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Tuesday Churn: Senate Ed lineup set

Updated 3:30 p.m.A lot of familiar Democratic faces will be returning to the Senate Education Committee for the 2011 legislative session.

Senate Majority Leader John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, announced this afternoon that Sen. Bob Bacon of Fort Collins will again be chair, with Sen. Evie Hudak of Westminster returning as vice chair. Also coming back to the panel will be Sens. Rollie Heath of Boulder and Mike Johnston of Denver. Freshman Sen. Jeanne Nicholson of Gilpin County will replace Sen. Pat Steadman of Denver, who’s moved to the Joint Budget Committee.

The Republican members of the panel will be returning Sens. Keith King and Nancy Spence of Centennial, along with Sen. Scott Renfroe of Greeley, new to the committee.

A state committee appointed to advise officials studying different ways to count kids meets tomorrow to begin work.

The Average Daily Membership Advisory Committee was created by state lawmakers, who wanted to look at different enrollment counts and required an advisory board oversee the work. Student numbers are key because they largely determine funding for districts.

Tomorrow’s agenda calls for a look at methods used in other states. To learn more, including meetings times and place, see this press release.

What’s churning:

Colorado Department of Education officials are expected as early as today to release the first ratings of the state’s school districts, as required under the Education Accountability Act of 2009.

All 178 school districts are expected to receive one of five ratings – Accredited with Distinction, Accredited, Accredited with Improvement Plan, Accredited with Priority Improvement and Accredited with Turnaround Plan. The categories are similar to the new school performance ratings released Nov. 3. See EdNews’ story here and find your school’s performance rating here.

Districts are being measured on indicators based largely on state exams, including achievement, growth and closing achievement gaps. A fourth indicator, post-secondary and workforce readiness, considers performance on the Colorado ACT, graduation rate and dropout rate.

To see a sample District Performance Framework, including the basis for ratings, click here. And to read a one-page summary about the district and school ratings, go here.

One difference between the new district and school ratings system is the use of a “distinction” category for districts, which will be awarded only to those achieving at least 80 percent of possible points.

EdNews will post a story and link to the district ratings as soon as they’re released. State and district officials have been working to resolve any data issues.

Also today, Denver Public Schools is publicly unveiling its new technology portal for teachers, which officials say will:

“…act as a one-stop shop for teachers and principals to securely access student data, including student achievement data linked to DPS curriculum, student achievement performance over time, district and state achievement data, curricular resources, 24/7 access to essential information and data to make day-to-day decisions for increased student performance.”

DPS officials estimate the new system, funded by grants, will save 1.5 hours of instructional time per week. Read more about it here.

District officials say they hope to open a similar information portal for parents and students, which also would be grant-funded, in 2012:

“The district plans to expand the Digital Door technology to include a parent and student portal thanks to a $4 million grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. The grant will support DPS’ Performance Management effort by providing parents and students a central place online to bridge the home and classroom, and get timely and accurate information on grades, homework and curriculum.”

And an attempt launched earlier this fall to recall Denver school board member Andrea Merida has fallen short of the signatures needed to force a recall election. Merida, who represents southwest Denver, was targeted by a young community activist after she failed to reveal she was on the payroll of Andrew Romanoff, who challenged U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in the Democratic primary last summer. Jose Silva fell short of the 4,342 signatures needed to spur a recall election, The Denver Post reported. Merida won her seat with 5,485 votes over Ismael Garcia’s 5,369, a difference of 116.

What’s on tap:

The annual higher ed marathon kicks off at 9 a.m. today when the Joint Budget Committee holds its budget hearing for the Department of Higher Education. If last year’s hearing is a model, the format will include presentations by leaders from each of the state’s systems and institutions.

A full day (minus 90 minutes for lunch) has been scheduled in hearing room A in the Legislative Services Building, 200 E. 14th Avenue, which is expected to be packed with college presidents, trustees, DHE officials, CCHE members and the ever-present higher ed lobbyist corps.

No decisions are made at such affairs. But the session traditionally gives presidents a chance to pitch their colleges, and committee members have the opportunity to ask about touchy issues such as tuition rates and how colleges might tolerate various levels of state budget cuts. Read this story about the recent budget briefing for the department and the staff briefing paper about the 2011-12 higher ed budget.

Meanwhile, the Daniels Fund and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce have brought Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone to town today for a sold-out luncheon on education reform and how the business community can help. The chamber also scheduled a Monday night screening of “Waiting for Superman,” which features Canada, and that event sold out as well.

Also on the agenda for today’s gathering at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts is former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, slated to talk about how businesses can help improve public education.

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