K-12 Education

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The Colorado capitol had a back to school vibe Wednesday, with families and friends joining lawmakers in the chamber for the opening of Colorado's annual legislative session. The building hummed with activity — and the usual pomp and ceremony and opening day speeches — after the eight month interim. Isaac Slade, the lead singer of the Denver-based rock band The Fray, sang the national anthem in the Senate.

But it wasn't all fun, the first bills are introduced on opening day, and lawmakers begin to outline their priorities for the next four months.

Dr Seuss, kid's books, children's books, book
Flickr user: EvelynGiggles

Colorado has room to improve according to a recent report that ranks states based on policies that promote early childhood literacy.

The report looks at seven policy areas tied to early childhood education. Then it ranks states in three categories: crawling, toddling and walking.

After five years on the job, Colorado's Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia announced that he is stepping down from the position and as head of the Colorado Department of Higher Education. Garcia will leave his dual-role to helm a higher education policy group for the western U.S., the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

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More and more schools are trying to serve meals with food that was grown nearby. The U.S. Department of Agriculture just released some statistics documenting the trend.

Small town doesn't quite describe Bethune, Colo. It spans just 0.2 square miles and has a population of 237. There's a post office, but it's open only part time. There's not a single restaurant, and the closest big store is in Kansas.

That didn't stop Ailyn Marfil from moving to Bethune a couple of months ago. In fact, she thinks it's a pretty exciting place to live. "I was looking for speed and action, and so Bethune gave me speed and action. More than I expected," she says.

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Students are heading back to school, but the road to graduation for this the incoming crop of seniors varies by high school. The reason? Unlike other states, Colorado does not have a set requirement for what it takes to receive a diploma.

Creating a standard is an ongoing debate and one that state lawmakers tried to answer in 2007 and 2008 when they approved legislation requiring a minimum statewide requirement.

  

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Like a lot of students, 17-year-old Nick Bain says he really likes his school, but sometimes it can feel like a chore.

"It just feels a little bit like you just have to keep doing one thing after another, but without a whole lot of thinking about an education in general," says Nick.

So one day he decided to write down what he was doing every 15 minutes at the Colorado Academy in Denver.

 

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Both houses of Congress have now passed versions of the bill that would update the largest federal education law, known as No Child Left Behind, for the first time since 2001. They are big, meaty and complicated, and now they have to be reconciled into one messy Dagwood sandwich of a bill to go to the president.

students, nature
Laura Palmisano / KVNF

In science class students learn about the world around them. However, getting kids to make a connection to nature without them experiencing it firsthand is a challenge. That’s why a Western Slope school district in partnership with a state wildlife agency is taking middle school students to the woods. 

Stacy Lischka, a scientist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, is surrounded by 15 sixth-graders in a forest on the Grand Mesa. 

She's leading them in lesson on stream ecology. The students are looking for macroinvertebrates, animals without a backbone, in Mesa Creek. 

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Paonia Elementary
Laura Palmisano

A Waldolf-inspired education program in Paonia is a step closer to reality. 

The proposed North Fork School of Integrated Studies has enough students signed up to move forward. 

Delta County Assistant Superintendent Kurt Clay says it will be a school within a school. 

"We are looking at trying to combine that within Paonia Elementary School as a different program or different option for students in the North Fork Valley," said Clay. 

Intent to enroll forms for the K-4 program were due earlier this month. 

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Paonia Elementary
Laura Palmisano

The Delta County School Board has approved a Waldorf inspired education program in Paonia.

For the past three years, a group of parents and educators in the North Fork Valley have tried to open a Waldorf inspired charter school.  

The school board and the state board of education denied their charter recognition.

However, the group worked with district officials and school administrators to come up with a compromise.

It would create a K-4 program inspired by the Waldorf model at Paonia Elementary School. 

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Vision Charter Academy, delta montrose technical college paonia campus
Laura Palmisano / KVNF

A deadline passed last week for several students in the North Fork.

The Vision Charter Academy announced plans earlier this school year to stop all classes at the Paonia campus, reverting back to a resource for homeschooling families.

Avery McJunkin just finished up his sophomore year at the alternative school.  He was one of several students that campaigned to keep the classes going. 

food truck
District 51

In Mesa County, 42 percent of children qualify for free or reduced lunch.  

During the summer, many of these same kids qualify for a meal program when school is out. 

Usually Mesa Valley School District 51 offers this program at four or five schools, but this year there’s only enough funding to have it at two.

However, this summer the district plans on bringing meals to some students.

With the help of a $50,000 grant from the Western Colorado Community Foundation it purchased a food truck from Denver. 

financial literacy, Centennial Middle School, sixth-grade, students
Laura Palmisano / KVNF

Many states require students be taught financial literacy. However, Colorado is one of the few that also tests on it. To help students learn, some schools are bringing outside experts into the classroom. 

Six teams of students are playing a quiz game similar to Jeopardy. The purpose of the game is to gauge the financial literacy of sixth-graders who just completed a weeklong course on the topic. 

"I wish that somebody had taught me this when I was this age,"Autumn Lettau with NuVista Federal Credit Union says.

A measure to eliminate immunity for public schools for school shootings, death, sexual assaults and other series injuries that happen to students on school grounds cleared the House Judiciary Committee Thursday. It passed on a vote of 10-3.

Currently public schools are not liable. Legislative leaders in both parties are sponsoring the change, spurred in part by the 2013 death of Claire Davis. She attended Arapahoe High School in Littleton when a fellow student shot and killed her before turning the gun on himself.

Two former governors, Roy Romer and Bill Owens, joined current Gov. John Hickenlooper at the state capitol to urge lawmakers not to go too far in reducing the numbers of standardized assessments school children take. This comes as legislators are debating several bills to lower the number of exams.

Republican Bill Owens said it's important to have standards and test against those standards to see if students are learning what they should, and to evaluate schools and teachers.

"Our friends from the left and the right for differing reasons, don't want to test, don't want to measure, don't want to have accountability," said Owens. "This is stunning to me."

A bill to expand farm-to-school programs in Colorado initially cleared the state House Tuesday, but it still faces objections from some lawmakers who call it unnecessary.

House Bill 1088 [.pdf] would set up grants to help farms and ranches meet federal safety standards to they could sell their locally produced food to schools.

"This program boosts our economy, it creates jobs, and we have schools right now who want to buy more local food from our farmers and the supply chain does not exist," said bill sponsor Representative Faith Winter (D-Westminster).

Across New York state this week, some students are refusing to take a test, and they're not getting punished for it. The test is a Common Core-aligned, federally mandated exam, and students, parents and educators are part of what they're calling the opt-out movement.

Opt-outs made news last week in several states: Colorado, Florida, Oregon, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, to name a few. The objections are similar everywhere. But no state is posting numbers like New York.

Vision Charter Academy, delta montrose technical college paonia campus
Laura Palmisano / KVNF

Vision Charter Academy, a public charter school with three campuses in Delta County, won't offer classes at its North Fork campus next school year.  

Parents of students at Vision’s school in Paonia received the news Thursday via email.

Teri Kinkade the executive director of Vision Charter Academy wrote the letter.

In her email, Kinkade tells parents Vision’s board met earlier this week and decided to no longer offer classes at its Paonia location.

She cites a 'lack of interest' and 'declining enrollment' as reasons for the board’s decision.

Building a giant steel bale feeder is hard. Try it.

Problem No. 1: Unless you live in ranch country, you probably don't even know what it's supposed to look like — regardless of whether you can build one.

Problem No. 2: Arc welding is involved.

Problem No. 3: Getting it right requires some serious math.

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