Big Brain Club says “hello” (VIDEO)

Learn more about the Big Brain Club in the video posted above. Bottom line: It’s cool to be smart.

Study: Pre-K crucial to best third grade reading outcomes

In the face of state cutbacks to early-childhood programs, school districts might find themselves wondering whether to invest their own scarce funds in preschool or in full-day kindergarten. A study out today has a clear message: If you want to maximize the chances of strong 3rd grade reading results, preschool programs in combination with full-day kindergarten is the way to go. But if that’s not possible, it’s better to go with pre-K and half-day kindergarten than relying solely on all-day kindergarten. Read more at EdWeek.

Monarch High’s Donley named Teacher of the Year

Monarch High School biology teacher Kristin Donley has only been the Colorado Teacher of the Year for a few days, but she already has a long list of education reform ideas from her colleagues.

Donley, who was surprised last week at an assembly at the Louisville school with the news that she had won, will serve as a spokeswoman for public education. Her award also includes a dinner at the White House with President Obama and a week at space camp — allowing her to fulfill a personal dream. Read more in the Colorado Hometown Weekly.

U.S. school kids showing slight improvement in math

WASHINGTON—Some progress. Still needs improvement.

The nation’s report card on math and reading shows fourth- and eighth-graders scoring their best ever in math and eighth graders making some progress in reading. But the results released Tuesday are a stark reminder of just how far the nation’s school kids are from achieving the No Child Left Behind law’s goal that every child in America be proficient in math and reading by 2014. Read more in the Boston Globe.

Soaring Eagles and Harris Bilingual honored

The Colorado Department of Education announced last week the selection of Soaring Eagles Elementary School and Harris Bilingual Elementary School as Colorado’s 2011 Title I Distinguished Schools of the Year.

Soaring Eagles Elementary School is located in Colorado Springs in Harrison School District 2 and Harris Bilingual Elementary is in Fort Collins in Poudre School District.

The award recognizes two Title I schools—one that has achieved academic success and one that made progress in closing achievement gaps associated with race and poverty.  Each school will receive a $10,000 award to support its whole-school reform efforts.

Soaring Eagles Elementary was selected for the exceptional student performance award.  In 2011, the percentage of students who were at or above the No Child Left Behind proficient level on the reading and math Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) was 98 percent. Soaring Eagles Principal Kelli O’Neil says it is her “privilege to work with the most tenacious group of teachers, who never settle for mediocrity.” O’Neil credits the school’s success to her staff and their commitment to collaboration and high standards.

Harris Bilingual Elementary School was selected as a distinguished school for their work in closing the achievement gap.  Harris Bilingual, a high-poverty school, increased the percentage of NCLB proficient students in the reading and math CSAP among students eligible for free and reduced lunch from 88 percent in 2010 to 91 percent in 2011.  This resulted in decreasing the achievement gap between poverty and non-poverty students. Harris Bilingual Principal Julie Schiola attributed the school’s success to “implementing small flexible grouping to meet the diverse needs of students, standards based instruction using a dual language model, a highly trained staff and a culture of commitment to continuous improvement.”

The Title I Distinguished School Program is a joint project of the U.S. Department of Education and the National Association of State Title I Directors.  The distinguished schools will be recognized at the National Title I Conference in Seattle, Wash. in January.

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.