Archive for April, 2009

30th 2009
A Little NAEP for a Busy Day

Posted under Grades and Standards & Independence Institute & Research

I have a busy day planned today. I was going to tell you all about the latest news from the Nation’s Report Card, specifically about what has changed (and what hasn’t) in student achievement since even before my parents were in school. Wow, that’s a long time ago!

But instead of telling you myself, I decided that you should just read what my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow has to say on the Schools for Tomorrow blog: “NAEP scores encourage, narrowly”.

Have a great day!

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29th 2009
Teachers Union Puppets Aren’t Cool Like Kermit the Frog & Friends

Posted under Edublogging & Education Politics & Just For Fun & School Accountability & School Choice & Teachers & Urban Schools

I’m 5 years old. Generally speaking, I like puppets and think they’re pretty cool. Recently learning that Kermit the Frog himself was a puppet (or muppet, you know what I mean) only increased my respect for him. But when heavily-funded teachers unions use other groups as puppets to oppose education reforms like choice and accountability — reforms that help kids like me, but especially kids in more dire straits — that’s a different story.

Case #1: Thanks to the hard work of the Education Intelligence Agency’s intrepid Mike Antonucci, we learn that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to the group Republicans Opposing Voucher Efforts (ROVE). The company that registered the ROVE website is run by a former high-level National Education Association (NEA) staffer. As Greg Forster notes, it “sure looks a whole lot like it has the NEA’s arm sticking out the bottom”. Continue Reading »


28th 2009
SB 130 Choice for Autistic Kids Clears One Hurdle, House Education Awaits

Posted under Education Politics & Parents & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & School Finance & State Legislature

Yesterday I brought news of a troubling development at the State Capitol. Today, I decided to shift to the positive — because hope for autistic children in Colorado is just a bit brighter. School choice champion Senator Nancy Spence‘s Senate Bill 130 passed one house of the state legislature, reports Colorado Senate News:

Spence, a leading statehouse voice for school reform, faced months-long opposition from charter school opponents, who argued that the plan would take money away from public schools and provide an unnecessary service to children with autism. Spence maintained that the bill isn’t about taking on the public-education bureaucracy or taking funding from public schools; it’s about providing autistic children with a school that specifically serves their unique needs, she said.

“We have a responsibility to do more for families struggling to address the needs of their autistic kids,” Spence said. “Children suffering from this disorder are just one small subsection of our society that aren’t being adequately served by our public schools.”

Continue Reading »

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27th 2009
Colorado Senate Bill 291: Bad Idea for Supporters of “Local Control”

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & School Finance & State Legislature

Before they’re scheduled to adjourn the session sometime next week, the legislators at the Colorado State Capitol still have some decisions to make on key education bills. But one bad idea has popped up at the last minute that you ought to know about.

Four weeks ago sponsoring Democrat lawmakers included in the original version of the School Finance Act a provision to punish “sore losers” — voters in school districts that opt to restore taxpayer protections usurped by the Colorado Supreme Court. In other words, if approved by the legislature and signed by the governor, the state would stop backfilling funds to districts that opt out of ratcheting increased local school property taxes.

The provision was amended out of the School Finance Act to avoid the controversy. But the issue returned as Senate Bill 291 (PDF), passed on a party-line vote out of the Senate Education Committee, and now is being considered by the full senate.

It will be interesting to see how the votes shake out. For many, the “local control” doctrine in the state constitution is a convenient mantra selectively used to support certain education policies and not to support others. If anyone in the legislature really consistently believes in “local control”, they would oppose SB 291.


24th 2009
Momentous Time of Challenges and Opportunities for School Choice

Posted under Early Childhood & Education Politics & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & School Choice

I may not have been able to throw my Legos far enough to hit him, but Education Secretary Arne Duncan is taking plenty of lumps from others, reports Joanne Jacobs and Jay Greene (see here and here and here). Of course, what Duncan is allowing to happen to the Washington DC Opportunity Scholarship Program is perhaps just the most outrageous of the latest challenges to school choice.

There’s also the recent Arizona Supreme Court decision, and continuing attacks against the Milwaukee voucher program.

In a new iVoices podcast, listen to Scott Jensen from the Alliance for School Choice discuss with my Education Policy Center friend Pam Benigno not only the challenges but the opportunities facing supporters of educational freedom at this momentous time:

Let’s stay strong and not lose heart, folks. School choice is a major (and indispensable) part of the answer to our education woes, and there are many, many kids my age and older who are worth fighting for.

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23rd 2009
Teacher Pay & Tenure System Like Pounding Square Peg into Round Hole

Posted under Denver & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Research & School Accountability & Teachers

Have you ever tried to pound a square peg into a round hole (or vice versa)? How about after that doesn’t work a couple times, you go out and buy 100 of the same square pegs to keep trying what already failed?

It makes about as much sense as most systems we have today for training, developing, paying, and retaining teachers. Sure, we’ve seen some progress with performance pay programs — Colorado has produced some leading examples — but the old-fashioned salary schedule still persists. Pay teachers based on seniority and academic credentials.

Never mind, as the Denver Post‘s Jeremy Meyer observes from Urban Institute education director Jane Hannaway (with supporting evidence compiled here), that teachers overwhelmingly improve during the first four years of their career and then just stop:

“It’s one of our very consistent findings,” said Hannaway, presenter last week at the American Educational Research Association annual meeting in San Diego, citing at least two recent studies of teacher effectiveness.

“The reason of course is not clear, but it’s in study after study,” she said. “Teachers do get better (in the beginning). If you look at the same teacher at Year One, they look a lot better at Year Four but then it flattens out. It’s a puzzle. The real question is why. How can we organize the profession and the work differently?”

Hannaway brought up the topic in a discussion with a small group of journalists during the meeting, saying the results raise deeper questions over the value of tenure and paying teachers incrementally more for every year of service.

Continue Reading »

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22nd 2009
Catching Up on Michelle Rhee While I Look at the Tigers at the Zoo

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Just For Fun & School Choice & Teachers & Urban Schools

Today is a busy day: Lots of playing outside to do … I’m going to the zoo! So instead of a longer post, I’m just going to point you to what my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow wrote yesterday about Washington DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and “collaboration”:

Maybe some think it would be nice that Rhee “collaborated” more with union officials — or career bureaucrats, for that matter. But it certainly isn’t necessary, and may even be counterproductive.

Yes, the situation is complicated by politics. Not including the Washington Teachers Union at the table may end up unleashing various obstructions from an entrenched group.

In his piece, Mr. Ben takes on two very different comments about Michelle Rhee’s recent visit to Denver — the one I was so sad to have missed. Have I mentioned how much I really like Rhee? Maybe she’ll play Legos with me sometime… or come to the zoo and look at the tigers with me – I love the Tigers!

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21st 2009
Survey Says… More Teachers Happy, But What About Seniority Rules?

Posted under Elementary School & Research & Teachers

The new MetLife Survey of the American Teacher finds that more teachers today seem to have a bright outlook on their jobs than 25 years ago:

The survey reveals that a majority of today’s teachers (62%) are very satisfied with their careers, compared to 40% in 1984. Two-thirds (67%) of teachers think that the training and preparation teachers receive does a good job of preparing them for the classroom, compared to 46% in 1984.

A lot of the commenters on Joanne Jacobs’ posting are grousing that the results are bogus, since they don’t jibe with their own personal professional discontent. Maybe they have a point, maybe not: I read more ad hominem attack than substantive critique of the survey’s methodology.

Since we’re trafficking in the world of anecdotes, let me add that my own kindergarten teacher seems to be pretty happy with her job. Of course, I’m not allowed into the teachers’ lounge, so my perception could be a complete illusion. And a lot more can be learned about educators’ views on the profession by perusing the entire survey.

It tackles a lot of questions, but one that I’d really be curious to see answered: How satisfied are educators with seniority rules that force a Teacher of the Year finalist out of his job?

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20th 2009
Remembering Columbine

Posted under High School & Memorial & School Choice & Suburban Schools

Something very terrible happened near here 10 years ago today — in a school, of all places. Columbine High School is the name of the place. I join others in pausing to remember the terrible incident and the memory of 13 people no longer with us, taken by hate and violence. May they continue to rest in peace, and may their family members, friends, and loved ones grow in their solace.

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20th 2009
Who in Congress Opts for Private Schools But Denies Choice to Others?

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Private Schools & Research & School Choice

The clever folks at the Heritage Foundation have done it again, coming up with a new version of a classic survey (H/T Core Knowledge Blog):

The new survey revealed that 38 percent of Members of the 111th Congress sent a child to private school at one time. (See Appendix Table A-1.) Of these respondents,

  • 44 percent of Senators and 36 percent of Representatives had at one time sent their children to private school;
  • 23 percent of House Education and Labor Committee Members and nearly 40 percent of Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Members have ever sent their children to private school;
  • 38 percent of House Appropriations Committee Members and 35 percent of Senate Finance Committee Members have ever sent their children to private school; and
  • 35 percent of Congressional Black Caucus Members and 31 percent of Congressional HispanicCaucus Members exercised private-school choice.[6](See Chart 1.)

It’s the perfect example of “School Choice for Me, But Not for Thee”.

The report is great, but I have a couple questions for the author Lindsey Burke — in search of more detail:

  • Senator Dick Durbin is mentioned as a leading opponent of the D.C. voucher program who sends his own children to private school, but is there a full breakdown of Congress members’ personal school choice preferences compared to how they support the program?
  • What about members of the Colorado delegation? How many of them have ever sent their kids to private school?

Great work from the Heritage Foundation exposing another layer of hypocrisy among some of our nation’s most powerful elected officials.

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