Archive for March, 2010

31st 2010
For the Taxpayers and For the Children: Ben DeGrow on Colorado Springs TV

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & School Finance & State Legislature

I’ve been doing a really good job cutting back on using “It’s For the Kids” in my blog logic, right? Well, that doesn’t stop certain groups from wanting to undermine Colorado voters’ rights to decide on taxes by insisting it’s “for the children.”

Hats off to Colorado Springs News 5 reporter Andy Koen for seeking out a different point of view on the “Great Futures Colorado” proposal to enable the legislature to raise taxes — as long as the revenues fund the education system (preschool through college). One of my Education Policy Center friends got on camera with Koen to explain the problem:

But Ben DeGrow of the conservative think tank the Independence Institute says this proposal skirts the intent of the Tax Payers Bill of Rights (TABOR) which requires voter approval for all tax increases.

“The fact that they’re trying to take away the voters right to decide on tax increases at the local level in education is a matter of great concern,” DeGrow said.

Continue Reading »

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30th 2010
Breaking Down Race to the Top Awards: Taking a Closer Look

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

Yesterday I gave you the lowdown on the winners of Round One Race to the Top dollars. But we keep learning more all the time.

First, my Education Policy Center friends Pam Benigno and Ben DeGrow discuss the fact that Colorado missed out on the money and why prospects for the second round of reforms may not be so great. Click the play button below (or follow this link) to listen to the new iVoices podcast:

But even since the podcast was recorded, we’ve learned more details about the Race to the Top awards. I have to admit I was quite surprised that Colorado finished 14th out of 16 (PDF)! At the Flypaper blog, Andy Smarick shows some connection between strong buy-in from unions and district leaders and higher scores. Unfortunately, as an exception, that didn’t work out too well for Colorado.

Even so, it’s promising to see state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle begin to interpret the results as a sign to move ahead on real substantive reform of teacher evaluations and tenure. While I still have some skepticism, Race to the Top does have the chance to effect some good here in Colorado. Let’s hope the reform efforts stay on track and don’t get derailed!

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29th 2010
What Kind of Reform Does Race to the Top Want, and Why Am I Not Impressed?

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

It’s a beautiful day, the sun is shining, and the big news in the education world? Colorado didn’t win any Race to the Top (RTT) federal grant money the first time around. Since only two awards were given out — Delaware and Tennessee of all places were the winners — there should be lots of money left over for Round 2 (applications due June 1).

Depending on how you look at it, the news is good and bad. From the standpoint of demonstrating seriousness about advancing real reform, the fact that only two states won suggests the U.S. Department of Education was trying to hold to some kind of selective standard.

But just what the standard might be has some rightly concerned. Andy Smarick — about the most trusted expert in evaluating RTT applications I’ve seen — had Delaware and Tennessee ranked 4th and 5th, respectively. He notes, however, that the two winners “distinguished themselves with good plans and nearly unanimous union and LEA support.” They beat out higher-ranked Florida, Louisiana and Rhode Island, which had stronger plans but more opposition from entrenched in-state education groups.

The venerable Dr. Jay Greene elaborates on the consequences:

If people know that union opposition scuttles a state’s chances, then no state will apply in the future unless they have union support. This means that the unions will dictate what reforms will be pursued, which means that there will be virtually no reform.

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26th 2010
Florida and Illinois Tag-Team Effort Make It a Great Week for School Choice

Posted under Parents & Private Schools & School Choice & State Legislature & Urban Schools

This week was a good one for school choice. Let’s start with Florida (two days in a row!), a national leader and superstar in education reform.

This week 5,500 Floridians came to Tallahassee to rally for a proposal that will increase private school choice opportunities for economically challenged families. Watch this excellent 2-minute video news report of what may be the largest school choice rally in American history (H/T Jay Greene): Continue Reading »


25th 2010
Florida Keeps Star Role among States in Improving Student Reading Scores

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Research & School Accountability & School Choice & School Finance

Yesterday brought news from the U.S. Department of Education of the new state-by-state NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) scores in 4th and 8th grade reading. These tests are the gold standard for comparing student performance between states and over time.

The big headlines note that in the short term (since 2007) the nation’s reading scores stayed flat in 4th grade and ticked up slightly in 8th grade. In the long term (going back to the first comparable tests in 1998), the results are exactly the opposite: with 4th grade scores going up modestly and 8th grade scores essentially remaining the same. Colorado’s achievement at both grade levels remains above the national average, but continues to track at about the same level of progress.

The real long-term winner is still the state of Florida — which, as Matthew Ladner reports on Jay Greene’s blog, not only is boosting student performance across the board but also cutting the achievement gaps based on race and poverty. Continue Reading »


24th 2010
iVoices: Denver Innovation and Charter Schools Look at Hopeful Partnership

Posted under Denver & Elementary School & High School & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Public Charter Schools & School Board & Urban Schools

Back before Christmastime, I told you about the promising work going on in the once-troubled Cole Arts and Science Academy in Denver, thanks to its newfound liberating status as an Innovation School.

Well … freedom and autonomy lend themselves not only to innovation but also toward groundbreaking partnerships not nearly as likely to take place in the traditional public K-12 school system. Determined to place their mostly poor students on a track of college success, Cole parents and leaders recently have reached out to the Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST) charter school as a potential partner. Continue Reading »

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23rd 2010
Many Colorado Teachers Supporting Obama Care Whether They Like It or Not

Posted under Education Politics & Teachers

My parents have been acting kind of gloomy recently. You know, the whole nasty, arrogant government takeover of health care by Congress and the President. It might be part of the reason I didn’t put up anything on my blog yesterday. Things have started to cheer up a bit, though, since mom and dad learned there is something they can do to help defend our own Colorado from Obama Care.

But that’s not the main reason I’m writing. It is instead to point out one small overlooked aspect of this whole health care debate that has to do with education and teachers. Flash back to last August and this important (and still relevant) posting from Independent Teachers:

…If you were a full-time member of the National Education Association (NEA) through joining your local teachers union, then you sent money during the 2007-08 school year to support the current proposal from Congress and President Obama to promote socialized medicine. Continue Reading »

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19th 2010
I’m Making Ben DeGrow a Famous Expert on Aspen NPR Education Interview

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

Yesterday my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow appeared on a National Public Radio station in the Carbondale / Aspen area to talk about some of the pressing education issues facing our state. Follow this link to listen to his interview with Matthew Katz of KDNK.

For more on the topics Ben references in his interview, check out these past posts of mine:

Ben tells me that he was selected for the interview because the KDNK reporter was intrigued by my writings here. I asked Ben for a cut of the money he got for doing the interview, or I might have to resort to kicking his shins or something like that.

I’m not sure I should believe him, but Ben said he didn’t make a cent for doing the interview. Oh well, at least KDNK gave a shout-out to Ed Is Watching — even if they let Ben pretend and take the credit for all my precocious hard work here.

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18th 2010
Investing in Innovation May Have Greater Reform Potential than Race to the Top

Posted under Denver & Federal Government & Innovation and Reform

I’ve talked so much about Race to the Top, you might have gotten the idea it’s the only big federal education grant competition taking place right now.

If so, you’d be wrong. While it’s not as big as Race to the Top and that program’s $5 billion potential to leverage reform at the state level, this month opens up a $650 million U.S. Department of Education program called Investing in Innovation (i3), available to local education agencies and/or non-profit groups: Continue Reading »

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17th 2010
Harvard’s Paul Peterson Hits the Nail on the Value of Charters and Competition

Posted under Just For Fun & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice

I’ve got spring fever and want to run outside and play in the almost-70 degree weather! So rather than one of my famous commentaries, today I’ll just point you to a great Wall Street Journal column by Harvard’s education policy guru Professor Paul Peterson on charter schools and competition (H/T Jay Greene). Here’s a couple key sections to grab your attention:

To uncover what is wrong with American public schools one has to dig deeper than these recent developments in education. One needs to consider the impact of restrictive collective bargaining agreements that prevent rewarding good teachers and removing ineffective ones, intrusive court interventions, and useless teacher certification laws.

Charters were invented to address these problems. As compared to district schools, they have numerous advantages. They are funded by governments, but they operate independently. This means that charters must persuade parents to select them instead of a neighborhood district school. That has happened with such regularity that today there are 350,000 families on charter-school waiting lists, enough to fill over 1,000 additional charter schools….

What makes charters important today is less their current performance than their potential to innovate. Educational opportunity is about to be revolutionized by powerful notebook computers, broadband and the open-source development of curricular materials (a la Wikipedia). Curriculum can be tailored to the level of accomplishment each student has reached, an enormous step forward.

If American education remains stagnant, such innovations will spread slowly, if at all. If the charter world continues to expand, the competition between them and district schools could prove to be transformative.

Read the whole thing, and then — if the weather is nice where you are, too — go run outside and play!

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