Tuesday Churn: Vegas board set for change

Daily Churn logoUpdated 1:30 p.m. – The Las Vegas school board that Dwight Jones will report to will be a different board than the one that offered him a job last month. Two of the board’s seven members are term limited, so the board will have a minimum of two new members after the November election. And, one incumbent is in a contested race.

The Churn doesn’t have any particular insights into Las Vegas school politics (we’ve got plenty to do tracking that in Colorado), so you can learn more in this detailed Las Vegas Review-Journal article.

Coincidentally, Jones would have faced at least two new members on the State Board of Education if he’d stayed on as Colorado education commissioner. Republicans Randy DeHoff and Peggy Littleton are term limited. Democratic incumbent Angelika Schroeder faces Republican Kaye Ferry of Vail in the 2nd District.

What’s churning:

It seems like everybody’s doing it – studying the future of public higher education. Colorado is nearing the end of 10-month study of the future of higher ed, and a number of other states have been doing the same thing. In neighboring Utah, the Governor’s Education Excellence Commission (which is studying the whole education system) is recommending a goal of 66 percent of Utah adults having college degrees or certificates by 2020 (see Salt Lake Tribune story).

“We believe it’s an attainable goal without a huge investment,” William Sederburg, Utah’s commissioner of higher education, was quoted as saying.

The draft Colorado strategic plan references President Obama’s national goal of 60 percent of adults having degrees or certificates by 2020 (see draft Colorado plan). And, the Colorado draft lays out in detail the financial challenges that face reaching such a goal.

Incumbent at-large CU Regent Steve Bosley and challenger Melissa Hart disagreed vigorously on the relevance of faculty members’ political affiliations in providing diversity at a debate sponsored by the University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs Friday evening.

“We need to hire great teachers and great researchers,” said Hart, a Democrat and a member of the faculty at the School of Law. “I don’t care if my surgeon is a great Republican surgeon, and when the Board of Regents focuses on politics it erodes public confidence in the institution and distracts them from the focus on hiring great teachers.”

Bosley, a Republican, said he disagreed “100 percent. There’s a difference between talking about a faculty member in the math department and one in political science. When there’s an opening in political science, we want to bring some balance to the faculty,” he said. “What are we afraid of?”

The candidates also responded to questions about the state fiscal situation and the future of higher education funding, tuition increases, campus consolidation, the role of elected regents compared to those in other states who are appointed, and their own goals for the CU system.

Bosley said he would like to see the university providing “affordable, accessible, world-class education.”

Hart’s goal is to collaborate with K-12 educators across the state to guarantee students access to the university if they graduate from a Colorado high school with the prerequisites necessary to be admitted to CU.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers unveiled new statistics Monday from Safe2Tell, a program within the Office of the Attorney General, saying the program has helped school officials and law enforcement intervene in thousands of potentially dangerous and life-threatening situations. Since the 2004-2005 school year, students across Colorado have filed more than 2,700 reports concerning bullying, gangs and other problems through Safe2Tell. These tips and reports have helped local school and law enforcement to intervene and put a halt to problems before they grow and have potentially disastrous consequences.

“Safe2Tell has been a tremendous asset to schools and local law enforcement in the 158 cities and 58 counties where it operates in Colorado,” Suthers said. “The success of this program should underline for educators and the public that bullying, harassment and all the other problems facing youth today can be prevented when we give kids the resources to ask for help.”

What’s on tap:

The road show of town hall meetings by the Higher Education Strategic Planning Steering Committee hits Grand Junction with a 4-6 p.m. session at Mesa State College in the College Center Ballroom 235. To see what they’re talking about, click the link to the draft strategic plan above and view the slide show that’s been shown at the meetings around the state.

The Douglas County school board convenes at 5 p.m. in the board room of the administration building, 620 Wilcox St. in Castle Rock. Among agenda items are a report on the district’s 2010 CSAP scores and initial consideration of a charter application from the Ben Franklin Academy (see full agenda here).

The Aurora school board has a town hall meeting with middle and high school students starting at 6 p.m. at the Gateway High School Commons, 1300 S. Sable Blvd. Get the details here.

Good reads from elsewhere:

defensor escolar

Memphis parent advocacy group trains first Spanish-speaking cohort

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Manuela Martinez (center left) and Lidia Sauceda (center right) are among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship.

Manuela Martinez doesn’t want Spanish-speaking families to get lost in the fast-changing education landscape in Memphis as the city’s Hispanic population continues to grow.

The mother of two students is among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship, a program that trains parents on local education issues.

“We want to be more informed,” said Martinez, whose children attend Shelby County Schools. “I didn’t know I had much of voice or could change things at my child’s school. But I’m learning a lot about schools in Memphis, and how I can be a bigger part.”

More than 200 Memphians have gone through the 10-week fellowship program since the parent advocacy group launched two years ago. The vast majority have been African-Americans.

The first Spanish-speaking cohort is completing a five-week program this month and marks a concerted effort to bridge racial barriers, said Sarah Carpenter, the organization’s executive director.

“Our mission is to make the powerless parent powerful …,” she said.

The city’s mostly black public schools have experienced a steady growth in Hispanic students since 1992 when only 286 attended the former Memphis City Schools. In 2015, the consolidated Shelby County Schools had 13,816 Hispanic children and teens, or 12.3 percent of the student population.

Lidia Sauceda came to Memphis from Mexico as a child; now she has two children who attend Shelby County Schools. Through Memphis Lift, she is learning about how to navigate Tennessee’s largest district in behalf of her family.

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Hispanic parents attend a training with the Memphis Lift fellowship program.

“Latinos are afraid of talking, of standing up,” Sauceda said. “They’re so afraid they’re not going to be heard because of their legal status. But I will recommend this (fellowship) to parents. How do we want our kids to have a better education if we can’t dedicate time?”

The training includes lessons on local school options, how to speak publicly at a school board meeting, and how to advocate for your children if you believe they are being treated unfairly.

The first fellowship was led by Ian Buchanan, former director of community partnership for the state-run Achievement School District. Now the program is taught in-house, and the Spanish-speaking class is being led this month by Carmelita Hernandez, an alumna.

“No matter what language we speak, we want a high-quality education for our kids just like any other parent,” Hernandez said. “A good education leads to better opportunities.”

Stopping summer slide

On National Summer Learning Day, Memphis takes stock of programs for kids

PHOTO: Helen Carefoot
Torrence Echols, a rising first-grader in Memphis, builds a tower with giant legos at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on National Summer Learning Day.

When it comes to summer learning, it’s been a better year for Memphis, where a range of new programs have helped to stem learning loss that hits hard in communities with a high number of low-income students.

On Thursday, Mayor Jim Strickland celebrated that work in conjunction with National Summer Learning Day and against the backdrop of the children’s reading room of the city’s main library.

He estimated that 10,000 children and teens are being reached this summer through learning programs spearheaded through Shelby County Schools, Literacy Mid-South, Memphis Public Libraries, churches and nonprofit organizations across the community.

That’s a record-breaking number, Strickland says, in a city with a lot of students struggling to meet state and local reading targets.

Summer learning loss, also known as summer slide, is the tendency for students to lose some of the knowledge and skills they gained during the school year. It’s a large contributor to the achievement gap, since children from low-income families usually don’t get the same summer enrichment opportunities as their more affluent peers. Compounded year after year, the gap widens to the point that, by fifth grade, many students can be up to three years behind in math and reading.

But this summer for the first time, Shelby County Schools offered summer learning academies across the city for students most in need of intervention. And Memphis also received a slice of an $8.5 million state grant to provide summer literacy camps at nine Memphis schools through Tennessee’s Read to be Ready initiative.

Literacy Mid-South used Thursday’s event to encourage Memphians to “drop everything and read!”

The nonprofit, which is providing resources this summer through about 15 organizations in Greater Memphis, is challenging students to log 1,400 minutes of summertime reading, an amount that research shows can mitigate learning loss and even increase test scores.

Reading is a problem for many students in Memphis and across Tennessee. Less than a third of third-graders in Shelby County Schools read on grade level, and the district is working to boost that rate to 90 percent by 2025 under its Destination 2025 plan.

The city of Memphis, which does not fund local schools, has made Memphis Public Libraries the focal point of its education work. This summer, the library is offering programs on everything from STEM and robotics to art and test prep.

Parents are a critical component, helping their kids to take advantage of books, programs and services that counter the doldrums of summer learning.

Soon after the mayor left the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on Thursday, Tammy Echols arrived with her son, Torrence, a rising first-grader at Levi Elementary School. Echols said they visit regularly to read books and do computer and math games.

“We always do a lot of reading and we’re working on learning sight words,” Echols said as she watched her son build a tower out of giant Lego blocks. “Torrence is a learning child and it’s easy to forget what you just learned if you’re not constantly reinforcing.”

You can find summer learning resources for families from the National Summer Learning Association.