LOWELL — It is 2:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon — dismissal time at Lowell High School. Hundreds of students spill into the downtown streets; some are headed to sports practice, others are off to work or to hang out with friends.
Something else is happening inside the building. In room 237, two dozen students, laptops open, are eagerly honing their coding skills, learning the computer programming language Python under the direction of two of their peers — senior Kenneth Chap and junior Ibraheem Amin, co-founders of LHS’s newest computer science club, The Programming Initiative (TPI).
Nearly 80 students also tune in online through Google Classroom, where Chap and Amin upload the presentations from their weekly coding lessons.
“Python is generally used in all applications, like machine learning,” Chap said. At the end of the course, club members will be able to “make applications on Discord,” he added.
Following the exact drops in high school MCAS STE (Science, Technology & Engineering) scores across the state, now more than ever it is becoming dire to increase access to fun, interactive STEM experiences.
Last summer, Chap and Amin met through the Google Coursera Certificate Program, offered by the local educational non-profit, Project LEARN. The cost per student for the Google Coursera program is $500, and through grants and corporate sponsorships, Project LEARN can deliver IT Support, Data Analytics and Project Management certifications to 50 students this year at no cost to them or their families.
With the high demand for these programs, Project LEARN Executive Director LZ Nunn anticipates doubling the number of students served to 100 next year. “These students are so jazzed about what they learn, and empowered to gain tech-savvy skills they can use at a future job,” said Nunn. “This is a program that can really deliver on preparing our young people for the jobs of tomorrow.”
“We wanted to do the Google Coursera program because I saw the course as an opportunity in a specific field that I was interested in,” said Amin.
After completing the Google Coursera program, Chap and Amin felt inspired to start their own club that would be open and accessible to all of their classmates at the high school.
“We wanted to create a club that is a way for people to explore their programming interest and what computer science is like without being completely invested in it,” Chap said. “We even have programming challenges for beginners, so that way they don’t stare at us confused looking at all the code, they can actually type it out and interact with it.”
Chap and Amin said that they came up with the idea of starting a computer science-focused club at LHS because they wanted more opportunities for students to learn about science related fields beyond biology, chemistry and physics.
“Outside of those sciences, there aren’t many computer science classes,” explained Chap. “There are only three offered at our high school, and there is no AP computer science course.”
This isn’t just a Lowell High problem. According to a exact report by the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, only 6% of high schoolers in Massachusetts took a foundational computer science course in 2019-2020.
“Kenneth and Ibraheem are an outstanding example of students who not only saw a gap, but also took concrete steps to create positive change,” said Mira Bookman, program director for Project LEARN. “When they both brought up the idea of starting, we wanted to do everything we could to support them.”
Project LEARN provides a budget of $1,000 towards TPI’s program supplies and $500 stipends to both Chap and Amin. Bookman continued, “Breaking down barriers in the STEM field starts at the school-level, and change is most powerful when it’s student-led.”
TPI member Victoria Prak, a senior at LHS, said she was interested in joining to explore her future career options and because of her interest in computer science. She said she is learning a lot and likes Chap’s teaching style.
“He does a good job of giving examples and demonstrating,” Prak said.
In a exact class, Chap, who has applied for early decision to MIT to study computer science, explained the different applications of Python and how to use it by utilizing relatable examples such as data related to favorite Halloween candy or the temperature of the porridge in “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” Making the data sources simple, provides an easier path to understanding how the program works.
“I like that we can express our passion for programming and spread it to everyone else,” Chap said. “I am looking forward to bringing in some guest speakers.”
Teacher Advisor Paul Morse said he has been blown away by Chap and Amin’s knowledge and drive.
“I am here to advise, but they have done all the work like preparing the lessons and teaching the course,” he said. “It is really incredible. I provide them teaching technique tips, but everything else is all them. They even bring in snacks and sometimes pizza for the club.”
When asked if they had any advice for fellow students who see a problem and want to address is it, both Chap and Amin were ready to extend their support and confidence.
“You should explore your interests, do research about them, and start applying what you learn to projects, so that you can learn more and also implement them,” said Amin.
Like Amin, Chap, too, encourages others to be go-getters, and to be the change they want to see.
“Don’t wait around for opportunities to come,” he said. “You can definitely find them online. “Explore your interests and don’t worry about the obstacles ahead of you because you will eventually overcome them.”
A local and Indigenous-led program is preventing kids from becoming involved with the Child and Family Services (CFS) system and it is also working to reunite children with their families, according to a report released Monday.
The Winnipeg-based Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre report shows a 98% success rate which it says shows the program is working and that the answer to keeping Indigenous kids out of CFS care is community programming.
The Centre currently runs The Family Group Conference (FGC) program, an “Indigenous-led evidence-based model that assists families involved with CFS-mandated agencies to become the decision-makers in reunifying their families.”
According to the organization, the program sees all members of a family meet to discuss what is needed to ensure their child or children will be cared for and safe and it looks to provide power back to families who are looking to reunite with their children or keep them in the home.
“FGC acknowledges that families have the capacity and expertise to address family concerns and develop their own care plans with success and accountability, provided they have adequate resources and relevant information to guide and support their decisions,” the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre said on their website.
The organization’s report shows just how successful the FGC program has been, as it shows it had an approximately 98% success rate over a three-year period between 2017 and 2020 in returning kids to their homes or preventing them from being removed.
The study also noted that those numbers don’t paint the whole picture as some families hadn’t completed the program when the statistics were gathered, but that overall FGC has an approximately 98% success rate in both reuniting families and keeping kids out of CFS care.
The report shows that 655 children took part in the FGC process during that period and 263 of those children are living with their families, while another 139 children were in the process of returning home. As well the report shows the program diverted 141 children from becoming involved in CFS and taken from their homes and their families.
According to the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, more Indigenous families will have the skills and abilities to keep children in their homes, if there are resources like the FGC program available, and statistics show that more needs to be done in this province to keep Indigenous kids out of CFS care as Indigenous children in Manitoba are believed to make up about 90% of the approximately 12,000 youth currently in care.
“FGC has consistently high prevention and reunification rates, through access to Indigenous teachings and ceremony, and by using resources effectively,” the organization wrote on their website.
“FGC is a highly successful way to maintain and reunify Indigenous families and strengthen Indigenous communities through relationships, support, guidance, challenge and advocacy.”
The Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre believes that the success of the program can also be attributed to FGC being Indigenous-led, and sensitive to the needs and the traditions of Indigenous people, families, and communities.
“The FGC model protects cultural integrity and Indigenous knowledge to empower family reconciliation and restore the sacred bond within families,” the organization said.
“It is common practice in Indigenous communities for extended families and/or community members to share in the care and protection of children when their birth parents cannot, or need support to do so.
“FGC families are respected, honoured and cared for through Indigenous values, ceremonies, programming and approaches that support individual and family empowerment, healing and wellness.”
— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Prince Harry has hit back over claims he told a friend his bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey would be "shocking" and that "Brits need to learn a lesson". A spokesman for the Sussexes said accusing the Duke was an "attempted distraction" and Harry has never spoken ill of the British public.
The Sussexes' spokesman said on Sunday (December 4): "To pit him against his country is shameful and manipulative, especially when Prince Harry has never spoken ill of the British public."
Harry and his wife Meghan Markle's chat with Oprah saw them level allegations of racism against the Royal Family on top of a claim the Duchess's cries for help when she was feeling suicidal were ignored.
A report published today claimed Harry made comments to a friend before the interview, saying the interview would be shocking.
The Sun was told by an unnamed source that Harry told the friend: "This is going to be quite shocking. Those Brits need to learn a lesson."
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's latest attack on the Royal Family could force King Charles to strip the couple of their titles.
The Sussexes have released an explosive trailer of their potentially imminent Netflix series in what royal commentators describe as their latest attempt at upstaging the Prince and Princess of Wales.
King Charles could finally execute his royal power, as Harry and Meghan prepare to once again unleash their "truth".
It comes as members of the Royal Family brace themselves for Harry and Meghan's Netflix documentary series, which is expected to air on Thursday.
A trailer for the series was released on Thursday with one section appearing to show Meghan wiping away tears while Harry sits with his head tilted right back, seemingly in distress.
The Sussexes are then heard being asked: "Why did you want to make this documentary?"
Harry says: "No one sees what’s happening behind closed doors… I had to do everything I could to protect my family."
Meghan adds: "When the stakes were this high, doesn’t it make more sense to hear our story from us?"
Senior aides to King Charles and the Prince and Princess of Wales reportedly plan to watch the series in order to react to any potentially damaging accusations against the monarchy.
A senior royal source has said: "There is a completely united front from the King and his family concerning the numerous attempts to privately make peace with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, which sadly have once again resulted in the other side wishing to air their repeated grievances to the world.
"If there is a need to respond to anything in the upcoming series then you can be assured that response will be swift and robust."
Prince Harry 'knew Royals would be shocked' before Oprah chat [REPORT]
Beaming Charles shrugs off Netflix trailer at Sandringham [REVEALED]
Harry and Meghan’s documentary set to be ‘utterly explosive' [OPINION]
Former Chaplain to the late Queen, Gavin Ashenden told LBC there was no doubt Harry and Meghan are capable of landing "severe damage" on the Royal Family. He said: "It would be much better if this civil war wasn't happeing, but it is. It will cause damage all round."
Asked how the Royal Family might respond to Harry and Meghan's series, Mr Ashenden said: "They have to ignore it and pretend it's not happening. In the position they hold in society, they don't have a mandate to attack. Although sometimes attacking is the best form of defence, I think the fact that they're supposed to look dignified and restrained and should be forgiving and ought to be able to mop it up.
"They may well be able to. There is something quite self-destructive in poor Harry and Meghan's approach. It's a question really of what new information there is, if any, and the fact that Meghan and Harry... can only say not very much so many times before it doesn't add anything.
"I think the Royal Family will probably say to themselves, 'We'll just have to grin and bear it and see it off and hope the public lose interest and that Meghan and Harry lose energy'."
Asked how Prince William and Kate, the Princess of Wales, would respond if they felt there were inaccurate claims in the Netflix series, a well-placed source told the Daily Express: "The Prince and Princesses’ team will wait to see what’s in the Netflix series before deciding what to do, but you can see the direction of travel."
The final straw reportedly came after Harry was accused of attempts to "sabotage" the Prince and Princess of Wales’s high-profile visit to the USA.
A decision to issue a trailer for the show on the second day of the Waleses' visit to Boston was seen as a "declaration of war".
And yesterday the Duke of Sussex almost stole the limelight again when a charity video of him dressed as Spider-Man was released and went viral.
Netflix is billing its six-part series as an "unprecedented and in-depth" look at "one of the most-discussed couples in history". It is directed by Liz Garbus, the Emmy winning producer of the Netflix documentary, "What Happened, Miss Simone?"
Harry and his wife signed a multiyear deal in 2020 to produce nature series, documentaries and children’s programming for the streaming service.
The Sussexes' statement reads: "This is a baseless hit piece masquerading as journalism. This story is riddled with inaccuracies, not least is a quote erroneously attributed to Prince Harry.
"To accuse a man who spent 10 years serving his country of wanting to teach that same county a lesson is not only an attempted distraction but an unfortunate and predictable tabloid strategy.
"To pit him against his country is shameful and manipulative, especially when Prince Harry has never spoken ill of the British public."
BankNewport has provided funding to support a sunshade at the Portsmouth AgInnovation Farm.
The farm is a partnership between Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District and Portsmouth Middle School. The after-school program and summer camp, led by Portsmouth School District Science Coach Margie Brennan, teaches kids about sustainable agriculture. The funding will allow the farm to install a covering so that the kids can have a shaded area to be outside at the farm.
The sun shading will be installed in Spring 2023. Though the farm is in the process of being winterized for the season, the educational programming continues all year long. In the program, students learn about a wide range of science topics, all related to agriculture and our food system. They learn about plants, pollination, soil health, the watershed, and much more.
Brennan said, “We are thrilled to be able to have this sun shade for next summer. The point of the program is for kids to learn science in a hands-on way, so being in person at the farm is critical. It can get hot out there so this will provide us a safe place to gather and learn. BankNewport has been generous to us in this process, they also provided funding for attachments for our new tractor. We are so thankful to all of our amazing community partners.”
The project is student-led, and a group of Portsmouth Middle School students were recently awarded with the President’s Environmental Youth Award, a prestigious national award recognizing outstanding environmental stewardship projects developed by K-12 youth. They won the award for the design and implementation of the farm. Produce grown on the farm is donated to local food banks.
To learn more about the farm visit https://www.easternriconservation.org/aginnovation-farm
ALL Android phone owners should make sure they know a key trick to staying safe online.
One of the most important features on an Android phone is the ability to delete an app.
It's less obvious than on an iPhone, and can save you from a world of trouble.
Cyber-experts constantly expose dodgy apps that have made their way onto the Google Play Store – and racked up millions of downloads.
And even if Google bans those apps from the store, they will still persist on your phone if you've downloaded them.
These apps could be draining your battery life, spamming you with ads, or even spying on everything you do.
So being able to fully a delete a rogue app from your phone is essential to staying safe online.
It's important to always check the latest cybersecurity news for Android phones to see if you've got any dodgy apps.
To delete an app that you've installed, you'll need to open the Google Play Store app.
Then go to the top-right and tap the profile icon.
Now tap Manage Apps and Devices > Manage.
Tap the name of the app that you can to delete, and then choose Uninstall.
If you've made a mistake, you can always add the app back to your phone.
If you bought it, reinstallation is totally free.
Some apps that come pre-installed with your Android phone are impossible to delete – but can often be "disabled".
We've recently spoke to cybersecurity expert Grant Wyatt to find out what you need to look out for.
Grant, who is COO off cyber firm MIRACL, gave The Sun seven tips for using Android apps safely.
"Rule number one when downloading popular apps from the Google Play Store is check the get count," Grant told The Sun.
"If you’re about to get a hugely popular app, but the get count seems low, chances are it's a fake."
"Probably the most important thing is the PERMISSIONS that the app requires," Grant explained.
"Are they appropriate for the app? Specifically look for apps that require access to your contact list, or permission to send text messages, for example.
"Think, does the app really need those permissions? You have to use your judgement.
"A mistake here can be really damaging, apps with network permission can 'sniff' any data you send, and apps with keyboard permissions can 'sniff' any passwords you type – avoid downloading apps that require them."
"Similarly, read the product description," Grant told us.
"If the description is written in broken English, seems “bot-like”, or is formatted in a strange way, it’s likely a fake.
"While you’re checking out the product description, take a look at the images too. Is there anything strange about them?
"Are they blurry, or does the language seem off? If so, it’s likely a fake."
Grant warned: "You should also look carefully at the developer of the app, particularly for finance apps.
"Make sure the developer is legitimately a financial institution.
"If the developer’s name has nothing to do with your bank, it’s likely a fake."
"If you do come across a fake app, you should report it," Grant said, speaking to The Sun.
"Simply scroll to the bottom of the page, click 'Flag as inappropriate'.
"From there, you simply fill out a form highlighting your suspicions that the developer is up to no good, and Google will take it from there."
"Should you mistakenly get a fake app, delete it immediately," Grant advised.
"If the icon doesn’t show up on your screen, which often happens with data harvesting applications, head over to your application settings and delete it from there.
"However, just deleting the app doesn’t mean you’re no longer infected.
"You need to run antivirus software on your device to ensure the malware is truly gone.
"You should also delete all junk files on your phone to remove any trace of the malware."
"Finally, you should change all of your passwords, and consider implementing multi-factor authentication wherever possible," Grant recommended.
"Implementing MFA will ensure that should you fall victim to a fake app again, the cybercriminal behind it won’t be able to access your account.
"The best providers will allow for single-step MFA, which gives you all the protection of traditional MFA, but without having to faff about with SMS or email codes."
Looking for tips and hacks for your phone? Want to find those secret features within social media apps? We have you covered...
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IF you ever hand your iPhone to your children, make sure you're not making a big mistake.
There's a simple trick that all parents should know – and it's handy for anyone else who lets others handle their phones.
You can lock someone onto a specific app, so they can't roam freely around your phone.
It's handy if you want to avoid a child ending up in your texts, photos or an app where they might accidentally spend money.
The trick was shared by TikTok star @dnay1.0 in a video that has earned hundreds of likes.
"So this one is going to be used if you go into a specific app and you cannot get out of that app whatsoever," the TikToker explained.
"And what I mean by this is if you have a kid or anybody else touching or playing with your phone.
"And you don't want them to be able to exit out of that app and go into anything else in your phone.
"This is what this will be used for."
The feature keeps the screen turned on, but deactivates touch-settings completely.
This is great for youngsters who often like to poke and prod the screen.
It's also perfect for anyone with a cat and an iPad – you can let them play with "virtual fish" apps safely.
First, you'll need to open the iPhone Settings app.
It's the one with an icon made up of cogwheels.
Then scroll down to Accessibility, which is in the section under the General header.
Scroll down to the bottom of the Accessibility page and tap into Guided Access.
From there, you'll be able to toggle Guided Access on as a feature. You can leave this toggled on safely.
Then whenever you want to lock the touchscreen, you can simply triple-click the Home button quickly.
If you've got a newer iPhone without a Home button, triple-click the side button instead.
Looking for tips and hacks for your phone? Want to find those secret features within social media apps? We have you covered...
We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online Tech & Science team? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Colorado elementary and middle school students attending charter schools excelled in literacy and math at higher rates than their peers at traditional public schools throughout the pandemic, bucking a national trend, according to a report published Tuesday by the nonpartisan Keystone Policy Center.
The numbers are particularly positive for charter schools that educate a significant share of kids from low-income families, the report notes, indicating that Colorado charter schools have been more effective in keeping some of the state’s most vulnerable students on academic pace during COVID-19.
However, many elementary and middle schoolers enrolled in charter schools across the state are still falling short of meeting state academic standards, the report reveals.
“Charter schools, as is the case with district-managed schools, are far from supporting most kids to reach the state standards,” said Van Schoales, senior policy director at the Keystone Policy Center. “And so I think we have a real problem, not just in Colorado but nationally. We need to frankly rethink how we’re doing public education and how we fund it and how it’s organized because if we have a system that can’t get most kids to standard, then either the standards are wrong — which I don’t think they are — or the system is totally messed up. And we’ve been working on this for decades.”
Dan Schaller, president of the Colorado League of Charter Schools, is encouraged by the achievement of Colorado charter schools but acknowledges that they have more progress to make.
“I think it’s important to remember it’s against the backdrop of us needing to do a lot of work in the public education system in general,” Schaller said.
The report evaluated how schools are ranked on state accountability measures, known as School Transitional Frameworks, and looked at results of 2022 standardized tests, including the Colorado Measures of Academic Success and PSAT and SAT exams.
Colorado has 269 charter schools that educate more than 135,000 students, according to Schaller. Charter schools are public schools managed by outside nonprofit operators that establish a performance contract with a school district, which serves as the authorizer. The contract gives charter schools more flexibility than traditional public schools over how they educate children, but they are still subject to the same standards and assessments as traditional public schools. Charter schools are often born when families and communities recognize the need for a high-quality alternative and band together to create an application for a charter school with a different model than what their district-run schools offer, Schaller said.
“In many respects, they’re more accountable, but they are given the flexibility to have the school-based control over decisions related to staffing, decisions related to budgeting, to academic programming,” he said.
The report from the Keystone Policy Center notes that 85% of charter school students go to a school that earned the highest rating on the School Transitional Frameworks — the “performance” rating. Meanwhile, 66% of traditional public school students are enrolled in a school that is rated “performance.”
At schools serving students living in poverty, the gap is much greater.
Two-thirds of charter students learning at schools with mostly kids from low-income families were at schools rated “performance” while 19% of students at traditional public schools where the majority of students are poor were enrolled in a “performance” school, the report stated.
“These do represent some of the largest gaps that I’ve seen,” Schaller said.
Charter school students in grades 3-8 fared better on literacy and math assessments than students in public schools run by districts, with 37% of charter school students — compared with 31 percent of traditional public school students — meeting or surpassing grade level benchmarks in English language arts. In math, 31% of charter school students met or surpassed grade level benchmarks, compared with 27% of kids in district-run schools, the report notes.
Additionally, elementary, middle and high school students attending charter schools demonstrated greater levels of academic growth in both English language arts and math than kids at district-run schools.
The academic gains made by charter schools during the past year built on momentum from the years leading up to the pandemic, captured by the Colorado Department of Education’s 2019 State of Charter Schools Triennial Report. That report, released in March 2020, details that charter school students consistently outperformed students from non-charter schools on CMAS English language arts and math exams from 2016-18. Similarly, charter school students performed better on PSAT and SAT evidence-based practicing and writing and math exams during those three years than their peers at non-charter schools.
The report, published once every three years, also illuminates the demographics of students attending Colorado charter schools. In 2019, charter schools educated more students of color and more students learning English than other Colorado schools, but fewer students with disabilities and fewer students who qualify for free and reduced price lunch — a federal indicator of poverty.
Schaller attributes at least part of charter schools’ success to how responsive they are to their students and families.
The charter school model is “inherently flexible and adaptable to the needs of a given school community,” said Schaller, who sees charter schools’ control over decisions driving much of their achievement.
The pandemic has highlighted “the power of a system of public school options for kids,” he said.
“Our kids aren’t all the same,” Schaller said, “and our schools shouldn’t be either.”
Another hypothesis related to charter schools’ higher achievement rates: how much time students spent in school and what happened when they weren’t in classrooms.
“It could have been that charter school kids were less out of school and … built more community when they were out of school than other district schools, and so when they came back, they may have been more ready to learn,” said Schoales, of the Keystone Policy Center. “And it also is possible that they may have had more summer opportunities or tutoring opportunities.”
When it comes to the success that charter schools have demonstrated in helping kids from low-income families make academic gains, Schoales suspects that charter schools are often set up to better serve specific groups of kids from the get-go.
“My theory is … because often schools are designed to serve a particular group of kids that they may be better at that because they go in with the intention of doing that,” Schoales said.
He added that charter schools are often smaller, and therefore can be more nimble and responsive. There is also often more communication with parents — who are key to their children’s academic outcomes — in charter schools than in district-run schools, Schoales said.
And yet, charter schools often are operating in poorer quality facilities with fewer funds, lower teacher pay and higher staff turnover, he noted.
“It does suggest that whatever the charters are doing, they’re doing it in spite of having often higher turnover and lower paid teachers,” Schoales said. “So what would happen if they had teachers paid at the same rates?”
While charter school students are achieving at a higher rate than their counterparts in district-operated public schools, more than half of all students are still trailing behind grade level standards in math and literacy.
“I don’t want anybody to come away from this saying, ‘Oh gosh, you know, charter schools are solving our educational challenges,’ and they’re not,” Schoales said. “They’re just doing better than the district schools, at least for this year.”
Their struggles are reflective of broader challenges schools have faced in keeping kids on academic track amid the pandemic, with disruptions — including lost time in the classroom and frequent transitions between in-person, hybrid and remote schooling — interfering with students’ ability to learn.
Students’ grasp of math has become a particular point of concern for educators, education advocates and even state leaders, with less than a third of Colorado elementary and middle school students meeting or exceeding grade level benchmarks and less than 35% of 11th grade students meeting or exceeding college readiness targets in math on the SAT.
Across the country, student declines in academic performance ran parallel in charter schools and district-run public schools, according to reporting on scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress by Chalkbeat.
One reason that Colorado charter schools may have defied national trends is the balance the state has struck between the flexibility and autonomy it provides charter schools and the accountability it enforces on them, Schaller said.
Part of that accountability involves particularly high stakes: Authorizers — school districts — will move forward with closing charter schools if they’re not performing well, Schoales said, incentivizing charter schools to make sure students are reaching academic standards.
But charter school students don’t outperform their peers at district-run schools in every area, according to the report. For instance, SAT results show that 46% of 11th-grade students at charter schools met or surpassed grade level expectations on the English language arts assessment, compared with 50% of students attending traditional public schools. In math, one third of 11th grade students in both charter schools and district-run public schools met or surpassed grade level benchmarks.
There is also significant variation in academic performance among Colorado charter schools, similar to the wide variation in performance among district-operated public schools — discrepancies that are worth more investigation, the report states.
Schoales points to variations in funding, compensation, educator backgrounds and the educational design of charter schools as the reasoning behind the differences in their academic performance.
He also sees charter schools continuing to have a polarizing effect on educators, families and communities, with some lauding them and others vilifying them. He hopes that the more that research on charter schools emerges, the more that people will understand that “charter schools are an important part of the mix, and they sometimes serve kids better, and sometimes they don’t.”
And Schoales wants to veer away from the chronic political debates over whether or not charter schools should exist to focus on what he believes is a more worthwhile question.
“Instead, let’s talk about, where can we get some good schools?”
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - For four days, students at Sun Prairie East and West High School will get the chance to learn more about disability awareness through different adaptive sports such as wheelchair volleyball, sitting volleyball, and go-ball.
The high schools brought down The Ability Center, who have a program called the Adaptive Scholastic Athletic Program to help teach their students about disability awareness and provide them the opportunity to play in a different pair of shoes.
Lindi Winter, Physical Education teacher at Sun Prairie East High School, is happy to be able to provide her students the opportunity to learn these new games, and is also grateful for the community for being able to bring the funds needed to provide The ASAP Team to the school.
“Our Education Foundation allows us to fill out an application, and they provide money that brings experiences like this to Sun Prairie... and through community members and partnerships they’re able to provide the money for these experiences. They were the ones that made it possible to bring Damian and his people here.”
Throughout their gym class, students were separated into three different groups where they learned how to play wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, and go-ball, a game for the visually impaired. Team members from ASAP were there to guide them through each game, and founder Damian Buchman was able to join in, helping teach the students and show them how to wear a ‘new’ pair of shoes.
“The kids get an opportunity to see what it takes to do something differently, but also understand what inclusion looks like, full inclusion,” Buchman said.
Days before he turned thirteen, Buchman was re-diagnosed with childhood bone cancer, and has had to-date, 28 knee replacements and revisions. So, while he’s grateful he can walk, he can no longer run or jump. For him, The Ability Center and ASAP was a chance to make sure everyone got in the game, and not just sit in the sidelines.
“Not everyone wants to be a team manager or the water boy or girl, they want an opportunity to be able to participate, and this is something we bring - that opportunity for everyone to play.”
To learn more information about The Ability Center and ASAP, visit their website.
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Principal Anthony McWright stood outside Whatley Chapel, one of four buildings the Denver district purchased last year to expand the prestigious Denver School of the Arts, and gestured to an outdoor amphitheater that can seat 1,200 on its worn wooden benches.
“Out here, you could do Shakespeare in the park,” he said to a dozen people standing with him in the Monday morning sun. “You could have families watching movies.”
McWright was leading a tour of the former Johnson & Wales college campus across the street from DSA. He was also pitching his vision that DSA, whose students are whiter and wealthier than the district average, would become more diverse through the expansion and a new exploratory track for students who love to dance or draw but don’t have the prowess (or the money to afford private lessons) it takes to get into DSA, which rejects 500 applicants per year.
“This is about getting every child who wants the arts and has a love for the arts access to a program like this,” McWright said of DSA, which serves grades six through 12 and draws students from across the metro area and even out of state.
Denver Public Schools bought part of the now-closed Johnson & Wales campus last year for $30 million and set aside another $10 million to renovate it. But increasing construction costs mean DSA needs another $6.6 million to complete phase one of the renovations.
The Denver school board will be asked to approve the expense later this month. Four of the seven board members listened to McWright’s pitch Monday, and two — Scott Baldermann and Scott Esserman — stayed for the tour. At a meeting of the board’s finance committee later that day, Baldermann expressed reservations about the project.
He questioned whether the district should expand a school when district enrollment is declining. The board recently rejected a plan to close low-enrolled schools.
“If we’re going to go down a path of not consolidating schools but we’re also adding seats to the district, it doesn’t add up to me,” Baldermann said.
Esserman said the board needs to consider the flip side, too. He called the Johnson & Wales purchase a “short-sighted” decision by a previous board, which included Baldermann.
“They didn’t take this into consideration when they made that initial investment,” Esserman said of the board members, “and now we’ve got $30 million invested in a property that if we don’t move forward with sure feels like an albatross around our neck.”
DSA is unique among Denver’s more than 200 public schools.
It’s one of only two schools that requires an audition to get in, and its audition is by far the most rigorous. DSA is also wildly popular and has been over capacity since 2003, McWright said. The school currently has about 420 middle schoolers and about 690 high schoolers.
Though Denver Public Schools as a whole is only about 25% white, DSA is nearly 70% white. Most students come from middle- and high-income families.
About a third of DSA students are from outside Denver. McWright talked about families driving 65 miles from Fort Collins every day or renting their children apartments near the school.
McWright said that when he took the principal job a few years ago, his goal was to diversify DSA. He wants it to grow from 1,100 students to 1,700 by adding 175 middle schoolers and 425 high schoolers. The percentage of students qualifying for subsidized meals, an indicator of poverty, would grow from between 10% and 13% to as high as 30%.
Each student at DSA chooses an arts focus ranging from creative writing to orchestra to theater. The school would keep those programs but add an exploratory track for students who are still developing their skills. All students would take academic courses together, but their arts classes would be differentiated by ability level, McWright said.
The plan is ambitious, and McWright admitted there are hurdles. He said some families of color are hesitant to send their children to DSA for fear they’d be teased or made to feel they don’t belong. Separately, some families have said DSA isn’t welcoming to students with disabilities.
McWright said he’s also heard from current DSA families who are thinking that adding an exploratory track would water down DSA’s prestigious programming.
“This is not about bringing DSA down,” McWright said.
“This is access for any student who has a love of the arts. If they have the passion, the will, and the drive, they deserve to sit in these chairs.”
The $16.6 million for the first phase of renovations on the former Johnson & Wales campus would come from bond premium, which is revenue the district makes when its bonds sell for a higher price. The initial $30 million for the purchase came from bond premium as well.
Also on the tour Monday were community members who serve on a committee that tracks spending of a $795 million bond approved by voters in 2020. The committee makes recommendations, not decisions, but its members are also divided on funding DSA.
“This is a very large chunk of money for a school that is fairly functional as it is,” Christopher Wink, co-chair of the committee, said at a meeting Monday afternoon. “Is it exciting? Yes. Are there other schools that could use some of these funds? Absolutely.”
A bulk of the $16.6 million would be spent to bring the Johnson & Wales buildings up to code, which is different for K-12 than it is for colleges, district officials said. That work would include projects such as updating the HVAC and security systems and modifying the elevator.
Some of the money would also be used to add walls to a large empty library to transform it into eight classrooms, according to district documents.
If the board approves the funding, the work would begin in February and take about a year, district officials said. Once it’s completed in 2024, DSA’s 11th and 12th graders would move into the renovated buildings, freeing up space in the original school across the street.
Phases two and three of the construction would involve renovating spaces for the dance, theater, and visual arts programs, as well as creating more classroom spaces, McWright said. Those phases don’t yet have timelines or cost estimates, he said, though DSA is hoping to raise some of that money from private donors, a process that’s already begun.
On the tour, McWright pointed out how offices could become science labs, and lecture halls could transform into band and orchestra rooms. Leveling off the altar in a chapel with stained glass windows could turn the historic building into a performance space.
Other spaces would need minimal renovations aside from new paint, he said. The main building already has a nurse’s station, counseling offices, and a student center with comfy furniture that DSA could turn into a library by adding shelves and books. The building also has an industrial kitchen that the district is already using to make meals for other schools.
Eventually, all high school students would learn on the former Johnson & Wales campus, McWright said. Middle schoolers would remain in the current DSA building.
A slide McWright presented contained a warning in red letters: Though DSA is already trying to diversify its student body by increasing outreach and removing barriers to auditioning, those tweaks “will yield minimum impact until the two campuses are completely separated.”
Melanie Asmar is a senior reporter for Chalkbeat Colorado, covering Denver Public Schools. Contact Melanie at email@example.com.
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