Friday Churn: Science, Shakespeare

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

Results released Thursday show Colorado eighth-graders second only to their counterparts in North Dakota on a national science exam.

A sampling of Colorado students participating last year in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as NAEP or the nation’s report card, improved their showing in science over 2009 results as well as outperforming the national average.

The average nationwide science score was 152; Colorado students scored 161, up from 156 on the 2009 assessment.

Other highlights of Thursday’s release:

  • Colorado outperformed 36 states and was not significantly different than 14 states
  • 42 percent of Colorado eighth-graders performed at or above proficient, compared to 31 percent nationally
  • 75 percent of Colorado eighth-graders performed at or above basic, compared to 64 percent nationally

Last year marked the first time that all 50 states, the District of Columbia and schools administered by the Department of Defense took part in the science exam, our partners at Education Week pointed out in this story.

The national exams test a sampling of students in each jurisdiction; states are neither rewarded nor sanctioned based on the results. In Colorado, 1,900 students and 102 schools participated.

If the results were relatively good news for Colorado, they didn’t impress some observers. The average eighth-grade score rose two points, from 150 in 2009 to 152 in 2011.

“I’m disappointed,” Gerry Wheeler, the interim executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, in Arlington, Va., told Ed Week in an interview. “Two points is certainly nothing to cheer about. If these kids can’t do better in science, our nation is in trouble.”

Visit the NAEP website to see the science results and read about Colorado-specific data on this state Department of Education webpage.

Those kids in funny costumes in Denver today are celebrating the annual Shakespeare festival, the largest and oldest student celebration of the Bard in the nation and perhaps the world, according to Denver Public Schools.

U.S. Congresswoman Diana DeGette will kick off the festivities at 10 a.m. at Skyline Park, 16th and Arapahoe, before leading a parade to the Denver Center for Performing Arts complex. There, students will perform sonnets and scenes from Shakespeare’s works on 12 indoor and outdoor stages.

The event concludes at 3:30 p.m. DPS officials expect a crowd of 10,000 including 5,000 student participants. See the schedule of performances and more info.

Michael Martin, chancellor of Louisiana State University, has been named the finalist for chancellor of the Colorado State University System.

Martin previously was president of New Mexico State University and a vice president at the University of Florida and the University of Minnesota. His academic background is in economics and agriculture. If selected by the board of governors, Martin would succeed Joe Blake, who has retired.

The chancellor is based in Denver and is primarily responsible for overall system direction, legislative strategy and outreach.

The CSU system includes the Fort Collins and Pueblo campuses and CSU-Global Campus, an online institution. The state agricultural extension service, forest service and the state’s only veterinary training program also are part of CSU. More information in this news release.

What’s on tap:


CU-Boulder commencement ceremonies begin at 8:30 a.m. at Folsom Stadium; gates open at 7 a.m. and guests are asked to be in their seats by 8:15 a.m. The speaker is businessman Timothy Wolf. More details, parking info.

Becca Bracy Knight, executive director of The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems, is the speaker for the final Hot Lunch of the season. It begins at 11:30 a.m. at the Hotel Monaco, 1717 Champa St. More info.


Metropolitan State College of Denver will award more than 1,800 bachelor’s and 60 master’s degrees during a 9 a.m. ceremony at the Auraria Athletic Fields. President Steve Jordan is the speaker. It will be Metro’s last graduation as a “college” – it officially becomes a university on July 1.

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.