Who Is In Charge

State gets its NCLB waiver

Colorado was among 10 states receiving waivers from No Child Left Behind Thursday.

Education Commissioner Robert Hammond gave the news to the State Board of Education at the start of its meeting. “We believe this really strengthens our reform system,” Hammond told the board, which greeted the news with applause.

NCLB logoThe other states are Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee, according to the U.S. Department of Education (see news release).

State department officials applied for the waiver from some No Child Left Behind rules in November after getting the go-ahead on Sept. 14 from the SBE.

The key element of the waiver allows the state and school districts to use only the state system of accrediting and rating schools and districts. Districts currently are rated using both that system and the NCLB system, known as Adequate Yearly Progress. The change will go into effect for school districts in the 2012-13 school year.

The state system relies significantly on student academic growth over time and has the goal of all students being proficient by 10th grade and college and workforce ready by high school graduation. Schools on the two lowest levels of accreditation have five years to improve their performance.

The system has been in operation for two years, and CDE officials are working with the lowest-rated districts to help their improvement efforts. (Search 2011 district and school ratings here, and get additional details in this article.)

The NCLB system rates the average yearly progress of schools, focusing on annual test scores, and has the goal of all students being proficient by 2014. Only a quarter of Colorado districts made AYP last year (see story).

The Colorado application also included a request for more flexibility in using federal funds to help a broader range of struggling schools and more flexibility to use federal money for programs to improve educator effectiveness.

The U.S. Department of Education last summer announced a process through which states could seek waivers. Many state have gotten restive about NCLB requirements and about Congress’ failure to update the law.

Colorado also asked for some additional flexibility in use of federal Title I funds to help a broader number of struggling schools. Associate Commissioner Keith Owen said the state didn’t get the full flexibility it sought. He also said the normal flow of Title I funds to districts – and the requirements attached to that money – isn’t changed by the waiver.

Get more details on Colorado’s waiver bid in this EdNews story, including links to application documents.


Aurora’s superintendent will get a contract extension

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

The Aurora school board is offering superintendent Rico Munn a contract extension.

Marques Ivey, the school board president, made the announcement during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

“The board of education believes we are headed in the right direction,” Ivey said. Munn can keep the district going in the right direction, he added.

The contract extension has not been approved yet. Munn said Tuesday night that it had been sent to his lawyer, but he had not had time to review it.

Munn took the leadership position in Aurora Public Schools in 2013. His current contract is set to expire at the end of June.

Munn indicated he intends to sign the new contract after he has time to review it. If he does so, district leaders expect the contract to be on the agenda of the board’s next meeting, April 3, for a first review, and then for a vote at the following meeting.

Details about the new offer, including the length of the extension or any salary increases, have not been made public.

Four of the seven members currently on the board were elected in November as part of a union-supported slate. Many voiced disapproval of some of the superintendent’s reform strategies such as his invitation to charter school network DSST to open in Aurora.

In their first major vote as a new board, the board also voted against the superintendent’s recommendation for the turnaround of an elementary school, signaling a disagreement with the district’s turnaround strategies.

But while several Aurora schools remain low performing, last year the district earned a high enough rating from the state to avoid a path toward state action.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”