August
28th 2014
New Hampshire Ruling for Kids & Tax Credits Makes Me Smile Wider

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & Parents & School Choice & Tax Credits

“Good news for educational freedom!” Words that can light up my day, right up there with “Free Legos” and “of course, you can have another scoop of Superman ice cream.” (Sadly, too many kids are left Waiting for Superman… Okay, okay. Enough groaning already.) Specifically, the latest good news comes compliments of the “merry band of litigators” at the Institute for Justice:

Today the New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed the Superior Court for Strafford County and saved the state’s tax-credit scholarship program. The program provides low-income families with education scholarships, which parents may use to send their children to a private school, a tuition-charging public school in a neighboring school district or to pay for homeschooling expenses. The plaintiffs were several state taxpayers who were philosophically opposed to the program. The court held that the plaintiffs lacked the necessary personal injury to challenge the program.

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August
27th 2014
Rubric’s Cube: Understanding Colorado’s Recent Voucher Grade

Posted under Courts & Private Schools & Research & School Choice & Tax Credits

We’re all instinctively wary of being graded, I think. Being evaluated can make you a little nervous, and there’s always that slight moment of panic as a teacher hands back an exam. Yet, that information often proves to be extremely valuable. A good evaluation helps you identify strengths, weaknesses, and things you’ll do differently moving forward. Still, it’s always important to look at the rubric being used when you interpret results.

Today, the Center for Education Reform released a new report that grades voucher programs across the United States.  Being well-informed readers of my blog, many of you may recognize the template; the organization has previously released reports that grade state charter laws (Colorado outscored all but eight other states) and scholarship tax credit programs. The voucher grades, however, are brand new.

I know, I know. You want to know how Colorado on the test. But like that infuriating teacher that stands in front of the class making small talk while his students sweat bullets over the stack of graded tests in his hand, I’m going to make you wait. Yes, I’m that guy. Continue Reading »

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August
25th 2014
What Can Colorado Learn from NYC Charter Network’s Amazing “Success”?

Posted under Grades and Standards & learning & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice & Urban Schools

Colorado isn’t the only state to release its annual test results lately. Here we touted the record-shattering ACT performance of Fort Collins charter Liberty Common High School. At the same time, we were disappointed to see a charter school network serving a higher-need student population falter somewhat but STRIVE to take responsibility and improve.

Along with many other area schools that serve lots of low-income and underprivileged students, maybe they should and could glean a lot from a genuine study of Harlem Success Academies. Why? As the New York Post recently reported, the more than 6,000 kids enrolled in the 22-charter school network took the big state test in math and reading absolutely knocked it out of the park: Continue Reading »

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August
22nd 2014
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: A Setback for Choice in North Carolina

Posted under Courts & Innovation and Reform & Private Schools & School Choice & School Finance

A lack of progress is always frustrating. I’ve been trying to convince my parents that broccoli is too dangerous to be trusted for months. But my struggles pale in comparison to the frustration that a large number of students and families in the Tar Heel State are facing after yesterday’s unfavorable ruling regarding school choice.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago while discussing an Independence Institute/Friedman Foundation amicus brief in the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program case, I find legalese to be fairly terrifying. Fortunately, the Carolina Journal provides a succinct (and mercifully un-legal) summary:

“[North Carolina Superior Court Judge] Hobgood said providing taxpayer money for the scholarships without curriculum standards or teacher certification requirements ‘does not accomplish a public purpose.’ He added that the program ran afoul of the state’s landmark Leandro decision, which requires the state to provide every child with the opportunity to have a ‘sound, basic education.’” Continue Reading »

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August
21st 2014
Back-to-Back: Durango, Pueblo Papers Weigh In for Open Negotiations

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & School Board & State Legislature & Teachers

Anyone who has been a reader of this blog for any length of time knows that I’m a big fan of open negotiations. When school board representatives and the leaders of employee groups sit down to discuss how huge chunks of taxpayer-funded K-12 budgets are spent, and set policies that affect classrooms, we’re better off with parents, teachers, and community members able to keep an eye on the action.

Earlier this year the Jeffco school board and teachers union made a historic agreement for bargaining transparency. When last we checked in, though, union leaders staged an impasse that led to mediation and took discussions back behind closed doors. Only a couple of other school districts make it nearly even that far by holding some sort of real open negotiations.

That soon could change. Thanks to the concerted effort of my Independence Institute friends, it soon may become the law of the land. Proposition 104 will be on the ballot for Colorado voters to decide this year. Continue Reading »

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August
20th 2014
It Says What? Facts, Fiction, and NEA’s Foot-in-Mouth Disorder

Posted under Federal Government & Grades and Standards & Parents & Research & Teachers

Everyone suffers from foot-in-mouth disorder at some point in their lives. You know the situation: You’re in the middle of an important conversation, things are going well, and you’re looking pretty smart.  Then, with no warning at all, you blurt out something silly. Maybe it was offensive, confidential, or ill-advised. Or maybe it was just plain wrong.

Fear not, my friends. The National Education Association is right there with you.

As you likely know, the results of two major, nationally representative surveys on education policy issues were released recently. I wrote about the PEPG/Education Next Survey just yesterday. Today, I got to dig into the second survey, conducted by Phi Delta Kappa and Gallup. Careful readers will note that I’ve outlined some issues with previous iterations of this particular survey, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about today. No, today I’d like to talk about what the survey results do (and do not) say. Continue Reading »

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August
19th 2014
“What Are People Thinking” about Education? PEPG Makes It Pay to Know

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Research & School Finance & Tax Credits & Teachers

Sometimes you see or hear about some crazy behavior out there, and somewhat aghast, you ask aloud or think: “What are people thinking?” Other times, you’re just curious about the opinions of those adults around you who can affect important issues, and it’s just: “I wonder… what are people thinking?”

My faithful fans know that taking a look at surveys about education is more than just a passing fancy. Only a couple months ago, the Friedman Foundation’s latest national poll rightly caught my attention. But there’s none I look forward to more than the PEPG/Education Next survey, which covers a large sample of more than 5,000 adults and now has eight years of comparative data! (That’s older than I am… Really!)

In-depth coverage by Michael Henderson, Paul Peterson, and Martin West of the 2014 edition’s results sheds light on a number of important matters.

First, as my Education Policy Center friends continue to speak out for scholarship tax credits as a way to help Colorado kids win, PEPG finds national support remains strong. At 60% to 26%, favorability is consistent with (albeit slightly weaker) the Friedman results. It also once again remains the most widely popular form of school choice proposal. Hip, hip, hooray!

Second, again consistent with Friedman, the new survey found “declining” (especially among public school teachers and among Republicans) and “polarizing” support for the national standards movement known as Common Core. PEPG took a slightly different twist. The earlier survey found that results skew from slightly against to slightly in favor when a clear definition of “Common Core” is added into the question. PEPG just asked the same question, with and without the highly-charged term. Continue Reading »

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August
18th 2014
No Excuses: STRIVE to Do Better

Posted under Denver & Grades and Standards & High School & Middle School & Public Charter Schools & Urban Schools

One day not so long ago, my father sat me down for one of his famous heart-to-heart chats. I’d done poorly on a math quiz (it turns out that two plus two does not equal a picture of a dragon eating a stick figure), and I knew I was in big trouble. But he didn’t scold me. Instead, he told me to “own my mistake, find out why it happened, and fix it.” Excuses, he said, would do nothing but hold me back.

I was reminded of my father’s words this weekend as I read the education news. As many of you may know, Colorado released the 2014 TCAP results last week. With a few exceptions, they were wholly uninspiring. Some results were, however, surprising. Perhaps most notably, STRIVE’s eight charter schools in Denver experienced a very significant backslide in scores.

Normally, such results would bring about a hurricane of political spin, bluster, and excuses. Indeed, some opponents of reform have already begun touting STRIVE’s 2014 results as evidence of broader failures in the Denver charter movement. STRIVE itself has taken an entirely different (and very refreshing) tack: accepting responsibility and working toward improvement. Continue Reading »

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August
15th 2014
Liberty Common Shatters ACT Test Record; State TCAPs Less Inspiring

Posted under Denver & Elementary School & Grades and Standards & High School & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & math & Middle School & Public Charter Schools & reading & Rural Schools & School Board & School Choice & State Board of Education & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

Yesterday brought a big data dump from the Colorado Department of Education, and it’s nothing that is going to get the rest of the nation ooh-ing and aah-ing about where we’re headed. When aggregate scores for 3rd to 10th graders in all three subject areas dip half a point, clearly far more is getting measured than improved. Still, there’s plenty that’s hidden when you take the statewide view.

So leave it to little old me to ferret out and compile a few of the key local story lines that deserve attention, reflection, and in a few cases, imitation. Speaking of which, none rises to the top more than the Liberty Common High School‘s record-breaking ACT score — besting the 2010 mark of 27.78 with an eye-popping 28.63.

Did I say “record-breaking”? I should have said “shattering” — almost, but not quite, Beamonesque. Congrats to Liberty Common and principal Bob Schaffer for raising the bar! When I wished them “best of success” nearly two years ago after my Education Policy Center friends concluded their visit, I had no idea they would so thoroughly heed my admonition!

Here are some other local highlights of yesterday’s test score data dump that caught my attention: Continue Reading »

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August
14th 2014
Too Good, Too True: KIPP’s Continuing Success

Posted under Denver & Innovation and Reform & Middle School & Research & Urban Schools

“If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.” You’ve heard that one, right? Of course you have. It’s a pretty good aphorism, and one that I’ve already heard no fewer than 2,000 times in my five years of life. Somewhat ironically, this universal statement holds true in many cases, but falls short in others. As I’ve discussed before, KIPP charter schools appear to be one of the exceptions. Now even more research has bolstered that claim.

KIPP stands for the Knowledge is Power Program. The organization currently operates 162 charter schools around the country, and many of these schools are producing some legitimately astounding results for minority and underprivileged kids. Here in Denver, KIPP operates three public charter schools that are producing similarly impressive results.

Perhaps not surprisingly, KIPP’s results have raised some eyebrows. They have also generated some skepticism. Continue Reading »

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