Archive for July, 2009

31st 2009
Status Quo in Congress Holds Back Teacher Incentive Fund Growth … Somewhat

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Principals & Public Charter Schools & School Finance & Teachers

Alyson Klein, one of the ladies who cover happenings related to education on Capitol Hill for Education Week, reports about an important committee vote yesterday:

A bipartisan effort to boost funding for the Teacher Incentive Fund by an extra $100 million went down to defeat today during the full Senate Appropriations Committee’s markup of the bill funding the U.S. Department of Education in fiscal year 2010.

The bill already includes $300 million for the TIF, a teacher performance-pay program that is currently funded at $97 million. The proposed increase in the failed amendment would have been paid for by taking $100 million out of the federal State Grants for Improving Teacher Quality program.

TIF provides competitive grants to state agencies, school districts, and charter schools that develop quality performance pay programs for teachers and for principals.

As my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow has outlined in his issue paper Denver’s ProComp and Teacher Compensation in Colorado (PDF) and elsewhere, local Colorado school districts have applied for and received a significant share of TIF grant money. Besides Denver, they include Eagle County, Harrison (El Paso County), and Fort Lupton.

Our K-12 education compensation system badly needs a serious overhaul, and tying payment both for teachers and school leaders more closely to performance must happen. It’s good to see at least one Congressional committee approve a tripling of the TIF budget.

But at the same time it’s sad that lobbyists for the status quo National Education Association and their ilk successfully fight to keep a significant amount of money tied to less effective programs — money that could have been used for TIF to make an even bigger impact in improving quality teaching in our nation’s schools.

But what else can you expect from the NEA?

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30th 2009
Terry Moe Touts Power of Technology to Transform Politics of Education

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & Teachers

Whether you’re an education policy junkie or a concerned parent or citizen who is new to the reform debate or anyone in between, you will find some insightful and provocative arguments in the new book co-authored by Drs. Terry Moe and John Chubb titled Liberating Learning: Technology, Politics, and the Future of American Education.

What’s most interesting about the book is that Moe and Chubb go beyond highlighting how technology can transform the delivery of instruction in schools. They argue that technology also holds the potential to transform the politics of education by weakening the ability most especially of teachers unions to block promising, student-friendly reforms.

My Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow got the opportunity this week to interview Dr. Moe about his new book for an iVoices podcast (click on the play button to listen):

The interview is almost 20 minutes long, but I think it will give you a good taste for what the book is about. Enjoy! In case you wondered, I have written before about the work of Terry Moe here and here (eerily, written exactly one year ago today).


29th 2009
Poll: 3 in 4 D.C. Residents Support Voucher Program; Wake Up, Congress

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Parents & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & Teachers & Urban Schools

I’ve told you how many politicians have been attacking the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which helps some of the poorest kids in the nation’s capital. Not only does the D.C. City Council support the private school choice program, but a new poll conducted by Braun Research shows that the people who benefit directly from it — D.C. residents, and especially parents of school-age children — overwhelmingly support it:

74% have a favorable view of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program; and 79% of parents of school-age children oppose ending the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

The survey also contains additional findings about residents’ views on the public school system, charter schools, merit pay, and related issues.

But it’s their opinions about the successful voucher program under assault by Congress that carries the most immediate relevance. It only makes the situation sadder that the people who are affected the most strongly support the program while politicians put powerful lobbying groups and ideology ahead of kids such as these:
Continue Reading »

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28th 2009
Let’s Stop Gazing at Spending Rankings, Start Changing Priorities

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & School Finance

When it comes to measures of where Colorado ranks in education spending inputs, I never cease to marvel at the selective judgment of newspaper writers. Take for example today’s Denver Post headline: “Colorado at 40th in K-12 funds per student”. Yes, the Census Bureau has released its annual rankings and finds

that Colorado spent $8,167 per pupil, 11th from the bottom nationally, during the 2006-07 school year. That is below the national average of $9,666 and almost half the amount spent by New York, the top state.

But why only the Census Bureau? Several months ago the National Education Association released its annual rankings (PDF) and found that Colorado spent $8,895 per pupil in 2006-07, which ranks us at 30th — not 40th (see H-9).

Or what about the U.S. Department of Education, which when you look at total expenditures per pupil for 2006-07 places Colorado at 31st ($10,160)? Continue Reading »

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27th 2009
A Glimpse at New Schools: Denver’s Envision Leadership Prep (6-12)

Posted under Denver & High School & Middle School & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & Urban Schools

Can you picture it? Envision Schools are coming to Colorado, and the first one opens this fall: the Envision Leadership Prep in Denver. Believe it or not, the morning bell will ring sixth- and ninth-grade students in for the first time in only three weeks!

Envision Leadership Prep will share campus space with the Smiley Middle School program in Denver’s North Park Hill neighborhood. Eventually, the school will serve a sixth-through-12th grade student population.

What makes Envision Schools different from school as you remember it? Well, as they describe their curriculum: Continue Reading »


24th 2009
iVoices: Ben DeGrow, Amy Oliver Talk about Teachers Union Priorities

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Parents & Teachers

Last week I helped bring your attention to the National Education Association’s open declaration about their priorities as a labor union first, and kids second — as well as the latest published criticism of NEA, this time coming from a traditional political ally on the Left.

These are interesting times we live in, and my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow joined Amy Oliver on a new iVoices podcast to talk about these issues more in depth. I invite you to listen (click on the play button below):

For those of you who have forgotten, here’s what retiring NEA General Counsel Bob Chanin told a crowd of 8,000 cheering union delegates: Continue Reading »

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23rd 2009
The Independent Teachers Fellowship Was a Blast, Sorry I Missed It

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Just For Fun & Research & Teachers

Last night my Education Policy Center friends were honored to be joined by a small group of local educators for food, fellowship, and lively conversation at the annual Independent Teachers Fellowship. (As always, there’s lots of great information on our Independent Teachers website.)

About a dozen public school teachers representing diverse experiences and specialties came and enjoyed an indoor picnic of sorts with sandwiches, sides, and (the best part) build-your-own ice cream sundaes. That last part makes me sad I missed the event, but I had a lot of Lego and sandbox time to catch up on. Hope those who attended can forgive me. Continue Reading »

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22nd 2009
Baltimore School Celebration Ends with Union Rules Imposed on Charter

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & Middle School & Public Charter Schools & School Finance & Teachers & Urban Schools

Alexander Russo at This Week in Education reports that the city of Baltimore threw a party to celebrate some dramatic improvements in student achievement:

No doubt, the city has pulled things together in recent years. The number of students exceeding the state reading standard increased by 92 percent over the last two years, and the number of students exceeding the state math standard increased by 107 percent. All this apparently without any of the standards-lowering that other states have engaged in.

The district still ranks near the bottom of Maryland’s 24 districts. But it’s worth celebrating.

Academic performance in Charm City must have been pretty bleak before, if after such improvements the district still ranks last in the state. But then you see what’s happening to a charter school that’s been the shining light in Baltimore, and you wonder about the level of commitment to continuing the improvement process they’ve started to celebrate: Continue Reading »

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21st 2009
Are School Teachers Getting a Raw Deal? Maybe the Truly Great Ones

Posted under Denver & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Teachers

In a post written yesterday, the venerable Dr. Jay Greene makes the point that education schools typically undersell the benefits of the teaching profession to their own graduates:

But the reality is that teaching is a pretty good gig. Yes, the work can be draining, but the hours are great and you get regular breaks throughout the year, including a long one over the summer. The annual pay is OK, but when you consider it on an hourly or weekly basis, you’ll get paid more than the average white collar or professional specialty and technical worker (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In addition, during a period of almost 10% unemployment you’ll sure appreciate the high job security. And let’s not forget the benefits, including solid health-care and an extremely generous retirement package that will let you retire in your mid-50s with about 60% of your peak salary guaranteed for the remainder of your life and adjusted for inflation. It would take a fortune in a 401k or 403b to produce that kind of pension benefit.

Continue Reading »

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20th 2009
A Glimpse at New Schools: Animas High

Posted under High School & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & Sciences & Teachers

Guess what? It’s that time again — time to highlight some of the exciting new educational options opening up for Colorado students and parents this fall. Last year we were able to give readers a glimpse at 10 new schools. My goal is to do at least that many for 2009.

First on the list, we start at the far end of the state in Durango for the opening of a new public charter school for 9th graders. Authorized by the Charter School Institute, Animas High School. Animas, which is intentionally modeled after San Diego’s innovative High Tech High, is slated to add grades each year so the first class will graduate in 2013. Continue Reading »

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