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Week of 1/3/11: Teaching & learning tidbits

Jeffco board gets first look at closures

Education News Colorado reports on plans in Jefferson County to close or consolidate up to 16 schools in the state’s largest district. Jefferson County school district leaders on Thursday began the delicate task of soliciting community input on the closure plans while emphasizing no decisions have been made.

Aurora Middle School teacher named Title I Distinguished Teacher

The Colorado Department of Education announced that the recipient of this year’s Title I Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award is Pamela Williamson-Rybolt, the lead teacher for literacy at Aurora West College Preparatory Academy (Aurora Public Schools). The Colorado Distinguished Title I Teacher award annually recognizes teachers from Title I schools who demonstrate outstanding commitment and excellence in teaching.

Pamela Williamson-Rybolt was nominated for this award by Principal Dale Krueger.  She “differentiates instruction in order to accommodate all students, thus ensuring that no child is left behind,” wrote Krueger.

National School Choice Week announced

Thousands of Americans will join an initiative aimed at ensuring that all children have access to more effective and challenging schools during America’s first-ever National School Choice Week, Jan. 23-29. More than 150 state and national organizations will host major events across the country.

“National School Choice Week will offer an opportunity for everyone who supports real reform—whether it be in the form of charter school growth, scholarships, tuition tax credits, virtual schooling, or homeschooling—to unite under one banner and demand real and lasting change in K-12 education,” said Kyle Olson, the celebration’s executive director.

Prominent National School Choice Week participants will include Speaker John Boehner, Senator Joe Lieberman, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, commentator Juan Williams, Grammy-award winning singer Jon Secada, Black Alliance for Educational Options Chairman Kevin P. Chavous and former New York City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz.

Q & A with Stand for Children grassroots organizers

Many in Illinois know Stand for Children as the group behind a recent attempt to restrict teachers unions’ strike and bargaining rights. The Chicago Teachers Union and others have blasted the group as a “billionaire gang” out to gut public education. 

But this perception of the group could not be farther from the way it began, with a 1999 campaign to reinstate city mental health services for children in Salem, Ore. Here is a Q&A with Catalyst Chicago, an urban education news site. Stand for Children also has a growing presence in Colorado.

With high hopes for test scores, Ore. district invests in iPod touches and iPads

The Oregonian newspaper reports on the growing use of technology in schools.

CANBY – With a furrowed brow and a deep breath, Dallis Engel pressed down on the screen of her iPod touch.

Then, she began to read.

“My brother William is a fisherman,” she said, using a finger to trace words in Patricia MacLachlan’s book, “Sarah, Plain and Tall.”

STEM charter school aims for lift off

9News reports on a new charter school that will focus on science, technology, engineering and math. Across the country, educators have been calling for stronger curriculum in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. Last fall, STEM Academy tried to open for the first time, but securing a space for a new school with little initial resources posed to be too big of a challenge.

Boulder Valley teachers embrace science notebook concept

The Daily Camera reports on the science notebook.

Fourth-graders at Boulder’s Columbine Elementary spent as much time writing about their water experiment as they did sending water droplets down a slope to figure out whether big or small drops went faster.

The students recorded their predictions in their science notebooks, then added data as they went through the experiment. They also referred back to a vocabulary list written earlier. At the end, they wrote out conclusions based on their data.

Hurdles emerge in rising effort to rate teachers

The New York Times reports on efforts in NYC to create a valid system to rate teacher effectiveness.

For the past three years, Katie Ward and Melanie McIver have worked as a team at Public School 321 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, teaching a fourth-grade class. But on the reports that rank the city’s teachers based on their students’ standardized test scores, Ms. Ward’s name is nowhere to be found.

Boulder Valley teen parenting program celebrates 30 years

The Daily Camera reports on the expansion of the district’s teen parenting program.

Boulder Valley’s teen parenting program is celebrating its 30th anniversary Monday with a ribbon cutting for its new digs at the Arapahoe Campus.

A four-room nursery was built at the school last summer as part of a remodeling project, allowing the Boulder Valley School District to move its teen parenting program to the school during the fall.

‘Race to Nowhere’ showings tackle issue of overscheduled kids

The Daily Camera reports on showings of a new documentary highlighting the plight of over-scheduled U.S. students feeling the pressure of academic demands.

Parents concerned that students are overscheduled and pushed too hard will have opportunities in the coming weeks to talk to others in the community about how to dial back.

Three Boulder Valley schools are hosting screenings of the “Race to Nowhere” documentary, with parent organizers saying the film has struck a nerve in an area known for overachievers.

Aurora school board to review graduation requirement changes

The Aurora Sentinel reports on the Aurora Public Schools Board of Education’s plans to further explore proposed changes to graduation requirements.

Census shows education gaps by district

Education News Colorado reports on new census figures showing some stark contrasts in education levels in the Denver metro area. In the Adams 14 school district, for instance, that includes Commerce City, nearly one in five adult residents – or 17 percent – have less than a 9th-grade education. Altogether, 40 percent of adults over the age of 25 living in the district on Denver’s northeastern edge have yet to achieve a high school degree. In contrast, more than half of the adults living in the Douglas County School District have graduated from a four-year college or university, including 17 percent with advanced degrees such as doctorates.

Search for your district’s education level.

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.