April
22nd 2014
Could Stopping a Teachers Union Vote Make a New “Hammer” Celebrity?

Posted under Education Politics & Just For Fun & Teachers

Last Friday I told you about some Maryland teachers standing up to the union machine and seeking the chance to represent themselves. According to the Education Intelligence Agency’s Mike Antonucci, the story about the Wicomico County Education Association (WCEA)’s attempted breakaway from the state and national union just grows more and more interesting:

Upset by the actions of WCEA’s board, Gary Hammer, a union site representative at Bennett Middle School, began circulating petitions to recall all the WCEA officers and members of the board, and to suspend them from office until the recall took place. Hammer and his supporters claim to have gathered 700 signatures, which would constitute a majority of the bargaining unit.

Last Tuesday, Hammer and others “entered the WCEA offices, changed the locks and codes, removed or altered office equipment and purported to illegally fire the Association’s only employee.”…

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April
21st 2014
HB 1292 Transparency Headed for Happy Ending? Good Solution Still Needed

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & School Finance & State Legislature

Sometimes it’s fun to be the odd man out in a heated discussion, to throw up your arms, and shout, “You’re all wrong!” Whether you’re able to change any minds, well, that’s another story.

This time it’s my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow writing a short response to the Denver Post‘s glowing editorial in favor of HB 1292 (the so-called “Student Success Act”). The piece argued that the version of the bill just approved by the Colorado House would make our state “a national leader in transparency.”

Chalkbeat Colorado reported Friday that in taking its first crack at the legislation, the Senate Education Committee passed a bipartisan amendment to that part of the bill, particularly the “elimination of funding for a proposed state website that would link users to information about district and school spending. Instead, districts would post that data on their own websites.” Continue Reading »

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April
18th 2014
Breath of Fresh Air: Teachers Stand Up Against Tenure Lawsuit, Union Bullying

Posted under Education Politics & Teachers

It’s a special Friday. For various reasons, you probably have, or at least should have, other things to think about than what I might tell you about the world of K-12 education. But here are a couple observations to share that remind us all teachers are not in lockstep with a certain group’s efforts to focus on narrow interests and defending the lowest common denominator.

It was just two days ago I shared with you a few thoughts on tenure reform and how to avoid the munchkins. While Kansas is contemplating ways to weaken tenure, Colorado’s largest teachers union is fighting to strengthen the practice that often hurts students and costs taxpayers.

Thankfully, as a Westword piece by Melanie Asmar pointed out yesterday, some teachers do not agree with the CEA lawsuit and are willing to speak out about it: Continue Reading »

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April
17th 2014
Cheering for New Hampshire Kids to Win Their Day in (the Supreme) Court

Posted under Courts & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & School Choice & State Legislature & Tax Credits

Welcome aboard, Little Eddie’s Virtual Airlines. Yesterday we made a landing in Kansas while skillfully avoiding the munchkins. Today the blog wheels touch down in the Northeast, where oral arguments in an important state supreme court case very recently took place.

Back in 2012 New Hampshire became one of the 13 (soon to be 14) states that have adopted scholarship tax credits. These programs encourage more private donations that give students access to educational choices that better serve their needs. After taking an attempt to roll back the program and nipping it in the bud, school choice in the Granite State took its defense to the courts.

Last June, some “particularly odd” judicial logic shot down part of the scholarship tax credit program. Not just odd, but scary. Namely, that any money you own potentially belongs to the government. Therefore, Judge John Lewis said money that might go to the government cannot help pay for private tuition at a religious school — well, because, I guess…. Continue Reading »

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April
16th 2014
How to Avoid the Munchkins: A Little Tenure Reform Advice for Kansas

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Just For Fun & learning & Principals & State Legislature & Teachers

The teachers union may have ordered the death of its own bill to weaken mutual consent for teacher placement. But HB 1268‘s twin, the CEA’s lawsuit to enshrine tenure protections as a state constitutional right, lives on.

Meanwhile, a glimpse across the eastern border reveals the winds surrounding this debate are blowing in a very different direction. A weekend article from the Kansas City Star reports that Kansas leaders are having a heated debate about some late-developing significant tenure reform:

For generations, the state promised that before getting canned teachers could get an appeal. If a hearing officer disagreed with the teacher’s bosses, the instructor stayed in the classroom.

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April
15th 2014
Large-Scale Class Size Reduction Doesn’t Work: More Moderation, Please

Posted under Independence Institute & Research & School Board & State Legislature & Teachers

A wise person once told me: Everything in moderation… including moderation. I’ve spent years trying to make complete sense out of that, but the point is some people can go overboard with certain ideas. That’s just as true in the education policy arena as anywhere else.

One of those discussions surrounds the happy talk of smaller class sizes. Sure, all things being equal, a relatively smaller class size offers possible benefits. But at some point, especially if implemented on a larger scale, that approach can yield negative results. Nearly four years ago when I was still 5, I drove home the point that quality instruction matters significantly more than class sizes.

But what does the research actually say? My newest Education Policy Center friend, Ross Izard, makes his published debut today with a backgrounder called “The Truth about Class Size Reduction” and a paragraph that reads: Continue Reading »

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April
11th 2014
Testing, Data Issues around Common Core Alive and Kicking in Colorado

Posted under Federal Government & Grades and Standards & Parents & State Board of Education & State Legislature

Four weeks ago I posed the question: Are the wheels starting to come off Common Core in Colorado? It seems no less to be the case now than it did then. As I’ve stated before, the real concern comes down to limiting federal influence in our K-12 schools. On the other side of the equation, we need a reasonable, equitable, transparent, but minimally intrusive system of testing and accountability.

The current trajectory has some parents, educators, and others upset, and at least in some cases, for very good reasons. The problem is the term “Common Core” has become so inclusive of so many issues, and it’s so difficult even to get agreement on some basic facts, that a little guy like me sometimes just throws my hands up and sighs. Continue Reading »

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April
9th 2014
Another ADM Study? HB 1292 Student Success Act Soap Opera Plays Rerun

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & School Board & School Finance & State Legislature

The political soap opera of Colorado K-12 education is hard enough to watch. When you add in a rerun, it’s even harder to stomach.

Today the state house adopted on 2nd reading House Bill 1292, known popularly as the “Student Success Act.” My modest hopes for this proposal focused on moving Colorado to a student-focused Average Daily Membership (ADM) system, which promotes equity and is the basis for more customized learning.

Legislators couldn’t even follow through on this one essential element, which as proposed would have phased the state into ADM over the next four years. Instead, the version that has nearly passed its final hurdle in the House has commissioned another study of implementing ADM in Colorado. Continue Reading »

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April
8th 2014
School Choice Programs Growing Fast; Kansas Looks Like Next State to Join

Posted under Governor & Innovation and Reform & Parents & School Choice & State Legislature & Tax Credits

If 2011 was christened the Year of School Choice, what should we call 2013? At the time that year dawned, I worried that it wouldn’t exactly be smooth sailing.

But given the recent news headlined by the release of the Alliance for School Choice’s annual yearbook, it must be that even my young, healthy eyes couldn’t see the great trend developing: Continue Reading »

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April
7th 2014
Jeffco Board Makes More Money Follow Students, Brings a Jan Brady Smile

Posted under Denver & Innovation and Reform & learning & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Board & School Choice & School Finance & Suburban Schools

Once upon a time, say two years ago, I felt the heat for focusing a lot of extra attention on a certain large school district between Denver and Colorado Springs. You could almost hear a number of nearby Jan Bradys crying out in frustration: “Dougco, Dougco, Dougco!” Back then I said:

But hey, don’t complain at me! Get your school board and district to set the bar high by making some bold reform moves, and I’ll give them some attention, too.

While Dougco’s Marcia continues moving along, Jefferson County’s Jan can crack a smile. And not just because 10 days ago I filled you in with some compelling reasons to keep an eye on the suburban district’s open union negotiations (Hint: another session starts today at 4 PM in the fifth floor board room at 1829 Denver West Drive).

Jeffco gets more attention now, though, because of two big items from Thursday’s Board of Education meeting. Clearly, the new majority not only has made a laudable push for transparency but also has begun setting the bar high with its own brand of bold reform moves. Continue Reading »

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