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.

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

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.”