Wednesday churn: Manual HS goes long

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Manual High School students may still have Fourth of July fireworks ringing in their ears when they report for the first day of school next year under the Thunder Bolts’ extended calendar, which was announced Tuesday.

Manual students in 2012 will start school on July 9 and attend classes through June 14, 2013, giving them a 210-day schedule, with 25 of those days devoted to off-campus, experiential learning. The school day will run from 7:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.

The experiential learning component of the Manual program will take students throughout the state and the country and help them live what they are learning, according to Vernon Jones, director of community engagement at Manual.

Students’ learning will become immediately relevant as they are able to “learn it and live it” through a series of planned grade level experiential trips that are linked to their core academic learning, Jones said.

Ten schools that are part of the DPS turnaround efforts in the city’s far northeast are all on extended calendars – 187 days compared to the standard 181. Also, when the West Leadership Academy and the West Generation Academy open at West High School in 2012, they will both be on 200-day calendars.

An additional number of charter schools and innovation schools area also on extended calendars, although DPS spokeswoman Kristy Armstrong did not provide a full listing of those late Tuesday. She did say that she was not aware of another school starting its calendar in July.

Tim Foster, president of Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, is one of four invited witnesses who will testify this morning in Washington to the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training. Today’s hearing is titled “Keeping College within Reach: Discussing Ways Institutions Can Streamline Costs and Reduce Tuition.” According to the committee’s web site, the hearing “will provide committee members an opportunity to examine the causes of rising college tuition and learn innovative ways some institutions are lowering costs.”

In his prepared remarks, Foster asks Congress to “unburden” colleges from regulation and maximize “innovation and flexibility.” Foster mentions that CMU has a $317 million impact on the regional economy, has seen “high-need” enrollments jump from 2,481 students in 2009 to 4,643 students this year and has developed a program that matches students with jobs around campus. “To me, success is defined by providing a high quality educational experience with a sharp eye towards the costs associated with delivering it,” says Foster in the prepared statement. “If first generation and middle income students cannot afford our tuition, the level of quality is rendered significantly less meaningful.”

The committee web site includes a link to watch the hearing online here. The hearing begins at 8 a.m. Denver time.

Results at Denver Public Schools will be the focus of a luncheon today as a trio of education advocacy groups release a report on the district’s achievement and growth rates. A+ Denver, the Colorado Children’s Campaign and Metro Organizations for People (MOP) are the three groups behind the report, Start with the Facts: Strengthening Denver Public Schools’ Education Pipeline.

A media advisory says the report “looks at key transition points for Denver Public Schools (DPS) students from 2005 to 2011 in order to assess outcomes and trends in academic achievement and growth as students move from preschool through K–12 and into college. In addition, the report identifies barriers to student success and recommends potential strategies for improvement.”

5280 Magazine is out with its list of 50 “most powerful” around town and they include several individuals with strong ties to education, including Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, and Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora. Johnston ranks 30th and the magazine suggests he might be Colorado’s next political star. Fields ranks 37th and has “gained the type of respect that politicians dream about.” DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg comes in at 40th while DPS Chief Academic Officer Susana Cordova and Ajay Menon, a Colorado State University dean, are dubbed “rising stars.” Complete list

Good reads from elsewhere:

Colorado is one of five states that have applied for waivers from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and also have a “firm mechanism” in place for implementing statewide teacher evaluation systems. At least, that’s according to Education Week. The other four states with a leg up are Tennessee, Indiana, Florida and Oklahoma. Another six states are in varying stages of developing guidelines or organizing task forces and don’t appear to be in as good a position to have the waivers granted. At least, that’s the implication. “This isn’t a dealbreaker for getting a waiver,” notes the story. “At least in theory, states only need to have plans in place regarding evaluations. But plans and requirements are, obviously, two very different things.” Full story

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