Another Day, Another Massive Protest In Jefferson County

thursdayprotests
Photo via Twitter

The Denver Post's Jesse Paul reports, the student protests in Jefferson County over the new conservative school board majority's proposal to "review" new AP history curriculum raged again Thursday:

Nearly one thousand students from Columbine and Dakota Ridge high schools walked out of classes Thursday morning, punctuating the fourth straight day of Jefferson County school protests.

Students from Columbine, Lakewood, Bear Creek and Dakota Ridge high schools all walked out Thursday. It was the largest protest in what has been a week of escalating tensions between students and the school board…

Jefferson County School Board Chairman Ken Witt spoke to reporters near the Columbine protest.

"I think it's unfortunate presently to our students being used as pawns," Witt said. He also said he thought the student protests were a union tool and that students were being misled.

While Jefferson County school board conservatives defend their actions, the Post's Eric Gorski updates today on the broad range of divisive actions this new school board has taken, of which the latest "curriculum review" is the most recent example:

In the face of mass protests from students, members of the Jefferson County school board majority Wednesday defended a proposed curriculum committee and called it misunderstood, while signaling the most criticized elements are likely to be cut.

The proposed panel has emerged as the largest point of disagreement yet in the state's second-largest school district, a perennially high academic achiever that saw a conservative, reform-minded board majority voted in 10 months ago.

Like the election last November of three Republican board candidates who ran as a slate, the curriculum controversy is also an example of partisan politics playing a greater role in public education — in this case, involving a charged debate about changes in how Advanced Placement students are learning American history.

The angry denials from conservative board members in today's stories are severely undercut by the wording of the proposal. They are further undercut by fellow board member Julie Williams' stunning response to the protests, in which decries the new AP history curriculum's "emphasis on race, gender, class, ethnicity, grievance and American-bashing"–a diatribe more appropriate from fringe AM talk radio than the board of one of the state's largest and highest achieving school districts. According to Gorski's report, Williams' conservative colleagues John Newkirk and Ken Witt intend to cut the most offensive language from Williams' proposal: presumably, the stuff about how history courses should "not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law," and "present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage."

But the language in the proposal might be a sideshow to the real problem. Although Jefferson County has had curriculum reviews before, the committees involved were generally composed of education professionals and experts. This new proposal for a review of AP history simply calls for a majority vote by the school board. Since the current conservative majority took office, almost every decision made by the board has been a 3-2 party line vote. That means this committee could very easily be stacked by conservative political activists with no educational qualifications–which, incidentally, perfectly describes the new conservative majority on the Jeffco school board! And in case you're wondering if that's what the right really wants, check out this message sent from a supporter of Williams to prospective review committee members:

williamrecruitmentnote

It's as bad as it looks, folks. Defensive bluster aside, the facts back up the concerns of the protesters. Last year, a failed education funding initiative brought out legions of conservative voters to vote against it, in the process installing a school board majority in Jefferson County that is distantly to the right of the population they are entrusted to serve. Today, however, the unexpected "bonus" of Amendment 66's crushing at the polls, a far-right school board majority in Jeffco, may blow back hard on conservatives in this electoral bellwether county–doing political damage far beyond anything they had hoped to gain.

Between here and there, we expect a lot more protests.

The Madness of Julie Williams

UPDATE #2: Chalkbeat Colorado's Nicholas Garcia reports, the largest protest yet today in Jefferson County:

Stretching on for a fourth school day, students from some of Jefferson County’s largest high schools gathered at a busy intersection here to echo concerns about a proposed curriculum committee they believe could lead to censorship and show solidarity with their teachers.

The rally appeared to be the largest thus far. More than half of the 1,900 students at Chatfield High School, coupled with hundreds of students from Dakota Ridge walked, ran, and drove up and down a stretch of Simms Street shortly after classes were supposed to start at the two schools.

According to the Denver Post, students at Bear Creek High School also walked out this morning. And according to sources, students at Alameda High School [walked out] this afternoon after meeting with a representative from Jeffco Public Schools.

—–

UPDATE:

—–

GOP state senate candidate Tony Sanchez and Jeffco board member Julie Williams.

GOP state senate candidate Tony Sanchez and Jeffco board member Julie Williams.

Yesterday's student walkout at at least five Jefferson County high schools, in protest of the new conservative Jeffco school board majority's proposed "curriculum review committee" to undertake a politically suspect review of revised AP history materials, has exploded into national headlines. The New York Times, along with major online sources like Talking Points Memo and Raw Story, have elevated this controversy and linked it to the larger right-wing struggle against updating education standards throughout the country. Jefferson County, like most school districts, has always had some form of ongoing curriculum review, but carried out by people with educational experience–with specific goals of ensuring the material is comprehensive and conformal to standards set by national bodies like the College Board.

The conservative board majority's proposal, to select members of this new "curriculum review committee" by majority vote of the board with no qualifications required–and especially the committee's proposed mission to ensure the district's history courses promote "citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority," and "presents positive aspects of the United States and its heritage"–is not the same process at all, and poses a direct threat to the academic integrity of Jefferson County's AP history courses. A second proposed target of investigation by this new committee, the district's sex ed courses, hasn't even been explored yet by the media, though we expect that would become every bit as controversial should it be enacted by the board.

The author of the proposal, board member Julie Williams, is a member of the Neville family of arch-conservative activists in Jefferson County. Williams' brother-in-law, for Sen. Tim Neville, is running again for Colorado Senate District 16, and her in-law nephew Joe Neville is the hard-charging principal lobbyist for the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners organization. These are people with a very broad political agenda, of which education policy is merely one piece–albeit an important one. On Monday, as protests ramped up, Williams responded to her critics.

Disastrously.

I was truly surprised by the reaction of so many people regarding the AP U.S. History curriculum (APUSH). I must not have explained myself clearly. I thought everyone, or at least everyone involved in education understood the huge debate and controversy surrounding the new APUSH. To be accused of censorship? “Seriously?” That is just ridiculous. I am advocating for just the opposite. So, please let me start at the beginning…

APUSH rejects the history that has been taught in the country for generations. It has an emphasis on race, gender, class, ethnicity, grievance and American-bashing [Pols emphasis] while simultaneously omitting the most basic structural and philosophical elements considered essential to the understanding of American History for generations….parents who have reviewed APUSH have been very unhappy with what their children will be taught and have lost trust in the “experts”. Please note: This is NOT a committee to review teachers, this is NOT about teachers, it is about curriculum review, which is a board’s responsibility.

Balance and respect for traditional scholarship is NOT censorship. Again we believe that exposure to the curriculum itself, not inflammatory rhetoric; will convince most parents that a review committee is a very good idea. I humbly ask our Jeffco history teachers to review their philosophical position on the APUSH. I think the majority will be surprised to find they agree. I invite them to join us while we investigate this curriculum, together…

Last, when it comes to history I believe all children graduating from an American school should know 3 things: American Exceptionalism, an understanding of US History, and know the Constitution.

The most obvious problem with this response is how Williams says she doesn't want censorship, but then launches immediately into a reactionary diatribe about the AP history curriculum's "emphasis on race, gender, class, ethnicity, grievance and American-bashing." Williams clearly doesn't like that, and we can infer pretty easily from her description of it that she would like the new AP history curriculum in Jefferson County to change.

Which is an awful lot like censoring it.

For us, the sophomoric and badly-written language of this "press release" is itself an embarrassment to the Jefferson County School District. We can't speak for everyone, of course, but placing the word "experts" in scare quotes inspires the opposite of confidence in this person's viewpoint–especially as an education administrator. It would be one thing to have a debate about a history text's "emphasis on race, gender, class, ethnicity, grievance and American-bashing" with a person who is qualified to debate these subjects, but Williams simply is not. Her sole purpose on this school board appears to be to inject the Neville's far-right agenda into their process at every step, and spew AM radio talking points that have no place in a discussion about education in one of Colorado's best and largest public school districts. Certainly not in the closely divided political bellwether of Jefferson County.

The exposure of Williams' agenda, now underway in the form of massive protests and national news coverage, could be very bad for her fellow Republicans this election season. By provoking such controversy with a political review of history, Williams has touched a nerve that crosses party lines–and could bring out angry independent voters in Jeffco who might otherwise have stayed home.

For Republicans, this could be a most unfortunate consequence–even if they can't say it was unintended.

Students Walk Out Across Jefferson County

ralstonvalleyprotest Photo via Twitter

pomonaprotestr2

The backlash against the new right wing Jefferson County Board of Education's proposed "curriculum review committee," intended by conservative board members to ensure the district's history courses promote "citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority," and "presents positive aspects of the United States and its heritage," continues today as hundreds of students walked out of Jeffco high schools in protest. As the Denver Post's Jesse Paul reports:

The walk-out followed a similar protest Monday by at least 100 Evergreen High School students who left classes to voice their opinions at the county's school administration building. On Friday, two county schools closed after 50 teachers either called in sick or used a personal day.

Tensions have been mounting in the school district as students and teachers push back against district leadership. Community members are angry about an evaluation-based system for awarding raises to educators and a proposed curriculum committee that calls for promoting "positive aspects" of the United States and its heritage and avoiding material that would encourage or condone "civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law."

A slate of conservative candidates took control of the board last year and hired a new superintendent, Dan McMinimee, to replace the veteran Cindy Stevenson. Stevenson resigned and left earlier than planned, saying her work was being impeded by the board majority.

Walk-outs Tuesday happened at Arvada West, Pomona, Ralston Valley, Wheat Ridge and Golden high schools.

These highly visible protests, just a few months after similar protests of the hiring of Douglas County's Dan McMinimee as the district's superintendent but by all accounts much larger, pose a considerable and unforeseen political risk to Republicans in Colorado's electoral bellwether population center. The connection between the conservative board majority proposal to "examine" history curriculum with openly political goals and Republicans on the ballot in Jefferson County is very easy to draw. The close family ties between board member Julie Williams and Republican SD-16 candidate Tim Neville are a matter of record, as well as extended ties between Williams and Rocky Mountain Gun Owners-endorsed Jeffco legislative candidates like Tony Sanchez and Laura Waters Woods.

Bottom line: the Jeffco board's history curriculum review proposal could well alienate independent voters from Republicans in Jefferson County and perhaps elsewhere. Even where one might not agree with Democrats on everything, something that looks like an attempt to manipulate public school instruction for political purposes is repellent in a way that crosses political lines. Outside a conservative diehard bloc that isn't troubled, this all seems terribly…

In a word, un-American.

Denver Post Editorial Board Hammers Jeffco School Board

UPDATE: Students in Jefferson County are organizing their own protests against the School Board. From the Denver Post:

Dozens of Evergreen High School students walked out of their morning classes on Monday and car pooled to the Jefferson County School Administration Building to protest what they see as the school board's attempt to censor advanced history curriculum.

"I want honesty in my classroom," the students said in a letter presented to Superintendent Dan McMinimee, who spoke with four student representatives, and the board. "Teachers want honesty in the classroom."

The protest followed a teacher sick out that closed two schools last week. Schools were back open on Monday despite rumors that educators might not show again. Students said similar protests are planned for the rest of the week.

—–

With backlash against the right-wing Jefferson County School Board continuing to grow, the editorial board of the Denver Post weighs in today about efforts by the board to make specific curriculum changes to history classes hat would basically ignore, well, history:

Whatever their purpose, the guidelines, if adopted, would give the impression that the board seeks a narrow, upbeat and even propagandistic curriculum instead of the broad and even-handed approach that is best.

The pursuit of a first-rate curriculum by the district is a worthy goal. If the board wants to appoint a committee to examine current offerings, so be it. But don't taint the process with language that hints at an ulterior and non-academic agenda.

Gubernatorial, Senate, CD3 Debates Oct 2-9 in Pueblo

Save the dates for debates:

Governor Candidate Debate (Hickenlooper vs. Beauprez)

Thursday,October 2, 7 PM


CD3 Representative Debate (Tapia vs. Tipton) 
Tuesday, October 7, 6 PM


US Senate Debate (Udall vs. Gardner) 
Thursday, October 9, 7 PM

All forums to be held at Pueblo Memorial Hall 
1 City Hall Pl, Pueblo, CO 81003
(866) 722-8844

 

Sponsored by Action22 and the Pueblo Chieftain

 


Two Jeffco High Schools Closed Today as Board Backlash Grows

UPDATE: Colorado Public Radio's Jenny Brundin:

Teachers are riled by a couple of issues: one is an ongoing disagreement over pay and the intentions of the new conservative board members. The other is a board proposal to set up a curriculum committee to review what materials teachers use in the classroom.

The resolution stated that history classes in Jefferson County schools should promote “patriotism and the free enterprise system.” It generated controversy at Thursday night’s school board meeting. The resolution was tabled last night but could come up for discussion at a later date.

The controversy prompted about 60 Standley students to line Wadsworth Boulevard, near their school, waving placards and drawing a cacophony of honks from passing cars.

—–

Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk

Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk of the Jefferson County School Board.

As KWGN Channel 2 reports (among others), classes were cancelled today at Standley Lake High School and Conifer High School after a wave of teachers called in sick this morning:

Standley Lake and Conifer high schools will be not have classes Friday because of several teacher absences, the Jefferson County School District said…

…Despite classes being canceled for the day, some students went ahead with a planned protest in support of the teachers.

Teachers are upset with the school board over the district’s new teacher pay model and a proposed curriculum review panel for AP U.S. history classes.

Under the plan, the starting teacher’s salary would go up about $5,000 a year, but raises will be determined based on performance. Teachers rated as ineffective or partially effective would receive only a 1 percent raise or the possibility of no raise at all.

We've been following this story closely as the right-wing Jefferson County School Board announced a plan — unveiled last night — to make changes to how schools teach history and other subjects. 9News education reporter Nelson Garcia has more on the controversy:

The proposal reads: "The charge to the committee is to review curricular choices for conformity to JeffCo academic standards, accuracy and omissions, and to inform the board of any objectionable materials."

[School Board Member Julie] Williams says this is necessary after all the changes to academic standards under the Common Core movement…

…The second part of the proposal reads in part, "Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law."

"I don't think we should encourage kids to be little rebels," Williams said. "We should encourage kids to be good citizens." [Pols emphasis]

The actions of the Jeffco School Board — under Republican control following an election last November — have created plenty of concern for months. Parents and teachers have been concerned about a number of decisions, including the hiring of a new Superintendent (with no competition for finalists), but this move by the conservative board to quite literally change curriculums has stoked a much hotter fire in the community. Public Education has always been the biggest policy issue for Jefferson County voters, and with both teachers and the PTA vocally opposing the Republican school board, candidates from Governor to U.S. Senate could suffer mightily at the polls from this public backlash.

Right Wing Jeffco School Board Seeks “Review” Of History

THURSDAY UPDATE: With the Jeffco Board of Education meeting tonight, the Jefferson County PTA has voted unanimously to oppose the conservative majority's proposed "Curriculum Review Committee." From their release today:

“My board voted unanimously to oppose the formation of this Curriculum Review Committee. Jeffco Schools employs professionals, educational experts, who should be making these decisions. Additionally, Jeffco Schools has a Curriculum and Text Book Review Committee which includes a variety of community participants. I have participated in the text book review process myself and find it to be thorough and adequate and I believe it would irresponsible of the school board to form a committee of citizens chosen solely by a board majority vote,” said Jeffco PTA President Michele Patterson. 

President Patterson continued, “If the board moves forward with this committee, they will be wading into dangerous territory. Censorship is not an issue parents or our Jeffco community will take lightly.” [Pols emphasis]

—–

book-burning

The new conservative majority on the Jefferson County, Colorado Board of Education is barreling ahead with an ideological agenda that continues to provoke major controversy–both behind the scenes and incerasingly in public. Last week, the Jefferson County Education Association issued a vote of 'no confidence' in board chairman Ken Witt, citing among a long list of grievances recent decisions about teacher compensation by the board majority based on a discredited evaluation model.

The latest proposal from the conservative majority, though, could be considered downright chilling:

Board Committee for Curriculum Review.

The committee shall be seated by the Board. Each director may nominated up to three candidates for the committee and the entire board then will vote to select the nine (9) members of the committee. The charge to the committee is to review curricular choices for conformity to JeffCo academic standards, accuracy and omissions, and to inform the board of any objectionable materials. The committee shall regularly review texts and curriculum according to priorities that it establishes, however, at any time, the Board may add items to the list for review. The committee shall report all comments (majority and minority) to the board in writing on a weekly basis as items are reviewed. Board members may move for discussion or action on items reported when matters warrant public discussion or action. The committee’s initial projects will be a review of the AP US History curriculum and elementary health curriculum.

Review criteria shall include the following: instructional materials should present the most current factual information accurately and objectively. Theories should be distinguished from fact. Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage. [Pols emphasis] Content pertaining to political and social movements in history should present balanced and factual treatment of the positions.

A subset of the conservative backlash against the Common Core educational standards supported by the National Governor's Association and others is opposition to the "liberal slant" of new Advanced Placement high school history curricula, in use this year for the first time. It's a very old complaint on the right that public school social studies courses don't teach "American values" to students, which is then attributed to a host of social ills caused by those students failure to be educated in, as you read above, "positive aspects of the United States and its heritage." Educators have long rejected this as partisan political bloviation, but the updated AP courses this year have given conservatives a fresh opportunity to air time-honored grievances.

The biggest problem, of course, is that the new conservative board majority is not constrained by any sense of objective factuality. The will to "fix" the district's curriculum to conform to–or at least facilitate–an ideology has the majority power to override the will of education experts. And it looks like they intend to use that power.

We're not aware of that ever having had a good outcome…you know, in history.

Supporting Net Neutrality

I submitted my last comment asking the FCC to regulate internet providers as common carriers today. I hope everyone submitted something this summer as net neutrality is vital to the existence of sites like this one. All the comments can be read at the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System Search for Filings page.

Here is my comment:

To FCC Commissioners Wheeler, Clyburn, O’Reilly, Rosenworcel, Pai, and O’Reilly


    I have read the four recent fillings submitted by Comcast, and I am deeply concerned. These filings are full of deceptive language, and it is obvious that this company thinks that the job of government is to help it make money. Instead, the job of government is to make sure that everyone, including major corporations, follows the law. We have decided as a society that internet access is vital to commerce, education,  and the pursuit of happiness. The FCC has the ability to protect internet access by declaring that internet providers are common carriers.

    A company may experience something as a “heavy-hand” because they cannot compete on a level playing field while most internet users would experience that standard as a “light-hand”. So might new businesses. While most people cannot travel to DC to meet with Commissioners in person, I am sure that those commissioners who have traveled have heard many people say that unequal access to the internet would feel harsh and heavy. Small businesses cannot pay more for decent internet access. Local government websites may be legally blocked from paying enough to provide access to all their citizens.

    Please regulate internet providers as common carriers.

John Newkirk, Jeffco BoE Secretary: Public Comment is too long, off topic, repetitive

(Pesky meddling citizens, who needs 'em? - Promoted by Colorado Pols)

From Jefferson County School Board Watch:

The new Jefferson County School Board Secretary, John Newkirk, would really rather not be bothered with those boring public comment sessions. I mean, who really wants to hear from all of those  parents, students, and teachers?

Much easier if we just go to a Douglas County style system, break the union, teach creationism and whatever other curriculum is approved by the Tea Party, and leave it at that. No need for long, boring, meetings where the public gets to weigh in on policies, and maybe (gasp!) influence them.

At last Saturday's school board meeting, Mr. Newkirk made the following comments, which were immediately transformed into a Facebook meme:

Past blog posts on Jefferson County School Board Watch (non Facebook version)

Jefferson County parents, students, teachers, and staff are still fighting to keep the excellent school district they have created. The fight continues.

Funding Schools With Expanded Gaming?

As the Denver Post's Yesenia Robles reports:

Organizers for an education group collecting signatures to place a question on the ballot asking to expand gaming at the Arapahoe Park horse racetrack say they have collected enough signatures.

According to a news release from the group, Coloradans for Better Schools, the group collected and submitted 136,342 signatures in support of the ballot measure…

That's a healthy pad of signatures over the required 86,000 to get this measure on the November ballot, so it's likely to make it. In addition to allowing casino games at Arapahoe Park, the measure would also expand gaming at racetracks in Pueblo and Mesa Counties. The measure is supported mostly by the owners of the Arapahoe Park track, and opposed by most of the rest of the gaming industry in Colorado due to the competitive pressure it would place on existing gaming towns.

Proponents forecast a return of as much as $100 million per year to K-12 education, though opponents dismiss that amount as unrealistic.

What say you, Polsters? Ordinarily we'd say a one-off gaming measure like this, based on experience, doesn't have much chance of succeeding. The existing gaming towns vigorously defend their monopoly, and spend lavishly to defeat any attempt to expand gaming beyond them. The only thing that raises a question in our minds is the experience of last year's elections, where a tax increase to fund education failed dismally, but taxes on retail marijuana passed overwhelmingly.

So maybe sin is the new model for raising revenue in this state? A poll follows.

(more…)

Corporate-Driven Education Reform Experiments Failing in Denver and Around the Country

I decided to add to my recent articles about the Colorado State Board of Education primary in Denver after reading an article today in Chalkbeat Colorado, a national non-profit education news agency. In the article "8 struggling schools opt in to Colorado's new turnaround network."  Ashley Jochim, research analyst at the Center on Reinventing Publication Education and one of the policy experts advising the states the following: 


                                                                                                                                                   Stacey Jocim, CRPE

"But Jochim said the resources will only be fruitful if principals are allowed to adopt the best ideas, even if they run counter to district policies – something that could be a challenge when it comes to personnel, budget, and curriculum. 

If Colorado stumbles, it won't be alone, Jochim said.

 "We're not in a place where anyone has done [a turnaround network] right,"* she said.

*Bold added for emphasis.                                                                                       Link:  http://tinyurl.com/okb5gdp

 


Since the beginning of the now-Senator Michael Bennet's term as DPS superintendent, Denver Public Schools administration has pursued an aggressive approach to public schools that includes firing and displacing teachers, closing schools, and privatizing public schools by putting control in the hand of private companies that use public and private funds to run those schools. Bennet hired Mr. Boasberg to be the COO of DPS by attracting him away from his position as the VP of Corporate Affiairs at a multi-billion dollar corporation (a background much like Bennet's). In addition Boasberg chooses to reside and Boulder and will not send his own children to the District he oversees.  

 

DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg                                Boasberg and Senator Michael Bennet

                              


What is Turnaround?

For a background on Turnaround, Turnaround is a status that is granted through US Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan's landmark education policy, Race to the Top. Much of Race to the Top included money to backfill the budgets of states, districts, and schools who were suffering devastating cuts during the Great Recession. Another component was school turnarounds to be funded under the School Improvement Grants. In order to receive funding for Turnarounds, a school must be in the lowest 5% of rankings on high-stakes standardized tests like CSAPTCAP, and PARCC. The federal government promised $5 billion dollars over 5 years. It just happens to be that these schools are primarily. 

 

                                                                                                                                       US Secretary of Education,                                                                                                                                                          Arnie Duncan

There are 4 Turnaround models in the federal guidelines:

  1. Turnaround Model – Replace the principal and rehire no more than 50% of the school’s staff, adopt a new governance structure, and implement a research-based vertically aligned instructional program. 
  2. Restart Model – Transfer control of or close and reopen a school under a School Management Organization (SMO) or school operator that has been selected through a rigorous review process. 
  3. School Closure – Close the school and enroll students in other, higher-achieving schools. 
  4. Transformation Model – Develop teacher/principal effectiveness (including replacing the principal), implement comprehensive instructional reform, extend learning and teacher planning time, create a community-orientation, and provide operating flexibility and sustained support

Link:  http://tinyurl.com/prel32m

 

Translated into normal  English:  

  1. Turnaround ModelFire or displace at least half of the staff and the principal.
  2. Restart Model – Create a charter or give the existing school a privately-run and publicly-funded charter school.
  3. School Closure – No need to explain. See Chicago Public Schools or DC Public Schools.  
  4. Transformation - Fire the principal and invest. Only model that doesn't fire and displace effective teachers. 

DPS most commonly chooses the Turnaround model. This is not the case nationwide. Once again, I want to reiterate the quote that "We're not in a place where anyone has done [a turnaround network] right."


What does this mean for DPS?

According to this Colorado Department of Education website, DPS has used federal Turnaround grants at least 14 times over 3 years, receiving millions in federal money. 

Link:  http://www.cde.state.co.us/fedprograms/tieredinterventiongrantresources

  1. Montbello High School (Close)
  2. North High School
  3. Noel Middle School
  4. Philips (Close)
  5. Rishel (Close)
  6. Lake
  7. Skyland (Close)
  8. Greenlee 
  9. Gilpin 
  10. Trevista 
  11. Charles M. Schenk 
  12. Smith
  13. West
  14. Bruce Randolph

 

The list above does not include schools that went through a similar process called "Redesign". These schools did not qualify for the School Improvement Grants, happened prior to SIG, or are outside of the CDE reporting. This following list may be missing additional schools, but the redesign and closed schools that I can recall outside of the SIG grants are:

  1. Remington Elementary (Closed)
  2. Smedley Elementary (Closed)
  3. Horace Mann Middle School
  4. Del Pueblo Elementary (Closed)
  5. Wyman Elementary (Closed)
  6. Gilpin
  7. Polaris (Closed)
  8. Manual High School (Twice:  resulting in many students, predominantly of color, never graduating high school)
  9. Kunsmiller Middle School
  10. Grant Middle School
  11. Oakland Elementary (Twice:  turned into SOAR Oakland charter school and then closed again)
  12. McGlone Elementary
  13. Green Valley Ranch Elementary
  14. Centennial K-8
  15. Fairmont K-8
  16. Ashley Elementary
  17. Smiley Middle School (Closed)
  18. Kepner Middle School (Coming in 2015-2016)

 

Denver Public Schools currently has two Turnaround networks of schools managed by their own Instruction Superindent, Deputy Superintendent, and support staff. The current networks are the West Denver Network (WDN) and the Denver Summit Schools Network (DSSN). They are in process of establishing a new turnaround network including Cheltenham Elementary, Columbine Elementary, Fairview Elementary, and Valverde Elementary. This network is flagged for Redesign or Turnaround if improvement is not made soon.  

 

 

DPS has already redesigned or turned around 17 schools on its own and 14 more with the support federal money to aid their programs. This makes 31 schools in Denver where students were displaced, teachers and other staff were fired. 

 

What is the result?

 

The Achievement Gap Is Growing.

Denver Public Schools consists of 77% minority students. 58% of those students are Latino, and 14% Black. As the District administration continues to fail to address the achievement gap, it continues to fail the majority of Denver students. Furthermore, these schools all predominantly serve or served students of color. Two of Denver's iconic schools that successfully served African American students, Montbello and Manual High Schools, have been tinkered with with little success. DPS eventually shut down Montbello and is trying to decide what to do with Manual. Similar Turnarounds and closures are happening at Latino schools like West High School and Kepner Middle School. Tom Boasberg has even admitted that while the achievement gap is shrinking statewide, it is getting worse in Denver, 

"While we're seeing significant gains across all demographic groups, we are not seeing our gaps close and this is very concerning," Boasberg said. "As we move forward, clearly we need to improve the effectiveness of our efforts to close the achievement gaps."

Citation:  "Latino students in Colroado Slowly closing gaps on achievement tests." Denver Post

 

​​Articles:

 

Massive Layoffs and Firings of Effective Teachers.

The vast majority of these schools implemented a process that either shuttered the school or required the staff to reapply for their jobs despite positive performance evaluations. The district is then able to displace or layoff teachers without any cause when they had been performing effectively. 

Articles

 

Fewer Teachers of Color in Denver Schools

  • It is a well-known fact that Denver Public Schools is losing more teachers of color than they are attracting. ​According to Colorado Public Radio reported Jenny Brundin in an article in February 2014, only 4% of teachers in Denver are black while 14% of the student body is black. The gap worsens with Latinos with a 17% Latino teachers and 58% Latino students. Link – "Race Matters in the Classroom:  Why are all of my teachers white?http://www.cpr.org/news/story/race-matters-classroom-why-are-all-my-teachers-white

Articles:

 

Major Funding for Politicians (Democrats for Education Reform) and Republicans Who Support this Model. 

 

2009

2011

​​2013

 

Maybe this will help explain why the NEA's body of over 8,000 education employee delegates vote in support of a request to ask US Secretary of State Arnie Duncan to resign. School boards are getting more and more funding from national corporate and special interests that are working to privatize public education and bust teacher and other public employee unions (one of the strongest checks on corporations and Republicans). 

We are now seeing this in Douglas County, Jefferson County, Big Thompson School District, and District 12 as well. It is time to get educated and get organized to preserve one of the major pillars of American prosperity. 

Where does your state legislator stand on women’s issues?

 Women's Lobby of Colorado Legislative Scorecard.  See how your legislators are rated.

It's a ten page document, and posting pdfs is a pain, so you can look it up yourself. But you may find some surprises.

My SD3 candidate, and current HD46 rep, Leroy Garcia, has 100%.

My Senator, George Rivera, has 64%, which was higher than I thought he would have.

My current HD47 rep, Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff, is rated 36%. I guess that's what happens when one's market brand is being "business friendly".

By the way, "women's issues" are not just reproductive rights issues – economy, healthcare, education, and opportunity are also women's issues. Sorry, Laura Carno, larger magazine size on full auto guns didn't make the list.

 

 

Koch-sponsored “GenOpp” wants you to know about Udall’s “War on Youth”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

You remember Creepy Uncle Sam, who symbolized all that was unknown and scary about the Affordable Care Act. Sam had a fun few weeks to try to frighten consumers out of signing up on the health exchanges. Uncle Sam was everywhere  – on your favorite cable news shows  and web pages. Then, as suddenly as he had popped in, he disappeared, after the ACA signup deadline was over.

Generation Opportunity, or GenOpp, the organization which sponsored the Uncle Sam ads, is still going strong, and working harder than ever to lure young people away from the Democratic fold. GenOpp's media arm is called FreetheFuture, and it is mostly funded by the Koch brothers, via GenOpp, through the Freedom Partners LLC, which has funneled five million dollars into it during 2013, according to an expose by Viveca Novak on OpenSecrets.org.

(more…)

Val Flores, Long-Time Educator, Rolls the Corporate Reformers With Grassroots in the D Primary for State Board of Ed

Despite the popular belief that money and endorsements win most campaigns, long-time educator and underdog, Val Flores, proved this wrong yesterday and won the Democratic primary for the State Board of Education District 1 seat. The 17.86% margin victory came last night despite a long list of Democratic establishment candidates and national money from Walton Family Foundation-funded non-profit, Education Reform Now. 

Primary Results:

Valentina 'Val' Flores         58.93%              22,412

Taggart Hansen                 41.07%             15,621

                                       Votes Cast         38,033

Source:  http://results.enr.clarityelections.com/CO/51557/134987/en/summary.html#

 

June 16 Secretary of State Report:  Total Raised by Candidates

Val Flores                  $16,936.00 

Taggert Hansen          $27,740.52

 

List of Taggert Hansen's Endorsers

  • Mayor Michael Hancock
  • Denver Post
  • Sen. Michael Johnston
  • State BOE District 1, Elaine Gantz-Berman
  • ​Barbara O'Brien
  • Mike Johnson
  • Happy Haynes
  • Teresa Pena
  • Gully Sanford
  • Dr. Sharon Bailey
  • Regis Groff
  • Michael Carrigan
  • ​Angela Williams
  • Lois Court
  • Beth McCann
  • Rosemary Rodriguez
  • Landri Taylor
  • Anne Rowe
  • Peter Groff
  • Mary Seawell
  • ​Bruce Hoyt

On top of that, Hansen had $70,000 kicked into the soft side by Democrats for Education Reform and ground support from corporate reformers Stand for Children. See more in my previous post at - http://coloradopols.com/diary/59638/taggert-hansen-and-dfer-puppets-to-wal-marts-campaign-to-privatize-public-educaiton-and-bust-unions

 

So why did Val win?

  • Was it because she is Latino?
  • Was it because she was a long time teacher?
  • Was it the Ph.D?
  • Was it the solid group of grassroots volunteers that propelled her through the county assembly and never stopped?
  • Was it the message?

By the title and my questions, I am sure you know what I think. Val had the right profile and the right experience. She also got financial support for teachers unions, but just enough to compete. Most importantly, however, she had a hardcore team of volunteers - something that DFER/astroturf candidates didn't have. On top of that, her message had appeal with Democratic primary goers.

What was Val's message?

Support excellence in teaching.  I’ve taught most of my life helping future teachers prepare for the classroom.  Every student deserves a quality teacher and every teacher deserves the support and respect of the community.  Young teachers need longer mentoring periods, including internships with experienced master teachers and in school teaching supervisors to ensure that they learn best practices and can apply these skills to the classroom. We need to continually use a range of evaluating support systems in the classroom and quickly provide teachers with feedback on how they can improve their skills and become effective teachers.  Research shows that keeping experienced teachers in the classroom is a far better and more economical practice, saving money in the long run.  Replacing experienced teachers is irresponsible, costly and harmful to our students.  The latest research studies show that it takes three to five years for most teachers to reach their stride in this profession.  We need to stop the ceaseless firing and opportunistic removal of experienced teachers in the Denver Public Schools and other districts across Colorado.  Ensuring every student has quality, experienced teachers is the first step to closing the achievement gap.

I oppose the corporatization and privatization of our public education system and high stakes testing.  These practices benefit vendors and major corporations – not our students.  We must ensure classroom time is quality learning time which gives every student the best chance possible to succeed.  We must put a stop to the radical privatization Douglas County has started and ensure other districts across the state do not follow suit.

Finally, we must support our free public schools and make sure that this beacon of democracy is not sold to the highest bidder on Wall Street.  Every child should have the right to attend their neighborhood public school."

It looks like the corporate education reformers are showing their cracks in Denver. While having a strong message on what is needed to improve public education, Val also effectively messaged what we don't want. Polling of the Democratic base in Denver has consistently shown that they oppose corporate influence in public education and they are resistant to high stakes testing. I just don't think that candidates have been so willing to explicitly state this until now. 

 

They also might be influence by pieces in the news over the last few years about:

Takeovers of other boards of education like JeffCo, DougCo, Adams 12, Big Thompson, and others.

What JeffCo School Board Is Doing Is Shameful http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_25367409/what-jeffco-school-board-is-doing-is-shameful

Plaintiffs:  Dougco voucher program thwarts constitution http://co.chalkbeat.org/2014/05/30/plaintiffs-dougco-voucher-program-thwarts-constitution/#.U6tUhfldWSo

Mass firings of teachers in Denver.

Colorado Teachers Challenge Mass Firings http://www.courthousenews.com/2014/02/03/65049.htm

Denver Public School teachers speak out against losing jobs http://www.denverpost.com/ci_23264782/denver-public-schools-teachers-speak-out-against-losing

The removal experienced teachers from the classroom in Denver.

Teachers Fight Back Against Denver Public Schools in Court http://www.westword.com/2014-04-10/news/teacher-lawsuit-against-dps/

Black Teachers Fired - http://www.blackagendareport.com/category/education-public-education/black-teachers-fired

The persistent achievement gap that is not being addressed by corporate reform.

At Denver flagship high school shocking achievment gaps http://co.chalkbeat.org/2014/04/08/at-denvers-flagship-high-school-shocking-achievement-gaps-and-small-steps-forward/

DPS: Segregation Now, Segregation Forever? http://blog.ednewscolorado.org/2011/05/16/dps-segregation-now-segregation-forever

 

There are many more things to say, but I think you all are more than ready to add some comments. Thanks for taking the time to read my post. 

 

Taggert Hansen and DFER – Puppets to Wal-Mart’s Campaign to Privatize Public Education and Bust Unions

It seems that ColoradoPols is consistently lacking real background behind education reform unless it is affecting the the typical D vs. R. dynamic. So I figured I would try out a post. In Denver Public Schools and urban districts around the country, there is effectively no two-party system. What we have is a low turnout primary process to elect who will walk into the office in the fall and very contentious school board elections.

What is now consistent, is that office holders who are affiliated Democrats are becoming more and more willing to turn over public funds to privately managed Charter Management Organizations, fire and displace teachers who have been rated as effective, ignore the requests of parents and community members, and bust teachers unions. Why is this happening? They want to get elected, and they don't have the real information.

Well, in order to get elected, money helps a whole lot. The folks who are attacking public education have a whole lot of it. Think of all of the Democrats for Education Reform (DEFRs) in Colorado and the country who fit this mold:

  • Senator Michael Bennet
  • State Senator Michael Johnston
  • Former D.C. Public Schools Chancellor, Michelle Rhee
  • Chicago Mayor Rahm Immanuel
  • DPS Board of Education, Happy Haynes, Barbara O'Brien, Anne Rowe, Rosemary Rodriguez, Michael Johnson, and Landri Taylor. 
  • Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan

Wow! This is a pretty powerful group. It must be that they really know what is best for education. Or maybe that they have tons of secret money coming from billionaires, right wingers, and Wall Street/hedge fund managers. If you look at their policies, they are all that different from George W. Bush, Chris Christie, and other big name Republicans. Let's meet the newest person who is supported by this big money in the current Democratic primary for the State Board of Education District 1, Taggert Hansen. 

Taggert Hansen

Taggert Hansen

Bio from his website:

"After college, I taught sixth grade as a public school teacher in the second largest district in California. As a teacher (of two years through Teach For America – added by writer), I learned the importance of creating a community of shared vision for educating children and empowering them to learn, and the importance of partnerships between teachers, parents and administrators.  I learned that some of my “trouble students” were in fact some of the brightest in the class with enormous potential – it’s just that no one had looked beyond the label and encouraged them to excel and dream of achieving greatness."  Citation: http://tagghansen.nationbuilder.com/

VS. 

Valentina Flores, Ph.D

Valentina Flores, Ph.D.

"First and foremost, I am an educator who has worked in education for 43 years.  With a background as a public school teacher, an education policy analyst, a curriculum development and implementation professional, and professor at several universities, I am uniquely qualified to bring my 43 years of experience to the Colorado State Board of Education." Citation:  http://valflores.com/val/

It may seem that a 41 year educator and Latina might be a more obvious choice for the position, but WAIT . . . . . there's more in her website bio.

"I oppose big money and corporatization in our public education system.  I oppose high stakes testing that takes away valuable classroom learning time.  I opcpose 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." 

 

Ah ha! 

Is that why outside money is coming in to buy the State Board of Education race just like the DPS, JeffCo and DougCo school board races? Check this out. Suddenly a new 501 (c)4 organization called Raising Colorado shows up dropping mail for Taggert Hansen. Where did this come from? It was opened by Jennifer Walmer, DFER CO Director and former DPS Chief of Staff, and is funded by Education Reform Now, the (c)3 charitable non-profit from New York, that is funded by the Walmart Foundation (Walton Family Foundation – http://www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/about/2013-grant-report​). So that's the soft side. 

http://tracer.sos.colorado.gov/PublicSite/SearchPages/CommitteeDetail.aspx?OrgID=28253

 

What about Taggert's direct campaign donors? (Source - http://tracer.sos.colorado.gov/PublicSite/SearchPages/FilingDetail.aspx?FilingID=174825​)  Here are a couple:

  • Stand for Children (opposed Senators Andy Kerr and Evie Hudak and Representatives Kagan and Pettersen in 2012) in support of Republicans who oppose school funding and support union busting. They are at it again. Check out their endorsements including anti-tax right wingers – http://stand.org/colorado/2014-education-champions.  Also support by the Walton Family Foundation - http://www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/2012-education-reform-grants-by-investment-region.
  • Leadership for Education Equity - A D.C. based non-profit with a board that includes Matt Kramer, President of Teach for America (Funded by Walton – http://www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/grantees/teach-for-america) and Arthur Rock (Hedge fund manager who played heavily in DPS school board in 2013).​

It is hard to explain how far Walmart's reach has gone since with the advent of Citizens United and the abuse of the non-profit system to hide their money. No questions about it, it is time for the Democratic base to decide what being a Democrat means.