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State ed boards approve “endorsed” diplomas

Colorado’s two statewide education boards on Thursday approved specifications for an “endorsed” high school diploma that would guarantee students automatic admission to some state colleges and universities.

GraduationBut the new diplomas will be optional for school districts, and they may spread slowly through the state. The Aurora Public Schools has been working on such a diploma and may award them next spring.

Creation and approval of criteria for the endorsed diploma was required by a landmark 2008 law, the Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids (CAP4K). Among other things, that law required creation of new state content standards and tests and also greater integration of K-12 and higher education, including steps to make it easier for students to move from high school to college and to reduce the need for remediation.

A task force of educators has been working on the project, but the law required the elected State Board of Education and the appointed Colorado Commission on Higher Education to jointly approve the criteria for what’s formally called the “Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness High School Diploma Endorsement.”

The only no vote among the 15 members of the two boards who were present was SBE member Deborah Scheffel. She said after the meeting she opposed the endorsed diploma because it creates what she characterized as a “two-tier system.”

“I think it complicates the system that’s already tough for kids to navigate,” she said.

But Happy Haynes of CCHE dismissed concerns that endorsed diplomas would divide students into two tracks, saying, “It’s not the only way for students to get into college.”

She also said remaining details about the program can be worked out. “I think this is a matter of us taking action and us getting out of the way.”

Some members who voted yes also had questions – and suggestions.

CCHE member Jim Polsfut didn’t much like the long name, arguing the new diploma should have a name that would sound more appealing to young people.  “Is there a way of doing it with a little more punch?” he asked. “It may not be embraced by students unless it has a little marketing punch to it.”

And SBE member Elaine Gantz Berman wondered if some districts would be reluctant to use endorsed diplomas because of the potential cost and time involved and the potential burden on high school counselors.

Luis Colon, a new CCHE member, wondered, “Has anyone asked the students how they feel about this?”

“It is probably our students who are pushing hardest” for endorsed diplomas, said Ron Marostica, assistant superintendent in the 2,500-student Sterling district. Successful implementation also will require active involvement by teachers, Marostica said. Like Aurora, Sterling has been working on the endorsed diploma project.

Misti Ruthven, a Department of Education staffer who is working on the project, noted that the task force is continuing its work and will take note of the issues raised by the two boards.

Students who earn the endorsed diplomas would be guaranteed to meet minimum admissions requirements for Metro State University, Colorado State University-Pueblo, Adams State University, Western State Colorado University and community and technical colleges.

Such students would receive “priority consideration” at the state’s more selective campuses, including the University of Colorado System, CSU-Fort Collins, the University of Northern Colorado, Colorado Mesa University and Fort Lewis College.

To earn an endorsed diploma, a student must satisfy four indicators:

  • Readiness in math and English language arts
  • Completion of an individual career and academic plan
  • Demonstration of proficiency in 21st Century skills
  • Demonstration of mastery of academic content in three subject areas

The criteria include detailed descriptions of the kinds of test scores, grades, classes and activities that a student needs to achieve in order to fulfill the four indicators. Get those details here.

Tennessee Votes 2018

Early voting begins Friday in Tennessee. Here’s where your candidates stand on education.

PHOTO: Creative Commons

Tennesseans begin voting on Friday in dozens of crucial elections that will culminate on Aug. 2.

Democrats and Republicans will decide who will be their party’s gubernatorial nominee. Those two individuals will face off in November to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. Tennessee’s next governor will significantly shape public education, and voters have told pollsters that they are looking for an education-minded leader to follow Haslam.

In Memphis, voters will have a chance to influence schools in two elections, one for school board and the other for county commission, the top local funder for schools, which holds the purse strings for schools.

To help you make more informed decisions, Chalkbeat asked candidates in these four races critical questions about public education.

Here’s where Tennessee’s Democratic candidates for governor stand on education

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state Rep. Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley hope to become the state’s first Democratic governor in eight years.

Tennessee’s Republican candidates for governor answer the big questions on education

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, businessman Randy Boyd, Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, and businessman Bill Lee are campaigning to succeed fellow Republican Haslam as governor, but first they must defeat each other in the 2018 primary election.

Memphis school board candidates speak out on what they want to change

Fifteen people are vying for four seats on the Shelby County Schools board this year. That’s much higher stakes compared to two years ago when five seats were up for election with only one contested race.

Aspiring county leaders in charge of money for Memphis schools share their views

The Shelby County Board of Commissioners and county mayor are responsible for most school funding in Memphis. Chalkbeat sent a survey to candidates asking their thoughts on what that should look like.

Early voting runs Mondays through Saturdays until Saturday, July 28. Election Day is Thursday, Aug. 2.

full board

Adams 14 votes to appoint Sen. Dominick Moreno to fill board vacancy

State Sen. Dominick Moreno being sworn in Monday evening. (Photo by Yesenia Robles, Chalkbeat)

A state senator will be the newest member of the Adams 14 school board.

Sen. Dominick Moreno, a graduate of the district, was appointed Monday night on a 3-to-1 vote to fill a vacancy on the district’s school board.

“He has always, since I have known him, cared about this community,” said board member David Rolla, who recalled knowing Moreno since grade school.

Moreno will continue to serve in his position in the state legislature.

The vacancy on the five-member board was created last month, when the then-president, Timio Archuleta, resigned with more than a year left on his term.

Colorado law says when a vacancy is created, school board must appoint a new board member to serve out the remainder of the term.

In this case, Moreno will serve until the next election for that seat in November 2019.

The five member board will see the continued rollout of the district’s improvement efforts as it tries to avoid further state intervention.

Prior to Monday’s vote, the board interviewed four candidates including Joseph Dreiling, a former board member; Angela Vizzi; Andrew LaCrue; and Moreno. One woman, Cynthia Meyers, withdrew her application just as her interview was to begin. Candidate, Vizzi, a district parent and member of the district’s accountability committee, told the board she didn’t think she had been a registered voter for the last 12 months, which would make her ineligible for the position.

The board provided each candidate with eight general questions — each board member picked two from a predetermined list — about the reason the candidates wanted to serve on the board and what they saw as their role with relation to the superintendent. Board members and the public were barred from asking other questions during the interviews.

Moreno said during his interview that he was not coming to the board to spy for the state Department of Education, which is evaluating whether or not the district is improving. Nor, he added, was he applying for the seat because the district needs rescuing.

“I’m here because I think I have something to contribute,” Moreno said. “I got a good education in college and I came home. Education is the single most important issue in my life.”

The 7,500-student district has struggled in the past year. The state required the district to make significant improvement in 2017-18, but Adams 14 appears to be falling short of expectations..

Many community members and parents have protested district initiatives this year, including cancelling parent-teacher conferences, (which will be restored by fall), and postponing the roll out of a biliteracy program for elementary school students.

Rolla, in nominating Moreno, said the board has been accused of not communicating well, and said he thought Moreno would help improve those relationships with the community.

Board member Harvest Thomas was the one vote against Moreno’s appointment. He did not discuss his reason for his vote.

If the state’s new ratings this fall fail to show sufficient academic progress, the State Board of Education may direct additional or different actions to turn the district around.