Stevenson fields questions from parents

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Superintendent discusses graduation requirements, inBloom

By Deb Hurley Brobst

The “Leading Innovation” meeting at Evergreen High School on Monday was a whirlwind glimpse at some of the changes planned for Jeffco schools in the next several years, most of them state-mandated and others proposed by the district.

Jeffco Superintendent Cindy Stevenson — flanked by nearly a dozen staff members available to answer questions — spoke to a handful of parents about everything from this year’s state-mandated teacher evaluations and new graduation requirements starting with the class of 2021 to the controversial inBloom system for storing student data.

Monday’s meeting was one of six in the district at which Stevenson is explaining changes and answering parents’ questions. Stevenson fielded only three questions on Monday:

• How important will typing skills be for students when standardized testing becomes computer based in the 2014-15 school year?

Stevenson responded that typing skills will be important when PARCC, which stands for Partnership for Assessmentof Readiness for College and Careers, replaces the TCAP testing in the 2014-15 school year. With the way the PARCC tests are administered, students will have more time to complete them, so slow typists should be able to complete the tests, she said.

• How will raw student data will be analyzed?

Stevenson responded that the district’s data experts are looking at various student data and determining how to meld them into usable, accurate information to help teachers and parents.

• What changes are expected in the graduation requirements?

Stevenson said the state is mandating that graduation requirements be competency-based beginning with the class of 2021 — the current fifth-graders. While plans are still formative, the idea is that students would need to get a minimum score on a standardized test such as the ACT or PARCC to graduate.

Jeffco, she said, is looking at a way to create a capstone project that also could be used to determine competency for graduation. She said the district intends to provide parents with more details by the spring of 2015.

Students currently in grades 6 through 12 would continue under the current graduation requirements, she said.

Audience reaction

Shannon Spence, an Evergreen parent, said she found the meeting informative. She has a freshman at EHS and a fifth-grader at Bergen Valley Elementary, so she was especially interested in the new graduation requirements.

She also owns Tutor Doctor, a student tutoring company, so she said the information was important for both her family and her business.

Evergreen parent Stacy Klein and Sheila Atwell, executive director of Jeffco Students First, said they didn’t hear anything new in Stevenson’s presentation. Both attend Jeffco school board meetings regularly, and Klein has voiced her opposition to the inBloom system.

More on inBloom

Stevenson talked the most about data management and the inBloom system that has caused controversy in recent months. In 2014, the district plans to pilot inBloom, which will centralize and store student data in a “cloud-based” system. During the test, instead of using actual data, the district will store “dummy data,” and then the Jeffco Board of Education will decide whether to implement inBloom’s services in 2015.

She said the district had been studying such data management systems since 2010, and questions from parents are being studied to determine whether inBloom would be private and secure, and keep business interests out of education.

Stevenson advocated for the system because she said it would allow teachers to spend less time analyzing data and more time using the information to determine how to help kids learn. Teachers would have more time to focus on instruction, she said.

She said the district is undertaking an independent study of the system’s security features, and that the district’s Data Management and Advisory Council, made up of data management experts and parents, is studying the system.

“Even though there are a lot of questions about inBloom,” Stevenson said, “we need to move kids further faster, and we need to provide teachers with more support to do that. (InBloom) will give teachers more time for decision-making.”

Contact Deb Hurley Brobst at deb@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1041. Check www.CanyonCourier.com for updates.