Who Is In Charge

New standards start to take shape

The Colorado Department of Education this week released draft content standards in four key subject areas, giving educators the first detailed look at the academic guidelines that eventually will drive new tests, curricula and perhaps teaching methods under the Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids.

Draft standards for math; reading, writing and communicating; science, and music are now available for review. The department will hold open meetings around the state beginning May 18 and also take comments online.

Most of Colorado’s standards for subject areas haven’t been redone since 1994.

“The old standards were broad and they were vague … the standards were not a good guide” to what should be taught, said Jo O’Brien, assistant CDE commissioner on Thursday. She’s heading up the standards rewrite project.

More to the point, the 2008 CAP4K law requires that all standards be rewritten by the end of 2009, a key step towards the law’s other requirements for new state tests, better integration of the education system across all grades and alignment of curricula with the new standards and tests.

The new standards also are to include 21st century skills and what educators call “PWR” – postsecondary and workforce readiness. Those are the skills and knowledge every high school graduate is supposed to have to go on to college, technical training or work.

O’Brien outlined some of the broad differences between the old and new standards:

The old ones were numerous and focused on fact knowledge. There will be fewer new standards, and they will be focused on students gaining concepts and skills.

The old standards applied across groups of grade levels. The new standards will be specific to each grade level up to high school, which will have standards covering all four years.

“We’re thinking of mastery and concepts” rather than memorization of facts, she said. The standards are meant to define “what all students should know” when they finish high school.

(The four draft sets of standards are available online – see the link below.)

Each set of standards was drafted by a committee of teachers, other education experts, parents and business representatives. O’Brien said standards in Singapore, Finland, Massachusetts and Virginia were closely studied as good examples.

Two more sets of standards will be completed before the end of the year, including social studies and financial literacy in phase two and world languages, visual arts, physical education, and theater and dance in phase three.

All standards have to be approved by the State Board of Education by Dec. 15. The board gets its first look at the initial four sets next week.

By Dec. 15, 2010, the board has to adopt new tests to match the new standards. After that, school districts will have time to adjust curricula to and train teachers in the new system, with the first new tests given in 2012.

When the full CAP4K program is implemented, O’Brien said, “This will also require a new level of professional development … a different type of teaching and learning.”

Do your homework

CDE main standards review page
The four draft standards currently available
Minutes of standards subcommittee meetings
Current standards

performance based

Aurora superintendent is getting a bonus following the district’s improved state ratings

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

Aurora’s school superintendent will receive a 5 percent bonus amounting to $11,820, in a move the board did not announce.

Instead, the one-time bonus was slipped into a routine document on staff transitions.

Tuesday, the school board voted on the routine document approving all the staff changes, and the superintendent bonus, without discussion.

The document, which usually lists staff transfers, resignations, and new hires, included a brief note at the end that explained the additional compensation by stating it was being provided because of the district’s rise in state ratings.

“Pursuant to the superintendent’s contract, the superintendent is entitled to a one-time bonus equal to 5 percent of his base salary as the result of the Colorado Department of Education raising APS’ district performance framework rating,” the note states.

The superintendent’s contract, which was renewed earlier this year, states the superintendent can receive up to a 10 percent bonus per year for improvements in state ratings. The same bonus offer was in Munn’s previous contract with the district.

The most recent state ratings, which were released in the fall, showed the state had noted improvements in Aurora Public Schools — enough for the district to be off the state’s watchlist for low performance. Aurora would have been close to the five years of low-performance ratings that would have triggered possible state action.

“I am appreciative of the Board’s recognition of APS’ overall improvement,” Superintendent Munn said in a statement Wednesday. “It is important to recognize that this improvement has been thanks to a team effort and as such I am donating the bonus to the APS Foundation and to support various classroom projects throughout APS.”

This is the only bonus that Munn has received in Aurora, according to a district spokesman.

In addition to the bonus, and consistent with his contract and the raises other district employees will receive, Munn will also get a 2.93 percent salary increase on July 1. This will bring his annual salary to $243,317.25.

At the end of the board meeting, Bruce Wilcox, president of the teachers union questioned the way the vote was handled, asking why the compensation changes for teachers and compensation changes for other staff were placed as separate items on the meeting’s agenda, but the bonus was simply included at the bottom of a routine report, without its own notice.

“It is clear that the association will unfortunately have to become a greater, louder voice,” Wilcox said. “It is not where we want to be.”

Movers & shakers

Memphis native named superintendent of Aspire network’s local schools

PHOTO: Aspire Public Schools
Aspire Public Schools has named Nickalous Manning to its top job. Previously, Manning was a Memphis City Schools principal.

Aspire Public Schools has named Nickalous Manning to its top job.

Manning will replace Allison Leslie, the founding superintendent of the charter network’s Memphis schools. She is leaving for Instruction Partners, an education consulting firm that works with school districts in Tennessee, Florida, and Indiana.

“I look forward to serving children and families in my hometown,” said Manning, who was previously Aspire’s associate superintendent, director of curriculum and instruction, outreach coordinator, and principal of its Aspire Hanley Elementary.

Aspire runs three elementary schools and one middle school in Memphis.

Manning said he hopes to focus on Aspire’s role in supporting students outside the classroom and to launch a community advisory board, composed of parents and neighborhood residents, to “make sure that the community has a voice.”

“We know that we need to support our children in more than just academics,” he told Chalkbeat.

In Memphis, most students who attend Aspire schools come from low-income neighborhoods. At its four local schools, the charter group serves about 1,600 Memphis students.

Manning, who holds a doctorate in education, is a graduate of Memphis’ Melrose High School, which sits less than two miles from two Aspire schools. Before joining the network, he worked as a teacher and administrator in the Memphis City Schools and served as principal of Lanier Middle School, which closed in 2014 due to low enrollment.

In a statement, Leslie praised Manning’s commitment to the network’s students, saying,“I am looking forward to seeing Dr. Manning continue the great work we started together and make it even better.”

Aspire was founded in California in 1998 and runs 36 schools there. The charter network was recruited to Memphis to join the state-run district in 2013 — the organization’s only expansion outside of California.

In Memphis, Aspire opened two schools in 2013 and grew to three schools the following year. That’s when it opened Coleman Elementary under the state-run district, before switching course in 2016 and opening Aspire East Academy, a K-3 elementary school under the local Shelby County Schools.

This year, the charter network applied with Shelby County Schools to open its second a middle school, in Raleigh, in 2019. Though the application was initially rejected, Manning it would be resubmitted in the coming weeks, before the district’s final vote in August.

The proposed middle school harkens back to a dispute between Shelby County Schools and the state Department of Education over the charter’s legal ability to add grades to its state turnaround school. If approved, the state could create a new school that would be under local oversight.

“We are deeply committed to our children and families,”  Manning said. “We’ve heard from our families that they want continuity in K–8th-grade in their child’s time in schools. We’re committed to that end.”