Tuesday Churn: Learning from charters

UpdatedDenver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg this morning announced an $800,000 grant that will place assistant principals from traditional DPS schools in selected charter schools for a year of training.

The grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation will be used to pilot what the district describes as a groundbreaking program to fuel increased cooperation and shared learning between leaders of charters and district-run schools.

The pilot program, launching in August, will see assistant principals at district-run schools spend a one-year training residency at Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST), SOAR and West Denver Prep charter schools. They will then return to lead a district-run school.

The grant also provides funding for the development of a comprehensive training and support program for principals implementing innovation school plans to assist in utilizing school resources in new ways.

“This is a nationally groundbreaking program to share best practices between successful district-run and charter schools,” Boasberg said in a prepared statement. “We have much to learn from each other. These schools are some of the best schools in the state with proven leadership development programs for aspiring principals.”

The pilot program is expected to fund residencies for six principals. They will be selected through a competitive application process this spring.

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

State Board of Education Chair Bob Schaffer will help kick off National School Choice Week tonight in Castle Rock, one of 400 events organized in 50 states this week. Tonight’s event will include Schaffer, a former U.S. congressman, along with political commentators Dick Morris and Hugh Hewitt. It’s backed by Americans for Prosperity Foundation-Colorado and 710 KNUS.

“It’s time to put children first in the education policy debate, not the adults and not the unions,” Jeff Crank, AFP Foundation-Colorado State Director, said in a news release.

The event kicks off at 7 p.m. tonight at the Douglas County Events Center. The program will be carried online at this link. You can read more about tonight’s event here and more about the national campaign here.

Denver Public Schools is preparing an announcement at 9:30 a.m. today about a that will enable the district to partner with several DPS charter schools in a pilot principal residency program. Strengthening the principal pipeline has been a priority for the district, which last year was awarded a $12 million Wallace Foundation grant for work toward that same goal. Watch EdNews for full details concerning today’s announcement.

Grant recipients: Fourteen public schools and two public charter management organizations from the Denver metro area are splitting $500,000 from the Foundations for Great Schools for their work in “encouraging success” among schools serving high proportions of low-income students. The foundation cited common success factors among the 2012 winners, including principals with exceptional leadership skills and school cultures with high expectations. See news release.

The winners are Montview and Tollgate elementaries in Aurora; South Elementary in Brighton; Community Leadership Academy (middle school level) and Ricardo Flores Magón Academy in the Charter School Institute; West Denver Prep charter management organization, Beach Court Elementary, Bryant Webster Dual Language K-8 (Middle School division), Denver School of Science and Technology charter management organization, Girls Athletic Leadership School, Greenwood ECE-8 (middle school division) and KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy in Denver Public Schools; Deane and Stein elementaries in Jeffco; East Elementary in Littleton; and Valley View K-8 (elementary level) from Mapleton Public Schools.

Metropolitan State College of Denver’s Hospitality, Tourism and Events Department has announced it is the recipient of a $1 million commitment from The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation to support the College’s new Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center. The Marriott Foundation instantly becomes the largest donor to the center to date. More info.

In case you missed it:

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers Monday filed the formal notice of the state’s appeal of the Lobato decision with the Colorado Supreme Court.

Suthers listed 14 possible issues that may be raised on appeal. They include whether Denver District Judge Sheila Rappaport erred in “declaring the state public school finance system unconstitutional” and erred in excluding some of the state’s proposed defenses, including consideration of multiple constitutional provisions, not just the “thorough and uniform” education clause.

Other possible issues listed including the standing of plaintiffs to sue, whether school funding is an appropriate area for court rulings and whether Rappaport erred in excluding the testimony of former legislator and school finance expert Norma Anderson.

The plaintiffs were predictably critical of the filing. Kathleen Gebhardt, lead attorney in the case, said, “‘All of the state’s bases for appeal are technical arguments that do not speak to whether students are getting a constitutionally adequate education. In addition, the state’s appeal does not seek guidance on how to solve the revenue implications of the district court’s decision, which was its stated justification for the costly and time consuming appeal.”

Much of the appeal notice is legal boilerplate. The state’s full appeal brief isn’t due until June 4, and Suthers recently told legislators he expects the appeals process to take a year (see story).

Read the appeal notice, and get background in the EdNews Lobato archive.

What’s on tap:

The Aurora Public Schools Board of Education meets at 6 p.m. today at the Educational Services Center, 1085 Peoria St. Watch the agenda page for details when they are posted.

The Boulder Valley School District Board of Education meets at 6 p.m. today at district headquarters, 6500 Arapahoe St. Agenda

Good reads from elsewhere:

The conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute is out with a study showing that the per-pupil cost of educating a student through “virtual education” is significantly less, on average, than the national average for brick-and-mortar schools. Here is the story about the study in North Carolina’s News & Observer and the full study published by the institute.

The Aspen School District is considering a new program that would teach students to fly airplanes as part of its math and science curriculum, the Aspen Daily News reports.

Reserves will be raided in in Thompson School District to backfill an estimated $7.25 million deficit. The Loveland Reporter-Herald reports that not all personnel reductions will be avoided, however.

The idea of a state ban on trans fats in school cafeterias, vending machines and snacks doesn’t phase the Poudre School District, the Fort Collins Coloradoan reports, because the district already meets the standards of the proposed legislation.

The EdNews’ Churn is a daily roundup of briefs, notes and meetings in the world of Colorado education. To submit an item for consideration in this listing, please email us at [email protected]

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.