Who Is In Charge

State makes another Race to the Top try

Colorado officials have filed their application for $30 million from the federal government’s Race to the Top – Early Childhood Challenge program.

ARRA logoThe state lost out last year in a $60 million bid for the same program. The latest application is for a “consolation round” open only to the states that came close, but not close enough, last time. The second round isn’t competitive, and applicants are expected to win awards as long as applications meet the Department of Education’s detailed requirements.

The federal goals for the program are to increase the number and percentage of disadvantaged children in high-quality early learning programs, creation of coordinated early learning programs and services, and ensuring use of high-quality early assessments.

Colorado’s application promises to use the money for work in four areas:

  • Improving coordination of state and local early learning programs.
  • Launching what’s called a Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement System for all licensed childcare and early learning programs and increasing the number of programs rated at the highest levels of quality.
  • Creation of a statewide system for training of early childhood professionals.
  • Establishment of a universal kindergarten assessment and expansion of assessment of children before kindergarten.

Those goals have been the centerpiece of early childhood policy for Gov. John Hickenlooper and Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, the administration’s point man on education policy.

The application cites preliminary work already being done in those areas, including creation of an Office of Early Childhood to coordinate the work of existing agencies and programs, work on a draft plan for the new rating system, planned improvements in college training of early childhood educators and adoption of early learning and development guidelines.

The state’s bid sets the following goals to be accomplished by 2016:

  • Participation by all licensed early learning programs in the new quality rating system, with 35 percent of centers rated in the highest levels of quality, and the use of a new early childhood workforce competency framework by all Colorado community colleges and half of four-year colleges. The plan also sets goals for percentages of childcare workers who will earn higher credentials.
  • All children in public schools will participate in the kindergarten readiness assessment. Results of those assessments will be used to set a statewide school readiness baseline, and the application promises, “Based upon this baseline kindergarten readiness, there will be a twenty-five percent increase in children’s school readiness by the end of the grant,” the application reads.
  • According to the application’s executive summary, “Together, these accomplishments will enable Colorado to achieve significant increases in overall kindergarten readiness as well as major decreases in the gap in readiness between children with high needs and their peers. By harnessing the investments from the RTT-ELC grant, Colorado will increase the chances that a child’s first day of kindergarten sets them on a successful path for life.”

Formal award of the consolation round grants is expected in December.

Colorado has struggled with R2T

The series of R2T competitions and consolation rounds has been a centerpiece of the Obama administration’s education policy.

While Colorado has participated in every round, and R2T goals have driven much of state education policy in recent years, the state has been successful only in consolation rounds.

Awards from the $500 million competitive round of the Early Learning Challenge last December went to, in scoring order, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Washington, Delaware, Ohio, Maryland, Minnesota, Rhode Island and California.

Colorado bid for $60 million but came in 12th, scoring 233.4 out of 300 points. That application set the same goals as in the new bid.

Other states in this year’s consolation round are Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon and Wisconsin. Along with Colorado, all scored 75 percent or higher on the 300-point scoring system.

Last December, Colorado did win $17.9 million in another R2T “consolation round.” That money, half of which goes to participating school districts, is being used mostly to help implement the new educator evaluation system.

That award followed Colorado’s loss of a $175 million application in the second competitive round of R2T in 2010. The state also failed in a $377 million request during the first competition.

Tennessee Votes 2018

Early voting begins Friday in Tennessee. Here’s where your candidates stand on education.

PHOTO: Creative Commons

Tennesseans begin voting on Friday in dozens of crucial elections that will culminate on Aug. 2.

Democrats and Republicans will decide who will be their party’s gubernatorial nominee. Those two individuals will face off in November to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. Tennessee’s next governor will significantly shape public education, and voters have told pollsters that they are looking for an education-minded leader to follow Haslam.

In Memphis, voters will have a chance to influence schools in two elections, one for school board and the other for county commission, the top local funder for schools, which holds the purse strings for schools.

To help you make more informed decisions, Chalkbeat asked candidates in these four races critical questions about public education.

Here’s where Tennessee’s Democratic candidates for governor stand on education

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state Rep. Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley hope to become the state’s first Democratic governor in eight years.

Tennessee’s Republican candidates for governor answer the big questions on education

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, businessman Randy Boyd, Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, and businessman Bill Lee are campaigning to succeed fellow Republican Haslam as governor, but first they must defeat each other in the 2018 primary election.

Memphis school board candidates speak out on what they want to change

Fifteen people are vying for four seats on the Shelby County Schools board this year. That’s much higher stakes compared to two years ago when five seats were up for election with only one contested race.

Aspiring county leaders in charge of money for Memphis schools share their views

The Shelby County Board of Commissioners and county mayor are responsible for most school funding in Memphis. Chalkbeat sent a survey to candidates asking their thoughts on what that should look like.

Early voting runs Mondays through Saturdays until Saturday, July 28. Election Day is Thursday, Aug. 2.

full board

Adams 14 votes to appoint Sen. Dominick Moreno to fill board vacancy

State Sen. Dominick Moreno being sworn in Monday evening. (Photo by Yesenia Robles, Chalkbeat)

A state senator will be the newest member of the Adams 14 school board.

Sen. Dominick Moreno, a graduate of the district, was appointed Monday night on a 3-to-1 vote to fill a vacancy on the district’s school board.

“He has always, since I have known him, cared about this community,” said board member David Rolla, who recalled knowing Moreno since grade school.

Moreno will continue to serve in his position in the state legislature.

The vacancy on the five-member board was created last month, when the then-president, Timio Archuleta, resigned with more than a year left on his term.

Colorado law says when a vacancy is created, school board must appoint a new board member to serve out the remainder of the term.

In this case, Moreno will serve until the next election for that seat in November 2019.

The five member board will see the continued rollout of the district’s improvement efforts as it tries to avoid further state intervention.

Prior to Monday’s vote, the board interviewed four candidates including Joseph Dreiling, a former board member; Angela Vizzi; Andrew LaCrue; and Moreno. One woman, Cynthia Meyers, withdrew her application just as her interview was to begin. Candidate, Vizzi, a district parent and member of the district’s accountability committee, told the board she didn’t think she had been a registered voter for the last 12 months, which would make her ineligible for the position.

The board provided each candidate with eight general questions — each board member picked two from a predetermined list — about the reason the candidates wanted to serve on the board and what they saw as their role with relation to the superintendent. Board members and the public were barred from asking other questions during the interviews.

Moreno said during his interview that he was not coming to the board to spy for the state Department of Education, which is evaluating whether or not the district is improving. Nor, he added, was he applying for the seat because the district needs rescuing.

“I’m here because I think I have something to contribute,” Moreno said. “I got a good education in college and I came home. Education is the single most important issue in my life.”

The 7,500-student district has struggled in the past year. The state required the district to make significant improvement in 2017-18, but Adams 14 appears to be falling short of expectations..

Many community members and parents have protested district initiatives this year, including cancelling parent-teacher conferences, (which will be restored by fall), and postponing the roll out of a biliteracy program for elementary school students.

Rolla, in nominating Moreno, said the board has been accused of not communicating well, and said he thought Moreno would help improve those relationships with the community.

Board member Harvest Thomas was the one vote against Moreno’s appointment. He did not discuss his reason for his vote.

If the state’s new ratings this fall fail to show sufficient academic progress, the State Board of Education may direct additional or different actions to turn the district around.