Who Is In Charge

State board faces common core decision

The strength of Colorado’s Race to the Top bid will be in the hands of the State Board of Education Monday when it decides whether to adopt the Common Core Standards in language arts and math.

One board member, Peggy Littleton, R-5th District, has been campaigning for rejection of the standards, and at her request a public hearing will be held at 7:30 a.m. Monday before the board formally convenes  to hear a recommendation from education Commissioner Dwight Jones, discuss the issue and vote.

Rejection of the standards could trim points from Colorado’s R2T application.

While several state boards around the country have adopted the standards without controversy, Colorado’s vote is surrounded by a little more drama.

It’s tough to predict how the board will vote, given that one member is in favor, two are leaning against and three more say they haven’t made up their minds – or they aren’t showing their cards in advance of the meeting. One member hasn’t responded to a question about his position.

The meeting originally was scheduled as a teleconference. But, at least three members are expected to show up in person for the hearing and four for the vote.

At a July 21 board teleconference Jones praised the openness and care with which Colorado has reviewed the common standards but said a decision hadn’t been made on his recommendation. But it’s widely expected he will propose adoption.

The standards were developed under the leadership of the National Governors’ Association and the Council of Chief State School officers, of which Jones is a member. State Department of Education officials were involved in the discussions and drafting that led to the common standards.

And, the state’s R2T application states, “Colorado also has embraced the rigorous Common Core Standards, which will be presented to the State Board of Education for adoption in August 2010.”

During that July 21 meeting, CDE officials and a consultant said the common standards are 90 percent aligned with the new state language arts and math standards adopted by the board last December and that the two sets are about equally rigorous.

Officials also indicated they believe taking parts of the common standards and adding them to the Colorado documents would constitute “adoption.” (More details on the common standards and the board’s July 21 meeting.) The position of the governors’ association is that the standards must be adopted in their entirety and that state’s can add 15 percent additional material.

Adoption of the common standards is worth 20 points in the 500-point scoring system for R2T grants. Earlier this week Colorado was named one of 19 finalists for round two of R2T.

All the finalists except Colorado and California have adopted the standards. California’s state board also will meet Monday to vote on adoption, which has been recommended by an advisory panel.

All 19 finalists scored more than 400 points each, although specific scores haven’t been released because they may change based on state delegations’ interviews the week of Aug. 9. Loss of points could put Colorado at a disadvantage.

Overall, 31 states have adopted the common standards, Iowa being the latest to do so on Thursday (see map). Florida’s board unanimously adopted the standards on Tuesday. It’s predicted that as many as 40 states could adopt. Alaska and Texas declined to participate in the common standards project.

State Board of Education member Peggy Littleton, R-5th District.

Littleton has been trying to rally opposition to the common standards based on the argument that they’re part of a creeping federalization of K-12 education, echoing concerns by some other conservatives around the country.

“Colorado has put together a good reform plan without Race to the Top,” Littleton said in her statement. “The [Race to the Top] application should include a ‘meets or exceeds’ box for us to check for the standards, because our state’s new standards, that were just adopted after an 18 month long process which was clear and transparent and included citizen input from all over the state of Colorado, and are at least as rigorous as the proposed Common Core, and without the risk of undermining our freedom and local control.”

She predicted 100 people will show up at Monday’s hearing to oppose the standards. CDE has received about 500 e-mails on the issue.

Here’s what some board members currently have to say about their positions:

Elaine Gantz Berman, D-1st District – “I am voting for common core.”

Angelika Schroeder, D-2nd District – “I’m waiting for more information from staff right now.”

Marcia Neal, R-3rd District – “I will probably vote to oppose,” she said. In a recent blog post,  she praised the rigor of the national standards but also wrote, “What are the downsides to this adoption? Is the money that we would gain worth the exchange? … Will this acquiescence lead to further demands, to loss of Colorado’s greatly valued local control? (Full blog post). Neal attended the annual Colorado Association of School Executives convention in Breckenridge this week and said small-district administrators “are almost unanimous in their opposition.”

Details on Monday’s meeting

Public comment will be taken from 7:30 to 9:15 a.m. in the first-floor boardroom at CDE, 201 E. Colfax Ave., Denver. Testimony will be limited to three minutes per person. The board’s meeting is scheduled from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.

To listen to the proceedings online, go to the board webpage and use the link at the bottom labeled “Click here to listen live to the State Board Regular meeting.”

Chair Bob Schaffer, R-4th District – Didn’t respond Thursday to a message. As chair, Schaffer signed the state’s R2T application.

Littleton – In a statement Thursday, she said she opposes the standards because “Adopting these national standards would invite greater federal intrusion into the education of Colorado students. It would open the doors to national standards in other areas, like science (currently underway) civics and health, while moving us closer to national assessments and national curriculum.”

Vice Chair Randy DeHoff, R-6th District – “I am being heavily lobbied by both sides (not unexpected, nor unappreciated). This is shaping up to be one of the most difficult votes of my 12 years on the board.”

Jane Goff, D-7th District – “We’ll be discussing some options on Monday, so that’s when I’ll get to a final decision. This is really hard!”

In August 2009 the board unanimously passed a resolution supporting Colorado’s participation in the common standards project. Jones and Gov. Bill Ritter had announced in June that the state would join the effort.

Some board members expressed concerns at that time that the common standards could one day turn into federal mandates, so the resolution was carefully worked to read, “Colorado along with each state throughout the country will make its own determination as to the voluntary adoption of the Common Core Standards.”

Littleton said at that meeting, “The states are the ones defining what it is our children are learning, and it is not the federal government’s responsibility to do that.”

The U.S. Department of Education’s R2T regulations that made the common standards part of the competition weren’t published until November 2009.

Littleton is running for El Paso County commissioner and will face Democrat Mike Merrifield, the powerful outgoing chair of the state House Education Committee, in November.

Schroeder, who was appointed to her seat, is up for election, and Littleton and DeHoff will be leaving the board. There are contested races in both districts.

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.”