Posts Tagged Colorado

Race to the Top & Core Standards: Part I

What it is, How it’s Funded, Who Benefits

Here in Colorado, news is circulating about the disappointment over not being chosen as a finalist for Race to the Top funding (R2T). A number of other states are dealing with the same discouragement, left with unfunded mandates.  In earlier news, the adoption of the Common Core Standards by the Colorado State Board of Education, received very little attention.

This is my attempt to shed a little more light on these two subjects, which are really the same subject: education reform. I think most people agree that something needs to be done to improve education in America. This first part in the series will focus on the facts about R2T and Common Core Standards—what it is, how it is funded, who benefits—all crucial to understand before forming solid opinions about whether this new mandate is the something America needs.

Why does it matter? Because according to the U.S. Department of Education, it is an unprecedented federal investment in education reform and $4.35 billion dollars is a lot of money to follow.

What is Race to the Top?
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) provided $4.35 billion for the Race to the Top Fund.

According to the U.S. Department of Education: The $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund includes $4 billion for statewide reform grants and $350 million to support states working together to improve the quality of their assessments.

The Race to the Top state competition is designed to reward states that are leading the way in comprehensive, coherent, statewide education reform across four key areas:

  • Adopting standards (Common Core Standards) and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace;
  • Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals how to improve instruction;
  • Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and
  • Turning around their lowest-performing schools.

Phase I
Forty states and the District of Columbia submitted applications for the first phase of grants.  Delaware and Tennessee were selected from among 16 finalists.

Phase II
The 10 winning Phase II applications in alphabetical order are: the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island.  See all state applications and scores here.

For more information about the Race to the Top Fund and the requirements the states were trying to meet:
http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/executive-summary.pdf

Pic by: © Lucila De Avila | Dreamstime.com http://www.dreamstime.com/free-stock-image-5k-street-race-rimagefree6167867-resi2437745

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Back to School at Home: Support for Homeschool Families

All across Colorado Springs families are preparing for the start of the new school year.  For many, that means organizing carpools, box lunches, new locker combinations, and orientation meetings.  For those who choose to educate their children at home, it means digging through old materials, ordering curriculum, and setting up the school room (or dining room).

When we started homeschooling our oldest daughter 12 years ago, we had no idea the life-changing impact it would really have on our family.  Of course, our first priority was her education so she would be able to compete in the world one day.  She was in 9th grade struggling with learning disabilities and time seemed short.  In my frantic search for resources, I discovered a group at New Life Church offering support for homeschooling families.  That was exactly what I needed.

High Country Enrichment Classes (HCEC) graciously linked arms with us and our adventure began.  Since then, we have homeschooled all three of our children at different times and seasons of life.  If field trips, curriculum advice, classes, and the moms group support were the extent of what we received, we would still credit High Country as our homeschooling lifeline.  But it is so much more.  I’m not suggesting we couldn’t have done it without enrichment classes, but oh, the difference it made.  We all go through seasons of needing hope and help.  It didn’t take long for us to recognize that friendship was just as important as practical help, for moms and children alike.

Today, High Country Enrichment Classes started their thirteenth year of ministering to homeschool families.  Over 300 families with more than 600 students will meet together every Tuesday and Wednesday for the next 12 weeks as they attend over 160 classes. It’s true that you can homeschool without any outside help or support, but why would you?  Classes that round-out lesson plans or sharing our latest challenge or victory with someone who really understands can be welcomed refreshment.  Being part of a network of good friends with common values provides the strength, confidence, and encouragement we all need along life’s journey. Our community is so fortunate to have such caring support for homeschool families all across the Pikes Peak Region.

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Tebow’s NFL Debut: One Fan’s Opinion

Here in Colorado, there is enough speculation about Tim Tebow to nauseate even the most avid fans.  Sometimes, the hype simply ruins the enjoyment of watching the game.  Sports writers and announcers scrutinize the players they do not like and laud those they do like. If they aren’t drooling over Tom Brady, they’re wetting themselves over Peyton Manning.  Unquestionably, superb quarterbacks, but on occasion I’ve wondered if certain announcers would be proposing marriage during half time.

At this point, I’m not sure if I want the announcers to like Tim Tebow or not.  If they do, they won’t be able to shut-up about him, and if they don’t, he won’t be able to catch a break.  I must admit I watched only minutes of actual games or highlight footage when Tebow played college football.  I’m not a big college football fan (exciting to watch, but the politics kill it for me).  And as many have already pointed out, not all college stars make it in the NFL.

Last night, it was obvious that Tebow brings an element of excitement to the game—not because of the media deluge, but because he is a gifted athlete who loves to compete.  As a Bronco fan, it will be interesting to see him develop as a professional and in his role on the team.  It is evident he has the will to win and leadership qualities that are necessary components of great players.  These are intangibles that cannot be measured in stats alone.

Another crucial component for players to be great is other great players.  Emmitt Smith got it right in his Hall of Fame induction speech when he said to Daryl Johnston, “Without you, without you, I know today would not have been possible.”  Hopefully, the Broncos can develop a supporting cast for Orton and eventually, Tebow, or it will matter not.  Adding Tebow to the roster was, in my opinion, a step in the right direction.  As for the announcers, unselfishly, I will hope they like him.  That way, he won’t have to be endlessly over-analyzed, and when I’ve had enough of their slobbering over him, I have a mute button.

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Primary Issue

In the Colorado primaries, the turnout rates were well above those held in Georgia, Connecticut, and Minnesota—over 40 percent for both Democrats and Republicans—matching or exceeding the turnout rates for all primaries going back at least three decades, according to the Denver Post.  Two things believed to contribute to the high level of turnout here in Colorado were the convenience of mail-in ballots and the tight contests within both parties. I can attest to the convenience of the mail-in ballot, my husband and I have voted that way for years now.  Whether it is the greater ease in the process, or the desire to make a difference, it is good to see more of the citizenry participate.

As a delegate for the first time this year, I quickly recognized the value of getting involved early. I found the election process to be akin to Christmas shopping months in advance—there’s a lot more to choose from early on, but come December (or November in this case), you may not be happy with what’s left.  Based on the record numbers turning out to vote in these primaries, it would appear that complacency has run its course.  November will bring enough political spin and media hype to wear us all thin.  However, there has scarcely been more impetus to understand the times and the impact of the decisions made within our government, than right now.  Our future and the future our children and grandchildren inherit, depend on it.

The primary issue is, there is more at stake here than simply motivating people to vote for a shift or stay in power.  On the opposite side of apathy can be a blind political affiliation that fosters loyalty to party above all else—even above personal faith or thinking critically. We must resist the notion of simply checking the box beside the (R), (D), or (I), we must answer the why questions.  Why do you believe that?  Why do you think that?  Why is that a better solution?  Why does a particular candidate deserve your vote?  If we do not know why we are aligned with a particular group or idea, we are vulnerable to the changing winds of politics and those who would use emotion over principles to gain power.  It is not simply our right it is our responsibility.

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