Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Trial and a Debate

Charter school students participated in a mock trial and a debate at the Charter School Day at the Capitol activities on Thursday.

Students from Ridgeview Classical Schools in Fort Collins presented an abbreviated mock trial with Secretary of Scott Gessler acting as judge. A typical mock trial last about two hours while this one only last about 45 minutes. Students from Ridgeview Classical earned state honors this year with their mock trial skills.

Following the mock trial, middle school students from Jefferson Academy and Woodrow Wilson Academy debated the funding of K-12 public education. Attorney General John Suthers judged the debate, which went to Jefferson Academy. The two teams were in the finals of the charter school debate league which ended a couple of months ago.

Charter School Day at the Capitol 2011

These pictures are from the rally on the west steps of the Capitol. The rally was hosted by the Colorado League of Charter Schools. Numerous legislators spoke to the crowd of students, parents, teachers, administrators and guests.

The choir from Belle Creek Charter School in Henderson performed several numbers. Students from Global Village Academy in Aurora danced to a Chinese song. Various charter school administrators and board members also addressed the crowd.

Students visiting the Capitol on Thursday took tours, visited meeting rooms, were guests in the House chamber and were surprised with an opportunity to meet and speak with Dog the Bounty Hunter.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Northeast Academy Students Up to the Challenge

The 7th and 8th grade students at Northeast Academy Charter School (NACS) in Denver had a challenging day. It was Challenge Day. Challenge Day is a program designed to break down cliques, prevent bullying and build positive relationships between students. Today's event was held at the Boys and Girls Club of Denver in Montbello.

Numerous activities had students and adults interacting with people they didn't know by talking and doing activities together. The picture is of students playing a game similar to volleyball. The adults around the perimeter had to keep the ball inside the circle and cheer on the students.

Students are taught to Notice, Change, Act. Later in the day students broke up into small groups to discuss ways they can make a difference in their school and community. The entire day was designed to take people outside their comfort zone. For the couple hours I participated, I was definitely outside of my comfort zone!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Parents Deserve to Know

The State Board of Education has adopted new rules that will require school districts to notify parents when an employee is charged with a felony or a misdemeanor sex crime. The board has been considering this change for quite some time. Chairman Bob Schaffer, Fort Collins, noted the Poudre School District failed to inform parents when two former employees were arrested for crimes involving children. The new rules also cover any adult who transports students when arrested for a DUI.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Administrator's Get Legislative Update from League of Charter Schools

Today at the Administrator's Mentoring Cohort (AMC) meeting, Vinny Badolato, from the League of Charter Schools, gave the following legislative update.

1. Win: HB 1089: Collaboratives. Allows charter schools to seek competitive grants within ESEA.

2. SB 188: Moral obligation program. Charter schools go through the State Treasurer’s office to get better bond financing ratings. The bill would have increased the $400 million cap, but that was removed. The bill removes application fees to enter the program. The manager will be the Treasurer’s office. In case of a default, the Treasurer will consult with a team of impacted entities to determine how to handle the potential default.

3. Loss: HB 1055: Improve charter school access to facilities. Passed the House, assigned to Senate State Affairs where it died. Will be reconsidered for next year.

4. HB 1277: Massey’s omnibus bill. Removes unnecessary reporting requirements including

a. Access to data. Designed to eliminate district’s not providing data to their charter schools in a timely manner.

b. Additional criteria for high risk student definition. Adds “over age and under credit” to the definition. This definition is used to define Alternative Education Campuses (AECs)

c. Grant collaborative. The State Board would be able to promulgate rules to allow collaboratives to be designated as the LEA.

d. School Food Authority. Adds charter schools to the entities permitted to be School Food Authorities. Currently charter schools must access the program through one lead school and that school carries all the liability. There are 18 charter schools under one SFA this year.

e. Online reporting requirements. Eliminates annual report to CDE, which has been replaced by requirements in the Financial Transparency Act and the Education Accountability Act.

5. Budget cuts. Cut proposed now is $22.5 million less. Plus a planned mid-year distribution if the June forecast is better. There will definitely be a cut in K-12 funding again next year.

6. New bill by Senator Keith King to be introduced next week. Proposes mill levy matching funds at a quarter of a percent (CVote). Requires districts to include charter schools if they run a mill levy ballot question.

Monday, April 11, 2011

More on SchoolView

The state's SchoolView website has new information again. Now there's a Data Lab feature that allows the user to choose various filters in order to do unique comparisons and reports.

Using the Colorado Growth Model (CGM), it's possible to determine the range a student would need to score in order to be in the "Catch Up, Keep Up and Move Up" categories. These are three categories for students' proposed achievement trajectories. The Catch Up category is for students scoring Unsatisfactory or Partially Proficient on the CSAP. Their proposed trajectory would take them into the Proficient range of scores. Likewise, students in the Keep Up category would be Proficient or Advanced and need to at least keep making a year's progress in order to move forward rather than backward. Move Up is for students in the Proficient category that move into the Advanced.

The Data Center allows for all kinds of exploration and comparisons. There's information on the number of students enrolled, the type of Accreditation ranking districts received, the percentage of Highly Qualified staff, and profiles on individual schools. New information is being added all the time.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Denver is Choice Friendly

Fifty-three percent of Denver Public Schools students don't attend the school they would normally attend based on where they live. In 2004 this number was 34%. What's changed? DPS has instituted "choice friendly" policies designed to increase the number of students who attend a school based on the type of educational program it offers instead of its locality. These policies cover a broad array of issues, including:

  • Offering Innovation schools that operate with waivers from things such as the district's collective bargaining agreement and offer a mission-focused, unique type of school.

  • Marketing to inform parents about quality choice options available to them.

  • Conducting parent and community meetings designed to explain the school district's vision for reform and better equip parents to make decisions for their child's education.

  • Closing schools that are not performing academically.

  • Signing the "Denver Compact," an agreement between the charter schools and the district designed to improve communications and reinforce commitments to each other.

  • Ensuring each of the zones in the district (geographical regions) have a complete array of choice offerings and that certain zones don't have the vast majority of choice options.

  • Opening an Office of School Reform and Innovation (OSRI) with a mission to increase choice options and ensure these options are all top-quality.

  • Commiting to offer all DPS students a quality education.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Paradox Valley Charter School

There's an incredible charter school in the state that's also probably the most unique. Paradox Valley School (PVS) is at the end of a 25 mile long canyon. The school is chartered by the West End School District. PVS sits right at the edge of the Utah border. The town sits below a series of switch-backs that take you up the side of a mountain and into Utah. Moab, Utah isn't far from Paradox.

The community school had been closed by the district for a couple of years when the town began to lose it's vital link with each other, which often happens through the school in small towns. Renee Owen was a mother who didn't want to have her children ride the school bus to Naturita, about a half-hour drive away. She did her research and wrote a charter school application. The charter school opened in the original school building, but soon afterwards they added a number of classrooms. The old part of the facility was the lunch room and gymnasium. Renee also worked it out for the school to house a local branch of the Montrose Public Library system.

Now PVS has applied for a BEST (Building Excellent Schools Today) grant and plan to add new space and also renovate their current space. The new build includes a multi-purpose area, library/office and kitchen. In order to qualify for the grant, PVS needs to raise $305,000 by mid-June. If approved for the BEST grant, they'll get $9 for every dollar raised.

I visited the school years ago and was very impressed with the support from the community; especially community members who had no children at the school. The school publishes a newsletter, Paradox Paragraphs, that I read from front to back every time. It's often got a corner for thank you's to people who have donated to the school. I smile as I read about someone donating garden produce for student lunches.