Who Is In Charge

Hyatt named to head Charter Institute

Mark Hyatt, president of The Classical Academy in Colorado Springs and a well-known figure in charter school circles, has been named executive director of the Colorado Charter School Institute.

StockCSILogo122209The institute oversees 17 schools with a combined enrollment of 6,244 students. Hyatt succeeds Randy DeHoff, who resigned earlier this year, as executive director.

Alex Medler, president of the CSI board, said, “Mark has a demonstrated commitment to quality charter schools.  We are very excited because Mark will be able to build partnerships while moving the Charter School Institute into a leading role in education reform during the next phase of its existence.”

Last spring, the Colorado Department of Education and Academy District 20, which charters the academy’s schools, investigated parent complaints about racism, sexual assault and student safety, lack of responsiveness and other issues.

A consultant’s report, issued in May, was critical of how the academy handled complaints about racism and religious intolerance and said the “investigation revealed major areas of concern about management, safety and security of students,” according to a report in the Colorado Springs Gazette. (Full text of investigative report.)

District 20 officials required the academy to submit plans for staff training in reporting of abuse and handling complaints, conflict resolution, revising its board election system, having an audit performed, maintaining open records, ensuring sound financial practices and making reports to the district twice a year.

Classical Academy subsequently created a dean of students position to handle conflict resolution and related issues, improved staff training and created a conflict resolution committee.

Medler said that the situation “came up during the interview process [and] we investigated it some more.” Medler added that Hyatt “probably could have started out more aggressively in responding to it quicker” but did respond appropriately. Medler said that the institute board was satisfied by its conversations with Hyatt that he has the appropriate “philosophy and orientation … to serve all kids” as leader of CSI.

The Classical Academy, with 3,100 students at four campuses in Colorado Springs, is the largest K-12 charter in the state. It also offers a College Pathways program with Pikes Peak Community College and a program for home-schooled students. Hyatt has been president since 2002.

Mark Hyannt, director of Charter School Institute
Mark Hyatt, director of Charter School Institute

Hyatt is a retired colonel and fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force. He also served as vice commandant at the Air Force Academy and six years as the director of the academy’s Center for Character Development.

He serves on the governor’s P-20 Education Council and CDE’s School Leadership Academy Board.

In a prepared statement, Hyatt said, “All students in Colorado deserve a great education, and all parents deserve the opportunity to choose the school that’s right for their children.”

The institute board Tuesday also announced that Lee Barratt will be deputy executive director. Barratt has been chief financial officer.

The institute, created in 2004, opened for business in 2006 with two schools. An independent agency within CDE, it is allowed to authorize charters in districts that do not have exclusive chartering authority. It has a nine-member board, seven appointed by the governor and two by the commissioner.

In aggregate, CSAP achievement at institute schools ranged from 64 to 71 percent proficient or above in reading in 2009 (by grade) and from 26 to 59 percent in math. About 32 percent of students at institute schools are eligible for free or reduced lunch, compared to nearly 36 percent statewide (2008 figures).

A legal challenge to the constitutionality of the institute was rejected earlier this year by the Colorado Supreme Court when it declined to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling.

Efforts to broaden the institute’s powers went nowhere in the 2009 legislative session. But, Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, recently told EdNews that he’s considering 2010 legislation that would give the institute broader authorizing powers, perhaps by allowing school boards to delegate authorization functions to the agency. (King is administrator of Colorado Springs Early Colleges, a school authorized by the institute.)

The Classical Academy’s schools have received a number of awards and generally have high percentages of students scoring proficient or higher in reading and math and average rates of student growth. The schools use the Core Knowledge curriculum and are based on a philosophy grounded in “the seven liberal arts of classical education.” (For more information, see this page on the academy’s website.)

Classical Academy opened in 1997 with 400 students.

Here are snapshots of the Classical Academy schools, taken from CDE data.

  • Elementary: 1,858 students (4.84 percent free and reduced), 87 percent proficient or above in math, 51st median percentile in math growth, 88 percent proficient or above in reading, 55th growth percentile. 2008 School Accountability Report
  • Middle school: 429 students (6.53 percent free and reduced), 47 percent proficient or above in math, 51st growth percentile in math, 87 percent proficient or above in reading, 51st growth percentile. 2008 School Accountability Report
  • High school: 597 students (5.7 percent free and reduced), 64 percent proficient or above in math, 64th growth percentile, 97 proficient or above in reading, 63rd growth percentile. 2008 School Accountability Report

In 2008, 9.45 percent of Academy 20 district students were eligible for free and reduced lunch.

more back-and-forth

Eighteen legislators show support for TNReady pause as 11 superintendents say press on

PHOTO: TN.gov
Tennessee lawmakers listen to Gov. Bill Haslam deliver his 2016 State of the State address at the State Capitol in Nashville.

School leaders and now state lawmakers continue to pick sides in a growing debate over whether or not Tennessee should pause state testing for students.

Eighteen state legislators sent the superintendents of Nashville and Memphis a letter on Tuesday supporting a request for an indefinite pause of the state’s embattled test, TNReady.

“As members of the Tennessee General Assembly responsible for helping set policies and appropriate taxpayer funds for public education, we have been dismayed at the failed implementation of and wasted resources associated with a testing system that is universally considered — by any set of objective measures – to be a colossal failure,” said the letter, signed by legislators from Davidson and Shelby counties, where Nashville and Memphis are located.

Rep. John Ray Clemmons, a Democrat from Nashville, spearheaded the letter. Representatives Johnnie Turner, G.A. Hardaway, Barbara Cooper, Antonio Parkinson and Sen. Sara Kyle were among the signers representing Memphis.

Clemmons told Chalkbeat that he believes Tennessee should have a state test, but that it shouldn’t be TNReady.

“We are showing support for leaders who are representing students and teachers who are incredibly frustrated with a failing system,” Clemmons said. “We have to come up with a system that is reliable and fair.”

The lawmakers’ statement comes a day after Education Commissioner Candice McQueen responded to the Nashville and Memphis school leaders in a strongly worded letter, where she said that a pause on state testing would be “both illegal and inconsistent with our values as a state.”

The growing divide over a pause in TNReady testing further elevates it as an issue in the governor’s race, which will be decided on Nov. 6. Democratic nominee Karl Dean, who is the former mayor of Nashville, and Republican nominee Bill Lee, a businessman from Williamson County, have both said their respective administrations would review the state’s troubled testing program.

“We are hopeful that the next governor will appoint a new Commissioner of Education and immediately embark on a collaborative effort with local school districts to scrap the failed TNready system,” the 18 state lawmakers said in their statement.

Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson and Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools Director Shawn Joseph launched the back-and-forth with an Aug. 3 letter they said was sent to outgoing Gov. Bill Haslam and McQueen declaring “no confidence” in the troubled state test. McQueen’s office said Tuesday that neither her office nor the governor’s office had yet received the letter.

However, a spokeswoman for Nashville public schools told Chalkbeat on Monday that the Aug. 3 letter was sent to Assistant Commissioner Elizabeth Fiveash, who reports to McQueen. While some legislators backed the two superintendents, 11 district leaders from around the state released an email statement on Tuesday supporting state testing. Superintendents from Maryville, Alcoa, Sevier, Johnson, Dyersburg, Loudon, Clinton, Marshall, McKenzie, Trousdale, and Lenoir signed the statement, which they said was also sent to McQueen.

“Test items and question types are directly linked to the standards and are pushing students to deeper critical thinking,” the email said. “The comprehensive accountability model holds schools and districts accountable for improved student performance…. Challenges remain, but together we must be positive as we continue the work.”

The state has struggled to administer TNReady cleanly since its failed online rollout in 2016, prompting McQueen to cancel most testing that year and fire its testing company. Except for scattered scoring problems, the next year went better under new vendor Questar and mostly paper-and-pencil testing materials.

But this spring, the return to computerized exams for older students was fraught with disruptions and spurred the Legislature to order that the results not be used against students or teachers.

For the upcoming school year, the state has hired an additional testing company, and McQueen has slowed the switch to computerized exams. The state Department of Education has recruited 37 teachers and testing coordinators to become TNReady ambassadors, tasked with offering on-the-ground feedback and advice to the state and its vendors to improve the testing experience.

Read both the state lawmakers’ letter and the superintendents’ statement below:

Signers are: John Ray Clemmons, Bo Mitchell, Sherry Jones, Dwayne Thompson, Brenda Gilmore, Darren Jernigan, Antonio Parkinson, Jason Powell, Bill Beck, Mike Stewart, Barbara Ward Cooper, Larry Miller, G.A. Hardaway,  Karen D. Camper, Harold Love,  Johnnie Turner, Sara Kyle, and Joe Towns.

August 14, 2018
 
STATEMENT OF SUPPORT
 
District leaders across Tennessee understand and validate the disappointment and frustration our teachers, students, and parents felt with the glitches and errors faced during the spring’s administration of the TNReady student assessment. It was unacceptable. However, it is important that we, as leaders, step up to say that now is the time to press on and continue the important work of improving the overall education for all Tennessee students.  
 
We are optimistic about where we are heading in education – ultimately more students will graduate prepared for the next steps in their lives. The foundation is solid with (1) rigorous standards, (2) aligned assessments, and (3) an accountability model that focuses on student achievement and growth.  We are now expecting as much or more out of our students as any state in the nation. Test items and question types are directly linked to the standards and are pushing students to deeper critical thinking. The comprehensive accountability model holds schools and districts accountable for improved student performance across all subgroups.  Challenges remain, but together we must be positive as we continue the work.
 
Our students have made strong and steady gains in achievement and growth over the past few years, earning recognition at a national level. Our students now have the opportunity to be more fully prepared and competitive to enter college and the workforce. This is not the time to press the pause button. Even with the improvements in student performance, there is much work to do. Achievement gaps for subgroups are too large and not enough students are graduating “Ready” for the next step.
 
We must hold the course on rigorous standards, aligned assessments, and an accountability system focused on student achievement and growth. We, the directors of Tennessee schools, believe this rigor and accountability will impact all students. We embrace the priorities outlined in Tennessee Succeeds with a focus on foundational literacy and pathways to postsecondary success. Tennessee students have already demonstrated a determination to reach the mastery of rigorous state standards and will rise to the newly established expectations. We have work to do, and we should keep the focus on instruction and closing the gaps to ensure every student in Tennessee is ready for their future. We want to send a message of confidence and determination, a relentless ambition to reach our goals. We must step up and hold the line. We cannot expect anything less than excellence. Our students deserve it. 
 
 
Mike Winstead, Maryville City Schools
Brian Bell, Alcoa City Schools
Jack Parton, Sevier County Schools
Steve Barnett, Johnson City Schools
Neel Durbin, Dyersburg City Schools
Jason Vance, Loudon County Schools
Kelly Johnson, Clinton City Schools
Jacob Sorrells, Marshall County Schools
Lynn Watkins, McKenzie Special School District
Clint Satterfield, Trousdale County Schools
Jeanne Barker, Lenoir City Schools

Super Search

‘Who we are:’ Denver’s background statement for superintendent candidates, annotated

PHOTO: Denver Post file
Denver Public School Superintendent Tom Boasberg speaks to faculty during a town hall meeting in Denver on Aug. 20, 2013.

For the first time in more than a decade, the Denver school district is searching the nation for its next superintendent. The school board recently hired a big search firm to help find candidates to replace Tom Boasberg, who is stepping down in October.

The board also penned a four-page document introducing the 92,600-student district – and its greatest strengths and weaknesses – to potential future leaders.

“The point of this document is to make a statement to those who would apply and to the community that we understand how important this job is,” board member Happy Haynes explained at a recent meeting where the document was unveiled. “We wanted to make sure people have a holistic view of our district: the good, the bad, and everything in between.”

Chalkbeat has embedded the full document below. We’ve also annotated it with explanations and context about the various initiatives described in it, as well as links to our previous coverage and to other sources. Click on the highlighted yellow passages to read our annotations.