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Briefs: School Grades updated

Colorado School Grades, the website that rates school districts on an A-F letter grade scale, has been updated with 2012 data about the academic performance of schools across the state.

The site uses data gathered by the Colorado Department of Education’s annual accountability process but classifies schools in a different way. The state sorts schools into four categories, and about 70 percent of schools are at the top level, called “performance.”

Tim Taylor, president of Colorado Succeeds, argues that School Grades is a more accurate reflection of school quality and more useful for parents. “Parents would never accept rampant grade inflation in the classroom that gives 70 percent of the students an A grade, and we don’t think they should have to accept a state ranking system that does the same thing with schools,” he said in a statement announcing the update.

Colorado Succeeds is a business-based education reform group that sponsors the site along with other organizations. The Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Colorado Denver developed the formula used to calculate the grades.

You can check the new ratings here. Read this EdNews story about the state’s 2012 ratings, and use this searchable database to find individual school ratings.

CU looking to get in on MOOCs

The University of Colorado Boulder is planning to join a group of universities that offers what are called MOOCs – massive online open courses.

“We’re going to sign on and do something with Coursera,” CU President Bruce Benson told a legislative hearing on Tuesday. Coursera is a group of 33 U.S. and foreign universities, including such big names as Duke, Cal Tech, Columbia, Emory, Princeton and Stanford.

MOOCs are online classes that are open to anyone, usually free but generally don’t carry credit. (Learn more about such classes here.)

“I think it’s important we get into these things that are in the forefront,” Benson said during the annual higher education budget hearing of the Joint Budget Committee. “We’ve got a very enthusiastic faculty on this.”

Online education and other innovations came up several times during the hearing, and near the end of the session JBC chair Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, asked Nancy McCallin what she thought of MOOCs.

McCallin, president of the state community college system, said, “It’s got an allure because it’s free for now.” She also noted that such classes can be very large, have no professor-student interaction and no instructor grading or credit.

“It is a trend in the higher education world,” Steadman said.

Both CU and the community colleges offer online classes with tuition costs and credit, as do many other state colleges. Colorado State University has a freestanding, accredited online program named CSU Global Campus, which offers both master’s and bachelor’s degrees. However, CSU Global requires applicants to have some previous college credits.

Wellness advisory board members sought

Poudre School District, in Fort Collins, is seeking community members to serve on its new Wellness Advisory Council for Schools. The panel is being formed to support and enhance the district’s wellness policy and will be led by the district’s Wellness Coordinator.

The council will consist of six standing members who are district employees, two appointed members from CanDo and Healthy Kids Club, and up to 13 members selected through an application process. Those selected by application will include three community members with experience in health or wellness fields, three parents, five district staff members in various roles and two high school students.

Parent, staff and community members will all serve two-year terms. Student members will serve one-year terms. The council will meet for one hour once a month, with additional time commitments possible for subcommittee work.

Applications are available here and due by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 21.

Former Adams City H.S. to get facelift

Adams County School District 14 will move forward with a $7.4 million plan to renovate and reconstruct the property currently housing the former Adams City High School building.

Located at 4625 East 68th Ave. in Commerce City, the dormant property will receive a much-needed facelift, beginning with Phase 1, which will include abetment of all buildings and demolition of all buildings with the exception of the cafeteria, theater and media center.

The cafeteria will be renovated into a Professional Learning Center for Adams 14 teachers and administrators. As an additional source of revenue, the Professional Learning Center will be available to other aligned organizations to rent for meetings and conferences, when not in use by the district.

The former theater and media center will remain intact, creating an opportunity to be leased to Commerce City community groups looking to enhance cultural experiences in the city. The remainder of the property will be re-established to native grass, and a parking area will be created on the west end of the property for use by the Adams 14 Transportation and Maintenance Departments.

Click here to view schematic images of the approved plan, to be paid for our of the district’s fund balance.