December
19th 2014
The Great Teachers Union-Republican Alliance of 2015?

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Teachers

Yesterday, I wrote about the latest developments in what I have begun to simply call “The Testing Mess.” It’s sticky, sticky stuff, and I find that it’s often difficult to decipher which piece of the puzzle I’m going to be talking about when someone brings up “testing” in conversation these days. But being the insatiable nerd that I am, I feel compelled to complicate things even further by taking a look at some of the more interesting—and bizarre—political wrinkles behind the scenes of the debate.

I pointed you last time to an article written by Alyson Klein at Education Week. The article neatly sums up newly revealed Republican efforts to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as No Child Left Behind, the Act’s current iteration, increasingly finds itself on the wrong end of the testing discussion.

In order to achieve a reauthorization, our trusty (not really) politicians in Washington will need to navigate a political environment that I believe I accurately described yesterday as a “sausage-making process.” And just as you can never be quite sure which bits will be included in your sausage, politics can make strange bedfellows. Nowhere is that more clear than in the nascent (and highly irregular) developing relationship between the national teachers unions and Republicans over the issue of ESEA reauthorization. Continue Reading »

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December
18th 2014
Sticky Testing Issue Knot: Where’s the Education Policy Velcro?

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Grades and Standards & Parents & School Accountability & State Legislature & Teachers

I may be a precocious and talented young edublogger, but tying shoelaces still gives me fits. My mom insists on double-knotting the laces. Occasionally, in my dreams, I am stifled and frustrated by a tight pair of shoes that I can’t remove because they have been tied snugly so many times with knots that could drive your average sailor to mutiny.

Pardon the aside, but such a strange image is what comes to mind when I search for a winning solution out of the looming political debates about testing. Except it’s even worse, because the knotted material seems less like your standard cotton, polyester, or nylon, and more like this stuff.

A couple months ago, I delivered my highly non-controversial opinion that the testing issue wasn’t going away any time soon here in Colorado. But even then, I didn’t anticipate exactly where so much friction on the HB 1202 Standards and Assessment Task Force might take us. Cue a Chalkbeat’s detailed account of the group’s Monday meeting: Continue Reading »

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December
17th 2014
Taking a Look at This Year’s Colorado School Grades

Posted under Elementary School & High School & Middle School & Parents & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice

December is an exciting month for me. For starters, I’ve got some cool presents coming my way next week. In the meantime, I’ve got plenty of fun education stuff to keep me busy. Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of highlighting some standouts among CDE’s annual award winners. This week, I have the honor of presenting the newest report card from Colorado School Grades.

Some might wonder why I’m so excited about school grades. All the data is out there anyway, right? Those people have probably never experienced the sheer horror of navigating performance frameworks on CDE’s website. The information is there, and those with some level of knowledge and experience can find it without experiencing irreversible brain damage. Others who may want or need information on school performance—parents, for instance—are likely to find the system too onerous to be worth the effort.

Colorado school grades rectifies that problem by putting everything into easily understood letter grades. But don’t let the simplicity fool you; all of the variables used by CDE are wrapped into those grades using a complex formula developed by the University of Colorado Denver.  Pretty cool if you ask me.

I’ll let you play around with website’s nifty search and comparison tools on your own. I’d like to highlight some of the “winners” of this year’s grades. Continue Reading »

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December
15th 2014
Justice’s Slow-Turning Wheel: CEA’s Opening Tenure Appeal Argument

Posted under Courts & Denver & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & School Choice & Teachers

When I told you last week about the Colorado Supreme Court hearing in the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program case, it came home just how slowly the wheels of justice turn. At least that’s how it seems from the perspective of a perpetual 5 year old.

But I hadn’t given much thought to how redundant education-related legal proceedings can seem to be until this morning. That’s when I saw the headline from Chalkbeat Colorado, “Teachers union files appeal in mutual-consent lawsuit”. I scratched my head, thinking haven’t we crossed the same point on this road before? Continue Reading »

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December
12th 2014
NCTQ Slaps Down Colorado on Teacher Preparation: Will We Ever Learn?

Posted under Elementary School & High School & Innovation and Reform & Middle School & reading & Research & State Legislature & Teachers

There’s nothing to be proud about narrowly avoiding failure. It makes me nervous just to think about how Colorado still teeters on the edge when it comes to the quality of our teacher preparation. We know how important the role of the classroom instructor is for helping students learn, so the latest release of the National Council on Teacher Quality’s State Teacher Policy Yearbook hardly inspired confidence.

NCTQ’s yearbook has been more or less an annual tradition in recent times. The overall project grades states comprehensively on five key areas: Continue Reading »

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December
11th 2014
Important Scribbles: What Drawings May Say About Lives at Home

Posted under Arts & Early Childhood & Edublogging & Elementary School & Research

Unfortunately for you, faithful readers, I’m operating on a bit of a time crunch today. Because of that, we will forgo our usual lofty education discussion in favor of something a little different: Drawing. I can’t say I’m sad about the diversion; drawing happens to be one of my favorite pastimes. Besides, I’m sure you all need a break after yesterday’s very, very exciting event at the Colorado Supreme Court.

I like to consider myself a titan in the world of little guy art. Fire-breathing dragons, Play Doh monsters, aliens—you name it, I’ve drawn it. But as it turns out, my drawings may reveal more about me than my somewhat nerdy inclinations. A new study from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill indicates that the drawings of six year olds may offer important hints into what’s going on in those children’s lives. Continue Reading »

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December
10th 2014
Can’t Contain My Excitement: Dougco Case Reaches Supreme Court Today

Posted under Courts & Denver & Independence Institute & Parents & Private Schools & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools

It’s days like today that bring home the fact little Eddie is sort of, well, unique. While I didn’t exactly hang my stocking by the chimney with care last night, or try to overcome insomnia with dreams of sugar plums (which are what exactly?), I have been looking forward to today with considerable excitement. Don’t get me wrong: Christmas will be great when it comes in a couple weeks, but there’s only one Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program hearing before the Colorado Supreme Court!

Today at 1:30 PM, to be exact. You can bet little Eddie and many of his bigger friends will be in the vicinity of Denver’s courthouse building. The Denver Post‘s Eric Gorski set the stage with an article earlier this week: Continue Reading »

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December
9th 2014
CRPE’s Latest Report Reminds Me That We Still Need More Choice

Posted under Denver & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice & Tax Credits & Urban Schools

Last week, I gave you quick rundown (okay, it wasn’t that quick) of two big charter reports. But a little guy can only write so much in one sitting, and there was still one more big report on public school choice from the Center for Reinventing Public Education to cover. We’ll do that today.

The report sums up the results of a survey given to 500 parents in each of eight chosen cities, including Denver. There are some pretty big differences between the cities, so we’ll just focus on our capitol.

Among other things, the survey finds that Denver parents have a more positive outlook on the direction in which their education system is heading than parents in most of the other cities. It also found that Denver parents feel pretty comfortable with their ability to find information on public school choice, don’t tend to struggle greatly with the choice application process, and feel that they have good public options available.

Pretty rosy, right? Well, that’s just the good news. Continue Reading »

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December
5th 2014
Among New School Awards, Jeffco’s Edgewater Elementary Stands Out

Posted under Elementary School & Grades and Standards & Public Charter Schools & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

It’s Friday, time to stick to something a little lighter and perhaps more upbeat. This week the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) publicly celebrated its annual award winners.

While 27 districts, including Douglas County, earned recognition for topping the state’s accreditation system, today I particularly would like to bring attention to the school-level results from 2013-14 in three major categories: Continue Reading »

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December
4th 2014
Report Madness! A Breakdown of This Week’s Charter School Reading

Posted under Public Charter Schools & reading & Research & School Accountability & School Board & School Choice

As a junior education policy explorer, I’ve noticed a couple of things. First, education stuff is complicated. Second, complicated education stuff leads to a whole bunch of reports and studies. Lastly, those reports  and studies tend to come in spurts—a fact that often results in a whole lot of reading for yours truly. Let it never be said that I don’t get enough reading practice! Today, I’m going to outline a couple of recent reports on our good friends in the charter sector.

The first report comes from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. In addition to highlighting the explosive growth of charters in many areas, the report details the largest and fastest growing charter communities in the nation by examining districts with over 10,000 students.

Not surprisingly given the city’s education efforts after Katrina, New Orleans remains at the top of the list for its percentage of students enrolled in charter schools (90 percent). Michigan and Ohio also take home prizes for having the most cities with a top-ten spot for charter enrollment share. Some Colorado districts also earn honorable mentions; Weld came in 15th, Brighton in 16th, Colorado Springs D11 in 20th, and DPS in 21st on the list of highest district charter enrollment percentages.

But Colorado’s biggest prize goes to—you guessed it—Douglas County, which placed fifth in the country on the report’s index for growth in charter student numbers. Continue Reading »

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