Who Is In Charge

First phase of CAP4K could cost $142 million

Implementing just the first phase of the Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids reform program could cost $131.5 million to $142.4 million or more, according to an estimate prepared by consultants.

All but about $3 million of that burden would fall on school districts and other local education agencies, according to the estimate prepared by Augenblick, Palaich and Associates and the Colorado School Finance Project.

The CAP4K law, passed in 2008, proposes a broad restructuring of the state’s education system, including descriptions of school and postsecondary and workforce readiness, new content standards, a new state testing system, alignment of local school curricula with the new standards, new types of high school diplomas and alignment of college admissions requirements with the new K-12 system. CAP4K is intended to be phased in through 2014.

The potential costs of the new system have been a concern from the start, and the law contains a provision that requires detailed studies of its those costs. The first phase of the study was presented to the State Board of Education Wednesday. The other two phases are due Oct. 1, 2010 and Oct. 1, 2011.

The first study covers only the costs of planning for the new content standards and for the school readiness and postsecondary and workforce readiness descriptions. At the state level, the work is basically done on those issues. The state board last year adopted new standards and the two descriptions.

The Department of Education has been working for several months on the design of a new state testing system. The board is supposed to vote on that in December, although it’s possible the legislature this year will make some change in CAP4K deadlines.

The cost of a new testing system, which will be included in a later Augenblick report, is a major concern for education policymakers and for lawmakers. A rough CDE estimate made last year calculated that implementing a new system could cost up to $80 million.

The report presented to the board Wednesday estimates the first-phase costs to CDE at $1.5 million and $1.7 million in costs for the higher education system. The tab for school districts was put at $128.5  million to $139.2 million.

And, the report noted, “School districts, in particular, are only beginning to implement CAP4K and their understanding of what will be required for them is limited; as such, it is difficult to predict what their costs will be at this time. … All figures in this report should be considered rough estimates at this stage and APA intends to review and refine these figures to produce a more complete and accurate cost picture in our subsequent report.”

The state’s school districts are especially sensitive to the specter of new costs this year because of planned cuts in state school aid in 2010-11 and uncertain financial prospects after that.

The state’s $377 million first-round application for Race to the Top funds requested some funds that  would have been used for CAP4K implementation. Colorado didn’t win that round and is reapplying for the R2T second round. But Colorado’s potential award in that round looks to be no more than $175 million, making R2T a less likely solution for CAP4K costs.

Links to report and supporting documents

Check Education News later for an expanded version of this story.

newark notes

In Newark, a study about school changes rings true — and raises questions — for people who lived them

PHOTO: Naomi Nix
Park Elementary principal Sylvia Esteves.

A few years ago, Park Elementary School Principal Sylvia Esteves found herself fielding questions from angst-ridden parents and teachers.

Park was expecting an influx of new students because Newark’s new enrollment system allowed parents to choose a K-8 school for their child outside of their neighborhood. That enrollment overhaul was one of many reforms education leaders have made to Newark Public Schools since 2011 in an effort to expand school choice and raise student achievement.

“What’s it going to mean for overcrowding? Will our classes get so large that we won’t have the kind of success for our students that we want to have?” Esteves recalls educators and families asking.

Park’s enrollment did grow, by about 200 students, and class sizes swelled along with it, Esteves said. But for the last two years, the share of students passing state math and English tests has risen, too.

Esteves was one of several Newark principals, teachers, and parents who told Chalkbeat they are not surprised about the results of a recent study that found test scores dropped sharply in the years immediately following the changes but then bounced back. By 2016, it found Newark students were making greater gains on English tests than they were in 2011.

Funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and conducted by Harvard researchers, the study also found the reforms had no impact on student math scores.

And while many Newark families and school leaders agree with the study’s conclusion — that students are making more progress now — they had very different ideas about what may have caused the initial declines, and why English growth was more obvious than math.

Supported by $200 million in private philanthropy, former superintendent Cami Anderson and other New Jersey officials in 2011 sought to make significant changes to the education landscape in Newark, where one third of more than 50,000 students attend privately managed charter schools. Their headline-grabbing reforms included a new teachers union contract with merit-based bonuses; the universal enrollment system; closing some schools; expanding charter schools; hiring new principals; requiring some teachers to reapply for their jobs; and lengthening the day at some struggling schools.

Brad Haggerty, the district’s chief academic officer, said the initial drop in student performance coincided with the district’s introduction of a host of changes: new training materials, evaluations, and curricula aligned to the Common Core standards but not yet assessed by the state’s annual test. That was initially a lot for educators to handle at once, he said, but teacher have adjusted to the changes and new standards.

“Over time our teaching cadre, our faculty across the entire district got stronger,” said Haggerty, who arrived as a special assistant to the superintendent in 2011.

But some in Newark think the district’s changes have had longer-lasting negative consequences.

“We’ve had a lot of casualties. We lost great administrators, teachers,” said Bashir Akinyele, a Weequahic High School history teacher. “There have been some improvements but there were so many costs.”

Those costs included the loss of veteran teachers who were driven out by officials’ attempts to change teacher evaluations and make changes to schools’ personnel at the same time, according to Sheila Montague, a former school board candidate who spent two decades teaching in Newark Public Schools before losing her position during the changes.

“You started to see experienced, veteran teachers disappearing,” said Montague, who left the school system after being placed in the district’s pool of educators without a job in a school. “In many instances, there were substitute teachers in the room. Of course, the delivery of instruction wasn’t going to even be comparable.”

The district said it retains about 95 percent of its highly-rated teachers.

As for why the study found that Newark’s schools were seeing more success improving English skills than math, it’s a pattern that Esteves, the Park Elementary principal, says she saw firsthand.

While the share of students who passed the state English exam at Park rose 13 percentage points between the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years, the share of students who were proficient in math only rose 3 percentage points in that time frame.

“[Math is] where we felt we were creeping up every year, but not having a really strong year,” she said. “I felt like there was something missing in what we were doing that could really propel the children forward.”

To improve Park students’ math skills, Esteves asked teachers to assign “math exemplars,” twice-a-month assignments that probed students’ understanding of concepts. Last year, Park’s passing rate on the state math test jumped 12 percentage points, to 48 percent.

While Newark students have made progress, families and school leaders said they want to the district to make even more gains.

Test scores in Newark “have improved, but they are still not where they are supposed to be,” said Demetrisha Barnes, whose niece attends KIPP Seek Academy. “Are they on grade level? No.”

Chalkbeat is expanding to Newark, and we’re looking for a reporter to lead our efforts there. Think it should be you? Apply here.  

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: