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

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

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

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”