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:

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at [email protected]

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”