Colorado

Monday Churn: CU loses gun case

Updated 9 a.m. – A unanimous Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that a state law on carrying of concealed weapons does apply to the University of Colorado and that the university can’t ban the carrying of such weapons.

A university ban was challenged by a group named Students for Concealed Carry on Campus. The university argued that the statewide law didn’t apply to it, an interpretation rejected earlier by the Colorado Court of Appeals and by the high court in the opinion issued today.

The student group also appealed CU’s ban on constitutional grounds. The court didn’t rule on that issue, determining that the concealed-carry law was sufficient to govern CU.

Republican legislators are pushing House Bill 12-1092, which would allow people otherwise entitled to own guns to carry then concealed without obtaining a separate concealed weapon permit. That bill, if passed, would apply to college campuses but not allowing carrying of weapons on school grounds. The measure is pending in the House.

Read the opinion here, and get background in this EdNews story.

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

The full legislature may make the final decision on each year’s state budget, but lawmakers accept the vast majority of recommendations made by the six-member Joint Budget Committee.

On the committee’s agenda for today are three important decisions about education funding: How much base funding to provide to school districts in 2012-13, the amount of support for state colleges and universities next year and whether to give the Department of Education money to start developing a new state testing system.

The panel considered the first two issues last week but put off decisions.

Despite committee hand-wringing, the panel doesn’t really have much room to maneuver on K-12 and higher ed funding.

Factors beyond in the JBC are in play with school finance, like the annual school finance act (a separate bill from the main state budget) and the simmering political question of whether to continue suspension of a senior citizen property tax break.

Without going into the brain-freezing details, the bottom line for school districts is that the best they can expect is the same amount of money in 2012-13 as this year. That, of course, will be an effective cut, because enrollment is expected to grow statewide.

For state colleges and universities, a $30 million cut in state aid (down to about $489 million) is expected. That’s what the executive branch recommended, and that probably won’t change no matter how much the JBC agonizes over the details of how to make the reduction.

Perhaps more interesting is the question of the Department of Education’s request for $25.9 million to build a new state testing system, a request not supported by the Hickenlooper administration. Look for the committee to perhaps support spending of about $7 million to pay for development of tests in subjects that won’t be included in multi-state tests expected to be available in 2015.

All three issues are on today’s committee agenda. We’ll see if it makes a decision or puts things off for a few more days. Reaching agreement is sometimes tough for the panel, evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

What’s on tap:

Check this week’s full legislative calendar, as of March 2.

TODAY

Five state education groups are convening to help school districts as they implement Colorado’s landmark educator effectiveness law. Titled “Colorado Educator Effectiveness Summit: 191 to Action,” the one-day event runs from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Westin Hotel, 10600 Westminster Blvd., Westminster. The groups are the Colorado Association of School Boards, the Colorado Association of School Executives, the Colorado Department of Education, the Colorado Education Association and the Colorado Legacy Foundation.

Denver Public Schools’ board finance and audit committee meets from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. at 900 Grant St. Agenda items include a $1.6 million contract with Generation Schools Network for turnaround work at West High School, one of Colorado’s lowest-performing high schools. The contract is for five years beginning with 2012-13.

TUESDAY

The new Colorado Collaborative for Girls in STEM holds its first information meeting from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. at Skyline High School, 600 E. Mountain Valley Ave. in Longmont. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the effort is intended to enable collaboration within the public and private sectors to bring more underserved girls and women into STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – fields. Learn more.

Douglas County school board members meet at 5 p.m. and recess into closed session for two hours, reconvening in public at 7 p.m. at 620 Wilcox St. Agenda items include a presentation by principals about the proposal changing high school schedules for 2012-13, including requiring teachers to teach an additional class, and the second quarter 2011-12 financial report.

WEDNESDAY

The State Board of Education meets starting at 9 a.m. in the boardroom at 201 E. Colfax Ave. Agenda items include a charter school appeal involving Life Skills High School v. DPS, several DPS innovation applications and a briefing on the proposed rules for teacher evaluation appeals under Senate Bill 10-191. Agenda

Adams 12 Five Star school board members meet at 5:15 p.m. for  a public work session and then begin their regular meeting at 7 p.m. at 1500 E. 128th Ave. Agenda items include public comment and decisions on possible dismissal of two teachers.

Good reads from elsewhere:

Principal turnover: A lot of education reform initiatives are based on the idea of principals as instructional leaders, motivating and monitoring their teachers to improve student achievement. A new study by the Rand Corp. finds that about 20 percent of new principals within a year or two, leaving behind a school that generally continues on a downward academic slide. Our partners at EdWeek have the story.

Jobs and education mismatch: If you haven’t read this yet, this March 1 New York Times story takes a look at colleges cutting classes in fields highly sought after by employers in attempts to save money. Among the examples is Colorado’s own Fort Lewis College, which has eliminated its computer science major.  The story provides an overview of “the states’ 25-year withdrawal from higher education.”

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.