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Poll: Most want easier way to fire bad teachers

An overwhelming majority of Americans are frustrated that it’s too difficult to get rid of bad teachers, while most also believe that teachers aren’t paid enough, a new poll shows.

The Associated Press-Stanford University poll found that 78 percent think it should be easier for school administrators to fire poorly performing teachers. Yet overall, the public wants to reward teachers—57 percent say they are paid too little, with just 7 percent believing they are overpaid and most of the rest saying they’re paid about right.

School districts have struggled for years over how to keep good teachers. This has led to controversial techniques like using

School effort aims to engage parents

Much of the talk around educational reform has focused on the role teachers play in students lives, all but ignoring another big player: parents.

One Denver high school is changing that narrative, creating a multi-school system that empowers parents with the goal of getting more students into college.

Antonio Esquibel, principal of Abraham Lincoln High School, is using money from a three-year federal school-improvement grant to build a collaboration with its feeder schools — CMS Community School, Godsman Elementary and Kepner Middle School.

“The end goal is to really prepare kids for college when they graduate from Lincoln, beginning at preschool and kindergarten,” Esquibel said.

Parent participation rises

The collaboration is focused on

Jeffco school becomes model for teaching kids with autism

Several years ago when Sarah Handy began teaching students with autism at Mortensen Elementary in Littleton, she found her students were rarely allowed to mix with other pupils in the Jefferson County school.

That has changed.

Now most of the 18 students with autism are integrated, and the work of the staff has caught the eye of the Colorado Department of Education.

Mortensen last week was named to be a model site for the Denver metro area in how to teach students with autism — providing the school with a $1,000 grant, training for teachers and an on-site coach.

The school has good inclusion practices, an anti-bullying program and an effective “Response to Intervention” model to give early assistance to children having difficulty learning.

“The goal is to provide the

Waiting for Superman Starts the Conversation

Waiting for Superman, the new movie from Davis Guggenheim who directed An Inconvenient Truth, affected me as both a mom and an educator. I loved it.

Parents seem to be with me. Educators, not so much.

First, I’ll tell you my perspective on the movie and then, I’ll address the critics. Later, I’ll give you more of a personal history so you can see why I believe what I believe.

Waiting for Superman uses the metaphor that Superman needs to save education, a metaphor which educator and founder of the Harlem Success School, Geoffrey Canada, shares from his childhood. While I’m convinced education must be improved and disagree with the image of a solo hero, I see how it loosely applies to the helplessness many parents feel when thinking about education, in particular, the options of families who live near poor performing schools.

The main point of the movie is that to get a good education, you must have good teachers. Preventing a good education?

Teachers in high-poverty neighborhoods making connections at kids’ homes

Teachers at one of Denver’s poorest schools have discovered a key to improving student achievement that’s as easy as stepping out the door.

High-performing schools in affluent neighborhoods are usually buzzing with parents — moms and dads volunteering, chauffeuring or helping out in classrooms.

But at schools in high-poverty neighborhoods, the opposite tends to occur — many of them have little to no parental engagement. Indeed, teachers rarely see a parent in the building unless a kid is in trouble.

That’s why Fairview Elementary teachers are going to the families.

Every year, educators try to visit the homes of every child in the school — getting to know the families and discovering more about their students.

“This is all about

Oprah gives $1 million to Denver School of Science & Technology

Denver School of Science & Technology has received a $1 million grant from Oprah Winfrey’s Angel Network to help the charter school expand.

Winfrey on her show handed Bill Kurtz, chief executive officer of DSST, a $1 million check. Five other charter school networks got money, too.

“These school leaders are doing whatever it takes,” she said on the program that was aired on Monday. “We want to give you something to go back to your schools to make life better.”

The other schools that received Angel Network grants include Aspire Public Schools in California, LEARN Charter Schools in Chicago, YES Prep Public Schools in Houston, Mastery Charter Schools in Philadelphia, and New Orleans Charter Science and Math Academy.

DSST now has two school campuses and plans to grow to five campuses throughout Denver to serve at least 4,300 students by 2020.

The high school now has a waiting list of about

Find Out Which Gubernatorial Candidate Will Best Put Kids First

On September 16, Mile High Mamas was a proud co-sponsor of Putting Kids First: A Gubernatorial Forum. In addition to important people in attendance (y’know, like Colorado’s future governor), some of Denver’s most well-respected and politically-savvy mommy bloggers were there.

Both candidates had their own style and strengths. Possibly my favorite anecdote during the forum was when Mayor Hickenlooper shared that he recently walked into his home bathroom and saw “Poop. Pee. Fast” scrawled on the mirror. Obviously curious about its meaning, he queried his son who replied, “I just got back from the library and they told me I could only keep all my books for three weeks. That’s just not enough time so I wrote a reminder to “Poop and pee fast.”

Ever the wise dad, Hickenlooper divulged he could multi-task and actually read while he was on the toilet.

Father of three Dan Maes spent 15 minutes following the event charming and answering our mom bloggers’ questions, navigating them all like a pro.

Pictured: Chris Bird, Fiona Bryan, Michelle, Melissa Caddell, Republican candidate Dan Maes, Amber Johnson, Dana Stone, Lori Luz and Rebecca

Following the forum, I asked a few of the bloggers to share their insights on which candidate will put kids first.

Lori of Weebles Woblog, one of Parenting magazine’s top 10 must-read moms of 2010. Consummate overachiever:

Once upon a time I spent my Friday afternoons drinking mead at Mayor John Hickenlooper’s brewery. “Hick,” the Democratic candidate, has been a likeable figure around Denver for decades, a known quantity. Yet I found his responses on issues like education, taxes and health care, to be big on the Whats but scant on the Hows.

We can raise revenue by becoming more welcoming to business, while protecting the environment. Yes, it’s a trade-off, so how would he make it? Full-day kindergarten is a given when the state can afford it (what if parents don’t want to start their kids in school full-time at age 5?). But if and when the state CAN afford it, what other programs will NOT be funded in lieu of full-day kindergarten?

Republican candidate Dan Maes, also a businessman, is a relative newcomer to politics. He came off less polished and less fluent in politico-speak, which is not wholly a bad thing. He values school choice, vouchers in some form, and promises to protect charter and homeschooling. While there should be a safety net for the truly needy, the state should not, as a general rule, fund full-day kindergarten.

Maes was asked how he’d balance the state budget. He says that in four years, Colorado has gone from #4 to #48 in energy production. We can raise state revenue without raising taxes if we refocus on being an energy economy.

Maes is both a fiscal and social conservative, which is only half good for Libertarian-leaners. Democrats tend to protect social freedoms while usurping economic freedom, and Republicans tend to protect economic freedom but want to have a say in people’s personal freedoms.

It’s worth having a dialog about core values.

Former Congressman Tom Tancredo, as the American Constitution Party candidate, had confirmed his participation in the forum but reportedly attended a fundraiser instead.

Chris Bird of Mama Birds Blog, social media manager and passionate patriot. Directionally-challenged pilot’s wife:

The candidates couldn’t be further apart when it comes to how to strengthen early childhood development. Maes believes in school choice across the board (homeschooling, charter schools, school vouchers) including on the question of making full-day Kindergarten mandatory. He believes it should be up to parents to decide what’s best for their family and that by cutting taxes, we can alleviate much of the burden on parents to both work, giving them more time with their children rather than conferring responsibility to our schools and ultimately taxpayers. Hickenlooper, on the other hand believes full-day Kindergarten is “a given.” In addition, he believes in expanding the school lunch program to include more kids, though it’s hard to imagine how either of Hickenlooper’s proposals would be paid for simply by re-allocating funds and without raising taxes.

Maes believes chasing federal funds through “Race to the Top” is a complete waste of time for Colorado and that we should focus on growing our economy to support K-12 education. Hickenlooper says we deserved “Race to the Top” funding, but we don’t stop there – we will replace that money.

While Maes and Hickenlooper were in agreement on most fiscal policy issues, such as the need to continue drilling for oil to keep energy costs down while exploring alternatives at the same time, reducing the size of government, creating a pro-business environment and no new taxes, Maes went a step further emphasizing tax cuts as the way to strengthen Colorado’s economy and better support healthcare and early childhood development. He believes that by building a stronger tax base, jobs will be created and Colorado’s economy will grow to support existing programs. Hickenlooper’s plan is to “prioritize” programs, increasing funding to the ones that are working and cutting funding to those that aren’t. He also wants to “leverage” current private and public partnerships to support those programs.

On healthcare, Maes supports the Attorney General’s decision to sue the Federal government over Obamacare and supports Amendment 63. Hickenlooper believes we can make Obamacare work for Colorado but didn’t give specifics on how Colorado would be able to afford it. As to the role our schools play in children’s health, with childhood obesity on the rise, Maes believes the school’s role is secondary to that of parents and that control of those issues should be at a local schoolboard level where parents can be involved. Hickenlooper wants more school involvement including having schools “train” our kids on how to stay fit for the rest of their lives.

Dana Stone, PR pro and philosophical debater. Frequenter of front row in pictures due to small size but is tall in spirit:

MAES
Overall focuses:

1. Energy
2. Leaner gov’t with cutting taxes
3. Strong business support

Education:

1. Mandating full-day kindergarten in public schools is not a priority.
2. Supports free choice with education, e.g. home school, charter, private, etc.

Healthcare:

1. Opposes Obama’s healthcare bill, believes in having more competition for better rates.
2. Don’t regulate vending machines outside of schools, but should be heavily regulated in schools.
3. Bring back mandates for physical activity in schools.
4. Supports the

Fiscal health of Colorado:

1. Believes in reversing property tax.
2. Believes in reducing the executive branch to reduce gov’t workforce.
3. We can reduce taxes, believe it or not by reducing frivolous spending.
4. Quit chasing federal funds to build our revenue; find it within state.

HICKENLOOPER

Overall focuses:

1. Protect our Rockies (environmental protection)
2. Make gov’t smaller and more efficient
3. Promote good business practices

Education:

1. Get pen and pencils into children’s hands sooner than later; data shows 12% ROI when states do so.
2. Believes in full-day kindergarten, but emphasized the importance of prioritizing needs of those poverty-stricken children.
3. Race to the Top: We didn’t win federally, but it doesn’t mean we won’t keep fighting for better education in our state.
4. Need to leverage current private/public partnerships to build child education to save our budget.

Healthcare:

1. Again, it’s important to prioritize and get healthcare to those in most need, especially children.
2. Colorado is the right size to figure out how to fix our healthcare crisis. Solutions include making all health data available electronically.
3. Train kids to go to the gym like we do. Studies show aerobics helps children focus more and engage in schooling.

Fiscal health of Colorado:

1. Focus on prioritizing needs; can’t fix everything especially in our budget crisis.
2. Focus on helping Coloradans in the most need – what’s best for the most number of kids in the state.
3. No appetite to raise taxes so that most likely won’t happen.
4. Create better business, e.g. penalize those companies that negatively affect the state like an oil spill.

A special thanks to our co-sponsors: The Children’s Hospital, the Colorado Children’s Campaign and EPIC (Executives Partnering to Invest in Children). Colorado is fortunate to have these fantastic organizations leading the charge to put kids first.

Find Out How Gubernatorial Candidates Put Kids First at Forum

As moms, we are invested in our children’s future and want to make a difference. An important way for our voices to be heard is by voting for candidates we believe are looking out for our children’s best interest.

Putting Kids First: A Gubernatorial Forum will take place on Thursday, September 16. Mayor John Hickenlooper (Democratic Party) and Dan Maes (Republican Party) will discuss and answer questions about the biggest issues facing our state’s children, with topics such as access to healthcare, rising obesity rates, adolescent depression, poverty and education.

Mile High Mamas is thrilled to be a co-host of the forum, along with partners The Children’s Hospital, the Colorado Children’s Campaign and EPIC (Executives
Partnering to Invest in Children).

The forum can be viewed live on 9News.com from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Please take this opportunity to find out which gubernatorial candidate is best equipped to put Colorado’s kids first.

Photo source: AP

Healthier school meals pound out new message in Colorado

School districts across the country are adding healthier food in their lunchrooms, but one of the nation’s leaders in the trend is finding it’s a tough campaign to sustain if kids don’t eat the food.

Boulder Valley Schools in 2009 overhauled its food-services program to make it healthier fare, adding salad bars in every school, preparing hot lunches with natural ingredients and serving organic milk.

But the program, which was billed initially as revenue neutral, lost almost $700,000 in its first year despite a 25-cent increase in lunch prices — mostly because fewer kids signed up to eat than were expected.

The school district, with about 25,000 students, anticipated a 10 percent surge in participation with the new meals above the 26 percent participation but got only a 2 percent district-wide increase.

Participation varied from town to town.

For example, schools in

Tips for Back to School Reading and Beyond

Research shows that parental involvement in developing their children’s love of literature is critical to raising lifelong readers. As family schedules are reorganized to begin the school year, now is a great time for kids and parents to be sure they incorporate reading into their daily routines.

Below are some fun and practical ways to make reading a normal and natural part of family life and encourage kids of varying ages to get reading-ready as they head back to the classroom and prepare to dive into books all year long.

• Book graffiti wall – Put up a piece of poster paper and label it the “Great Book Graffiti Wall.” Have your children draw a pattern on the paper to make it look like a brick wall. Then encourage them to draw pictures and write recommendations based on the books they have read or are reading.

• Record your child’s favorite book – A cassette recorder is one way to enable younger children to enjoy a favorite book again and again. Grandparents, parents, older brothers, or sisters can record their favorite stories on tape or the whole family can join in and play different characters.

• Read around the world – Help develop geography and reading skills by making a faux passport and a copy