Colorado

Monday Churn: Still busy

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

Prom has come and gone, graduations are in full swing and the end of the school year is near for many – but there’s still plenty of activity education-wise today:

Gov. John Hickenlooper will travel to Arvada High School to sign Senate Bill 11-133. The 5:10 p.m. ceremony will include sponsors Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, Linda Newell, D-Littleton, and Rep. B.J. Nikkel, R-Loveland, as well as members of Padres y Jovenes Unidos.

The bill creates a legislature task force to study school discipline methods, including referral of students to police. Padres has been active in campaigning against what it sees as inappropriate discipline on over-reliance on police referrals.

U.S. Department of Education Assistant Secretary Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana will visit Lake International School in Denver and Fulton Elementary School in Aurora today to meet with students and school leaders. According to the press release, “Meléndez de Santa Ana will underscore the importance of turning around low-performing schools” and talk about how the federal government is supporting districts and schools in their school turnarounds.

Meléndez de Santa Ana is in town to keynote Tuesday’s conference on school improvement grant, or SIG, recipients, which she’s slated to do at 8:30 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency in the Denver Tech Center. The conference is the last of four regional meetings that began in April to support state and local education agencies, as well as schools, in their efforts to successfully turn around persistently low-performing schools. The others have been in Los Angeles, the District of Columbia and Chicago.

Also today,  the Colorado School of Mines trustees meet at 9:15 a.m. in the Coors Board room on campus in Golden. The board will vote on tuition and fees for 2011-12. The administration is recommending a 9 percent increase for resident undergraduates and graduate students, 5 percent for non-resident students and a 1.6 percent inflation increase in mandatory student fees. Agenda.

What’s on tap:

TUESDAY

The State Council for Educator Effectiveness meets from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Colorado Talking Book Library, 180 Sheridan Blvd. Agenda.

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

The Boulder Valley school board convenes at 6 p.m. at the Education Center, 6500 E. Arapahoe Drive. Agenda

WEDNESDAY

The state Capitol Construction Assistance Board meets from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at the Department of Education, 201 E. Colfax Ave. The agenda includes a rule-making hearing and initial discussion of 2011-12 grant applications. Those will be considered in detail and ranked at meetings June 27-30. Agenda.

The St. Vrain Valley board meets at 6:30 p.m. at the Educational Services Center, 395 South Pratt Parkway, Longmont.

The Adams 12-Five Star school board meets at 7 p.m. at the Educational Support Center, 1500 E. 128th Ave. in Thornton.

THURSDAY

Michelle Rhee, former D.C. schools chancellor and founder of Students First, is in Denver to speak at the ACE Scholarships annual luncheon, where former Gov. Bill Owens and current Gov. John Hickenlooper also are scheduled to talk. It’s at noon at the Denver Marriott City Center. Among its initiatives, ACE, which was founded in 2000 by oilman Alex Cranberg, awards scholarships to low-income families to help their children attend private schools.

Good reads from elsewhere:

Gates’ influence: The Microsoft founder has stepped up his education reform advocacy efforts, including “financing educators to pose alternatives to union orthodoxies.” New York Times.

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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.