Tag Archives: Joyce Rankin

Saguache News – January 8

Teacher to Class: “Can You Hear Me Now?”

By Joyce Rankin, Board of Education, 3rd Congressional District

Joyce Rankin

Joyce Rankin

Joyce Rankin is on the State Board of Education representing the Third Congressional District, which includes Saguache and Saguache County. She writes the monthly column, “Across the Street” to share with constituents in her district.  The Department of Education, where the State Board of Education meets, is located across the street from the Capitol.She may be reached at joycesrankin@gmail.com.

“It’s just common sense.” How many times have you heard this phrase and thought “If only more people would just use common sense”?  I was thinking that during a conversation with Dan Snowberger, School Superintendent in Durango.

Dan and I, along with a thousand other educators, attended an Excellence in Education conference last month where use of technology in the K-12 classroom was discussed.  While there are already lessons available that introduce students, as early as Kindergarten, to technology, the conversation turned to middle and high school students use of cell phones in the classroom.  How can a student concentrate on the task at hand when they are on their cell phone texting a friend?  The answer for one Principal in Snowberger’s district was to ban cell phones in his middle school. “Ban cell phones”, you say. “That’s impossible.”

Evidently, not for Durango middle school Principal, Shane Voss.  First, Mr. Voss invited parents and interested community members to a screening of a film titled “Screenagers” explaining how the child’s brain develops. The film attempted to explain the result of too much “screen time” or time spent in front of a computer screen or cell phone.

Saguache_Library_Children_Students

You won’t find any cell-phones here as Saguache students are fully engaged in a local library program in 2017. Photo: Saguache Today/KathyBedell.

At first parents had some concerns about the importance of phones when they needed to get in touch with their child in an emergency situation.  Mr. Voss assured parents that there would always be personnel available to answer the office phone during school hours. The emphasis of the new “no cell phone” rule was to “keep students engaged in the present.” said Voss.

“We have a highly collaborative and innovative learning environment”, stated Mr. Voss, “The students can now use 100% of their energy with the task at hand”. He also added that social bullying during school time has greatly decreased. 

Shane Voss, Principal of Mountain Middle School (Grades 4-8) created a cell phone free environment that seems to be working.  There is a time and place for the teen culture of social media, it’s just not at Mountain Middle School. Technology certainly has its place but so does “focus”.

Common sense? Yes, coupled with strong leadership and community support.

 

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Saguache News – December 12

Preparing Students for an Unforeseen Future

By Joyce Rankin, 3rd Congressional District, State Board of Education

Joyce Rankin

Joyce Rankin

Road Trip: I attended the Summit on Education Reform in Nashville, Tennessee. Jeb Bush opened the conference and repeated a quote from the first conference in 2008: “The country’s school system is an 8-track in an iPod world. The irony is that we’re still an 8-track but the iPod is gone.”

Speakers and panelists from across the nation discussed directions education is taking and how our schools can prepare students for and ever changing future.

Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, spoke about school choice and the role of parents in selecting the best school for their children. She continues to be an advocate for school choice to advance opportunities for all children. Several sessions highlighted success stories from students and parents who had taken advantage of school choice in their communities.  At the conclusion Ms. DeVos stated “The rising generation represents 100 percent of our future; let’s give them nothing less than 100 percent of our effort.”

In a general session we heard about the importance of technology courses at all grade levels to prepare for future jobs that we can’t currently define.  Jeb Bush described it like a quarterback throwing to a receiver. “You don’t throw directly at the receiver, but where he will be when the ball is caught.” We must teach all students the basics of technology so that they can meet the changing needs of an unforeseen skillset of the future.

One speaker said there were over 3.5 million truck drivers in the United States. What will happen when we embrace driverless cars and trucks?  This was just one example of how jobs will experience change in the future. It’s important to prepare students to adapt to changes so that the economy thrives and our citizens lead satisfying lives.

Colorado currently uses blended learning and online courses to enable students to learn skills that would otherwise be unavailable at their school.  An example is a student in middle school currently enrolled in an advanced Calculus course online. He is joined by three other students, in various grade levels, from other school districts across the state.  Technology is opening up many opportunities that weren’t available even two years ago. It is also moving so rapidly that we need to teach the basics of Computer Science beginning in Kindergarten. And yes, there are fun applications currently available, online, for Kindergarten students.  Future careers will depend on this knowledge combined with creativity and flexibility to adapt.

The Colorado Department of Education with community participation is reviewing the Colorado State Standards and adding new standards for Computer Science. We need to prepare future teachers by including Computer Science in all teacher preparation programs.

Moving from an “eight track system” will not be easy, however with “100 percent of our effort” we can give our students a chance for a successful future.

Joyce Rankin writes the monthly column, “Across the Street” to share with constituents in her district, which includes Saguache County.  The Department of Education, where the State Board of Education meets, is located across the street from the Capitol. She is also a Legislative Assistant for Representative Bob Rankin.

Latest News – October 13

Fall Festival_2_Kids Park Playground

From outside fun and exercise to classroom lessons and learning, Mountain Valley Schools finds creative solutions for the many challenges rural school district’s face in Colorado today. Photo: Saguache Today/Kathy Bedell

School News: Challenge to Opportunity

By Joyce Rankin, 3rd Congressional District, State Board of Education.

Joyce Rankin writes the monthly column, “Across the Street” to share with constituents in her district, which includes Saguache County.

Joyce Formal sport coat

Joyce Rankin

Teacher shortage, continuing education, parent participation, technology, and students unqualified to satisfy workforce needs. These are just some of the challenges our public schools face.  In September I toured southwest Colorado and found some school superintendent’s creatively solving some of their district’s many challenges.

We continue to hear about the need for higher teacher’s salaries and teacher housing in order to hire and retain the best educators. Although we already have very dedicated teachers, many when asked say that you can’t raise a family on a teacher’s salary. Some taxpayers say that the amount of time off for teachers (fall, winter, and spring breaks; holidays, and summer vacations) with many on four day work weeks, is an unfair comparison with year round occupations.   One west slope district superintendent was creative in solving his need for fifteen teachers. He hosted a booth at a popular job fair and one hundred and fifteen teachers attended. He then hired the fifteen he needed. Openings are now posted on his district website.

Another innovative solution for retaining teacher’s involved two elementary teachers planning on taking pregnancy/child leave. When the superintendent joined with a local preschool program and implemented the Teddy Bear Infant and Toddler Program at the school site, both teachers enrolled their children and continued to teach.

Only ten percent of parents were participating in secondary school parent-teacher conferences in one western Colorado school district. The superintendent set up a program called Student Led Conferences.  Students take the lead in the conference. They also direct their coursework, interests, accomplishments and challenges, and share them with their parents/teachers at the conference.

saguache-students-school-work

Students are engaged in learning in Saguache Today Photo: Mountain Valley Schools.

The same school has four diploma pathways: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), Academic, Honors, and Technical/Vocational. Students choosing the Honors pathway must, among other requirements, earn a combined score of 1150 or above on the eleventh grade Scholastic Achievement Test (SAT) exam. The average score in the state in 2017 was 1014.

Two other districts have focused their attention on career education. One program in Cortez has the back half of an ambulance built into the classroom to give students a real “hands on” approach to emergency training situations.  In Montrose, the entire school district emphasizes STEM learning. Students are given opportunities to work with aerospace firms on the eastern side of the mountains.

At the end of my trip I was proud to join Superintendent Mike Epright, of the West End School District (Nucla, Naturita, Bedrock and Paradox), in their community picnic celebrating the transition off of the “turnaround clock” for one of their schools. The school exited from Turnaround, or the lowest performance rating, to a Performance or the highest rating.  Over 200 teachers, students and parents joined with the community to celebrate their achievement.

These are a few of the remarkable programs being offered at schools in Colorado’s southwest. For some, difficult challenges have become incredible opportunities.

I’m honored to represent the 3rd Congressional District on the State Board of Education.

Joyce Rankin writes the monthly column, “Across the Street” to share with constituents in her district.  The Department of Education, where the State Board of Education meets, is located across the street from the Capitol. She is also a Legislative Assistant for Representative Bob Rankin.

Latest News – July 12

Testing, Testing: Academics to Social Skills

“Across the Street” by Joyce Rankin

Joyce Formal sport coat

State School Board Representative Joyce Rankin

President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) into law in 2001. Since that time Colorado has tested students and used the tests and other assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of the K-12 school system. In 2008-2009 the Colorado legislature added new tests in order to more effectively align standards with accountability. Concerns of parents, teachers and students caused legislators and educators to reexamine the amount of time devoted to testing. Last year the state board determined that the amount of testing should not only be reduced but results should be made more quickly available to help teachers and students.

But wait, more seems to be headed our way.  Up until now, the skills that have been emphasized on these tests are termed “academic” skills.  Enter the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) signed into law in 2015 by President Obama. This law adds flexibility.  Under ESSA at least one additional “nonacademic” indicator is allowed, including, but not limited to, student engagement, educator engagement, school climate, and safety. They have also been determined to include, self-control, grit, growth mindset, and others.  Indicators must be valid, comparable, reliable, and statewide. These are advertised as skills necessary to thrive in the 21st century workplace and referred to by some as “soft skills”.

Many educational organizations across the country enthusiastically support the new federal legislation and opportunities for social and emotional learning (SEL). With federal grant funding available, school districts are beginning to use SEL programs in the classroom.

Students get their lunch from a salad bar at the school cafeteria as some of more than 8,000lbs of locally grown broccoli from a partnership between Farm to School and Healthy School Meals is served at Marston Middle School in San Diego

Many support the legislation for social and emotional learning in schools. REUTERS/Mike Blake

A concern of these programs are the many and variable definitions of social and emotional learning. This is one definition: “SEL is the process of acquiring and effectively applying the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to recognize and manage emotions; developing caring and concern for others; making responsible decisions; establishing positive relationships; and handling challenging situations capably.”

Even if uniform definitions and understanding can be articulated, the next challenge is how these skills can be taught and then measured in the classroom. Are these “soft” skills just as critical to success as other “hard” skills like reading and math? Are current educators confident that they can acquire the necessary talents required to effectively teach these skills for the success of each student? How will we measure such qualities for purposes of educational policy and practice?

There are big challenges to prepare our students for a successful future.  A considerable amount of money has been spent over time to improve academic outcomes, however we’re still where we were when NCLB was established.  Is it reasonable to assume that the new ESSA will improve outcomes for our students or are we, yet again, adding more encumbrances to an already overburdened system?

Joyce Rankin is on the State Board of Education representing the Third Congressional District, which includes Saguache County. She writes the monthly column, “Across the Street” to share with constituents in her district.  The Department of Education, where the State Board of Education meets, is located across the street from the Capitol. She is also a Legislative Assistant for Representative Bob Rankin.

Latest News – March 21

From The State Board of Education: School Choice

The topic of school choice continues to gain momentum at both the state and federal levels. To that end, Saguache Today offers the following column on the matter from Joyce Rankin, your Colorado State Board of Education Representative for th eMountain Valley School District. She may be reached at joycerankin@yahoo.com.

School Choice: Your Options May Be Changing

By Joyce Rankin, State Board of Education, Third Congressional District.

School choice is a term for K-12 public education options describing a wide array of programs offering students and their families’ alternatives to those publicly provided schools assigned based on the location of their family residence. Two popular school choices are Charter Schools and Open Enrollment.

Charter Schools are public schools that are founded by parents, teachers or community members. They provide alternative educational programs that differ from traditional public schools. Colorado charter schools operate by way of a contract (charter) that has been authorized either by a school district or the Colorado Charter School Institute (CSI).

Colorado State Board of Education Representative Joyce Rankin (photo)

An example of school choice in Western Colorado offers the Durango School District in southwest Colorado both types of charter schools and multiple other offerings.  Durango has two Charter School Institute schools and four private schools. This year the district opened their first online school with Colorado Connections Academy @ Durango, an online platform available to students across the state.  They also have a new elementary school as well as a new public charter school sponsored by the district.

Superintendent, Dan Snowberger, is a supporter of school choice. Last November, Durango passed a $1.7 million mill levy override that would be shared equally with charter school students.  Schools under the Charter School Institute typically do not get a piece of mill levy override money.  Said Snowberger, “The district’s actions said loud and clear that it embraces and values each and every one of the students in their public schools.”

In Lake County School District (LCSD), as reported in Leadville Today the online news source serving Lake County, parents are taking advantage of open enrollment to select a school that they believe is the best choice for their children. Open enrollment allows students to enroll in schools outside the district for which they are zoned.

The State Board of Education, Third Congressional District. includes the Mountain Valley School District in Saguache County.

LCSD includes three schools: West Park Elementary, Lake County Intermediate and the recently upgraded Lake County High School. Lake County also has a charter school, Greater Heights Academy with 52 students. Even with a physical school upgrade many parents choose to travel in order to exercise their educational choices. With a total of 911 students enrolled within the district, 61 Leadville students, travel to Buena Vista School District, 32 are enrolled in Summit County School District and 22 students are driven over Vail Pass daily to attend Eagle County School District. 

Parents want to be involved in their child’s education and often take advantage of opportunities other than their local neighborhood school. In Durango it was a fairness issue of distributing tax dollars equally to include Charter Schools and expanding online choices. In Leadville it united parents with carpooling and community discussions about what neighboring schools had to offer. In both cases parents are taking an active role in selecting the school that best fits their child. Under the new administration there may be more school choice programs on the horizon…..stay tuned.

Joyce Rankin is on the State Board of Education representing the Third Congressional District. She writes the monthly column, “Across the Street” to inform constituents in her district.  The Department of Education, where the State Board of Education meets, is located across the street from the Capitol.