Archive for April, 2010

14th 2010
Choice AND Tenure Reform: But Could I Skip School with Reformer’s Disease?

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Parents & School Choice & State Legislature & Teachers

The always smart Dr. Jay Greene makes an important observation today about the tendency of some to catch “Reformer’s Disease”:

Yes, schools need to get rid of bad teachers and the tenure that protects them. Yes, schools need solid standards and curricula. But people need to avoid Reformer’s Disease and remember that they can’t simply impose solutions on an unwilling system governed by perverse incentives. Choice and competition are not at odds with tenure reform or standards reform. Competition is a necessary part of how one actually accomplishes and sustains those other reforms.

I’m not a hypochondriac or anything, but you’ll forgive me if I had to run to the mirror to see if my tongue was coated or there were any spots breaking out on my face. Nope. No fever, either. I think I’m for the most part free and clear of “Reformer’s Disease.” Continue Reading »

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13th 2010
Bipartisan SB 191 Would Improve Schools, CEA Leaders Line Up to “Kill” the Bill

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Principals & State Legislature & Teachers

The Colorado state legislature has been in session for three months now (only one more to go!), and finally we get to the excitement of debating a truly significant education reform bill. With Democratic state senator Michael Johnston at the forefront, the newly introduced Senate Bill 191 (PDF) would overhaul our state’s teacher evaluation and tenure system for the better.

Here’s a strong flavor of what the legislation proposes to do:

Key provisions of the bill include annual teacher and principal evaluations, with teacher evaluations to be based 50 percent on student growth and principal evaluations based two-thirds on student growth and the demonstrated effectiveness of a principal’s teachers.

The bill also would require that tenure be earned after three consecutive years of effectiveness as determined by evaluations. Tenured teachers could be returned to probation if they don’t have good evaluations for two years. The bill also would require the mutual consent for placement of teachers in specific schools and establishes procedures for handling teachers who aren’t placed. It also specifies that evaluations can be considered when layoffs are made.

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12th 2010
Time to Celebrate Victory for Teachers’ Rights… And Then Keep On Fighting

Posted under Courts & Independence Institute & Teachers

Do individual teachers have a right to decide how their money is spent on politics? A few years ago the U.S. Supreme Court upheld common sense and unanimously ruled in the Davenport case that the answer is Yes.

The case originated from a lawsuit by the state of Washington and a group of teachers whose funds were being misused by the union. The Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF) in Olympia, Washington, did the hard work and led the charge in filing the complaint that brought the abuses to the state’s attention.

Last week EFF won final victory (and closure) in the case, as the Washington Education Association officially signed off on a settlement that “will pay $1.2 million in penalties and restitution, not to mention the attorneys fees spent to defend itself.” You know that’s a big deal, because the case has been going on longer than little old me has been alive … Wow!

EFF’s Mike Reitz, a recurring favorite iVoices guest, sat down with my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow to talk about the basic facts of the case, the cause for celebration, and what lies ahead in the fight for union accountability and public employees’ free speech rights. Click the play button below (or follow this link) to listen:

Will Colorado stand up for my teacher and the thousands like her who deserve to be asked first whether and how their money is spent on politics? Here’s hoping for a little common sense, Colorado-style.

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9th 2010
Huge Florida Tax Credit Victory Has Me More Excited than Rockies’ Home Opener

Posted under Just For Fun & School Choice & State Legislature

It’s a long way away from here, but let’s just call Florida my unofficial second state. Writing on Jay Greene’s blog, Matt Ladner has posted an inspiring video from the recent record-breaking Florida school choice rally. You simply have to take 3 minutes and watch it: Continue Reading »

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8th 2010
In This Authors’ Debate, Paul Peterson Has the Winning Argument Over Diane Ravitch

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Research & School Accountability & School Choice

My friends at the Education Policy Center recently ordered a couple of new books by big names in the field: Diane Ravitch’s The Death and Life of the Great American School System and Paul Peterson’s Saving Schools: From Horace Mann to Virtual Learning.

If you want to whet your appetite for one or both books, or just to get a flavor of what their argument is, you need to check out the authors debating on the Eduwonk blog. I’ll boil down their arguments for you with excerpted quotes (or you can read Marci Kanstoroom’s summary at Education Next): Continue Reading »

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7th 2010
Parents, You Can Help Colorado Put Earth Day Education Back in Balance

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Parents

Easter is just over, and I’m still working on all that candy. So it’s hard to think about another holiday coming up soon. But in two weeks it will be Earth Day (April 22). What does that have to do with education? Well, a nice smart lady from the Independent Women’s Forum named Carrie Lukas wants you parents out there to be alert to what will take place in your child’s classroom for Earth Day.

Click the play button below (or follow this link) to hear Carrie explain why our public school classrooms need to bring Earth Day education into balance and what parents can help to do about it, in a 9-minute iVoices podcast with my Education Policy Center friend Pam Benigno:

How much does the scare tactic approach to environmentalism go on in Colorado schools? I don’t know for sure, but I’d be naive to believe it doesn’t happen.

Colorado parents, what are you waiting for? Do you need some more information, resources or inspiration from kids and parents who are already standing up for balanced learning over one-sided alarmism? Then I urge you to visit the special website Balanced Education for Everyone.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time for more students to see the movie Not Evil, Just Wrong in addition to An Inconvenient Truth. Call me a dreamer….


6th 2010
Tribute to Denver Teacher Reminds of Larger Hope for Educational Success

Posted under Denver & Elementary School & School Choice & Teachers

When you write about a lot of education policy, you often get tied up in talking about laws and systems and structures and statistics — you know, big picture stuff. Once in a while, it’s refreshing to read about the real-world impact of a dedicated teacher who excelled at her work.

In that spirit, you really have to read a nice tribute to recently deceased Cole Arts and Science Academy kindergarten teacher Mary Pat Holliday. It’s written by Jason Janz, who serves on the Cole leadership team, and more importantly, whose son was on Mrs. Holliday’s “bucket list.”

Here’s an excerpt to stir the heart and moisten the eyes (so you go read the rest of it): Continue Reading »

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5th 2010
We Should Pay Attention to Innovative Entrepreneurs Like Rocketship Education

Posted under Elementary School & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Public Charter Schools & School Finance & Teachers

For the real Independence Institute groupies out there (like those who watched my friends Ben and Marya DeGrow this past Friday on Mike Zinna’s Tough Love TV show… Thanks for the plug, guys!), you know that Ben is a frequent writer and contributing editor to the national publication School Reform News.

On this Monday morning back from spring break and Easter holiday, wouldn’t you just rather read Ben’s latest School Reform News article? Yeah, I thought so. This one is really good. It profiles a successful “hybrid” — and I ain’t talkin’ about a green Toyota Prius — charter school network that effectively reaches poor students through a mixture of individualized learning technology and intensive teacher intervention. Go on, read it: Continue Reading »


1st 2010
Michael Johnston’s Teacher Reform Plan Sets Up Colorado for Race to the Top II

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

Update: Correction made to quote below, per Jeremy Meyer.

Colorado faced a disappointing setback earlier this week with the first round awards announced for Race to the Top. It hurt not only that our state wasn’t one of the top two winners, but that we ended up a dismal 14th out of 16 finalists.

Today brings a little more hope, though, and you wouldn’t be an April fool for believing it. First, the Denver Post‘s Jeremy Meyer blogs on a great catch:

Colorado had the largest differential between reviewer scores than any other applicant among the final 16 finalists for the first round of Race to the Top money. Colorado had the second-largest differential between reviewer scores among the final 16 finalists for the first round of Race to the Top money.

More specifically, one reviewer rated Colorado just a hair behind first-place Delaware, while another reviewer rated Colorado 117 points lower, essentially “in 28th place behind California.” Whoa! But if you believe the latter score was an outlier, then maybe winning a Round 2 award is within reach.

Let’s follow the lead of the other winning state Tennessee. Our state could pass a new law that overhauls teacher tenure and professional evaluations, as well as pay and professional growth opportunities, to link them more closely to student academic growth. Now that would be just the sort of step to put Colorado into contention. As Ed News Colorado reports, that’s what state senator Michael Johnston of Denver now seriously proposes to do.

Whether or not Colorado ends up winning a more modest amount of money than originally hoped for, passing a law like the one Senator Johnston has discussed — and we look forward to seeing early next week — would be a remarkable step forward. But what will the Colorado Education Association do? Sign on and show the kind of “stakeholder support” favored by Race to the Top? Or block Johnston’s proposed reform and ensure that Colorado gets no chance at the grant money?

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