Sept 7 Jeffco School Board meeting summary

The Jeffco School Board held its first regular meeting of the the 2017-18 school year. This was a quiet one as meetings go, but there are a few highlights we want to share:

Study Session: Strategies to Support Student Success

The study session focused on the work that had been done to improve student achievement at five different Jeffco Schools. Each of these schools had shown a marked improvement in their growth scores on the 2017 CMAS, and each principal had time to talk about the strategies their school used to produce better results.

So what works?

  • Support systems, both within the school and with outside community organizations
  • Collaboration at every level. This ranges from student learning approaches to the work done in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) where teachers, instructional coaches, interventionists, and other staff can collaborate to pinpoint the best approaches to engaging individual students.
  • Time. Staff need a structured time that supports collaboration and data-driven instruction, schools need time to implement and evaluate new approaches to learning, and time is needed to see improved results. There are no magic shortcuts.
  • Strong, stable, and consistent leadership to recognize issues and target appropriate resources to address issues and support staff and students.

Superintendent Glass has also summarized this study session discussion and his takeaways on his Advance Jeffco blog. We encourage you to read his post and thoughts about what this means for the rest of the district.

We’d also like to emphasize the collaboration theme again. It’s one we’ve heard before, back when Jeffco Schools received a $39 million, five-year Teacher Incentive Fund grant to do a strategic compensation study that compared the impact of merit pay and the impact of additional resources and collaboration.  There were three different presentations given to the Jeffco School Board as that study progressed; resources, support, and collaboration were repeatedly mentioned as the most effective elements in boosting student achievement. Some of the 2016 findings are summarized in this Denver Post article:

Data in Jefferson County’s schools also is being watched at a national level. The district is near the end of a federally funded pilot program that tested performance incentives and changes to how teachers are supported.

So far, analysis of the project shows that the supports provided to teachers — such as creating leadership opportunities, professional learning communities with coaches and a system for constructive feedback — have increased student performance. Financial incentives are not showing a strong link.

Jefferson County officials say they believe the best and fastest results will happen with both components.

Aswege, who taught at one of the schools in the pilot program, said bonuses for school or team goals didn’t remove collaboration, but she said the money is still more necessary for the coaching resources.

“When you have a healthy culture in a school, you don’t think about the pay,” Aswege said. “You don’t think about anything else but helping children.”

Why is that important? Because too often, the argument goes something along the lines of “any kid can learn in any condition, including a cardboard box, so long as they have a great teacher.”

What the data actually shows is that while great teachers make a difference, collaboration and resources for a team of great teachers makes a much bigger, school-wide difference. And then we need to give it time to work rather than rushing off in search of a different quick fix.

Superintendent’s Report

We’ve sat through a lot of superintendent’s reports over the years, but this is the first time we’ve been completely blown away. First, he had a slide presentation that summarized the various groups he’s met with and meetings he’s attended in the past few weeks. It also included a list of future events and meetings.

We are thrilled to see our superintendent out getting to know people in all parts of Jeffco so he can hear about what’s working, what’s not, and issues we need to address going forward. We’re also thrilled to see it documented, so that anyone who wants to know what our superintendent is doing can see it, too.

Don’t forget to also check out his Advance Jeffco blog, Facebook page, and Twitter feed, where he regularly posts about what he’s doing and issues that affect the education of our Jeffco students.

Ends Discussion: CMAS Spring Results

Once again, Jeffco Schools students outpaced the state on the 2017 CMAS tests–and in some cases hit new academic highs. Student growth scores also outpaced the state and often did so by an increasing margin over previous years.

Now before anyone jumps in to argue that many or most of our students are failing, etc, we’d like to remind our readers of these very important points:

  • Spring 2017 marked the third year that students took CMAS (also known as PARCC), and increasing numbers of families have chosen to opt out of testing.
  • The bar was raised with CMAS, with students being pushed to higher academic expectations. Students have been expected to meet those expectations, despite the reality that the years since 2009-10 have been marked by larger class sizes and fewer resources. Despite these challenges, student achievement continues to improve.
  • In middle and high school, the CMAS math tests students according to the math they are taking rather than their grade level, which leads to a bit of confusion. Eighth grade students who take Algebra I are counted in the algebra results rather than the “8th grade math” results, and the same is true for 7th grade students enrolled in Algebra I or 8th grade students enrolled in Geometry. “Seventh grade math” only includes those students not enrolled in algebra rather than all 7th graders, and the same is true for 8th graders. What this shows most clearly is a math divide between students who are already excelling in math (and thus taking algebra in 7th or 8th grade), and those students who were already struggling and continue to do so. We hope this allows Jeffco staff to keep working to better address struggling students and bring them up to grade level, but also want to make it clear that the 7th and 8th grade math categories only feature a subset of students.

The report also summarizes some of the elements that are pushing student achievement higher, as well as the areas that need improvement.

Also keep in mind that “churn” is a key word in understanding Jeffco’s student achievement scores in the past several years, as Chalkbeat makes clear:

Colorado has already changed math and English testing twice in the past decade, making comparing past results extremely difficult — if not impossible. Officials say it won’t be the case now because this is essentially a contract change. However, more significant test changes may need to be considered after the state’s academic standards revision process is completed in 2018.

Yes, a new set of tests (though supposedly comparable to CMAS) and yet another academic standards revision are already on the way. It seems like we barely have time to adjust to one change before another is headed our way, and that’s hardly a process that benefits our students’ learning.

Other items of note

The rest of the meeting largely consisted of policy reviews, and few of those required changes. Any policies with changes are listed on Board Docs.

Also of note: for the first time we can remember in years, no one signed up for agenda-related public comment. We found that odd, particularly because student achievement has reliably been one of the most popular topics for citizens. Only one person signed up for the non-agenda-related section as well, making for a very quiet (and quick!) meeting. Curiouser and curiouser? Quite possibly.

With that in mind, we owe our readers a post about the upcoming school board election. We’ll post that soon. Until then, we remain

JeffCo Proud!

 

Welcome Back!

We’d like to welcome everyone back to a new school year, and extend a special welcome to our new superintendent, Dr. Jason Glass.

It’s been a while since we’ve updated (summer was busy), but here’s a quick summary of some of the Jeffco Schools news:

Dr. Jason Glass

Jason Glass was approved as Jeffco’s new superintendent by a unanimous vote of the five school board members. Since he started on July 1, he’s been communicating through his Advance Jeffco blog, meeting with the community, and taking time to listen and learn about the many diverse neighborhoods, schools, families, and issues that comprise Jeffco.

We’re very excited to see him so active in the community, and appreciate that he’s taking the time to talk to a diverse assortment of families, students, community groups, and more to get an overall picture of what makes us Jeffco. Please take the time to read his blog and participate in the conversation.

Jeffco School Board Election

Ron Mitchell, Brad Rupert, and Susan Harmon kicked off their respective school board campaigns last week and are currently collecting signatures for the petition to place them on the November ballot. Today is the last day to sign – you have several options for locations and times.

For more information about any of the three, to help with their campaigns, or if you’d like to donate to their campaigns, follow this link: http://keepjeffcomovingforward.com/.

Watch for more posts in the coming weeks about how you can help with their campaigns. We’ll also post a brief summary of what the board members have accomplished since the November 2015 election.

Three Creeks opens, renovations on Rose Stein and Sierra Elementary wrap up

Three Creeks K-8 opened to students for the first time, relieving some of the overcrowding in the northwest Arvada area. The school is currently open to K-6 students and will expand to 7th and 8th graders during the next two years.

In addition, the second phase of renovations for Sierra Elementary, also located in Arvada, and renovations on Rose Stein Elementary in Lakewood also wrapped up. Stein had been closed during renovations and now reopened to PK-6 students, and Sierra Elementary’s renovations added seats for the still-growing Arvada community.

We all have an exciting school year ahead, and will continue to update you in the weeks and months ahead. As always, we are

JeffCo Proud!

Jeffco Schools Superintendent Finalist Jason Glass

It’s an exciting week in Jeffco, as the Jeffco School Board prepares to vote on superintendent finalist candidate Jason Glass.

We are very excited both that Dr. Glass, currently superintendent of Eagle County Schools, applied for the position and that he emerged as the clear finalist. JCSBW has quoted Dr Glass’ columns in the Vail Daily in the past because he speaks so articulately about the funding issues and other challenges facing public schools in Colorado. Having him right here in Jeffco is a true privilege and pleasure.

Things we’re most excited about:

  • Dr. Glass is an articulate communicator who doesn’t hesitate to reach out to students, families, and the larger community.
  • He not only understands the challenges of local and state funding, but has been actively involved in a successful mill and bond campaign in his own district last fall.
  • He has previous experience as a superintendent, having served as Eagle County’s superintendent for the past four years.
  • He has a doctorate in education.
  • Dr. Glass also brings national experience to the district, having served as Iowa’s Department of Education Director and Chief State School Officer from 2010 to 2013.
  • He was also appointed as a member of the National Board for Education Sciences board of directors in December 2016 by then-President Obama.

You can see his resume here. There have also been several articles in local newspapers that are worth checking out, including the Denver Post and the Arvada News.

We’re extremely hopeful that Dr. Glass will be able to continue writing columns for one of the local papers that serve Jeffco families. If you haven’t seen his columns, we’d encourage you to read one of his most recent columns, or this one.

The board will vote whether to approve Dr. Glass as superintendent this Tuesday, May 16. The meeting starts at 4 pm (please note the earlier time, which we also missed in our original post!). Time for public comment is scheduled to start at 4, and we encourage you to sign up and share your thoughts with the board.

We are thrilled to have such a great candidate and very pleased with the transparency with which this search was conducted. The community’s voice was used to find and select the finalist, and results from community comments and meetings, including nearly 3,900 surveys and 1,000 comments are available on the Jeffco Schools superintendent search page.

We also know much more about the search than we did three years ago. For example, we know that:

  • 825 contacts were made to potential candidates in 46 states,
  • 69 applications were received
  • 11 candidates from 9 different states were recommended for consideration
  • 6 candidates were interviewed from 6 different states (including Colorado, obviously)
  • 5 of the interviewees were currently or had been superintendents
  • Dr. Glass emerged unanimously as the strongest candidate, far surpassing the others

Tuesday is your last chance to give the board input into this extraordinarily important decision. If you can’t attend, consider emailing the board members with your thoughts.

And as always, we remain

JeffCo Proud!

Superintendent Search Update

We’re quickly coming to the end of the Board’s search for a new CEO of Jeffco Schools. The district’s Superintendent Search website shows the Jeffco School Board is still on track to announce one or more finalists the week of May 1.

What We Know So Far

On Wednesday, the hired search firm, Ray & Associates (R&A), released data about the search thus far. R&A initially contacted 825 potential candidates, representing 46 states. Sixty-nine people submitted applications, with the size and location of Jeffco attracting significant attention.

R&A evaluated and screened applicants based on the strength of their administrative experience and academic background, then focused on the qualities and criteria Jeffco wants in its next leader. The top candidates were then given a comprehensive interview by R&A  and thoroughly investigated through references, state officials, other school administrators and people who knew them.

Eleven candidates — representing Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Tennessee — qualified for additional consideration. At the end of tomorrow night’s board meeting (which begins at 5 pm), board members will hold an executive session to learn the names of and discuss these candidates. However, they also have the ability to review all applications received, not just those R&A has pre-selected. We recall from one of the community forums hosted by R&A that board members will also have a chance to view video responses from each candidate to a series of questions.

Next Steps

On April 26, board members will interview the candidates they select tomorrow night.

When asked recently about the public’s role in this process, Jeffco Chief Human Resources Officer Amy Weber said that board members and the district want a process that ensures the deepest pool of qualified candidates, and many of the potential candidates have expressed a need for confidentiality.

Other Jeffco School Board Agenda Items

Also on the Board’s agenda tomorrow night:

If you cannot attend the meeting in person, you can  watch the live stream. Videos of the meetings are also available there to view later.

JeffCo Proud!

Jeffco Superintendent Search: Our Hopes

Icon vector created by Freepik

With Jeffco’s search for a new superintendent in full swing, we wanted to share our hopes for the search process.

According to the proposed timeline, applications are due by April 10. Soon after that, we’d like to hear from the search firm Ray & Associates exactly how many applications were received.

During the week of April 20 we would like to know how many top candidates Ray & Associates are presenting to the Jeffco School Board. After that, board members will focus on finalists. We expect at least two or three. And that’s where we’d like to weigh in on possible next steps.

Remember, when Dan McMinimee was hired, he was introduced as the only finalist and our community had no way of knowing if there were other qualified candidates or how robust the search process actually was. From Day 1, the majority of those in the Jeffco community struggled to trust Jeffco Schools’ new leader because of the lack of transparency around the process.

We hope that this time, this finalist round will feel far more transparent, authentic and trustworthy.

However, there is a catch: according to Ray & Associates, many finalists do not want to have their names released to the public during this stage because it could endanger their current position. If a finalist isn’t selected for the Jeffco job, it could cause unease and distrust back in their current district.

Ideally, finalists’ names and credentials would be released and they would participate in community meetings or tele-town halls to allow stakeholders an opportunity to participate in the selection process. But if this isn’t possible — and we realize that it is also unlikely — our hope would be that Ray & Associates will present some options to the board beyond a simplistic “release the names of finalists or don’t.”

Some options include:

  1. Create a transparent and publicized panel of Jeffco stakeholders who can interview the finalists. Those participants would sign a non-disclosure agreement to keep finalists’ names confidential and would submit their recommendations and thoughts to the board to help with the final decision.
  2. Jeffco stakeholders could submit questions they’d like finalists to answer, and finalists’ answers to these questions would be shared with the community. Stakeholders would then be allowed to provide input on the selection process based on this information.
  3. A fact sheet on each candidate could be developed and presented to stakeholders so we know what experience and qualifications the finalists have without revealing who they are.
  4. Or ideally – all of the above!

We also want to call your attention to the Superintendent Search Flyer that Ray & Associates is using to advertise the position. The listed qualifications are the priorities that board members and the Jeffco community (through the online survey and several in-person meetings with various Jeffco groups) want to see in the next Jeffco Schools Superintendent:

  • Inspires trust, has high levels of self-confidence and optimism, and models high standards of integrity and personal performance.
  • Possesses the ability to enhance all student performance, especially in identifying and closing or narrowing the gaps in student achievement.
  • Is an innovative leader, skilled at using emerging research, best practices, and data to support student achievement.
  • Possesses excellent people skills, presents a positive image of the district, will listen to input, and make a decision when necessary.
  • Guides educators to implement creative, collaborative approaches to ensure students have excellent opportunities and outcomes.
  • Is able to delegate authority appropriately while maintaining accountability.
  • Has experience in the management of district resources and knowledge of sound fiscal procedures.
  • Is strongly committed to a “students first” philosophy in all decisions.
  • Has demonstrated strong leadership skills in previous positions.
  • Is a strong communicator; speaking, listening, and writing.
  • Demonstrates commitment to community visibility, with high interest in a broad range of community groups and organizations.
  • Is able to lead a large organization dedicated to goals of continuous improvement.

We simply say, “Yes!”

JeffCo Proud!