Colorado

Friday Churn: Importance of reading

Updated – A report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows “students who don’t read proficiently by the third grade are four times more likely to leave high school without a diploma than proficient readers.”

The report also says “poverty compounds the problem,” noting results such as “Students who have lived in poverty are three times more likely to drop out or fail to graduate on time than their more affluent peers; if they read poorly, too, the rate is six times greater than that for all proficient readers.”

For black and Latino students, the results are even worse – “the combined effect of poverty and poor third grade reading skills makes the rate eight times greater.”

Read the full report, Double Jeopardy: How Poverty & Third-Grade Reading Skills Influence High School Graduation.

“We will never close the achievement gap, we will never solve our dropout crisis, we will never break the cycle of poverty that afflicts so many children if we don’t make sure that all of our students learn to read,” said Ralph Smith, executive vice president of the Casey foundation.

The longitudinal study relies on a national database of 3,975 students born between 1979 and 1989. The children’s parents were surveyed every two years to determine economic status while the children’s reading progress was tracked using the Peabody Individual Achievement Test. It is billed as the first study to break down the likelihood of graduation by different reading skill levels and poverty experiences.

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

It seems to be the year for state college name changes, with Metro State requesting a change to Denver State University and Mesa State mulling possible new names.

Mesa recently did a survey and conducted meetings about a name change. Finding support in that exercise and receiving more than 60 suggested names, college officials now are doing a second survey to get feedback on a narrowed-down list of names for the Grand Junction institution. A strong majority of respondents supported dropping “college” and substituting “university” in any new name.

“Based on the feedback we’ve received in small group meetings, our prior survey and even our tele-townhall meeting, the overwhelming majority of our stakeholders believe the time is right for us to change our name in order to better communicate who we are, what we do and where we’re located,” President Tim Foster said in a statement.

Some examples from the list of 20 possible names are Colorado Canyons University, Colorado West University, Colorado Mesa University, University of Western Colorado and Mesa University of Western Colorado.

Find out more about the process on the college’s name change website.

Name changes for both Metro and Mesa would require legislative approval.

What’s on tap:

The University of Colorado Board of Regents continue their meeting, starting with committee sessions at 8:30 a.m. President Bruce Benson will discuss the recommendation to close the journalism school in Boulder with the Academic Affairs Committee. The main meeting is at the Anschutz Medical Campus, Research Complex 2, Room 2100. Agenda

The State Council of Educator Effectiveness meets from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Wings Over the Rockies Museum, 7711 E. Academy Blvd. in Lowry. Agenda

Aurora Public Schools, in conjunction with the Colorado Children’s Campaign, is hosting a screening of the documentary Waiting for Superman at 5:45 p.m. at Aurora Central High School. Details

Good reads from elsewhere:

Collaborative cuts: Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner interviews a Denver Public Schools parent about shared decision-making on cuts at two city schools. Colorado Public Radio.

Test generation: A liberal magazine takes a close look at Colorado’s burgeoning effort to evaluate teachers based on student growth. The American Prospect.

NYC change: Cathleen Black, the former publishing executive appointed to run the nation’s largest school district, is out after only three months. The New York Times.

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede