Who Is In Charge

Session ends and CSAP bill dies

Final roundup
CAP4K delay bill
Financial aid bill
Other action

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.

Turnaround 2.0

McQueen outlines state intervention plans for 21 Memphis schools

PHOTO: TN.gov
Candice McQueen has been Tennessee's education commissioner since 2015 and oversaw the restructure of its school improvement model in 2017.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen has identified 21 Memphis schools in need of state intervention after months of school visits and talks with top leaders in Shelby County Schools.

In its first intervention plan under the state’s new school improvement model, the Department of Education has placed American Way Middle School on track either for state takeover by the Achievement School District or conversion to a charter school by Shelby County Schools.

The state also is recommending closure of Hawkins Mill Elementary School.

And 19 other low-performing schools would stay under local control, with the state actively monitoring their progress or collaborating with the district to design improvement plans. Fourteen are already part of the Innovation Zone, the Memphis district’s highly regarded turnaround program now in its sixth year.

McQueen outlined the “intervention tracks” for all 21 Memphis schools in a Feb. 5 letter to Superintendent Dorsey Hopson that was obtained by Chalkbeat.

Almost all of the schools are expected to make this fall’s “priority list” of Tennessee’s 5 percent of lowest-performing schools. McQueen said the intervention tracks will be reassessed at that time.

McQueen’s letter offers the first look at how the state is pursuing turnaround plans under its new tiered model of school improvement, which is launching this year in response to a new federal education law.

The commissioner also sent letters outlining intervention tracks to superintendents in Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Jackson, all of which are home to priority schools.

Under its new model, Tennessee is seeking to collaborate more with local districts to develop improvement plans, instead of just taking over struggling schools and assigning them to charter operators under the oversight of the state-run Achievement School District. However, the ASD, which now oversees 29 Memphis schools, remains an intervention of last resort.

McQueen identified the following eight schools to undergo a “rigorous school improvement planning process,” in collaboration between the state and Shelby County Schools. Any resulting interventions will be led by the local district.

  • A.B. Hill Elementary
  • A. Maceo Walker Middle
  • Douglass High
  • Georgian Hills Middle
  • Grandview Heights Middle
  • Holmes Road Elementary
  • LaRose Elementary
  • Sheffield Elementary
  • Wooddale High

These next six iZone schools must work with the state “to ensure that (their) plan for intervention is appropriate based on identified need and level of evidence.”

  • Sheffield Elementary
  • Raleigh-Egypt High
  • Lucie E. Campbell Elementary
  • Melrose High
  • Sherwood Middle
  • Westwood High

The five schools below will continue their current intervention plan within the iZone and must provide progress reports to the state:

  • Hamilton High
  • Riverview Middle
  • Geeter Middle
  • Magnolia Elementary
  • Trezevant High

The school board is expected to discuss the state’s plan during its work session next Tuesday. And if early reaction from board member Stephanie Love is any indication, the discussion will be robust.

“We have what it takes to improve our schools,” Love told Chalkbeat on Friday. “I think what they need to do is let our educators do the work and not put them in the situation where they don’t know what will happen from year to year.”

Among questions expected to be raised is whether McQueen’s recommendation to close Hawkins Mill can be carried out without school board approval, since her letter says that schools on the most rigorous intervention track “will implement a specific intervention as determined by the Commissioner.”

Another question is why the state’s plan includes three schools — Douglass High, Sherwood Middle, and Lucie E. Campbell Elementary — that improved enough last year to move off of the state’s warning list of the 10 percent of lowest-performing schools.

You can read McQueen’s letter to Hopson below:

Mergers and acquisitions

In a city where many charter schools operate alone, one charter network expands

Kindergarteners at Detroit's University Prep Academy charter school on the first day of school in 2017.

One of Detroit’s largest charter school networks is about to get even bigger.

The nonprofit organization that runs the seven-school University Prep network plans to take control of another two charter schools this summer — the Henry Ford Academy: School for Creative Studies elementary and the Henry Ford Academy: School for Creative Studies middle/high school.

The move would bring the organization’s student enrollment from 3,250 to nearly 4,500. It would also make the group, Detroit 90/90, the largest non-profit charter network in the city next year — a distinction that stands out in a city when most charter schools are either freestanding schools or part of two- or three-school networks.

Combined with the fact that the city’s 90 charter schools are overseen by a dozen different charter school authorizers, Detroit’s relative dearth of larger networks means that many different people run a school sector that makes up roughly half of Detroit’s schools. That makes it difficult for schools to collaborate on things like student transportation and special education.

Some charter advocates have suggested that if the city’s charter schools were more coordinated, they could better offer those services and others that large traditional school districts are more equipped to offer — and that many students need.

The decision to add the Henry Ford schools to the Detroit 90/90 network is intended to “create financial and operational efficiencies,” said Mark Ornstein, CEO of UPrep Schools, and Deborah Parizek, executive director of the Henry Ford Learning Institute.

Those efficiencies could come in the areas of data management, human resources, or accounting — all of which Detroit 90/90 says on its website that it can help charter schools manage.

Ornstein and Parizek emphasized that students and their families are unlikely to experience changes when the merger takes effect on July 1. For example, the Henry Ford schools would remain in their current home at the A. Alfred Taubman Center in New Center and maintain their arts focus.  

“Any changes made to staff, schedule, courses, activities and the like will be the same type a family might experience year-to-year with any school,” they said in a statement.