Archive for July, 2008

Schools with Poverty

July 18, 2008

All evidence suggests that it is bad policy to concentrate children in schools with high rates of poverty.  It’s not good for the students.  It’s not good for educators.  And, it’s not good for the community.


The only schools with high rates of poverty that consistently outperform peer schools require students to attend school 50% more a year – long days, weeks and years.  That takes resources.


This is something that our school district – like most school districts across the country – must confront.  But a school district cannot face up to the issues of poverty on its own.  A community must get behind and support school district leaders and managers.


Here are a handful of reports/books on the topic.  I have not yet had the opportunity to look at the Pew report in depth.


Pew Hispanic Center, The Role of Schools in the ELL Achievement Gap.


Piton Foundation, The Case for Economic Integration.


Piton Foundation, Mixed Income Schools Gaining Favor.


Richard D. Kahlenberg, All Together Now: Creating Middle-Class Schools through Public School Choice

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Big Schools or Small

July 15, 2008

My bias is for small schools.  This bias comes from experience not data.  I attended extremely small schools and had a great experience.  There is amble evidence that students can receive an excellent education at large schools, too.


There also are arguments to be made that large schools are more economically efficient.  Large schools are able to provide a much larger selection of courses and hold the line on overhead costs.  Many school districts have chosen to build very large schools.  Cherry Creek, one of the top performing districts in the state, tends to build schools with a capacity of 2,000 students.  We build schools designed for 1,200 students.  On the other hand, there is a movement known as the “Small School Movement” whose advocates – including Bill Gates – argue that no high school should be larger than 750 students.


Which is better?

Trojan Alumni Club

July 11, 2008

I want to share some information I received about the new Trojan Alumni Club.


The Trojan Alumni Club has been started to help increase the support for Longmont High classrooms and class projects as well as unite alumni in common causes and fun. Other schools in the area have 20 times the support from alumni that Longmont High has and Longmont High has 104 years of graduates and more than 20,000 living alums. The reason – we believe it is because no one asked for the assistance and made it easy to participate in the Trojan Alumni Club. Now it is easy.


 


If you are an LHS Alumni, please take a few minutes to go to www.trojanalumni.com  and hopefully add your name and $20 annually to the list of members.  Just use the Pay Pal button on the donate page or follow directions on that page – please be sure to include your graduation year.  If we can get 500 alums to contribute annually we can quadruple what we have been able to provide for LHS classrooms. Imagine the possibilities if each of the alums found one other to support their alma mater in this easy and inexpensive way. We are offering incentives for you to find other alums to join… find 20 and get a Trojan sweatshirt, find 25 and get an activity pass to LHS, get 50 to sign up and we’ll give you a family activity pass!


 


The committee who is working on this will be made up of alumni only and you are also invited to join. The possibilities and fun are whatever the alums choose.

Colorado Savings Account for Education

July 9, 2008

I had the chance to attend a presentation on the Colorado Savings Account for Education.


 


Here is my understanding of what this initiative would accomplish:


 


       In essence, permanently “debruce” the state.  The state could keep all revenues that are collected rather than limiting collections to a 6% increase over the previous year.


       Tax rates would stay the same.  Voters would have to approve any increase in taxes.


       Statutory spending limits would stay the same.  State spending is not allowed to increase more than 6% in a single year.


       Revenues that are collected in excess of the spending limit would be placed in an account earmarked for Preschool – 12 grade education funding.  In economic slow times, this “savings account” can be used to fund public education without having to take the money from other types of services.


       Spending mandates to increase k-12 funding would be eliminated beginning in 2011.  The legislature would have the power to decide whether to increase or decrease education funding.  Put another way, our representatives would again have the ability to set priorities based on the state’s needs on a year to year basis.


 


For those who are interested, you can learn more at Andrew Romanoff’s blog.


Colorado Fiscal Policy

July 7, 2008

I recall a column written by noted conservative George Will in a previous decade in which he argued that taxes were too low.  This was back at a time when fiscally prudent people believed that you should only spend money you have.  It wasn’t yet in vogue to believe that it is possible to borrow yourself to prosperity.


 


The thesis of Will’s column was that the services people demand from government – roads, infrastructure, schools, prisons, retirement security, etc. – exceeded what we were paying in taxes.  He went on to argue that taxes should be in alignment with the public demand for services.


 


We face that problem in Colorado.  Our state constitution is plagued by conflicting commandments.  On the one hand, we have provisions that place caps on revenues.  State and local governments are not permitted to collect more in the good years – even though the tax rate stays the same; in effect the tax rate is cut during good years.  There also are provisions that place caps on property taxes.


 


There is nothing inherently wrong with placing caps on revenues – except that the constitution also includes requirements to increase spending.  And, public demand for services exceeds what the government is allowed to collect.


 


This is not sustainable.  And, Colorado is suffering the consequences of declining infrastructure and investments in the future.


 


Carol Hedges of the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute gave a presentation to the school board  on June 25 on how we came to be in this situation.  I can’t begin to do justice to Carol’s presentation.  She is outstanding.  I can provide you links to two of her reports.


 


Looking Forward


 


Aiming for the Middle


 

I love the 4th

July 4, 2008

July 4th is my favorite holiday.  I love the community celebrations.  We go to Thompson Park every year to hear the orchestra and visit with friends.  I love the fireworks even when the mosquitoes are biting.  Most of all, I love breakfast at our house on the 4th.  We don’t eat anything special.  It’s chance for me to read a few things to my kids and talk about the United States.


We read a portion of the Declaration of Independence and talk about the courage it took to start a nation.


We read the Gettysburg Address and talk about the courage it takes to continue a nation.


And, we read a speech by Frederick Douglass and talk about the courage it takes for a nation to face up to its shortcomings in order to move closer toward its potential.


I write this on July 3rd.  I can’t wait until tomorrow morning.


Enjoy the holiday!

No Meetings in July

July 3, 2008

July is the one month of the year that the school board does not meet.  I think the break makes sense.  It gives all of us a chance to collect our thoughts.


I will be gone part of the month of July on a family vacation.  We chose July for our vacation so that I wouldn’t miss any meetings.  I will be reading, though.  I am bringing a stack of education articles on our trip – articles I accumulated over the spring but never had the chance to read.


I also have written several posts that will on the blog every few days this month.


I hope everyone is enjoying their summer.