Wednesday Churn: Dropouts drop a bit

Updated 1:45 p.m.Colorado is making some progress in reducing school dropout rates but the problem remains serious, according to a study released today.

Citing the impact of initiatives undertaken in the last three years, including a 2009 dropout prevention and student re-engagement law, the report said the state’s dropout rate for students in grades 7 to 12 declined in the last three years from 4.4 percent to 3.6 percent. That equals about 3,000 fewer students dropping out. About 15,000 Colorado students dropped out in 2008-09.

The report, by the Colorado Children’s Campaign and the Donnell-Kay Foundation, also reported that Colorado “has more dropouts than 37 other states, including some with a significantly higher number of high school students.”

The study suggests a number of best practices for schools and policy changes, including raising the mandatory school attendance age to 18 and changing the way the state tabulates school enrollments to provide districts with more incentive to keep kids in school. Read the full report here.

The state report comes on the heels of a new national study by the America’s Promise Alliance and two other groups. That report found the national graduation rate increased from about 72 percent in 2002 to 75 percent in 2008 but that “American continues to face a dropout epidemic.” More information on that report here.

The Colorado Legacy Foundation has received $1.9 million in grants from four foundations to help fund educator effectiveness efforts at the Colorado Department of Education and in school districts.

Part of the funding will be used to pay staff and support the work of the State Council on Educator Effectiveness, which is developing definitions of teacher and principal effectiveness and recommendations for implementing other parts of the new educator effectiveness law. The council began work last March but got off to a slow start because of lack of staff resources and other reasons.

The grants include $1.75 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, $51,000 from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, $70,000 from the Denver-based Daniels Fund and $30,000 from the Donnell-Kay Foundation, which also is locally based (more details in news release).

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

Gov. Bill Ritter and his successor, Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper, are making the education rounds today – at both ends of the K-12 spectrum.

Ritter will join Aurora Public Schools Superintendent John Barry at 9:30 a.m. to introduce the Community Workforce Planning Team, a partnership between the district and more than 30 community groups aimed at creating P-20 academic and career pathways.

The effort is an attempt to eliminate the oft-talked-about Colorado Paradox – the fact that the state has one of the highest percentage of adults with college degrees yet ranks near the bottom of high school graduates going on to college.

Improving P-20 routes – or preschool-to-college – has been a key plank of Ritter’s education efforts as governor. Aurora’s P-20 partnership is a cornerstone of the district’s VISTA 2015 strategic plan. This morning’s event is at 15771 East 1st Ave.

A little later in the day, Hickenlooper will be keynote speaker at the second annual Colorado Business Luncheon on Early Childhood Investments.

Denver’s mayor will be unveiling an early childhood development toolkit for employers, billed as “an online resource that provides the business sector with the resources and knowledge needed to be part of the solution to enhance Colorado’s early childhood environment.”

The luncheon is sponsored by Executives Partnering to Invest in Children or EPIC, a coalition of businesses, nonprofits and foundations advocating investment in early childhood from birth to age 8. It’s at the Grand Hyatt Denver ballroom from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

As mayor, Hickenlooper helped win passage of a sales tax increase funding the Denver Preschool Program for the city’s 4-year-olds.

What’s on tap:

The Metro State trustees meet from 7:30 a.m. to noon in the Tivoli Student Center at the Auraria campus, room 320. The first part of the meeting will be an executive session of the presidential evaluation committee. Here’s the agenda.

Adams 12 Five Star school board members meet in work session at 5 p.m. and start their regular board meeting at 6:30 p.m. Location is the Aspen Room at district headquarters, 1500 E. 128th Ave. in Thornton. The agenda is here.

Good reads from elsewhere:

defensor escolar

Memphis parent advocacy group trains first Spanish-speaking cohort

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Manuela Martinez (center left) and Lidia Sauceda (center right) are among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship.

Manuela Martinez doesn’t want Spanish-speaking families to get lost in the fast-changing education landscape in Memphis as the city’s Hispanic population continues to grow.

The mother of two students is among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship, a program that trains parents on local education issues.

“We want to be more informed,” said Martinez, whose children attend Shelby County Schools. “I didn’t know I had much of voice or could change things at my child’s school. But I’m learning a lot about schools in Memphis, and how I can be a bigger part.”

More than 200 Memphians have gone through the 10-week fellowship program since the parent advocacy group launched two years ago. The vast majority have been African-Americans.

The first Spanish-speaking cohort is completing a five-week program this month and marks a concerted effort to bridge racial barriers, said Sarah Carpenter, the organization’s executive director.

“Our mission is to make the powerless parent powerful …,” she said.

The city’s mostly black public schools have experienced a steady growth in Hispanic students since 1992 when only 286 attended the former Memphis City Schools. In 2015, the consolidated Shelby County Schools had 13,816 Hispanic children and teens, or 12.3 percent of the student population.

Lidia Sauceda came to Memphis from Mexico as a child; now she has two children who attend Shelby County Schools. Through Memphis Lift, she is learning about how to navigate Tennessee’s largest district in behalf of her family.

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Hispanic parents attend a training with the Memphis Lift fellowship program.

“Latinos are afraid of talking, of standing up,” Sauceda said. “They’re so afraid they’re not going to be heard because of their legal status. But I will recommend this (fellowship) to parents. How do we want our kids to have a better education if we can’t dedicate time?”

The training includes lessons on local school options, how to speak publicly at a school board meeting, and how to advocate for your children if you believe they are being treated unfairly.

The first fellowship was led by Ian Buchanan, former director of community partnership for the state-run Achievement School District. Now the program is taught in-house, and the Spanish-speaking class is being led this month by Carmelita Hernandez, an alumna.

“No matter what language we speak, we want a high-quality education for our kids just like any other parent,” Hernandez said. “A good education leads to better opportunities.”

Stopping summer slide

On National Summer Learning Day, Memphis takes stock of programs for kids

PHOTO: Helen Carefoot
Torrence Echols, a rising first-grader in Memphis, builds a tower with giant legos at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on National Summer Learning Day.

When it comes to summer learning, it’s been a better year for Memphis, where a range of new programs have helped to stem learning loss that hits hard in communities with a high number of low-income students.

On Thursday, Mayor Jim Strickland celebrated that work in conjunction with National Summer Learning Day and against the backdrop of the children’s reading room of the city’s main library.

He estimated that 10,000 children and teens are being reached this summer through learning programs spearheaded through Shelby County Schools, Literacy Mid-South, Memphis Public Libraries, churches and nonprofit organizations across the community.

That’s a record-breaking number, Strickland says, in a city with a lot of students struggling to meet state and local reading targets.

Summer learning loss, also known as summer slide, is the tendency for students to lose some of the knowledge and skills they gained during the school year. It’s a large contributor to the achievement gap, since children from low-income families usually don’t get the same summer enrichment opportunities as their more affluent peers. Compounded year after year, the gap widens to the point that, by fifth grade, many students can be up to three years behind in math and reading.

But this summer for the first time, Shelby County Schools offered summer learning academies across the city for students most in need of intervention. And Memphis also received a slice of an $8.5 million state grant to provide summer literacy camps at nine Memphis schools through Tennessee’s Read to be Ready initiative.

Literacy Mid-South used Thursday’s event to encourage Memphians to “drop everything and read!”

The nonprofit, which is providing resources this summer through about 15 organizations in Greater Memphis, is challenging students to log 1,400 minutes of summertime reading, an amount that research shows can mitigate learning loss and even increase test scores.

Reading is a problem for many students in Memphis and across Tennessee. Less than a third of third-graders in Shelby County Schools read on grade level, and the district is working to boost that rate to 90 percent by 2025 under its Destination 2025 plan.

The city of Memphis, which does not fund local schools, has made Memphis Public Libraries the focal point of its education work. This summer, the library is offering programs on everything from STEM and robotics to art and test prep.

Parents are a critical component, helping their kids to take advantage of books, programs and services that counter the doldrums of summer learning.

Soon after the mayor left the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on Thursday, Tammy Echols arrived with her son, Torrence, a rising first-grader at Levi Elementary School. Echols said they visit regularly to read books and do computer and math games.

“We always do a lot of reading and we’re working on learning sight words,” Echols said as she watched her son build a tower out of giant Lego blocks. “Torrence is a learning child and it’s easy to forget what you just learned if you’re not constantly reinforcing.”

You can find summer learning resources for families from the National Summer Learning Association.