Archive for the 'Elementary School' Category

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]

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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.

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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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December
18th 2012
Colorado School Grades Website Returns to Inform Parents for Second Year

Posted under Denver & Elementary School & High School & Independence Institute & Middle School & Parents & PPC & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

Can you believe it’s been a whole year since the launch of the Colorado School Grades website? My friends at the Independence Institute are proud to be one of the 18 sponsoring partners of this helpful resource.

The passing of 12 months means a whole new set of data, and a lot of curious parents searching through the user-friendly Colorado School Grades site to see where their child’s school rates. Grades are assigned to all Colorado public schools based on objective measures of academic achievement and academic growth. Congrats to the top-rated schools at each level for this year: Continue Reading »

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October
23rd 2012
Parent Trigger Concept Doesn’t Need Discrimination against For-Profit Operators

Posted under Elementary School & Parents & PPC & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & Urban Schools

A few weeks ago I shared with you about a “parent trigger” debate triggered by the release of the movie Won’t Back Down. In that discussion, New Schools for New Orleans’ Neerav Kingsland argued that “the best parent trigger is parent choice between non-governmental school operators.”

Yesterday another division erupted in the “parent trigger” discussion between two supporters of the concept and the legislation. Conservative ed reform guru Rick Hess says liberal supporters lost him when they “needlessly attacked for-profit charter providers in a cheap effort to score political points.” Apparently, it’s okay to empower parents to choose to turn around their children’s failing school, but then limit their choices to operators who won’t seek to make some money along the way?

In a state next door to Kingsland’s, we learn that 35 failing schools are eligible to be converted by a parent petition through Mississippi’s new “parent trigger” law. Meanwhile, parents at California’s Desert Trails elementary are getting ready to select an operator for the school’s conversion process.

As Hess points out, Parent Revolution executive director Ben Austin would not be inclined to let those parents choose an operator who happens to be a for-profit entity. Families should have access to a full range of choices to help improve educational outcomes and brighten their futures. Just exactly how this kind of discrimination is helpful to students and parents is beyond me.

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October
9th 2012
Will Modern Skyview Campus, Choice Set Stage for Mapleton Academic Success?

Posted under Elementary School & High School & Independence Institute & learning & PPC & School Choice & school construction & School Finance & Suburban Schools

Yesterday I shared some thoughts about how a growing Brighton district with some crowded schools might find some creative solutions to its problem. While securing safe, functional and adequate facilities is a high priority for some school districts, others can bask gratefully in their new quarters and hopefully focus even more on the mission of educating students.

Which brings us to another part of Adams County. Not every school district will be able to do what Mapleton has created with its colorful, new state-of-the-art Skyview Campus. On September 27, some of my Education Policy Center friends received a tour of the creatively-designed campus from superintendent Charlotte Ciancio and human resources officer Damon Brown.


(from L to R): Brown, Raaki Garcia-Ulam, Ben DeGrow, Pam Benigno, Ciancio

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