Education Nation Scorecard unveiled

As part of its Education Nation summit, NBC has teamed with school performance evaluators GreatSchools to create a website allowing parents to get an appraisal of a school they’re sending their child to, or one they’re considering. In addition, the school profiles show how a district measures up to others in a state based upon test scores and graduation rates, and how one state compares to the other 49 – including what it expects out of its students relative to other states – and even provides steps parents can take to help move a school’s performance upward. Check it out.

Latest update on Colorado schools making adequate yearly progress

preschool and kindergartenThe number of Colorado schools making the federal benchmark of Adequate Yearly Progress grew every so slightly in 2010 – up 2 percentage points, from 60 percent in 2009 to 62 percent in 2010.

Five schools showed substantial academic progress and moved off the School Improvement watch list, according to the Colorado Department of Education. The five are North Elementary School in Brighton, Centennial High School in the Centennial School District, Wyatt-Edison Charter in Denver, Highland Elementary School in the Garfield RE-2 District and Adventure Elementary in Mapleton.

Another 54 schools on School Improvement met their AYP goals this year, meaning they’re off the watch list if they can repeat that feat in 2011. By comparison, only 17 schools on School Improvement in 2009 reached their AYP targets for the first time. Schools get placed on improvement status if they receive federal Title 1 money, aimed at leveling the playing field for kids in poverty, but their scores do not make AYP targets in the same content area for two years running.

“The trend is upbeat and reflects extraordinary focus by principals and teachers at these schools,” Patrick Chapman, who oversees federal programs for CDE, said.

Look up more schools.

Jeffco receives $32.8 million to pay incentives for teachers

Jeffco Public Schools, in collaboration with the Jefferson County Education Association and the Jefferson County Administrators Association, has received a five-year federal Teacher Incentive Fund grant to pilot strategic compensation for licensed staff in high-needs schools.

The grant of $32.8 million includes 20 schools and allows Jeffco to be at the forefront of developing new ways to compensate educators here and across the nation. The district will test the impact of strategic compensation on increasing student achievement, and attracting, retaining and rewarding top educators.

Strategic compensation is a cultural shift in how educators are paid, and how they navigate their career paths. Instead of paying teachers solely based on years of experience and more education, they will be rewarded for outstanding performance.

Jeffco’s plan is based on three pillars of educational excellence – student learning, teacher learning and teacher leadership. Educators are rewarded for meeting individual, team and school student achievement goals as well as receiving successful evaluations and taking on leadership roles.

Some Jeffco teachers to lose jobs

At the same time its teachers could be getting paid based more on performance, some may not be around to take advantage of the news system. 9News reports on district plans to slash more jobs. The Jefferson County School Board called a special meeting Thursday night to discuss the first look at the 2011-2012 budget.

Chief Financial Officer Lorie Gillis says the district may need to cut at least $26 million dollars for next year. That includes 196 positions, 95 of them are teachers.

Going into this current school year, Jeffco Schools faced a $50 million budget shortfall. The district pulled $36 million out of its $100 million in reserves to offset the reduction.

In the end, the district had to cut $14 million going into this school year, which included eliminating 136 jobs.

Expanded Learning Opportunities Commission announced

Colorado Commissioner of Education Dwight D. Jones this week announced the formation of the Expanded Learning Opportunities Commission, which is working to expand the vision for the entire learning experience for students in ways that transcend the traditional school day and traditional classroom models.

The goal is to create a vision for student learning that incorporates a blend of traditional and online learning, expands the school day and standard yearly calendar and re-thinks the traditional school experience.

To garner public input and support, the commission is embarking on a statewide tour to listen to educators, program providers, parents and others about the challenges and successes of expanded learning time and to discuss ideas for improving programs and strengthening community partnerships. The first stop in the tour is scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 25, at the Doubletree Hotel, 743 Horizon Dr., in Grand Junction.

Future meetings are scheduled for Monday, Nov. 8, in Limon; Wednesday, Nov. 10, in Fort Collins; and Thursday, Nov. 11, in the Sheridan School District. Locations will be announced. The Sheridan meeting will start at 3 p.m.; the meetings in Limon and Fort Collins will begin at 4 p.m.

Parents and and community members who plan to attend the meetings in person are asked to RSVP to Vanessa Roman at CDE roman_v@cde.state.co.us. Those who cannot attend the meetings may provide feedback via an online survey.

Life after CSAPs

Education News Colorado tackles the future of standardized testing in Colorado.

“The experts have done their work; now it’s up to Colorado’s two education boards to figure out what the replacement for CSAPs should look like. Members of the State Board of Education and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education met together Thursday to be briefed on the recommendations of a panel of experts that has been developing a plan to replace the CSAP system.

The 2008 Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids called for adoption of new state content standards and selection of a new state testing system. The standards have been developed and adopted, and the two boards were supposed to adopt a new testing system by Dec. 15.

But, the 2010 legislature, wrestling with budget cuts and fretful about the possible price tag for new tests, delayed adoption of a CSAP replacement “until fiscally practicable.”

The Colorado Department of Education now estimates that a full set of new annual tests won’t be administered until 2014 at the earliest.

2011 Colorado Teacher of the Year finalists announced

The Colorado Department of Education announced today three finalists for the Colorado Teacher of the Year.

The finalists for the 2011 Colorado Teacher of the Year are:

  • Kristin Donley, Boulder Valley School District. A high school science teacher at Monarch High School, Donley is inspired by her students’ excitement for learning. Donley believes in giving more choice to students. She recently piloted a forensic science biotechnology class that taught students the basics of forensic science. The final project involved using iPods to film the crime scene and interview suspects.
  • Amy L. Nichols, Aurora Public Schools. As a high school mathematics teacher at William C. Hinkley High School, Nichols says students need safe educational environments, rigorous curriculums and opportunities to excel. She believes that providing students with immediate access to college level courses creates a sense of purpose in their learning and has the potential to increase their level of achievement.
  • Michelle Line Pearson, Adams 12 Five Star Schools. As a social studies and technology teacher for grades six through eight at Hulstrom Options School, Pearson says that her greatest accomplishments in education have not been what she has done alone, but the work she does with students, families, colleagues and the community. Pearson relishes the discussions she holds in class with her students in which students can infer, synthesize and analyze what they are reading and learning.

The winner will be announced in November and is chosen by a six-member committee comprised of individuals from state-level education agencies. The recipient becomes the Colorado nominee for National Teacher of the Year honors and serves as a teaching ambassador to communities and organizations around the state and nation. The Colorado Teacher of the Year represents the entire teaching profession in Colorado. The 2010 Teacher of  the Year, Justin Darnell, is an EdNews Parent expert. Ask him a question.

Nominees are judged on their ability to inspire students of all backgrounds and abilities. They are expected to play an active role in the community and to have earned the respect and admiration of students, parents and colleagues.

Mom wins grant to train teachers on dyslexia

9News reports on mom Jennifer Blair-Cockrum, who wanted to help other kids after she struggled with her son’s dyslexia. Knowing that the Jefferson County School District didn’t have the money for extra training, Blair-Cockrum took it upon herself to find the money for her school. She applied and won grants totaling around $22,000 to bring in instructors from the Dyslexia Center for the sake of her son and others.

Heritage and Gypsum elementary schools honored

The Colorado Department of Education has announced the selection of Heritage Elementary School and Gypsum Elementary School as Title I Distinguished Schools of the year.

Heritage Elementary School is located in Pueblo City Schools and Gypsum Elementary is part of Eagle County School District. The award recognizes these two Title I schools—one for achieving academic success, and one for making progress in closing achievement gaps associated with race and poverty.

Heritage Elementary was selected for the exceptional student performance award. In 2010, the percentage of students who were at or above the NCLB proficient level in reading and math (as determined by the CSAP) was 98.21 percent. Heritage principal Gina Gallegos says the school works to ensure that each and every student is learning and growing to the best of their ability in meeting standards and expectations.

Gypsum Elementary School was selected as a distinguished school for its work in closing the achievement gap. Gypsum, a high-poverty school, increased the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch who were at or above the proficient level on the reading and math CSAP from 85.89 percent in 2009 to 94.44 percent in 2010.  The achievement gap between students eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch and those ineligible for free and reduced-priced lunch decreased by 4.4 percent. Gypsum principal Mitch Forsberg attributed the school’s success to “multiple short interventions for students, data-driven instruction and a school wide culture of achievement.”

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.