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We Run Denver: How you can help at-risk kids run the race of their lives

Recently men and women from all over the states ran though rain and sleet to complete the Colfax marathon in Denver. Soon, we will be adding a new set of faces to that finish line!

Our story: Jenifer was all limbs and sick of her classmates teasing her about her height. She learned to use those limbs to her advantage though long-distance running. I found my inspiration in a bunch of teenagers running and cheering everyone on while I was struggling to finish my first marathon. Together, we are starting a non-profit in Denver that trains at-risk students to run marathons: We Run Denver!

We Run

Year-round school: A good or a bad idea?

Well, here it is, the end of another school year. I’d say we all have mixed feelings about the onset of summer “vacation.” Is summer really a vacation for anyone anymore?

I grew up in a pretty traditional family set-up. My mom didn’t work outside the home. I lived in a house on Lake Michigan. (Yes, lucky me!) I fondly remember idyllic summers playing in the woods near my house, digging in the sand, and splashing in the water. I don’t remember being enrolled in many day camps or having a babysitter. I remember running around my neighborhood and banging on doors until I found someone to play with me or tormenting my two big sisters.

Well, that’s not really how summer works anymore.

My third grade daughter doesn’t share the same sense of eagerness for summer break. She likes a routine and to know what’s coming each day. She

Magnet school first-graders take hands-on approach to studying dinosaurs

Aidan Hartman squatted near the 152 million-year-old fossil and studied it with a critical eye.

The only other dinosaur bones he had seen before Monday were in a museum and were well- scrubbed, connected and intact. But this piece, excavated by a group of Northglenn High School educators just a few months ago, held a special fascination for the 7-year-old.

“It confused me,” said Aidan. “I’ve always wondered what a dinosaur would feel like. And this is nothing I’ve seen before.”

Not surprisingly, Aidan came away with another revelation.

Your Opinion: Are today’s grade-school “graduations” celebrating mediocrity?

I’m all about celebrating milestones. Births, deaths, birthdays, holidays–I’m your gal. However, there is a trend in our schools that disturbs me: the graduation ceremony.

Twelfth grade, college and even 8th grade Continuations should be lauded affairs, a recognition of many years of hard work. I have fond memories of my senior year revelries as my dear friends and I celebrated our journey together and toasted our future.

Now, can someone please tell me where preschool, kindergarten, grade-school et al. “graduations” fit into this formula?

Rites of passage are important and I don’t want to diminish recognizing that a child is moving from one grade to another. But it was when a friend sent a picture of his (albeit darling) kindergartner in her cap and gown that I couldn’t help but think “REALLY?”

And I remembered this exchange from The Incredibles that has always resonated with me:

Helen: I can’t believe you don’t want to go to your own son’s graduation.
Bob: It’s not a graduation. He is moving from the 4th grade to the 5th grade.
Helen: It’s a ceremony!
Bob: It’s psychotic! They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity, but if someone is genuinely exceptional…

I don’t want to be Debbie Downer here. I’m all about throwing a party and having an academic ceremony to recognize the children’s achievements. When I was younger, I was a smart and athletic kid who cleaned up on the awards every year. My children are still young and have shown different aptitudes but they likely won’t be class valedictorians.

And that’s OK.

As a parent, I’m trying not to dilute the achievements of the overachievers by making everyone a winner. I’ve seen this a lot in my children’s sporting leagues. Yes, young children should have positive reinforcements but continuing with this pattern so as not to hurt their feelings is not teaching life lessons. There are winners and losers and the most important thing is how you are taught to play the game.

I truly mourn for children who do not have support at home but am in awe of engaged teachers and mentors. I hope I’m instilling in my children a strong work ethic and a life-long love of learning with the resolve to stay in school.

But if they need a ceremony with a cap and a gown to stay motivated, maybe we’re doing something wrong.

Photo Credit.

New Denver Public Schools discipline system isn’t embraced by all

Discipline policies in Denver Public Schools have been praised as models for other districts across the country, but in a couple of recent cases, relatives of students have questioned whether the softer approach is protecting their kids.

In one, parents at Denver’s Edison Elementary went to police themselves to report a fourth-grader who they said threatened to bring a gun to school after Edison officials decided not to report the incident.

In a second case, a grandmother reported a year’s worth of bullying of her granddaughter at Godsman Elementary to police because she felt school officials were not taking it seriously.

In both cases, questions were raised about a 2-year-old DPS policy that advocates a restorative approach to trouble in school, in which an offender learns from a mistake and makes amends, rather than the old punitive approach.

It was implemented after a 2008 push from Padres Unidos and other community groups, which said zero-tolerance policies were creating a school-to-jail track. Discipline in DPS at the time seemed to be disproportionately applied to minority students.

The new policy lists behavioral problems and categorizes them in five groups. Each type or category of offense has a corresponding intervention and range of possible consequences.

Using cellphones in class, pushing a student and using profanity are on the lowest category of offenses. Teachers are instructed to listen to students and counsel them, attempting to settle the problem without going to the administration. They also are instructed to use and document at least one intervention.

According to data from the district, which is complete only for one year under the new policy, in 2009-10, there were more incidents in schools that required discipline attention, but the number of students who misbehaved decreased, and so have expulsions and referrals to

Read more: New Denver Public Schools discipline system isn’t embraced by all – The Denver Post

Dip in number of Colorado home-schoolers may be linked to surge in online enrollment

For JD Elvrum and his family, public school had too many strikes against it.

“His first three years of school were marred by teachers’ strikes,” in his Pennsylvania school district, said JD’s mom, Tillie Elvrum. Add to that a slight learning disability and many moves as a result of his father’s career — in the Air Force and later in the private sector — and the bottom line was brick-and-mortar schools weren’t going to work.

So, like thousands of parents across the country, Tillie Elvrum looked into home schooling.

What she found scared her. “I wasn’t a teacher, and this is my kid’s education. It’s my No. 1 priority, and I didn’t want to screw it up.”

That’s how JD, now a Colorado Connections Academy eighth-grader, joined one of the fastest-growing student categories: online scholar.

As the number of online students grows, state data indicate the number of home-schooled students is dropping, and some parents and educators see a link between the two.

The number of Colorado students enrolled in online programs jumped

Read more: Dip in number of Colorado home-schoolers may be linked to surge in online enrollment,Karen Augé

School-Sanctioned Bullying: The Importance of Being Your Child’s Biggest Advocate

Since I’ve become a parent, I haven’t worried about whether or not bullying might happen…I’ve been flat-out waiting for it.  Because, frankly, bullying is nothing new.  We’ve all been through it at one time or another and while it isn’t fun, it’s reality.  But this type of bullying came in a way that I wasn’t expecting.  Yes, it was another kid.  But the shocking thing was…the school was giving him the tools to do it.

Editorial: Denver teachers union blocking reform again?

We have little doubt that 2008 legislation detailing how Colorado schools could gain autonomy and create innovative programs was meant to cover new schools.

Yet, that’s what the Denver teachers union seems to be arguing, as it has objected to so-called innovation status for three new public schools in northeast Denver.

The irony is that the union didn’t have these concerns about new schools gaining similar status when their proposals to be freed of rules were up for approval on two previous occasions. The hypocrisy is not only unattractive, it also undermines their argument.

The issue arose last week as Denver Public Schools asked the State Board of Education for permission to opt out of certain state statutes and regulations for three schools.

The Denver Classroom Teachers Association opposed innovation status for Noel Arts School, Denver Center for International Studies at Ford, and Denver Center for International Studies at Montbello.

The 2008 legislation was intended to allow innovation schools to have

Read more: Editorial: Denver teachers union blocking reform again? – The Denver Post

Parents: Enough multiple choice at neighborhood schools

The moms and dads of Skinner Middle School — taxpaying types with steady jobs and sensible family cars — don’t look like a bunch of radicals.

But after meeting quietly for months to brainstorm, then to crunch numbers and compile data, they went public with demands that turn a decade of school-choice/school-reform thinking on its head.

Their chief demand: no more charter schools, no more alternative schools, or magnets; just fix the plain old, come-one, come-all neighborhood middle school we’ve already got.

“We want a school that takes all students, is not HGT (highly gifted and talented) but is just a quality neighborhood school,” said Renee Martinez-Stone.

Stone is a founding member of the insurrectionist group Northwest Neighborhood Middle Schools NOW.

In October 2009, NOW publicly pleaded for “a viable middle-school option” for “proficient and above kids” — the kids NOW contends are bailing on traditional DPS schools after fifth grade.

They asked for foreign-language programs, for arts and music. And they wanted DPS to stop opening nontraditional campuses in their neighborhood. That, they argued, would stop the hemorrhaging of high-achieving students.

As NOW sees it, the school choice

Read more: Parents: Enough multiple choice at neighborhood schools – The Denver Post, Karen Auge

How to make summer break

Summer is fragile. It slips by at a dizzying pace. One moment, you are emptying the backpacks and stashing them out of sight.

The next, you’re filling a shopping cart with enough washable markers to decorate the exterior of a family band bus. It’s a good thing the Partridge Family didn’t use washable markers, or a rainstorm may have re-named them Pad Fail.

Take good care of your summer. It breaks easily.

Here’s how to break a summer:

1. Pack every day on the calendar with something to do. Summer derives it’s super-powers from large doses of Nothing.

2. Visit Target or Walmart’s seasonal department. There will be school supplies for sale on or around July 1st. Avoid! Avoid! Avoid!

3. Be a pucker-mouthed sourpuss and say no to the ice cream truck. Yes, It costs a fortune but you can plan it like you plan for college. Put away spare change and stray dollars in a jar during June and July. When August arrives, chase the truck when you hear it the first time. Go on a frozen treat spree of legendary proportions. If the ice cream truck drivers have a trade magazine, you may find yourself on the cover.

4. Fail to roast a food item on a dirty wooden stick.

5. Not find yourself in a porta-potty at least once. This desperate act signals you are at: a festival, parade, rest stop, farm field. Good for you! Porta-potty use means you have a life.

6. Deny kids the audacious fun of running through splash-park fountains in their street clothes. Unless you are on your way to a wedding, funeral, or parole hearing, it’s harmless to get a little or a lot wet. Water evaporates quickly in this climate. Like summer.

7. Complain loudly about the price of watermelon.

8. Say “next weekend” over and over and over when asked when you’ll mini-golf, go to the water park, have a garage sale/lemonade stand.

9. Panic if you have some lazy TV-fest days of slothful nothingness.

10. Compare your summer to other people’s sunshiny experiences. You may not be taking the All-American road trip or pitching for a major league baseball team or having a beach-set romance with a young John Travolta. But you have a jar of change on the ‘fridge and you can already taste those orange creamsicles.