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:

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.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.