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

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.”