The Daily Churn: Friday

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

Ramon Cortines, the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, is in Denver today for a talk titled “How L.A. Unified is Moving Forward: Public release of teacher performance, parental control, new school operators.” Seating for the Hot Lunch talk sponsored by the Donnell-Kay and Piton foundations is full but, as always, we’ll have a story and video. We’re guessing a good deal of discussion will focus on the Los Angeles Times’ decision to create a database rating teachers by their students’ progress on tests and the aftermath for LAUSD.  But there’s plenty of other hot issues to talk about, from California’s parent-trigger law to the LA school board’s approval of the Public School Choice Resolution, allowing outsiders – from charters to the teachers’ union – to bid to run schools.  Then there’s the fact that budget cuts have pushed back the start of school from Sept. 2 to Sept. 13. Is it any wonder Cortines, who turned 78 in July, has announced plans to retire?

Meanwhile, an attempt to recall Denver school board member Andrea Merida was rejected Thursday by the city’s Elections Division. See the rejection letter here. “We did reject that particular submission but all that means is they can clear up the deficiencies and resubmit” the petition, said division spokesman Alton Dillard. Dillard’s office occasionally fields phone calls from citizens curious about how to recall a DPS board member, particularly after a controversial decision such as the vote to close Manual High School for a year. But actually getting a recall effort underway would be unusual. See the Denver Post story here and there’s a good debate on about the effort as well.

Don’t spend that Edujobs money yet. That was the message K-12 leaders got this week from state budget director Todd Saliman and CDE finance expert Vody Herrmann. Saliman told K-12 lobbyists at a meeting that the state’s September revenue forecast may be worse than the June forecast, raising the possibility of mid-year K-12 cuts to keep the state budget in balance. Herrmann sent the same message in an e-mail to district budget officials.

Colorado was formally awarded $159.5 million in federal Edujobs money last week (see release). The U.S. Department of Education is urging states and school districts to spend the money this school year to save educator jobs. But the legislation creating the program gives districts until September 2012 to actually spend the money, so rather than restore job cuts made earlier, Colorado districts could use the money to backfill cuts this year or save for an even rainier day in 2011-12. (See list of Edujobs allocations by district.)

A weak September revenue forecast also could be bad news for the state’s colleges and universities, whose leaders are trying to hold the line on further cuts (see story). The September forecasts from legislative and executive branch economists will be released Sept. 20.

What’s the best way to count kids? That’s the question a new state study committee hopes to answer. Created by the 2010 legislature, the committee is supposed to study the average daily membership method of counting district enrollments. State aid to schools currently is based partly on enrollment counts taken every Oct. 1. Critics feel that once-a-year method creates a perverse incentive for districts to slack off on retaining students, especially at-risk kids, once students are counted in the autumn.

Some school districts get nervous about the idea of changing count methods for fear it could mean loss of state support. The Colorado Children’s Campaign this week released a briefing paper on the count issue – you can read it here.

Good reads from elsewhere:

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”