Archive for the 'Middle School' Category

December
17th 2014
Taking a Look at This Year’s Colorado School Grades

Posted under Elementary School & High School & Middle School & Parents & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice

December is an exciting month for me. For starters, I’ve got some cool presents coming my way next week. In the meantime, I’ve got plenty of fun education stuff to keep me busy. Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of highlighting some standouts among CDE’s annual award winners. This week, I have the honor of presenting the newest report card from Colorado School Grades.

Some might wonder why I’m so excited about school grades. All the data is out there anyway, right? Those people have probably never experienced the sheer horror of navigating performance frameworks on CDE’s website. The information is there, and those with some level of knowledge and experience can find it without experiencing irreversible brain damage. Others who may want or need information on school performance—parents, for instance—are likely to find the system too onerous to be worth the effort.

Colorado school grades rectifies that problem by putting everything into easily understood letter grades. But don’t let the simplicity fool you; all of the variables used by CDE are wrapped into those grades using a complex formula developed by the University of Colorado Denver.  Pretty cool if you ask me.

I’ll let you play around with website’s nifty search and comparison tools on your own. I’d like to highlight some of the “winners” of this year’s grades. Continue Reading »

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December
12th 2014
NCTQ Slaps Down Colorado on Teacher Preparation: Will We Ever Learn?

Posted under Elementary School & High School & Innovation and Reform & Middle School & reading & Research & State Legislature & Teachers

There’s nothing to be proud about narrowly avoiding failure. It makes me nervous just to think about how Colorado still teeters on the edge when it comes to the quality of our teacher preparation. We know how important the role of the classroom instructor is for helping students learn, so the latest release of the National Council on Teacher Quality’s State Teacher Policy Yearbook hardly inspired confidence.

NCTQ’s yearbook has been more or less an annual tradition in recent times. The overall project grades states comprehensively on five key areas: Continue Reading »

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November
20th 2014
Positive Movement in Jeffco: A Welcome Change

Posted under Edublogging & Education Politics & Elementary School & Journalism & Middle School & Urban Schools

It’s Thursday, and that means it’s Jefferson County day for yours truly. Okay, I made the Thursday thing up just now, but we are indeed going to talk about Jeffco. Don’t suit up and brace yourselves for more negativity quite yet, though; today’s post will isn’t about teacher sick-outs, student protests, or an inexplicable disdain for more representative curriculum review committees. Instead, I’d like to highlight a Denver Post article about some positive efforts by a group called the Edgewater Collective to improve educational outcomes for some of Jeffco’s most at-risk students.

As you may have noticed, many anti-reform groups try to whitewash any assertion that Jeffco may have some room for improvement by arguing that the district as a whole is doing well compared to neighboring districts. As much as I wish that rosy picture were entirely accurate, it isn’t. It masks the fact that certain areas within Jeffco are in desperate need of attention. And even when that fact is acknowledged, it is too often swept aside as “unfixable” or “out of our control.”

Nowhere is the need for change more obvious than the Jefferson Articulation Area within Edgewater, where the overwhelming majority of students are low-income and trapped in schools that are, put bluntly, failing them. Fortunately for those students, not everyone is ignoring the problem or brushing it aside. Continue Reading »

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October
10th 2014
News From the Mothership: USDOE’s Response to CO Testing Questions

Posted under Education Politics & innovation schools & Middle School & School Board & State Board of Education

A month ago, I put on my policy explorer cap and attended a Colorado State Board of Education meeting. At that meeting, a panel of CDE employees presented a whole bunch of information on testing in Colorado. More specifically, they went into some depth on the various aspects of local control as they relate to PARCC testing in the state. At the time, the panel was waiting for a response from the mothership (also known as the U.S. Department of Education) on a few of their stickier questions.

Well, that response has finally been beamed back. Notably, the sci-fi analogy doesn’t seem so farfetched when one looks at DOE’s response document—it actually feels like reading a document written in an alien language. Fortunately, Chalkbeat has provided a helpful summary for those who, like me, find legalese to be far more terrifying than extraterrestrials.

After deciphering DOE’s hieroglyphics, the document has some disappointing—albeit unsurprising—answers to the panel’s questions. In brief, Colorado doesn’t have much wiggle room when it comes to testing this year. Continue Reading »

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August
18th 2014
No Excuses: STRIVE to Do Better

Posted under Denver & Grades and Standards & High School & Middle School & Public Charter Schools & Urban Schools

One day not so long ago, my father sat me down for one of his famous heart-to-heart chats. I’d done poorly on a math quiz (it turns out that two plus two does not equal a picture of a dragon eating a stick figure), and I knew I was in big trouble. But he didn’t scold me. Instead, he told me to “own my mistake, find out why it happened, and fix it.” Excuses, he said, would do nothing but hold me back.

I was reminded of my father’s words this weekend as I read the education news. As many of you may know, Colorado released the 2014 TCAP results last week. With a few exceptions, they were wholly uninspiring. Some results were, however, surprising. Perhaps most notably, STRIVE’s eight charter schools in Denver experienced a very significant backslide in scores.

Normally, such results would bring about a hurricane of political spin, bluster, and excuses. Indeed, some opponents of reform have already begun touting STRIVE’s 2014 results as evidence of broader failures in the Denver charter movement. STRIVE itself has taken an entirely different (and very refreshing) tack: accepting responsibility and working toward improvement. Continue Reading »

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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
14th 2014
Too Good, Too True: KIPP’s Continuing Success

Posted under Denver & Innovation and Reform & Middle School & Research & Urban Schools

“If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.” You’ve heard that one, right? Of course you have. It’s a pretty good aphorism, and one that I’ve already heard no fewer than 2,000 times in my five years of life. Somewhat ironically, this universal statement holds true in many cases, but falls short in others. As I’ve discussed before, KIPP charter schools appear to be one of the exceptions. Now even more research has bolstered that claim.

KIPP stands for the Knowledge is Power Program. The organization currently operates 162 charter schools around the country, and many of these schools are producing some legitimately astounding results for minority and underprivileged kids. Here in Denver, KIPP operates three public charter schools that are producing similarly impressive results.

Perhaps not surprisingly, KIPP’s results have raised some eyebrows. They have also generated some skepticism. 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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July
1st 2014
Would Letting Kids Sleep In More Help Academic Results? Please Say Yes

Posted under High School & International & Middle School & Parents & Principals & Research & School Board & Teachers

You know one thing I’m thankful for? My Education Policy Center friends never order a wake-up call to get me out of bed early so they can help me write this blog. Little prodigies like me need all the sleep we can (though I try not to concede that argument when my mom tells me it’s time to hit the hay).

A couple years ago I directed your attention to research that suggested small positive benefits for middle schoolers who delayed early start times. Interesting fodder to file away in the back compartments of the brain, and move along.

Until, that is, I recently found an article by Colorado’s own Holly Yettick in Education Week that highlights an international study calling out the U.S. for having the highest rate of sleepy students in the secondary grades. Or at least that’s based on what teachers report in surveys. 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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