July
25th 2014
1000s Embrace Florida K-12 Choice: When Can Colorado Kids Win, Too?

Posted under Independence Institute & Parents & Private Schools & Research & School Choice & School Finance & Tax Credits

I hope you haven’t forgotten about helping Colorado Kids Win (including giving the Facebook page a “Like”). After all, it’s been two whole weeks since I’ve reminded you about the benefits of K-12 scholarship tax credits that our state’s kids could really use.

And you know that this particular little kid will use almost any excuse he can to get you speaking out for more school choice right here in the great Centennial State. Take for instance some intriguing news from the nation’s largest (and second oldest) scholarship tax credit program:

Students using school choice scholarships now make up nearly a third of K-12 students in Florida private schools.

Continue Reading »

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July
23rd 2014
Overconfidence, Low Expectations, Little Innovation: Not a Good Mixture

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & International & learning & math & Principals & Research

Remember that clip from the ages-old education documentary Waiting for Superman, where we’re told that American students are behind the pack in math in almost any way you measure it, except for one:

Yes, when it comes to students’ classroom confidence (“I get good marks in mathematics”), a much different story emerges: The USA is #1! Compare that to #32 in actual math proficiency overall, or #28 among kids with college-educated parents. Continue Reading »

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July
22nd 2014
Can’t Get Enough Productivity: Charter Schools Doing More with Less

Posted under Innovation and Reform & learning & math & Public Charter Schools & reading & Research & School Choice & School Finance

If “productivity” is really a dirty word for education, as some critics would like us to believe, maybe that explains why I feel the overwhelming urge to write about it for the second time in less than a week. A kind of “forbidden fruit” thing, you know. Or maybe the connection just was too easy to make during these hot and lazy, hazy days of summer.

Last Friday I took a look at the productivity of Colorado school districts, as measured in a new report by the Center for American Progress (CAP). A couple of this blog’s favorite topics — Douglas County and Falcon 49 — emerged with flying colors.

So right on cue, here comes a first-of-its-kind analysis, comparing the productivity of public charter schools to other public schools in 22 states and the District of Columbia. The University of Arkansas’s “The Productivity of Public Charter Schools” made an across-the-board finding that shouldn’t exactly startle anyone who pays attention. Not only is charter productivity higher in every state: Continue Reading »

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July
21st 2014
Argue Policy, Not Philosophy

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Public Charter Schools & Research

Some things don’t mix well. Mustard and chocolate cake, seafood and ice cream, bacon and vegetables—all of these make me wrinkle my nose. As it turns out, hard-nosed philosophy and education policy also do not make a good pair.

Last week, Andy Smarick wrote about the problems that arise when philosophical views collide with education policy discussions. While Andy was specifically discussing the ongoing (and rather nasty) debate over charter schools, I think his point is applicable to education policy more generally.

Instead of arguing over well-supported points or thoughtful positions, education activists and experts too often find themselves battling over philosophical differences. As these debates become increasingly vitriolic, potentially valuable answers to important policy questions are ignored. Sadly, this means that kids like me may be denied the solutions we deserve while the grown-ups we depend on for help point fingers and sling insults. Continue Reading »

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July
18th 2014
Douglas County, Falcon 49, Eaton Top Colorado in K-12 Productivity

Posted under High School & Innovation and Reform & Research & Rural Schools & School Board & School Finance & Suburban Schools

For some people, the term “productivity” doesn’t belong in K-12 education discussions. They think it’s too scary because it sounds like businesses that make money by selling goods or services. And we know that while education could learn a few more things from the competitive world of independent businesses, the two spheres don’t perfectly equate.

But let’s not freak out here. We’re talking about large sums of public tax revenues in K-12 education. Having a good way to measure how effectively that money is being spent recognizes an important reality. It’s not the be-all and end-all of the K-12 world, by any means, but it does provide a valuable indicator.

Come on now, don’t think it’s just me harping on about measuring “productivity” in education. Ask the Center for American Progress (CAP), which just released the 2014 update of “Return on Educational Investment: A District-by-District Evaluation of U.S. Educational Productivity”: Continue Reading »

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July
17th 2014
Blended Learning Takes Flight in Colo. Districts: How High Will It Soar?

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & learning & Online Schools & Rural Schools & Suburban Schools & Teachers

The great blended learning experiment continues its historic ascension in our beautiful Rocky Mountain state. Independence Institute education senior fellow Krista Kafer has documented it better than anyone. Last year it was The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning in Colorado.

Apparently, the not-so-long-ago, cutting-edge sphere of blended learning has not just made it past the ground level but is heading into the lofty (or should I say friendly?) skies. Just this week my Education Policy Center friends released Krista’s awaited sequel School District Partnerships Help Colorado K-12 Blended Learning Take Flight.

Take flight? Can’t you picture me wearing my goggles, flying a World War I-era Sopwith Camel? Better yet, behind the controls of a state-of-the-art Rocketship heading to explore strange new worlds in outer space? Or maybe just playing in the back yard (away from power lines) with my new kite? Seriously, though, Krista’s report follows the action in some key places in various parts of the state: Continue Reading »

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July
15th 2014
Can Someone Help Me Understand this Third Way on Masters Bumps?

Posted under education schools & Innovation and Reform & Research & School Board & State Legislature & Teachers

It’s been awhile, but one of my favorite K-12 topics to share with you is the need to change the practice of automatic pay raises for master’s degrees. As recently as 2011, the high-quality research was unanimous (34-0) on the ineffectiveness of awarding teachers masters degrees. As recently as last month, it remains “one of the most consistent findings in education research.”

That’s why I rejoiced when North Carolina followed the example of a couple forward-thinking Colorado school districts and sent “masters bumps” the way of the dodo bird. The commonsense reform crosses partisan and ideological boundaries.

But, as the Associated Press now reports, the Tar Heel State is taking a second look even as momentum grows in other states: Continue Reading »

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July
14th 2014
Union Leaders Miss Bus as Union Bus (Thankfully) Misses Me

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Federal Government & Independence Institute & Just For Fun & Teachers

Usually I’m reluctant to cross into the intersection of education policy and national politics. But when I do, I lean heavily on the trusted big people in my life to walk me across the busy lanes of scary-looking traffic. The aftermath of the NEA Assembly in Denver is one of those times when I’m reaching out and reaching up for a hand.

My Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow took on the matter with a Greeley Tribune op-ed last week. He set up the 2009 NEA Assembly as a point of comparison, with candidly expressed union priorities put on center stage.

Retiring NEA counsel Bob Chanin laid down the line that better results for students “must not be achieved at the expense of due process, employee rights, or collective bargaining.” As Ben wrote in his column, that line in the sand expresses why union leaders are so concerned about a couple of court cases that threaten their status and bottom line. Continue Reading »

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July
10th 2014
School Choice Supply and Demand: Improving Both Sides of the Equation

Posted under Denver & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice & Tax Credits

Promoting school choice is a means to an end. Namely? Opportunity for all kids to learn and meet their potential in an educational environment that best suits them, accelerating them toward their maximum academic and social potential.

I talk here a lot about school choice, and the power of my parents being able to select the best learning option for me. Some families don’t have access to any good schools or viable learning opportunities; other families do have access. Not only should we be steadily closing the gap between those two groups, but we also should be raising the bar for all students!

The sad truth is we’ve got a long way to go to get there. And even when we get “there,” room for ongoing improvement will still exist. Making it happen requires solving two sides of an equation: Increasing the supply of appropriate, quality schools and learning options; AND addressing the demand of students and parents for these educational opportunities. Continue Reading »

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July
8th 2014
Colorado Starts New School Finance Lawsuit: How Different than Lobato?

Posted under Courts & Denver & Education Politics & Governor & Independence Institute & School Finance & State Legislature

Back at the end of May I told you about another school finance lawsuit looming in Colorado. Even as my Education Policy Center friends were helping me write that, I could almost hear the distant strains of anguish. Lobato was floating out there for nearly eight years… do we really have to endure the same excruciating twists and turns again?

The answer is “Sort of.” On Friday, June 27, the same law firm that brought you Lobato made it official when they filed Dwyer v State in Denver District Court. The good news is this time they’re not asking to break the bank:

The plaintiffs ask that the negative factor section be stricken from the state’s school funding law and that the legislature be barred from reinstating the factor in another form. The suit does not ask that lost funding be restored.

After all, National Education Association data indicates that Colorado ranks 21st in per-pupil spending. So cries for an extra $2 billion a year in the wake of Amendment 66‘s decisive electoral conflagration might just be scoffed at this point. Continue Reading »

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