The Churn: Teacher accused of CSAP help

Updated 12:30 p.m.Poudre district Superintendent Jerry Wilson is recommending the firing of a veteran middle school math teacher because she allegedly gave students inappropriate help on tests administered earlier this year.

Wilson told the school board last night that he had to invalidate the math scores of 23 students because of the actions of 21-year Webber Middle School teacher Julie Pfeifer.

A large crowd of Pfeifer supporters attended the board meeting and urged she not be fired. The case has to be heard by an administrative law judge before ultimately being decided by the board. Full story from Fort Collins Coloradan, via our partners at

Daily Churn logoGood reads from elsewhere:

Results from the latest National Assessment of Education Progress history tests found that eighth graders scored better in 2010 than students did on the last test in 2006, while fourth and 12th grade scores showed no change.

Among other discouraging results, “only 9 percent of fourth graders could identify a photograph of Abraham Lincoln and state two reasons for his importance,” reports Joy Resmovits on Huffington Post.

The news is likely to bring on the usual rounds of handwringing by politicians, editorial writers and educators. U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chimed in early, saying, “We need to return U.S. history to its rightful place in the classroom so that our children grow up learning what it means to be an American.”

The “rightful place” of history in the classroom has been a concern in Colorado. The State Board of Education, voting unanimously last December on the requirements for a new statewide testing system, agreed that social studies should join science as a test given at least once in elementary school, middle school and high school.

Social studies teachers lobbied hard for that. A witness at one hearing frankly argued that given the importance Colorado places on statewide tests, the only way to ensure social studies would continue to be taught is to make it a tested subject.

There hasn’t been much talk about the issue since the board vote. New tests to replace the CSAPs won’t roll out until 2013-14 at the earliest. And, adding a set of tests will have to swim against the tide of concern about the (unfunded) cost of a new testing system and about the amount of time state students already spend on standardized tests.

NAEP tests are administered periodically in a wide variety of subjects. Although the tests are taken only by representative samples of students across the country, all participating students take the same test. That’s why the organization bills its reports as “the nation’s report card.” Go here for full details on the latest history tests.

In case you’ve forgotten, the song “Wonderful World,” was recorded by Sam Cooke in 1958 and starts out:

Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Don’t know much about the French I took

But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me too
What a wonderful world this would be

Summer slide: A new study of both previous research and school district and other data confirms that students can lose as much as a month of academic progress over the summer, but that summer programs can help stem that loss. Rand Corporation

Charters under the microscope: New research by Stanford University on charter schools in Pennsylvania asserts that the state’s charters, on average, make smaller learning gains compared to traditional counterparts. The study did find examples of strong charters but was especially cautionary about the quality of online charters. Allentown Morning Call

The Churn is published periodically during the summer.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.