Day 20–Friday, August 26

Nina Lopez testified for the defense. She works on educator effectiveness issues for The Colorado Legacy Foundation, which works on behalf of the Colorado Department of Education. Nina Lopez recently worked for CDE, also on educator effectiveness issues (Senate Bill 191).

She said:

  • There is potential for an “incredibly positive transformation” of public education systethrough good implementation of S.B. 191.
  • Successful implementation of S.B. 191 is “crucial” to improving education in Colorado.
  • There is no money for school district implementation of S.B. 191 in fiscal note from the bill itself.
  • “The expenses for changing the evaluation and review process will be paid from existing” school resources.
  • S.B. 191 did not appropriate any money for school district implementation.
  • The Colorado Legacy Foundation received a $9.7 million grant from Gates Foundation to accelerate implementation of S.B. 191.
  • The Educator Effectiveness Council urged the state to provide guidance and “meaningful resources” for districts in order to make sure the new system works.
  •  The $6.5 million estimated cost of implementing S.B. 191 in Jeffco is reasonable.
  • She couldn’t refute Commissioner Robert Hammond’s statewide estimated costs of $74 million implementation price tag.
  • The implementation of S.B. 191 “fits hand in hand” with other statewide mandate—implementing new standards, new assessments and new accountability system.
  • “They are inter-related and inter-dependent.”

Former Colorado Commissioner of Education William Moloney testified. He said:

  •  A high school diploma may be “meaningless.” It’s  an arbitrary measure.
  • The value of high school diplomas have been deflated by social promotion and grade inflation.
  • Utah is the best model for doing better with less. Utah is similar to Colorado in many ways.
  • He never went to Utah, never looked at data and “took the word”of reputable experts.
  • No need to compare demographics between Colorado and Utah.
  • Conceeded that Colorado outperforms Utah in fourth grade reading (NAEP), eighth grade science (NAEP), fourth grade math (NAEP) and eighth grade math (NAEP).
  • Nonetheless, “no need” to produce NAEP data to prove Utah does better than Colorado.
  • State of standardized testing is “disastrous.”
  • He was commissioner who decided “partially proficient” would be definition for meeting Adequate Yearly Progress.
  • Colorado built a powerful education reform program in 1999, but has now “unraveled.”
  • The Colorado Growth Model is a “tragedy of good intentions.”
  • The concept of postsecondary “readiness” is a buzz word.
  • Teaching “critical thinking” as a standard “has paved the way to mediocrity.”
  • “Our sins ever mount,” when asked if he knew the definition of postsecondary readiness had been adopted by state board of education and commission on higher education.
  • He believes that Teach for America teachers outperform teachers trained in traditional settings, but cannot point to a study that proves it.
  • He cannot point to any research that shows Catholic schools do better with minority students.
  • Colorado “gamed” its results on NAEP…combined partially proficient and proficient to define AYP.
  • “Every state in the union” lowered its cut score to “look good” on AYP.
  • He was unaware KIPP requires $1,600 more in expenses per pupil than they receive from public funds.
  • Second grade class sizes in Europe and Asia are double U.S. “and they do quite well.”
  • State legislature should suspend CAP4K (Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids) and accountability laws.
  • Every child has the ability to succeed in the classroom.
  • Dollars do make a difference “to some extent, yes.”

Angelika Shroeder—CO State Ed board member, witness for the State

  • Supported S.B. 191

Day 19–Thursday, August 25

Today the state continued their case.  The presented two experts as witnesses:

Dr. Kristin Waters (Principal, DPS):

 

  • Current principal of South HS in Denver
  • Was principal at Bruce Randolph HS when it was in turn-around stauts
  • Testified to the challenges faced while being principal at Bruce Randolph

Dr. Eric Hanushek (Hoover Institute):

  • Testified that we as a nation have spent more on our schools—since the 1960’s we have almost quadrupled  in real terms.  But achievement today is roughly the same as it was in the 1970’s.  So more money hasn’t made a difference in student achievement.
  • Testified that teachers today are better prepared they have ever been.  In 1960- less than a ¼ of teachers had masters, now more than half do.
  • Testified that the major resources that we buy with $ (graduate education of teachers, class size) in school, have no systemic effect, most of the time he finds that  teachers’ advanced degrees do not  have any effect on student outcomes.
  • Testified that the bottom 5-8% of teachers are “bringing us down”
    • Removing these bottom teachers and replacing them with average teachers would boost achievement and boost national income
  • Testified that costing out studies are political documents and not to be considered as scientific data.
  • Testified that in Finnish culture and other Asian cultures, teachers are highly regarded.   But claims that evidence suggest that US teachers are not as highly regarded.  Believes that districts do not need to spend more money to attract more and better teachers.
  • Acknowleged that targeted spending could improve achievement.

Day 18–Wednesday, August 24

Today the State began their case.  They called three witnesses:

Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia:

  • Believes state has met minimum needs of education
  • There are not uniform opportunities to students in Colorado
  • Small class sizes were important to him
  • He would rather have his own child in a small class with an effective teacher.
  • Acknowledged that he was co-chair of P-20 council and that it did not address resources necessary to implement recommendations

Rich Wenning (Former CDE staff):

  • Described the accountability and assessment systems.

Jo O’Brian (CDE staff):

She said:

  • Colorado’s remediation rate is comparable to national rates.  It is a serious issue for Colorado.
  • You do not need technology to meet Colorado standards.
  • High-speed Internet access will be necessary to take the 2014 state assessments in Reading/Writing, Math, Science, and Social Studies.
  • CAP4K 1st interim report on cost http://bit.ly/qXGvre to build standards statewide $129M.  Surprised at cost, but not an expert.
  • School works for 1 of 2 students now.  We need to think about school and what we want school to be.
  • If I was a hedge fund manager would put money into high-speed Internet access and high quality teachers.
  • We need a new type of teacher to do this work.  Board of Education in control of $ and standards.  There is a  shift from memorization to how to apply knowledge in a new situation.  Teachers need PD (professional development) because expectations are different.
  • She testified that she is aware that teachers do not have enough textbooks but not as important as teachers should not be using only textbooks.
  • Still a challenge if there are not enough materials.
  • She testified that she doesn’t know if state providing enough Professional Development to meet the new standards.
  • I don’t know if the School Finance Act has funds to meet the new standards.

Day 17–Tuesday, August 23

Plaintiff-Intervenors MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund) presented witnesses.

Mary Wickersham (Colorado Children’s Campaign):

  • Worked on writing the BEST (Building Excellent Schools Today) legislation
    • Gives grants to districts for capital construction needs
  • After law was enacted, the State conducted an assessment determined that the state of CO had $18 billion dollars in unmet capital needs
  • Facilities are part of a thorough and uniform system of education
  • The aspect of BEST that allows for the majority of building new schools will expire next year.  There will still be substantial unmet capital needs in Colorado.

Charlotte Ciancio (Superintendent, Mapleton): 

  • 8,000 students (including online)
  • 72% Hispanic, 37% ELL, 61% free lunch
  • Percentages have grown in the past decade.
  • If the district had the appropriate resources, she believes that all at-risk students could reach proficiency.

Day 16–Monday, August 22

This week Plaintiff-Intervenors MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund) is presenting witnesses.

Wayne Eads  (Administrator, Greely):

  • The community has become a “majority minority community”
  • 13th largest school district in the state.
  • Influx of migrant students and students from Somalia, Burma, and East Africa.
    • Started a newcomer program to help meet needs and prepare some students who have never been in school before.
  • The number of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch is increasing, and is currently at 60%.
  • The district has tens of millions to hundreds of millions of unmet capital needs; this does not include the estimate it would take to meet technology and other needs.
  • The buildings in the district are in poor condition.  Several have asbestos that can’t be touched, painted over, or even cleaned.
  • The average ratio in the district is 1 computer for every 4 students, and these computers range in age from one to ten years.  The district has a 5-year replacement cycle for technology, but this has not been funded nor has the replacement cycle made it across the district once.

Steve Murdock  ( Professor at Rice University, former Director US Census Bureau; Demography Expert):

  • Expert report finds dramatic changes in the population in Colorado.
    • Increase in Hispanics living in the state
    • Changes in socio-economic status
  • Rapid growth in number of children in CO school districts
    • Increase in Hispanic children from 1991-2001 from one in six to one in 3
    • Rapid growth and rapid diversification in children enrolled in elementary and secondary education in CO
    • According to US census, over 90% of population change from 2000-2010 was due to the Hispanic population
  • Connection between education level and poverty
  • Students qualifying for free and reduced lunch and/or ELL services will need assistance to become better educated.
  • The costs of improving their educational success may be “substantial” but the costs of failing to do so are nor extensive which would result in a poorer and less competitive Colorado.
  • “The future of Colorado is increasingly tied to its minority populations, their economic future is tied to their educational attainment, and how well they do socioeconomically is increasingly how well Colorado will do.”

Dana Selzer (Retired Administrator, Greeley):

  • Dr. Selzer believes that every student can reach proficiency.  She testified that to get kids to proficiency, districts need to build systems to help students learn and reach those standards.  If district had sufficient resources to meet standards, then the charts would show something different (instead of declining scores and a growing achievement gap).
  • Dr. Selzer said that people focus on looking at outputs (i.e. getting kids to state standards) but really what they first have to think about the input (i.e. the resources necessary) to get kids there.  The important parts of the “input” include: curriculum alignment, teacher training, new resources, training teachers to think differently about teaching kids to get them to these new standards, training principals, designing new evaluation system, realigning assessments, and looking at special programs (ELL, GT, SPED,) to make sure they’re aligned).  In the meanwhile, teachers have been making do without because they can’t buy the necessary materials.
  • New standards are good for our community, good for CO–if we can get them done.  But we can’t just wish for our students to meet the new standards, there has to be support behind them to get them done.
  • The school district put a moratorium on new textbook purchasing and adoption last two years because they can’t afford to buy new textbooks.
  • In the district, libraries not staffed by librarians, but clerks that can be hired for less money to just check out books.  Yet, Dr. Selzer testified that librarians are important resources that are critical for student learning, and further, teachers depend on them too.
  • Extra resources can help, especially with targeted academic programs.
  • Dr. Selzer testified that it is not that she is without hope when she sees scores from her district; she just knows that it is going to take more resources to improvestudent achievement  and on track towards proficiency.
  • The district doesn’t have enough resources, even with ELPA & title funding,  to meet standards.  Without sufficient resources, programs erode to something in name only, or they are totally cut.  Budget cuts are affecting the quality of many programs, which are dying a slow death.  The district’s GT (gifted and talented) program is slowly losing effectiveness, the career tech program is operating on bare bones (but is needed to meet CAP 4 K program mandates), and the ELL programs only minimally meet standards for quality programs and services.

Day 15–Friday, August 19

Plaintiff parents testified for MALEDF.

Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford Professor and National Education Expert

  • Quality teachers are the fulcrum of success or failure in school reform initiatives because it is important to have good teachers who can implement the changes.
  • Dr. Darling-Hammond testified that teaching is a profession.  Teaching requires specialized education and on-going training, as is found in other professions such as medicine and law.
  • Dr. Darling-Hammond addressed myths surrounding teaching profession: (eg. time off, summers off).  She said that US public school teachers work more hours than teachers in any other country, and they usually work more hours, with less planning time.  In other high-achieving countries, there is greater support and better compensation for teachers.  For example, in other high-achieving countries she has studied, including Singapore and Finland,  teachers are allocated 15-25 hours in the week of compensated time to plan, collaborate, and have professional development.  In the US, teachers are lucky to get 3-5 hours  per week of compensated planning time.
  • “As hard as I work now, I never worked as hard as I did as when I was a public high school teacher.”
  • The job of teaching is complex, and with the changing socio-economic status of students (more at-risk students, more students learning English, and more students with disabilities, all in the general education classroom) it becomes even more challenging to teach to every student’s level and ability.  Teachers need to be able to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of all the kids in the classroom.  Teachers need to meet student needs across diverse spectrum of students in the classroom.
  • Dr. Darling-Hammond described some of the best practices for supporting and creating successful classroom teachers. These include:
    • On-going and high quality assessment of the teacher
    • Using standard-based tools (practices known to be effective for student learning)
    • Feedback linked to professional development that will help teachers fill student needs
    • Good leaning environment helps teachers collaborate and provides the opportunity for them to work together on improvements in the school and put them into practice
      • She notes that there is a positive effect on student achievement from teacher collaboration.
  • Professional development for teachers is critical for improving student achievement, especially in an environment with changing standards,  but much of the professional development used in the U.S. doesn’t meet what we know to be best practices, which are:
    •  Professional development must be sustained over time and curriculum based to create sustained iterative practice
    • 50 hours of professional development on specific topics are needed to be successful, but US average is 8 hours or less; this is not sustained or long-term professional development that changes practice because it is a very active process of deeply understanding strategies and topics on the part of the teachers.
    • Even in a local control state such as Colorado, the State has an important role in developing and sustaining professional development.
    • She notes that there is no evidence that para-professionals who are charged with providing instructional time are an effective way to increase achievement.
    • Value-added assessment to high stakes testing for teachers: NRC (National Research Council) reports raising concerns about instability, vulnerability to error, and “teacher effect”. In her expert report, Dr. Darling Hammond writes: “While value-added models based on student test scores are useful for looking at groups of teachers for research purposes – for example, to examine the results of professional development programs or to look at student progress at the school or district level, they are problematic as measures for making evaluation decisions for individual teachers.”
    • The value-added measures are vulnerable to error and bias of measures; it is intuitively appealing to look at student learning, but these value-added methods have issues like error term in regression—but has to do with other factors that are outside variables (if student has had tutoring, past teachers, principal leadership); further, value-added ratings bounces around dramatically from year to year.
    • No proof that raising standards alone will raise achievement: evidence shows that standards won’t teach themselves; if standards are raised without supporting teachers, schools, and districts, it can mean higher rates of drop-outs and push-outs if there aren’t supports to help students achieve them.
      • To implement new, higher standards requires: resources, re-tooling of the curriculum, access to technology, training teachers to teach in new ways, and  more pedagogical content knowledge, as standards go up and students are more diverse.
      • Implementing new standards also requires changing the tests that we use because the old assessments don’t measure what new standards are asking for.
      • Professor Darling-Hammond testified that resources do matter because research has shown that when resources are targeted to research based strategies, student achievement has improved.
        • There is a strong relationship between resources and achievement, and resources spent effectively have an even bigger effect.  More money spent close to instruction makes a larger difference than those dollars spent further from the classroom.
        • Some states have shown how investment in education can play a role in student learning and closing the achievement gap. For example, New Jersey, after 30 years of litigation, put in place comprehensive school reforms, and over the past 10 years has become one of the highest achieving states in country (in the top 5).  New Jersey cut its achievement gap, even with higher number of students in poverty and minority students than Colorado has.
        • Wyoming not a good comparison state to Colorado.  Wyoming has less than 10% of the students compared to Colorado’s.  Their average school size is half that of schools in Colorado.  The socio-economic data between the two states is also not comparable.
        • Dr. Darling-Hammond, when asked about existing Colorado resources noted that we can try to implement all the recommendations with existing resources, and we can always imagine spending some resources more strategically, but it is hard to imagine accomplishing all the new standards with out new investment in education.
        • Dr. Darling-Hammond testified that it is difficult to draw a direct comparison between the U.S. and other countries in terms of spending for education, but some differences can be noted.  Other countries’ overall spending on teachers is greater and many countries include health care and pensions as part of government spending, not education spending. The U.S. appears to spend more than other countries, but the costs of health care and pensions are included as part of the education budget.

Day 14–Thursday, August 18

Plaintiff parents testified for MALDEF.

Michael Clough—Superintendent of Sheridan School District

  • 1,600 students, 80% of students quality for free or reduced lunch, almost 80% Hispanic students, and close to 1/3 of the student population are ELL
  • The fastest growing population in the district is students from East Africa.
  • The district does not have enough resources to help at risk and ELL students meet state standards.
  • The district has implemented programs and interventions with grant money, but these are not sustainable or broad based.
  • The district is accredited with a turn-around plan, and only one school has been given a turn around grant.
  • The district faces challenges with students who are homeless, students who come from  poverty, and non-English speaking students.  This creates a dynamic of  addressing these needs first before students can then be prepared to learn.
  • The district has many characteristics of a small rural district that is compounded by urban issues.
  • It is difficult for the district to compete for teachers both for the challenges the district has and the pay it can offer.
  • The district is attractive for some grants,  but they can’t compete with larger districts when grantors feel they can get more recognition in a district that is larger.

Dr. Kathy Escamilla—Professor at University of Colorado, Boulder, Bilingual Education Expert

  • From Dr. Escamillia’s expert report:
    • “Colorado has experienced the largest growth in the number of children living in poverty of any state in the United States.”
    • “The population of ELLs in Colorado is disproportionately poor and therefore it is reasonable to assume that much of the increase in the number of poor children is also highly correlated to the increased number of ELLs, the largest number being in preschool.”
    • “…there is little state support for the type of effective instructional and support programs for ELLs mandated by No Child Left Behind…”
    • “…achievement trends that show that achievement levels for ELL students decline as students move into higher grades.”
    • “…the ELL graduation rate in 2009 that the state reported at 53% …[This is] a percentage well below the state average of 75%.”