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News Release - State board approves BEST grant awards; moves forward with Title I multi-district online schools pilot

June 12, 2014

State board approves BEST grant awards; moves forward with Title I multi-district online schools pilot   

The Colorado State Board of Education met for its regularly scheduled meeting on June 11 & 12. Highlights from the meeting include:

Capital Construction

The state board approved the list of 2014-2015 Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) cash grant awards and the (BEST) lease-purchase grant list. Click here for a summary of the applications submitted; grant program rules and priority guidelines. 

Title I Funding Project: Multi-District Online Schools

The board voted to direct the commissioner and the department to undertake the Title I funding pilot project related to multi-district online schools. The two-year pilot will study the impact of the additional Title I, Part A funds for Douglas County and the strategies implemented for eligible students including those in multi-district online school settings. The pilot will identify CDE system changes and capacity, impact on eligibility, statutory changes and rules and reporting structures.  

Assessments

CDE’s director of assessment walked the board through the process for the Colorado Measures of Academic Success science and social studies standard setting. CDE administered new online assessments in science and social studies this spring.  The first year that any assessment is given, a standard setting process takes place to establish the standards or cut scores for each performance level on the test (i.e., the cut scores for such performance levels as advanced, proficient, partially proficient, and unsatisfactory).  This summer, Colorado educators selected from the CMAS educator database will meet to recommend cut scores for each performance level for the board to review at their August board meeting. To view the presentation, click here

Outstanding Students and Educators

The board recognized the U.S. Presidential Scholars, one of the nation's highest honors for high school students. This year, two of those scholars are from Colorado: Siyu Wu, Poudre High School and Michael Z. Chen, Fairview High School. The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964, by executive order of the president, to recognize and honor some of our nation's most distinguished graduating high school seniors. 

The board also recognized the 2014 Colorado Teacher of the Year Elizabeth Miner.  The program honors an exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable and skilled teacher to represent the entire profession in Colorado. Miner was named the 2014 Colorado Teacher of the Year by the commissioner of education at an assembly held at Miner's school on Oct. 14, 2013.  Miner has been a middle school physical education teacher at Fitzsimmons Middle School for seven years, where she focuses on cross-curricular core skill development. 

READ Act

The board discussed proposed revisions to the rules for the administration of the READ Act. The revisions would allow districts to test students for a significant reading deficiency by using an interim assessment normed for students who speak Spanish as their native language. The board heard testimony from district leaders regarding the proposed changes.  The board has requested a formal Attorney General opinion on the issue prior to moving forward with any proposed rule changes.  No action will be taken until the formal opinion is issued which will be made available to the public.  

Counselor Corps Grant Program

Staff presented the board with the Colorado School Counselor Corps Grant Program 2014 Legislative Report. The report addresses the outcomes and accomplishments associated with the second-year of the second, three-year grant cohort, for academic year 2012-13. The purpose of the program is to increase the availability of effective, school-based counseling within secondary schools with a focus on postsecondary preparation. The board also approved the recommendations for the 2014 School Counselor Corps grant recipients and amount of grant awards.

Next Generation Learning

Rebecca Holmes, associate commissioner of Innovation, Choice, and Engagement provided information on the Global Education Leadership Program and an update on next generation learning at CDE and the Colorado Education Institute. To view the presentation, click here.

Legislative Wrap-Up

Legislative Liaison Jennifer Mello shared a report with the board encapsulating the 2014 legislative session. As a part of the presentation, she provided a bill implementation document outlining the work needed to implement the new legislation.

Turnaround/Priority Improvement District Presentations

In March, April, May and June, the state board heard from school districts with accreditation ratings of either Accredited with Priority Improvement or Accredited with Turnaround Plan. The board heard an overview of successes, challenges, major improvement strategies, vision for how the district or school(s) will show significant and sufficient improvement to get off of the accountability clock and an explanation for how the district is supporting its lowest performing schools. This month, the board heard from Sheridan School District 2, Julesburg School District RE-1, Aguilar School District RE-6 and Rocky Ford School District R-2. 

Sheridan School District 2 serves 1,650 students in the southwest metro Denver area. Nearly 80 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch and almost 40 percent of students are English language learners. The district will enter Year 4 of Priority Improvement on July 1, 2014. According to the 2013 School Performance Frameworks, Sheridan’s Alternative Education Campus is assigned a Performance plan type, its elementary and middle schools are assigned Improvement plan types and the high school is assigned a Priority Improvement plan type.  Improvement initiatives have been heavily focused on implementation and refinement of an instructional model that focuses on the alignment of curriculum and assessment, data-driven instruction, literate engagement, strong leadership, safe and supportive learning environments, and community engagement. In addition to these initiatives, the district plans to begin a multi-year focus on English language development.   

Julesburg School District RE-1 Julesburg RE-1 is a small rural district serving approximately 1,150 students in both brick and mortar and online settings. The district is comprised of two brick-and-mortar schools: Julesburg Elementary School and Julesburg High School. Additionally, Julesburg has authorized a multi-district online program since 2008 called Insight School of Colorado. It is headquartered in Westminster, Colorado. While the performance of the district’s brick and mortar schools alone would place Julesburg’s accreditation in the Performance category, when the results from Insight School of Colorado are factored into the District Performance Framework, the district’s accreditation category drops to Priority Improvement. Both Julesburg School District and Insight School of Colorado will enter Year 4 of Priority Improvement on July 1, 2014. The district’s support includes ongoing work through CDE’s Office of School and District Performance including Unified Improvement Planning support; inclusion in professional development focused on data-driven practices; ongoing support through CDE’s Office of Blended and Online Learning; and Race to the Top Funds. This money was pooled with other Northeast BOCES districts to develop a BOCES-wide standards-based curriculum. 

Aguilar School District RE-6 is located in southern Colorado between Walsenburg and Trinidad, just west of Interstate 25. The district serves just over 100 students K-12 and had a notable increase in student membership during the 2013 - 2014 school year. Aguilar is accredited with a Priority Improvement rating and will be entering Year 4 in July 2014. The district has two schools. The elementary school was assigned a Performance plan. The Junior-Senior high school was assigned a Priority Improvement plan and is entering Year 4. The school district has identified three major areas for improvement. The first being job-embedded professional development with a focus on best first instruction across all content and grade levels. Next, Aguilar has focused on increasing student engagement and behavior through research-based strategies. Lastly, the district is implementing an improvement planning process to increase its ability to be highly effective. The district has shown improvements in student outcomes and the current trajectory is positive.  

Rocky Ford School District R-2 is located in Otero County, in the southeast region of Colorado. It is a small rural community with a population of approximately 4,000 people, and agriculture is the primary source of income for residents. The school district serves approximately 800 students pre-k thru 12th-grade. Rocky Ford School District is accredited with a Priority Improvement Plan and is entering Year 4 on the accountability clock in July 2014. The junior-senior high school and intermediate elementary school both have Priority Improvement plan types. Rocky Ford has focused on writing and implementing curriculum aligned to the new state standards; providing professional development to staff regarding the design and delivery of effective instruction and lessons; and improving the climate and culture, including parent/community engagement within each building and across the district.

Other Action

Rulemaking Hearing

The board approved the dance endorsement rules. Distinguished guest Cleo Parker Robinson provided public comment in support of the rules. 

Notice of Rulemaking

The board approved the notice of rulemaking for the Rules for the Administration of the School Counselor Corps Grant Program.

The board approved the department’s annual budget change request

The board approved the updated tests and the corresponding recommended cut scores for the following regenerated PRAXIS II content exams: Elementary Education 5018 recommended cut score of 163, School Psychologist 5402 recommended cut score of 147 and Speech-Language Psychologist 5331 recommended cut score of 162. 

The board approved the application for certification and amendment of existing certification of multi-district online schools submitted by Byers School District on behalf of COVA, Inc., New Elementary School, Inc., New Middle school, Inc. and Elevate Academy.

The Colorado State Board of Education will hold its next meeting on Aug. 13 & 14 at 9 a.m. at the Colorado Department of Education in Denver. 

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