Archive for June, 2009

June
30th 2009
National Journal “Education Experts” (sans moi) Opine on Magical Money Tree

Posted under Edublogging & Federal Government & Innovation and Reform & Just For Fun & School Finance

The major publication National Journal has convened a group of “Education Experts” to answer major policy questions on a new blog. Their inaugural question is about the “magical money tree”:

Given the bleak budgetary outlook for many states, should stimulus funds be primarily devoted to staving off education cuts, or should the administration focus on leveraging the money to drive its reform agenda?

Some key quips I like so far…. Continue Reading »

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June
26th 2009
Could You (or Colorado High Schoolers) Outshine Arizona’s Civic Illiteracy?

Posted under Grades and Standards & High School & Homeschooling & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools

This news from the Goldwater Institute’s Matt Ladner about the basic civic illiteracy of Arizona high school students is depressing, especially a week before our nation’s birthday. A simple 10-question quiz failed by the overwhelming majority of students.

Apparently, charter school kids did better than other public school kids, and private schoolers did even better. No group did well, though. I have to wonder: What about homeschoolers? (Maybe there weren’t enough of them to tally the results.)

The big people in my life insist that basic civic literacy is absolutely crucial for the Republic to survive in the future. You know, my future? Let’s pay attention, people.

Anyway, here are the 10 questions, taken directly from the U.S. Citizenship exam: Continue Reading »

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June
25th 2009
Healthy Skepticism about Magical Money Tree and Education Reform

Posted under Federal Government & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Research & School Finance

The federal government’s “magical money tree” can make untold billions of dollars out of thin air to spend on a wide array of pork projects and various government programs. But what will the money earmarked for education do to promote lasting and effective reform to help student success? Plenty of lip service has been given to this notion.

Don’t worry. You aren’t alone in having good reason to be very skeptical of the “stimulus” leading to real education reform. Months ago, when the stimulus was first passed, my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow made the observation:

While unconditionally dumping more funds into schools may help to guarantee jobs, it won’t help the ones who need it the most.

We’re all in good company now. In the first edition of “Education Stimulus Watch” (PDF) released this week, American Enterprise Institute adjunct fellow Andy Smarick makes a strong case for the unprecedented federal spending package to produce little or no positive results: Continue Reading »

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June
24th 2009
Fired Conservative Kansas Teacher Missed His Chance at “Rubber Rooms”

Posted under Independence Institute & Rural Schools & Teachers & Urban Schools

For teachable purposes, I like clear contrasts. You know: Black vs. white, Up vs. down, Chocolate ice cream vs. broccoli. But what about the world of education reform — specifically, teacher tenure? Two stories in particular popped up within hours of each other, and what a contrast they present.

First, there’s this news from our neighbor to the east:

A Kansas teacher says he was wrongfully terminated for his conservative views.

Tim Latham has been teaching history and U.S. Government for over 19 years. But after teaching for just one year in the Lawrence School District in Lawrence, Kansas, Latham says his contract was not renewed because school officials did not like his conservative views — particularly a teacher website that Latham hosted and paid for himself. A teacher coach confronted him on that issue.

If this indeed proves to be true, how sad it would be to see a teacher not only get persecuted for his unorthodox conservative patriotic views (unfortunately, it happens more than you may think) but also lose his job over it. He isn’t working for a private school. He’s working for a public school funded by taxpayer dollars!

Latham has filed a grievance and said he plans to continue fighting the job action. It will be interesting to see what the union will do — if anything — on his behalf. Maybe Mr. Latham just picked the wrong place to teach. Or the wrong reason to get the axe. Continue Reading »

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June
23rd 2009
Are Michigan Lawmakers Being Inspired by Colorado’s Innovation School Act?

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & School Choice & Teachers & Urban Schools

Last year Colorado passed the Innovation Schools Act, which I applauded as a positive step forward. But our state isn’t the only one to see greater need for public school flexibility to make personnel decisions in the best interests of students.

Look at Michigan. The Detroit Free Press recently reported on a legislative proposal “to allow teachers and parents to convert their local schools into independently run schools with more flexible rules.” Known as Senate Bill 636, the proposal would enable the creation of so-called “neighborhood schools”, especially targeted toward high at-risk student populations. Continue Reading »

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June
22nd 2009
Joseph Lieberman Fights for D.C. Kids’ Opportunity -vs.- NEA Lies

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

I’m back from the beach, and thankfully didn’t get sunburned too badly. A lot went on while I was gone. And though I sometimes have to pick and choose what to write about when I’m blogging almost every day, trying to catch up on a week’s worth of news is — well, it’s like trying to build a tall sand castle just a few feet from the water’s edge. You get the picture.

What you really don’t want to miss though is a great op-ed written by U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman for yesterday’s Washington Post. The good senator from Connecticut notes that vouchers must remain part of the solution to help kids with educational needs in our nation’s capital:

There are low-income children in the District [of Columbia] who can’t wait for their local schools to turn around. Without programs such as this one, their opportunity will be lost forever.

Continue Reading »

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June
12th 2009
Discuss the “Rock Star” Teacher Idea While I Take a Trip to the Beach

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & Teachers

Next week I’ll be on vacation at the beach, and blogging won’t be high on my priority list. But before taking off, I want to leave you with a glimpse into a school model based on the “rock star” teacher idea. This doesn’t mean bringing in real-life rock stars to teach. To my mom and dad, that probably would be some guy named Bon Jovi. To my gramps, maybe some ancient dude named Elvis I’ve heard him talk about.

But they’d all be wrong. In a nutshell, the idea is to free up funds to pay the best teachers more by allowing for larger class sizes. The question is: Will it work?

Over at Jay Greene’s blog, Dr. Matt Ladner has written about the “rock star” teacher idea several times. The latest highlights a New York Times story about a Washington Heights school scheduled to open in the fall that will pay its eight teachers each $125,000 a year, with a chance to earn more in performance incentives. Continue Reading »

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June
11th 2009
Are More Teacher Licensure Alternatives on Their Way to Colorado?

Posted under Edublogging & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & School Choice & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Teachers & Urban Schools

Every student in Colorado deserves to have a top-notch teacher in the classroom — especially those kids who are “at-risk” because of poverty and related issues.

We shouldn’t put unnecessary obstacles in the way of getting skilled and caring new teachers licensed and ready to go. Instead, we should be looking for high-quality alternative programs that serve the needs of those college-educated adults who want to change careers without going back to get an education degree. We need more content experts, especially in math and science, who have a firm footing in the basics of pedagogy and classroom management.

This year Colorado passed Senate Bill 160 (PDF). By giving the state board of education greater flexibility to approve alternative licensure programs, this new law may enable the recruitment and preparation of more highly-qualified teachers to help fill needs in Colorado schools.

This week David Saba, president of the American Board for Certification of Teaching Excellence (ABCTE), talked more about these issues on an iVoices podcast, which you can listen to by clicking the play button below:

Continue Reading »

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June
10th 2009
Pueblo School Districts Could Do Even Better Than Just Sharing Services

Posted under Privatization & School Board & School Finance & Teachers

My mom and dad have been drilling the importance of sharing into me for years. I’ve finally got it down now (okay, for the most part). But as far as I recall, sharing my Legos or Matchbox cars with other kids has never been encouraged as a way to save money.

I guess it’s a little different when it comes to school districts and “sharing” services. A recent article in the Pueblo Chieftain offers an account of a new development in the region’s two largest school districts:

Talk of consolidating Pueblo City Schools and Pueblo County School District 70 may be too early right now, but the concept of sharing services is not.

Continue Reading »

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June
9th 2009
Please Don’t Let Unions Play Hide-and-Seek with Teachers’ Money

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Independence Institute & Teachers

Hide-and-seek can be a lot of fun, but not when someone else — especially some big group — is playing it with your money. That’s why my friends at the Independence Institute make such a big deal about government spending transparency. But what about transparency for teachers who belong to, or have to pay fees to, a union?

Following the story of the Indiana state teachers union that lost millions of dollars of members’ money through gross mismanagement, James Sherk and Dan Lips from the Heritage Foundation wrote a great piece for yesterday’s National Review Online called “Shady Dealings”. They explain how teachers unions have fought having to shine light on their financial activities: Continue Reading »

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