Who Is In Charge

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.

Who Is In Charge

Indianapolis Public Schools board gives superintendent Ferebee raise, bonus

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is getting a $4,701 raise and a bonus of $28,000.

The board voted unanimously to approve both. The raise is a 2.24 percent salary increase. It is retroactive to July 1, 2017. Ferebee’s total pay this year, including the bonus, retirement contributions and a stipend for a car, will be $286,769. Even though the bonus was paid this year, it is based on his performance last school year.

The board approved a new contract Tuesday that includes a raise for teachers.

The bonus is 80 percent of the total — $35,000 — he could have received under his contract. It is based on goals agreed to by the superintendent and the board.

These are performance criteria used to determine the superintendent’s bonus are below:

Student recruitment

How common is it for districts to share student contact info with charter schools? Here’s what we know.

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Staff members of Green Dot Public Schools canvass a neighborhood near Kirby Middle School in the summer of 2016 before reopening the Memphis school as a charter.

As charter schools emerge alongside local school districts across the nation, student addresses have become a key turf war.

Charter schools have succeeded in filling their classes with and without access to student contact information. But their operators frequently argue that they have a right to such information, which they say is vital to their recruitment efforts and gives families equal access to different schools in their area.

Disputes are underway right now in at least two places: In Tennessee, school boards in Nashville and Memphis are defying a new state law that requires districts to hand over such information to charters that request it. A New York City parent recently filed a formal complaint accusing the city of sharing her information improperly with local charter schools.

How do other cities handle the issue? According to officials from a range of school districts, some share student information freely with charters while others guard it fiercely.

Some districts explicitly do not share student information with charter schools. This includes Detroit, where the schools chief is waging an open war with the charter sector for students; Washington, D.C., where the two school sectors coexist more peacefully; and Los Angeles.

Others have clear rules for student information sharing. Denver, for example, set parameters for what information the district will hand over to charter schools in a formal collaboration agreement — one that Memphis officials frequently cite as a model for one they are creating. Baltimore and Boston also share information, although Boston gives out only some of the personal details that district schools can access.

At least one city has carved out a compromise. In New York City, a third-party company provides mass mailings for charter schools, using contact information provided by the school district. Charter schools do not actually see that information and cannot use it for other purposes — although the provision hasn’t eliminated parent concerns about student privacy and fair recruitment practices there.

In Tennessee, the fight by the state’s two largest districts over the issue is nearing a boiling point. The state education department has already asked a judge to intervene in Nashville and is mulling whether to add the Memphis district to the court filing after the school board there voted to defy the state’s order to share information last month. Nashville’s court hearing is Nov. 28.

The conflict feels high-stakes to some. In Memphis, both local and state districts struggle with enrolling enough students. Most schools in the state-run Achievement School District have lost enrollment this year, and the local district, Shelby County Schools, saw a slight increase in enrollment this year after years of freefall.

Still, some charter leaders wonder why schools can’t get along without the information. One Memphis charter operator said his school fills its classes through word of mouth, Facebook ads, and signs in surrounding neighborhoods.

“We’re fully enrolled just through that,” said the leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his relationship with the state and local districts. “It’s a non-argument for me.”

A spokeswoman for Green Dot Public Schools, the state-managed charter school whose request for student information started the legal fight in Memphis, said schools in the Achievement School District should receive student contact information because they are supposed to serve students within specific neighborhood boundaries.

“At the end of the day, parents should have the information they need to go to their neighborhood school,” said the spokeswoman, Cynara Lilly. “They deserve to know it’s open.”