Archive for June, 2010

30th 2010
Singing about Online Education

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Parents & School Choice & School Finance & Teachers

Last week I pointed you to some research and analysis that put the current K-12 budget cuts and proposed education jobs bailout in perspective.

Well, what are the answers then? One way is to open the doors for parents to more quality education options that aren’t as labor-intensive. One way is to let successful entrepreneurs like Rocketship Education continue to thrive at their hybrid learning model and share what they learn with others.

But Colorado also is a national leader in online public schooling, though we certainly have room to improve over time both in terms of quality and quantity. Briana LeClaire of the Idaho Freedom Foundation — who appears to be closely connected with our friend and cyberschool champion Lori Cooney — has a great metaphor. In highlighting a successful district virtual school program in her state, she suggests it’s time to throw away the teachers’ union hymnal and find a new song to sing.

I like it … Sing on, education reformers!

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29th 2010
The REAL Twilight Zone: Unions, Officials Trample Teacher Options

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Just For Fun & Teachers

Talk about taking a walk into another dimension of reality. I’ve heard about those Twilight Zone episodes, but my mom won’t let me watch them yet because she says they give me nightmares. I love you, mom, but if you’re so concerned about me getting nightmares, you shouldn’t have let me watch this production from Silly Retro Theaters (H/T This Week In Education): Continue Reading »

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28th 2010
Florida Study Shows Class Size Reduction Far from Promising Reform Approach

Posted under Independence Institute & Parents & Research & Teachers

All things being equal, most parents and teachers want smaller class sizes for their kids in school. Isn’t that a great idea? Parents like to see their children get more individualized attention in the classroom, and teachers prefer a more controlled environment and a smaller workload. And who can blame them?

To some extent, this reasoning makes sense. A class of 25 or 30 little Eddies is more manageable than a class filled with 50 or 60 of me (I can only imagine what kind of nightmares my mom would have reading that!). But given the fact of limited resources and the need to make policy decisions that lead to the best results for the most students, how wise is it to focus education spending on class size reduction? Continue Reading »


25th 2010
AG John Suthers Collects a Ton of Data to Defend Lobato School Finance Case

Posted under Courts & Independence Institute & School Finance

As the boss Jon Caldara noted yesterday, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers took time this week to talk to my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow about the latest with that school funding lawsuit. Lobato, you’ve heard of it? Click the play button below (or follow this link) to listen to the 12-minute interview:

A quick follow-up with three points: Continue Reading »

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24th 2010
D.C. Vouchers Bring Better Results for Students, Shouldn’t Be Killed

Posted under Federal Government & High School & Parents & Private Schools & Research & School Choice

A little earlier this week the U.S. Department of Education released the research results from the final evaluation of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP). What did it say? Basically, an admission that the very small program hasn’t had any tremendous impacts — oh yeah, except for this one:

The Program significantly improved students’ chances of graduating from high school, according to parent reports. Overall, 82 percent of students offered scholarships received a high school diploma, compared to 70 percent of those who applied but were not offered scholarships. This graduation rate improvement also held for the subgroup of OSP students who came from “schools in need of improvement.”

Writing on Jay Greene’s blog, Greg Forster deconstructs the control group (since the graduation rate for D.C. Public Schools is actually 49 percent), and concludes the grad-rate benefit from the voucher program is “somewhere between 12 percentage points and 33 percentage points.” Continue Reading »


23rd 2010
Education Jobs Bailout Makes Even Less Sense In Light of the Big Picture

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Independence Institute & School Finance & Teachers

It’s a remarkable thing — or maybe it just says that much about Congress — that our representatives in D.C. are still considering the bad policy known as the $23 billion education jobs bailout. Maybe some members of Congress are searching desperately for a way to justify more profligate spending in the face of an especially angry electorate.

Why else is the issue still alive and kicking? Well, because of the National Education Association (NEA), of course, seeking to play the sympathy card for teachers who face layoffs. My Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow has brought due attention to debunking the education jobs bailout. But no one can keep up with Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency, who as recently as today notes once again that teacher layoff numbers are inflated in part by the fact that “most get rehired back anyway.”

Above all, what’s desperately needed in the ongoing debates and discussions about budget cuts and downsizing teacher workforces is the big picture context. Over at the Big Government blog (which I’m pretty sure is not a site that actually advocates for big government), Andrew Coulson of the Cato Institute lays it all out, including a big graph (re-posted below) that helps to tell the story: Continue Reading »


22nd 2010
New Jersey’s Long Battle for School Choice Stalls: Colorado Still Supports You

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

About a month ago I brought your attention to the remarkable story from the New Jersey legislature, in which a liberal Democrat committee chairman moved a voucher bill hearing outside after union members hogged all the seats and refused to give up any to children supporting the bill.

Well, today the Wall Street Journal has the latest news on this legislation, and it’s not all good for school choice supporters:

A bill that would give poor children in New Jersey scholarships to attend private schools is bottled up in the Democratic-controlled Legislature even though it has the backing of prominent members of the party.

Continue Reading »

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21st 2010
Summertime as Good as Any For Staying Engaged in Common Core Standards Debate

Posted under Federal Government & Grades and Standards

Is the United States headed down a primrose path to national education standards? A couple weeks ago I brought your attention to the televised version of that debate going on here in Colorado.

Of course, there’s been a terrific back-and-forth between the Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli and the University of Arkansas’s Jay Greene.

The latest blast comes from the Heritage Foundation’s Jennifer Marshall, who questions exactly how “voluntary” the Common Core Standards are and notes that two new states — Minnesota and Virginia — are bowing out of Race to the Top over just such concerns.

We’re heading into the heart of summer, which means it may not be near the top of your priority list or even on your radar screen. But I encourage you to stay tuned and get involved in this important debate, for the sake of kids like me.

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18th 2010
Milwaukee Union Says School Board is “Bargaining in Public”: Is That So Wrong?

Posted under Independence Institute & Research & School Board & School Finance & Teachers & Urban Schools

Budget times are tougher than usual for school district coffers all over. I get that. So what’s the solution? For some interest groups entrenched in the status quo (read: teachers unions), laying off teachers with less seniority is preferred to all teachers giving up their lavish health care plan for a more reasonable one.

At least that’s the case in Milwaukee. A long story in this week’s Journal-Sentinel (H/T Eduwonk) explains:

“The reality is we cannot sustain the current system without major structural change,” [Milwaukee School Board President Michael] Bonds said. “We could literally save hundreds of jobs with the stroke of a pen if teachers switched to the lower-cost health-care plan.”

The teachers union has countered that the board is bargaining in public by offering jobs in exchange for health-care concessions. Continue Reading »

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17th 2010
Peak to Peak Climbs to 35th among Newsweek’s Top High Schools for 2010

Posted under Grades and Standards & High School & Public Charter Schools

(H/T Colorado Charters) Newsweek magazine has released its annual list of “America’s best high schools,” and Lafayette’s Peak to Peak Charter School tops the competition in the state with a 35th ranking nationally. The next closest from Colorado are Niwot High School at #180, Boulder’s Fairview High School at #201, and Lakewood High School at #228.

But does the list really capture “America’s best high schools”? Two years ago one of the Ed News Colorado bloggers correctly pointed out the weaknesses and limitations that would omit the Denver School of Science and Technology, for example, from this list. And Newsweek‘s methodology hasn’t changed since then.

Take the news for what it’s worth. Peak to Peak Charter School is doing something right by encouraging lots of its students to take classes of the challenging Advanced Placement variety. But it’s really stretching the matter to say definitively that it’s one of the 35 best high schools in the nation.

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