Middle school teacher takes on giant math problem: Getting kids to love numbers

BERKELEY — Some math classrooms are so quiet you can hear the sound of pencils on paper.

Robert MacCarthy’s class at Willard Middle School in Berkeley has a different soundtrack. His sixth-graders problem-solve out loud — sometimes into a big blue microphone — and applaud each other afterward. They take on lively games and challenges that mix math with art. Read more in the San Jose Mercury News. 

Big education grants threatened by teacher spats

Teachers and school districts say they agree that better teacher evaluations are needed, but they can’t agree on the details. Now, those disputes threaten federal grants meant to encourage education reform.

Take New York state, which has a lot of failing schools. Those schools got more than $100 million in federal School Improvement Grants. In exchange, districts promised to phase in new evaluation systems. Listen to the NPR report. 

Behind the numbers: Why dropouts have it worse than ever

A new dropout crisis study reveals staggering statistics on economic gaps between those in Chicago and around state of Illinois with and without high school diplomas.

Earlier this week, our friends over at WTTW Chicago Tonight interviewed economist Andrew Sum about the study, released by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University. As Sum highlights, these numbers add up to a long-term effect not only for American society, but also for dropouts for most of their lives. Check out the full report at PBS Newshour. 

Yellow Scene publishes parents’ guide to open enrollment

Application deadlines are nearing, tours are commencing, the pressure is boiling! What’s a parent to do? Become an open enrollment champ, that’s what. Get geared up with your kiddo’s best interests, a Trapper Keeper full of forms and school information and this handy-dandy guide. You are about to tackle the open enrollment process with the skill and grace of an All-American lineman. Learn more at Yellow Scene. 

The 10 most memorable stories of 2011: Curriculum

The editors at Education Week have handpicked memorable articles from 2011. Below are ten of the most significant stories from our 2011 coverage of what’s being taught in our nation’s classrooms. Read more in Education Week.

State board of education appeals Lobato

The State Board of Education voted 4-3 Tuesday  to appeal a Denver District judge’s ruling against the state in the Lobato v. State lawsuit, which centers around the funding of public education in Colorado. Read all about it in EdNews Colorado. 

Tech talk part of life in today’s classrooms

In an age where many school districts are providing students with personal laptops, setting up video chat sessions with classrooms across the world, sharing information through social media and otherwise embracing the 21st century, Littleton Public Schools is no exception. Read more in Our Colorado News. 

Two Colo. middle schools offer college-level remedial math class

Twelve school districts in Colorado are sharing a seven-year, $35 million federal grant aimed at increasing college attendance. But two schools in Commerce City are taking it further in an effort to curb rising numbers of students who arrive at college and then are forced to take remedial courses. Read more in the Denver Post. 

Denver’s new school choice system stressing some parents

Denver Public Schools is rolling out a new school-choice process that centralizes school enrollment, and parents are feeling the stress of learning the new ropes.

An auditor will release an evaluation of the district’s process this spring, but for parents already making school choices, the improvements and shortfalls of the process are coming to light. Read more in the Denver Post. 

Colorado gets $26 million in Medicaid bonus for enrolling kids

Colorado will receive $26 million in federal funds to provide health insurance for more children, U.S. Health and Human Services officials said Wednesday. Read more in the Denver Post. 

Biotechnology program gives Colo. H.S. students head start

Students at Boulder’s Fairview High School swabbed the inside of their cheeks for a DNA sample and then, using state-of-the-art equipment, learned how to magnify and copy it in a way that would make television’s “CSI” folks proud. Read more in the Denver Post. 

Lakewood H.S. pioneers smartphone app for students, parents

The idea came to Lakewood High School teacher Adam Ronscavage as he worked a summer job at an Evergreen fly-fishing shop that had just launched its own mobile-phone application.

If a small business could go mobile, why couldn’t his school? Read more in the Denver Post.

Report on “innovation” status in Denver shows mostly positive school cultures

The first report from a three-year study of Denver’s innovation schools could lead to more in-depth research and more pointed work as the district grants innovation status to more schools.

“As with any good study, this study raises as many questions as it answers,” said Van Schoales, executive director of the independent advocacy group A-Plus Denver.

Read more in the Denver Post. 

Colorado teachers unions under fire for taxpayer subsidies from school districts

Taxpayers in Colorado’s largest school districts have spent more than $5.8 million during the past five years to subsidize the activities of local teachers unions.

The expenses resulted from years of agreements that require tax money to pay for everything from full-time union leaders’ salaries and benefits to providing leave for some teachers to attend union conferences, a Denver Post analysis of the 20 largest school districts with collective-bargaining contracts found. Read more in the Denver Post.

Jeffco schools grapples with scope of cuts: $68 million bite possible

Jefferson County schools are getting their first look at what $68 million in potential budget cuts over the next two years might look like.

The possible reductions include the elimination of 590 full-time-equivalent positions, including 175 posts at high schools, 65 at middle schools and 226 at elementary schools. Read more in the Denver Post. 

Denver Public Schools adds more home visits

Denver Public Schools this year has expanded a program that brings teachers to the homes of their students to meet informally with them and their parents.

District officials say the program aims to boost communication and parental involvement at schools, particularly at sites that have determined a need for more engagement. Read more in the Denver Post. 

Teens aren’t too old to boost their IQ, study finds

If your teenager could use a few more IQ points, Norwegian scientists have some good news: It may not be too late for junior to get them.

Many researchers now agree that mental stimulation in one’s early years helps IQ to develop, but there is no such consensus that education – or anything else – can boost IQ on older kids. Read more in the Los Angeles Times. 

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.