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The Daily Churn: Friday

Updated #2 : Richard Kaufman of Centennial has been appointed to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education by Gov. Bill Ritter. Kaufman is of counsel with the Denver law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge, foscusing on environmental, business, securities, regulatory and employment cases. He’s also served as an assistant U.S. attorney, an assistant attorney general and worked as a campaign manager and aide for Hank Brown when Brown was in the U.S. House.

Kaufman joins the commission at a crucial time when it faces decisions about college and university funding allocations and a new strategic plan for higher ed. Kaufman replaces lawyer Mike Plachy, who was appointed in 2007 but resigned Tuesday. (Kaufman’s corporate bio; bios of other CCHE members.)

The Senate will have to confirm Kaufman’s nomination but won’t meet again until next January, after Ritter has left office.

Updated #1: Steven Atwood, former Adams 12 Five Star athletic director, has pleaded guilty to embezzling concession stand and ticket revenues, according to our partners at 9News.com.

Atwood will be sentenced in November and has agreed to pay $20,000 in restitution. A district audit estimated he pocketed $50,000 to $80,000. See full 9News.com story

What’s churning:

Some local and national chatter Thursday about the fact Colorado apparently did not include the full text of Senate Bill 191, the hard-won educator effectiveness bill, in its application for Race to the Top. Gov. Bill Ritter signed the 33-page bill into law on May 20 – the Race to the Top, Round 2 deadline was June 1.

Chad Aldeman, a policy analyst at Education Sector, describes the omission as key in a blog post he titled, “Why Colorado lost out on Race to the Top.” One reviewer, the state’s toughest, wrote, “A copy of the bill was not included so the contents of the new law were not available to examine.” After discussing the law in face-to-face interviews with state officials, the reviewer – identified only as Reviewer 3 – increased his or her points in the pertinent category by 10, from 15 to 25 out of 45.

Colorado’s 196-page application cites the law no fewer than 30 times, summarizing it “in brief” and describing in various places how it fits in with the R2T plan. The 565-page appendix briefs the law in descriptions of recent education reforms and a summary of Colorado laws related to educator quality and effectiveness. Other laws are summarized, such as the Education Accountability Act of 2009, but some are not, including the 16-page Charter Schools Act. Could the full text of 191 have made a difference in the final outcome? Or is this more Monday – er, Friday – morning quarterbacking?

Elsewhere, in less speculative news, Westminster 50 Superintendent Roberta Selleck has notified parents of slight changes to the district’s standards-based reform, which was drawn national attention since it launched last fall. The district, faced with rapid increases in poverty and steep declines in test scores, scrapped grade levels and letter grades in favor of grouping kids by ability. When students return Monday, they’ll find 14 academic levels instead of ten.

“The reason for this change is simple,” Selleck wrote in a letter to parents. “The size and scope of Levels 1 and 2 were so large that many of our younger students became frustrated when they didn’t complete a Level despite making one year’s worth of academic growth …The new system of 14 Levels, which fully aligns with the Colorado Academic Standards, allows students to progress faster and to feel the well-deserved sense of academic accomplishment more often.”

The standards-based education model has been tried in parts of Alaska and in some individual schools – but never in an urban district of 9,371 students. State test results released earlier this month showed continued dips in reading, writing and math, which Selleck said were expected.

Meanwhile, the superintendent of another Adams County district, Adams 12 Five Star, has launched a blog that is more than the usual PR spin. Chris Gdowski wrote his first entry Aug. 18, the night before school began, about his own four kids and Tuesday, he wrote about getting the phone call informing him that a first-grader in the district had been killed while riding his bike. In the midst of all the politics, bureaucracy and test scores that seem to be education today, it’s nice to hear a human voice.

Good reads from elsewhere:

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