Colorado

Thursday Churn: Amnesty collections up

Updated 4:50 p.m. – A rush of last-minute payments have raised the revenue collected from a state tax amnesty to near projected levels, meaning a state school fund will gain expected levels of revenue.

Department of Revenue officials reported this afternoon that about $10 million has been collected from the Oct. 1-Nov. 15 amnesty.

As of Nov. 16 only about $2.34 million had been collected, and one legislator called the effort a failure. Department spokesman Mark Couch said today that a flurry of payments starting Nov. 17 have brought the total up significantly.

Because participating delinquent taxpayers have until Dec. 31 to pay up, Couch said department officials think the total could reach about $16 million. But, Couch said, “In all likelihood, it will be an amount less than that.”

The bill was among several ideas kicked around by Democratic lawmakers last spring to raise extra funding for schools. Statehouse wags referred to the effort as “looking for spare change in the sofa cushions.”

A legislative staff fiscal analysis predicted the amnesty would bring in $12.6 million, of which $9.7 million would go to the State Education Fund, an account used to supplement state K-12 aid, which totals more than $3 billion a year.

Updated 1 p.m. – The trustees of Metropolitan State College of Denver today delayed a decision on a proposed new name, instead agreeing to four principles they believe should govern the choice of a new name.

Chair Rob Cohen told the trustees they’d probably hold a special meeting in the next 30-45 days “to actually pick a name.”

A proposed new name would have to be approved by the legislature, which convenes on Jan. 11 for the 2012 session.

The meeting was the latest step in what has been a frustrating process for Metro. Last spring the trustees proposed Denver State University but later withdrew the idea from legislative consideration after concerns were raised by the private University of Denver. (Get more information about DU’s issues in this recent story by our partner 9News.)

The college took up the issue again last summer, working with a consultant that surveyed constituency groups about four possible names: Denver Metropolitan State University, Metropolitan Denver State University, Denver State Metropolitan University and Metropolitan State University of Denver.

The trustees apparently decided not to choose a specific name after a closed-door briefing with lawyers.

The principles the trustees agreed to are that the name should include “university” and “metropolitan,” should include “Denver” as the first or second word and should be framed to minimize the possibility of lawsuits challenging it.

Cohen said those principles are most closely matched the names Denver Metropolitan State University and Metropolitan Denver State University.

He noted that surveys found strong support for Metropolitan State University of Denver and that student leaders still support Denver State University.

President Steve Jordan and the college’s Strategic Name Initiative Committee are to continue working on the issue.

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

A new U.S. Department of Education study finds a significant percentage of Title I schools around the nation aren’t getting the same levels of state and local funding as non-Title I schools in the same districts.

Title I is a 46-year-old portion of federal education law that provides extra funding to schools with high percentages of low-income students. The funding is supposed to supplement, not be used in place of, state and local financial support.

But the DOE study found that 46 percent of Title I elementary schools had per-pupil state and local spending on staff below the average for non–Title I elementary schools in their district. The figures were 42 percent for middle schools and 45 percent for high schools.

The report did not break out percentages by state, so there’s no overall information on where Colorado stands compared to other states. DOE did provide a district-by-district spreadsheet. EdNews reviewed the numbers for the state’s largest districts and found spending per-student on salaries was higher in Title I schools than in non-Title schools in both Jefferson County and Denver. For example, Jeffco averaged $4,050 per-student on personnel in its 23 Title I schools compared to $3,762 in its 132 non-Title schools. Denver averaged $3,429 on staff at its 92 Title I schools versus $3,422 at its 47 non-Title schools.

In Cherry Creek and Adams 12, non-Title schools averaged higher spending on staff than Title I schools. Cherry Creek’s 11 Title I schools averaged $4,093 per student on staffing versus $4,099 at 45 non-Title schools. Adams 12’s 13 Title I schools averaged $3,150 per-pupil spending on staff compared to $3,464 at 36 non-Title schools. Douglas County, the state’s third largest district and one of its most affluent, does not receive federal Title I funding.

Statewide, Colorado’s 603 Title I schools averaged $3,605 per-student on staffing compared to the $3,758 per-pupil on staffing spent at the state’s 965 non-Title schools.

Per-pupil spending on staff actually isn’t the standard currently used to determine if districts are funding Title I schools properly. According to officials at the Colorado Department of Education, current federal regulations require that Title I and non-Title I schools have similar teacher-student ratios. If a school can’t meet that standard, there are alternate measures that can be used, including per-pupil spending on staff salaries.

Federal DOE officials and some lawmakers such as U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., think the regulations should be changed to use the per-pupil spending measure.

Title I, from eligibility to funding, is a head-hurting, complicated subject. Alyson Klein, a reporter for our partner Education Week, has a good explanation of the study and the broader issue – read it here.

Improving teacher quality by giving teachers access to professional development and college coursework is the focus of a new federal grant program. The effort, which will tap $680,000 in grants for Colorado, is designed to improve partnerships between institutions of higher education and school districts.

Targeted school districts include Denver Public Schools, Greeley District 6 and five rural BOCES or Boards of Cooperative Educational Services, which provide services such as special education to districts. Both districts and the five BOCES failed to meet federal guidelines for qualified teachers and annual student progress for three consecutive years under the federal government’s accountability system.

Projects at Colorado colleges and universities to receive grant funding include:

  • The University of Denver’s Morgridge College of Education, the University of Denver’s Division of Natural Science and Mathematics, and DPS will partner to support elementary teachers in improving content mastery in math and science.
  • The University of Northern Colorado’s College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, Greeley District 6 and the BOCES will partner to provide professional development in linguistically diverse education.

“Studies consistently tell us that the greatest potential to influence children’s education is a highly effective teacher,” said DHE Executive Director and Lt. Gov. Joseph Garcia in a prepared statement. “That is why this partnership is so important. The more that higher education and K-12 can work together to improve teacher quality and effectiveness through professional development, the more we are helping our students succeed.”

Upcoming:

Expert panelists at this month’s Buechner Breakfast will discuss DPS’ ProComp compensation system and a recent evaluation of that system by the University of Colorado Denver.

The session will be held from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Friday at 1380 Lawrence St. in the second floor meeting area. The event also will be webcast; use this link to view – https://connect.cuonline.edu/bbff.

The Buechner Breakfast is a monthly event sponsored by the UCD School of Public Affairs.

Good reads from elsewhere:

The New York Times combed through data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and found a major surge in the number of American schoolchildren who are receiving free or low-cost meals for the first time as the economy’s slide has taken its toll on family incomes. The number of students receiving subsidized lunches rose to 21 million last school year, up from 18 million in 2006-2007. That’s a 17 percent increase. An interactive map that accompanies the story shows Colorado had a 5.7 percent increase from 2007 to 2011. Currently, 45.9 percent of Colorado students are eligible for free and reduced-price meals.

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.