Colorado

Churchill loses appeal, Blue Ribbon schools

The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday handed former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill his third straight courtroom defeat, ruling that he’s not entitled to back pay or to reinstatement in his position.

A district court and the Colorado Court of Appeals had previously ruled for the university and against Churchill.

The ethnic studies professor gained notoriety for an essay in which he compared victims of the World Trade Center attacks to Nazi official Adolph Eichmann. After the essay came to light in 2005, the CU Board of Regents launched an investigation into Churchill’s academic writings. After a lengthy investigation by faculty committees, the Regents fired Churchill for plagiarism and other violations of academic standards.

In 2009, a jury ruled that Churchill had been fired improperly but awarded him only $1 in damages. A Denver judge later set aside that verdict, ruling that the Regents were immune from the lawsuit. That set off the chain of appeals that went to the state supreme court.

David Lane, Churchill’s lawyer, said the case will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to The Associated Press.

Read the high court’s summary and full decision.

→ Five Colorado schools are national Blue Ribbon award winners based on their academic performance, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has announced.

The schools are:

  • Avon Elementary School in Avon
  • Garnet Mesa Elementary School in Delta
  • Pear Park Elementary School in Grand Junction
  • Slavens K-8 School in Denver
  • Summit Middle Charter School in Boulder

“Our nation has no greater responsibility than helping all children realize their full potential,” Duncan said. “Schools honored with the National Blue Ribbon Schools award are committed to accelerating student achievement and preparing students for success in college and careers.”

The award honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools where students perform at very high levels or where significant improvements are being made in students’ levels of achievement.

The program recognizes schools in one of two performance categories. “Exemplary High Performing” schools are recognized among their state’s highest-performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally-normed tests. “Exemplary Improving” schools have at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds and demonstrate the most progress in improving student achievement levels as measured by state assessments or nationally-normed tests.

In all, 269 schools were recognized as 2012 National Blue Ribbon Schools.  A complete list is available at http://www.ed.gov/nationalblueribbonschools.

→ The Yes on 3A + 3 B campaign for Denver Public Schools tax proposals held a campaign kick-off event and press conference Sunday in front of West High School to promote the benefits of the district’s request for a $466 million bond issue and a $49 million increase for operating expenses.

Speakers included DPS School Board President Mary Seawell, board member Happy Haynes and Henry Roman, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association.

“The bond and mill measures represent the most critical projects that need to be funded to help our children attend schools in safe, modernized buildings and improved learning environments and have access to the kinds of programs and services that increase their academic achievement,” Seawell said. “All students will benefit, all schools will see a change.”

Combined, the typical Denver residential property owner would see an increase in their property taxes by $143 per year, or about $12 per month for a home valued at $225,000.

Read this EdNews story about the Denver school board’s 5-2 vote to place the measures on the Nov. 6 ballot. Find information on Yes on 3A + 3B at www.yeson3A3B.com or follow @Yeson3A3B campaign on Twitter and “Yes on 3A + 3B” on Facebook.

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.