Briefs: State grad rates released

Colorado’s high school graduation rate of 74 percent puts it in the lower third of states nationally, according to statistics just released by the U.S. Department of Education.

Thirty-four states reported higher graduation rates than Colorado, which was tied with South Carolina. Among neighboring states, only New Mexico, at 63 percent, reported a lower rate than Colorado.

The department released the 2010-11 statistics on Monday, explaining that was “the first year for which all states used a common, rigorous measure” of four-year graduation rates. Variations in previous counting and reporting methods didn’t allow for accurate comparisons among states, a DOE news release said.

The new counting method was required by 2008 federal regulations, but 2010-11 was the first year compiled. The department said the rates, as reported by states, are preliminary and that final rates will be released later.

Colorado officials reported the state’s rate earlier this year (see news release and find more state graduation data here).

Here are the rates reported for Colorado as broken down by demographic groups:

  • American Indian – 52 percent
  • Asian/Pacific Islander – 81 percent
  • Black – 65 percent
  • Hispanic – 60 percent
  • White non-Hispanic – 81 percent
  • Children with disabilities – 53 percent
  • Limited English proficiency – 53 percent
  • Economically disadvantaged – 62 percent

Officials at the Colorado Department of Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The state with the highest reported graduation rate was Iowa, at 88 percent. The District of Columbia reported the lowest rate, 59 percent, while the Bureau of Indian Education reported 61 percent. Data was not reported for Idaho, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Puerto Rico.

Read the DOE news release and see the state-by-state table.

→ The Mapleton and St. Vrain Valley districts have been named finalists in the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top district competition, which is offering winning districts a share of $400 million in grants that are intended to be used for personalized learning programs that will improve student achievement and educator effectiveness and close achievement gaps.

The 61 finalists nationwide represent more than 200 school districts and were chosen from 372 initial applications representing more than 1,100 districts. Smaller districts were allowed to apply in groups. More than 30 Colorado school districts applied.

The unsuccessful Colorado applicants included Adams 12-Five Star, the Brush district on behalf of itself and three other districts, the Center district and 13 others, Denver Public Schools, Durango schools with four other districts, Harrison, Poudre and Pueblo City.

The department expects to select 15-25 winners for grants ranging from $5 million to $40 million, depending on district enrollments, and to announce those by Dec. 31. See list of finalists and full list of applicants.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.