Archive for December, 2009

18th 2009
Merry Christmas: Ending 2009 on a Positive Education Reform Note

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

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2010 to my mom, a few random basement-dwellers, and the handful of my other regular readers … I will be back on this space on January 4! (Yes, that’s a picture of the world-record largest Lego Christmas tree from Oberhausen, Germany, in 2003. Can you imagine how many presents would fit under it? Not to mention how much fun it would be to help build it! May all your Christmas dreams come true, too!)

A couple days ago I asked how far Colorado was willing to go to reform personnel policies in order to win federal Race to the Top dollars. An interesting report from Education Week‘s Michele McNeil gives us every indication that Colorado is among the 25 states with application grants funded by the Gates Foundation, and thus more likely to be on the inside track for Race to the Top.

So there you have it … It’s nice to end on a positive note, no matter how briefly.

Race to the Top is going to be an even hotter education issue for 2010. So rest assured that I will be writing about it plenty, along with other important issues, when I return from my blogging break next year!

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17th 2009
Santa Visits Cole: Christmas Comes to Inspiring Denver Innovation School

Posted under Denver & Early Childhood & Elementary School & Independence Institute & Middle School & Urban Schools

Today’s Denver Post has an excellent story about a generous Christmas deed performed at a truly inspirational school:

Millionaire businessman Tom Gamel stood before a classroom of sixth-graders at Cole Arts & Science Academy on Wednesday, about to blow their minds with a nifty gift, but first, he wanted to impart some wisdom.

“I am a very lucky person,” said Gamel, who owns Timpte Trailers and has made wise investments. “The reason I am able to buy you each a present is because of education. I want to urge you, if you want to grow up and be successful, get an education.” … Continue Reading »

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16th 2009
How Far Will Colorado Reform “Human Capital” to Win Race to the Top?

Posted under Federal Government & Innovation and Reform & Principals & School Finance & Teachers

Education leaders here in Colorado have shown a great deal of interest in the federal Race to the Top dollars, a multi-billion dollar program that we are told is designed to spur reform. In order to be eligible for rewards, states will be rated according how well their policies and goals line up with innovative practices mostly aimed at boosting student achievement.

But no category will carry more weight in the Department’s Race to the Top determinations than “Great Teachers and Leaders.” That’s why the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) has created a very handy scorecard (PDF) to help you figure out whether Colorado or any other state might be on the right track to pursuing needed “human capital reforms.” I like going to Coors Field and keeping track of what happens on a baseball scorecard, but I don’t think that’s exactly what they mean.

Just what sort of things could Colorado do to get a high score in the area of “Great Teachers and Leaders” and increase our state’s chances of getting Race to the Top funds? Some of the “bold practices” NCTQ indicates would really help us include (in no particular order): Continue Reading »


15th 2009
Help Nuggets’ “Birdman” Support ACE Scholarships for Needy Students

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Independence Institute & Parents & Private Schools & School Choice & Teachers & Urban Schools

Christmas is right around the corner (I can hardly wait). And while it’s very easy for me to be obsessed with expanding my own Lego collection, it’s also very important to remember to give those who are in need.

I like basketball a lot, and the Denver Nuggets are my pro team. That’s why I was totally stoked to see Chris “Birdman” Andersen playing Santa Claus to raise money for the Alliance for Choice in Education (ACE). As explained on our School Choice for Kids website:

Families living in Colorado that are eligible for free or reduced lunch may apply for an ACE scholarship. The scholarship provides as much as 50 percent of a school’s tuition, with maximum payments of $2,000 per year for grades K-8 and $3,000 per year for grades 9-12. ACE commits to paying for four years of tuition. ACE provides more than 775 scholarships annually and has more than 150 partner schools. For more information see the ACE Web site.

Now, in the eyes of teachers unions, the fact that ACE supports school choice somehow makes them “Too Extreme for Colorado”. But would they dare go after the “Birdman” and call him “anti-public education”? Would they say that this local basketball star who has gone out of his way to help raise money to help poor kids find better schools somehow hates teachers? I hope not, because that would be a sure way to make this 5-year-old cry.

I’m glad I got that out of my system … So anyway, if you’ve already made your end-of-the-year contribution to help my friends at the Independence Institute, I hope you also can find a way to support ACE Scholarships and help increase school choice opportunities here in the Denver area.

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14th 2009
D.C.’s Magical Money Taking Slow Road to Colorado School Districts

Posted under School Choice

I’m a little young to be growing so cynical, but how else would you explain why I’m not surprised by this recent story from Education News Colorado?

Only $7 million out of $312 million in federal stimulus funds for education has actually been allocated to Colorado districts.

Delays and changes in federal rules and the bureaucratic process of processing and approving district applications are the primary culprits for the delay, the State Board of Education was told Thursday.

Maybe someone blew the pixie dust off that magical money tree. Because first, the money blew away from real education reform. Now it’s making its way from D.C. to Colorado school districts on the backs of some tired old pack mules.

Now tell me again: How desperately do school districts need that money? Why are we relying so much on the federal magic money tree to help students learn? Oh wait, yeah. The money mainly will prop up the existing system. If students happen to learn, that’s just a nice bonus.

Seems to me like there must be better ways to turn this thing around….

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11th 2009
Don’t Let Union and Congress Grinches Stop D.C. Opportunity Scholarships

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

Remember the poor kids in our nation’s capital who benefit from the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program?

Last night D.C. Parents for School Choice Executive Director Virginia Walden Ford sent out an email alerting supporters about a new troubling development from Capitol Hill:

Just an hour ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the omnibus bill that kills the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP). This is devastating news, and it means that if this bill makes it through the U.S. Senate and is signed into law by President Obama, the OSP will slowly die, with no new students permitted to access great schools through this groundbreaking program.

When we began the fight to save this program more than a year ago, we pledged that we would fight hard and fight long and fight to the finish. We said we wouldn’t give up–regardless of the odds. Tonight is no exception. The House passed the voucher-killing omnibus by a tiny margin. The Senate must still act. So, we have not yet been defeated in our effort.

To get the full picture, check out a new Weekly Standard piece by Sheryl Blunt aptly titled “The Teachers’ Unions that Stole Christmas”: Continue Reading »

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10th 2009
Stop! The “Witch-Hunt” Attacks on Charter Schools Really Creep Me Out

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

Okay, this is hard for me to admit because you’ll probably make fun of me. Here goes: I’m afraid of witches. Yeah, they really creep me out, especially that cackling old hag on the Wizard of Oz. But I learned about something this week that frightened me about as much, and that was an attempted “witch-hunt” audit proposal by four state legislators against Colorado’s public charter schools.

(Check out our GoBash blog for all the details, including a copy of the proposal and an important podcast discussion.) Democratic state senator Lois Tochtrop was correct to describe the proposal as a “witch-hunt.” I’m glad she and the four Republicans on the Legislative Audit Committee shot down the bad idea and spared the tens of thousands of Colorado charter school students and their families from an attack on their public school choice.

So, okay already, can these state legislators stop trying to frighten little 5-year-old kids like me?

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9th 2009
Colorado Still Strong in Charter School Law, But There’s Room to Improve

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

Every year the Center for Education Reform rates the quality of different states’ charter school laws based on their flexibility and equity. This week they released the new edition, and the news again is good for Colorado — one of only 13 states with “strong laws that do not require significant revisions.”

But I’m never satisfied with a B letter grade, and neither should Colorado. As usual, there are some key improvements that can be made to our state’s charter school law:

  • More alternative authorizing options beyond the state’s Charter School Institute
  • Greater opportunity for charters to have autonomy from district policies over budgeting, personnel and the like
  • Greater opportunity to access funding for the construction and maintenance of school facilities

It’s great to be one of the best states when it comes to charter school laws. But as long as the District of Columbia, Minnesota, California, Utah, Arizona and Michigan stand ahead of Colorado, our work is cut out for us to provide the best in independent public school innovation that meets the needs and demands of families in our state.

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8th 2009
As Bad Schools Close, Milwaukee’s Voucher Market Shows It’s Working

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

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports some interesting developments in that city’s nearly two decades old voucher program (H/T Joanne Jacobs).

Four Milwaukee voucher schools — including the fast-growing independent Atlas Preparatory Academy — now have more than 750 students each. More than 21,000 students total are enrolled in 111 voucher schools this year. But what’s really telling:

And 18 schools that were on the voucher roster a year ago were not there. It’s hard to get sentimental looking at the list. Most were small or weak. Some could not meet the tightened requirements of state law, including rules being applied full force now that voucher schools get accredited by independent organizations….

“The market is working,” said Terry Brown, who heads St. Anthony. “It’s not a perfect market,” but over time many bad schools have been weeded out.

Continue Reading »

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7th 2009
Maybe Cary Kennedy Can Have It Both Ways; I Don’t Want to Be a Politician

Posted under Education Politics & Governor & Independence Institute & School Finance & State Legislature

State Treasurer Cary Kennedy seems like a nice lady, and I think it must be hard being a politician in such an office — especially during the tough budget times faced by state government and the difficult decisions that requires. But does the current budget reality mean Treasurer Kennedy can have it both ways?

As the Denver Post has reported, Governor Bill Ritter is asking K-12 schools to give up $260 million in expected funding between the current budget year and 2010-11 — despite Amendment 23′s constitutional requirement to guarantee annual increases in the core of state K-12 education funding.

As my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow has noted, the potential showdown between union-backed Ritter and the Colorado Education Association over the proposed cuts could make for “interesting times.”

For Treasurer Kennedy, who devised Amendment 23 but now in office stands by fellow Democrat Bill Ritter, the scenario presents an especially challenging dilemma. Ed News Colorado’s coverage of Kennedy’s Friday speech to the Colorado Association of School Boards at the luxury Broadmoor hotel (a good use of taxpayer funds itself?) really captures the challenge she faces: Continue Reading »

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