Thursday Churn: DPS vote night

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

Denver school board members tonight are scheduled to vote on nearly a dozen new school applications to open in fall 2013, plus a proposal to add middle school grades to Manual High School, turning the historic school into a 6-12 campus.

But the most closely-watched item is likely to be a decision on co-locating a new West Denver Prep charter high school at North High School, a plan that’s drawn plenty of fire from supporters of the traditional comprehensive high school.

A week ago, EdNews reported on a possible compromise reached between those in favor of placing the new charter from a high-performing network at the long-struggling North and those opposed to it. Tonight’s meeting agenda includes a resolution worked out by the two sides, though it has been tweaked since its public debut last Thursday.

The new resolution, available here, calls for the creation of a small working group to study alternate locations for the charter high school through Sept. 1 and to present a report to the board on Sept. 17 or 23. If an alternative isn’t approved by Sept. 23, West Denver Prep charter high school would move into a building on the North High School campus known as the “1913 building.”

The latest version of the resolution adds several more weeks to the search for an alternate location. Both public iterations of the resolution have emphasized that West Denver Prep students will receive classroom instruction separate from the North students, with the district agreeing to build additional classrooms if necessary.

Other decisions facing DPS board members tonight include:

  • Six schools have applied to become district-run performance schools, which have more freedom than traditional schools but are still overseen by the district. District staff are recommending the board approve four new performance schools – Denver Center for International Studies at Fairmont, replacing the existing Fairmont program; Excel Academy and Compassion Road Academy, both schools serving dropouts or those at risk of dropping out; and Denver Public Montessori Secondary School, to be co-located with Gilpin Elementary Montessori School.
  • Five new charter schools want to open in Denver and district staff are recommending four schools be approved. They are Highline Academy in Northeast Denver, Academy 360 in Far Northeast Denver, Downtown Denver Expeditionary School and the new West Denver Prep high school in Northwest Denver.
  • Actions affecting existing schools include approval of an innovation plan at Trevista at Horace Mann ECE-8 and moving Noel Community Arts School from the Rachel B. Noel campus to the Montbello campus while Collegiate Prep Academy would move from the Montbello campus to the Noel campus.

To learn more about the new school applicants, visit this DPS webpage and scroll down to “2012 New School Applications” or see this previous EdNews’ story, New DPS school proposals move forward.

What’s on tap:

The Colorado State University Board of Governors opens two days of meetings. The board has a retreat today and business meetings Friday, both at the Inverness Hotel and Conference Center in Denver. Agenda

Good reads from elsewhere:

New tool to narrow teacher candidate pool: Boulder Valley School District officials are using a “timed, online test designed to predict which candidates will be the most effective teachers based on attitudes and beliefs,” according to this Boulder Daily Camera article, which notes the district has received 3,300 applications for 164 teaching jobs.

Thompson school board fires superintendent: Five of seven school board members in Loveland voted Wednesday to fire Superintendent Ron Carbrera, agreeing to a contract buyout of $200,005. The sole remaining board member who hired Carbrera four years ago resigned immediately after the vote while the board president admitted it was not “a termination for cause.” Read the Loveland Herald-Reporter story.

Urging state to stay out of Dougco dispute: In a Denver Post editorial, the state’s largest newspaper says the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment should ignore a request for intervention from the Douglas County teachers’ union in its dispute with the district.

The EdNews’ Churn is a roundup of briefs, notes and meetings in the world of Colorado education, published during the summer as news warrants. 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.