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Tuesday Churn: No “off the top”

Updated 1:45 p.m. – Facing a meeting with the Joint Budget Committee in 10 days, the State Board of Education wrestled this morning with the possibility that it won’t get the money to develop a full new state testing system that would launch in 2014.

The board and the Department of Education want $25.9 million in 2012-13 to create the tests, but Gov. John Hickenlooper doesn’t want to spend the money in a tight budget year. The JBC has posed more than a dozen questions on testing for the board and CDE to discuss during a Dec. 16 meeting with the budget panel.

One of those questions is whether the board proposes the $25.9 million be deducted from the pot of state aid to school districts or be additional spending. CDE budget analyst Jeff Blanford said the department has “no intention” of taking test costs off the top of school aid and wanted to make sure board members agreed. They did so with nods of heads.

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. Alternative, somewhat cheaper multistate tests won’t be available until at least 2015.

“The reality of getting the full amount for the assessments is almost nil,” said member Elaine Gantz Berman, D-1st District. Members of the JBC have said “it isn’t going to happen,” she added. Berman is one of two board members who serves as a liaison with lawmakers.

“I think most of us can guess today what the status of this is,” agreed SBE Chair Bob Schaffer, R-4th District. But, he said, it’s important for the board to send a clear message about the importance of new tests.

Education Commissioner Robert Hammond agreed, saying, “This is a matter of awareness. … It’s important to raise this.”

The board also discussed what to do about another anomaly in the budget request – the $7.7 million that Hickenlooper requested for helping implement the educator effectiveness law. That’s money the board and CDE didn’t request. Board members went back on forth on whether they should endorse the governor’s request or whether doing so would diminish the importance of their request for testing money. They finally decided to support the Hickenlooper request but not incorporate it in their priorities.

What’s churning:

The 2011 school and district ratings will be released later today at the monthly meeting of the State Board of Education.

The performance frameworks, as they are called, detail school and district academic achievement on statewide tests, growth, growth gaps and postsecondary readiness. Districts are assigned various accreditation levels based on performance; school ratings determine the types of improvement plans that must be used.

There are four types of plans for schools: Performance, Improvement, Priority Improvement and Turnaround. Districts receive one of five ratings: Accredited with Distinction, Accredited, Accredited with Improvement Plan, Accredited with Priority Improvement Plan and Accredited with Turnaround Plan.

The districts have known since August their likely determination but time is allowed for negotiations in case districts want to submit additional evidence and request a change in their assignment. This presentation is set for 1:45 p.m. and the results will be published at 2 p.m.

The board will also:

  • Hold a rulemaking hearing on proposed regulations for online program
  • Hold a rulemaking hearing to establish standards for charter schools and charter school authorizers
  • Hear an appeal in a dispute between Pioneer Academy and Falcon School District 49 (the second trip back to the state board for this particular case)
  • Hear a briefing from Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia

The meeting starts at 9 a.m. Agenda

Peg Brown-Clark was named by Commissioner Robert Hammond as the new assistant commissioner of exceptional student services. She will manage the state’s unit that oversees both special education and gifted and talented education. According to a release from the state department of education, Brown-Clark currently serves in a similar position with the Wyoming Department of Education where she is the division director of special education programs. Brown-Clark has more than 30 years of education experience ranging from serving as a teacher, a state special education director and the state’s top special education leader. She will begin her duties at the Colorado Department of Education in February 2012. Read the entire news release here.

Good reads from elsewhere:

“Why School Choice Fails” is the headline on this column by writer Natalie Hopkinson. In the New York Times, she paints a bleak view of how “reform” has taken a toll on options—and the quality of those options—for working-class families in Washington, D.C. “So even for those of us lucky ones with cars and school-data spreadsheets, our options are mediocre at best,” she writes. Column

A special note:

Education News Colorado, a member of the Public Education & Business Coalition network, is participating in the second annual Colorado Gives Day. That’s today. Colorado citizens are coming together again to raise millions of dollars for non-profits like PEBC.

When you make a contribution through the Community First foundation website, your gift will be boosted by the FirstBank Incentive Fund. All credit card processing fees are covered, so 100 percent of your donation goes directly to work for participating groups.

You can go online here all day and contribute. Thanks for your support!

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