Who Is In Charge

Digital ed study gets panel nod

A bill that would commission a study of digital education was approved by the House Education Committee Monday.

Testing illustrationThe panel voted 13-0 to advance House Bill 12-1124 to the floor after hearing from a parade of witnesses that was unusually long for a study bill.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs and chair of House Ed. It would require the state Department of Education to hire a Colorado-based consultant to conduct a comprehensive study of digital education and report back to the State Board of Education, the governor and the legislative education committees by Jan. 31, 2013.

“I hope there’s legislation that comes out of it [the study],” Massey told Education News Colorado. (But Massey, because of term limits, won’t be in the 2013 legislature.)

If the study is approved, it would join a long list of education issues that have been studied by non-lawmakers before the legislature acted.

  • A 2006 audit of online education programs led to creation of a commission that made recommendations to the 2007 legislature, which passed a law on the issue.
  • Management and financial problems with the Cesar Chavez Charter Network led the 2010 legislature to create a committee to study improvements in charter management and authorizing. That panel’s recommendations are only now being considered as bills by the 2012 legislature.
  • The 2010 legislature also formalized the State Council for Educator Effectiveness, which made recommendations for a new teacher evaluation system to the SBE, which in turn issued rules that this year’s legislature is reviewing.

Problems with online education surfaced again last year (see this examination by EdNews and the Rocky Mountain Investigative News Network), but Massey’s interest is not in sorting out those problems. Rather, he’s interested in developing data about both online education and in-classroom use of technology to inform future policy decisions.

The study, as summarized by a legislative staff, is supposed to examine:

  • Student eligibility for and access to digital learning
  • The quality of available digital learning content and instruction
  • Funding models for digital learning that create incentives for performance
  • Other states’ experience integrating digital learning into K-12 education
  • The need for information technology infrastructure
  • Current state laws and rules concerning digital learning
  • The extent to which current school accountability measures are appropriate and sufficient
    to measure the performance of online students

Massey said in an interview that he feels a study, rather than legislative action this session, is needed because very little information and data exist now about the issue. “We have to start from ground zero.”

Some witnesses and committee members questioned the use of a consultant, rather than a committee to study the issue.

Massey told EdNews after the meeting that he feels using an outside consultant will be a more efficient way to handle the issue. The bill specifies that the study will be funded by “gifts, grants and donations,” and Massey said at least two non-profit groups have indicated interest in both funding and doing the study. The bill specifies that the consultant “cannot be a provider of digital learning or related technologies, or otherwise have a conflict of interest in conducting the study.”

Massey declined to identify possible bidders for the contract.

Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, has said he wants to introduce legislation to regulate – or change the funding of – multi-district online education programs, but he hasn’t yet detailed his intentions. He’s keeping his plans, if any, close to this vest.

Massey said Monday he doesn’t know what, if anything, Shaffer is planning.

Read the bill and check the legislative staff summary.

Another current enrollment bill

House Education also gave unanimous approval to House Bill 12-1146, which would authorize school districts and community colleges to make agreements under which certain kinds of students at high risk of dropping out could take high school-level classes at community colleges in order to receive their diplomas. They also would receive college credit for the classes. School districts would continue to receive per-pupil funding for such students and would pay their community college tuition.

The bill is needed to protect existing programs at Front Range Community College and Pueblo Community College, whose funding could be threatened by scheduled changes in overall state law on concurrent high school-community college enrollment.

But Geri Anderson, community college system provost, said other colleges are looking into such programs.

For the record

House Bill 1201001 – This is the bill to ratify the regulations for implementation of the new educator evaluation system. It received preliminary Senate approval.

House Bill 12-1072 – This measure, which would direct the higher education system to create ways for adult students to earn college credit for life experience, received preliminary House floor approval.

Senate Bill 12-051 – The bill would suggest that school boards consider the potential compatibility of outside contractors with school goals and atmosphere when hiring them. It got preliminary Senate floor approval.

meet the candidates

These candidates are running for Detroit school board. Watch them introduce themselves.

Nine candidates are vying for two seats on Detroit's school board in November. Seven submitted photos.

One candidate tells of a childhood in a house without heat.

Another describes the two-hour commute he made to high school every day to build a future that would one day enable him to give back to Detroit.

A third says her work as a student activist inspired her to run for school board as a recent high school grad.

These candidates are among nine people vying for two seats up for grabs on Detroit’s seven-member school board on Nov. 6. That includes one incumbent and many graduates of the district.

Chalkbeat is partnering with Citizen Detroit to present a school board candidate forum Thursday, Sept. 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at IBEW Local 58, 1358 Abbott St., Detroit.

Participants will have the opportunity to meet each candidate and ask questions in a speed-dating format.

In anticipation of that event, Citizen Detroit invited each of the candidates to make a short video introducing themselves to voters. Seven candidates made videos.

Watch them here:

School safety

Report lists litany of failings over police in Chicago schools

PHOTO: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Police officers stand alongside Lake Shore Drive in August as protesters decry violence and lack of investment in African-American neighborhoods and schools

The Chicago Police Department doesn’t adequately screen and train the officers it assigns to Chicago Public Schools, and their roles in schools are poorly defined, according to a sharply critical report released today by the Office of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.

The report lists a litany of failings, including basic administration: There is no current agreement between the police department and the district governing the deployment of school resource officers, or SROs, and neither the schools nor the police even have a current list of the officers working in schools this year.

The inspector general’s report also mentions several sets of SRO resources and best practices created and endorsed by the federal government, then notes that Chicago hasn’t adopted any of them. “CPD’s current lack of guidance and structure for SROs amplifies community concerns and underscores the high probability that students are unnecessarily becoming involved in the criminal justice system, despite the availability of alternate solutions,” says the report.

Chalkbeat reported in August about incidents in which SROs used batons and tasers on students while intervening in routine disciplinary matters.

Scrutiny of SROs is nothing new, and is part of the broader CPD consent decree brokered this week between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. That agreement calls for better training and vetting of SROs, as well as a clearer delineation of their roles on campuses—including a prohibition against participating in routine school discipline — beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

Read more: How the police consent decree could impact Chicago schools

But the report from Ferguson’s office says that the consent decree doesn’t go far enough. It chastises police for not pledging to include the community in the creation of its agreement with the school district, nor in the establishment of hiring guidelines; and for not creating a plan for evaluating SROs’ performance, among other recommendations. In addition, the report criticizes the police department for delaying the reforms until the 2019-20 school year. A draft of the inspector general’s report was given to the police department in early August in hopes that some of the issues could be resolved in time for the school year that began last week. The police department asked for an extension for its reply.