Archives for category: Colorado

Dr. Nicholas Gledich, Superintendent of Colorado Springs School District 11 has proposed a three year moratorium on high stakes standardized testing. This takes courage in test-happy Colorado.

Dr. Gledich understands that high-stakes testing cheapens education, demoralizes teachers, and makes testing far more important than it should be. Tests should be used periodically to see how students are doing and if they need extra help. But today they have become the be-all and end-all of schooling. That’s not what the best private schools do. That’s not what public schools should do.

Thank you and congratulations, Dr. Gledich! Welcome to the honor roll!

Jeannie Kaplan, a former member of the Denver Board of Education, has written about the poor results of a decade of corporate reform. Here she explains the word “chutzpah” to define the desperate efforts of school officials and “reformers” to convert poor results into good news.

She writes:

“At noon Thursday, August 14, 2014 the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) released Colorado’s 2014 standardized tests results, TCAPs, (Transitional Colorado Assessment Program) at its monthly meeting. Shortly after the release, “reform” State Board Member Elaine Gantz Berman spoke and said what has turned out to be one of the most honest assessments of the latest results. “Not acceptable….To see this kind of flat result is more than troubling. It’s like, ‘Where do we go from here?’

“Since the release of the results, the spin from Denver Public Schools and its friends has been dizzying. Their defense of the failing status quo has given new meaning to the Yiddish word “chutzpah.” A few examples: recognition that new strategies are needed to change the trajectory of the District but offering no concrete details of what that would look like; slight recognition that professional educators do make a difference when it comes to teaching children but continuing to hire short term teachers at the expense of teaching professionals; no recognition or admittance that a business model is not transferable to education. No attempts have been made to answer Ms. Berman’s question. Instead the status quo has chosen to defend the ten year performance with confusing, misleading and manipulated data.

“THE SPIN

“Six emails from the Superintendent, 2 articles and one editorial in the Denver Post, a Board of Education work session featuring a 67 page PowerPoint presentation with more charts, graphs, acronyms, and meaningless analysis than one thought possible. And Thursday, August 21 at noon an email from the favorite national organization of “reformers.” DFER (Democrats for Education Reform), makes its way into computer inboxes. The email’s subject, “Denver Plan 2020 Fights for Great Schools in Every Neighborhood,”praises the new Denver Plan and closely mimicks two of the six emails the superintendent has sent this week. The email’s author: Jennifer Walmer, former chief of staff for the Denver Public Schools, current state director of Colorado DFER. Could it be that the Denver Public Schools District is so worried about its lack of progress and its failing education “reform” that it has to inundate the public with reams of insignificant and deceptive information? Unfortunately, I was correct when I wrote in my post of last week, growth is pretty much all the District will talk about. The state losses of 1% in each of the three subjects have translated into disingenuous DPS growth scores.”

She then summarizes “the flood of writing that has occurred after the release of the pathetic data…”

In 2010, Colorado State Senator Michael Johnston took credit for a piece of legislation called Senate Bill 191, which he said would produce “Great Schools, Great Teachers, Great Principals.” Its main feature was tying teacher evaluation to their students’ scores, which counted for 50%. But it included other time bombs. One allowed districts to lay off teachers for various reasons. Now seven teachers and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association is suing.

One of those who lost her job was Cynthia Masters, a special-education teacher in a K-8 school. She was one of only 3,000 to lose their job.

“In the four years since the law was passed, nearly 3,000 DPS teachers have lost their positions due to what the district calls “reduction in building,” or RIB for short. The reasons that teachers are RIBed vary: Some lose their jobs because their schools are “turned around” or closed. Others are cut because school enrollment drops. In Masters’s case, she was RIBed due to a decrease in the number of special-ed students.

Of those 3,000 teachers, 1,240 had at least three years’ worth of positive evaluations, including Masters. And not all of them have been able to find new jobs. According to the law, still widely referred to as Senate Bill 191, RIBed teachers with three years of positive reviews — officially known as “nonprobationary” — who can’t find a position within a certain time frame are put on unpaid leave, a move that both unions believe violates the state constitution……”

“Brad Bartels, an attorney with the Colorado Education Association, says these teachers are victims of DPS’s brand of musical chairs. They didn’t lose their positions because they were bad teachers, he insists: “They just didn’t have a chair when the music stopped.”

“Seven DPS teachers and the DCTA have now sued the district. (The statewide CEA is representing the DCTA in the matter.) The lawsuit is a class action, and the plaintiffs represent several different classes, including all teachers in Colorado who were considered nonprobationary prior to the passage of Senate Bill 191 and all nonprobationary DPS teachers who were RIBed and ended up on unpaid leave.

“Westword spoke with five of the seven plaintiffs and found that they have several things in common: All are older than 45 and have good teaching records. Upon losing their positions, all five applied for hundreds of teaching assignments within DPS but, inexplicably to them, received just a few interviews. Only one managed to avoid being put on unpaid leave or being forced into early retirement.

“I applied for over 700 positions in the district,” says plaintiff Michelle Montoya, who got RIBed in the fall of 2010. “I thought, ‘I can deal with this. I’m going to go get a job. My skills are definitely needed.’ And I just never got a second interview.”

Will Senator Michael Johnston live long enough to declare that Colorado now has great teachers, great principals, great schools, thanks to Senate Bill 191?

Jeanne Kaplan served on the Denver school board for years and watched with a heavy heart as fake “reformers” took over Denver and Colorado. Now Colorado has the most punitive teacher evaluation law in the nation, thanks to Arne Duncan and Colorado’s State Senator Michael Johnston. When the NEA voted a resolution calling on Duncan to resign, the reporter didn’t speak to a teacher. No, the call went to Joe Williams of Democrats for Education Reform, the organization of hedge fund managers. When did DFER become the spokesman for Democrats or teachers or regular voters?

Jeanne Kaplan recently retired as an elected member of the Denver school board. She has started her own blog where she will keep track of education in Denver.

Here is her inaugural post, where she lays out the facts about “reform” in Denver. The biggest “success” has been the steady increase in privately managed charter schools, most of which get free public space. The educational gains are harder to find.

She writes:

“My name is Jeannie Kaplan. I had the honor and privilege of serving on the Denver Public Schools Board of Education for 8 years, from 2005 through November 2013. Michael Bennet was superintendent, having been selected in June of 2005. Mr. Bennet served until January 2009 when he was selected to be the junior Senator from Colorado. His replacement was and continues to be Tom Boasberg, Michael’s childhood friend and former DPS Chief Operating Officer.

“I believe today as I did when I first ran for the school board that public education is a fundamental cornerstone of our democracy. I am starting a blog to explore and hopefully shed some light on the complicated issues challenging public education today. I am going to be writing about my passion, public education, with a focus on Denver Public Schools. I will try to provide a voice for a side of this debate that is often overlooked by the main stream media.”

Jeanne Kaplan is one of our nation’s strongest voices for public education and for democracy.

Veteran educator Val Flores pulled off a stunning upset when she beat a well-funded candidate for a seat on the state board. No one thought it could happen.

Val spent $20,000. Her opponent spent $135,000. Val won by a margin of 59-41.

Jeanne Kaplan, a former member of the Denver school board, explains what happened.

Valentina (Val) Flores, a career educator, won a surprising and decisive victory for a seat on the state board of education in Colorado.

Flores won by a margin of 59-41, beating a candidate who was supported by the hedge funders’ Democrats for Education Reform, Stand for Children, and Education Reform Now. Her opponent had two years experience in Teach for America.

Flores has more than 40 years experience in education.

In my post about this electoral contest, I asked “Will big money win again?” The answer in Colorado is a loud and decisive NO!

Colorado and Denver are very friendly territory for corporate reformers. They have poured big money into state and local school board races. It has one of the nation’s most extreme teacher-evaluation laws, with 50% of teachers’ rating based on test scores. The law was written by State Senator Michael Johnston (ex-TFA). U.S. Senator Michael Bennett is a stalwart of corporate reform. In recent elections, “reformers” swept the Denver school board and the Douglas school. Board

Now the corporate reformers have decided to pick up a seat on the state school board. Their candidate taught for two years in TFA. He is getting generous support from Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), the hedge fund managers; from Stand for Children, which is funded by the Waltons and various equity investors; and others from the corporate reform crowd.

His opponent, Valentina Flores, is a veteran educator, with 43 years in the field. On her website, she says: “I oppose big money and corporatization in our public education system. I oppose high stakes testing that takes away valuable classroom learning time. I oppose a “reform” model that is slowly privatizing our public education system. We cannot allow free public education to be traded on NASDAQ and sold to the highest bidder.” You can see why the people with big money could not support a candidate like Flores.

– See more at: http://coloradopols.com/diary/59638/taggert-hansen-and-dfer-puppets-to-wal-marts-campaign-to-privatize-public-educaiton-and-bust-unions#sthash.A4JYL8c2.dpuf

Gary Rubinstein writes in this post about Michael Johnston and his long association with him.

Today Johnston is known in Colorado as the state senator who wrote the most punitive, anti-teacher law in the nation. At present, Harvard students are protesting the invitation to Johnston to speak at commencement

Gary knew him from Teach for America. He describes a young man who understood and cared about his students, who saw the obstacles they confronted, and who appreciated the hard work of veteran teachers.

But something happened to Michael Johnston between 2002 and 2010. The man Gary knew turned into an accountability hawk. He became a harsh critic of teachers.

For a time he was leading the test-and-punish parade, but the parade seems to be in disarray. It is no longer the leading edge but the rearguard.

Michael Johnston was invited to be the commencement speaker at the Harvard Graduate School of Education for 2014, but some students objected and called on the school to withdraw the invitation. That’s not likely to happen, nor should it. The students and graduates should have a chance to debate the issues, to debate the value of the Rhee–Duncan-Spellings style that has long been favored by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Now is a good time to review the research on value-added measurement. Now is a good opportunity to ask SenatorJohnston what happened to quash his youthful wisdom.

Four years ago, I was in Colorado to discuss education policy. This was in the heady early days of Race to the Top (which Colorado did not win, despite its whole-hearted embrace of everything Arne Duncan wanted). On one occasion, I was scheduled to debate State Senator Michael Johnston, the darling of the “reform” crowd. Johnston had written a bill that was coming to a vote that very day. His bill made student test scores count for 50% of every educators’ evaluation. An effective evaluation, his bill decreed, required growth in student scores. Johnston called his bill something like “Great Schools, Great Educators.” Or something like that. Every bill these days must contain at least one impossible promise in its title.

As I said, we were supposed to debate in front of a packed room of civic leaders, maybe 80 or so people. I waited and waited. No Johnston. Finally, I got up and spoke my concerns in his absence. No sooner did I finish than the doors at the back of the room opened and out popped young Senator Johnston. I say young because he appeared to be about 25, though I think he was actually 32. He was then considered the leading voice of education reform in the Legislature, despite members who were retired and experienced educators. Senator Johnston had served two years in Teach for America, then was principal of a school for two years, then ran for state senate. And now he was rewriting the state’s education laws! Truly a whiz kid!

Since he did not hear me, he did not have to respond to anything I said. Instead, he spoke in glowing terms of his legislation. He had an almost mystical faith in the amazing results that would automatically materialize as soon as teachers and principals were evaluated by the academic growth of their students. He seemed to believe that the only source of low scores was the absence of incentives and sanctions for those unmotivated, possibly lazy educators. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to believe that he knew what he was talking about.

Now, we know it takes time to phase in new policies and practices. As Bill Gates famously said, “It will take a decade to know whether this stuff works.” What he meant by “this stuff,” I guess, is the idea that privatization and measuring teacher quality by student scores will make students better educated. My own view is that we should stop looking for the “secret sauce” because it is a chimera. Instead, we should do what we know works, which is reduced class sizes, early childhood education, family education, experienced teachers, healthy children, a full and rich curriculum, and the wraparound services that children need. But all that is complicated, not simple; our data-driven reformers like simple solutions, the bumper sticker ideas.

But surely we should see some positive movement in Colorado, don’t you think? And it should be cumulative, stronger every year as the “reforms” take hold.

The latest state scores from Colorado–which has been dominated by data-driven reformers for a decade– are unimpressive. Actually, the scores of third-graders, who have known nothing other than a testing culture, took a slight dip. In truth, they were flat.

Oh, well, maybe next year, we will see the miracle that Senator Johnston promised. Or the year after that.

Meanwhile Senator Johnston has been invited to be Alumni Commencement Speaker at Harvard Graduate School of Education, which has aroused some protest. This is allegedly a tribute to his great accomplishment in Colorado, where every year his promises grow more hollow. How many of the graduates at HGSE would want to work under Johnston’s law? Presumably, students at HGSE read research and know that VAM is Junk Science.

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