Friday Churn: Bad news again

Updated 1:45 p.m. – Colorado has lost out in another round of competition for federal Race to the Top funds, this time for $60 million that would have supported state early learning initiatives.

The $500 million Early Learning Challenge program drew applications from 35 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and Colorado came in 12th, the U.S. Department of Education announced today. Colorado achieved a total of 233.4 points out of a possible 300. Here’s the ranking and points of the top twelve, with the nine winners in bold:

  • NORTH CAROLINA – 269.6 points – 89.9% – $69.9 million
  • MASSACHUSETTS – 267 points – 89% – $50 million
  • WASHINGTON – 263.8 points – 87.9% – $60 million
  • DELAWARE – 261.2 points – 87.1% – $49.8 million
  • OHIO – 261 points – 87% – $69.9 million
  • MARYLAND – 252 points – 84% – $49.9 million
  • MINNESOTA – 250.8 points – 83.6% – $44.8 million
  • RHODE ISLAND – 243.8 points – 81.3% – $50 million
  • CALIFORNIA – 243.6 points – 81.2% – $52.5 million
  • NEW MEXICO – 236 points – 78.7%
  • WISCONSIN – 234 points – 78%
  • COLORADO – 233.4 points – 77.8%

Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia has scheduled a new conference at 3 p.m. Garcia recently completed a statewide listening tour to gather comment on early learning needs and strategies. Early learning is one of the Hickelooper administration’s education priorities.

Colorado previously lost in two rounds of competition for general Race to the Top funds. Colorado is eligible for a $17.9 million grant from a “consolation round” of that general competition.

Here’s the Colorado Education Association’s statement on the latest loss:

“Today’s announcement on Colorado’s most recent Race to the Top application is obviously disappointing. As the professionals working every day to teach and support Colorado’s public school students, we know how critical early literacy and childhood development are to success in school. We strongly supported the Race to the Top application and are proud of the effort Colorado has made. We’ll continue working with Governor Hickenlooper, Lt. Governor Garcia, Mile High United Way and leaders across the state to build support and success around early childhood education.” – Colorado Education Association President Beverly Ingle.

See a summary chart of all states’ ranking and scores and go to the U.S. Department of Education webpage to see all states’ applications and reviewers’ comments, including comments on Colorado’s application.

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

National Board Certification for teachers is growing in Colorado, with another 93 teachers achieving that designation in 2011. This represents a 17 percent increase in the total number of teachers holding the certificates in just one year, according to a news release from the Colorado Department of Education.

This year, 19 states had at least a 10 percent increase in the number of teachers earning the national certification over the prior year. Colorado’s increase means it ranked sixth among states increasing their percentages. Colorado ranks 25th in the total number of teachers – 641 –  who have earned National Board Certification over time.

The nation has 97,291 certified teachers, about 3 percent of the national teaching force. More than half teach in high-need schools.

Here are the state’s top five school districts in terms of numbers of certified Teachers: Denver – 104, Boulder Valley – 100, Cherry Creek – 87, Douglas County – 50 and Mesa Valley – 43.

More information on National Board Certification and full CDE news release.

Two fresh reports offer glimpses into economic issues and schools. The first report, from the Colorado Children’s Campaign, found that high-quality early childhood programs are essential in reducing gaps in “well-being.”  Gaps can be reduced, the study found, by expanding access to high-quality, culturally-competent early childhood programs.

The report found that children in immigrant families in Colorado are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty as children in U.S.-born families. It also found that Colorado’s gap in fourth-grade reading proficiency between students who are English language learners and those who are fluent in English was the second-largest in the country in 2011.

Read the full report, Investing in a Bright Future for All of Colorado’s Kids: The Importance of Providing Early Childhood Care and Education to Children in Immigrant Families.

In the second report, the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute found that Colorado’s investment in key public services lags far behind nearly every other state. State spending on schools and colleges in Colorado ranks 49th in the nation. The state also ranks near the bottom for state funding of vital services including health care and highway maintenance.

Based on the most recent comparison data available, from 2009, an increased investment sufficient to bring state spending in line with only the median of other states would require an additional $7.2 billion annually. Read the full report Aiming for the Middle or watch a three-minute video.

The Colorado Education Association has weighed in on next steps following the Lobato school funding ruling issued last week. Read the news release.

CEA is urging no additional cuts to state education funding and calls on legislators to resist any future unfunded mandates. Among other steps being recommended, CEA suggests creating a graduated income tax and making the sales tax more equitable by taxing services as well as goods.

What’s on tap:

A delegation from the Colorado Department of Education, led by Commissioner Robert Hammond and members of the State Board of Education, will be in the spotlight today for the annual hearing with the Joint Budget Committee. The gathering begins at 9 a.m. and runs until about noon in the large hearing room on the first floor of the Legislative Services Building. In its meeting last week, the state board wrestled with the possibility that it won’t get the money it wants to develop a full new state testing system. The department’s preference is to launch that new test in 2014.

To build their new testing system, the board and the department want $25.9 million in 2012-13 to develop the tests, but Gov. John Hickenlooper doesn’t think that’s a priority in a tight budget year. Board members and CDE executives believe new tests are needed in 2014 to fully implement the new state content standards and to provide the data needed for operation of the state’s district and school rating system and of the new educator effectiveness law.

Today’s hearing could provide a good indication if the JBC is inclined to help CDE put tests on a faster track or go with the governor and wait for multi-state tests in 2015. Background story

Colorado Mesa University will hold its first December commencement ceremony at 9:30 a.m. in Brownson Arena. About 140 students are expected to graduate. This will be the first commencement ceremony since the institution’s name officially changed from Mesa State College to Colorado Mesa University. Watch the ceremony via the web

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.