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Week of Nov. 1: Teaching & learning tidbits

Tech grants available to schools

The Qwest Foundation and Public Education & Business Coalition (PEBC), a sponsor of EdNews Parent, announce the fifth year of the Qwest Teachers & Technology Grant Program.

The Qwest Teachers & Technology Grant Program is a unique opportunity for educators to find innovative ways to bring technology into the classroom and better prepare students to succeed in academics.

Qwest is providing $150,000 in grants for the 2011-2012 school year to be awarded to individual teachers in Colorado schools and charter schools to help fund innovative technology projects so that Colorado teachers can improve education in the classroom. By the end of this year’s program, more than $700,000 will have been granted and more than 27,000 students across Colorado will have been impacted.

The grants will be awarded to teachers through a competitive process that will be administered by Public Education & Business Coalition. Educators or parents who want to help them can obtain the application through Qwest. The grant application deadline is Jan. 10, 2011.

Expanded Learning Opportunities Commission tour continues

It may not have the allure of a rock concert, but the newly-formed Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) Commission wants you to participate and is coming to a town near you. Next stops are in Limon, Loveland and Sheridan.

The tour will continue the following week with a stop in Pueblo. Meeting locations and times are below.

The commission, launched by Commissioner of Education Dwight D. Jones, is working to expand the vision for the entire learning experience in ways that transcend the traditional school day and traditional classroom models. The goal is to create a vision for student learning that incorporates a blend of traditional and online learning, expands the school day and standard yearly calendar and re-thinks the traditional school experience.

Citizens and community members who plan to attend the meetings in person are asked to RSVP to Vanessa Roman at at the Colorado Department of Education. Those who cannot attend the meetings may provide feedback via an online survey. Written comments may also be sent to Vanessa Roman.

Meeting locations and times:

  • Limon 4-6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 8, East Central BOCES office, 820 Second St.
  • Loveland 4-6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10, The Ranch, 
5280 Arena Circle, Suite 100
  • Sheridan 4:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 11, Sheridan School District high school, 3201 West Oxford Ave.
  • Pueblo 4-6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 15, the Cottonwood Room at the Occhiato University Center on the CSU-Pueblo campus, 2200 Bonforte Blvd.

Douglas County schools consider vouchers

The Denver Post chronicles a voucher discussion brewing in Dougco.

“The Douglas County School District is examining starting a voucher program to give students state money to attend private or religious schools.

The school board this summer hired a Colorado Springs lawyer to develop a plan for a voucher system that would give parents 75 percent of state per-pupil funds to attend “nonpublic schools,” which could include religious schools.

No other Colorado school district has a voucher program.

A 2003 state law created a voucher pilot program for poor students but was ruled unconstitutional by the Colorado Supreme Court the next year. That 4-3 ruling said the voucher program unconstitutionally stripped school boards of their local control authority.

Douglas County’s Option Certificate Program “fulfills the local control principle” of the Colorado Constitution, according to a draft policy developed for a School Choice Task Force, a community group developing school-choice options.

Push for math, science education stumbles

The Kansas City Star reports on efforts to boost the teaching of math and science nationwide.

“Five years ago, alarms sounded over America’s rapidly falling stature in STEM education.

That’s science, technology, engineering and math — the keys to our nation’s prosperity. But U.S. schools weren’t keeping up in the fast-changing fields.

Governors dispatched task forces. New programs were launched. Foundations poured in funding. And schools started to make gains.

Now, however, signs are emerging that the momentum of the mid-2000s is slipping away, even as students’ needs continue to grow.”

Parting words from Michelle Rhee

Lightning rod ex-DC Superintendent Michelle Rhee and outgoing Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty share their thoughts in the Wall Street Journal about efforts to reform DC’s schools. Rhee played a starring role in the much talked about documentary film on the state of public education in the United States, Waiting for Superman.

It begins: “Our time in office and in charge of the school system of Washington, D.C., is quickly drawing to an end. Monday is Michelle’s last day as schools chancellor, and Mayor Fenty failed to win the Democratic primary last month. A new mayor will be elected next week.

During our nearly four years in office we pressed forward an aggressive educational reform agenda. We were determined to turn around D.C.’s public schools and to put children above the political fray, no matter what the ramifications might be for ourselves or other public officials. As both of us embark on the next stages of our careers, we believe it is important to explain what we did in Washington, to share the lessons of our experience, and to offer some thoughts on what the rest of the country might learn from our successes and our mistakes.”

Colorado’s Board of Ed considers adding social studies to statewide tests

The state board this week heard a request from social studies teachers and community members who urged the board to include social studies in the new state assessment system.

“Until social studies is recognized as an academic subject on equal footing with reading, writing, mathematics and science, our state and nation will continue to struggle to produce students who possess the knowledge, skills and civic values necessary to participate in our state and our nation’s democracy and in an increasingly interdependent world,” said a resolution submitted by the board of directors of the Colorado Historical Society. “The domestic and international issues facing us are so complex and pressing that, to preserve democracy as we know it, citizens must have some depth of historical, political and cultural understanding.”

A companion memo to the state board was signed by 18 groups including Junior Achievement, the Colorado Council for Social Studies, the Center for Teaching International Relations and the School of Business, Metropolitan State College of Denver.

Several members of the state board, including Elaine Gantz Berman and Marcia Neal, encouraged further consideration of the idea.

At its Dec. 6 meeting, the board is scheduled to approve the “attributes” it desires in the new assessment system. A new state assessment system is being developed in wake of the ongoing implementation of new academic standards.

Boasberg happy with DPS progress but concerned about reading

The Denver Post reports on the superintendent’s state-of-the-schools address.

“Things are getting better, but Denver Public Schools has a long way to go before declaring reform efforts a success, Superintendent Tom Boasberg said Thursday.

Boasberg, who has been superintendent for nearly two years, presented mostly a rosy picture of the district in his speech to the A-Plus Denver group of community members that advises the district.

Enrollment is increasing, more students are taking college-level courses, graduation rates are rising, and student growth on assessments outpaces the state.

But there are other, more sobering, details.

The DPS graduation rate is still below the state average — below 60 percent; the achievement gap between minorities and their white or Asian peers is cavernous and stagnant; and only half of third-graders are reading at grade level — an indicator of future academic success.”

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