Who Is In Charge

State board opposes testing bill

Updated 4:15 p.m. April 27 – The State Board of Education has voted 4-3 to oppose Senate Bill 12-172, the measure that would require the board to join one of two groups that are developing multi-state achievement tests.

The board spent more than two hours on the issues, including a lengthy discussion with legislative sponsors of the bill. The exchange was friendly, but it doesn’t appear that minds were changed.

The board’s four Republicans voted to oppose the bill, while the three Democrats supported it.

Text of original Thursday story follows.

The low-grade disagreement between the State Board of Education and key legislators over the future shape of state testing is threatening to flare up as the legislature enters its final nine days.

Pencil on test paperThe spark is Senate Bill 12-172, passed 4-2 Thursday night during a Senate Education Committee meeting that was delayed for some four hours because of prolonged floor debate on the civil unions bill and a school discipline measure.

The measure would require the state board to choose between one of two groups that are developing multistate achievement tests in language arts and math.

Making such a choice would commit Colorado to using multistate tests instead of the developing its own, which is what the state board has wanted to do.

Colorado is participating in both the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, but it isn’t a governing member of either. States that join a group’s governing board have a greater say in test development – but they also commit to use that group’s tests. Both are expected to be available in 2015.

The bill doesn’t specify a consortium, nor does it set a deadline for the SBE to decide.

The legislation, introduced quietly just a week ago, seemed to catch some committee members by surprise. “I didn’t realize this bill would be up today,” said Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder.

Sen. Michael Johnston, D-Denver
Sen. Michael Johnston, D-Denver / File photo

After sponsor Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, explained the measure, Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, said, “I’d like to know where the state board is on this.”

A little later in the meeting, he asked Anne Barkis, lobbyist for the board and Department of Education, to take the witness seat.

Barkis said the board hasn’t taken a position because it hadn’t met since the bill was introduced but that it was meeting Friday afternoon.

“I anticipate we will have a slightly divided board and that the majority will come out opposed to the bill,” Barkis said in very measured tones. “Generally speaking, the state board would prefer not to be told what decisions to make.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Senate Ed chair Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins.

Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs
Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs / File photo

“It seems to me there should be some sort of collaboration between the state board and the legislature,” King said.

But Johnston, Bacon and Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, all made the argument that the General Assembly is constitutionally superior to the board.

The state constitution says, “Their duties will be defined by law,” said Hudak, a former member of the board. “That means us.”

“I do see it as a function of this body,” said Johnston, noting that while the board can vote on what tests it wants, the legislature has to come up with the money to pay for them.

Money has been at the root of the testing dispute since last November, when the board requested $26 million to develop a full battery of new state tests to replace the CSAPs, which are obsolete because of new state content standards. The Hickenlooper administration requested exactly zero dollars for new tests, indicating the state could use the transitional TCAP tests for an extra year and then sign on to multi-state assessments.

The Joint Budget Committee fussed with the issue for months, with members complaining about the mixed signals from the board and the governor’s office.

Senate Education weighed in with advice to the JBC that a smaller amount of money should be spent on some specialized tests but that the state should develop its own reading and math assessments.

Coincidentally, the budget question was answered Thursday with final votes in the House and Senate on House Bill 12-1335, next year’s main state budget. The bill includes some $6 million for development of new social studies and science tests, plus Spanish language and special education tests.

Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster
Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster / File photo

Hudak, who last week tried to strip all testing money from the budget bill, voted for the final version Thursday. But she took five minutes at the microphone to criticize her former board colleagues.

While saying she understood the need for new science and other tests, “What troubles me is the $2.5 million to develop a whole new set of tests, the social studies tests.

“This is sort of a case of the tail wagging the dog. … That was a decision made by the State Board of Education in a discussion with the commission on higher education. We the legislature tell the state board what they must do. This is not what happened with social studies. They decided that they would like them, and now we are funding it,” Hudak told her fellow senators.

Sen. Suzanne Williams, D-Aurora, sounded a similar note during the floor discussion.

While the legislature may have constitutional authority on its side, the state board could have a political ace up its sleeve. Lame-duck SBE chair Bob Schaffer, R-4th District, reportedly has been lobbying against the bill and could well have some influence with the Republican majority leadership in the House.

The measure’s prime sponsors are Johnston and Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, plus the other three Democrats on Senate Education. But as yet the measure has no House sponsor from either party.

Senate Ed members struggled a bit when it came time to vote. Both King and Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, passed when the roll first was called, and paused a moment when their turns came up again.

Heath paused again and voted yes. King finally said, “I just don’t know which side of the fence to fall off of. … I think I’ll go no today, a weak no.” Also voting no was Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley.

Johnston, Hudak and Bacon all voted yes to send the bill to the full Senate.

The next round in the fight comes Friday at 2 p.m., when the state board convenes its regularly scheduled legislative meeting at the Department of Education, 201 E. Colfax Ave. The seven-member panel has four Republicans and three Democrats.

Who Is In Charge

Indianapolis Public Schools board gives superintendent Ferebee raise, bonus

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is getting a $4,701 raise and a bonus of $28,000.

The board voted unanimously to approve both. The raise is a 2.24 percent salary increase. It is retroactive to July 1, 2017. Ferebee’s total pay this year, including the bonus, retirement contributions and a stipend for a car, will be $286,769. Even though the bonus was paid this year, it is based on his performance last school year.

The board approved a new contract Tuesday that includes a raise for teachers.

The bonus is 80 percent of the total — $35,000 — he could have received under his contract. It is based on goals agreed to by the superintendent and the board.

These are performance criteria used to determine the superintendent’s bonus are below:

Student recruitment

How common is it for districts to share student contact info with charter schools? Here’s what we know.

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Staff members of Green Dot Public Schools canvass a neighborhood near Kirby Middle School in the summer of 2016 before reopening the Memphis school as a charter.

As charter schools emerge alongside local school districts across the nation, student addresses have become a key turf war.

Charter schools have succeeded in filling their classes with and without access to student contact information. But their operators frequently argue that they have a right to such information, which they say is vital to their recruitment efforts and gives families equal access to different schools in their area.

Disputes are underway right now in at least two places: In Tennessee, school boards in Nashville and Memphis are defying a new state law that requires districts to hand over such information to charters that request it. A New York City parent recently filed a formal complaint accusing the city of sharing her information improperly with local charter schools.

How do other cities handle the issue? According to officials from a range of school districts, some share student information freely with charters while others guard it fiercely.

Some districts explicitly do not share student information with charter schools. This includes Detroit, where the schools chief is waging an open war with the charter sector for students; Washington, D.C., where the two school sectors coexist more peacefully; and Los Angeles.

Others have clear rules for student information sharing. Denver, for example, set parameters for what information the district will hand over to charter schools in a formal collaboration agreement — one that Memphis officials frequently cite as a model for one they are creating. Baltimore and Boston also share information, although Boston gives out only some of the personal details that district schools can access.

At least one city has carved out a compromise. In New York City, a third-party company provides mass mailings for charter schools, using contact information provided by the school district. Charter schools do not actually see that information and cannot use it for other purposes — although the provision hasn’t eliminated parent concerns about student privacy and fair recruitment practices there.

In Tennessee, the fight by the state’s two largest districts over the issue is nearing a boiling point. The state education department has already asked a judge to intervene in Nashville and is mulling whether to add the Memphis district to the court filing after the school board there voted to defy the state’s order to share information last month. Nashville’s court hearing is Nov. 28.

The conflict feels high-stakes to some. In Memphis, both local and state districts struggle with enrolling enough students. Most schools in the state-run Achievement School District have lost enrollment this year, and the local district, Shelby County Schools, saw a slight increase in enrollment this year after years of freefall.

Still, some charter leaders wonder why schools can’t get along without the information. One Memphis charter operator said his school fills its classes through word of mouth, Facebook ads, and signs in surrounding neighborhoods.

“We’re fully enrolled just through that,” said the leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his relationship with the state and local districts. “It’s a non-argument for me.”

A spokeswoman for Green Dot Public Schools, the state-managed charter school whose request for student information started the legal fight in Memphis, said schools in the Achievement School District should receive student contact information because they are supposed to serve students within specific neighborhood boundaries.

“At the end of the day, parents should have the information they need to go to their neighborhood school,” said the spokeswoman, Cynara Lilly. “They deserve to know it’s open.”