Tuesday Churn: No “off the top”

Updated 1:45 p.m. – Facing a meeting with the Joint Budget Committee in 10 days, the State Board of Education wrestled this morning with the possibility that it won’t get the money to develop a full new state testing system that would launch in 2014.

The board and the Department of Education want $25.9 million in 2012-13 to create the tests, but Gov. John Hickenlooper doesn’t want to spend the money in a tight budget year. The JBC has posed more than a dozen questions on testing for the board and CDE to discuss during a Dec. 16 meeting with the budget panel.

One of those questions is whether the board proposes the $25.9 million be deducted from the pot of state aid to school districts or be additional spending. CDE budget analyst Jeff Blanford said the department has “no intention” of taking test costs off the top of school aid and wanted to make sure board members agreed. They did so with nods of heads.

Board members and CDE executives believe new tests are needed in 2014 to fully implement the new state content standards and to provide the data needed for operation of the state’s district and school rating system and of the new educator effectiveness law. Alternative, somewhat cheaper multistate tests won’t be available until at least 2015.

“The reality of getting the full amount for the assessments is almost nil,” said member Elaine Gantz Berman, D-1st District. Members of the JBC have said “it isn’t going to happen,” she added. Berman is one of two board members who serves as a liaison with lawmakers.

“I think most of us can guess today what the status of this is,” agreed SBE Chair Bob Schaffer, R-4th District. But, he said, it’s important for the board to send a clear message about the importance of new tests.

Education Commissioner Robert Hammond agreed, saying, “This is a matter of awareness. … It’s important to raise this.”

The board also discussed what to do about another anomaly in the budget request – the $7.7 million that Hickenlooper requested for helping implement the educator effectiveness law. That’s money the board and CDE didn’t request. Board members went back on forth on whether they should endorse the governor’s request or whether doing so would diminish the importance of their request for testing money. They finally decided to support the Hickenlooper request but not incorporate it in their priorities.

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

The 2011 school and district ratings will be released later today at the monthly meeting of the State Board of Education.

The performance frameworks, as they are called, detail school and district academic achievement on statewide tests, growth, growth gaps and postsecondary readiness. Districts are assigned various accreditation levels based on performance; school ratings determine the types of improvement plans that must be used.

There are four types of plans for schools: Performance, Improvement, Priority Improvement and Turnaround. Districts receive one of five ratings: Accredited with Distinction, Accredited, Accredited with Improvement Plan, Accredited with Priority Improvement Plan and Accredited with Turnaround Plan.

The districts have known since August their likely determination but time is allowed for negotiations in case districts want to submit additional evidence and request a change in their assignment. This presentation is set for 1:45 p.m. and the results will be published at 2 p.m.

The board will also:

  • Hold a rulemaking hearing on proposed regulations for online program
  • Hold a rulemaking hearing to establish standards for charter schools and charter school authorizers
  • Hear an appeal in a dispute between Pioneer Academy and Falcon School District 49 (the second trip back to the state board for this particular case)
  • Hear a briefing from Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia

The meeting starts at 9 a.m. Agenda

Peg Brown-Clark was named by Commissioner Robert Hammond as the new assistant commissioner of exceptional student services. She will manage the state’s unit that oversees both special education and gifted and talented education. According to a release from the state department of education, Brown-Clark currently serves in a similar position with the Wyoming Department of Education where she is the division director of special education programs. Brown-Clark has more than 30 years of education experience ranging from serving as a teacher, a state special education director and the state’s top special education leader. She will begin her duties at the Colorado Department of Education in February 2012. Read the entire news release here.

Good reads from elsewhere:

“Why School Choice Fails” is the headline on this column by writer Natalie Hopkinson. In the New York Times, she paints a bleak view of how “reform” has taken a toll on options—and the quality of those options—for working-class families in Washington, D.C. “So even for those of us lucky ones with cars and school-data spreadsheets, our options are mediocre at best,” she writes. Column

A special note:

Education News Colorado, a member of the Public Education & Business Coalition network, is participating in the second annual Colorado Gives Day. That’s today. Colorado citizens are coming together again to raise millions of dollars for non-profits like PEBC.

When you make a contribution through the Community First foundation website, your gift will be boosted by the FirstBank Incentive Fund. All credit card processing fees are covered, so 100 percent of your donation goes directly to work for participating groups.

You can go online here all day and contribute. Thanks for your support!

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

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.”