4.15.15 New changes to BOE retreat speakers

cipherIn our last post, a Jeffco parent questioned why GOP Chair Steve House had been tapped to speak about innovation in education at a JeffCo School Board retreat this Thursday. We had the same question.

On Monday, Colorado Pols reported that House had withdrawn from the retreat.

But in true board majority spirit, new speakers have been added since Monday. In addition to the already-scheduled speakers, Tony Lewis and Scott Fast, three others have been added:

Michael Cushman, senior fellow, DaVinci Institute
John Evans, Ph.D., J.D., executive director, School Leaders for Colorado
Tammy Thorn, School Leaders for Colorado

School Leaders for Colorado is an alternative licensure program for principals. One new initiative they are touting is “Troops to Principals,” which they describe as a principal leadership training program former members of the Armed Forces of the United States. “Potential candidates may hold the rank of colonel, lieutenant colonel, or master sergeant with thirty to thirty-five years of military experience. They may come from the National Guard or the Reserve. They may be recently retired or have working experience in other careers. Their military experience has taught them one important thing—leadership.” Even better, they can complete the program in just 9 months!

Their presentation for the board is here.

A reader also inquired about Scott Fast’s education qualifications. Here’s what we do know. Fast has an education blog, and is a nationalist strategist for innovateducate. Rumor also has it that the Accenture Foundation, of which he is a retired executive director is a major contributor to the KIPP charter schools. He provided this document to the board as “pre-meeting reading.”

Never a dull moment here folks!

The meeting will be streamed, or you can attend it live in the Education Center board room in Golden.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

4.11.15 When did Steve House become an education expert?

 In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made school boards.

― Mark Twain, Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World

A JeffCo parent shared this letter to the Jeffco School Board majority members with JCSBW about the fact that Steve House, the new Colorado Republican Chair, is on the board retreat agenda under the item “Guest Panel on Innovative/Creative Practices in Public Education.”

If your memory needs a refresher, the board retreat is being convened because Julie Williams said she wanted to hear about innovations in education before she could approve spending millions of dollars to build any new schools.  We’ll let the letter explain more:

Dear John, Julie and Ken,

I just received the email from Helen Neal with the link to the agenda for the Board Retreat next Thursday. I am disheartened and disappointed that Steve House remains on your Retreat Guest Panel on Innovative/Creative Practices in Public Education. On the agenda, Mr. House is listed as the Chairman of the Colorado Republican Party. I see nothing that would even remotely connect him to education in his professional role. I even looked over his profile on LinkedIn. Here it is:

 
Summary
PROFESSIONAL:
 
Lead a team with responsibility for technology evolution for developing ACO’s, CIN’s, and some MSSP’s.
Worked on HIE Sustainability models.
Working knowledge of Big Data, Analytics, and Business intelligence platforms and outcomes.
Worked on TeleHealth and patient engagement strategies.
Consulting work on many different IT and strategy projects.
Well studied in healthcare reform.
Familiar with product lines from most major IT vendors in healthcare.
10 years in Imaging involving Radiology, Cardiology, Nuclear, and Oncology.
 
PERSONAL:
Adams County Republican Party Chairman
Published author for Beauty and the Business 2010
Senate Aid in Colorado Budget Committee.
Graduate of the Leadership Program of the Rockies 2010
Graduate of the class of 2012 in The School of Persuasion
Award winning toastmaster
 
Nowhere in his “experience” does his list anything even remotely connected to education. Nor does education appear in the 50 skills he has listed.
 
Could you please explain to me (and the myriad other taxpayers who are concerned at this line-up of “innovation experts”) what Steve House has to do with education innovation? Why are you wasting taxpayer time and money on this farce? Consider the district staff who must attend your meetings. Why are you wasting their time? From what I can tell, I have more education expertise than Mr. House. What I don’t have, however, is a “certificate” from the Leadership Program of the Rockies. It seems that’s all it takes to make it in Jeffco these days. From our communications director to a guest panel on education innovation – educational expertise is no longer required to guide our school district, just participating in a right-wing organization one of whose main goals is to destroy public education.
 
We live in an amazing county, state and country – surely there are ACTUAL experts on education innovation that could provide useful information to the Board of Ed and the district. Mr. House has no credentials to be participating in the panel, and the three of you, in supporting his participation, are an embarrassment to public education. For people who rely so heavily on data, I can see none to support his role on the panel.
 
I strongly urge you to remove him from the panel on education innovation – his participation makes a mockery of the Board of Ed of Jeffco.
 
-Wendy R McCord

From the April 16 agenda:

PURPOSE: For the Board of Education to hear about innovative/creative ideas in public education from invited guests.

BACKGROUND: The Board discussed having a retreat focused on innovation and creativity in the delivery of public education.  The guest panel is the second of a two-panel discussion set.

Each speaker will provide at least a 15-minute presentation on his thoughts regarding innovation in public education, leaving an hour for discussion with the Board of Education.

 

The other two presenters on this panel are Tony Lewis, executive director of the Donnell-Kay Foundation, and Scott Fast, parent, Columbine High School, retired executive director, Accenture Foundation. The meeting also includes an agenda item for innovation within Jeffco Schools — an item that is only there because Lesley Dahlkemper insisted that it was important to hear and recognize that innovation is already happening right here in Jeffco.

The retreat starts at 5:30 pm this Thursday, April 16 in the board room. It will be streamed: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310.

This is a meeting well worth attending or at the very last, watching. Why IS Steve House on the panel? Why did the board majority keep him on the agenda even after Jill Fellman and Lesley Dahlkemper questioned his complete and utter lack of educational experience whatsoever? And what on earth will he say in his presentation? Will it relate at all to whether NW Arvada and the Solterra area are able to build schools to accommodate their new development?

Keep watching, keep fighting JeffCo!


 

4.2.15 BOE meeting preview

writers_forum

Don’t miss these exciting discussions at the BOE meeting on Thursday April 2nd.

Strategic Compensation – This is a report back to the board about how strategic compensation, which went to 20 trial schools as part of a special grant program, have performed.  Does extra money make a difference for student performance, or teacher performance?  Find out, at least as regards these schools.  By the way, this grant, has NO relevance to compensation negotiations because the amount of money needed to roll this out to all schools simply does not exist.  $39M over 5 years to 20 schools means almost $60M per year across our 150 schools, per year.  On the positive side, here are the take away findings from the report.

Research findings from 2014 analysis found:

– Higher levels of implementation of quality practices were associated with higher levels of student growth.

– High-implementing schools outperformed low-implementing schools:

• in reading by 1 percent

• in writing by 5 percent

• in mathematics by 15 percent

The Consent Agenda is long, and covers many, many contracts being awarded from behind the scenes computer support, to security and safety.  This author made no attempt to read them all, but you can though here.

Budget Survey Results – The biggest item of the night that is completely relevant for all citizens of Jeffco is the outcomes of the budget surveys and public meetings.  Top priorities for one time money was Facilities/Capital and Reserves.  For ongoing money it was Compensation Increases and Facilities/Capital.  It is worth noting that the community really started getting outraged in 2014 when a similar survey was ignored, and the board pushed for its Charter Funding Equalization.  Will they listen this time?

The main outcome of the survey questions for priorities are:

Question #1: Operating Needs – Top 3

Competitive employee compensation (58 percent)

Targeted focus on improving early literacy (39 percent)

Increase staff (37 percent)

Question #2: Capital Needs

Maintenance of existing facilities (59 percent)

Question #3: Percentage of Funding

50/50 split between operating and capital (40 percent)

Question #4: High Growth

Recommend redrawing boundaries (35 percent)

Of course there are many, many other questions that were asked, and answered in this presentation.  Hear them firsthand at the board meeting, or read more here.

Budget requests from staff are also out.  With regards to compensation, there are some modest increases,  such as a proposal of a 1% increase for most employees.  The pool of money to negotiate increases is quite small, and charter schools are getting a very small increase of almost 0.1%.  Some highlights are here:

  • PERA increase – Supplemental Amortization Equalization Disbursement (SAED) inc .50% $ 2,025,000
  • Affordable Care Act (ACA) additional benefits $ 3,000,000
  • 1% Compensation increase $ 5,200,000
  • Compensation increase for targeted employees $ 1,152,000
  • Substitute teacher pay changes $ 763,000
  • Subtotal employee compensation package increase $ 12,140,000

Or, read the whole presentation, or better yet, come to the board meeting! Or attempt to watch the the live stream, assuming it doesn’t freeze, lose the sound or otherwise malfunction as has happened to several of our viewers. The study session begins at 5:30 and the regular board meeting at 6:30.

On the Discussion Agenda are four items that may be of interest to our readers.  They include:

  • Legislative update
  • Outdoor Lab
  • Boundary modification for Stober and Vivian Elementary
  • Declaration of Surplus Property on Green Mountain

Click this link to found out more.

As always, keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

3.29.15 Teacher Licensure Matters

Your Childs Education

A “Highly Effective Educator” in every classroom. That is the term that JeffCo Schools and the Jefferson County Education Association use to specify the kind of teacher they want in every classroom in JeffCo. But what that means seems to be up for debate, and a few more questions were raised when the board majority heard an explanation of teacher licensure after adding the topic as an agenda item for the Feb. 19 study session.

First of all, teacher licensure is a state function, not a county function. The state sets requirements, manages the applications, and the renewals. What a person needs to be licensed for a given position is set at the state level and not by the county (or district). The requirements vary by position. Most teaching positions require only a bachelors degree, in the content area of interest, but then things get complicated. A degree in education or “alternative licensure” paths are both allowed. Some state colleges and universities offer a second bachelors degree in education, for example, and a person with a BA in education can count that toward their license. Teachers who follow that path obtain the “800 contact hours,” spend time in a classroom, and learn the basic ropes. Details of such a program at the University of Colorado Boulder are found here.

Similar situations exist for alternative licensure. One slight but perhaps important distinction is that you can get endorsement in only one area for alternative licensure. So, for example, a person could not get licensed to teach both math and science. This may make hiring of teachers with alternative licensure less flexible.

With the new Board Majority, perhaps the biggest potential pitfall around licensing is the additional funding they are sending to charter schools. Charter schools can hire teachers based on their own criteria and may not even require a teacher to hold a license in Colorado. All they have to do is request a waiver from CDE, and requesting a licensure waiver is considered a “standard waiver.” Here is an example from a recent application. All proposed Jeffco charter schools have to apply to the state, and all ask for these waivers as a matter of course. Mountain Phoenix, an existing charter school, has done so. This equals more Jeffco funding potentially going to more teachers who are not licensed. But what about those “highly qualified” teachers?

To be declared as “highly qualified” in Colorado is also a state level distinction, but it is dictated by “No Child Left Behind” and other Federal guidelines. You can see some of the gory details here. To be declared “highly qualified” one needs to:

  • hold a bachelor degree or higher
  • maintain a teaching license
  • demonstrate mastery in their content area

In 2012-2013, 99.49% of classrooms in Colorado had a highly qualified teacher according to these criteria.

Now “highly qualified”, as a legal term is defined, but “highly effective” is where there is more nuance. This is part of Senate Bill 191. If you want a good bedtime read, here is a link to the final SB 191 rules.

It is interesting to crawl through this document, however, because it is completely silent on the difference between effective and highly effective. Furthermore, Jeffco’s pay plan is predicated on a pay bump for highly effective teachers relative to effective teachers. The district will literally bankrupt itself if it meets its goal of having a highly effective teacher in every classroom. It may be an admirable goal, but, if there is pay for performance, then it is an unviable approach.

A different approach, and one supported by JCEA and district staff (though maybe not by Mr. Witt) is to pay for advanced degrees. Most subject areas do not require a master’s degree (or higher) to teach or be in a given position but other jobs require an advanced degree. Speech pathologists and social workers require a master’s degree in order to practice. In addition, any high school teacher who teaches a concurrent enrollment class (in which students receive both high school and college credit), must have a master’s degree.

The district staff presented a plan at the March 5 meeting that included a bump in base salary for master’s degrees. Jeffco was compared to other local districts that do compensate master’s degrees. For Jeffco to remain competitive and be able to hire the best, most qualified candidates, it was suggested that teachers with master’s degrees receive more pay. There is data that suggests this practice improves student performance at the high school level and for minorities, and data that refutes this — sometimes in the same report.

So in summary, while teacher licensure, a state function helps guarantee that each child has a highly qualified teacher, and SB-191 purports to work toward each classroom having a highly effective teacher, the devil truly is in the details. If every teacher was rated highly effective, then the district could not afford it. A population as large as Jeffco’s teacher population guarantees a distribution of performance. The district should hire the best, nurture them, work with them to have a quality workplace, and pay them a salary commensurate with their skill and effectiveness.

Keep watching, keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

Students With Power

A few months ago, WNW crossed a new line by suggesting that our district’s AP US History curriculum should change. Essentially, WNW insinuated that our students are not to be trusted with learning about some of America’s most influential leaders because they could be labeled as dissenters. Many of us had a bad taste in our mouths as we realized that what WNW would like to see is graduates who are followers and don’t question or challenge status quo, and who don’t look for opportunities to advocate to make our country a better place.

Thank goodness our amazing students know they deserve a top notch education. Thank goodness our students realize that they have loud, essential, and thoughtful voices. I am proud to be a parent in a district where our students organized a justified protest. I could imagine many of our country’s greatest leaders– from Jane Adams to Dr. Martin Luther King — tipping their hats to our students.

Last week, Chalkbeat hosted an event called Rising Up: Voices from Colorado’s Emerging Student Protest Movement for student activists from four Colorado school districts. JCSBW would like to thank our Jeffco reps from the Jeffco Student Network for Change. They did a phenomenal job demonstrating that the students of Jefferson County have been given a useful and powerful education.

Last weekend, the group also organized a public meeting with the Jeffco School Board to discuss concerns.

As a parent who refuses to be anything other than hopeful for the future of our students and our school district, the power for change clearly lies in the hands of our students.

I would like to encourage our students to keep their momentum going and offer any help our students need to be informed and influential. I would like to challenge WNW to look our students in the face and ask their opinion before trying to pull their education out from under them.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!