Briefs: New literacy law, campaign

Monday briefs

The Colorado READ Act, the 2012 legislature’s signature education blll, officially went into effect Sunday. July 1, the start of the state budget year, is the traditional effective date for many new laws.

The state Department of Education already is at work on the new law – applications for program executive director close later this week – but the real ramp-up comes next spring.

The State Board of Education has a March 31, 2013, deadline to adopt a definition of “significant reading deficiency” – a key part of the law – and to issue a list of approved literacy tests. CDE has to make the list of approved tests available by next April 1 and to provide advisory lists of instructional and professional development materials by July 1, 2013.

Districts and schools will be implementing the program in the 2013-14 school year. The goal of the law is for all students to be reading at grade level by the end of third grade. To achieve that, the reading abilities of K-3 students will be tested annually. Schools will have to develop individual “READ” plans for kids whose skills meet the standard of “significant reading deficiency.” Teachers and principals can recommend that lagging K-2 students be held back, although the final say will rest with parents.

For a lagging third grader, a superintendent can make the final decision to hold the student back.

The READ Act is one of the rare pieces of Colorado education reform legislation with a real budget behind it, about $21 million a year. Districts will receive extra per-pupil funding for struggling readers starting in 2013-14, and additional grants will be available for professional development costs.

Read the full text of House Bill 12-1238 here.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock was among the mayors launching the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Communities Network on Friday, announcing what organizers describe as “a national movement of local leaders, nonprofits and foundations … putting a stake in the ground on third-grade reading.”

The network includes 124 cities, counties and towns in 34 states and represents 350 school districts. Mayors from Sacramento and from Providence joined Hancock for Friday’s press event in Denver.

“We realize that we cannot have great cities without great public schools,” said Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who has pledged to make his city first in the nation to have all third graders reading on grade level.

Members of the network will have access to an online help desk, peer-learning opportunities, meetings with national experts and policymakers, and a foundation registry designed to expand and replicate successful programs, according to a press release. Learn more about the campaign.

New feature:

It’s a dead-quiet week for education events, given that the 4th falls on Wednesday. Check out our new calendar feature for upcoming events during July.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

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.