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Thursday Churn: Discouraging stats

What’s churning:

The number of homeless students in Colorado increased 84.3 percent, almost 7,000 students, from 2005 to 2011. And the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunches rose from 30 percent of Colorado students in 2003 to 40 percent in the fall of 2010.

The numbers were compiled by the Colorado School Finance Project from state Department of Education statistics. See the chart on homeless students here, and the data on free and reduced enrollment here.

Some environmentally-minded parents are concerned about the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides on the lawn at DPS’ Edison Elementary School. They’re planning to ask the school board to ask the district to drop its contract with TruGreen and hunt for a less toxic alternative.

Some parents complained of a chemical “fog” sweeping over them and their kids one day last year. The chemical was 2,4-D, an herbicide commonly used on lawns. The parents’ story made its way to the school’s Green Team, which launched an online petition protesting the use of the chemical and asking the district to find other alternatives.

“We said this isn’t right. Our kids are playing on this grass, rolling around in it,” said Nicole Bauman, mother of an Edison student and a member of the Green Team.

School officials say they don’t believe the chemical is toxic when used appropriately, and they feel TruGreen acted responsibly. But even so, they’re open to change if the parents can help them find something suitable. Trena Deane, executive director of facilities management for the school district, said, “This is not something we’re opposed to exploring.”

Marilyn Flachman this week was elected president of the Westminster school board. Previous president Vicky Marshall is term-limited this year and resigned the presidency to allow a continuing board member to take more responsibility, as has been the practice on the board. Two other members, Marge Rinaldi and Kevin Massey, also are term limited, so voters this November will select three new members for the five-member board.

Westminster Superintendent Roberta Selleck is resigning at the end of the month. She oversaw implementation of a standards-based instructional model in the district.

The Colorado Department of Education announced this week that $7.5 million in federal funding is available for turnaround efforts in the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools in the state. The money is intended for the hiring of outside turnaround consultants to help schools in their improvement efforts. Proposals are due to the state by Aug. 17. More information

Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia has joined the advisory committee of Democrats for Education Reform-Colorado. Garcia, the Hickenlooper administration’s lead figure on education issues, joins such notables as SBE member Elaine Gantz Berman, former House Speaker Terrance Carroll, Sen. Mike Johnston, former Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien and Christine Scanlan, the administration’s chief lobbyist.

The Mesa State College trustees this week gave the administration the go-ahead to proceed with plans to add a 182-bed dorm on the main campus in Grand Junction. Mesa now has 1,670 beds on campus and in a nearby apartment complex, and a new 328-bed dorm opens this fall. A study presented to the board Monday sees potential demand for another 244 beds. The new $11 million dorm would open in the fall of 2012.

“Mesa State is increasingly becoming a destination campus,” said President Tim Foster.

Good reads from elsewhere:

Latest list: Newsweek magazine has released its most recent ranking of the nation’s top high schools. Peak to Peak Charter in Lafayette, which regularly makes appearances in such lists, is the only Colorado school in the top 50, coming in at 29th. Eight other state schools were in the list of 500. Newsweek

Techno gap: A new study by McREL, the Colorado-based research organization, finds that while schools may have lots of technology available, many teachers don’t know how to use it. The Journal

A closer look at ACT: A study done by National Bureau of Economic Research concludes that two parts of the ACT test – English and math – are good indicators of college success, but that the science and reading sections are not. And, because most colleges look at the composite score for all sections, the study questions the value of the whole test as a success indicator. The study could add a new dimension to the ongoing debate over college readiness, a discussion in which ACT is mentioned frequently. Inside Higher Education

Michigan’s experiment: A statewide school “district” named the Education Achievement System will take over the state’s lowest-performing schools and create autonomous schools intended to improve student achievement. More than 30 Detroit schools are targeted for conversion in 2012-13. Detroit News

Portfolio districts: A new white paper from the University of Washington examines the work Denver and 18 other large districts around the nation are doing in implementing portfolio strategies. Such strategies involve creating a variety of schools, some run by the district and some not, to meet different student needs. The latest report focuses on the role in charter schools in portfolio districts. Center on Reinventing Public Education

Young men of color: There’s plenty of research on the academic and social challenges facing young minority men, including achievement and graduation gaps and high rates of incarceration. A new study, “The Educational Experience of Young Men of Color,” takes a fresh look at the research and the problem. College Board Advocacy & Policy Center

The Daily Churn is published periodically during the summer.

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