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.


Aurora’s superintendent will get a contract extension

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

The Aurora school board is offering superintendent Rico Munn a contract extension.

Marques Ivey, the school board president, made the announcement during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

“The board of education believes we are headed in the right direction,” Ivey said. Munn can keep the district going in the right direction, he added.

The contract extension has not been approved yet. Munn said Tuesday night that it had been sent to his lawyer, but he had not had time to review it.

Munn took the leadership position in Aurora Public Schools in 2013. His current contract is set to expire at the end of June.

Munn indicated he intends to sign the new contract after he has time to review it. If he does so, district leaders expect the contract to be on the agenda of the board’s next meeting, April 3, for a first review, and then for a vote at the following meeting.

Details about the new offer, including the length of the extension or any salary increases, have not been made public.

Four of the seven members currently on the board were elected in November as part of a union-supported slate. Many voiced disapproval of some of the superintendent’s reform strategies such as his invitation to charter school network DSST to open in Aurora.

In their first major vote as a new board, the board also voted against the superintendent’s recommendation for the turnaround of an elementary school, signaling a disagreement with the district’s turnaround strategies.

But while several Aurora schools remain low performing, last year the district earned a high enough rating from the state to avoid a path toward state action.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”