Archive for the 'Elementary School' Category

August
15th 2014
Liberty Common Shatters ACT Test Record; State TCAPs Less Inspiring

Posted under Denver & Elementary School & Grades and Standards & High School & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & math & Middle School & Public Charter Schools & reading & Rural Schools & School Board & School Choice & State Board of Education & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

Yesterday brought a big data dump from the Colorado Department of Education, and it’s nothing that is going to get the rest of the nation ooh-ing and aah-ing about where we’re headed. When aggregate scores for 3rd to 10th graders in all three subject areas dip half a point, clearly far more is getting measured than improved. Still, there’s plenty that’s hidden when you take the statewide view.

So leave it to little old me to ferret out and compile a few of the key local story lines that deserve attention, reflection, and in a few cases, imitation. Speaking of which, none rises to the top more than the Liberty Common High School‘s record-breaking ACT score — besting the 2010 mark of 27.78 with an eye-popping 28.63.

Did I say “record-breaking”? I should have said “shattering” — almost, but not quite, Beamonesque. Congrats to Liberty Common and principal Bob Schaffer for raising the bar! When I wished them “best of success” nearly two years ago after my Education Policy Center friends concluded their visit, I had no idea they would so thoroughly heed my admonition!

Here are some other local highlights of yesterday’s test score data dump that caught my attention: Continue Reading »

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August
7th 2014
Backpacks for Poudre

Posted under Elementary School & High School & Just For Fun & Middle School

Very soon, I’ll be heading to the store with mom and dad to pick up this year’s school supplies. Pencils, pens, highlighters, a new backpack—we’re going to need a pretty big cart (especially if I want to ride in it). But as back-to-school week approaches for most of Colorado, it’s important to remember that there are some families for whom supply shopping is stressful, not fun.

In 2013, roughly 42 percent of Colorado’s public K-12 students qualified for free- or reduced-lunch programs. And while Colorado has made great progress in serving low-income students on a policy level, it’s also important to acknowledge street-level efforts to provide disadvantaged K-12 students in Colorado with the supplies they need for a successful school year.

And so, my friends, today I will eschew the usual policy discussion in order to highlight a feel-good story in the Coloradoan about organizations working to provide school supplies for low-income kids in the Poudre School District in northern Colorado. Continue Reading »

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June
13th 2014
Denver Builds on Low-Income Charter Success Stories: Will Jeffco Follow Suit?

Posted under Denver & Elementary School & High School & Innovation and Reform & learning & Middle School & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Board & School Choice & Urban Schools

I’m not that old, so the thought of having a big red “Easy” button is rather appealing. According to my grown-up education policy friends, developing a high-quality education model and scaling it up to reach a huge number of kids is a far more challenging and time-consuming task. How do we take pockets of success and super-size them to make a real dent in overcoming mediocrity and closing the achievement gap?

Last night the Denver Public Schools board approved 14 new schools (including 12 charters) to open for the 2015-16 school year. Some of the names are new, but many are expansions of true success stories and promising innovations.

Headlining the group is the eight-year-old STRIVE Prep (formerly West Denver Prep) charter network, with three of the 14 new schools. Besides adding another middle school — the original model and “core competency” — to the network, STRIVE also now is slated to open a second high school and its FIRST elementary school, both in far northeast Denver. Continue Reading »

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February
12th 2014
State Debate on How to Spend Extra Education Dollars Has Me Twisted in Knots

Posted under Education Politics & Elementary School & Public Charter Schools & reading & school construction & School Finance & State Legislature & Teachers

When it comes to the question of education funding, I take a glance over at the Golden Dome and wonder: Are we headed for a big clash, or will there be an unexpected meeting of the minds? The stage has been set with the demise of Amendment 66 and a hefty balance of more than $1.1 billion in the State Education Fund.

Apparently, one month into the 2014 legislative session, there are two distinctly different visions of what to do at the State Capitol. On one hand, some groups and legislators from both parties want to rally behind a proposal that would incorporate a lot of last year’s Senate Bill 213 ideas on a smaller scale, just not attached to a statewide tax increase. Ideas on the table include more money to: Continue Reading »

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June
4th 2013
Discrepancies from Dougco Beg Question: How Many Union Members Remain?

Posted under Education Politics & Elementary School & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & Principals & School Board & Suburban Schools & Teachers

Douglas County School District continues to move forward with major system changes that recognize and reward performance in meaningful ways. And the press continues to pump up the controversy while leaving factual disputes unresolved. Today’s Denver Post turns attention to a DCSD elementary school where a principal misapplied the new employee evaluation standards, creating a false impression of how many teachers rate “highly effective.”

I already provided some clarification to that story, when it still only graced the pages of local newsprint. But the Post story includes an observation about a different Dougco elementary school that bears a closer look:

Parents at Saddle Ranch Elementary held a rally Thursday in support of the school’s teachers after they heard that about 18 of the campus’ 35 teachers were leaving the district. They said none of the teachers at the school were given a highly effective rating, and they believe those teachers are not being valued.

District officials would not comment on teacher ratings at the school, and said only eight teachers, including three retirees, have officially said they are leaving. [emphases added]

Continue Reading »

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May
30th 2013
Identifying the Good Kind of Disruption in (Colorado) Blended Learning Innovation

Posted under Denver & Elementary School & High School & Innovation and Reform & learning & Middle School & Online Schools & Research & State Legislature & Teachers

When is it okay to be disruptive in class? Most teachers rightly would frown on the idea of little whelps like me acting out or speaking out of turn when a lecture or other class instructional activity is taking place. But disruptive innovation via the blended learning strategy is an entirely different matter. I’m talking about the future!

In recent weeks I’ve introduced you to an innovative idea to provide oversight of expanded access to digital learning opportunities in Colorado, explained why the school finance tax proposal coming to a ballot near you missed the chance to break out of the 20th century, and highlighted how blended learning models can benefit teachers. But as usual, the good folks at the Clayton Christensen (formerly known as Innosight) Institute now have me thinking even a little more deeply how technology, policy, and practice very well could merge to transform the way learning takes place.

Hats off to Christensen, Michael Horn, and Heather Staker for their new paper, Is K-12 blended learning disruptive? An introduction to the theory of hybrids. And I’m not talking about cars that can run on different types of energy. The authors make an interesting case for two different kinds of blended learning models, based on their potential to foster long-term change: Continue Reading »

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May
24th 2013
Disputed Dougco Evaluations? Don’t Turn Up the Heat, Just Share All the Facts

Posted under Education Politics & Elementary School & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & learning & Principals & School Board & Suburban Schools & Teachers

Update, 5/28: I took off for the long holiday weekend, and came back to learn that Our Colorado News had updated the article on the Trailblazer teacher evaluation controversy, addressing some of the shortcomings I identified. I’d like to thank them for making an effort to improve the story.

If you can’t stifle dramatic local innovation at the legislature, there’s always the route of misleading newspaper articles. When it comes to the bold transformational changes going on in Douglas County, and the overheated political opposition that goes along for the ride, you almost have to expect it.

The local journalists at Our Colorado News have picked up the slack, publishing a story rife with relevant omissions to try to convey a conveniently crafted political message:

Trailblazer Elementary School Principal Linda Schneider says 70 percent of her teachers are “highly effective” under the Douglas County School District’s new evaluation system.

The district questions that finding, and is summoning all the school’s teachers for a second, independent review….

District-wide, about 15 percent of teachers are rated “highly effective,” according to information provided by DCSD.

Under the evaluations, each teacher is assigned a rating ranging from “highly effective” to “ineffective” that is tied to pay increases. “Highly effectives” could get a substantial raise, while “ineffectives” likely won’t see increases.

Continue Reading »

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May
10th 2013
Finding the Positives in Colorado’s Latest 3rd Grade Reading TCAP Results

Posted under Denver & Elementary School & Grades and Standards & learning & Magnet School & Parents & Public Charter Schools & reading & Research & Rural Schools & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Urban Schools

It’s that time of year again. I get to share some news and thoughts with you about the latest release of Colorado’s 3rd grade reading test results. We’re talking the “preliminary and unofficial” results from TCAP, the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program, formerly known as CSAP. As last year’s debate on HB 1238 (the Colorado READ Act) reminded us, making sure kids have proficient reading skills by this milestone year is a crucial indicator of their future learning success.

Ed News Colorado this week reports:

Colorado’s third grade TCAP reading scores remained flat in 2013 for the third year in a row, according to TCAP results released Tuesday.

Once again defying the trend and deserving a little extra kudos is Denver Public Schools, for boosting its 3rd grade reading proficiency up to 61 percent, closer to the state average. Also making progress is Westminster 50, which rebounded from a low 40 percent two years ago to 50 percent today. As the article points out, Aurora took a small hit but anticipates “a much different story next year,” while large suburban districts Jefferson County, Douglas County, and Cherry Creek followed the state’s flat trend line. Continue Reading »

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February
8th 2013
Substitute Teacher Policies? No One Else Could Cover It Quite the Same

Posted under Elementary School & PPC & Research & School Board & Teachers

Truth be told, I tried to find someone else to fill in and do the blogging for me today — a substitute, if you will. It’s Friday, one of the more common days for teachers to get a classroom substitute, at least according to a Harvard study cited in a new Education Week piece by June Kronholz titled “No Substitute for a Teacher.”

That’s just one of numerous interesting findings brought up in the article. More likely to take days off are teachers in traditional district schools, in larger schools, or in elementary schools; teachers of low-income students; teachers without a master’s degree; teachers with tenure; or female teachers under age 35. For each of those, I’m sure there are a variety of factors and trends to provide some broad explanations.

Kronholz lays out the problems associated with lost learning caused for students when they are under the supervision of a substitute. While many of my peers may find it fun to act up and pick on the substitute, they may not realize that over the course of their K-12 career they could spend six full months in class without a regular instructor!

To be fair, classroom teachers do have less flexibility than positions in some other fields, because so many students depend on them. What if their own child gets sick? What if they have an extremely important daytime appointment they can’t miss? Etc. Drafting a policy that is fair and flexible — one that honors students and taxpayers by deterring those who would abuse the privilege of taking extra days off while not unduly punishing those with legitimate needs — cannot be an easy task. Can it? Continue Reading »

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December
20th 2012
Denver’s Rocky Mountain Prep Opens Door to Cutting-Edge Learning Success

Posted under Denver & Elementary School & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & learning & PPC & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & Teachers & Urban Schools

Last week a couple of my Education Policy Center friends had the privilege of visiting an innovative Denver charter school that’s serving kids close to my age: Rocky Mountain Prep. This new school is following in the footsteps of successful forebears that serve high-need student populations — placing a foundational emphasis on high expectations with competent, caring and dedicated teachers. But at the same time Rocky Mountain Prep is also pioneering a blended learning model for delivering instruction to enhance the number of students who can be effectively reached.

Currently, the southeast Denver school serves students in pre-kindergarten through 1st grade, but is slated eventually to go through 8th grade. Classrooms use a rotation model in which some students at a given time will be learning on specialized software (including Dreambox), receiving small group instruction, or more focused attention on areas identified where they are struggling. Special grant funding enables a teaching apprentice, rather than an aide, to join the classroom’s lead instructor. The idea enables class sizes to be a little larger while maximizing the impact on student learning during these important formative years. Continue Reading »

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