Archive for September, 2010

30th 2010
Rick Hess Article Makes Case for Expanding Frontiers in School Reform

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Research & School Choice

Today I don’t have a lot to say, but am hoping my school choice and market-reform supporting friends take a dive into Rick Hess’s new National Affairs piece titled “Does School Choice Work?” While Dr. Jay Greene is correct that we should be optimistic over the progress made thus far in building support for school choice, Hess offers some serious food for thought about what we’ve learned and where we can go from here.

With little comment, I want to share a few provocative remarks from Rick Hess to spur your interest in reading his long but important article:

Competition matters only when it pinches, and the reality is that competition in K-12 education has not yet been given a robust test.

And: Continue Reading »


29th 2010
EdNews Parent: A New Resource

Posted under Independence Institute & Parents & School Choice

Are you a parent of school-aged kids and live in Colorado? Perhaps you already have been to our enormously helpful School Choice for Kids website to learn about all the education options available near you and great tips to navigate the school district open enrollment process. (If you haven’t, why not check it out now?)

But maybe you are looking for other handy resources on school-related issues. Then there’s another site to add to your list, EdNews Parent. The three areas of emphasis are Healthy Schools, Teaching and Learning, and Safe Schools — with an opportunity for parents to ask questions of 14 different experts. (Here’s hoping my mom and dad don’t log on to ask about how to deal with their 5-year-old son’s blogging addiction or Lego obsession….)

Of course, I have to give the standard disclaimer about the site. I don’t necessarily endorse any or all of the advice offered there, nor should you necessarily rely wholly on that advice alone. But I did want to make known the availability of another important resource for Colorado parents, one that has some promise and potential and one you might find to be of value.

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28th 2010
Will Facebook Founder’s $100 Million for Newark Schools Make a Difference?

Posted under Innovation and Reform & School Choice & School Finance & Teachers & Urban Schools

The past week has brought all kinds of big buzz in the education world. The news that 26-year-old billionaire and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has pledged to donate $100 million to schools in Newark, New Jersey, is as big as any. We’ve yet to see the details, so it’s hard to say for sure whether this is a good idea or not.

Of course, as recently as yesterday President Obama made national headlines acknowledging the obvious, stubborn fact of education reform that simply pouring more money on the problem does no good. The USA spends more than $500 billion on K-12 education a year, about a billion dollars annually in Newark. So that should give some perspective to Zuckerberg’s generous challenge grant donation. (That, and the fact I broke open my piggy bank to start counting pennies and got nowhere close to $100 million.)

As the Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke observes:

…the only hope of success for Zuckerberg’s $100 million venture into large-scale philanthropy is if the money is used to fundamentally reform the existing broken system in Newark.

Continue Reading »

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27th 2010
What Wasn’t Said in President Obama’s Today Show Interview on K-12 Education

Posted under Federal Government & Innovation and Reform & School Choice & School Finance & Teachers & Urban Schools

This morning President Obama spent a 30-minute live interview on NBC’s Today Show talking about education. The headline from the President’s remarks, including in the Denver Post‘s featured AP story, was that money alone can’t solve education problems.

True enough, and hats off to the President for acknowledging what has become abundantly clear to those studying the long-term trends in American K-12 public schooling. As my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow has noted on the Ed News Colorado blog, the challenge today is how we are going to stretch the school dollar.

In his interview, President Obama also touted a longer school year, his Race to the Top grant program to states and a newly-proposed initiative to recruit 10,000 new teachers from the math, science and engineering fields. That’s all well and good up to a point. But sometimes it’s hard politically to get beyond the soft-sell. What most caught my attention was this section from the AP story: Continue Reading »

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24th 2010
Teacher Performance Pay Alive and Well: But Just What Will It Look Like in Jeffco?

Posted under Federal Government & Innovation and Reform & Research & Suburban Schools & Teachers

Two days ago I commented on the big splash Denver Post story about a new study calling into question teacher performance pay. Today the Post‘s big headline touts that “Jeffco schools to increase some teachers’ pay to more than $100,000″:

Top-level teachers in select Jefferson County schools could be paid more than $100,000 a year under a pilot program funded by a new $32.8 million federal grant….

Jefferson County and Colorado Springs District 11 learned Thursday that they were among 62 winners in 27 states of the federal Teacher Incentive Fund grants, which support performance-pay plans in high-need schools. [link added]

More excellent coverage is available from Nancy Mitchell at Ed News Colorado, which proclaims “Jeffco launches teacher performance pay.” So given the previous news, is the state’s largest school district barking up the wrong tree? Continue Reading »

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23rd 2010
Waiting for Superman Approaches: It’s Hard Waiting for the EduFilm Phenomenon

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & Teachers & Urban Schools

I am so excited, I can hardly wait. Another great education movie is coming out, and this one may be the best of them all! Get a taste of Waiting for Superman by watching the trailer:

After a lot of well-deserved attention, the movie’s national premiere comes tomorrow: Friday, September 24. To mark the opening of the movie, the Chicago-based Heartland Institute today issued a media advisory with quotes from some leading lights of education reform, including our own Ben DeGrow: Continue Reading »


22nd 2010
What Does the Vanderbilt Study Really Say (and Not Say) about Performance Pay?

Posted under Denver & Innovation and Reform & Research & Teachers

The Denver Post reports this morning (via the Washington Post) about a newly-released Vanderbilt University study on teacher performance pay:

The study, which the authors and other experts described as the first scientifically rigorous review of merit pay in the United States, measured the effect of financial incentives on teachers in Nashville public schools and found that better pay alone was not enough to inspire gains.

Advocates of performance pay did not immediately challenge the methodology of the study. But they said its conclusions were narrow and failed to evaluate the full package of professional development and other measures that President Obama and philanthropists such as Bill Gates say are crucial to improving America’s public schools.

Does this mean we should throw out the whole idea of incentive or performance-based pay for school teachers? Not so fast. Continue Reading »


21st 2010
Ben DeGrow Tells Family News in Focus about Edujobs Bailout Discrimination

Posted under Federal Government & Independence Institute & Public Charter Schools & School Finance

Update, 10:30 AM: And surprise of surprises, more evidence emerges that the figures of teaching jobs lost — used to promote the Edujobs bailout — was wildly overblown (H/T Education Intelligence Agency).

A couple weeks ago I told you about how the ill-advised Edujobs bailout discriminates against charter schools. So you’d think the national news service wanting to do a story on this would give little Eddie a call, right? Okay, not exactly.

Last week Family News in Focus talked to my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow about this issue. You can listen to the brief news story with select interview clips, or read the story on Citizen Link:

Ben DeGrow, education policy analyst for the Independence Institute, said that charter schools should not be discriminated against by public schools.

“The education jobs bailout is reckless and fiscally irresponsible policy,” DeGrow said. “But, if the money is going to be spent, it should be given to public schools and public school teachers on a even playing field.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Ben did write that op-ed on the Edujobs bailout in the Denver Post last month, so I guess he’s qualified and smart enough to make the comment. Maybe even sounds better than a little kid on the radio, too.

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20th 2010
It’s as Important as Ever for Colorado Parents to Know their Educational Options

Posted under Denver & Elementary School & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & School Choice

The new week brings an interesting Ed News Colorado story from new writer Katie Kerwin McCrimmon called “Keeping Up with the Dunruds.” The story highlights a Denver family with a boy about my own age who sounds like he shares some of my penchant for prodigy:

Braeden Dunrud was riding in the family car when he saw a sign for the Spicy Pickle restaurant and asked his mom if it said “Spacey Pickle.” Pretty darn close for a 3-year-old.

A short time later, Braeden revealed his reading abilities again. As he carried a can of root beer to the recycling bin, he called out, “Does it say Mug’s?” His parents looked at each other, stunned. Yes, as a matter of fact, it did say Mug’s, a brand name the parents never used. Clearly, Braeden was teaching himself to read.

Now 5, Braeden is among 38 children in advanced kindergarten at the Center for Early Education in Denver, a stand-alone site that houses preschool programs for four southeast Denver feeder schools, along with both traditional and advanced kindergarten classrooms. The center opened in 2009 and expanded to provide preschool for 3-year-olds, along with kindergarten, this year.

Continue Reading »

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16th 2010
Denver School Performance Framework Shows Signs of Reform Progress

Posted under Denver & Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Choice

The big local education news of the day is the release of the latest results from Denver’s School Performance Framework. SPF — which in this case has nothing to do with how much protection you get from the sun — takes into account a host of measures of how DPS schools are performing, with an emphasis on student academic growth. Based on their score, each school receives one of five ratings (from best to worst):

  1. Distinguished (Blue)
  2. Meets Expectations (Green)
  3. Accredited on Watch (Yellow)
  4. Accredited on Priority Watch (Orange)
  5. Accredited on Probation (Red)

The rating determines whether individual schools receive greater autonomy and rewards or greater support and corrective action.

Two major headlines come from Denver’s latest round of SPF results: Continue Reading »

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