Tuesday Churn: A second snow day

Updated – Several metro area school districts are calling for another day of weather-related closures on Wednesday. This includes Adams 12 Five Star, Adams 14 Commerce City, Aurora Public Schools, Cherry Creek Schools, Douglas County School District and Jefferson County Public Schools.

One exception is Denver Public Schools, which will be open, though weather-related absences and tardies will be excused. Families enrolled in Denver charters should check with those schools. See this press release for more.

Our partners at are compiling an updated list here.

Meanwhile, the Douglas County school board will meet tonight as scheduled, starting at 7:35 p.m. at district headquarters, 620 Wilcox St. in Castle Rock. It’s a later starting time because the board has scheduled a closed session at 5 p.m. Here’s the agenda, which includes approval of two new charter schools, Ben Franklin Academy and STEM School, opening this fall.

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

With a high temperature of -3 degrees forecast for today, schools along the Front Range are closed as are some district offices. Aurora’s school board meeting set for tonight has been delayed a week and state senators are taking the day off, though state representatives are expected to meet.

Jefferson County, the state’s largest school district, cited below-zero temperatures that “pose a health and safety hazard for children who wait at bus stops,” along with additional expected snowfall, in closing campuses. The day’s reprieve from classes isn’t all good news, however.

“Students should plan on attending school on Tuesday, May 31,” Jeffco officials said in a news release, “which is the previously published snow makeup day.”

What that means for adults varies by district. In Jeffco, all “non-essential personnel” were not expected to report to work. In Denver, district offices are open though employees “who need to work from home due to child-care needs or commuting difficulties” are told to talk to their bosses. Our partners at have a complete listing of closures, cancellations and delayed starts.

Building Charter School Quality, a project funded by the U.S. Department of Education to create national consensus around charter school standards, on Monday released a new report, Building Charter School Quality in Colorado.

“For the first time in the evolution of the charter sector, we have established consensus on definitions of school quality that will shape the future of charter school growth and performance,” said Jim Griffin, president of the Colorado League of Charter Schools, which partnered with CREDO at Stanford University, the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers on the four-year project. Visit the Building Charter School Quality website and read the press release.

Some national speakers are heading to Denver and it’s a good time to make plans to catch them in action:

  • Joel Rose, New York City’s School of One, is speaking at the Donnell-Kay Foundation’s Hot Lunch on Feb. 11 and there’s already a waiting list. You can read this New York Times story, “Classroom of the Future? Check” to learn why.
  • Diane Ravitch, author of  The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education, is in town Feb. 17 and is likely to draw a crowd. More details here. Ravitch debated state Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, on a recent trip – see story and video.
  • Wendy Kopp, Teach for America founder and author of the new book A Chance to Make History, is scheduled to be at the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver on March 1, for a conversation moderated by Dan Ritchie of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. More details to come.

Recent developments in the recall effort of Denver School Board President Nate Easley include a pledge from Johnston, who also represents Far Northeast Denver, to stand by Easley; a heated exchange on about the group, DeFENSE, supporting the effort; and the release of a video showing DeFENSE members, Jackie Skalecke and Mario Ramirez, preparing to gather petitions:

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.