Thursday Churn: Metro mulls new name

Updated 10:40 a.m.Steve Jordan, president of Metropolitan State College of Denver, will host a public meeting next Wednesday to provide details and gather comment on changing the college’s name.

Along with the current name, three possible new names ere being considered – Metropolitan State University of Denver, University of Central Colorado and Denver State University.

College officials have been studying the issue for a year. “The trustees see the value and benefits that could accrue to students and alumni, were the college to vote to change its name to something that would increase its stature within the community,” said trustee chair Rob Cohen.

The college also has a branding firm testing the names through a survey, individual interviews and focus groups with faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community and business leaders.

An assessment conducted last spring by the firm, Sector Brands, found the current name does not reflect Metro’s quality, size and complex offerings and that there’s confusion about whether Metro is a community college or a four-year institution. But, some respondents expressed concern that a name switch might signal a change in the college’s mission.

Jordan has initiated a number of key changes at Metro, including hiring more tenure-track faculty, adding three master’s programs and working to attract and retain more first-generation and minority students.

Jordan also has raised questions about continuation of the Auraria Higher Education Center, the separate entity that manages the downtown campus for Metro, CU-Denver and Community College of Denver.

As higher education has become more competitive and as state funding of state colleges has declined, some of those colleges have become more sensitive about branding and marketing issues. The University Colorado just completed a lengthy branding project around its “CU” logo, and the University of Northern Colorado recently has been running television ads seeking to attract students.

The public meeting will be from 7:30-9 a.m. in the Tivoli Turnhalle on the Auraria campus.

More information

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

The Colorado School Finance Project, which has long tracked state school spending compared to other states, has crunched some new numbers, based on 2008 data included in the recent Quality Counts report by Education Week.

Among other things, the project found that Colorado was $1,683 per pupil below the national average in 2008 compared to $1,919 in 2007. The data listed Colorado per-pupil expenditures at $9,914 in 2008. The project’s website has four graphs illustrating the trends from 2003 to 2008.

The data may be of primarily historical interest now, given the beating that school spending took in Colorado and across the nation in 2009 and 2010. And the connection between amounts of school spending and educational quality is hotly debated in education circles.

The advocacy group Stand for Children has named 10 winners in its “Our Heroes” contest, designed to spotlight some of the state’s top teachers. See the winners and what their nominators said about them.

Padres & Jovenes Unidos is tackling middle school reform. The Denver nonprofit worked with CU-Denver’s Center for Education Policy Analysis to prepare the 40-page “road map for success” for Denver Public Schools, released Wednesday. You can read the full report here or see the executive summary in English or Spanish. A middle school reform meeting is scheduled Saturday. See details.

What’s on tap:

The Denver school board holds a focus on achievement session starting at 4:30 p.m. at 900 Grant St., followed by a meeting at 7:45 p.m. with a sole agenda item – discussion and vote on proposed Innovation Act policy guidelines. Here’s the agenda.

The Jefferson County school board meets at 6 p.m. at the district education center, 1829 Denver West Drive, Building 27, Golden. The agenda includes contract renewals for two charter schools, Compass Montessori and New America School.

Good reads from elsewhere:

  • Falcon turmoil: Superintendent quits as district debates innovation plans. The Gazette
  • Lone Star tarnished: Texas schools facing deep cuts. EdWeek
  • Enrollment boom: New DOE report details for-profit colleges’ high enrollment, low grad rates. Inside Higher Ed

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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.