Archive for August, 2009

August
31st 2009
Two Chances to Hear from Douglas County School Board Candidates

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Accountability & School Board & School Choice & School Finance & Suburban Schools & Teachers

It’s important for Colorado citizens to get involved in local school board elections. A lot of important policies and other decisions are set at the local level, so it’s good to make an informed choice and cast a vote!

If you live in Douglas County, you’ll want to know about two forums taking place where you can get to meet the school board candidates, ask them questions, and learn about where they stand on important issues like school choice, school accountability, performance pay, school financial transparency, and more. The first one, sponsored by the Douglas County Federation [local teachers union], is tonight from 7-8:30 PM at Chaparral High School.

If you miss that opportunity, I received an email from A Parent’s Voice founder Donnell Rosenberg alerting me to another forum coming up in September: Continue Reading »

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August
28th 2009
A Glimpse at New Schools: Cesar Chavez Academy Denver

Posted under Denver & Elementary School & Independence Institute & Middle School & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & Urban Schools

One of the many new charter school options in Denver this year is the expansion of a franchise that’s moved its way north: the Cesar Chavez Academy Denver. Originally founded in Pueblo in 2000 by Dr. Lawrence Hernandez, CCA has grown into a small network of charter schools focused on high expectations, equal opportunity, local culture, and parent and community involvement as components of its educational philosophy.

CCA Denver opened this month in the northwest part of the city, in a 5-year-old building that formerly housed the now-defunct Denver Arts and Technology Academy. The new school, under the direction of Ryan Lucas, serves roughly 350 students from kindergarten through 8th grade. The current school year is underway, but you can sign up online to get your child into the lottery for consideration to enter CCA-Denver in 2010.

As the Denver Post reported yesterday, CCA-Denver is very focused on its mission, and not connected to or distracted by the controversies that have affected the Pueblo school.

Other new schools featured:

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August
27th 2009
Lessons from Boulder Valley: Hoping for No Strike and Even More

Posted under Education Politics & School Board & School Finance & Suburban Schools & Teachers

The negotiations surrounding the teachers union contract have broken down. Now the situation appears to be getting quite tense in the Boulder Valley School District. Last week I expressed my hopes that the teachers choose to act like professionals, rather than rehash last spring’s “sick out” or even worse.

This Daily Camera report (complete with video) from Tuesday’s Boulder Valley School Board meeting indicates the growing possibility that my hopes may not be met:

Union officials said they don’t know what value fact-finding would provide, and they’d rather go through the budget to find the money needed to move toward professional pay.

Regardless of how negotiations move forward, King has said schools won’t be interrupted. The teachers’ union has said taking some sort of “job action,” such as a strike, is a possibility but they hope to avoid it. [emphases added]

Four items to consider: Continue Reading »

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August
26th 2009
Why Effective Education Reform Often Is So Hard: Pueblo Edition

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & Principals & School Finance & Teachers

Yesterday’s Pueblo Chieftain featured a very telling story of why serious education reform cannot simply be entrusted to the good will of local school bureaucrats.

Not that they aren’t necessarily trustworthy, because most of them certainly are. But the prevailing number of federal and state regulations, added on top of the provisions negotiated into the master union contract, have stacked incentives in favor of pleas for more money to help get them out. See what I mean:

Local school administrators are well aware of the attempts by districts around the country to find ways to reward teachers and give them incentives to do better but it’s not something that can be done without also finding ways to pay for it.

Kathy West, interim superintendent of Pueblo City Schools, said that there are indications that new federal programs will be coming soon to help cash-strapped districts like Pueblo’s do that. But for the time being the district remains with its narrowly worded contract and pay scale that bases salaries on years worked, degrees and training earned and on annual across-the-board pay increases.

“It’s just too hard….” In other words, labor peace trumps teacher quality. Continue Reading »

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August
25th 2009
Will Colorado “Race to the Top” of the Class? Would That Be a Good Thing?

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Federal Government & Innovation and Reform & School Finance & Teachers

Update, 8/26: The witty voice of experienced education reformer Checker Finn eloquently notes that “the country’s most powerful education organization has fired a big grumpy shell across the bow of the country’s earnest and determined education secretary. This battle is joined.” I invite you to read his perspective.

When it comes to the U.S. Department of Education doling out money to states for reform and innovation, is Colorado like the nerdy kid at the front of the class who sucks up to the teachers? That’s the colorful metaphor Education Week blogger Alyson Klein crafts to explain our state’s approach to getting Arne Duncan‘s “Race to the Top” money:

If the competition for a slice of the $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund were a K-12 class, Colorado would be the kid sitting right up front, wearing gigantic glasses, furiously taking notes, and leaping up to answer every single one of the teacher’s questions.

The latest effort? A petition, sent to folks in Colorado, urging them to endorse the state’s bid.

Hidden beneath the surface are concerns that Colorado might not meet the early expectations and be one of the top finalists. Continue Reading »

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August
24th 2009
PACE: Fast-Growing Membership Option for Colorado Professional Teachers

Posted under Independence Institute & Parents & School Choice & Teachers

The school year is back underway in most places in Colorado, and that means it’s time for an important reminder: Just as parents ought to be informed consumers and make wise decisions concerning educational options that suit their children’s needs, so teachers ought to be informed consumers in choosing a membership organization that meets their professional needs.

As far as membership organizations go, the new kid on the block in our state is the two-year-old, fast-growing Professional Association of Colorado Educators (PACE), “a Colorado-based, non-profit, professional educator association, dedicated to the academic and personal growth of every student.”

Recently, PACE’s director of membership Megan Leatham explained what her organization is about with my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow on an 8-minute iVoices podcast.

For $180 a year, a full-time Colorado teacher has access to the following PACE membership benefits: Continue Reading »

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August
21st 2009
Event at CCU for Homeschoolers & High Schoolers: Economics and Environment

Posted under events & High School & Homeschooling & learning

I wanted to take a moment to let all you Colorado homeschoolers and high school students out there about a great opportunity coming up on Saturday, September 12. You’ll want to check out the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) seminar, hosted by Colorado Christian University (CCU) and titled “Reforming Federal Environmental Policy: Entrepreneurs, Enterprises, and the Environment”:

This seminar, which will feature FEE president Lawrence Reed and author Gregory Rehmke, is specifically designed for Christian high school and home-school students who want to seriously explore this complex economic issue.

FEE is a great organization, and Dr. Lawrence Reed is an excellent thinker, speaker and gentleman. If you’re anywhere near the Denver metro area, and you get a chance to go, I highly recommend it!

You can register online here.

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August
20th 2009
Hoping Not to See More of the Same from Boulder, Teachers Union

Posted under Innovation and Reform & learning & Parents & School Finance & Teachers

It doesn’t seem that long ago the school year was winding down, and up in Boulder many teachers were calling in sick as a form of protest: sort of a collective temper tantrum. Now students and parents in the district may wonder what’s coming next.

As the Boulder Daily Camera and Denver Post have both reported, 94 percent of Boulder Valley Education Association members (or about 75 percent of all Boulder Valley teachers) have voted to reject a contract offer that included across-the-board 1 percent bonuses but no permanent pay raise.

Hey, I might vote against it, too — but for different reasons, I can assure you. Continue Reading »

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August
19th 2009
A Glimpse at New Schools: Jeffco’s 21st Century Virtual Academy

Posted under High School & Independence Institute & learning & Online Schools & Parents & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Teachers

It seems almost everyone is getting in on the virtual public school act in Colorado these days. But that’s a good thing, because having more options is better for students and parents.

One of the latest options, opening new for fall 2009, is Jeffco’s 21st Century Virtual Academy. Operated by the state’s largest school district — Jefferson County Public Schools in west metro Denver — the program offers a wide range of high school course offerings for students ages 14 to 20 who are Colorado residents (and not necessarily of Jefferson County).

Courses are aligned to state standards and local graduation requirements, but also feature an array of electives as well. Besides the core areas of English, math, science, and social studies, subjects available through the virtual program include: Continue Reading »

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August
18th 2009
Georgia Parents of Special-Needs Students Love Their School Choice, Too

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Parents & Private Schools & Research & School Choice & State Legislature

The proof keeps pouring in: Give parents private school choice opportunities, and they overwhelmingly love it. A couple weeks ago I highlighted a new survey of Florida parents whose children use the corporate scholarship tax credit to attend a non-public school: Satisfaction was off the charts.

Not to be outdone by its neighbor to the south, the Center for Educated Georgia also decided to measure feedback from parents who use a voucher to send their special-needs children to a private school. No surprises here, the two-year-old scholarship program is a big hit!

Here are some of the key findings (PDF): Continue Reading »

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