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Week of Nov. 8, 2010: Teaching & learning tidbits

Denver charter schools get together online

Click on Get Smart Schools to find this year’s common charter school application.

Sixteen Denver charters are participating this year. Application is in Spanish and English.

Aurora board rejects arbitration ruling

Education News Colorado reports on the latest spat between teachers and administrators in Aurora.

“Aurora school board members on Tuesday rejected an arbitrator’s ruling that they violated their contract with the teachers’ union by imposing a sixth class on high school teachers without more pay.

The 5-2 vote followed nearly three hours of often emotional testimony from teachers who urged the board to accept the decision and others – principals, bus drivers, custodians – who urged it be rejected.

At stake was what district leaders said would result if the ruling were accepted, including the loss of 70 to 90 jobs to cover the $4.4 million needed to compensate high school teachers for the extra classes.

The threat of more cuts was too much for Anthony Ruiz, a 16-year bus driver who said support workers already are doing far more with much less. His own job is being downsized, from a 365-day contract to just 215 days beginning Jan. 1.

Proficiency of black students found to be far lower than expected

The New York Times reports on a long-studied achievement gap.

“An achievement gap separating black from white students has long been documented — a social divide extremely vexing to policy makers and the target of one blast of school reform after another.

But a new report focusing on black males suggests that the picture is even bleaker than generally known.

Only 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent of white boys, and only 12 percent of black eighth-grade boys are proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of white boys.

Poverty alone does not seem to explain the differences: poor white boys do just as well as African-American boys who do not live in poverty, measured by whether they qualify for subsidized school lunches.”

Colorado principal spends a day on the roof

The principal of Northeast Elementary School in Parker, Darren Knox, made good on his word to spend the entire school day on the school roof if the student body came through on their fundraiser. Well, the students took on the challenge and raised more than $60,000 to help their school.

Colorado’s K-12 budget outlook bleak

Education News Colorado reports on the latest school budget numbers.

“School districts budgets might not recover for nearly a decade. That was the word from experts who discussed the issue at a University of Colorado-Denver panel Monday evening.

“We’re looking at a horizon of recovery … five to 10 years in the future. My sense is it won’t recover until 2018,” said David Hart, new CFO of the Denver Public Schools and former Douglas County CFO. Michael Griffith, a school finance specialist at the Denver-based Education Commission of the States, agreed but also said, “We will hit the bottom next year.”

Hart also warned that the budget squeeze will lead to larger class sizes, a withering of salary increases based on factors like advanced degrees and increased outsourcing of non-teacher jobs (janitors, drivers, cafeteria workers and the like) as districts try to control rising contributions to the state pension system.

Montbello schools reform plan draws comments at hearing

The Denver Post provides an update on plans to revamp Montbello schools in Denver.

“Parents, teachers, students and other community members gave a mixed reaction Monday to a plan designed to turn around troubled schools in the Montbello neighborhood.

The proposal to reconfigure Montbello High and its feeder schools would replace some programs with charter and district-run programs while phasing out others, removing staffers and co-locating schools within existing buildings. Denver’s school board set aside Monday evening to hear public comment about the plan, which is scheduled for a board vote Nov. 18.

Boulder Valley schools urge elementary parents to plan now for college

The Daily Camera gets parents thinking about college – not when their kids are high school juniors, but when they’re kindergarteners.

Boulder Valley is the first Colorado school district to make such a comprehensive college-planning push at the elementary level, district officials said. If students aren’t already on a college track by the time they’re in middle and high school, it can be too late to get them into the classes they need.

Here is the schedule if you’re an interested parent:

  • 6 p.m. Jan. 11 at Emerald Elementary in Broomfield;
  • 6 p.m. Feb. 24 at Pioneer Elementary in Lafayette;
  • 6 p.m. April 28 at University Hill Elementary in Boulder;
  • 6 p.m. May 11 at Creekside Elementary in Boulder;
  • 6 p.m. May 12 at Sanchez Elementary in Lafayette.

A kindergarten’s revolving door at Indianapolis Public School 61

While set in Indianapolis, many urban schools face the same issue. Read this story in the Indianapolis Star.

“Continuous arrivals and departures are tough on those leaving, those staying and those teaching

There’s the little boy whose house burned down in August, setting his family on a journey that has put him in three schools in three months.

There’s the little girl whose family sought a new neighborhood because, in their old one, they were afraid of the drug dealers and the nightly gunfire.

Those are just a couple of the stories of kindergarten children who have moved into School 61 in the three months since school began. There are 29 more.”

Downsized schools raise bar, but not all reach it

The Denver Post examines the success and challenges faced by small schools.

“In her high school career at Global Leadership Academy, Gabriella Hernandez transcended the B’s and C’s of her lost-in-the-shuffle middle school years to achieve straight A’s and the honor society.

In classes of no more than 20 students, she grew close to teachers willing to spend extra time on instruction. She learned accountability because, well, everybody knew her name. No blending into large-school behavioral anonymity where, she says, “If you ditched, you got detention. Whatever.”

Recently, Hernandez got word that she has been accepted at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and will become the first in her immediate family to attend college. “This whole small-school thing, it’s amazing,” said Hernandez, a 17-year-old senior. “It feels like a little community here.”

2011 Colorado Teacher of the Year named

For her dedication, loyalty and determination to bring the three Rs to education—respect, responsibility and rigor—Michelle Pearson today was named 2011 Colorado Teacher of the Year.

Colorado Education Commissioner of Education Dwight D. Jones made the surprise announcement at an assembly at her school, Hulstrom Options K-8 School in Northglenn in the Adams 12 Five Star School District.

In the last 18 years, Pearson has worked diligently to strengthen and improve the teaching profession through active involvement in professional development activities and mentoring. She says that now more than ever, educators need to be supported by the community and their peers. Pearson says her greatest accomplishments are what students, families, colleagues and the community have done together.

Pearson comes from a family of educators. She grew up listening to teaching stories, digging through book sales, putting up bulletin boards and puzzling over new subjects to teach with her family.

Pearson’s early passion for teaching has continued throughout her career. She has taught at Hulstrom Options School since 2004 and in Colorado since 1992. Her students say her magnetic personality is contagious. Pearson often uses artifacts and technology in her classroom to motivate and inspire her students.

Denver teacher copes with visual amnesia

9News runs a compelling documentary on a local teacher with visual amnesia.

“If you sit in Holly Winter’s classroom, you’ll find a woman who will range from playing songs on the guitar to reciting poetry from memory. Yet, she can’t remember her students’ faces.

“Twenty one years ago, I was in a car accident and I flat lined after the car accident,” said Winter, a fifth and sixth grade teacher at the Kunsberg School in Denver.

Winter says her heart stopped and oxygen stopped flowing to her brain for 10 minutes causing permanent damage and impacting certain functions of her memory.

“I have this visual amnesia,” Winter said. “I can’t remember anything that I look at.”

Voucher debate continues to smolder in Dougco

Education News Colorado keeps tabs on what’s shaking in Dougco as the Douglas County school board members kick off a two-day retreat in Englewood that includes the first public airing of reports on “option certificates” or vouchers.

States deal with wave of teacher accountability reform

The Hechinger Report tackles new efforts to raise teacher effectiveness.

“An educational earthquake aimed at improving the effectiveness of teachers is rumbling across the nation.

So far, the quake is only beginning to affect Wisconsin. But the tremors of change are already being felt here, and more are coming.

In the process, a new world of teaching is being built.

Nationwide, the federal government and giant philanthropies such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are putting hundreds of millions of dollars into underwriting work in dozens of states and cities on better ways to select teachers, monitor their work and pay them.

President Barack Obama has taken on teachers unions – traditionally partisan allies – over teacher improvement issues, while many Republicans, including Wisconsin Governor-elect Scott Walker, say they support reform in teachers’ pay. National leaders of teachers unions, long opposed to change, are willing to talk about once-taboo subjects such as making it easier to get weak teachers out of classrooms.”

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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