Archive for the 'Middle School' Category

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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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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17th 2014
Jeffco Middle School STEM Discussion Makes Me Scratch My Head

Posted under Education Politics & math & Middle School & Parents & School Board & School Choice & Sciences & Suburban Schools

Last night little Eddie was able to drop in on a school board meeting for what was until recently the largest school district in Colorado. That’s right. The Jeffco Board of Education took the show out into the community, coming to the people and giving residents a chance to sign up online to make public comments. (Apparently, this is all a new thing.)

So it was kind of funny to hear a couple of the commenters complain that the school board wasn’t being transparent enough because they increased transparency. I may be pretty smart, but some things are hard for me to get.

Part of the reason for the big crowd at the Arvada High School auditorium was a debate about adding sixth grade to Deer Creek Middle School as part of an expanded STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) program. Now I don’t necessarily have an opinion on this course of action, but the way it’s been handled sends up red warning flags. Continue Reading »


20th 2013
Louisiana Successfully Revamps Course Choice: Pay Attention, Colorado!

Posted under Courts & High School & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Middle School & Online Schools & School Choice & School Finance & State Board of Education

After an earlier hiccup left the innovative program’s status in doubt, I’m excited to see creative Louisiana leaders get the go-ahead for a new plan to launch Course Choice in 2013-14. The state’s Board of Education yesterday approved $2 million in funding for a pilot program that enables secondary students in schools graded C or below to take an approved course from one of 40 different public or private providers. (Other students are only eligible to select a course if their school doesn’t offer the subject.)

Three of the leading national advocates in the digital education arena — the Clayton Christensen Institute, Digital Learning Now, and iNACOL — teamed up to celebrate the news, explaining what the program really offers: Continue Reading »


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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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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14th 2012
Six Falcon 49 Schools Win Innovation Status as Board Nears Important Crossroads

Posted under Denver & Elementary School & High School & Innovation and Reform & innovation schools & Middle School & PPC & Principals & School Board & State Board of Education & Suburban Schools

About six weeks ago I shared with readers that the Falcon School District 49 innovation plan was nearing a crossroads. That crucial time may now be upon us. As reported in the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado State Board of Education yesterday unanimously approved requests to give six District 49 schools official innovation status:

“Innovation is here to stay,” said Bob Felice, Innovation Zone leader/assistant superintendent, adding that the plans grant a lot of autonomy to teachers and parents.

Yesterday’s Board votes bring the list of innovation schools to 33, including 24 from Denver Public Schools and now the following six from Falcon 49: Continue Reading »

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23rd 2012
“True North” Report Calls on Denver Public Schools to Refocus, Raise the Bar

Posted under Denver & Elementary School & Grades and Standards & High School & Innovation and Reform & learning & Middle School & PPC & Research & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Urban Schools

A team of local education reform groups has partnered to release the new report True North: Goals for Denver Public Schools. It’s a quick, worthwhile read for anyone interested in improving the outcomes of American urban education. Denver Public Schools is often cited as a reform model for districts in other cities across the land, but this new report says even DPS isn’t aiming high enough.

True North places a healthy focus on academic achievement as measured by “exit-level proficiency,” or how much students know when they complete elementary, middle and ultimately high school. As Ed News Colorado commentator Alexander Ooms notes, this focus corrects a misplaced obsession on academic growth scores as an end unto themselves. While DPS is above the 50th percentile in growth, not enough students are catching up to where they need be. In some cases, they’re actually falling further behind.

DPS justly has been lauded for the development of its School Performance Framework (SPF) that incorporates a range of meaningful factors to determine how well schools are doing. But the new report makes a great argument that the current bar is set too low. Expecting more DPS schools to earn 50 percent of the available points on the SPF isn’t enough to ensure students are enrolled in a “quality school.” I agree with the report that a quality school should have to reach at least 70 percent on the SPF. Continue Reading »

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3rd 2012
New Study: Sleeping In, Starting Late Helps Middle Schoolers Learn a Little More

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Middle School & PPC & Research & School Board

I write here about a lot of different issues related to education and education policy. But this one may be a first for me: How early should school start? When it comes to the bigger kids, middle school and high school students, new research by Finley Edwards featured at Education Next suggests it may actually be better to let them sleep in a little longer, especially the underperforming students. After looking at schools and student results in Wake County, North Carolina, he concludes: Continue Reading »


24th 2012
Foundation Gives High-Performing Poorer Denver Area Schools Cause to Celebrate

Posted under Denver & Elementary School & High School & Independence Institute & learning & Middle School & Parents & PPC & Principals & Public Charter Schools & School Accountability & School Choice & Urban Schools

Today’s lead story at Ed News Colorado highlights the disparity in private parent and community giving within Denver Public Schools. Reporter Charlie Brennan notes that no school raked in more than the nearly $230,000 at Bromwell Elementary, a school with a low 8 percent study poverty rate. The general findings are no surprise, yet nonetheless disappointing:

At the other end of the poverty – and fund-raising – spectrum is Johnson Elementary in southwest Denver, which reported fewer than $3,000 in private gifts in 2010-11.

If a donation of five or six figures came through the door of the school, where 96 percent of students are low-income, said Principal Robert Beam, “You’d be writing a story about a principal who is dancing in the streets all day long.”

The timing of the story is remarkable. Why? Yesterday substantial checks went out to 14 metro area public schools and 2 public charter management organizations (CMOs) serving high-poverty student populations, with awards totaling $500,000. And they didn’t just go out to schools based on need, but to schools with a proven record of serving their students well: Continue Reading »

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