whether they attend a traditional district-run school, an innovation school, or a charter school. Chalkbeat […]

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Rise & Shine is Chalkbeat’s morning digest of education news. Subscribe to have it delivered to your inbox.


DATA DIVE A new study finds that Denver students are making more progress on standardized tests than the state average, regardless of whether they attend a traditional district-run school, an innovation school, or a charter school. Chalkbeat

'GOOD MODEL' Why U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited a coding program for incarcerated youth in Indiana. Chalkbeat

SCHOOL SAFETY The Sheridan School District is believed to be the first in Colorado to fully install an indoor shooter detection system on all five of its campuses, according to the company that developed the technology. Fox31

NEW LOOK Colorado Springs School District 11 is heading into the 2019-20 school year with a new look and a new mission: “We dare to empower the whole student to profoundly impact our world." Colorado Springs Independent

CAREER AND TECH A Carbondale-based nonprofit is set to offer hands-on training to high school students in the culinary arts and hospitality management, as well as structure design and the building industry. Glenwood Springs Post Independent

SCHOOL FUNDING The Poudre School District will soon decide whether to ask voters for a tax increase to fund higher teacher salaries. Coloradoan

TRANSITION It's a year of transition for students in Hayden, as the elementary school temporarily moves into the secondary school building while a new pre-K-12 campus is being built. Steamboat Pilot

AFTER SCHOOL These entrepreneurs are tapping into the $22 billion after-school program market, including in Colorado. Forbes

#UCCS The University of Colorado’s Colorado Springs campus earned the title of most Instagrammed college campus in Colorado, according to an AT&T analysis of hashtags on college campuses. Denver Post

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Most test scores increase in Tennessee’s largest district; reading results down for youngest students https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2019/08/15/most-test-scores-increase-in-tennessees-largest-district-reading-results-down-for-youngest-students/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2019/08/15/most-test-scores-increase-in-tennessees-largest-district-reading-results-down-for-youngest-students/#respond Thu, 15 Aug 2019 13:12:47 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?p=224472 State test scores for Shelby County Schools increased this year in every subject except English for elementary and middle school students, according to state data.

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State test scores for Shelby County Schools increased this year in every subject except English for elementary and middle school students, according to state data released Thursday.

But the district’s students did not make as much progress as other students across the state, earning Shelby County Schools the lowest score on the state’s 5-point growth scale.

Students did best in fourth-grade math, where 34.7% scored proficient on the state’s TNReady test, up from 27.9% last year. But in third-grade literacy, just 24% of students scored proficient, down from 27% last year.

Shelby County Schools officials said the results show “obvious areas for continuous support and improvement,” but cited examples of “encouraging progress that the district can build on.”

Superintendent Joris Ray, who started his first full year as district leader this week, said he was confident new efforts such as increased emotional support for students who have experienced trauma and increased attention on ensuring students have equal access to rigorous programs would help the district “overcome some significant barriers to learning that we’ve seen in previous years.”

“Working together, we will improve these results on behalf of all students,” Ray said in a statement. “That is our imperative task and one that I and my team keep in front of us every day. I realize that this is hard work, but the teachers, principals, and central office have the heart to move this work forward in our district.”

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Three schools in the district, Tennessee’s largest, also improved enough to be excluded from the state’s next list of low-performing schools, used to determine in part which schools undergo state intervention. All of them appeared on the “priority list” for the first time last year — Dunbar Elementary, Getwell Elementary, and Robert R. Church Elementary.

Search below for a school within Shelby County Schools, including most Memphis charter schools. You can compare TNReady scores to see the percent of students scoring proficient and growth scores for multiple schools. If a score is marked as redacted, that is because there were not enough valid samples or the overall average is less than 1% or greater than 99%.

The district pointed to progress in all high school subjects as a “bright spot” in this year’s test scores. High schools have been the hardest for the district and state to improve, especially as students arrive several grade levels behind. Last year, Shelby County Schools dispatched a team of reading specialists to focus on high school, increased teacher development, and adjusted curriculum to better align with new state requirements. This year, the share of high school students scoring proficient in English II went from 18% to nearly a quarter. About 20% of high school students in English overall met state expectations.

The district already told parents that third-grade reading scores dipped this year in meetings about plans to hold back second-graders who don’t read on grade level for the 2021-22 school year. The school system aims to have 90% of third graders reading proficiently by 2025.

Ray said in a call with reporters Thursday morning that overall, the district is moving in the right direction.

"Next year this time we’ll be having a different conversation," he said. "I guarantee it."

NOTE: The state department said it did not administer elementary social studies and English III exams this year.

You can see schools Shelby County Schools leaders highlighted below:

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Tennessee students improve on TNReady tests. How did your school do? https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2019/08/15/tennessee-students-improve-on-tnready-tests-how-did-your-school-do/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2019/08/15/tennessee-students-improve-on-tnready-tests-how-did-your-school-do/#respond Thu, 15 Aug 2019 13:09:51 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?p=224425 Tennessee students improved in nearly every math subject, including algebra and geometry, on the latest state tests.

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Tennessee students improved in nearly every math subject, including algebra and geometry, on the latest state tests. And in English, older students showed gains across the board, although elementary and middle school students showed little or no improvement.

Overall, more than half the schools in Tennessee – 56 percent – improved in most subjects from the previous year, according to a state summary of the TNReady and end0-of-course test data. And 41% of all schools had the highest levels of year-to-year growth, earning a level 4 or 5 under the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, known as TVAAS.

Test score data for every public school in Tennessee was released Thursday by the state Department of Education. Individual student scores will be released later to parents by the districts.

This is the fourth year of TNReady testing, and the first in the last three to go smoothly. Because of widespread computer glitches, last year’s scores didn’t count against districts, schools, teachers, or students for accountability purposes.

Math scores up across the state

More than 40% of elementary and middle school students met the state's proficiency standards in math compared to 36.5% in 2018.

High school students have steadily improved in math over the last three years, according to a Chalkbeat analysis of school test data from 2017, 2018 and 2019:

  • About 27.4% of students across the state met state proficiency standards in Algebra I this past spring, compared to 23.9% in 2018 and 21.6% in 2017.
  • Similarly, 27.4% of students who took Algebra II met state proficiency standards, up from 26.4% in 2018 and 23.5% in 2017.
  • And in geometry, 33.9% of students met state proficiency standards, up from 28% a year ago and 26.5% in 2017.

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"I’m impressed with the improvement we’ve seen in mathematics” state education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said in a statement. “The dedication of our educators, commitment to implementing high-quality materials, and unwavering student focus is what sets Tennessee apart and will continue to be the catalyst for moving our state forward."

English scores improve for older students

High school students showed the most improvement in English, with 32.7% of English I test takers meeting state proficiency standards compared to 25.3% in 2018. Similarly in English II, 42.7% of students met that benchmark compared to 35.2% the year before.

However, the results were less encouraging for younger students as the percent of elementary and middle school students in grades 3-8 who met state proficiency standards in English dipped slightly from 33.9% to 33.7%. Improvement in the critical third-grade group remained stagnant with 36.9% of the state’s third-graders considered to be proficient readers compared to 36.8% in 2018. 

Third-grade literacy scores are among the most scrutinized data set because that’s the year when many students transition from learning to read to reading to learn, and reading is considered the foundation for success in other subjects. 

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You can search our database below to find out how students in your school performed. The results show the percentage of students in each school who are proficient or above. Some scores have been redacted  because there were not enough valid samples or the overall average was less than 1% or greater than 99%.

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As Tennessee’s turnaround district enters its eighth school year, scores remain stubbornly low https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2019/08/15/heres-how-tennessees-achievement-school-district-fared-on-the-last-round-of-tnready-scores/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2019/08/15/heres-how-tennessees-achievement-school-district-fared-on-the-last-round-of-tnready-scores/#respond Thu, 15 Aug 2019 13:04:54 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?p=224385 Only 3.4% of high schoolers in the Achievement School District met the state’s proficiency standards on this year’s math and English exams.

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At a make-or-break moment for Tennessee's turnaround school district, its 30 schools have collectively delivered another round of low test scores.

Only 3.4% of high schoolers in the Achievement School District met the state’s proficiency standards on this year’s math and English exams, while 12.6% of elementary students reached that benchmark, according to data released by the state education department Thursday.

The news is not surprising: The Achievement School District oversees 30 of the state’s lowest-performing schools, the majority of which are in Memphis.

Still, the scores deliver another blow to the credibility of the turnaround effort once heralded as a national exemplar. This year, the district — whose low-performing schools are taken over by charter school organizations tasked with improving them — lost its third leader, had its poor performance analyzed by an academic study, and came under scrutiny from the state’s new education chief. Commissioner Penny Schwinn says she plans to announce major changes to the district soon.

Those changes will target a district where only a handful of students meet the state’s standards in reading and math.

Search for a school within the Achievement School District below. You can compare TNReady scores to see the percent of students scoring at/above grade level for multiple schools. If a score is marked as redacted, that is because there were not enough valid samples or the overall average is less than 1% or greater than 99%, according to the state department. 

Only 7.5% of the achievement district’s elementary and middle school students scored on grade level in English, down slightly from last year. In math, 12% of students scored at grade level or higher, which represented an increase. Both remain well below state averages.

In the district’s five high schools, scores in Algebra I, Geometry, and English rose but remained very low, while U.S. History scores slightly dipped.

About 3% of high schoolers in Algebra 1 and 4% in English 1 scored on grade level. (Two of the five high schools are alternative schools that serve students who have already fallen behind in high school).

A searchable database of last year’s scores for schools in the achievement school district is available here

This year’s scores reflect the first normal testing season for Tennessee in years. Public trust in the test’s reliability was at an all-time low after three straight years of technical glitches, scoring errors, and score delivery issues. But this spring, TNReady’s administration went the smoothest ever, building back at least some credibility in the results.

While the state exam, known as TNReady, measures academic performance with a battery of tests, the state uses a different system to capture how much a student grows academically over a school year. That system is designed to recognize improvements in districts and schools that serve many students from low-income families, who tend to score lower on state tests. That includes the Achievement School District, where three-quarters of students live in poverty.

For the second year in a row, the district as a whole scored at the lowest level of student growth, 1 on a scale of 1 to 5.

The achievement district wasn’t the only turnaround effort in Tennessee to struggle with boosting scores. Of 10 turnaround schools that are currently still a part of the Shelby County Schools’ Innovation Zone and took state exams last year, seven ranked a 1 in student growth.

Only five schools in the Achievement School District scored a 5, or in the top level of student growth, compared to eight schools last year. The four schools are Brick Church Middle School, Neely’s Bend Middle School, Libertas School of Memphis, Cornerstone Prep Denver, and Cornerstone Lester Prep.

LEAD Public Schools in Nashville runs both Brick Church and Neely’s Bend, the only two schools in the achievement district not in Memphis. LEAD Public Schools CEO Dwayne Tucker credited consistency in the principals and teaching staff at both schools for the growth.

But while LEAD’s two schools gained the highest growth scores, less than 15% of their students scored on grade level in math and English.

“There’s very little chance of changing a student’s trajectory without the retention of our school leaders and the overwhelming majority of our high-performing teachers,” Tucker said. “That’s been our focus, and that’s why you see the growth. But, academically, we are far from where we want to be and where we believe our students should be.”

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Schwinn said she is rethinking the state’s approach to improving struggling schools, but exactly how that will work is unclear. 

She told Chalkbeat last month that she plans to shift the state’s turnaround strategy “aggressively towards local partnerships.”

That could look like expanding Tennessee’s Partnership Network model, currently in Hamilton County, where the state and local district are trying to work together to improve a handful of low-performing schools. Those schools along with others in the southeastern country saw their test scores improve after a year under the model, district officials said this week in advance of the state’s official test score release.

Schwinn told Chalkbeat in late July that she will announce major changes to the Achievement School District soon – and before that will take her meetings on the road to Memphis.

NOTE: The state department said it did not administer elementary social studies and English III exams this year. 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story left off Cornerstone Lester Prep from the list of achievement schools that scored a 5 on student growth. 

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Rise & Shine: 6 things you should know about TNReady scores coming out today https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-6-things-you-should-know-about-tnready-scores-coming-out-today/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-6-things-you-should-know-about-tnready-scores-coming-out-today/#respond Thu, 15 Aug 2019 12:24:43 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224390 PREVIEW Tennessee is scheduled to release the results of its annual tests for public school students today, marking the fourth year of scores in the assessment era known as TNReady. Chalkbeat TEST SCORES Hamilton County Schools leaders already released their state test results — and call the progress "historic." Times Free Press In Jackson, TNReady […]

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PREVIEW Tennessee is scheduled to release the results of its annual tests for public school students today, marking the fourth year of scores in the assessment era known as TNReady. Chalkbeat

TEST SCORES Hamilton County Schools leaders already released their state test results — and call the progress "historic." Times Free Press

In Jackson, TNReady testing data shows consistent growth in the district, but it still doesn’t meet the state’s expectations. Jackson Sun

Sullivan County students showed substantial gains in the 2018-19 school year in both achievement and growth. Kingsport Times-News 

VOUCHERS The Tennessee Department of Education releases a first draft of rules that would govern the state’s school voucher program. The Commercial Appeal

GIFTED PROGRAMS Most Mid-South school districts have a gap between the demographics of elementary school students and gifted and talented elementary school students, according to local, state and federal data. WHBQ

BACK2SCHOOL Shelby County Schools adds screening dates for students who will turn 5 years old during the state-approved timeframe of Aug. 16 through Sept. 30. Tri-State Defender

Shelby County Schools will operate during normal hours today after power outages caused seven schools to send students home early yesterday. WMC

The Millington elementary school closed because of air conditioning issues will be back open today. WHBQ

Wise County Schools’ preliminary enrollment numbers topped projections after the first week of school. Kingsport Times-News

COMPLAINT A Sumner County woman files a complaint with the state after her 8-year-old son with autism and severe anxiety ran out of a Gallatin elementary school and traveled nearly a half mile down a busy street before a stranger stopped to help him. The Tennessean

$$$$ Knox County parents may be frustrated they haven't been able to pay school fees online yet this year, but when a new site is up and running, parents and the school system could save money. Knoxville News Sentinel

STUDENT VOICE A Rutherford County student demands action against gun violence in America. Daily News Journal

WINNING Once again, students from Clayton-Bradley Academy captured awards at the National History Day competition held June 9-13 in College Park, Maryland. The Daily Times

EXTRA CREDIT

Will Miller, an 18-year teacher at Delano Optional Elementary, said he didn't want to miss the first day of school and the opportunity to meet his new class of fifth grade students — even on crutches.

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Rise & Shine: Retired Indianapolis police officer takes up teaching https://chalkbeat.org/posts/in/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-retired-indianapolis-police-officer-takes-up-teaching/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/in/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-retired-indianapolis-police-officer-takes-up-teaching/#respond Thu, 15 Aug 2019 10:59:36 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224375 Rise & Shine is Chalkbeat’s morning digest of education news. Subscribe to have it delivered to your inbox. A VISIT FROM DEVOS: Betsy DeVos visited The Last Mile, a coding program for inmates that expanded last year to Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility, about 30 miles northeast of Indianapolis. Chalkbeat, IndyStar Plus, here are four other […]

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A VISIT FROM DEVOS: Betsy DeVos visited The Last Mile, a coding program for inmates that expanded last year to Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility, about 30 miles northeast of Indianapolis. Chalkbeat, IndyStar

Plus, here are four other visits DeVos has made to Indiana. IndyStar

NEW TEACHER: A retired Indianapolis police officer has a new career as a 6th-grade teacher on the east side. FOX59

SHORT STAFFED: With the economy red hot, Indiana schools are short on staff including teachers, bus drivers, and school cafeteria workers, said Jennifer McCormick. WISH

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Why the Detroit school district wants your musical instrument, and the latest on letter grades for schools https://chalkbeat.org/posts/detroit/rise-and-shine/why-the-detroit-school-district-wants-your-musical-instrument/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/detroit/rise-and-shine/why-the-detroit-school-district-wants-your-musical-instrument/#respond Thu, 15 Aug 2019 10:39:01 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224388 Rise & Shine is Chalkbeat’s morning digest of education news. Subscribe to have it delivered to your inbox. INCOMPLETE GRADES State officials say they won’t have A-F letter grades for Michigan schools ready by the Sept. 1 deadline. Chalkbeat Michigan Radio BUILDING ARTS Amid arts push, Detroit schools want your old musical instruments. Chalkbeat MORE […]

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INCOMPLETE GRADES State officials say they won’t have A-F letter grades for Michigan schools ready by the Sept. 1 deadline. Chalkbeat Michigan Radio

BUILDING ARTS Amid arts push, Detroit schools want your old musical instruments. Chalkbeat

MORE MONEY Four new studies bolster the idea that more money for schools helps low-income students. Chalkbeat

TESTING AIR The Grosse Pointe school district is testing the air at an elementary school that next year is slated for closure. Detroit News

BENTON HARBOR This newspaper columnist says dissolving the Benton Harbor school district may be the best option. Detroit News 

FOOD TRUCKS A Michigan school district is using a food truck to tackle student hunger during the summer. Michigan Radio

NEW LEADER Michigan’s new state superintendent tackles career technical education, teachers and mental health care in this interview. Bridge Magazine

LITERACY TUTORS A Michigan nonprofit is trying to raise $33 million to hire thousands of tutors to help high school students in Detroit with literacy. Detroit News

BACK TO SCHOOL The Detroit school district is holding a big back-to-school expo Saturday. U.S. News

TAX BREAKS A bill has been introduced in the Michigan legislature that would give teachers, students and parents a day of tax breaks for purchasing school supplies. MLive

 

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Rise & Shine: NYC lawmakers call on education department to expand upon inspections for peeling lead paint https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/rise-and-shine/nyc-lawmakers-call-on-education-department-to-expand-upon-inspections-for-peeling-lead-paint/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/rise-and-shine/nyc-lawmakers-call-on-education-department-to-expand-upon-inspections-for-peeling-lead-paint/#respond Thu, 15 Aug 2019 09:36:12 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224365 PEELING PAINT PROTOCOL City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and education committee chairman, Mark Treyger, sent a letter to Chancellor Carranza calling on the education department to inspect all areas inside schools for peeling paint. Chalkbeat CHILD VICTIMS Two cases of former New York public school employees abusing students were filed under the new Child Victims […]

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PEELING PAINT PROTOCOL City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and education committee chairman, Mark Treyger, sent a letter to Chancellor Carranza calling on the education department to inspect all areas inside schools for peeling paint. Chalkbeat

CHILD VICTIMS Two cases of former New York public school employees abusing students were filed under the new Child Victims Act, including one against a former teacher at Public School 189 in Brooklyn. New York Daily News

ANTI-VAX Hundreds of parents, led by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., rallied at the state courthouse to protest a new law that bans all non-medical exemptions from school vaccine requirements. New York Post

PODCAST James Merriman, the chief executive officer of the New York City Charter School Center, speaks to Gotham Gazette about the state of charter schools in the city, touching on discipline practices, test scores, and more. Gotham Gazette

OPINION As the education department implements its new culturally responsive curriculum, it can learn from other districts who’ve introduced similar changes, argues Naaz Modan. Education Drive

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Across the board, Denver students making above-average progress on tests, study shows https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2019/08/14/across-the-board-denver-students-making-above-average-progress-on-tests-study-shows/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2019/08/14/across-the-board-denver-students-making-above-average-progress-on-tests-study-shows/#respond Wed, 14 Aug 2019 22:37:00 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?p=224327 “The pattern of performance here is consistent,” said researcher Macke Raymond.

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A new study finds that Denver students are making more progress on standardized tests than the state average, regardless of whether they attend a traditional district-run school, a district-run innovation school, or an independent charter school.

“The pattern of performance here is consistent,” said researcher Macke Raymond, director of the Stanford-based group CREDO, who presented the findings at a Denver event Wednesday. “It’s an incredibly strong advantage for students in Denver no matter what school they go to.”

The Denver study is part of an effort by CREDO to examine students’ academic progress from one year to the next in 10 cities. The study looks at academic growth data across three school years, controlling for differences in student populations.

In addition to reporting overall results, the study zooms in on the academic progress of black and Hispanic students, students from low-income families, students learning English as a second language, and students receiving special education.

In each group, Denver students made more progress on reading and math tests than the state average for those groups. Raymond said she was especially struck by the progress of black and Hispanic students, who make up about two-thirds of Denver’s nearly 93,000 students.

“Honestly, we just don’t see that across the country,” she said.

The study also compares the progress of students at traditional district-run schools with the progress of students at independent charter schools and district-run innovation schools, which have waivers that give them charter-like autonomy from some district and state rules.

The data don’t show any clear frontrunner among the different types of schools. But there are standouts. For example, it shows black students in charter schools made statistically significantly more progress in reading than black students in traditional district-run schools.

The study has several limitations. For one, it doesn’t explain why Denver students are making more progress than their peers statewide. It also doesn’t address what is arguably the most persistent issue plaguing the district: the wide test score gaps between, for example, white students and students of color, or students living in poverty and those who are not.

CREDO did not break out results for white or middle-class students in its publicly available presentation, making it impossible to see those gaps. State data reveals that white students in Denver and those from higher-income families are progressing faster than students of color and those from low-income families, resulting in big gaps that the district has struggled to close.

The gaps were among the concerns raised by audience members at Wednesday’s event, which included a panel discussion featuring Denver Superintendent Susana Cordova and others.

Cordova didn’t shy away from acknowledging Denver’s challenges. Nor did she dwell on the comparison between charter and district-run schools — a politically charged data set, given that some community members favor charter schools and others staunchly oppose them.

“I believe we need to put labels aside and say, ‘Who is doing the best work and how can we learn from that?’” Cordova said. “As a member of the district, there have been times we’ve been incredibly arrogant about what we’re doing. We need to set that aside.”

CREDO’s prior studies have drawn criticism from other researchers who worry that their approach does not necessarily allow for apples-to-apples comparisons.

The gains seen in Denver relative to the state average would be categorized as moderate, according to a recent analysis of effect sizes in education.

Other audience members questioned whether the results for black students should be celebrated when separate data show that they are more likely to be handcuffed at school and face other inequities. A district staff member asked how Denver Public Schools should balance giving schools autonomy with requiring educators to complete implicit bias training.

Cordova, a career Denver educator who became superintendent in January, answered by saying equity “is the purpose of our schools’ existence.”

“Big systems don’t change because they want to,” she said. “They change with people on the inside and people on the outside pressing them to change.”

The study was funded by the John and Laura Arnold Foundation on behalf of the City Fund, an organization whose aim is to push cities to expand charter schools and district-run schools with charter-like autonomy. The Arnolds also support Chalkbeat.

Denver Public Schools is known nationwide for its embrace of the “portfolio model” of managing schools, which involves giving schools autonomy, allowing families to choose among them, and closing schools that don’t make the grade.

Cordova said that while it’s difficult to pinpoint why Denver students are making more progress than the state average, “having the kind of schools we have in our district has encouraged improvement.” Initially, she said, that improvement was the result of competition. Going forward, she said she hopes any improvement is the result of collaboration.

“It can’t only be about competition,” she said.

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Betsy DeVos visited a ‘model’ coding program for Indiana incarcerated youth. Here’s why. https://chalkbeat.org/posts/in/2019/08/14/betsy-devos-visited-a-model-coding-program-for-indiana-incarcerated-youth-heres-why/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/in/2019/08/14/betsy-devos-visited-a-model-coding-program-for-indiana-incarcerated-youth-heres-why/#respond Wed, 14 Aug 2019 22:17:47 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?p=224267 DeVos called the program a “good model” for second-chance education, saying it’s “very consistent” with President Donald Trump’s criminal justice reform agenda.

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As U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made her way through a classroom at Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility on Wednesday, each student showed her the computer game they had just programmed.

“You’ve played Rock-Paper-Scissors before, right?” Darius Fahmawi, 17, one of the all-male facility’s nine students, asked the education secretary. Yes, she had.

Fahmawi’s game — one of his early assignments in his coding class — allows players to compete against the computer. He explained how the computer chooses a 15-digit number between 0 and 1 to generate its response.

DeVos has visited Indiana multiple times since taking office, usually to tour charter schools and praise the state’s expansive voucher program.

This time around, though, she came to see The Last Mile, a coding program for inmates that expanded last year to Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility, about 30 miles northeast of Indianapolis, after the California-based program received a $2 million grant from Google. The program goal: to place more former inmates in the workforce and reduce recidivism. Since 2015, 33 percent of Indiana juveniles who were released were incarcerated again, according to the state’s Department of Corrections 2018 report.

DeVos called the program a “good model” for second-chance education, saying it’s “very consistent” with President Donald Trump’s criminal justice reform agenda.

The education secretary’s visit follows her calls on U.S. Congress to expand and make permanent the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program. In 2015, the Obama administration launched that program, which offers grants to inmates to pursue postsecondary education before being released.

By allocating federal dollars to the pilot program, “we hope that Congress will take this up and consider making this a permanent and reliable stable program in the future,” DeVos said during her visit.

DeVos has not included The Last Mile in her push to fund second-chance education. On Wednesday she said this is the third second-chance program she’s visited.

Jack Cochran, director of expansion for The Last Mile, said the program’s founders have been to the White House and hope to secure federal dollars. The nonprofit runs 15 programs in five states, the majority of which serve incarcerated adults, and is looking to expand nationwide.

Cochran said it has graduated 70 students, none of whom have reoffended.

Gov. Eric Holcomb brought The Last Mile to Indiana in 2017 and has touted it as part of his effort to bolster Indiana’s workforce and help employers who struggle to fill high-skill jobs. Holcomb pledged in 2018 to graduate at least 1,000 of Indiana’s more than 25,000 inmates annually — a goal he reported surpassing in his last state of the state address.

Currently all of the five Indiana locations rely entirely on private donations. Pendleton’s program started with 12 students in December and currently has nine. The program lasts 18 months, so no one has been there long enough to graduate. If students are released, they can continue the program through a scholarship to Eleven Fifty Academy, a separate nonprofit code academy.

For the most part, their classroom feels like any other, with long tables with textbooks stacked between each computer monitor. There’s a projector screen at the front, and each of the nine students wears a polo and elastic-waist khakis.

But it’s still a detention facility. The only window is a small one looking out into the hallway. There’s no Google — or internet access of any kind. And each boy’s white tennis shoes are labeled with their last name.

For Fahmawi, the program showed him there’s still something he can do after being released, even if he has a criminal record. He said he hopes the class showed DeVos how productive they can be.

“A lot of people don’t get to meet anyone in the White House,” he said.

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Top city lawmakers say NYC should test entire schools for lead paint — not just classrooms https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2019/08/14/top-city-lawmakers-say-nyc-should-test-entire-schools-for-lead-paint-not-just-classrooms/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2019/08/14/top-city-lawmakers-say-nyc-should-test-entire-schools-for-lead-paint-not-just-classrooms/#respond Wed, 14 Aug 2019 21:59:38 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?p=224315 The city does not inspect cafeterias, art rooms, gymnasiums, and certain rooms where students with disabilities get extra help.

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The education department should ensure that all areas inside schools, not just classrooms, are free from peeling lead paint, according to a letter two city lawmakers sent schools Chancellor Richard Carranza on Wednesday.

The letter, sent by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and the education committee chairman, Mark Treyger, criticizes the city’s current practice of only inspecting classrooms for peeling lead paint — leaving out cafeterias, art rooms, gymnasiums, and certain rooms where students with disabilities get extra help.

By not looking for and addressing deteriorating lead paint in those areas, the city is falling short of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s promise to eliminate childhood lead exposure by 2029, Treyger and Johnson write.

“How can our city eradicate lead in less than 10 years if DOE is not diligently examining all school spaces for lead contaminants?” the letter asks. 

City officials have said they will conduct an independent review of their lead paint protocols, but have declined to provide details, including when that review will take place, who will conduct it, and whether any findings will be released publicly.

Last month, the education department revealed that nearly 1,000 classrooms in schools built before 1985 that serve students under 6 have deteriorating lead paint. The city’s current protocol does not require that spaces other than classrooms be tested or remedied. Officials have promised to fix classrooms where they found peeling lead paint by sealing the damaged areas and repainting before school starts in September.

Deteriorating lead paint can chip off or emit dust that students may inadvertently ingest. Exposure to lead can negatively impact brain development and impede a student’s capacity to learn; it may also result in aggressiveness or inattentiveness. The risks are particularly acute for young children, though research has found that simple interventions can help treat the effects and even improve school performance.

Treyger said testing areas beyond classrooms is common sense. “To me this is beyond legal mandates and politics,” he said. “This is just the right thing to do to make sure we’re protecting the safety of children and staff.”

Although lead experts who have reviewed the city’s lead testing protocol say it appears to follow the relatively minimal requirements established by the federal government, they also said the city could take more aggressive steps to protect children.

The city’s currently does not require lead dust testing before peeling lead paint is discovered, for instance, even though lead dust is the most common way children are affected by lead and can appear even in the absence of visibly peeling paint. Experts have also suggested the city proactively use X-ray testing in all classrooms in older buildings. That way, they can create a roadmap of where all the lead paint is and immediately remediate it when it peels. 

Treyger is in favor of using such X-ray technology to search proactively for lead paint before it peels, in addition to testing classrooms for lead dust even without signs of deteriorating paint. City officials say they are considering proactive X-ray testing.

Carranza has suggested the results of proactive lead dust tests could be misleading. The city tests for lead dust to determine whether or not it’s safe for students to return to class, but it does so only after discovering and getting rid of peeling paint. 

The letter raises a number of other concerns, including that the education department took several days to communicate with stakeholders after it disclosed the classrooms where it found lead, and that the current protocols for identifying lead aren’t always clearly communicated to schools.

Education officials have been criticized in the past for failing to use best practices to test school water fixtures for lead. After using a more rigorous testing method, the city eventually revealed that significantly more faucets had high lead levels.

“The safety of students is our priority, and we have always proactively addressed risks to ensure their health,” an education department spokesman, Will Mantell, said in a statement, noting that officials are reviewing the letter. “Our schools are safe, and this summer we’ve enhanced our protocols and strengthened communication with families around the steps we take to prevent lead exposure for kids under six.”

You can read the full letter below.



Treyger/Johnson letter to DOE on lead paint (Text)

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Amid arts push, Detroit schools want your old tubas, trumpets, and more https://chalkbeat.org/posts/detroit/2019/08/14/amid-arts-push-detroit-schools-wants-your-old-tubas-trumpets-and-more/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/detroit/2019/08/14/amid-arts-push-detroit-schools-wants-your-old-tubas-trumpets-and-more/#respond Wed, 14 Aug 2019 20:16:39 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?p=224173 Detroit's main district r it is encouraging people to donate their gently used instruments to support their reinvestment in the arts.

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That old trumpet may be doing little more than collecting dust in your basement, but it could be just what a Detroit student needs this fall, the city’s main district is telling local residents. 

Amid Detroit Public Schools Community District’s recent investment in arts and music education, it is encouraging people to donate their gently used instruments. The school system is especially in need of clarinets, trumpets, tubas, cellos, and violas. 

“This initiative grew out of the observable need in our schools’ music programs,” said Deputy Superintendent Iranetta Wright. “ Students need instruments to play.”

The district is accepting new, or gently used, instruments from the community to “compliment the already repaired and replaced fleet of instruments the district owns,” Wright said. 

Tim Reade, a retired health coach from suburban Huntington Woods, Michigan, says he answered the call as soon as he could.

Reade had attended a Christmas performance last year, featuring students from Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary-Middle School. He says that once their teacher, Markita Moore, told him about the district’s two-year-old effort to promote music in schools, he knew exactly what to do. 

His son had played the trumpet in high school, but the instrument has sat largely untouched since 2006. With his son’s permission, Reade and his wife decided to donate it. 

“Having been involved with music when my son was playing, I saw the value that it brought to the kids to be able to participate,” he said. “And I know that those instruments can be expensive, so I thought it would be great to provide it to somebody, and it may set them on a path to be a lifelong trumpet player.”

During the past school year, the district has restored the arts programs in 78 elementary and middle schools, according to the school system. There are plans for all 22 high schools in the district to have a performance ensemble soon.

Wright says that the initiative began because of the district’s commitment to the “whole child.” 

Building the arts for the district’s more than 50,000 students “has been long overdue,” she said. “We are proud to be making this happen.”

The district has already received donations from partners like the Jazz Fest, DTE's Beacon Park Foundation, MSU Community Music School, and many other local businesses. 

Wright said instruments will be dispersed at schools throughout the district, based on need, regardless of whether the school previously had a band or ensemble. 

“We are committed to ensuring this is successful through our own efforts, but are asking the community to help,” said Wright, who noted that the district has earmarked funds to replace instruments in schools that don’t receive sufficient donations. “Every donation goes directly to the hands of a student in our district.”

For more information about donating an instrument, go here

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As Newark Enrolls outage stretches on, families and schools start to feel the strain https://chalkbeat.org/posts/newark/2019/08/14/newark-enrolls-outage-strain/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/newark/2019/08/14/newark-enrolls-outage-strain/#respond Wed, 14 Aug 2019 18:38:43 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?p=224270 The phone calls picked up this summer at Newark’s KIPP charter network, with frustrated people on both ends of the line.

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The phone calls picked up this summer at Newark’s KIPP charter network, with frustrated people on both ends of the line.

Parents, left in the dark by the sudden disappearance of Newark’s online enrollment management system, wondered whether their children stood a chance of making it into a KIPP school. And school employees who had a long back-to-school to-do list of their own found themselves checking the waitlist again and again.

“It’s challenging for us,” said Pedro Lebre, KIPP Newark’s enrollment manager. “We’re a pretty lean team. We spend a lot of time answering that question.”

In the recent past, parents could have logged into the city’s universal enrollment system, Newark Enrolls, to check their place on charter school waitlists, add themselves to the list, or enroll immediately in schools with open seats. But this summer, the system has been down since the beginning of July — with no indication of when it might come back online.

Considered a desirable option for Newark families, KIPP maintains a lengthy enrollment waitlist, so it’s unlikely that all schools are experiencing the same call volume. Still, KIPP’s experience suggests that the abrupt shutdown of Newark Enrolls — coming at a time when the district is working with a new vendor to redesign the system — is more disruptive than city officials have let on.

“Enrollment is open and ongoing,” Nancy Deering, acting director of communications for Newark Public Schools, wrote in an email to Chalkbeat last week. “Interested families should visit the Family Support Center at 765 Broad Street.”

It took Newark parent Amiris Rodriguez a while to find that office on Thursday morning. She only succeeded after asking several people to point her in the right direction.

“It was confusing, and I didn’t understand,” she said. “I was just wandering around on Broad Street.”

That center is currently the only way for families seeking new or different school placements to apply for them. Slated to be shut permanently in the near future, it’s open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Rodriguez was on vacation and could spend a few hours on Thursday morning trying to get her children transferred to another school. Many parents can’t.

“We hear from a lot of frustrated parents because those are the exact hours that they work,” Lebre said. “We hear a lot from families who do make it over there and are told we don’t have seats and given a lot of misinformation about enrolling. It’s really difficult to troubleshoot.”

In June, the district announced plans to pay a technology firm to replace the city’s online enrollment system, which families can use to apply to any traditional school and participating charter schools. But officials did not mention that the online enrollment tool would be disabled while the district switches systems.

“Why wouldn’t they continue the old system until the new one’s in place?” asked Wilhelmina Holder, a Newark education activist.

Lebre said district officials offered some answers at a meeting with local charter operators on Friday. There, he said, Newark Public Schools Chief of Staff Havier Nazario said “a safety issue” precluded Newark Enrolls from coming back online. According to Lebre, Nazario offered several examples, including that students could be using the online portal to re-enroll in schools from which they had been expelled.

This spring, the district said a delay in sending admissions letters to families was also due to families being able to use the system to enroll in schools inappropriately.

“It’s an excuse,” Lebre said. “When you use the word safety, how do you argue against that?”

Lebre said his understanding after the meeting was that Newark Enrolls would not get turned back on anytime soon. Officials have not said publicly when they expect the new vendor, SchoolMint, to complete the updated system, but enrollment for the following year usually starts at the beginning of December.

Holder added that the district should keep the downtown Family Support Center open on evenings and weekends in order to ease the burden on working parents.

“A lot of people cannot financially take off from their jobs” in order to visit the enrollment center during business hours, Holder said. “You don’t go to work, you don’t get paid.”

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The end of an era (and performance pay) in Newark https://chalkbeat.org/posts/us/rise-and-shine/the-end-of-an-era-and-performance-pay-in-newark/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/us/rise-and-shine/the-end-of-an-era-and-performance-pay-in-newark/#respond Wed, 14 Aug 2019 18:16:54 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224275 The big story “All vestiges of corporate reform have been removed,” the Newark Teachers Union declared this week. The cause of the New Jersey union’s triumphant declaration: the new teachers’ contract deal, which scraps performance-based pay and reinstitutes permanent pay increases for master’s degrees. This is a big deal, far beyond Newark. The city’s teachers […]

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The big story

“All vestiges of corporate reform have been removed,” the Newark Teachers Union declared this week.

The cause of the New Jersey union’s triumphant declaration: the new teachers’ contract deal, which scraps performance-based pay and reinstitutes permanent pay increases for master’s degrees.

This is a big deal, far beyond Newark. The city’s teachers union agreed to a pay system that connected raises to teacher evaluations in 2012, in the wake of Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to city schools. AFT president Randi Weingarten even went on national television with Republican Gov. Chris Christie to promote the contract.

Since then, the winds have shifted. Many aspects of school reform in Newark faced intense backlash, including the expansion of charter schools and closure of some district schools. Now, schools are back under local control, and the superintendent is more sympathetic to the union and to critics of charter schools.

(Debates continue about the consequences of those changes in Newark, but recent analyses have shown that city schools have made substantial progress.)

If the deal is approved by union members, the repeal of performance pay would mark a culmination of this backlash. It also underscores how some school reform initiatives have more staying power than others. A number of other school districts have seen their merit pay plans rolled back, too. But the expansion of charter schools has proven tougher for opponents to unwind. About a third of Newark public school students attend a charter school today.

Read the full story.


Local stories to watch


Research roundup

Head Start may not offer the long-term benefits it once did. Researchers found no overall effect of attending Head Start for children born between 1976 and 1996, in terms of education completed or criminal involvement, even though past research on the earlier half of that period found positive results. Researchers aren’t entirely sure what explains the shift, but the overall evidence on early childhood education is still generally positive. We’ve got more details here.

Money matters, four more studies show. The extensive body of research connecting more funding for schools to better outcomes for students keeps growing. This week, we wrote about four new studies — and what’s striking is how consistent the research is. In one Texas study, an extra $1,000 per student per year translated into a 4 percentage point increase in college completion. In two other studies, more money didn’t have clear effects for higher-income school districts, but did raise test scores in districts with largely low-income students.


First Person


DeVos watch

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is in Indiana today, visiting a program, backed by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, that teaches incarcerated young people to code.

After immigration officials arrested hundreds of workers in Mississippi on the second day of school, the federal education department didn’t respond to questions about whether it was planning to offer guidance for affected school districts, U.S. News reports.

The AP reports that the Department of Education has opened up a civil rights inquiry into a Connecticut policy that allows transgender high schoolers to compete in sporting events based on the gender with which they identify. It’s in response to a claim brought by three high school girls — with the help of a conservative law firm — who say they faced discrimination because they had to compete against transgender athletes.


2020 vision

Colorado Senator and former Denver schools superintendent Michael Bennet is focusing on education policy to try to jumpstart his presidential campaign. But in an interview with Chalkbeat, Bennet offered few specifics on how he’d go about improving public schools. And even though he drew attention at the last debate to segregation in American schools, Bennet didn’t offer new ideas for addressing this.

“I don’t believe there’s much of an appetite for busing on anybody’s part,” he said. “I think the real focus at this point needs to be on making sure that kids in neighborhoods where there are no good options have the chance to go to schools in places where there are better options.”

Asked about school segregation while in South Carolina, Mayor Pete Buttigieg said federal intervention is needed. He noted, though, that the issue would be difficult to tackle since so much segregation occurs between different school districts.

Former Vice President Joe Biden drew criticism for a stumble he made this week when discussing Advanced Placement courses. “Poor kids are just as bright and talented as white kids,” he said, before pausing to add: “wealthy kids, black kids, Asian kids.” He later said he meant to say “wealthy” kids, though some news outlets have pointed out these were not the first controversial remarks Biden has made about race and education.

And a school district outside San Francisco will desegregate its schools following a state investigation that found the district had intentionally separated students by race. The inquiry was launched by the state’s justice department when Sen. Kamala Harris oversaw it as California’s attorney general. Her campaign has pointed to the case as evidence of her work to desegregate schools after Biden attacked her record on the issue.


Names to note

Ryan Stewart will lead the New Mexico Department of Education.

A new progressive think tank, Next100, will be led by Emma Vadhera, who was previously chief of staff to John King at the U.S. Department of Education.


What we’re reading

  • The New York Times’ 1619 Project, memorializing the start of American slavery.
  • Inside Wake County, North Carolina’s struggle to keep its schools integrated. Education Week
  • Remember Common Core? Georgia and Idaho are considering repealing the controversial academic standards.
  • Pennsylvania’s governor is pushing for changes to the state’s charter school law, including allowing districts to restrict charter enrollment. Philadelphia Inquirer

Photo: David Handschuh/Chalkbeat.

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Six things to know about Tennessee’s TNReady scores coming out this week https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2019/08/14/six-things-to-know-about-tennessees-tnready-scores-coming-out-this-week/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2019/08/14/six-things-to-know-about-tennessees-tnready-scores-coming-out-this-week/#respond Wed, 14 Aug 2019 14:55:41 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?p=223905 Tennessee is set to release results of its annual tests for public school students on Thursday, marking the fourth year of scores in the era known as TNReady.

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Tennessee is scheduled on Thursday to release the results of its annual tests for public school students, marking the fourth year of scores in the assessment era known as TNReady.

Starting with third-graders, TNReady measures student academic performance with a battery of tests designed to assess every student’s true understanding of the material they’ve studied, not just memorized. The goal is to know how to help students advance their knowledge and skills, teachers raise their level of instruction, and districts improve their schools.

Here are six things to know about scores coming soon for the 2018-19 school year.

Tennessee is anxious to rebound from the last round of mostly flat results.

Scores from 2017-18 had some bright spots but were disappointing overall, as middle school performance dropped in every subject and students also saw across-the-board declines in science.

But it’s important to remember that 2017-18 was a wild testing year. Widespread technical problems disrupted exams taken by high schoolers and some middle school students on computers. Then while testing continued, state lawmakers passed emergency legislation rolling back the importance of those scores in students’ final grades, prompting worries that older students stopped trying on the rest of their tests and hurt the final results.

TNReady scores will be taken more seriously this year, though there are still skeptics.

Just a year ago, public trust in the test’s reliability was at an all-time low after three straight years of technical glitches, scoring errors, and score delivery issues. But this spring — after major safeguards were required of testing company Questar — TNReady’s administration went the smoothest ever, building back at least some credibility in the results.

“Last year was ugly, but I feel much better about everything this year,” said assistant principal Tara Baker after coordinating testing this spring at Nashville’s McGavock High School.

Even so, distrust in TNReady won’t evaporate overnight, especially for those who don’t believe a single summative test can accurately and fairly reflect a student’s learning or a teacher’s effectiveness — no matter how well administration went. 

“It’s going to take a lot more than one year for faith to be restored,” said Beth Brown, president of the Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teachers group. 

[promo]

Keep an eye on reading scores. Tennessee has big goals for improving literacy.

With a little more than a third of its third-graders reading on grade level, the state has a huge hill to climb to get to 75% by 2025 — a goal set in 2016 by former Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration and reaffirmed this year by Gov. Bill Lee. 

Third grade is considered a benchmark year for reading because the skill profoundly affects a child's educational development. Students who don't read well by the end of that year are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers.

Last year’s third-grade reading performance was encouraging. After years of stagnant scores, a 2.3% increase moved Tennessee to almost 37% of its third-graders reading on or above grade level. But to reach its long-term goal, the state will have to move around 6% more third-graders to proficiency every year.

Results in science also will be interesting to watch.

Last year’s science drops were a big surprise since Tennessee had not yet transitioned to new, more difficult standards and a new aligned test for that subject. At the time, then-Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said the declines reinforced the need to support science teachers in the shift to higher expectations beginning in the fall 2018. Now that those tougher standards are in place, another drop would be expected — but stay tuned!

Student performance will be part of this year’s teacher evaluations, but won’t be used to give schools an A-F letter grade.

For teachers in tested grades, their students’ growth scores from 2018 to 2019 will account for 35% of their overall effectiveness rating, while classroom observations will continue to determine the bulk of their evaluation.

But the plan to use TNReady results to begin giving each school an A-F grade has been delayed for a second straight year. The reason goes back to 2018 testing headaches and subsequent state laws that shield schools from any “adverse action” from those scores, including assigning letter grades to schools. Because this year’s letter grades would have been based on student achievement results for both this year and last, Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn has ordered a 2020 launch. But schools will still be rated this year on a scale of 0 to 4 using other metrics, which you can view on the state report card.

The education department will release statewide, district-level, and school-level results all at once.

That’s a huge data dump, since about 715,000 students in grades 3-11 completed 2 million tests statewide during the month-long spring testing window that ended on May 3.

A year ago, the department released statewide and district-level results in July and school-level scores in August. However, state officials received feedback that a single-day release would be better for school systems.

Anyone with internet access will be able to look up how their school, district, or state performed. As for students’ individual performance, parents or guardians can ask their school administrators to see those score reports. Districts distribute individual reports in different ways, but the information is fair game beginning Thursday.

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Rise & Shine: More money for schools helps students, four new studies find https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-more-money-for-schools-helps-students-four-new-studies-find/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-more-money-for-schools-helps-students-four-new-studies-find/#respond Wed, 14 Aug 2019 13:02:15 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224249 Rise & Shine is Chalkbeat’s morning digest of education news. Subscribe to have it delivered to your inbox. MAKING A DIFFERENCE Does money matter in education? The answer is increasingly clear, as four new studies bolster a 2018 research overview. Chalkbeat TAX QUESTION A new poll from the Republican-leaning firm Magellan Strategies found that a majority of respondents supported […]

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Rise & Shine is Chalkbeat’s morning digest of education news. Subscribe to have it delivered to your inbox.


MAKING A DIFFERENCE Does money matter in education? The answer is increasingly clear, as four new studies bolster a 2018 research overview. Chalkbeat

TAX QUESTION A new poll from the Republican-leaning firm Magellan Strategies found that a majority of respondents supported the idea of letting Colorado keep all the tax revenue it collects, with a third of the money going to K-12 education, but organized opposition could chip away at that support. Denver Post Colorado Sun

SHOT RECORD Public health officials in Boulder County are warily watching the national measles outbreak as students return to school in the Boulder Valley and St. Vrain districts, where vaccination rates are lower than recommended to maintain herd immunity. Daily Camera

Got questions about Colorado's vaccination requirements and how schools might handle an outbreak? We've got answers. Chalkbeat

LOCAL CONTROL Colorado cities and counties are increasingly adopting measures to fight the state's high rate of teen vaping. Colorado Public Radio

SUICIDE PREVENTION In 2018, no one aged 19 or younger died by suicide in Mesa County. The hopeful news comes amid several years of work by educators in District 51 to offer resiliency and suicide prevention programming in area schools and to improve the risk assessment tools they use. Grand Junction Sentinel

SAFETY FIRST Educators at one Littleton middle school spent part of their back-to-school orientation learning how to staunch bleeding from gunshot wounds. CBS 4

School resource officers in Pueblo are putting their attention on a more common threat to students: speeding drivers. Chieftain

BREATHE EASY The Denver Department of Public Health and Environment is installing air quality sensors at 10 schools this week that will provide real time information about pollution dangers. CBS 4

As we previously reported, it will be up to principals how to use the data, and some community members are pushing for more action. Chalkbeat

TRADITION Cursive has been on the way out of elementary schools for years, but some educators believe it has value. ABC 7

BUILDING NEEDS Greeley voters will see a $395 million school bond question on the November ballot. Greeley Tribune

AFTERMATH Schools can play an important role in supporting children in communities that experience immigration raids like the one that happened in Mississippi last week. Ed Week

COLORADO EDITION Public radio station KUNC is launching a new public affairs program, and Chalkbeat Colorado reporters will appear regularly to talk about key education issues. In this segment, we come on around 8:00, but the whole thing is worth a listen. KUNC

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Rise & Shine: Teach for America Memphis hires school board member as chief of staff https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-teach-for-america-memphis-hires-school-board-member-as-chief-of-staff/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-teach-for-america-memphis-hires-school-board-member-as-chief-of-staff/#respond Wed, 14 Aug 2019 11:41:15 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224246 MOVERS AND SHAKERS Teach for America Memphis hires school board member as chief of staff. Chalkbeat FINANCE Four new studies say that more money for schools helps low-income students. Chalkbeat NEW SCHOOL YEAR Students were welcomed back to Dunbar Elementary School by the principal, teachers and community groups. The school is now part of the Shelby […]

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MOVERS AND SHAKERS Teach for America Memphis hires school board member as chief of staff. Chalkbeat

FINANCE Four new studies say that more money for schools helps low-income students. Chalkbeat

NEW SCHOOL YEAR Students were welcomed back to Dunbar Elementary School by the principal, teachers and community groups. The school is now part of the Shelby County Schools Innovation Zone. The Daily Memphian

The first day of school in Shelby County reflects excitement, enthusiasm, care and concern. The Tri-State Defender

TOO HOT FOR SCHOOL Air conditioning problems that displaced Millington's E.A. Harrold Elementary School students Tuesday continue, so district leaders decided to close the school Wednesday. WMC-TV

SHORT ON CASH School leaders in West Memphis have $22 million to build two schools but need $22 million more. WATN

VOUCHERS The Fayetteville City School Board urges teacher raises matching voucher investment. Elk Valley Times

HIGH TURNOVER Karen Hollis becomes fourth principal at Ooltewah Elementary in less than a year. Chattanooga Times Free Press

THIS IS A TEST Dyer County High School students participate in distracted driving, alcohol impairment exercises. Dyersburg State Gazette

AWARDS Community service and professional accomplishments of the recipients of the seventh annual CORE Champion Awards were celebrated with a banquet Monday evening at the General Morgan Inn in Greeneville. The Greeneville Sun

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Rise & Shine: An Indianapolis teen was shot while walking to his school bus stop https://chalkbeat.org/posts/in/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-an-indianapolis-teen-was-shot-while-walking-to-his-school-bus-stop/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/in/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-an-indianapolis-teen-was-shot-while-walking-to-his-school-bus-stop/#respond Wed, 14 Aug 2019 11:00:03 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224229 Rise & Shine is Chalkbeat’s morning digest of education news. Subscribe to have it delivered to your inbox. EARLY EDUCATION: Indianapolis ends preschool program, leaving 3-year-olds without access to scholarships. Chalkbeat OPEN AND CLOSED: Without enough students or cash, 5 Indianapolis charter schools closed. Now, 6 new ones are opening. Chalkbeat ONLINE SCHOOLS: Daleville Community […]

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Rise & Shine is Chalkbeat’s morning digest of education news. Subscribe to have it delivered to your inbox.


EARLY EDUCATION: Indianapolis ends preschool program, leaving 3-year-olds without access to scholarships. Chalkbeat

OPEN AND CLOSED: Without enough students or cash, 5 Indianapolis charter schools closed. Now, 6 new ones are opening. Chalkbeat

ONLINE SCHOOLS: Daleville Community Schools has scheduled two meetings as the next steps to revoking the charters for the troubled Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy. WTHR

GUN VIOLENCE: An Indianapolis teenager was shot while walking to his school bus stop yesterday morning. Fox59, WTHR

INVESTIGATION: An investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights examined Hamilton Southeastern schools’ handling of sexual assault allegations. RTV6

SCHOOL SAFETY: A Muncie student who brought a gun to school allegedly told someone he “might have to shoot a couple of people,” according to charging documents. Star-Press, RTV6, Fox59, WISH, WTHR

LGBT DISCRIMINATION: A former Roncalli student says school officials sought to silence his support for a counselor who was fired because of her same-sex marriage. WTHR

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Rise & Shine: This pre-K teacher uses WeChat and dumpling-making to connect with students and families https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-this-pre-k-teacher-uses-wechat-and-dumpling-making-to-connect-with-students-and-families/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/rise-and-shine/rise-shine-this-pre-k-teacher-uses-wechat-and-dumpling-making-to-connect-with-students-and-families/#respond Wed, 14 Aug 2019 09:30:02 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224237 HOW I TEACH One Flushing teacher shares the different ways he connects with his students and their families in the largely Chinese-speaking community. Chalkbeat GETTING OUT As district enrollment numbers quickly shrink in Bushwick, parent leaders blame rising rents and growing charter schools. City Limits FEAR AND FACTS Opinion: The problem of lead in the city schools […]

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HOW I TEACH One Flushing teacher shares the different ways he connects with his students and their families in the largely Chinese-speaking community. Chalkbeat

GETTING OUT As district enrollment numbers quickly shrink in Bushwick, parent leaders blame rising rents and growing charter schools. City Limits

FEAR AND FACTS Opinion: The problem of lead in the city schools is serious, but it is not a public health crisis, writes the Daily News' editorial board. New York Daily News

CR + CS Teachers got a crash course in culturally responsive computer science lessons. The move is part of a larger effort to help students from different backgrounds see themselves in curriculum. Wall Street Journal

SPEAKING UP Ahead of a new report from the city's School Diversity Advisory Group, the City Council's Progressive Caucus is calling for admissions policies to increase student diversity. New York Daily News

BAD NEWS New York City schools logged the highest rate of violent incidents and disturbances in the state last year — 16.9 incidents per 1,000 students. New York Post

Opinion: The Post's editorial board argues that relaxed discipline policies led to a five-year high of confiscated knives at city schools. New York Post

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Indianapolis ends preschool program, leaving 3-year-olds without access to scholarships https://chalkbeat.org/posts/in/2019/08/13/indianapolis-ends-preschool-program-leaving-3-year-olds-without-access-to-scholarships/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/in/2019/08/13/indianapolis-ends-preschool-program-leaving-3-year-olds-without-access-to-scholarships/#respond Tue, 13 Aug 2019 23:00:29 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?p=224225 Hundreds of 3-year-olds in Indianapolis will no longer qualify for preschool funding now that the city is ending its scholarship initiative.

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Hundreds of 3-year-olds in Indianapolis will no longer qualify for preschool funding now that the city is ending its scholarship initiative.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett did not include $4.2 million for the Indy Preschool Scholarship Program in his 2020 budget, unveiled Monday.

The scholarship program, which will end after this school year, paid for 6,526 3- and 4-year-olds from low-income families to attend high-quality programs of their choice over the past four years.

On My Way Pre-K, a state-funded $22 million preschool voucher program that was launched soon after the city’s pilot, will largely take its place. The state program serves some 3,000 4-year-olds from low-income families.

It doesn’t, however, accept 3-year-olds.

Former Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard launched the Indy Preschool Scholarship Program in 2015 as a five-year pilot. Thomas Cook, Hogsett’s chief of staff, said the purpose of the scholarship program was to “make the case to the state legislature that greater funding should be available for pre-K.”

“We’ve gone from a place where we didn’t have any significant capacity to serve children … to one that is going to be sustainable through efforts in state funding,” said Ann Murtlow, president and CEO of the United Way of Central Indiana, which facilitated the Indy Preschool Scholarship Program. “And that is a huge win for the state.”

Cook said the cost of funding the city’s scholarship program for only 3-year-olds would be “prohibitively higher.”

“Ultimately, neither the corporate or philanthropic [communities] expressed an interest in continuing to fund just 3-year-olds,” he told the Indianapolis Business Journal.

But Murtlow said there was no coordinated effort to create a separate program for 3-year-olds. In addition to city funding, the pilot had been backed by corporate and philanthropic donors, such as Eli Lilly, Anthem, Old National, IPL, and Community Health Network.

Research has shown ages 0-5 are critical years for children’s brain development. Preschool programs often focus on 4-year-olds before they enter kindergarten, but some programs in other states also aim to catch children earlier.

Cook said Hogsett would continue to lobby the state legislature to expand preschool funding to 3-year-olds. So far Indiana hasn’t moved to fund preschool for 3-year-olds who don’t otherwise qualify for free services through Head Start or special education.

During his term as mayor, Hogsett has largely prioritized reducing crime and fixing infrastructure issues. He has faced criticism for focusing less on education. He has, however, continued to back the preschool and charter school initiatives started by his predecessors and launched a push for more students to apply for college scholarships.

For now, the United Way will continue to focus on 4-year-olds, Murtlow said, although the ultimate goal is for younger children to have quality programs as well.

“We’ve got to get the 4-year-olds served, for sure,” she said. ‘You are only 4 once, and once they turn 5 you’ve lost the opportunity.”

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Teach for America Memphis hires school board member as chief of staff https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2019/08/13/teach-for-america-memphis-hires-school-board-member-as-chief-of-staff/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2019/08/13/teach-for-america-memphis-hires-school-board-member-as-chief-of-staff/#respond Tue, 13 Aug 2019 22:54:04 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?p=224219 Miska Clay Bibbs, who was elected to the Shelby County Schools board in 2014, became the organization's chief of staff Monday.

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A Memphis school board member who has worked for several local education organizations is now coordinating operations at Teach For America.

Miska Clay Bibbs, who was elected to the Shelby County Schools board in 2014, became the chief of staff at Teach For America in Memphis on Monday. She’ll remain on the board.

The role extends a long career in education for Bibbs, who was previously the executive director for the Memphis office of Teach Plus, which ended its teacher fellowship program in 2016. Before that, Bibbs coordinated volunteer training and community events and partnerships with Memphis City Schools for nearly 10 years.

Bibbs’ new role also introduces potential complications in the board’s dealings with Teach For America, which recruits and trains recent college graduates to teach for at least two years in classrooms that are hard to staff.


Related: Teach for America-Memphis has a new executive director for the first time in a decade. What will she do?


The district has a $600,000 contract with Teach For America to supply new teachers — a relationship that has drawn criticism from the local teachers unions. Across the country, Teach For America often faces opposition from teacher unions because of the shortened training and use of conditional licenses as recruits finish certification requirements.

Bibbs said she was drawn to Teach For America because of how the organization has recruited more teachers of color and educators from Memphis compared to when it first came to the city in 2006.

“My goal is to support who is front of kids every day, period, regardless of where they come from,” Bibbs told Chalkbeat. She will be responsible for managing the organization’s leadership teams and creating processes for them to collaborate more.

But Keith Williams, the executive director of the Memphis-Shelby County Education Association, said in a text message that the board’s relationship with Teach For America meant Bibbs should resign.

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede/Chalkbeat
Memphis-Shelby County Education Association leader Keith Williams, seated in front.

“This is plain and simple a conflict of interest!” he said. “As a commissioner on the Shelby County Schools board, Bibbs should not profit from public tax dollars designed to promote and serve students in Shelby County!”

Bibbs said she would recuse herself when the board votes on Teach for America’s annual contract. District staff, not the school board, handle the day-to-day decisions of how the school system works with the organization.

She also pointed out that the district’s contract with Teach for America is small compared to the district’s annual budget, which is more than $1 billion, and the budget for local branch of the organization.

“Most of those dollars do not come from public dollars. It’s very small in comparison to what it takes to run a teacher program,” Bibbs said. “And I’m not just talking about TFA but any organization geared toward the work. They’re not even supplying enough teachers to fill the whole gap. It’s a small group of teachers.”

Although most board members do not work in education, Bibbs would not be the first to work for Teach for America. Tomeka Hart, who served on the now-defunct Memphis City Schools board from 2005 to 2013, was a national vice president for the organization in 2012 and sought to increase partnerships with African American colleges, civil rights groups, and communities.

The 28-year-old national nonprofit came to Memphis in 2006 and says about 400 alumni are still working in education locally. Some have gone on to start charter schools, and the group’s first Memphis director, Brad Leon, is a member of Superintendent Joris Ray’s cabinet. The organization now has 225 current trainees across the city, down from 260 three years ago.

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4 new studies bolster the case: More money for schools helps low-income students https://chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2019/08/13/school-funding-spending-money-matter-latest-research-studies/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2019/08/13/school-funding-spending-money-matter-latest-research-studies/#respond Tue, 13 Aug 2019 22:34:47 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?p=224209 The latest research offers one solution for policymakers, advocates, and philanthropists who have been vexed by flat national test scores.

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Does money matter in education? The answer is increasingly clear.

A 2018 overview of the research on education spending found that more money consistently meant better outcomes for students — higher test scores, higher graduation rates, and sometimes even higher wages as adults. It was enough for Northwestern economist Kirabo Jackson to say the question was “essentially settled.”

Since then, the research hits have just kept on coming.

Four new studies from different parts of the country have come to similar conclusions. In Texas and in Wisconsin, researchers found that spending more translated to higher test scores and boosted college enrollment. Two other studies — one looking at California and another looking across seven states — found that spending more money didn’t affect test scores in more affluent areas, but did boost test scores in higher-poverty districts.

“All four studies find that increased school spending improves student outcomes,” said Jackson.

The findings come as school spending is on the upswing across the country, with states continuing to rebound from the Great Recession and policymakers respond to pressure from striking teachers to invest more in schools. The new research indicates that students are likely to benefit from those increases, even as notable disparities between states like Mississippi and Massachusetts, and between some neighboring school districts, linger.

The studies don’t provide clear answers on how to best use new resources, though, and they focus on whether pure increases in spending lead to better outcomes. Some pricey initiatives — particularly school turnaround efforts nationally and in New York City — have fallen short of expectations. That suggests it does matter how money is spent.

Still, the latest research offers one solution for policymakers, advocates, and philanthropists who have been vexed by flat national test scores and the disappointing results from certain high-profile reform initiatives.

“Overall, this study provides convincing evidence that spending increases can have a significant impact on districts serving impoverished students,” the researchers in the multi-state study wrote.

Here’s what the latest studies show.

Extra money for Texas schools helped students, particularly in low-income, Hispanic districts

When and where? 875 school districts in Texas from 2003 to 2010

How was the study conducted? Researchers Daniel Kreisman and Matthew Steinberg used a quirk in Texas’ funding formula to compare outcomes in districts that got extra money to similar districts with less.

What did it find? An extra $1,000 in per-pupil spending raised test scores. High school dropout rates fell 2 percentage points, college enrollment jumped 9 percentage points, and college graduation rates increased 4 percentage points. The gains were particularly large for school districts with more students from low-income families and more Hispanic students. Keep in mind this is the effect of extra spending over a number of years — not just a one-time infusion of resources.

How was the extra money used? The better-funded school districts tended to have lower class sizes, more student support services, and higher administrative spending.

Across seven states, more funding boosted test scores in low-income school districts, but not high-income ones

When and where? Over 800 districts across seven states — Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin — that held votes to raise taxes for schools between 2002 and 2008

How was the study conducted? The four researchers compared the outcomes in districts that passed tax increases for schools against similar districts where an initiative narrowly failed.

What did it find? The revenue boost didn’t increase test scores when looking across all districts. But there were clear test-score gains for high-poverty districts, and the effect was strongest several years after the spending increase. The difference might be explained by the fact that the increases were larger in high-poverty districts (an extra $500 or more per student, compared to $200 to $300 in low-poverty areas).

There were no clear effects on high school graduation rates or dropout rates in either high- or low-poverty districts, although data limitations mean the researchers couldn’t come to definitive conclusions.

How was the extra money used? Teacher and staff pay increased by about $2,500 on average after several years.

Passing a funding boost raised test scores, college enrollment in Wisconsin districts

When and where? Over 300 Wisconsin school districts that voted on funding initiatives between 1996 and 2014

How was the study conducted? Researcher Jason Baron compared outcomes in districts that narrowly passed a local referendum to raise money for schools to districts where such a referendum just barely failed.

What did it find? Passing a referendum translated to an extra $600 or so in spending per student. That led to higher test scores and college enrollment rates (increasing from 55 to 60 percent), as well as a lower dropout rate (falling from 1 percent to 0.75 percent).

The share of students scoring proficient or better on the state test increased by 5 to 10 percentage points. This effect is larger than what’s been seen in most past research.

Interestingly, while test scores rose and dropout rates fell almost immediately, the college enrollment effect took a while to fully appear. The effect was greatest 10 years after the referendum, suggesting there was a cumulative effect of more spending.

How was the extra money used? Teacher pay rose by about 3% and staff-to-student ratios dipped.

Over time, low-income school districts in California benefited from school facilities spending bump

When and where? California school districts that held bond elections between 1999 and 2013

How was the study conducted? Researcher Emily Rauscher compared districts that narrowly passed bond measures that would raise money for schools to similar districts where a measure fell short.

What did it find? Six years after a bond measure passed, school districts that served largely low-income students had higher test scores as a result. These effects were relatively modest — smaller than the increases seen in the prior studies, for instance.

There was no clear effect for higher-income districts. “Thus, passing a bond measure may improve equality of opportunity in the long-term,” concluded Rauscher.

How was the extra money used? Money from the bond election was spent on school facilities improvements and construction.

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State officials: No A-F letter grades for Michigan schools by Sept. 1 https://chalkbeat.org/posts/detroit/2019/08/13/state-officials-no-a-f-letter-grades-for-schools-by-sept-1/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/detroit/2019/08/13/state-officials-no-a-f-letter-grades-for-schools-by-sept-1/#respond Tue, 13 Aug 2019 22:24:29 +0000 https://chalkbeat.org/?p=224206 A new law requires the Michigan Department of Education to issue letter grades by Sept. 1, but that isn't going to happen, officials say.

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The Michigan Department of Education said it will not meet the Sept. 1 legislative deadline to issue A-to-F letter grades to public schools in the state.

That development came up during the monthly State Board of Education meeting Tuesday in Lansing. It’s unclear what, if any, repercussions the department would face by not complying with the deadline.

A key reason for the delay: Sheila Alles, the department’s chief deputy superintendent, said some crucial data on student improvement that is needed to calculate the grades won’t be available until after Sept. 1.

Alles said the department’s goal is to create a “comprehensive, coherent, reliable accountability system.” 

“It’s important to note that we cannot do that and meet the Sept. 1 deadline date,” said Alles, who until a few weeks ago had served as interim state superintendent for 15 months.

Alles said the department could have the letter grades issued by March.

Ever since Michigan lawmakers approved the controversial letter grading law during the lame-duck legislative session in December, state education officials have said that it would be near impossible to meet the Sept. 1 deadline.

Advocates of the letter grades say they are crucial to school improvement efforts because they believe the grades will spur schools to change. They also said the grades will provide parents with information to help them assess the quality of schools.

The state education department opposed the legislation, as did members of the State Board. Both groups said the grades would conflict with an existing accountability system that was created and launched in early 2018 to follow federal education law.

That system provides a numerical rating of schools, from zero to 100, based on a number of categories, such as academic performance and school quality. 

“This department was clear and upfront before it ever passed that it was problematic and would create complete chaos,” State Board President Casandra Ulbrich said Tuesday. “It was passed anyway. It included deadlines that are flat-out impossible. Anyone who has ever worked in education would know that.”

Ulbrich earlier this year asked lawmakers to give the department an extension on meeting the Sept. 1 deadline. Lawmakers have yet to respond, she said.

“Not even a recognition of the letter,” Ulbrich said during Tuesday’s meeting.

Alles provided an overview of what has occurred since the legislation was approved, including weekly meetings at the state education department of a team that has worked to implement the grades.

But even while that work was going on, the department has been trying to answer some key questions. For instance, she said the department has been working with the U.S. Department of Education all year to address whether the A-to-F accountability system could replace the existing system. 

The federal law that governs elementary and secondary education in the U.S. requires states to have an accountability system in place. Alles said that in a May phone call, state and federal officials and representatives of key lawmakers concluded that the A-to-F system could not be used to comply with the federal law and that “state statute did not supersede federal law.”

Spokespeople for the House and Senate legislative leaders could not immediately be reached for comment.

 

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NEWS: New contract will raise salaries of Newark teachers, end performance pay https://chalkbeat.org/posts/newark/rise-and-shine/news-new-contract-will-raise-salaries-of-newark-teachers-end-performance-pay/ https://chalkbeat.org/posts/newark/rise-and-shine/news-new-contract-will-raise-salaries-of-newark-teachers-end-performance-pay/#respond Tue, 13 Aug 2019 21:38:11 +0000 https://www.chalkbeat.org/?post_type=rise-and-shine&p=224199 The post NEWS: New contract will raise salaries of Newark teachers, end performance pay appeared first on Chalkbeat.

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