Who Is In Charge

Session ends and CSAP bill dies

The Colorado legislature ended its 2010 regular session early Wednesday evening with the usual mix of chaos, frivolity, backslapping and hurried meetings, and with the usual dead bills.

There are always a few measures that die on the last day of the session because of House-Senate differences. Last year higher education flexibility legislation died on the last day; this year it was House Bill 10-1430, the CSAP bill.

What many thought in January would be a measure designed to clarify and expand on the testing changes mandated by the 2008 Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids turned out to be something quite different when introduced in the House on April 29.

Colorado CapitolThe version by Rep. Judy Solano, D-Brighton, proposed to phase out high school CSAP tests starting next year and replace them college-and-workforce readiness assessments. The bill also would have shifted the responsibility for writing tests from the state to school districts. Some legislators, agencies and interest groups privately felt Solano had sidestepped them to continue her years-long anti-CSAP crusade.

The House passed her bill overwhelmingly. The Senate Education Committee returned the bill to its original pre-introduction version, and senators passed that 21-14 and sent it back to the House on the session’s last afternoon Wednesday.

Solano and the House requested a conference committee; the Senate declined. So, late in the day, Solano called on the House to stick to its version. That killed the bill.

Debate on CAP4K delay bill takes lively turn

The Senate voted 22-13 final approval for a little-discussed bill that pushes back some CAP4K deadlines, but there still was some lively debate on House Bill 10-1013 Wednesday afternoon.

On preliminary consideration Tuesday Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, slipped on an amendment that requires a certain district budget report be posted on district websites. (The original purpose of the bill was to clean up various school finance details in state law.)

That budget report, which goes by the name of CDE-18, has been a minor point of contention because the only organization that reportedly uses it is the Colorado Education Association. School districts and the Colorado Department of Education wanted to eliminate it; conservative Republicans have used the issue as an excuse for a little union bashing.

After a fight, the CDE-18 report was eliminated in another bill.

Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, on Friday objected to Romer’s maneuver. But, his attempt to extract CDE-18 from the bill was defeated by Democrats, some of whom voted against the CEA on the much bigger issue of educator effectiveness.

The most important part of the bill, the CAP4K delays, have been little noticed or discussed. The bill slips the upcoming Dec. 15 for adoption of a new state testing system “until financially practicable.”

Scholarship bill passes

Both houses Wednesday also approved House Bill 10-1428, which will transfer $15 million from the pending sale of a CollegeInvest loan portfolio to state financial aid for college students.

News of the pending sale broke late in the legislative session and offered lawmakers a rare chunk of unclaimed money to plug into higher education.

Romer on Tuesday night tried to tap $5 million for teacher professional development – seen as a sop to the CEA – but the Senate turned that idea down.

There was a brief flap Wednesday over minor House-Senate differences, but House sponsor Rep. Karen Middleton, D-Aurora, and the House backed down to avoid the measure experiencing the same fate as the CSAP bill.

In other action

Two low-profile but important charter school bills are headed to the governor after the House accepted Senate amendments and re-passed House Bills 10-1345 and 1412 Wednesday morning. The first would create a method for the state to intervene with charter schools in emergencies; the second creates a commission that will develop and recommend operational standards for both charter schools and for authorizers. HB 10-1345 was re-passed 62-3, and the HB 10-1412 vote was 64-1.

The House also already has accepted Senate amendments and voted 65-0 the re-pass House Bill 10-1274, the two-years-in-the-making measure that requires notification of schools when students are to return from treatment centers.

Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to bill texts, status information and a listing of all the education bills that were killed this year.

Final roundup
CAP4K delay bill
Financial aid bill
Other action

newark notes

In Newark, a study about school changes rings true — and raises questions — for people who lived them

PHOTO: Naomi Nix
Park Elementary principal Sylvia Esteves.

A few years ago, Park Elementary School Principal Sylvia Esteves found herself fielding questions from angst-ridden parents and teachers.

Park was expecting an influx of new students because Newark’s new enrollment system allowed parents to choose a K-8 school for their child outside of their neighborhood. That enrollment overhaul was one of many reforms education leaders have made to Newark Public Schools since 2011 in an effort to expand school choice and raise student achievement.

“What’s it going to mean for overcrowding? Will our classes get so large that we won’t have the kind of success for our students that we want to have?” Esteves recalls educators and families asking.

Park’s enrollment did grow, by about 200 students, and class sizes swelled along with it, Esteves said. But for the last two years, the share of students passing state math and English tests has risen, too.

Esteves was one of several Newark principals, teachers, and parents who told Chalkbeat they are not surprised about the results of a recent study that found test scores dropped sharply in the years immediately following the changes but then bounced back. By 2016, it found Newark students were making greater gains on English tests than they were in 2011.

Funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and conducted by Harvard researchers, the study also found the reforms had no impact on student math scores.

And while many Newark families and school leaders agree with the study’s conclusion — that students are making more progress now — they had very different ideas about what may have caused the initial declines, and why English growth was more obvious than math.

Supported by $200 million in private philanthropy, former superintendent Cami Anderson and other New Jersey officials in 2011 sought to make significant changes to the education landscape in Newark, where one third of more than 50,000 students attend privately managed charter schools. Their headline-grabbing reforms included a new teachers union contract with merit-based bonuses; the universal enrollment system; closing some schools; expanding charter schools; hiring new principals; requiring some teachers to reapply for their jobs; and lengthening the day at some struggling schools.

Brad Haggerty, the district’s chief academic officer, said the initial drop in student performance coincided with the district’s introduction of a host of changes: new training materials, evaluations, and curricula aligned to the Common Core standards but not yet assessed by the state’s annual test. That was initially a lot for educators to handle at once, he said, but teacher have adjusted to the changes and new standards.

“Over time our teaching cadre, our faculty across the entire district got stronger,” said Haggerty, who arrived as a special assistant to the superintendent in 2011.

But some in Newark think the district’s changes have had longer-lasting negative consequences.

“We’ve had a lot of casualties. We lost great administrators, teachers,” said Bashir Akinyele, a Weequahic High School history teacher. “There have been some improvements but there were so many costs.”

Those costs included the loss of veteran teachers who were driven out by officials’ attempts to change teacher evaluations and make changes to schools’ personnel at the same time, according to Sheila Montague, a former school board candidate who spent two decades teaching in Newark Public Schools before losing her position during the changes.

“You started to see experienced, veteran teachers disappearing,” said Montague, who left the school system after being placed in the district’s pool of educators without a job in a school. “In many instances, there were substitute teachers in the room. Of course, the delivery of instruction wasn’t going to even be comparable.”

The district said it retains about 95 percent of its highly-rated teachers.

As for why the study found that Newark’s schools were seeing more success improving English skills than math, it’s a pattern that Esteves, the Park Elementary principal, says she saw firsthand.

While the share of students who passed the state English exam at Park rose 13 percentage points between the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years, the share of students who were proficient in math only rose 3 percentage points in that time frame.

“[Math is] where we felt we were creeping up every year, but not having a really strong year,” she said. “I felt like there was something missing in what we were doing that could really propel the children forward.”

To improve Park students’ math skills, Esteves asked teachers to assign “math exemplars,” twice-a-month assignments that probed students’ understanding of concepts. Last year, Park’s passing rate on the state math test jumped 12 percentage points, to 48 percent.

While Newark students have made progress, families and school leaders said they want to the district to make even more gains.

Test scores in Newark “have improved, but they are still not where they are supposed to be,” said Demetrisha Barnes, whose niece attends KIPP Seek Academy. “Are they on grade level? No.”

Chalkbeat is expanding to Newark, and we’re looking for a reporter to lead our efforts there. Think it should be you? Apply here.  

Who Is In Charge

Indianapolis Public Schools board gives superintendent Ferebee raise, bonus

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is getting a $4,701 raise and a bonus of $28,000.

The board voted unanimously to approve both. The raise is a 2.24 percent salary increase. It is retroactive to July 1, 2017. Ferebee’s total pay this year, including the bonus, retirement contributions and a stipend for a car, will be $286,769. Even though the bonus was paid this year, it is based on his performance last school year.

The board approved a new contract Tuesday that includes a raise for teachers.

The bonus is 80 percent of the total — $35,000 — he could have received under his contract. It is based on goals agreed to by the superintendent and the board.

These are performance criteria used to determine the superintendent’s bonus are below: