Tuesday Churn: Decision day

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

The Legislature Council, a group of House and Senate leaders that handles statehouse administrative matters, meets this afternoon to pass judgment on bills that have been proposed by over-the-summer study committees.

That list includes five education-related bills proposed by two committees.

Here’s the rundown:

The Educational Success Task Force has proposed four bills, the most interesting of which would require all high school students to take the Accuplacer test at least once between 9th and 12 grades. Committee website with links to bill texts, text of Accuplacer bill & previous EdNews’ coverage.

The Legislative Task Force to Study School Discipline has recommended a single bill, a measure that would overhaul state law on school disciplinary measures in an effort to reduce use of expulsions, out-of-school suspensions and police referrals. Committee website & bill text

Legislative Council members can reject bills if a majority feels they are outside the scope of a particular study committee’s assignment. Most bills are approved and sent on to the next session of the legislature, but surprises can happen. Even if the committee rejects a bill, an individual legislator is free to introduce it, but in that case it counts against the five-bill limit for individual lawmakers.

The meeting starts at 1:30 p.m. in room 0112 in the Capitol basement.

The Independence Institute asserts in a press release that its new study finds “More than seven out of eight local Colorado K-12 agencies do not fully comply with a 2010 state law requiring online financial transparency.”

Devan Crean and Ben DeGrow of the free market-oriented group surveyed district websites to assess compliance with House Bill 10-1036, whose provisions went into effect this year.

The text of the study notes, however, “Lack of compliance may be explained in part by the challenge of interpreting the law itself.”

The study also found, “The larger the school district, the more likely it is to be in compliance. Twelve of Colorado’s 20 largest districts — those with 10,000 or more enrolled students — make up half of the districts fully compliant with 2011 transparency requirements. The other eight are almost compliant.”

Asked about the report, Jane Urschel, deputy executive director of the Colorado Association of School Boards, noted, “There are 30 districts where the superintendents are doubling as the principal. Five years ago, it was two or three where that was the case. I think this is what is happening – many districts are trying to make choices in choosing the highest priorities for use of their time. They aren’t ignoring the law intentionally.”

Read the full report here. It includes district-by-district ratings and suggestions for changes in state law.

Update: On Nov. 10 the Independence Institute posted a correction on its website regarding erroneous information in the report about the Elizabeth and Mapleton districts.

A new study of charter management organizations is out from Mathematica Policy Research and the Center for Reinventing Public Education.

EdWeek reports that the study “finds overall that their middle school students’ test scores in reading, mathematics, science, and social studies aren’t significantly better than those of students in regular public schools.” Read story.

According to the organizations’ news release, “The report highlights a range of organizational models and educational strategies that produce achievement effects that are more often positive than negative, but that vary substantially among CMOs.” The report “also finds that high-performing CMOs tend to emphasize school-wide behavior policies and intensive teacher coaching.”

You can see the news release here and download the report here.

What’s on tap:

The governor’s Education Leadership Council meets from 9 a.m. to noon at the carriage house of the Governor’s Mansion. Agenda

The Legislature Audit Committee will consider requests for new audits, including an audit of online education programs. That’s scheduled for 10:30 a.m.

Legislative Council meets at 1:30 p.m. in room 0112 of the Capitol to consider bills approved by study committees, including several of interest to education. Agenda

The Denver school board’s finance and audit committee meets from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m at 900 Grant St. The agenda includes approval of the district’s contract with Pepsi and a request to amend all charter school Facility Use Agreements to specify why a charter’s FUA may be terminated.

Aurora school board members meet at 6 p.m. at 1085 Peoria St. The agenda includes a brief swearing-in ceremony for new board members and an hour-long workshop on the district’s strategic plan, VISTA 2015.

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.”