Colorado

Friday Churn: Students in Action

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

Bruce Randolph School’s 450 students and 50 teachers and staff, along with 200 community volunteers, will spend the day today cleaning parks, visiting senior citizens, putting together food baskets, planting flower beds and other volunteer jobs during the school’s second annual Students in Action day.

Together, the goal is to complete 2,100 hours of community service in a single day. Other Denver high schools are expected to complete their own volunteer projects.

“The Students in Action Day of Service at our school gives us the opportunity to help people and organizations in our neighborhood,” said Bruce Randolph junior Jennifer Esquivel. “This year, I am lucky enough to be able to volunteer at The Urban Farm. I am very excited because I love animals.”

Today marks the school’s second annual day of service. Sponsors include AmeriCorps, Challenge Denver, YMCA of Metropolitan Denver and Youth Engagement Zone.

It’s that time of year again. The EdNews‘ inbox is starting to receive notices of high school and college graduation ceremonies, including news that 100 percent of the first graduating class of Denver’s Venture Prep Charter School has been accepted into college. The class of 17 seniors has amassed total scholarships offers of almost $700,000.

David Guillen, the school’s college and career coordinator, said many of the graduates will be the first in their families to attend college and some are the first in their families to graduate high school. “It means a lot to me to be graduating high school this year because I’m the first person to graduate in my family and that’s a big thing,” said senior Mulbah Dolley.

The 6-12 school enrolls 417 students and has a poverty rate of 88 percent.

In case you missed it, Denver Public Schools is looking for 75 math tutors to help students in seven schools improve their math performance.

The initiative is part of the district’s turnaround plan in Far Northeast Denver. The math tutors, or fellows, will serve one-year fellowships with DPS and receive intensive summer training and ongoing professional development from Boston-based Blueprint Schools Network, a turnaround partner.

Students in grades 4, 6 and 9 are slated to receive daily, small-group tutoring in an attempt to ensure they make more than one year’s worth of growth in math in 2012-13. The initiative aims to add 50 minutes of math help every day.

The district began the tutoring effort this year and says 30 percent of students have moved a proficiency level in math in six months. Learn more.

What’s on tap:

The State Board of Education convenes at 2 p.m. today at 201 E. Colfax Ave. for its monthly special meeting to discuss pending legislation.

Jefferson County school board members host community conversations tomorrow at five schools across the Jeffco school district. It’s billed as a chance for parents to weigh in on the future of the district. The meetings run from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at these schools: Bear Creek High School, Dakota Ridge High School, Evergreen Middle School, Pomona High School and Wheat Ridge High School.

Good reads from elsewhere:

Performance funding in higher ed: The Hechinger Report teamed with Time for a look at the use of performance funding in U.S. colleges and universities. That means schools get paid more based on measures such as improving their graduation rates. “This is coming, whether people like it or not,” said Thomas Harnisch, a policy analyst at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities who monitors the trend. Read the report.

Understanding the Common Core: Education Week is allowing free access to a new report on Common Core standards and its entire website during an “open house” event that ends at midnight. The report examines the progress some states have made in implementing the Common Core standards, which nearly every state has signed on to use in English/language arts and math. It also looks at what preparations still need to be undertaken and the challenges ahead for educators. Read the report.

The EdNews’ Churn is a daily roundup of briefs, notes and meetings in the world of Colorado education. To submit an item for consideration in this listing, please email us at EdNews@EdNewsColorado.org.

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede