Colorado

Friday Churn: Excellence centers named

Updated 2:30 p.m. – The Department of Education this afternoon announced 32 schools have been honored as “Centers of Excellence” for the 2009-2010 school year. The award recognizes schools showing the highest rates of student growth among all schools that have at least 75 percent at-risk pupils.

Four districts had multiple schools on the list, including Denver (14), Aurora (six), Harrison (three) and Colorado Springs 11 (two). Nineteen of the schools also received the honor for 2008-09. Thirteen other schools that made the 2008-09 list didn’t repeat.

The schools, along with 14 districts recently accredited with distinction (see story), will be recognized during a 10 a.m. event next Thursday at CDE. You can get the full list of Centers of Excellence in this news release.

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

The Joint Budget Committee will hear a staff briefing on the Department of Education’s proposed 2010-11 budget from 9 a.m. to noon Friday in the third-floor committee room at the Legislative Services Building, 200 E. 14th Ave.

Outgoing Gov. Bill Ritter has proposed a very modest increase in K-12 spending but not enough to cover inflation and enrollment growth, so don’t expect a festive air. The plan proposes a $43 million increase in total program funding, which is the combined state-local effort to pay classroom operating costs. Current total program funding is a little under $5.4 billion. The state contribution next year would increase $91.2 million while the local share would drop $48.2 million because of declines in local property tax revenues.

What do all those numbers really mean? The base per-pupil funding would rise to $5,585 from $5,530, but the average per-pupil funding (the amount calculated after special forms of aid to districts are factored in) would drop by $39.57 from the current $6,822.

It’s not a pretty picture and, over on our commentary side, teacher Mark Sass writes about some effects on educators of trying to do more with less.

More uplifting a little later in the day is a groundbreaking on the Auraria campus in downtown Denver.

Metropolitan State College will break ground on its planned Student Success Building between 7th and 9th streets along Auraria Parkway during a 10:30 a.m. ceremony. The 145,000 square foot building is designed to support Metro’s programs for first-generation students and will include both classrooms and support services, plus administrative space.

It’s the first Metro-owned building on the Auraria campus and will increase the college’s classroom and administrative space by 25 percent. The $62 million cost is being paid for entirely by student fees. Opening is expected in 2013 (more information).

In case you missed it, Boulder and Douglas County school districts this week kicked off their open enrollment windows for families interested in exploring schools outside their own neighborhoods. Jefferson County and Denver start their choice windows in January.

What’s on tap:

The State Council on Educator Effectiveness meets from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday in the Hershner Room at the Wells Fargo Center, 1700 Lincoln St. (agenda). The meeting will be preceded by a 9 a.m. presentation on educator effectiveness sponsored by the Colorado Legacy Foundation. Theodore Hershberg of the University of Pennsylvania and Claire Robertson-Kraft of Operation Public Education who will discuss the framework for school reform contained in the 2009 book “A Grand Bargain for Education Reform: New Rewards and Supports for New Accountability.”

Good reads from elsewhere:

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.

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