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Friday Churn: Bad news again

Updated 1:45 p.m. – Colorado has lost out in another round of competition for federal Race to the Top funds, this time for $60 million that would have supported state early learning initiatives.

The $500 million Early Learning Challenge program drew applications from 35 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and Colorado came in 12th, the U.S. Department of Education announced today. Colorado achieved a total of 233.4 points out of a possible 300. Here’s the ranking and points of the top twelve, with the nine winners in bold:

  • NORTH CAROLINA – 269.6 points – 89.9% – $69.9 million
  • MASSACHUSETTS – 267 points – 89% – $50 million
  • WASHINGTON – 263.8 points – 87.9% – $60 million
  • DELAWARE – 261.2 points – 87.1% – $49.8 million
  • OHIO – 261 points – 87% – $69.9 million
  • MARYLAND – 252 points – 84% – $49.9 million
  • MINNESOTA – 250.8 points – 83.6% – $44.8 million
  • RHODE ISLAND – 243.8 points – 81.3% – $50 million
  • CALIFORNIA – 243.6 points – 81.2% – $52.5 million
  • NEW MEXICO – 236 points – 78.7%
  • WISCONSIN – 234 points – 78%
  • COLORADO – 233.4 points – 77.8%

Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia has scheduled a new conference at 3 p.m. Garcia recently completed a statewide listening tour to gather comment on early learning needs and strategies. Early learning is one of the Hickelooper administration’s education priorities.

Colorado previously lost in two rounds of competition for general Race to the Top funds. Colorado is eligible for a $17.9 million grant from a “consolation round” of that general competition.

Here’s the Colorado Education Association’s statement on the latest loss:

“Today’s announcement on Colorado’s most recent Race to the Top application is obviously disappointing. As the professionals working every day to teach and support Colorado’s public school students, we know how critical early literacy and childhood development are to success in school. We strongly supported the Race to the Top application and are proud of the effort Colorado has made. We’ll continue working with Governor Hickenlooper, Lt. Governor Garcia, Mile High United Way and leaders across the state to build support and success around early childhood education.” – Colorado Education Association President Beverly Ingle.

See a summary chart of all states’ ranking and scores and go to the U.S. Department of Education webpage to see all states’ applications and reviewers’ comments, including comments on Colorado’s application.

What’s churning:

National Board Certification for teachers is growing in Colorado, with another 93 teachers achieving that designation in 2011. This represents a 17 percent increase in the total number of teachers holding the certificates in just one year, according to a news release from the Colorado Department of Education.

This year, 19 states had at least a 10 percent increase in the number of teachers earning the national certification over the prior year. Colorado’s increase means it ranked sixth among states increasing their percentages. Colorado ranks 25th in the total number of teachers – 641 – who have earned National Board Certification over time.

The nation has 97,291 certified teachers, about 3 percent of the national teaching force. More than half teach in high-need schools.

Here are the state’s top five school districts in terms of numbers of certified Teachers: Denver – 104, Boulder Valley – 100, Cherry Creek – 87, Douglas County – 50 and Mesa Valley – 43.

More information on National Board Certification and full CDE news release.

Two fresh reports offer glimpses into economic issues and schools. The first report, from the Colorado Children’s Campaign, found that high-quality early childhood programs are essential in reducing gaps in “well-being.” Gaps can be reduced, the study found, by expanding access to high-quality, culturally-competent early childhood programs.

The report found that children in immigrant families in Colorado are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty as children in U.S.-born families. It also found that Colorado’s gap in fourth-grade reading proficiency between students who are English language learners and those who are fluent in English was the second-largest in the country in 2011.

Read the full report, Investing in a Bright Future for All of Colorado’s Kids: The Importance of Providing Early Childhood Care and Education to Children in Immigrant Families.

In the second report, the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute found that Colorado’s investment in key public services lags far behind nearly every other state. State spending on schools and colleges in Colorado ranks 49th in the nation. The state also ranks near the bottom for state funding of vital services including health care and highway maintenance.

Based on the most recent comparison data available, from 2009, an increased investment sufficient to bring state spending in line with only the median of other states would require an additional $7.2 billion annually. Read the full report Aiming for the Middle or watch a three-minute video.

The Colorado Education Association has weighed in on next steps following the Lobato school funding ruling issued last week. Read the news release.

CEA is urging no additional cuts to state education funding and calls on legislators to resist any future unfunded mandates. Among other steps being recommended, CEA suggests creating a graduated income tax and making the sales tax more equitable by taxing services as well as goods.

What’s on tap:

A delegation from the Colorado Department of Education, led by Commissioner Robert Hammond and members of the State Board of Education, will be in the spotlight today for the annual hearing with the Joint Budget Committee. The gathering begins at 9 a.m. and runs until about noon in the large hearing room on the first floor of the Legislative Services Building. In its meeting last week, the state board wrestled with the possibility that it won’t get the money it wants to develop a full new state testing system. The department’s preference is to launch that new test in 2014.

To build their new testing system, the board and the department want $25.9 million in 2012-13 to develop the tests, but Gov. John Hickenlooper doesn’t think that’s a priority in a tight budget year. Board members and CDE executives believe new tests are needed in 2014 to fully implement the new state content standards and to provide the data needed for operation of the state’s district and school rating system and of the new educator effectiveness law.

Today’s hearing could provide a good indication if the JBC is inclined to help CDE put tests on a faster track or go with the governor and wait for multi-state tests in 2015. Background story

Colorado Mesa University will hold its first December commencement ceremony at 9:30 a.m. in Brownson Arena. About 140 students are expected to graduate. This will be the first commencement ceremony since the institution’s name officially changed from Mesa State College to Colorado Mesa University. Watch the ceremony via the web

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