Future of Schools

Monday Churn: Second half kicks off

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

Monday is the 62nd of the 2011 legislature’s 120 days, and as lawmakers move into the second half, their attention will turn increasingly to the 2011-12 budget, which is expected to see significant cuts to K-12 schools and noticeable ones to higher education.

The March state revenue forecasts will be issued Friday, setting the base on which the budget will be built.

Some key education measures are on the calendar this week, including House Bill 11-1270, the parent-trigger proposal that will be heard in the House Education Committee this afternoon. If this one advances through the House, it’s given little chance in the Senate. The Colorado Education Association, which lobbies actively at the statehouse but which makes public statements on only a few bills every session, has publicly opposed this one.

The concussion bill, Senate Bill 11-040, faces a final House vote this morning, as does the “recess” bill, House Bill 11-1069, in the Senate.

On Thursday, the Senate Education Committee will take up Senate Bill 11-052, the proposal to base 25 percent of higher education funding on performance measures starting in 2016-17. While influential legislators and the Hickenlooper administration are interested in this idea, college leaders are wary of changing the financial rules at a time when state funding is dropping.

On Friday, the Senate may take up one of the most ideologically charged education measures of 2011, Senate Bill 11-126. That’s the proposal to make undocumented students eligible for lower tuition rates.

Meanwhile, expect a newsy week in school districts as well. The Douglas County school board is set to vote on a voucher pilot on Tuesday while the Denver school board takes up the restructuring of its pension plan on Thursday.

What’s on tap:

(Go here for the full legislative calendar.)

MONDAY

A Denver school board closed executive session starts at 4 and an open work session begins at 4 p.m., 900 Grant St. The bulk of the meeting time is devoted to prep for Thursday’s vote on the district pension restructuring. Agenda.

Cherry Creek school board meets starting at 6:30 p.m. at West Middle School, 5151 S. Holly St., Greenwood Village. Agenda.

TUESDAY

The Jefferson County school board holds a special meeting on state legislation at 7:30 a.m. in room 354 at the state Capitol. Agenda.

The Douglas County school board convenes at 5 p.m., 620 Wilcox, Castle Rock. A closed session is scheduled to last until 6:30 p.m., when the board goes into open session. A vote on the district’s voucher proposal is scheduled at 8 p.m., following public comment set for 7:30 p.m. Agenda.

The Aurora school board meets at 6 p.m. in the Educational Services Center, 1085 Peoria St. Agenda.

WEDNESDAY

The Adams 12-Five Star board meets starting at 5 p.m., Educational Support Center, 1500 E. 128th Ave. in Thornton. Agenda.

The St. Vrain school board holds a study session at 6 p.m. in the Erie High School Commons, 3180 County Road 5, Erie.

THURSDAY

The Denver school board holds a regular meeting beginning at 5 p.m. and a public comment session beginning at 6:30 p.m., 900 Grant St. Agenda.

FRIDAY

The State Council for Educator Effectiveness meets from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., location to be determined.

The March state revenue forecasts will be issued during a Joint Budget Committee hearing at 1:30 p.m. in room A of the Legislative Services Buildings, 200 E. 14th Ave.

Good reads from elsewhere:

Reform fail? Things were bad in Detroit Public Schools, and then the radical changes began. New York Times.

calendar quandary

Detroit district and union hammer out last-second agreement on school calendar before vote at tonight’s board meeting

A screenshot of the proposed academic calendar that has caused concern among union officials.

Detroit’s main school district and its largest teachers union settled a contract disagreement Tuesday afternoon after tensions arose over the seemingly routine approval of this year’s academic calendar.

The proposed calendar includes some changes to the one spelled out in the teachers’ contract. It was approved last week by a school board subcommittee without comment from the union, and the same calendar was on the agenda for tonight’s meeting of the full school board.

With just three weeks until the first day of school, parents and teachers are relying on the calendar to make travel plans and childcare arrangements.

No details were available about the agreement.

Ken Coleman, a spokesman for the Detroit Federation of Teachers, said the agreement was resolved before the meeting started, but couldn’t provide further details. District spokeswoman Chrystal Wilson said she expected the calendar to go to a vote without opposition from the union.

Coleman said earlier on Tuesday that a vote to approve the calendar could violate the teachers’ contract.

Union leaders were surprised last week when Chalkbeat reported that the board was considering a calendar that was different from the one approved in their contract.

The proposed calendar would eliminate one-hour-early releases on Wednesday and move the teacher training that occurred during that time mostly to the beginning of the school year. It also would move spring break to April 1-5, 2019 — a few weeks earlier than the April 19-26 break specified in the contract.

The earlier spring break is designed to avoid the testing window for the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, a college entrance exam commonly known as the PSAT, according to school board documents.

Union officials have said that they had no major objections to the contents of the calendar, only to the way in which it was approved.

Correction: Aug. 14, 2018 This story has been corrected to show that the union and district have reached an agreement about the academic calendar.  A previous version of the story, under the headline “An 11th-hour disagreement over an academic calendar could be settled at tonight’s school board meeting,” referenced a pending agreement when an agreement had in fact been reached.

NEW DATA

New data show how few black and Hispanic students benefit from New York City’s specialized high school diversity program

Students take an AP exam at Bronx Science, one of the city's specialized high schools.

A program intended to diversify the city’s elite specialized high schools continues to help far more white and Asian students than black and Hispanic ones, according to new data released Tuesday.

The initiative, known as the Discovery program, aims to promote diversity at the eight elite high schools by offering admission to students from high-need families who score just below the entrance exam cutoff if they successfully complete summer coursework.

This year, Asian students represented 64 percent of students admitted through Discovery, (despite being 16 percent of the city’s students), while black and Hispanic students combined make up just 22 percent (a group that represents nearly 70 percent of the city’s students). Last year, 67 percent of students admitted through Discovery were Asian and 18-20 percent were black or Hispanic.

And while black and Hispanic students get more offers through Discovery than they do in the typical admissions process — where just 10.4 percent of offers went to black and Hispanic students this year — the program does not make a big difference because such a small share students actually get admitted through Discovery. This year, 6 percent of ninth graders were admitted through the program.

Discovery has expanded under Mayor Bill de Blasio, from 58 students in 2014 to an expected 250 this coming school year. But despite the program’s growth, it has had little effect on making the city’s elite high schools more racially representative of the city’s overall student population.

The preliminary numbers released Tuesday help show why the city is changing the program.

After years of these meager results, the city is expanding the program even further and tweaking its rules to include more black and Hispanic students — a key pillar of de Blasio’s controversial plan to make the schools more racially representative of the city’s students.

Read more: Fair and objective or useless and biased? A Chalkbeat guide to the case for and against New York City’s specialized high school test

By 2020, each of the specialized schools that determine admission based solely on a single exam will be required to reserve 20 percent of their seats for students in the Discovery program. (Stuyvesant High School, which is participating in the program for the first time this year, admitted 23 students through Discovery. Under the mayor’s plan, the school will have to increase that number sevenfold.)

To ensure it helps more black and Hispanic students than it does right now, the program will be restricted to students at high-poverty schools, which tend to enroll more black and Hispanic students. (Currently, the program is only restricted to high-need students from any middle school in the city.)

By itself, that change is expected to have only a modest effect, increasing black and Hispanic student enrollment to 16 percent, up from about 9 percent today. But unlike the mayor’s plan to get rid of the entrance exam entirely, which would have a more dramatic effect on diversifying the schools, expanding the Discovery program is something de Blasio can do without approval from the state legislature.

“By changing the Discovery eligibility criteria starting next year, we’ll support greater geographic, racial, and socioeconomic diversity at our specialized high schools,” education department spokesman Will Mantell wrote in an email.