Monday Churn: Education Nation

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

Education Nation, the NBC News project to report on and stimulate discussion about education issues, is in the middle its Denver on-the-road tour.

A panel discussion on grade-level reading and a teacher town hall at the Colorado History Center topped Sunday’s events, and today a panel of local business leaders are scheduled to discuss the role of education in job readiness and the economy.

Reporters from our partner have produced a series of stories on Colorado education issues, including college remediation and P-20 integration. Get links here to video reports. And get more information on Education Nation here.

Education News Colorado has received the first-place award for general website excellence in the 2012 Best of the West contest sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists. EdNews and the Rocky Mountain Investigative News Network also were honored with a first-place award for multimedia story. That winner was the October 2012 series “Troubling questions about online education.”

What’s on tap:

Check here for the week’s full legislative calendar.


The Denver school board has a work session at 4:30 p.m. at 900 Grant St. The agenda includes a presentation of data on the district’s new SchoolChoice enrollment system; a report on options for handling extreme heat in buildings, including closure; and a look at the proposed 2012-13 budget.

The Cherry Creek board meets at 6 p.m. at Fox Hollow Elementary, 6363 S. Waco St. in Aurora. The board is expected to discuss a $25 million tax increase for operating expenses and a $125 million bond proposal for the November election. Agenda


The Boulder Valley board has a special meeting on the 2012-13 budget at 5 p.m. at 6500 E. Arapahoe. Agenda

The Adams 12-Five Star board meets at 5:30 p.m. in the district offices at 1500 E. 128th Ave. in Thornton. The agenda includes a public hearing on the proposed 2012-13 budget, which includes significant cuts. Agenda

The Aurora board meets at 6 p.m. in the Mount Massive Room at the Professional Learning and Conference Center, 15771 E. 1st Ave. Agenda


The University of Colorado Board of Regents opens two days of meetings in the Tivoli Student Center on the Auraria Higher Education Center in downtown Denver. Tuition rates for 2012-13 are expected to be on the agenda.

The St. Vrain Valley board meets at 6 p.m. at the Educational Services Center, 395 South Pratt Parkway in Longmont.


The DPS board has a regular meeting at 5 p.m. and a public comment session at 6:30 p.m.

Good reads from elsewhere:

High school literacy: Early literacy is all the talk around the country these days, including in Colorado, but Oregon is looking at the other end of the K-12 spectrum. Beginning next year, high school seniors will have to show reading and writing proficiency to graduate. A math test comes on line in 2014. Learn more in this story from in the Salem Statesman Journal.

Scores may drop: Changing state tests often means lower scores initially, but the Ohio Department of Education is predicted significant drops when the state moves to new tests based on the Common Core Standards in the future. For example, in Columbus City Schools, about 64 percent of students passed their reading tests last school year. Predictions show that passing rate would be about 25 percent on the new tests. The Columbus Dispatch has the story. Colorado also is planning a switch to new tests, although it’s uncertain when because of financial concerns.

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.