January
27th 2015
Colorado Gets Bad Grade on NCTQ’s Latest Pension Report

Posted under PERA & Research & School Finance

We’ve been talking a lot about policy recently. ESEA reauthorization issues, the hazards of requiring state testing in private schools, and some number crunchin’ on the subject of Colorado’s school funding. Then last Friday, you had a nice break. We spoke instead about School Choice Week, which is sort of like Christmas for eduwatchers like me. The successful (and fun) NCSW rally is over, but School Choice Week is still going. That means you should be out tweeting and Facebooking and doing everything you can to get the message out!

Before you go do that, though, let’s talk about just a little more policy. And to spice things up, let’s make it PERA policy. You’ll recall that we’ve talked before about the wild, shaggy policy beast that is the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association. Like many others, I pointed out some serious flaws with the state’s system, including unfunded liabilities and the unfair way the current system treats young or new public employees.

Well, those problems as they relate to teachers have once again been quantified by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). The organization recently released its latest annual report on the health of teacher pension systems around the country. The report grades each state on the extent to which their teacher pension plan: Continue Reading »

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January
23rd 2015
School Choice Week 2015 Has Officially Arrived

Posted under Edublogging & events & School Choice

It’s Friday again, my friends. As usual, that means your favorite little edublogger has spent his day trying to wrap things up for the week. That leaves me limited time for our conversation (try not to look so disappointed!), so today’s post will be a quick one.

Fortunately, we have something exciting to focus on during our brief time together: The kickoff of National School Choice Week in Jacksonville, Florida! If you missed the live stream, you can check out the full video below.

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January
22nd 2015
Survey Highlights Importance of Keeping State Tests off Private Schools

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Parents & Private Schools & Research & School Choice

Update: I should have looked at this post by Matt Ladner first. He largely makes the same point, but with a little more zing at Louisiana.

Though not so much this time of year, my Dad and I like to play catch in the backyard occasionally. It sounds kind of cliched, but my Dad starts talking about how he used to do the same thing with his dad. Then almost inevitably, he starts talking about this old movie called “Field of Dreams.” (After finally seeing this movie, I’m a little scared about wandering into cornfields, but that’s a different story.)

Anyway, there’s this famous line in “Field of Dreams”, where the guy keeps hearing the voice say: “If you build it, they will come.” People in the movie thought he was kind of crazy, sort of like some readers of this blog think I’m crazy.

But at least I’m here to tell you that when it comes to establishing private school choice in a state or community — and is there any doubt I’m a huge fan? — there’s a lot more to the matter than just building the program and expecting people to come. Hence, I encourage you to take a look at the American Enterprise Institute’s new study called “Views from Private Schools.” Continue Reading »

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January
21st 2015
Detective Eddie and the Case of the Missing ESEA SOTU Mention

Posted under Education Politics & Testing

As you may know, last night was the SOTU. I spent more time than one might expect attempting to convert that into a funny, education-related acronym, but had little success. For the record, I blame my failure on my age and innocent youth. Regardless, no joke for you today.

But hey, maybe I don’t need to be cracking jokes. After all, the president’s State of the Union address is pretty important. It hints at future battles, helps set the tone for the year, and provides a little more detail on potential policies in the pipeline.  Most importantly, it outlines the president’s priorities. Maybe that’s why I found it so noticeable that K-12 education—and particularly the massive ESEA reauthorization fight brewing in D.C.—received little more than a rhetorical nod.

Oh, and in case you missed the address, the video is below. If you aren’t interested in the full hour-long speech, Education Week put together a decent synopsis that you may find helpful.

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January
19th 2015
Colorado Looks Terrible at K-12 Spending (If You Fudge the Numbers)

Posted under Journalism & Research & School Finance & Transparency & Union

Perhaps you’ve heard the famous expression: “If it bleeds, it leads.” The K-12 education policy version of that axiom recently played out in a recent Colorado Public Radio (CPR) story under the heading of “Colorado per-pupil spending lags US average even more, report says.”

The report referenced comes from the Colorado School Finance Report (COSFP). Wait, where have I heard that before? Yes, the group whose spooky story doesn’t look so spooky after all when all the facts are laid out.

CPR (which in this case has nothing to do with an emergency life-saving technique) highlights a somewhat selective finding made by COSFP: Continue Reading »

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January
16th 2015
Ding Ding Ding! JCEA’s Round Two Battleflop

Posted under Education Politics & School Board & Teachers & Testing & Union

Not too long ago, John Ford of the Jefferson County Education Association told us that “the fight would start in January” (I humbly contend that the fight started back in September and that JCEA already lost the first round). I wrote about his inspiring speech recently, but here’s the video in case you forgot:

And if that weren’t enough to get this little guy scared, Complete Colorado broke the story that he’s been discussing the “unique opportunity to beat these bas***** back” with his “brothers and sisters” in Boulder Valley (yeah, I find that language creepy too).  I’m still not too sure what that blanked-out word is, but I’m pretty sure it’s not friendly.

Jeffco’s board meeting last night was supposed to be the big kick off, or the opening bell, or some other vaguely applicable sports metaphor. Instead, the effort flopped harder than Shamoo in a lap pool. Continue Reading »

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January
15th 2015
N’Orleans Research Highlights the Importance of Smart Choice Programs

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice

There are days when I think I’ve found the single, universal answer to all of my five-year-old problems. Like the time I used chewing gum to stick a loose sole back to my shoe. When I figured the same approach would also help me hang a cool Spiderman posted on my bedroom wall, I got in big trouble. Then there was the time I discovered that I could use the microwave to create nachos. It worked less spectacularly when I used it as a towel drier. I think I finally understand what my dad means when he pats me on the head and says, “Son, there’s no such thing as a silver bullet.”

As it turns out, the same thing holds true in education reform. I love school choice, but that doesn’t mean that just any choice policy will fix all of our woes automatically. It has to be done right, and one has to remember that no system (and especially not the current school system) is perfect.

Yet perfect shouldn’t be the enemy of the good when we’re talking about school choice programs. That’s why I get a little sad when I read stories like this one from KUNC about a big, fancy report from an outfit called The Education Research Alliance of New Orleans. Continue Reading »

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January
14th 2015
Learning Relationship Management: A Glimpse into Colorado K-12 Future?

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Parents & School Choice

I am rightly wary of making big predictions about the world of education. The more this little mind takes in, the less sure I become that anything in particular will happen. People, processes, and institutions: Put them all together, and there’s just too much unpredictability.

There are some wiser and bolder than I out there making predictions — which is good, if for nothing else, to stir the conversation. Last week the Christensen Institute’s Michael Horn issued his 5 predictions for education in 2015. Fittingly, they all are related to the world of digital learning. But I found #2 (“The rise of the LRM”) particularly intriguing: Continue Reading »

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January
13th 2015
Little Eddie’s Transparency Soap Box

Posted under Education Politics & School Accountability & School Board & Transparency

I love flashlights. I can remember many nights spent reading under my Batman sheets with a flashlight well past the time I should have been asleep. And just last week, I used a flashlight to hunt down the final Lego block I needed to finish my replica Millennium Falcon. It had fallen under the bed. As an added bonus, I also found three socks, two pennies, and a Superman action figure while I was down there.

As useful as real, physical flashlights are, though, I think metaphorical flashlights are even more powerful—especially when they’re used to shed light on political processes. That’s I celebrated when my Independence Institute friends successfully opened the door on district-union negotiations with Proposition 104 this past November. The proposition passed with a 70% yes vote, which to me says that Coloradans really, really value transparency in government. Who can blame them?

But district-union negotiations are only one part of the puzzle. School boards conduct a lot of business that falls well outside direct interactions with local unions. And although Colorado’s Sunshine Law requires school boards to provide “full and timely” notice of public meetings, a recent story from the Colorado Springs Gazette highlights the fact that this doesn’t necessarily mean that the public is given all the information they need to be fully involved: Continue Reading »

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January
9th 2015
State Board Gets Weird on Testing Issue

Posted under Education Politics & State Board of Education & Testing

My little legs are tired from my various policy field trips this week, so I’m going to sit down, rest, and use the brief respite to catch you up on the most interesting piece of education news this week: Yesterday’s unexpected motion and surprising vote by the Colorado State Board of Education. I may also pound down a quick snack. I’ve got to keep my strength up for the coming heavy-weight bout in Jeffco, after all.

Yesterday, the State Board sat down to do its thing, which you may be unsurprised to learn consists of voting on stuff related to education. Normally, this can be a fairly dry process. This meeting turned out to be a little different, as newly appointed board member Steve Durham brought forward an unscheduled motion to allow school districts to waive out of the first portion of state-mandated PARCC testing. For those who don’t know, PARCC has two parts: A performance-based assessment administered in March and an end-of-year assessment administered in late April or May.

The legality of the motion was swiftly challenged by Senior Assistant Attorney General Tony Dyl, who told the board members that despite wide latitude to waive certain portions of state statute, they likely did not have the authority to waive this particular requirement. Continue Reading »

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