Colorado

Thursday churn: A national teacher corps

UpdatedU.S. Senator Michael Bennet, D-Colo., is proposing a national teacher corps to recruit and train 100,000 educators to work in high-needs schools over the next five years.

Bennet, in a letter to President Obama released today, urges the plan for a Presidential Teacher Corps be included in the budget that the president is sending to Congress next week.

The proposal from the former Denver Public Schools superintendent would create “a new kind of portable license” for teachers who serve in high-needs schools and demonstrate they are highly effective based on multiple measures.

Read the news release and Bennet’s letter to Obama here.

Daily Churn logoThe bill intended to help protect young athletes against concussions has its first legislative committee hearing today, teed up by a news conference at which sponsors will tout the proposal.

Senate Bill 11-040 would require youth sports coaches to take training in recognizing concussion symptoms, require an athlete be removed from practice or a game if a coach suspects a concussion and also require such athletes be medically evaluated and have written clearance before returning to play.

The measure is dubbed the Jake Snakenberg Youth Concussion Act in memory of a Grandview High School freshman who collapsed during a football game in September 2004 and died later at a hospital. Jake’s mother, Kelli Jantz, and former Bronco Ed McCaffrey are scheduled to appear at the 12:30 p.m. news conference in room 356 of the Capitol.

The bill’s prime sponsors are Sens. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, and Linda Newell, D-Littleton. The measure will be heard during the Senate Health and Human Services Committee’s 1:30 p.m. meeting, also in room 356.

Past Education News Colorado stories on the issue:

In case you missed it, the latest public figure to enter the fray in the recall attempt of Denver school board president Nate Easley is Wellington Webb, the former mayor. He’s backing Easley, according to this report by Melanie Asmar at Westword.

What’s on tap:

The State Board of Education convenes the final day of its two-day February meeting at 9 a.m. in the boardroom at 201 E. Colfax Ave. Link to agenda.

On the agenda is an application under the Innovation Schools Act from the 109-student Kit Carson School District, which is seeking a waiver from the educator effectiveness law, also known as Senate Bill 10-191. Among other requests, Superintendent Gerald Keefe and his board want the ability to hire non-licensed teachers in the district on the eastern plains. They’re also asking for greater flexibility in evaluating educators and renewing their contracts.

A vote on Kit Carson’s innovation status isn’t scheduled until March 9 but the board has allotted 20 minutes for discussion because it’s the first district to seek a waiver from the law and “the State Board’s policy determination could establish significant precedent for other potential applicants,” the agenda notes.

Read the district’s innovation application here and see the recommended changes by state officials 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.