Archive for the 'Middle School' Category

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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January
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 »

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June
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 »

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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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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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