Briefs: Teachers get their say

The Department of Education Wednesday opened the periodic TELL survey, which allows teachers around the state to anonymously fill out an online questionnaire about teaching and learning conditions in their schools.

EdNews Briefs logoThis year marks the third time the survey has been given since it was required by a state law passed in 2008. The 2011 survey found 84 percent of Colorado educators who responded to the survey felt their schools are good places to work and learn. Results are broken out and reported separately for districts and schools that have sufficient participation. Results also are reported to the State Board of Education and made public.

The survey is open to teachers through March 6. For more information, see this CDE news release, and for background read this EdNews story about the results of the 2011 survey.

Catch up on the state’s sample curriculum

If you’ve been wondering what’s up with the state sample curriculum that’s being developed, you can now check the Department of Education’s website for sample course development guides in several subjects.

The idea for the curriculum came from a group of southwestern Colorado superintendents concerned about the ability of small districts to develop new curriculums for teaching new state content standards. The new system is being developed by volunteer teams of educators.

Use of the curriculum wouldn’t be required; the state constitution leaves instruction and curriculum decisions with local school boards.

Get details on CDE’s sample curriculum page, and learn more about the initiative in this EdNews story.

CSU launches Colorado Futures Center

Charlie Brown, considered one of the leading experts on Colorado’s tax structure and future fiscal challenges, has been named director of the Colorado Futures Center, located in Colorado State University’s Denver offices. Brown is leaving a similar position at the University of Denver.

Phyllis Resnick, an economist who’s worked with Brown, will become lead economist at the CSU center. Brown and Resnick are best known for their reports, first published in 2009, that state government spending is unsustainable without constitutional and revenue reform.

Read more in this story from our partners at the Denver Business Journal, check out the new center’s website and find links to past Brown reports here.

New associate commissioner joins CDE

Rebecca Holmes has been named associate commissioner at the Colorado Department of Education, in charge of the Division of Innovation, Choice and Engagement. Most recently Holmes has been CEO of KIPP Colorado Schools, a charter management organization. She previous worked at Deloitte Consulting and the El Pomar Foundation.

Learn more in this CDE news release.

Jeffco wants to hear from residents

The Jeffco schools have launched an online tool named Engage Jeffco Schools that allows residents to communicate with the district and collaborate on education topics and ideas. The website is part of a broader community engagement effort. Go here to give the site a test drive.

Marking 20 years of Colorado charters

The 2013 conference of the Colorado League of Charters Schools, starting Feb. 21 in Broomfield, will include panels and other events to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the passage of the state’s first charter school law. Get more information about the conference here.

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede