Wednesday Churn: DPS goes to D.C.

UpdatedDPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg testified Wednesday before the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce about the district’s new teacher performance assessment system, Leading Effective Academic Practice or LEAP.

LEAP, which launches districtwide in its pilot year next month, was developed over the past two years with the Denver Classroom Teachers Association and a $10 million, three-year grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. DPS describes Boasberg’s talk in DC as part of a discussion about innovative approaches to teacher quality.

LEAP was piloted in 16 schools in 2010-11 and staff in most DPS schools voted to participate in a “no-consequences” pilot year starting in August. The initiative is billed as providing more meaningful feedback and targeted training and support, and uses peer observations.

Learn more about Boasberg’s testimony, including links to video, here and find out more about LEAP on the district webpage.

Also Wednesday, the Walton Family Foundation announced a $49 million donation to Teach for America, including $3 million for Colorado Teach for America. Roughly half of the gift will support TFA’s national effort to double the size of its teaching corps and half will support training of TFA members in seven communities, including Denver. Read the news release on the donation here.

Disclosure: The Walton Family Foundation is a funder of Education News Colorado.

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

The Colorado Association of School Boards has made no secret of its reservations about proposed regulations to implement the state’s educator effectiveness law, but now it has put them in writing.

The association this week prepared a two-page memo for the State Board of Education detailing its concerns that the proposed rules infringe on local control of schools and go beyond the requirements of Senate Bill 10-191 and other state law on educator evaluations. (Read the memo.)

CASB is especially concerned about a proposed requirement that districts adopt a model state evaluation system or ask the Department of Education for a waiver to use their own systems. “We reject in its entirety proposed rule 6.01(B) (p. 26), which reflects neither the letter nor the spirit of the evaluation statute,” the memo says.

The proposed rule reads: “Each School District and BOCES shall implement the State Model System, unless it submits an application to the Department demonstrating that the School District or BOCES has developed a distinctive personnel evaluation system that satisfied the requirements in section 5.02 of these rules and the Department has approved this application.”

The memo also “rejects” five other proposed rules concerning CDE technical guidelines, saying, “This requirement adds an additional layer of regulation and grants CDE unfettered authority far beyond that contemplated by the Legislature.”

The main conclusion of the memo is that SB 10-191 gives the state powers in some areas and districts power in others, and discussion “should be structured around defining those matters that properly fall within the role of the state and those matters that properly fall within the role of the local district.”

CASB supported SB 10-191 during the hard legislative fight over the measure. The Colorado Education Association was the primary opponent of the bill then, but CASB has emerged as the most notable critic of some of the proposed regulations.

The state board will consider the draft regulations during its meetings on Aug. 3, Sept. 14 and Oct. 5. A final decision is scheduled for Nov. 9, and then the legislature gets to review the rules early next year. (The CASB memo summarizes testimony that Deputy Executive Director Jane Urschel is expected to give Aug. 3.)

See this page for links to CDE information about the proposed rules, including the current draft.

What’s on tap:

The Legislative Task Force to Study School Discipline holds its first meeting from 1-5 p.m. today in room 0112 of the Capitol. More information

Good reads from elsewhere:

Texas bucks nation: Most states break out test scores for a variety of ethnic groups, but not Texas, where results for only whites, blacks and Hispanics are reported. Houston Chronicle

Shape up, Iowa: Education Secretary Arne Duncan this week joined Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad in calling for reform of the state’s schools, considered by some among the nation’s best. Muscatine Journal

DREAM Act: A new California law gives undocumented students easier access to college scholarships. Meanwhile in Maryland, enough signatures have been gathered for a public vote next year on the law making undocumented students eligible for instate tuition. & Baltimore Sun

Charter windfall: Florida charter schools are getting $55 million in state construction funding, courtesy of the Republican governor and legislature, while traditional schools are receiving no money. Orlando Sentinel

The Churn is published periodically during the summer.

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

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