Colorado

State releases final R2T plan summary

Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien is leading the state's Race to the Top effort.

Colorado officials have released the latest summary of their plan to win the national Race to the Top, including a map of school districts signing on to participate.

The summary, in the form of a 22-slide Powerpoint, provides brief details of what would occur if the state wins some of the $4.3 billion prize in the federal grant competition.

States must submit their applications by Jan. 19. Each application must address four areas – standards and assessment, data systems, great teachers and leaders, and support for struggling schools.

Colorado’s summary bullets short descriptors under each of those areas, including:

  • Creation of the Colorado Center for Educator Excellence, a non-profit charged with researching teacher performance measured by student growth and disseminating best practices.
  • Creation of the Educator Effectiveness Office, a state-level office to provide technical assistance to school districts in developing and implementing new educator evaluation and effectiveness management systems.
  • Identify, develop and implement high-quality evaluation systems in all participating school districts without such systems by 2012-13; each district would receive two staffers to implement the system and to provide extensive training and support to teachers and principals.
  • Teach for America would expand the size of its Colorado corps to more than 800 teachers and allow access to its tools for using student growth data to evaluate teacher effectiveness. (The Atlantic wrote about this.)
  • State would identify a select group of highly effective teachers on the basis of student growth data and award $10,000 grants to each teacher and a matching grant to their schools to incentivize the use of their classrooms as models for other educators.
  • Creation of the Colorado Turnaround Center, a non-profit overseen by the state that would build the supply of school operators, share knowledge about successful strategies and mobilize supports for children in failing schools.
  • Creation of an integrated statewide data system that links information about students from preschool into college, using data from sources such as the Department of Education, Department of Higher Education, Human Services and Corrections.

As of Thursday, 118 school districts representing 90 percent of Colorado’s K-12 students have committed to participating if the state is successful in its Race to the Top effort, state officials said.

That includes districts, such as Douglas County, Aurora, Boulder and Greeley, where school boards have signed agreements to participate.

It also includes districts where leaders have verbally indicated they will sign on.  Adams Five-Star school board members are expected to vote on the R2T agreement Saturday, for example, while school boards in Denver and Cherry Creek are expected to vote Monday on their participation agreements.

Click here to see a copy of the state’s full Race to the Top plan summary. State officials have said they will not publicly release the actual application until after the Jan. 19 deadline because R2T is so competitive.

Nina Lopez, special assistant to Education Commissioner Dwight Jones, said the summary is expected to be the last released prior to the deadline. Friday, Lopez said some revisions may be made as the state’s application undergoes a final editing but substantial changes are not expected.

Click on this link to see previous Ed News stories about R2T and other stimulus funds.

Nancy Mitchell can be reached at [email protected] or 303-478-4573.

 

defensor escolar

Memphis parent advocacy group trains first Spanish-speaking cohort

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Manuela Martinez (center left) and Lidia Sauceda (center right) are among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship.

Manuela Martinez doesn’t want Spanish-speaking families to get lost in the fast-changing education landscape in Memphis as the city’s Hispanic population continues to grow.

The mother of two students is among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship, a program that trains parents on local education issues.

“We want to be more informed,” said Martinez, whose children attend Shelby County Schools. “I didn’t know I had much of voice or could change things at my child’s school. But I’m learning a lot about schools in Memphis, and how I can be a bigger part.”

More than 200 Memphians have gone through the 10-week fellowship program since the parent advocacy group launched two years ago. The vast majority have been African-Americans.

The first Spanish-speaking cohort is completing a five-week program this month and marks a concerted effort to bridge racial barriers, said Sarah Carpenter, the organization’s executive director.

“Our mission is to make the powerless parent powerful …,” she said.

The city’s mostly black public schools have experienced a steady growth in Hispanic students since 1992 when only 286 attended the former Memphis City Schools. In 2015, the consolidated Shelby County Schools had 13,816 Hispanic children and teens, or 12.3 percent of the student population.

Lidia Sauceda came to Memphis from Mexico as a child; now she has two children who attend Shelby County Schools. Through Memphis Lift, she is learning about how to navigate Tennessee’s largest district in behalf of her family.

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Hispanic parents attend a training with the Memphis Lift fellowship program.

“Latinos are afraid of talking, of standing up,” Sauceda said. “They’re so afraid they’re not going to be heard because of their legal status. But I will recommend this (fellowship) to parents. How do we want our kids to have a better education if we can’t dedicate time?”

The training includes lessons on local school options, how to speak publicly at a school board meeting, and how to advocate for your children if you believe they are being treated unfairly.

The first fellowship was led by Ian Buchanan, former director of community partnership for the state-run Achievement School District. Now the program is taught in-house, and the Spanish-speaking class is being led this month by Carmelita Hernandez, an alumna.

“No matter what language we speak, we want a high-quality education for our kids just like any other parent,” Hernandez said. “A good education leads to better opportunities.”

Stopping summer slide

On National Summer Learning Day, Memphis takes stock of programs for kids

PHOTO: Helen Carefoot
Torrence Echols, a rising first-grader in Memphis, builds a tower with giant legos at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on National Summer Learning Day.

When it comes to summer learning, it’s been a better year for Memphis, where a range of new programs have helped to stem learning loss that hits hard in communities with a high number of low-income students.

On Thursday, Mayor Jim Strickland celebrated that work in conjunction with National Summer Learning Day and against the backdrop of the children’s reading room of the city’s main library.

He estimated that 10,000 children and teens are being reached this summer through learning programs spearheaded through Shelby County Schools, Literacy Mid-South, Memphis Public Libraries, churches and nonprofit organizations across the community.

That’s a record-breaking number, Strickland says, in a city with a lot of students struggling to meet state and local reading targets.

Summer learning loss, also known as summer slide, is the tendency for students to lose some of the knowledge and skills they gained during the school year. It’s a large contributor to the achievement gap, since children from low-income families usually don’t get the same summer enrichment opportunities as their more affluent peers. Compounded year after year, the gap widens to the point that, by fifth grade, many students can be up to three years behind in math and reading.

But this summer for the first time, Shelby County Schools offered summer learning academies across the city for students most in need of intervention. And Memphis also received a slice of an $8.5 million state grant to provide summer literacy camps at nine Memphis schools through Tennessee’s Read to be Ready initiative.

Literacy Mid-South used Thursday’s event to encourage Memphians to “drop everything and read!”

The nonprofit, which is providing resources this summer through about 15 organizations in Greater Memphis, is challenging students to log 1,400 minutes of summertime reading, an amount that research shows can mitigate learning loss and even increase test scores.

Reading is a problem for many students in Memphis and across Tennessee. Less than a third of third-graders in Shelby County Schools read on grade level, and the district is working to boost that rate to 90 percent by 2025 under its Destination 2025 plan.

The city of Memphis, which does not fund local schools, has made Memphis Public Libraries the focal point of its education work. This summer, the library is offering programs on everything from STEM and robotics to art and test prep.

Parents are a critical component, helping their kids to take advantage of books, programs and services that counter the doldrums of summer learning.

Soon after the mayor left the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on Thursday, Tammy Echols arrived with her son, Torrence, a rising first-grader at Levi Elementary School. Echols said they visit regularly to read books and do computer and math games.

“We always do a lot of reading and we’re working on learning sight words,” Echols said as she watched her son build a tower out of giant Lego blocks. “Torrence is a learning child and it’s easy to forget what you just learned if you’re not constantly reinforcing.”

You can find summer learning resources for families from the National Summer Learning Association.