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Thursday Churn: Dougco negotiations

What’s churning:

The first public contract negotiations between the Douglas County School District and its teachers union continue today with a marathon session scheduled from 4 p.m. until midnight.

Today’s session marks the fourth day of public negotiations as the district and union attempt to hammer out an agreement for the 2012-13 school year. The two sides began far apart on April 11 and don’t appear to have made significant progress since then on key issues such as salary.

The agenda for today’s session includes revisiting the need to extend the June 30 expiration of the current contract, with some teachers worried about being asked to sign on for another year before the 2012-13 contract is worked out.

After today’s session, the sides have scheduled another five days of tentative talks, starting June 4.

See this story for a rundown of key issues in the talks and visit this webpage to read the proposals submitted by the two sides, listen to audio of the previous public negotiations and view today’s agenda.

In other Douglas County news, the appeal of the district’s voucher program marches on. The district and the state are appealing a Denver judge’s ruling that the district-run Choice Scholarship Program violates numerous parts of the state Constitution and the state School Finance Act. District and state officials filed their opening briefs with the Colorado Court of Appeals in April; the answering brief from the families and groups who sued to stop the program is due June 4.

Archive of Douglas County voucher news in chronological order and history of vouchers in Colorado.

Parents and community members can now go online to check out what their schools are doing to improve academic achievement. The state’s school improvement plans, required of every school, can be viewed at on this Colorado Department of Education webpage. Under the headline “Performance Framework Reports and Improvement Plans,” click on your school district and then your school. You can also see your district’s overall improvement plan.

These plans are not particularly easy to read for those not schooled in education bureaucracy but the narrative under the title “root causes” – as in root causes for failing to meet academic goals – can make for thought-provoking reading. For example, from Denver Public Schools’ improvement plan:

Thirty-one percent of our nearly 80,000 students are classified as ELLs (English Language Learners), and 40% of our students speak Spanish at home. Through root cause analysis, we know that our ELLs are not acquiring academic English skills rapidly enough as measured by CELA (Colorado English Language Assessment). Many students stay at Intermediate or even Proficient, but do not reach Above Proficient levels, which is the level that correlates with Proficiency on CSAP (Colorado Student Assessment Program). Root causes of this happening are related to insufficient understanding by core subjects teachers of how students progress through the levels of CELA, transition to English instruction before the native language is mastered, and non-core teachers who lack ELA (English language acquisition) instruction strategies. Implications of these students staying at levels below the desired “Above Proficiency” level include sustained academic lags, disengagement, and behavioral incidents.

The plans also contain the steps the school or district is taking to address academic needs. Again, from DPS on the issue of English language learners:

We are enhancing the training and support provided to all district teachers to better understand and have the ability to differentiate instruction for the over 40% of our students who don’t speak English at home. This is done through an overhaul of teacher professional development and the creation of the ELA-T certification in addition to the ELA-S and ELA-E teacher certifications which will enhance the ability of our students to grasp the primary language of instruction. The district has also developed summer ELA Academies for our students, led by teachers working on their instructional skills with ELLs…

Good reads from elsewhere:

Turnaround fail?: Consulting and mentoring programs by outside companies, such as the Pueblo City Schools-Global Partnership Schools relationship, have a short shelf life in school districts, several national and state education experts told the Pueblo Chieftain in this article.

Romney talks K-12: The presumptive Republican presidential nominee calls education the “civil rights issue of our era” and says poor and disabled students should be able to use federal funds to attend any public, private or online school they choose, according to this New York Times story.

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

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