These posts are the opinions of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of A+ Colorado.

A+ Stay Sharp: 9.10.2020

Good morning during this snowy, short week.

The A+ team in collaboration with FaithBridge and Transform Education Now would like to personally invite you to a free, virtual event we’re hosting next week. The “Education Justice Now” webinar on September 15th from 7-8 p.m., will provide access to experts for families and education organizations serving students.

Focused around the question “what are the rights and responsibilities of schools to provide an equitable education during COVID-19?,” our hope is that this event (and possibility future events like this), will help parents, educators and service providers learn more about the tools they can use to navigate the tricky education system.

Expert panelists from the U.S. Office of Civil RightsACLU of Colorado, and Kate Gerald of Education Law Offices will be answering questions which can be submitted before or live during the event.

Share with your networks and sign up for free below. The event will be recorded.

 Sign up for the “Education Justice Now” webinar

What we’ve been up to this week

Research, reporting, and writing from A+ Colorado

Rural Invisibility: Ignoring the Educational Needs of Nine Million American Students // Kristina A. Hesbol for A+ Colorado 

Kristina A. Hesbol, Associate Professor in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Department at the Morgridge College of Education at University of Denver authored an op-ed, published on our blog.

There are more students attending American rural schools than all the students in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and the next 85 largest school districts combined (Showalter et al., 2019). In Colorado, 142 of the 178 school districts (82%) are considered rural or remote, attended by 104,093 students. Despite these numbers, rural schools are seldom included in discussions about American education, research, or policy. Such a metro-centric perspective disregards the educational and social-emotional needs of rural students, each of whom has the same right to high quality instructional practices as their non-rural counterparts. Reform efforts are typically designed to address the metropolitan (urban and suburban) perspective. Place-based challenges unique to rural schools are often nonexistent in reform policy discussions.

The Covid-19 pandemic has ripped the Band-Aid off drastic inequities between rural schools and their non-rural counterparts that have persisted for decades. Despite a relentless national focus on the effect of the achievement gap on urban students, relatively limited research has been conducted on leaders of schools and districts in rural communities and their influence on student learning. 68% of American rural schools report significant achievement gaps (Zhang, 2008; Barrett, Cowen, Toma, & Troske, 2015), but few rural leaders report that they know how to eliminate them.

Kristina goes on to discuss changing rural demographics, challenges, opportunities, innovative rural reform, and her recommendations here.

Outliers report 2020: Analyzing data as a pre-covid benchmark for academic achievement and basic needs across the state.

Each week, we will be highlighting sections of reports from the A+ research and policy team. Explore all of A+ research here. 

As educating the students of our state continues in a pandemic and post-pandemic world, our annual Outliers report serves as a pre-covid benchmark for academic achievement and basic needs across Colorado, before learning was disrupted like never before.

Across the state, more than 13,000 students were experiencing homelessness in 2019. Our research shows that Adams 12, Mountain Valley 1, Sheridan 2, and Westminster Public Schools are supporting more students experiencing homelessness than any other districts in the state. While most other districts in the state see less than 2% of their students experiencing homelessness:

  • Adams 12 serves twice the statewide average of students experiencing homelessness. This number has increased over the past five years while its overall population increased as well.
  • Mountain Valley has consistently seen a significant part of their student body experiencing homelessness, at 27%, up significantly from 2015. Sheridan school district has 21% of its students experiencing homelessness, though down from 2015.

Rates of students relying on school for basic needs is expected to increase because of the economic fallout from the pandemic. Explore the Outliers data here.

Hot takes 

Musing, questions, and ideas from this week in education. 

This musing comes from A+’s president, Van Schoales. 

Governor Jared Polis announced on Tuesday that “a limited number of fans will be allowed to watch home games at Empower Field at Mile High — starting with the Broncos vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on September 27.” The team worked with the state of Colorado and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to determine a figure of 7.5% of the stadium’s capacity. Empower Field at Mile High Stadium can seat 76,125, which means that ~5,709 will be able to join together to watch the next game.

Van asks, “for thousands of fans to watch the Broncos but not for hundreds of kids to attend high school?”

Yesterday, Denver Public Schools announced that they will continue fully online instruction until October 16, which is the end of Quarter 1 for many schools, highlighting that Colorado’s largest district will be closed for all in-person learning, and won’t have the option to bring in any students – even 7.5% of a school’s capacity.

Other nearby districts such as Cherry Creek and Mapleton have opened in a hybrid remote and in-person format, while sharing as little as a few miles to Denver metro schools which will not be opening for any students for more than a month. While there have been reported positive COVID-19 cases at several Denver-area districts, policy makers must balance the health and education costs of not having students in school with the risk of contracting COVID-19. It is a difficult balancing act with such enormous costs either way.

“There is no question that we must be safe and allow teachers and students the right to do school remotely but we also have an obligation to meet students where they are and provide a safe real school learning environment,” Schoales says.

You can see more here with Van’s blog regarding where our metro area schools are relative to other countries that have safely opened their schools.

We want to hear from you

Submit a question for experts to answer during Education Justice Now event

As we prepare for the “Education Justice Now” event, a free Zoom webinar next Tuesday, we want to know:

  • What questions do you have about navigating the tricky education system during COVID-19?
  • What response do you have to the question “what are the rights and responsibilities of schools to provide an equitable education during COVID-19?”

Fill out the question section here when you register, or reply to this email directly.

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