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News Release - Commissioner Search Begins In Earnest

Jan. 14, 2011

News Release

Commissioner Search Begins In Earnest; State Board Of Education Honors Title 1 Distinguished Schools

The state board this week met with representatives from Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, the search firm that is helping in the effort to identify and hire the next commissioner.

The board reviewed the survey that will be sent out to a broad array of individuals and groups—adding suggestions of their own about other various audiences—and reviewed the questions that will be used for many in-person interviews as well.

The survey and the questions are designed to discover what kind of attributes, qualities and skills others believe the next commissioner should possess.

The calendar being pursued by the board currently calls for the following timeline:

Jan. 14—26: Survey is posted and sent out.

Jan. 14—Feb. 8 Search firm meets with specific groups of individuals to gather input on qualifications.

Jan. 26: Information is collated by the search firm.

Feb. 9 & 10: Search firm meets with board to review outcome of meetings on qualifications and drafts final job application.

Feb. 17: Job posting finalized and posted on CDE Web site, advertised nationally.

March 9 & 10: Milestones of search discussed with state board.

April 13 & 14: Possible candidates discussed with state board.

April & May: State board holds special meeting(s) to interview candidates.

May 11 & 12: New commissioner appointed.

July 1: New commissioner takes office.

State Board Honors Title 1 Distinguished Schools Of The Year

The Colorado State Board of Education this week honored Heritage Elementary School and Gypsum Elementary School as Title I Distinguished Schools of the Year.

Heritage Elementary School is located in Pueblo City Schools and Gypsum Elementary is part of Eagle County School District.

The award, originally announced last October, recognizes the two Title I schools—one for achieving academic success, and one for making progress in closing achievement gaps associated with race and poverty.

Heritage Elementary School was selected for the exceptional student performance award. In 2010, the percentage of students who were at or above the NCLB proficient level in reading and math (as determined by the CSAP) was 98.21 percent.

Gypsum Elementary School was selected as a distinguished school for its work in closing the achievement gap. Gypsum, a high-poverty school, increased the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch who were at or above the proficient level on the reading and math CSAP from 85.89 percent in 2009 to 94.44 percent in 2010. The achievement gap between students eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch and those who were ineligible for free and reduced-priced lunch decreased by 4.4 percent.

Heritage principal Gina Gallegos said many consider her school a “hidden jewel” in Pueblo. She credited the school’s improvements on a dedicated focus on achievement data, student growth rates, and “quality and effective support with a highly qualified staff.”

Said State Board of Education Vice Chairman Marcia Neal: “This is fantastic; I am really excited to see that kind of growth. You really have a lot to be proud of.”

Gypsum Elementary School principal Mitch Forsberg said the school credits progress in closing the achievement gap on school culture. “We work hard and we play hard,” he said. The school establishes student groups so classroom teachers can focus on six students at a time and on moving partially proficient students to proficiency. Sixty percent of the students in the school, he said, are in the process of learning English.

State Board of Education Chairman Bob Schaffer, attending the meeting via Web camera, said: “To be able to see some of these scores…those are numbers that represent real opportunity and real freedom…you make us proud.”

The Title I Distinguished School Program is a joint project of the U.S. Department of Education and the National Association of State Title I Directors. The distinguished schools each will receive an award of $10,000 and will be recognized at the National Title I Conference in Tampa, Fla., this month.

Five Key Initiatives

During the Wednesday portion of the meeting this week, Commissioner Robert Hammond provided the state board with a document titled “Five Key Initiatives” and presented the concept that all the reform work currently underway at the department is inter-connected.

The five areas are:

  1. Standards—increasing student learning through teacher mastery and delivery of curriculum to address Colorado’s academic standards, pursuant to S.B. 08-212.
  2. Assessments—developing a new statewide assessment system aligned to the expectations of the updated standards, pursuant to S.B. 08-212.
  3. Accountability & Support—building a unified, statewide system of accountability and support that includes leveraging high-quality information to drive increased school and district performance, pursuant to S.B. 09-163.
  4. Teacher & Principal Effectiveness—ensuring that all students have access to effective teachers and principals, pursuant to S.B. 10-191.
  5. Increased Awareness & Training—advancing Colorado’s statewide education reform agenda through implementation and by building widespread knowledge and awareness among educators, community leaders and other interested parties.

“If we don’t implement these things well, with fidelity…they will fail and that’s unacceptable,” said Commissioner Hammond. He stressed in particular the need to step up awareness and training in rural areas in order to build capacity in the field to implement the many changes underway.

State Review Panel

Associate Commissioner Richard Wenning presented the names of 54 individuals who will serve on a state review panel, the group that will be responsible for assisting the department of education in evaluating district and school turnaround plans under the Education Accountability Act of 2009 (S.B. 09-163). The panel will also make recommendations to the commissioner regarding the adequacy of leadership, infrastructure and the capacity of each school and district to implement the proposed improvements.

Wenning noted that the panelists represent each of the eight Colorado education regions, each congressional district, rural and urban communities, and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES). Wenning said panelists will be trained in February and are expected to commit to reviewing plans for the 84 schools on turnaround status. Revised plans for each school are expected to be presented to the state board of education by the end of March.

For background information and a complete list of school and district performance frameworks, visit this link: http://www.schoolview.org/PerformanceFrameworks.asp

School Finance—Update

There’s some light on the horizon of the state budget picture, but some major challenges are still ahead. That was the major theme of the message delivered by Vody Herrmann, assistant commissioner for School Finance, in an overview of the economic and revenue forecast recently published by the Colorado Legislative Council.

With one-time sources of revenue drying up and relatively flat projections for revenue growth in the near future, she said, the overall picture for school finance is challenging, particularly given a projected 6.9 percent decrease in property tax assessed values (which will have an impact on local sources of revenue) and increased student enrollment.

The entire December 2010 Colorado Legislative Council forecast is available online at this link:

http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/CGA-LegislativeCouncil/CLC/1251573164950

Educator Licensing—Application Backlog

Jami Goetz, executive director of the Office of Professional Services and Educator Licensing, briefed the board on the current backlog in the review process.

The office evaluates more than 40,000 applications each year, she said, and manages 22 different types of applications with eight individuals. Requests for initial licenses are currently in the biggest backlog, now running at about six months.

Commissioner Hammond acknowledged that teachers, principals and superintendents are frustrated by the delays—and have a right to be. Hammond added that he considers the improvements in the educator licensing office to be a critical and urgent matter and has asked offices across the department to pool resources and ideas to help in every way they can.

Goetz cited several contributing factors. The downturn in the economy has led many individuals to consider reactivating an old license to return to teaching. Others are applying for a substitute authorization in hopes of supplementing income. And many existing teachers have requested added endorsements to expand their marketability.

Additionally, recent legislation requires that more applicants and renewals receive a fingerprint-based criminal background check and those steps often take many weeks to complete. “The evaluation of an application requires a background check as well as a review of educational background and experiences to ensure educational personnel in Colorado meet the requirements as outlined in statute and in the rules adopted by the Colorado State Board of Education,” said Goetz.

This backlog is due to not having enough staff and resources to process applications in a timely matter, and a number of those resources are being used to fulfill statutory requirements, such as those imposed by H.B. 08-1344.

In addition, said Goetz, the office is using financial resources and staff to bring up a new online application system that, once it’s up and running, should significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to process an application.

Funding for the office relies on licensing fees and Goetz and Commissioner Hammond said a full proposal for raising those fees, along with an analysis of license fees paid in other states, will be brought to the state board in February. A recent request to the state to fund three additional staff members in the office was turned down by former Gov. Bill Ritter, said Hammond.

Goetz said CDE offices are providing the necessary resources that have allowed her office to add two positions on a temporary basis to attack the short-term backlog. The long-term solution, she said, is to move to an online system. That the conversion is continuing with full implementation expected by July 2011.

Other Action

In other action, the Colorado State Board of Education:

  • Adopted proposed rules regarding amendments to the rules for accounting and reporting.

  • Adopted proposed rules for the administration of the Closing the Achievement Gap project.

  • Adopted proposed rules regarding the rules for the administration of the school district budget law.

  • Unanimously affirmed a decision by the Denver Public Schools Board of Education that denied a charter school application by Janus International Academy.

  • Approved amendments to the rules for the administration of the Exceptional Children’s Educational Act pertaining to the budgets for the education of gifted students.

  • Took action on a disciplinary proceeding concerning a license, charge number 2010EC24.

  • Took action on a disciplinary proceeding concerning applications for authorizations, charge number 2010EC30.

  • Approved a request for approval of initial emergency authorizations (monthly total, 29).

  • Approved a request for approval of renewal emergency authorization (monthly total, 1).

  • Approved a five-year authorization of the new teacher preparation program at Colorado Technical University.

  • Approved state share payments for December 2010 under the Public School Finance Act of 1994.

  • Approved state share payments for January 2011 under the Public School Finance Act of 1994.

  • Approved distribution of funds to eligible school districts in accordance with the English Language Proficiency Act.

  • Approved a five-year reauthorization of the teacher preparation program at Regis College for Professional Studies.

  • Approved a waiver request from certain statutes by Denver Public Schools on behalf of Denver School of Science and Technology II.

  • Approved a notice of rulemaking concerning rules requiring parental notification upon an arrest made or charges brought against a school employee. The board will hold a public hearing on the proposed rule in March and possibly vote on the idea in April. The issue was brought to the state board last year and turned down in May 2010 on a 4-3 vote. This week, the notice of rulemaking to put the issue back on the table was approved on a 4-3 vote.

Centennial Institute Presentation

Former Commissioner of Education William J. Moloney presented the highlights and main themes from a paper he wrote and which was published by the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University titled “Much Better Schools on Much Lower Budgets.” The paper spells out suggestions for how to achieve savings by reducing state aid to K-12 education. The paper urges policymakers to reject three myths about K-12 education.

Those three pieces of “conventional wisdom” that need to be discarded, the paper suggests, are:

  • K-12 education in Colorado today is both cost-effective and educationally effective.
  • Deep reductions in spending will doom education reform.
  • There are no models of schools or systems doing much better with much less.

Moloney discussed doing away with bargaining rights for public employees, dramatically changing compensation system for teachers and dramatically increasing class sizes—along with training for teachers to learn how to handle the increases. He compared the kind of re-tooling needed in K-12 education to what American automakers undertook when Japanese manufacturers offered improved quality at lower prices.

Moloney said that class size reduction was the “most disastrous education reform of the last half century” and urged Colorado to take a look at neighboring Utah, where student performance is higher and class sizes are much larger.

“Thank you for your energy and insight,” said board member Paul Lundeen. “We have no choice now but to evaluate those [ideas]…Desiring more money is nothing but a pipe dream for many years.”

Added Neal: “Thank you for the excellent work you’ve done on this paper. There is very little we can argue with.”

The full paper is available at the institute’s Web site via this link:

http://www.ccu.edu/centennial/policybriefs/2010-2.pdf

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