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Week of 1/17/11: Teaching & learning tidbits


Parent response to “Race to Nowhere” documentary film reviewed

The Boulder County-based Parent Engagement Network (PEN) is sponsoring a facilitated conversation from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb l, at Fairview High School, 1515 Greenbriar Blvd., to discuss the implications/insights presented in the “Race to Nowhere” movie.  The film will be screened at Jan. 25 at Pioneer Bilingual Elementary School, 101 E. Baseline Road, Lafayette.

The purpose of this event will be to frame a positive, strength-based response, and showcase how PEN can be utilized to further community conversation and action. PEN events are open to anyone from any Colorado district.

Colorado Legacy Schools seeks $250,000 from Pepsi Refresh

Colorado Legacy Schools is partnering with the National Math and Science Initiative’s Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program to significantly increase the number and diversity of students enrolling in and passing math, science and English AP exams across Colorado. The program combines financial incentives for students and teachers with extensive resources, training and additional time on task.


  • Raise AP exam scores among 2,000 students in 2011
  • Expand college access for underserved students
  • Close minority and gender achievement gaps in math and science
  • Invest in teacher skills aligned to student outcomes
  • Prepare more students for careers in science, technology and math

To support the push, you must register your e-mail address one time. Click “Join Refresh Everything. Input your e-mail address and choose a password. Once registered, you can go straight to the Colorado Legacy Schools page each day. Then, vote online every day. Vote daily by text: text the message “104883” to Pepsi (73774) every day.

Share your thoughts on Colorado’s next Commissioner of Education

A public online survey has been posted by the Colorado State Board of Education that provides an opportunity for all Coloradans to assist in the selection process for the next commissioner of education.

The survey is available here. Respondents are asked to select the five areas (out of a list of 20 suggested topics) that they believe are the most important for the next commissioner to emphasize in his or her work. The online form also provides an opportunity to submit other suggestions on areas that may be of importance. The survey will be posted through Wednesday, Jan. 26.

Online scholarship application goes live

Denver Public Schools seniors and recent graduates could be eligible for thousands of dollars in college scholarships from the Denver Scholarship Foundation, which has launched its online application for the 2011-12 school year. Scholarships are available to qualifying low- and middle-income Denver Public Schools graduates who enroll in one of 39 participating colleges and universities in Colorado.


Denver unveils new and improved School Finder

Based on feedback from parents and community members, Denver Public Schools has upgraded the School Finder feature on the DPS website. This feature lets you use a home address to locate a student’s neighborhood school as well as identify other nearby school options.

New features:

  • Enter a home address to see a student’s current neighborhood school, as well as his/her neighborhood school for next school year.
  • Download and print a view of a student’s boundary school for each grade (requires pop-ups to be enabled in the Web browser).
  • Receive an error message if the address you type in does not match DPS records.
  • Link directly to school-level, printable PDFs showing detailed boundaries.

Features that are still available:

  • Access information on all schools in the district, including links to school Web sites.
  • Find nearby schools and program/service information.
  • Identify a student’s boundary (neighborhood) school.

Learn more by clicking on School Finder.

Teacher training, taught by students

Syidah O’Bryant scribbled notes in a composition book, trying to keep up with a lesson about why teenagers are so sleepy in the morning.

Usually Ms. O’Bryant, an eighth-grade social studies teacher, is the one talking. But on a recent Tuesday, it was her student, Kare Spencer, 14.

Read more in the New York Times.

D-2 floats plan to hold back third graders who can’t read

Third graders in Harrison School District 2  who can’t read would not be promoted to fourth grade under a draft plan unveiled last week.

The idea, controversial but gaining interest as education experts across the country focus on remaking public education, is part of a five-year plan discussed Tuesday at a board retreat at the Cheyenne Mountain conference center.

Read more in the Colorado Springs Gazette.

APS board delays decision on changing grad requirements

The Aurora Public Schools Board of Education voted last week to delay a decision on changing the district’s graduation requirements, following more than an hour of testimony from teachers, parents and students. The new guidelines have drawn criticism from some parents and teachers in APS, specifically because they would eliminate the current requirement that high school freshman take health and physical education classes.

Read more in the Aurora Sentinel.

Boulder Valley teachers learning online techniques

A small group of Boulder Valley high school teachers is taking classes on how to use online learning techniques in their brick and mortar classrooms to better engage students.

The six-week online college classes to train the teachers are provided by an outside group, the Virtual High School Global Consortium, and paid for through a $200,000 state grant awarded jointly to the Boulder Valley and Thompson school districts. Along with classes, the grant pays for principal training, some equipment and an online repository system for lessons created by teachers.

Read more in the Daily Camera.

Colorado receives mixed reviews in new Quality Counts report

Education Week released its Quality Counts 2011 report last week, which evaluates state education systems and the challenges many states face in the aftermath of the Great Recession. The report also gives scores and grades to states on several education indicators.  Overall, Colorado ranked 39th nationally (out of 50 states and DC) and was given a C grade, with a cumulative score of 73.7, below the national average of 76.3.

Colorado received low grades for its standing on several indicators, including school finance, K-12 achievement, standards, college readiness and the teaching profession.  The state did, however, receive high marks for its school accountability and student assessments, among other indicators.  Click here to access the full Quality Counts report. You will have to pay for it.

DPS proposes $10 million increase in school budgets

Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg announced that, despite an anticipated state funding cut of $15-20 million—the third straight year of funding cuts, the district is proposing a 2011-12 budget that would pump an additional $10 million into school-based budgets for next year—a roughly 2.3 percent increase to individual school budgets. The increases will benefit all students, with additional money targeted for students in poverty, preschoolers and kindergartners, and students in the district’s gifted-and-talented program.

School district considers cutting bus service

A Colorado school district is looking for ways to cut the cost of its school-bus operation, including the possibility of eliminating the service. The Falcon School District board voted Thursday to eliminate bus service next fall unless a less expensive option is found.

Read more in the Denver Post.

Fort Collins parents fight planned school closing

Parents in Fort Collins say they will lobby hard in the next few days to keep the doors open at an elementary school targeted for closure in a cost-saving measure.

Beattie Elementary, with an enrollment of 277, was singled out by Poudre School District Superintendent Jerry Wilson to be mothballed. In his recent recommendation, Wilson said closing Beattie could save the 51-school district $363,391 per year.

Read more in the Denver Post.

Boulder middle school links special needs students with peer tutors

C.J. Lough encourages Zack Stern to draw pictures if he needs help settling during class at Southern Hills Middle School.

C.J. also helps Zack, who is in the school’s special education program, if he has trouble with a word and encourages him to listen if he gets distracted while the teacher is talking. Since the two started working together, Zack has been more willing to participate in the science labs and more open to working with his classmates.

Read more in the Daily Camera.

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.