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Thursday Churn: SchoolChoice numbers

What’s churning:

Denver Public Schools officials say they’re pleased with the results of the new SchoolChoice enrollment process, through which students in transitioning grades were encouraged to complete a new form listing their top five schools in order of preference.

DPS estimates about 13,000 students are in transitioning years – entering kindergarten, sixth or ninth grades – and DPS spokesman Mike Vaughn said about 82 percent of those students completed the enrollment forms.

In Far Northeast Denver, 94 percent of incoming sixth and ninth graders turned in forms as of the close of business Jan. 31, the deadline for round one of the new system.

Vaughn said a total of 22,973 forms were submitted. In addition to the targeted students, he said forms were filled out by students who want to stay at their current school and didn’t need to complete forms but did so anyway; students not in transitioning grades who wanted to switch schools; and students enrolling in DPS from outside the district.

Starting the first week of March, families who submitted SchoolChoice forms will be notified by mail about where their child has been assigned. Students will be automatically placed on wait-lists at their higher-preference schools if they could not initially be enrolled there.

A Denver District Court judge on Wednesday said she will rule soon on a motion by lawyers for Denver Public Schools who are seeking dismissal of a lawsuit filed by the teachers union over its approval of numerous innovation schools.

Judge Ann B. Frick told attorneys for DPS and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association that she will issue an order “as soon as possible, so that you are not held up much longer.” Her statement came at the end of a roughly 90-minute hearing on the district’s motion to dismiss.

The Innovation Schools Act of 2008 requires that at least 60 percent of a school’s teachers vote in support of proposed innovation plans, which typically include a waiver of job protections for teachers established through the union-district collective bargaining agreement.

The DCTA is challenging the district’s approval of innovation status for 10 schools, most of them in the city’ Far Northeast during the 2010-11 school year, eight of them existing and two of them new. Additionally, it is targeting the innovation status for the teacher-led Green School, approved during the 2009-10 school year.

In every case, the union is highlighting the fact that votes securing the majority support of the schools’ faculties was not taken prior to the board’s approval of the applications – all of which were also backed by the State Board of Education.

“All we’re seeking to do is preserve the voices of our members,” said Brad Bartels, a lawyer representing the DCTA. “The legislature very clearly said it takes everybody in the school – not just the administrators.”

Attorney Brent Case based most of his arguments for DPS on a contention that the DCTA suit is procedurally flawed, but also noted that the plaintiffs in the case, which include two DPS teachers, do not include any at the contested innovation schools.

“The plaintiffs here are employee organizations and three individuals who are not alleged to be employees of innovation schools,” said Case.

What’s on tap:

Rep. Judy Solano’s House Bill 12-1091, her 2011 attempt to eliminate state writing tests and one set of high school tests, faces uncertain prospects this morning in the House State Affairs Committee, commonly known as the “kill committee.”

The Brighton Democrat wants to use the money saved by cutting the tests to get more kids into the Colorado Preschool Program. A legislative staff analysis estimates that amount at about $6.3 million. The Department of Education, using figures supplied by testing contractor CTB McGraw Hill, estimates the savings at only $1.5 million. EdNews queried CDE Tuesday about the discrepancy, but we haven’t heard back.

The State Board of Education – except for Chair Bob Schaffer, R-4th District – opposes the bill. Behind-the-scenes lobbying by board members and CDE has helped kill similar proposals in past sessions.

Earlier this month, House State Affairs killed House Bill 12-1049, a Solano bill that would have strengthened parent rights to opt out of state tests.

This afternoon, the Senate Education Committee takes up Senate Bill 12-148, the bill that would turn Metro State College into a university.

The Colorado Cyberschool Association says 1,000 online education supporters will rally on the Capitol’s west steps at noon today to “educate state legislators and the public about this increasingly popular choice in public education.” Five Republicans lawmakers – and Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver – are scheduled to address the crowd. Get more info

It’s the latest in a series of education field trips at the Capitol. School board members from around the state roamed the marble halls last Friday, and national board certified teachers were honored on Monday.

A good read from elsewhere:

Teacher evaluations: A lot of states are taking a quick-fix approach to upgrading education evaluation systems, and that’s led to problems, according to this New York Times article. (Those of you familiar with Colorado’s multi-year schedule for implementing Senate Bill 10-191 know that it’s anything but quick.)

The EdNews’ Churn is a daily roundup of briefs, notes and meetings in the world of Colorado education. To submit an item for consideration in this listing, please email us at EdNews@EdNewsColorado.org.

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