Who Is In Charge

Evaluation, accountability “data gap” package nearly done

A key measure intended to give districts flexibility in teacher evaluations next year was passed 53-11 by the House Tuesday, leaving Senate Bill 14-165 just one small step from being sent to Gov. John Hickenlooper for signature.

The bill and another measure, House Bill 14-1182, are needed to help the state and districts avoid disruptions in teacher evaluations and district and school accountability ratings when Colorado moves to the new CMAS testing system in the spring of 2015.

Both the evaluation and accreditation systems are based partly on student achievement data from statewide tests. For technical reasons, results from 2015 CMAS tests (including the multi-state PARCC tests in language arts and math) won’t be available until late 2015 or early 2016, which is too late to be factored into teacher evaluations and accreditation for the 2014-15 school year.

And because the tests will be different from the current TCAP exams, there won’t be student year-to-year growth data that can be used. That will require two years of CMAS results.

Here’s how the two bills propose to get around those problems:

SB 14-165 – Districts would be required to gather student growth data on teachers next year but could choose whether or not to use it in evaluations. (Districts could weight growth data anywhere from 0 to 50 percent of evaluations. For teacher evaluation, growth is tracked by multiple measures, not just statewide tests, so districts will have other data to use.) A low evaluation rating would count toward possible future loss of non-probationary status. In 2015-16 and subsequent years evaluations would be based half on student growth and half on professional practice. The House made minor amendments to the bill that will have to be agreed to by the Senate.

HB 14-1182 – Accreditation ratings that districts and school receive next fall, based on 2013-14 performance, will be in effect for two years because of the 2014-15 data gap. Districts will be free to appeal to the Department of Education if they believe additional data justifies changes in 2014-15 ratings. And the State Board of Education is given additional flexibility in recommending turnaround measures for schools that have reached the end of the five-year accountability clock. Hickenlooper signed this bill on April 4.

The two measures to work around the testing transition are finishing up just as criticism of the PARCC tests is on the rise. Over the weekend delegates at the Colorado Education Association’s annual meeting approved resolution demanding withdrawal from PARCC (see story).

That aligns the liberal union, on this issue at least, with its natural political enemies, Republican elected officials. All but three legislative Republicans recently supported unsuccessful motions to pull state funding from PARCC, and the four-member GOP majority on the State Board of Education supports a pullout (see story).

The testing debate could intensify over the summer and fall if lawmakers approve a measure (House Bill 14-1202) to commission a study of testing (background here).

Other bills cross finish line

The Senate voted 34-0 Tuesday to approve House Bill 14-1291, which would allow charter schools to hire armed security guards, something that school districts already are able to do. The measure goes to Hickenlooper. The bill is a bipartisan, no-controversy compromise that was introduced after majority Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee in February killed House Bill 14-1157, which would have allowed school boards to authorize school employees to carry weapons.

After some prolonged partisan bickering over “pet projects” and fiscal responsibility, the House voted 38-26 for the conference committee version of House Bill 14-1336, the 2014-15 state budget. The only Republican to vote yes was Rep. Cheri Gerou of Evergreen, a member of the Joint Budget Committee.

The Senate approved the final version of the budget on Monday, with seven Republicans voting yes and eight opposed. (This is the bill that contains the money to pay for PARCC next year.)

Both houses also have re-passed House Bill 14-1342, the construction funding bill that includes a, $120 million wish list of higher education building projects that will be funded only if the state’s 2013-14 surplus is higher than projected. As part of that deal the State Education Fund will receive a surplus infusion of only $20 million.

Halfway home

Four education-related bills received final House approval Tuesday and are headed for the rapidly ballooning calendar the Senate faces with only 16 days left in the 2014 session. All are spending bills and so attracted little or no Republican support.

House Bill 14-1085 – Proposes spending $960,000 for adult education and literacy grants. Passed 37-26.

House Bill 14-1124 – Would grant resident tuition eligibility to Native American students who belong to tribes with historic ties to Colorado, creating a potential loss of up to $5.3 million in tuition revenue. Passed 39-25.

House Bill 14-1156 – Would make students in grades 3-5 who currently are eligible for reduced-price school lunches eligible for free lunches, at a cost of $809,095. Passed 38-26.

House Bill 14-1276 – Creates a grant program for CPR instruction in high schools. $300,000 Passed 40-24.

And the Senate voted 34-1 to pass Senate Bill 14-001, dubbed the College Affordability Act. This is the bill that increases higher education spending by $100 million in 2014-15 and caps tuition increases at no more than 6 percent for the next two school years. The measure is expected to have an easy time in the House.

Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to bill texts and other information.

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.”

Civil action

Detroit school board to protesters: Please remain civil. Protesters to school board: You’re naive

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
Detroit activist Helen Moore speaks with her supporters from the stage at Mumford High School. Her removal from the auditorium prompted loud objections that led to the meeting's abrupt ending.

A day after the Detroit school board abruptly ended a meeting that was disrupted by protesters, the meeting is being rescheduled, while the board president is making an appeal for civility.

“The board is extremely disappointed that the regularly scheduled meeting tonight was adjourned early due to extreme disruptive behavior from several audience members,” school board president Iris Taylor wrote in a statement issued late Tuesday, several hours after the meeting’s chaotic end.

“It is our hope moving forward that the community will remain civil and respectful of the elected Board and the process to conduct public meetings. We must be allowed to conduct the business the community elected us to do.”

The drama Tuesday night came from a large group of parents and community members, led by activist Helen Moore, who packed the board meeting to raise concerns about a number of issues.

Moore had sent the school board an email requesting an opportunity to address the meeting Tuesday on issues including her strong objection to the news that Taylor and Superintendent Nikolai Vitti had attended a meeting with Mayor Mike Duggan and leaders of city charter schools to discuss the possibility of working together.

The mayor, in his state of the city address last week, discussed the meeting, calling it “almost historic,” and said district and charter school leaders had agreed to collaborate on a student transportation effort, and on a school rating system that would assign letter grades to Detroit district and charter schools.

When Taylor told Moore during the meeting that she would not be allowed to give her presentation Tuesday night, saying she had not gotten Moore’s request in time to put it on Tuesday’s agenda, Moore and her supporters angrily shouted at the board and proceeded to heckle and object to statements during the meeting.

The meeting was ultimately ended during a discussion about the Palmer Park Preparatory Academy, a school whose classes are being relocated to other district buildings for the rest of the year because of urgent roof repairs and the possibility of mold in the building.

As Moore shouted over Vitti’s discussion about the school, Taylor ordered that the 81-year-old activist be escorted from the Mumford High School auditorium where the meeting was being held. That triggered an angry response from her supporters and ultimately brought the meeting to a close.

The current Detroit school board came into existence a little over a year ago when the state returned city schools to Detroiters after years of control by state-appointed emergency managers.

The board’s swearing-in last January was heralded as a fresh start for a new district — now called the Detroit Public Schools Community District — that had been freed from years of debts encumbered by the old Detroit Public Schools.

Since then, meetings have been interrupted by the occasional heckler or protester, but they’ve largely remained orderly, without a lot of the noise and drama that had been typical of school board meetings in the past.

In her statement Tuesday night, Taylor lamented that the new school board wasn’t able to get to most of the items on its agenda.

“Detroiters have fought long and hard to have a locally elected board to govern our schools,” Taylor wrote. “It would be shameful to have our rights revoked again for impediments. It sets a poor example for the students we all represent, and it will not be tolerated by this Board.”

Wednesday morning, Moore said she plans to continue her vocal advocacy, even if it’s disruptive.

“If that’s the only avenue we have to get our point across, when they don’t allow us to speak, then we must take every avenue,” Moore said. “Time is of the essence with our children. And they spend too much time with distractions, listening to the mayor, listening to the corporations, and not listening to people who have children in the public schools.”

Moore, who is active with an organization called Keep the Vote/No Takeover Coalition and with the National Action Network, said she fought for years for Detroiters to again have a locally elected school board. City residents did not have control of their schools for most of the last two decades.

“We worked like crazy,” Moore said, but she asserts that most school board members are “naive.”

“They don’t know the history,” she said. “They need to be educated and that goes for Dr. Vitti too. We need to educate them and that was a first start.”

The board has scheduled a special meeting for 12:30 p.m. Thursday at its Fisher Building headquarters where it can return to its unfinished business from Tuesday.

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
Detroit activist Helen Moore waved to her fellow activisits from the stage at Mumford High School. She returned to the room after her removal from the auditorium prompted loud objections that led to a school board meeting’s abrupt ending on March 13, 2018.