Who Is In Charge

Stats give stark view of higher ed challenges

The good news is that in terms of degrees given for dollars spent, Colorado’s state colleges and universities are very efficient. The bad news is that such a system probably isn’t up to the challenges of the future.

That was part of the message in a presentation given Thursday to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education by Dennis Jones of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, a Boulder-based research organization.

“We can’t continue this way in terms of productivity,” said CCHE Chair Jim Polsfut after Jones’ presentation.

Much of the data in the PowerPoint is familiar to Colorado educators and policymakers – the connections between an educated population and economic growth, the weak job Colorado does of educating those born here, college completion gaps and all the other elements of what’s called the Colorado Paradox.

But, the presentation has fresh relevance because it may serve as a baseline for the higher ed strategic planning process due to start later this year.

In fact, the presentation was prepared for use at a Sept. 21 “summit” that was scheduled to kick off an 18-month process of creating a new master plan for higher education.

That summit has been cancelled and David Skaggs, director of the Department of Higher Education and chief public face of the initiative, has resigned. Thursday was his last CCHE meeting. (The circumstances of Skaggs’ departure remain murky, but the conventional wisdom in higher ed circles is that it may have been due to disagreements over the master plan.)

The effort, now styled in DHE documents as a “Strategic Planning Initiative,” will go forward, but it’s still taking shape.

Matt Gianneschi, Gov. Bill Ritter’s top education advisor, told EdNews Thursday that no date has yet been set for a rescheduled kickoff event. Skaggs originally had described the process as an 18-month one, but Gianneschi said the duration also is still to be determined. He said it shouldn’t be “too rushed” but ideally should finish up by the autumn of 2010, early enough to make recommendations to the 2011 legislative session.

Whenever the planning initiative kicks off, participants could do well to review Jones’ findings.

Some highlights follow.

The question Jones started with was, “What must the state’s system of postsecondary education do to help ensure that the Colorado of the future is among the most desirable states in the nation in which to live and work?”

Jones noted that goals such as a globally competitive economy, a high quality of life and uniform availability of those benefits across the state are “strongly correlated with the education attainment levels of a state’s citizens.”

About 36.5 percent of Coloradans aged 25-64 have a bachelor’s degree or higher, but educational attainment and personal income vary widely across the state.

Colorado has a huge gap in educational attainment between whites and Hispanics (see slide 23) – the largest in the nation. In the next 15 years the state’s white population will decline while the Hispanic population will grow, meaning that there’s a danger that most workforce entrants will be less educated than now.

“Colorado has no choice but to figure out how to educate its Latino population,” Jones said.

While attainment of four-year degrees is relatively high, Colorado is in lower half of states for high school graduation rates (slide 29). “We import so much talent,” Jones said.

He summed up by saying, “Colorado has strengths, Colorado has weaknesses, Colorado has opportunities and Colorado really has challenges.”

(On that question of efficiency, the presentation noted that Colorado is the lowest state in the nation for per-student revenues but is second-least expensive for the amount spent per degree or certificate given,)

Thursday’s meeting was a bit of a love-fest for the departing Skaggs, who choked up four times as he thanked commissioners and his staff for their work and Ritter for the opportunity to serve as DHE director.

Polsfut announced that in Skaggs’ honor the commission has started a Congressman David E. Skaggs Scholarship Fund for students in civics, public policy and government at Colorado public colleges. Skaggs is a former member of the U.S House, state legislator and U.S. Marine.

Who Is In Charge

Indianapolis Public Schools board gives superintendent Ferebee raise, bonus

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is getting a $4,701 raise and a bonus of $28,000.

The board voted unanimously to approve both. The raise is a 2.24 percent salary increase. It is retroactive to July 1, 2017. Ferebee’s total pay this year, including the bonus, retirement contributions and a stipend for a car, will be $286,769. Even though the bonus was paid this year, it is based on his performance last school year.

The board approved a new contract Tuesday that includes a raise for teachers.

The bonus is 80 percent of the total — $35,000 — he could have received under his contract. It is based on goals agreed to by the superintendent and the board.

These are performance criteria used to determine the superintendent’s bonus are below:

Student recruitment

How common is it for districts to share student contact info with charter schools? Here’s what we know.

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Staff members of Green Dot Public Schools canvass a neighborhood near Kirby Middle School in the summer of 2016 before reopening the Memphis school as a charter.

As charter schools emerge alongside local school districts across the nation, student addresses have become a key turf war.

Charter schools have succeeded in filling their classes with and without access to student contact information. But their operators frequently argue that they have a right to such information, which they say is vital to their recruitment efforts and gives families equal access to different schools in their area.

Disputes are underway right now in at least two places: In Tennessee, school boards in Nashville and Memphis are defying a new state law that requires districts to hand over such information to charters that request it. A New York City parent recently filed a formal complaint accusing the city of sharing her information improperly with local charter schools.

How do other cities handle the issue? According to officials from a range of school districts, some share student information freely with charters while others guard it fiercely.

Some districts explicitly do not share student information with charter schools. This includes Detroit, where the schools chief is waging an open war with the charter sector for students; Washington, D.C., where the two school sectors coexist more peacefully; and Los Angeles.

Others have clear rules for student information sharing. Denver, for example, set parameters for what information the district will hand over to charter schools in a formal collaboration agreement — one that Memphis officials frequently cite as a model for one they are creating. Baltimore and Boston also share information, although Boston gives out only some of the personal details that district schools can access.

At least one city has carved out a compromise. In New York City, a third-party company provides mass mailings for charter schools, using contact information provided by the school district. Charter schools do not actually see that information and cannot use it for other purposes — although the provision hasn’t eliminated parent concerns about student privacy and fair recruitment practices there.

In Tennessee, the fight by the state’s two largest districts over the issue is nearing a boiling point. The state education department has already asked a judge to intervene in Nashville and is mulling whether to add the Memphis district to the court filing after the school board there voted to defy the state’s order to share information last month. Nashville’s court hearing is Nov. 28.

The conflict feels high-stakes to some. In Memphis, both local and state districts struggle with enrolling enough students. Most schools in the state-run Achievement School District have lost enrollment this year, and the local district, Shelby County Schools, saw a slight increase in enrollment this year after years of freefall.

Still, some charter leaders wonder why schools can’t get along without the information. One Memphis charter operator said his school fills its classes through word of mouth, Facebook ads, and signs in surrounding neighborhoods.

“We’re fully enrolled just through that,” said the leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his relationship with the state and local districts. “It’s a non-argument for me.”

A spokeswoman for Green Dot Public Schools, the state-managed charter school whose request for student information started the legal fight in Memphis, said schools in the Achievement School District should receive student contact information because they are supposed to serve students within specific neighborhood boundaries.

“At the end of the day, parents should have the information they need to go to their neighborhood school,” said the spokeswoman, Cynara Lilly. “They deserve to know it’s open.”