Monday Churn: Honoring top performers

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

The Colorado Department of Education will hold an awards ceremony to recognize the 18 districts Accredited with Distinction under the state’s accountability system. The event starts at 10 a.m. in the CDE lobby at 201 E. Colfax Ave., Denver. Full list of winners:

Academy School District 20, Agate School District 300, Aspen School District 1, Buffalo School District RE-4, Cheyenne Mountain School District 12, Dolores School District RE-4A, Frenchman School District RE-3, Hinsdale County School District RE-1, Kiowa County School District C-2, Lewis-Palmer School District 38, Littleton Public Schools 6, Moffat School District 2, North Park School District R-1, Ouray School District R-1, Plateau School District RE-5, Ridgway School District R-2, Steamboat Springs School District RE-2 and Telluride School District R-1

The ceremony will also recognize the recipients of the 2011 Centers of Excellence award. Established by the Colorado legislature, the Centers of Excellence Award recognizes schools that demonstrate the highest rates of student longitudinal growth as measured by the Colorado Growth Model among those that have at least 75 percent at-risk students. For a list of the 2011 winners, click here.

The department will also recognize, but not distribute, two additional awards at the event: the Governor’s Distinguished Improvement Award and John Irwin Schools of Excellence Award. More on those here and here.

Also, the CDE also announced the formation of a Rural Education Council to “oversee, support, conduct research and advocate for the needs, concerns and particular problems of rural education districts.” Colorado Education Commissioner Robert Hammond made the announcement late last week, following up on a study that was conducted earlier this year. The council is comprised of one rural superintendent from each of eight regions in the state and representatives from local school boards, teachers, principals and business/community members. For a list of all members, go here.

The council will hold its first meeting on Thursday, Dec. 15 in Denver. Future quarterly meetings will be held around the state in rural locations so hosts can highlight the unique needs of their communities.

The Denver Education Compact, the centerpiece of Mayor Michael Hancock’s public education initiative, is set for its first meeting today under executive director Theresa Peña.  The compact, a committee of 25 community, business and education leaders selected by Hancock, is charged with making specific commitments to improve Denver education from cradle to career.

The committee has met twice before under interim director Janet Lopez. Today marks the first session for the group since Peña assumed her post as the executive director. Peña last month concluded her second and final term as an at-large member of the Denver school board. Co-chairs of the group are Hancock, DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg and Donna Lynne, president of Kaiser Permanente Colorado.

Today’s public meeting runs from 2 to 3:30 p.m., in the Parr-Widener Community Room on the third floor of the Denver City & County Building, 1437 Bannock St. More info

What’s on tap:


The Legislative Audit Committee will receive the annual financial and compliance audit of the University of Colorado starting at 1:30 p.m. The committee meets in its first-floor hearing room in the Legislative Services Building, 200 E. 14th Ave. Agenda

Denver school board members meet today in their regular monthly work session prior to Thursday’s meeting. The board will hear from the Start Date Task Force, including its analysis on whether the district should consider a later start to the school year. Background story. Other agenda items include updates on the district’s unified SchoolChoice enrollment system and the Northwest Community Committee. It begins at 4:30 p.m. at 900 Grant St. Agenda. Remember you can watch the meetings live here.

Prior to the DPS work session, the board’s finance and audit committee meets at 3 p.m. , also at 900 Grant St.  The agenda includes a discussion of the district’s financial status, with a presentation noting Gov. Hickenlooper’s proposed budget could mean a reduction of $175 per student or about $14 million for DPS. Other provisions of the governor’s budget could cut another $125 per student. Financial presentation, full agenda

The Cherry Creek school board meets at High Plains Elementary, 6100 S. Fulton St., beginning at 7 p.m. No agenda is yet posted.


The Legislative Audit Committee will be briefed about audits of the Colorado School of Mines and of federal stimulus spending in Colorado, including on education, starting at 9 a.m. Same location and agenda as above.

The Aurora school board meets at 6:00 p.m. at 1085 Peoria St.; no agenda is yet posted.

The Boulder school board meets at 5:00 p.m. at 6500 Arapahoe St. The agenda includes the legislative agenda, improvement planning and budget preparation.


The Colorado Springs District 11 board meets at 6:30 p.m. at 1115 N. El Paso St. Agenda

The St. Vrain Valley School District board is scheduled to meet at 395 S. Pratt Parkway in Longmont at 7 p.m. No agenda is yet posted.


Denver school board members meet at 5 p.m. at 900 Grant St. The agenda includes an enrollment update, a financial presentation and approval of new charter contracts. Agenda


Leaders of the Department of Education and the State Board of Education are on the hot seat for their annual hearing with the Joint Budget Committee. Among the 48 written questions the department is supposed to answer are more than a dozen related to the cost of a new state testing system. The fun starts at 9 a.m. and runs until noon in the large hearing room on the first floor of the Legislative Services Building. Read a background story here.

Good reads from elsewhere:

Public school advocate and parent Julie Woestehoff writes in The Huffington Post about what she calls the “churn rate” in Chicago Public Schools after the latest wave of interventions was announced there. “Who wants to go to school or work for a school system that is in constant upheaval, where people never know from one year to the next where they will be or what they will be doing? Where life-altering decisions appear to be based on ever-changing and murky rationales?” she asks. More

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.”