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This week’s teaching & learning tidbits

California to require gay history in schools

LOS ANGELES – California will become the first state to require public schools to teach gay and lesbian history. Read more in the New York Times.

Sixth and Ninth Grade academies jump start student success

DENVER –  Thousands of Denver students are getting a head start on middle and high school this summer through the Denver Public Schools (DPS) Sixth Grade Academy and Ninth Grade Academy programs.  The programs combine learning, leadership development and team-building activities to give students the confidence to achieve academic success throughout their middle and high school years. Read more from the Denver Public Schools.

Crayons to Calculators school supply drive underway

Crayons to Calculators, a school-supply drive created to ensure students in the Boulder Valley and St. Vrain Valley school districts head back to school with the supplies they need to succeed will be collecting supplies through July 29. Read more in the Broomfield Enterprise.

Sen. Bennet sits down with CBS4 over education reform

DENVER (CBS4) – Few members of Congress are as passionate about improving education as Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet. As a former superintendent, Bennet knows the problems first hand. CBS4 political specialist Shaun Boyd sat down and talked to him about what he’s doing to change the system.

When making his case for education reform, Bennet loves to talk about the rally that no one would show for. Check out this CBS4 report.

Mogul John Malone to donate $7 million to DSST

Liberty Media chairman John Malone said Tuesday that he will donate $7 million to the Denver School of Science and Technology — the charter school’s largest donation ever.

Malone will give $4 million to the school this year and an additional $3 million to match funds raised by DSST through 2013. Read more in the Denver Post.

Douglas County School District to create faux charter school

CASTLE ROCK – There will be no classrooms full of students. There will be no staff of teachers. The sign outside indicates that the location is the school district headquarters. Yet, this will be the location of Douglas County’s newest charter school. Watch this 9NEWS report.

Advisory group questions ‘voucher charter’

CASTLE ROCK – Five parents who serve on Douglas County’s district accountability committee asked lots of questions Tuesday about the voucher charter school slated to open this fall.

Kevin Leung, a member of Douglas County’s district accountability committee, questioned staff about the Choice Scholarship School.

The charter school will serve as the administrative home of the 500 students awarded vouchers – worth $4,575 in state and local tax dollars – to private schools in Colorado’s first district-driven voucher pilot. Read more in EdNews Colorado.

Jeffco employees agree: It’s a good place to work

The results of a recent district-wide employee survey show most of Jeffco’s 12,000 employees expressed pride in their jobs saying their work is important and has a direct impact on student learning.

Every two years, Jeffco Public Schools uses the survey to measure employee satisfaction and find areas needing improvement.  Over 8,000 employees finished the 2010 survey; a 77.6 percent response rate with most of the survey questions receiving a positive rating and very few responses falling into the negative range.

Survey results show that employees rated their sense of personal responsibility, accountability and feeling respected very high.  Staff said the strength of Jeffco Schools is found in the district’s supervision, effectiveness, diversity and values, by giving them high marks.

“This survey is one of the silver linings from a difficult year because it shows that even though we have had some difficult challenges with K-12 budget cuts, our employees continue to say that Jeffco is a wonderful place to work and learn,” said superintendent Dr. Cindy Stevenson.

Stevenson adds that it’s no surprise that many employees expressed concern over their increased workload.  “Our staff is doing more with less time and fewer resources,” she said.

Study finds key early skills for later math learning

Psychologists at the University of Missouri have identified the beginning of first grade math skills that teachers and parents should target to effectively improve children’s later math learning. Learn more from the Science Blog.

41 Colorado school districts line up for evaluation pilot program

Colorado school districts have overwhelmed the state Department of Education with their interest in participating in a state pilot program this fall for evaulating new teachers and principals.

“We thought we would be lucky to get 10 districts who were interested,” said Ulcca Joshi Hansen, the department’s associate director of educator effectiveness. Read more in the Denver Post.

Dist. 6 takes advantage of technology with new online learning program

The Greeley-Evans School District 6 Board of Education had to find $6 million to cut from its 2011-12 budget, but it also had to find ways to be creative and move the district forward.

Board members think they’ve done just that with a new online-learning option that begins this fall. Read more in the Greeley Tribune.

Official: Investigation into possible test cheating expands

WASHINGTON — Investigators from the U.S. Department of Education have joined local investigators looking into possibly widespread test cheating by District of Columbia public schools educators, a D.C. official said Friday. The scope of what has been a limited probe has greatly expanded. Read more in USA Today.

Boulder students have more access to AP classes than students statewide

Analysis of new federal data backs up assertions by Boulder Valley School District leaders that they’ve made strides in increasing access to advanced classes.

But there are still some disparities among schools, with slightly higher percentages of students taking advanced placement classes at schools with the fewest low-income students. Read more in the Daily Camera.

DPS shows off latest purchase for future charter schools

DENVER (CBS4) – The Denver Public Schools is showing off its latest purchase — the future home of two charter schools.

The school district bought Denver Lutheran High School with bond money. The new campus in southwest Denver will house a new West Denver Prep High School. Watch this CBS4 report.

Summer internship has Denver students help with bond projects

Itzel Salazar, 17, walked through a K-8 school in Denver last month, looking for imperfections in the site’s bond project.

An aspiring architect, she noticed two places where the carpet was sticking up — a potential hazard for students. “It just didn’t look right,” she said. Read more in Your Hub.

Denver Head Start program lagging in funds

Some agencies that provide the Head Start program in Denver are facing budget cuts and a reduction in the number of slots they requested this year.

The Head Start program, which earlier this year faced potentially deep federal budget cuts, provides preschool and health-related services to low-income families. Read more in Your Hub.

Loveland students learn to tell the tale

Loveland storyteller Vivian Dubrovin asked the 50-plus children circled around her Tuesday morning to say “boo,” giving voice to the marionette she manipulated in the media center at Monroe Elementary School.

Dubrovin told “The Little Ghost” from “Storytelling Discoveries: Favorite Activities for Young Tellers,” that she co-authored with her daughter Barbara Dubrovin.

With a few props on hand, Dubrovin gave the students in Camp Monroe – a five-week summer camp for students entering kindergarten through fourth grade – a lesson on storytelling. Read more in the Loveland Reporter-Herald.

New standards focused on post-grad performance

New state academic standards will begin to take effect in the upcoming school year in an effort to revolutionize and streamline Colorado education.

“Our mantra was fewer, clearer, higher standards; fewer areas that students will focus on to a much higher depth and greater rigor,” said Melissa Colsman, director of teaching and learning for the Colorado Department of Education, who is responsible for standards implementation throughout the state. Read more in the Fort Collins Coloradoan.

Poudre schools ready to implement new standards

Teachers at the Poudre School District are gearing up for a year of change.

With the new Colorado Academic Standards taking effect for the 2011-12 school year, principals across the district have prepared their teachers to give students an experience- and goal-based education. Read more in the Fort Collins Coloradoan.

DPS bond savings fund additional school projects

DENVER – This summer, Denver Public Schools is busy working on major construction projects that are part of the 2008 voter-approved General Obligation Bond, including dozens that were not part of the original scope of bond projects but were made possible thanks to $90 million in savings from strong cost management and favorable market conditions.  Read more en Español or in English and find out when ribbon cuttings are planned.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.