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This week’s teaching & learning tidbits

Fort Collins teacher vows to fight allegation of CSAP cheating

FORT COLLINS — An award-winning math teacher at Webber Middle School says she will fight allegations that she helped her students cheat on the 2011 CSAP exam.

“This is a shock to me; these allegations are outright lies and an outrage,” said Julie Pfeifer, who has taught for 21 years at Webber. Read more in the Denver Post.

Study: More college freshmen feel above average

CHICAGO (AP) — Among academics who track the behavior of young adults and teens, there’s a touchy debate: Should the word “entitled” be used when talking about today’s younger people? Are they overconfident in themselves? Read more in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Summer school in Denver is for kids eager to learn

At first glance, the kids appear to be whiling away their break with a time-honored, kid-appropriate pursuit — blowing bubbles into the warm summer air. But hang around a few minutes and you’ll hear talk about the viscosity of the solution and the engineering design process. Read more in the Denver Post.

Douglas County considers teacher performance pay

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (AP) – The Douglas County School District is considering asking voters for a tax hike to provide performance pay for teachers. District spokesman Randy Barber says the plan would rate teachers based on teaching skills that students need in the new high-tech workforce. Ratings would also be based on student performance on statewide tests and principal evaluations. Watch this CBS4 report.

Eagle school district gives teachers bonuses amid budget cuts

EAGLE, Colo. (AP) – The Eagle County school district has handed out $80,000 in bonuses to teachers as part of its performance pay program. The $10,000 bonuses were given to eight teachers. Last year, 11 teachers earned the bonuses. check out this CBS4 report. The district is also making major budget cuts. Check out this 9NEWS report.

PBS NewsHour presents “Checking In On Dropping Out”

Nationally, about 70 percent of U.S. students graduate on time with a regular diploma. For Hispanic and African American students, the proportion drops to about half. Sadly, more than 2 million teenagers attend so-called “dropout factory” schools where only 60 percent of the students finish high school in four years. 

“Checking In On Dropping Out” is a collaborative project by PBS NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs and PPH’s Radio Rootz program.

Many of the Radio Rootz journalists come from these very “Dropout Factories” and their reporting investigates why so many of their classmates are not finishing high school and how their peers feel about the perceptions and realities of public education.

 Join PBS for this screening that features the five-minute shorts produced by D.C. and NYC Radio Rootz young reporters. Following the screening, a lively panel discussion will feature youth, local journalists and education leaders on the topic of drop outs and school improvement.

Three DPS teachers named finalists in presidential award

Three Denver Public Schools teachers are state finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, one of the highest recognitions that a kindergarten through 12th grade mathematics or science teacher may receive for outstanding teaching in the United States.

East High School science teacher Amy Hanson, Rocky Mountain School of Expeditionary Learning (RMSEL) math teacher Brook Craig and Denver School of the Arts math teacher Andrea Wiseman have been selected as Colorado State-level finalists.

The White House will announce the results of the national selection process once awardees have been chosen. The PAEMST Program authorizes the President to bestow up to 108 awards each year. Awards are given to mathematics and science teachers from each of the 50 states and four U.S. jurisdictions.

The teachers chosen to be Presidential Awardees will be notified by the White House, will receive $10,000, and will be honored at various ceremonies.

DPS launches College Ready Institutes

Hundreds of Denver high school students are expected to take part in the district’s first-ever College Ready Institutes to be held throughout the summer at several DPS high schools. These school-based institutes are designed for students who are interested in building their knowledge of the skills necessary to be successful in Advance Placement, International Baccalaureate and Concurrent Enrollment courses.

Within each institute students will take part in different workshops that are structured to help them prepare for the rigors of college and beyond.  Through active writing, stimulating discussion, and fun interactive group activities, students will learn the different aspects of rigor and college readiness.

Whether the student is planning to attend a four-year college, a two-year technical school or join the workforce or military immediately after graduation, diving into these 21st century skills, students participating in the College Ready Institutes are destined to have a memorable learning experience. Find dates and locations at Denver Public Schools.

Students head back to school for Aurora schools’ “fifth block”

Thousands of students in the Aurora Public Schools district are cracking the books this month, even as many of their friends are busy making plans for summer vacation. Read more at  YourHub.

Grants aimed at funding students’ big ideas

Students with ideas to improve their communities have a chance at one of 100 $2,000 grants for organizations to participate in Global Youth Service Day. The idea is to think big: Projects must involve at least 600 volunteers, ages 5-25, so school districts, colleges and other organizations may also be part of proposals.  Read more in the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Four Colorado school districts to benefit from Gates grant

Measures to improve student achievement will get a boost in Colorado with a three-year $9.7 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced this week. Education reform efforts were key in the award. The tools developed and lessons learned will be shared statewide. Read more in the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Cherry Creek School District to cut $15 million from budget

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – With dramatic cuts to state education funding, the Cherry Creek School District is joining the ranks of districts making cuts. Monday night the school board voted unanimously to cut $15 million dollars from next year’s budget. That means 150 positions will be eliminated. See the FOX31 report.

Teachers play video games for science

BOULDER – Sandy Wilder is spending her summer vacation playing video games. The thing is, Wilder is not a kid. She’s a teacher enrolled in the Scalable Game Design Summer Institute at the University of Colorado. Watch the 9NEWS report.

Latino H.S. students try mock legislative session at CSU

Latino high school students from seven states and two foreign countries will participate in a week-long mock legislative process next week at Colorado State University. Read more in the Denver Post.


Cherry Creek unveils science, technology building

AURORA – When Daliyah Hill walked into the Institute of Science and Technology, the Overland High School freshman didn’t know what to expect. She certainly didn’t think she’d be impressed by the first thing she saw. Watch the 9NEWS report.

School leaders cry foul over state plans for teacher evaluation

School districts will be required to use a teacher evaluation system developed by the state to gauge educator effectiveness unless they create their own system and opt out — a change from recommendations made by a state-appointed council that now has some school boards crying foul. Read more in the Denver Post.

Investment in summer learning can stem learning loss

The loss of knowledge and educational skills during the summer months is cumulative over the course of a student’s career and further widens the achievement gap between low- and upper-income students, according to a RAND Corporation study issued today.

The study confirms that students who attend summer programs can disrupt the educational loss and do better in school than peers who do not attend the same programs.

“Despite long-term efforts to close the achievement gap between disadvantaged and advantaged students, low-income students continue to perform at considerably lower levels than their higher-income peers, particularly in reading,” said Jennifer McCombs, study co-author and a senior policy researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “Instruction during the summer has the potential to stop summer learning losses and propel students toward higher achievement.”

Researchers find that not all summer learning programs provide equal educational benefits to students. Moreover, many programs suffer from low attendance. Researchers find that students experience the most benefits when the summer programs include individualized instruction, parental involvement and small class sizes.

Despite the clear benefits from these programs, according to the study, many school districts question the cost-effectiveness of summer learning programs and a significant number have discontinued them as a result of budget cuts.

Researchers make several recommendations for school districts and community leaders to plan and develop summer learning programs, including:

  • Apply “best practices” to summer learning programs, such as providing smaller class sizes, getting parents involved, giving individual instruction and promoting maximum attendance.
  • Give strong consideration to partnerships, which enable the creation and sustainment of high-quality voluntary summer learning programs. Various organizations offer different sets of resources and skills that can bolster a summer learning program. Partners may include community-based organizations, private summer learning providers, and city and local governments.
  • Think creatively about funding sources, such as hiring AmeriCorps members and hiring teachers who need administrative hours as summer-site coordinators. There are more than 100 funding sources that can support summer learning programs.

The full report, “Making Summer Count: How Summer Programs Can Boost Children’s Learning,” is available at www.rand.org and www.wallacefoundation.org.

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