Wednesday Churn: Notice rule dies

Updated 4 p.m. – A tie vote this afternoon by the Legislative Legal Service Committee effectively killed the State Board of Education rule that requires school districts inform parents when employees are arrested for certain crimes.

The board unanimously approved the rule last April, and it was subsequently challenged in court by the Colorado Education Association. That case is pending, although a Denver judge earlier this fall denied a motion for an injunction against the rule.

State agency rules are governed by a complex review process. Once issued, rules are in effect until the following May 15. For rules to go into effect permanently, the legislature passes a law every year extending rules beyond May 15.

Lawyers from the Office of Legislative Legal Services review new rules and may make recommendations to the Legal Services Committee, a joint House-Senate panel. In this case the staff lawyers recommended the parent notice rule not be extended because they concluded the board didn’t have the legal power to issue it.

A motion to extend the rule died on a 5-5 vote, with committee Republicans voting yes and Democrats voting no. That means the rule will expire next May 15.

SBE Chair Bob Schaffer, R-1st District, attended the committee hearing and testified. He said after the meeting that he’ll probably start looking around for a legislative sponsor to carry a bill in 2012 that would make parent notification the law.

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

The Department of Education and some universities have significant amounts of unspent federal stimulus funds, but officials told the Legislative Audit Committee Tuesday that they plan to use the money before federal deadlines hit.

The committee was briefed by members of the state auditor’s staff on unspent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. The staff report (not a full audit) focused on the Department of Education and the Governor’s Energy Office because those agencies have spent less than 75 percent of the funds received. The report also covered three grants to the University of Colorado and one to Colorado State University.

Two grants to CDE and the lieutenant governor’s office totaled $18.9 million, of which $3 million has been spent. The four higher education grants totaled $26.1 million, of which $10.4 million has been spent.

The largest is the $17.4 million longitudinal data systems grant to CDE, of which $2.7 million has been spent. The grant must be used by June 30, 2013. Dan Domagala, CDE chief information officer, said 73 percent of the funds have been committed. “We’re on plan,” he added, to finish the project before the federal deadline.

What’s on tap:


Democratic legislative leaders will offer a look at their 2012 legislative agenda during an 11:30 a.m. Capitol news conference. Senate President Brandon Shaffer of Longmont and Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino also are supposed to unveil the first bill of the session, Senate Bill 12-001.

A briefing on innovation schools is scheduled at 3 p.m. at Colorado Education Association offices in downtown Denver. Kelci Price, with the School of Education & Human Development at CU-Denver, will present the first report from an ongoing three-year study of the state’s innovation law and the first innovation schools in Denver. It’s hosted by CEA, A+ Denver, Denver Public Schools, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, Education Reform Now and Get Smart Schools.

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. Agenda

Good reads from elsewhere:

The New York Times spent several months analyzing the for-profit online schools provider K12 Inc. and reports its findings in this in-depth article, which notes, “A portrait emerges of a company that tries to squeeze profits from public school dollars by raising enrollment, increasing teacher workload and lowering standards.” Read article

A dispute over land is heating up between Eagle County School District, Stone Creek Charter School and the Charter School Institute. The school district is calling in state officials to investigate. Story in the Vail Daily here.

A third-party analysis of Craig Middle School found some structural concerns and as a precaution students are being kept from entering certain portions of the building. The independent review was sought after problems surfaced at Meeker Elementary School. The Neenan Co., the district’s general contractor, was in charge of the work at both buildings. Story in the Craig Daily Press here.

defensor escolar

Memphis parent advocacy group trains first Spanish-speaking cohort

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Manuela Martinez (center left) and Lidia Sauceda (center right) are among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship.

Manuela Martinez doesn’t want Spanish-speaking families to get lost in the fast-changing education landscape in Memphis as the city’s Hispanic population continues to grow.

The mother of two students is among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship, a program that trains parents on local education issues.

“We want to be more informed,” said Martinez, whose children attend Shelby County Schools. “I didn’t know I had much of voice or could change things at my child’s school. But I’m learning a lot about schools in Memphis, and how I can be a bigger part.”

More than 200 Memphians have gone through the 10-week fellowship program since the parent advocacy group launched two years ago. The vast majority have been African-Americans.

The first Spanish-speaking cohort is completing a five-week program this month and marks a concerted effort to bridge racial barriers, said Sarah Carpenter, the organization’s executive director.

“Our mission is to make the powerless parent powerful …,” she said.

The city’s mostly black public schools have experienced a steady growth in Hispanic students since 1992 when only 286 attended the former Memphis City Schools. In 2015, the consolidated Shelby County Schools had 13,816 Hispanic children and teens, or 12.3 percent of the student population.

Lidia Sauceda came to Memphis from Mexico as a child; now she has two children who attend Shelby County Schools. Through Memphis Lift, she is learning about how to navigate Tennessee’s largest district in behalf of her family.

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Hispanic parents attend a training with the Memphis Lift fellowship program.

“Latinos are afraid of talking, of standing up,” Sauceda said. “They’re so afraid they’re not going to be heard because of their legal status. But I will recommend this (fellowship) to parents. How do we want our kids to have a better education if we can’t dedicate time?”

The training includes lessons on local school options, how to speak publicly at a school board meeting, and how to advocate for your children if you believe they are being treated unfairly.

The first fellowship was led by Ian Buchanan, former director of community partnership for the state-run Achievement School District. Now the program is taught in-house, and the Spanish-speaking class is being led this month by Carmelita Hernandez, an alumna.

“No matter what language we speak, we want a high-quality education for our kids just like any other parent,” Hernandez said. “A good education leads to better opportunities.”

Stopping summer slide

On National Summer Learning Day, Memphis takes stock of programs for kids

PHOTO: Helen Carefoot
Torrence Echols, a rising first-grader in Memphis, builds a tower with giant legos at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on National Summer Learning Day.

When it comes to summer learning, it’s been a better year for Memphis, where a range of new programs have helped to stem learning loss that hits hard in communities with a high number of low-income students.

On Thursday, Mayor Jim Strickland celebrated that work in conjunction with National Summer Learning Day and against the backdrop of the children’s reading room of the city’s main library.

He estimated that 10,000 children and teens are being reached this summer through learning programs spearheaded through Shelby County Schools, Literacy Mid-South, Memphis Public Libraries, churches and nonprofit organizations across the community.

That’s a record-breaking number, Strickland says, in a city with a lot of students struggling to meet state and local reading targets.

Summer learning loss, also known as summer slide, is the tendency for students to lose some of the knowledge and skills they gained during the school year. It’s a large contributor to the achievement gap, since children from low-income families usually don’t get the same summer enrichment opportunities as their more affluent peers. Compounded year after year, the gap widens to the point that, by fifth grade, many students can be up to three years behind in math and reading.

But this summer for the first time, Shelby County Schools offered summer learning academies across the city for students most in need of intervention. And Memphis also received a slice of an $8.5 million state grant to provide summer literacy camps at nine Memphis schools through Tennessee’s Read to be Ready initiative.

Literacy Mid-South used Thursday’s event to encourage Memphians to “drop everything and read!”

The nonprofit, which is providing resources this summer through about 15 organizations in Greater Memphis, is challenging students to log 1,400 minutes of summertime reading, an amount that research shows can mitigate learning loss and even increase test scores.

Reading is a problem for many students in Memphis and across Tennessee. Less than a third of third-graders in Shelby County Schools read on grade level, and the district is working to boost that rate to 90 percent by 2025 under its Destination 2025 plan.

The city of Memphis, which does not fund local schools, has made Memphis Public Libraries the focal point of its education work. This summer, the library is offering programs on everything from STEM and robotics to art and test prep.

Parents are a critical component, helping their kids to take advantage of books, programs and services that counter the doldrums of summer learning.

Soon after the mayor left the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on Thursday, Tammy Echols arrived with her son, Torrence, a rising first-grader at Levi Elementary School. Echols said they visit regularly to read books and do computer and math games.

“We always do a lot of reading and we’re working on learning sight words,” Echols said as she watched her son build a tower out of giant Lego blocks. “Torrence is a learning child and it’s easy to forget what you just learned if you’re not constantly reinforcing.”

You can find summer learning resources for families from the National Summer Learning Association.