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This week’s teaching & learning tidbits

9 Colorado High Schools Make Newsweek’s Best List

DENVER (CBS4) – “Newsweek” has come out with its annual list of top high schools and nine Colorado schools made the list. Peak to Peak Charter in Lafayette; Vanguard School at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs; Fairview in Boulder; Rampart in Colorado Springs; Monarch in Louisville;
Rock Canyon in Highlands Ranch; Lyons; Conifer; and Heritage in Littleton all made the list. Check out the complete list at CBS4 News and Newsweek.

Dougco schools defend voucher pilot

Two lawsuits were filed Tuesday in Denver District Court in separate legal efforts to shut down Douglas County’s pilot voucher plan, set to launch this fall with up to 500 students.

District leaders, who are moving to finalize the structure of the first-of-its-kind plan, said they won’t pause in their activity unless ordered by a judge. Read more in Education News Colorado.

Group of parents also files suit over Dougco school vouchers

While the American Civil Liberties Union and high-profile faith organizations got all the attention Tuesday for their lawsuit against Douglas County Schools, a smaller group of parents, too, filed a challenge to the district’s voucher program. Read all about it in the Denver Post.

Number of low-income students in Colo. schools up 30 percent

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. Read more in Education News Colorado.

APS waits to reap rewards from “fifth block” seeds

Ron Schumacher is eager to see the difference that five extra weeks of instruction will make for 85 students at Elkhart Elementary School.

Schumacher, who just wrapped up his first year as principal at Elkhart after working in the Douglas County school district, said the Aurora Public Schools’ Fifth Block program could have valuable benefits. He hopes students won’t have to spend as much time on old material in the fall, he said, and that teachers will have more time to focus on the subjects that will show up on next year’s Colorado Student Assessment Program tests. Read more in the Aurora Sentinel.

DPS program preparing kids with disabilities for life after school

DENVER – Angelica Garcia will be a senior next year at North High School in Denver. Like many 18-year-olds, she’s making plans for what she wants to do in the future. Angelica says she wants to work with animals when she graduates, telling FOX31 Denver that she wants to be a zoo keeper. Check out the FOX31 report.

More DPS schools seek innovation status

Denver Public Schools board members heard proposals Thursday night from six more schools seeking innovation status. If approved, they’ll bring to 19 the number of district schools with that classification. Read more in Education News Colorado. And if you haven’t already, subscribe to that newsletter, too!

iPads give boost to ESL summer school in Boulder

IPads are making summer school cool.

Teachers in a five-week Boulder Valley School District summer school program for second-language middle school students are incorporating iPads into their science lessons. This is Boulder Valley’s first large-scale use of the technology. Read the story in the Daily Camera.

Moffat schools interested in SB 10-191 pilot program

It’s possible the Moffat County School District will be a testing ground for Colorado Senate Bill 10-191 beginning in August. SB 10-191, also known as the “Great Teacher and Leaders Bill,” or the “Educator Effectiveness Bill,” was signed into law in May 2010 by then-governor Bill Ritter. Read more in the Craig Daily Press.

Although the bill was signed more than a year ago, it won’t go into full effect until 2015.

Teachers study science in summer school

On a beautiful summer day, most of the Cherry Creek School District’s 3,600 teachers had begun their summer break. But, Rebecca Buell, second grade teacher from Fox Hollow Elementary, was earning extra credit in science.

Buell was one of about 500 elementary school teachers who extended their school year to learn how to teach FOSS (Full Option Science System), which integrates science with reading, writing and math. Read more at Your Hub.

Math tutors sought for new DPS program

Denver Public Schools is gearing up for a new initiative this fall, and will provide free, ongoing math help to students in new schools in the Far Northeast in an effort to accelerate student growth. The tutoring program starts in the 2011-12 school year and provides students with daily math tutoring that’s built into the regular school day.

In partnership with Denver Public Schools, the Denver Summit Schools Math Fellows is a 10-month urban education tutoring program and is a fundamental part of DPS’s Far Northeast school turnaround initiative, called Summit Denver.

The Math Fellows program has demonstrated strong success in Houston Independent School District, where all sixth- and ninth-grade students at nine turnaround schools received intensive math tutoring.  One year into the program, students demonstrated significant growth on state exams. Overall, the percentage of Houston students at the nine schools passing all subjects on state assessments grew by 9 percentage points, to 72 percent. The percentage of students scoring at the “commended” level in all subjects on the state exams now stands at 15 percent, a 5-point increase from a year ago.

In order to provide this level of assistance to its students, Denver Public Schools is looking for approximately 100 dedicated math tutors to work with students beginning in mid-July, for a one-year fellowship offered directly through DPS. Those hired receive a salary of $21,000, with the opportunity to earn an additional performance-based incentive of $4,000.

Serving as a math tutor in one of these schools provides an excellent opportunity for those committed to increasing student achievement. The district is committed to providing access to high quality education, and the Math Fellows program is just one of the turnaround strategies being employed by Denver Public Schools.

To become a tutor (Math Fellow), candidates must have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, possess strong math skills, and make a commitment of 10 months. To learn more about the fellowship opportunity, please visit www.denvermathfellows.org.

St. Vrain schools look at longer school year

The St. Vrain Valley School District Board of Education instructed staff last week to begin looking at a longer school year, even if that does not include additional days.

No changes would be made to the 2011-12 calendar. Extending the school year could take two, three or even four years to accomplish, said school board director Bob Smith. Read more in the Colorado Hometown Weekly.

More money available to help struggling schools

Colorado’s Office of School and District Improvement has announced the availability of $7.5 million in federal funds to increase academic achievement in chronically low-performing schools. The opportunity is open to school districts or local education agencies. Proposals are due Aug. 17.

The intent of this grant is to provide funding for districts to partner with the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) in the implementation of a school intervention strategy.

“This is a team effort,” said Daphne Pereles, director of the office of school and district improvement. “CDE will work collaboratively with local districts to develop detailed performance goals and specific timelines for improvement in these schools. We share in the urgency and we share in the delivery of results. We will work closely with these schools to develop plans that will make a meaningful difference in performance for all students.”

The funds are intended to be used by schools to support the services of an external school turnaround provider. Districts will apply for the grant on behalf of the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools in the state, as measured by state assessments and other criteria.

For application and grant materials, including a list of eligible schools, visit the Colorado Department of Education.

Changing the way Summit High students earn college credit

Summit School District recently got the word that its a part of a new legislative approach to providing high school students access to college credit prior to graduation. Read more in the Summit Daily.

Teacher denies cheating charges

A Fort Collins math teacher targeted for firing by school district officials says accusations that she gave Webber Middle School students hints and other help during CSAP tests are “disgusting” and untrue.

The Poudre School District Board of Education on Tuesday night received from Superintendent Jerry Wilson a memo outlining the charges against longtime teacher Julie Pfeifer, who has been on paid leave since April. Read more in the Coloradoan.

Horizon students gain three months in reading and learn to swim

Horizons at Colorado Academy youth gain three months in reading and learn to swimry summer, low-income children fall further behind in reading and math skills, while middle-income students keep pace or jump ahead. This contributes to an achievement gap that leaves some low-income kids as much as three years behind their peers by fifth grade. But the public school kids attending Horizons at Colorado Academy this summer will actually gain reading and math skills, and even learn to swim.

More than 120 students from Denver Public Schools in southwest Denver will begin the six-week summer program at Colorado Academy starting June 20.

“The transient community of youth we serve are hit particularly hard when summer comes and they lose the academic, nutritional and social supports provided during the school year,” says Jenny Leger, Horizons at Colorado Academy’s executive director.

This will be Horizons’ 14th summer at Colorado Academy, with many students coming back every summer from kindergarten through eighth grade. The annual retention rate for the program is 98 percent.

“The fact that our students return to Horizons summer after summer allows us to help them progress academically, socially and physically over time,” said Ingrid Moore, incoming executive director of the Horizons program.

Horizons is transformative. Low-income K-8 public school students are provided a tuition-free summer enrichment program offered on the campuses of independent and post-secondary schools. Through Horizons, public and private schools and universities create enduring partnerships that are unique to their community. Horizons blends high quality academics with arts, sports, cultural enrichment and confidence-building activities. All Horizons students learn to swim, making enormous gains in self-confidence that spill over into the classroom.

Horizons’ participants consistently gain three months in reading and math skills over the six-week program each summer. Students starting below grade level in reading at Horizons at Colorado Academy demonstrate even greater gains.

Horizons’ hands-on approach instills a love of learning and the academic and social skills essential to becoming responsible, contributing citizens. The Horizons curriculum incorporates an interactive age-appropriate project for each grade. For example, last year rising first-graders planted a garden and made snacks using crops they grew. Older youth learned survival skills and the importance of team work on an overnight camping trip.

Horizons at Colorado Academy and Horizons National were named one of America’s best summer learning programs by the National Summer Learning Association in 2010.


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