Archive for October, 2010

29th 2010
Arm Yourself with Colorado State Board of Education Candidate Information

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & School Finance & State Board of Education

Keep saying it to yourself: The election is almost over. Last week I told you about the low-profile contests for Colorado State Board of Education and the Denver Post endorsements in those races. My takeaway: Wouldn’t it be cool to have more education transformers on the Board?

If you have State Board members on your ballot and you’re not sure how to vote, or you just want to be a more informed citizen, I commend to you the profiles posted today at Education News Colorado. Candidates in the 2nd, 5th and 6th District — the three seats up for grabs in 2010 — responded to questions about school funding, selecting a new commissioner, common core standards, testing and Race to the Top. Check it out.

So all you big people out there, arm yourselves with the information you need. While you’re filling out your ballots for those big races and issues, don’t forget to get educated on the people who want to represent you in overseeing our state’s K-12 public education. One other resource: an iVoices podcast you can listen to with current State Board chair Bob Schaffer explaining what it is the Board does and how it works.

You have no excuses now.


28th 2010
NEA Spends $1.9 Million in Teacher Dues Attacking Colorado U.S. Senate Candidate

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Teachers

How many days left ’till we all can stop talking about these political campaigns? Every time one of those ads comes on the TV or radio, I swear my mom is going to go berserk. My dad? Well, even worse. That’s why it’s so disturbing to learn that nearly $2 million worth of Colorado’s latest negative political ads have been paid for by the National Education Association using automatically-collected teacher dues money:

The National Education Association (NEA) has reported spending nearly $1.9 million in independent expenditures to purchase ads to attack U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck. The money is drawn from general dues funds collected from education employee members in Colorado and nationwide.

The NEA’s new $547,000 radio ad purchase follows a $1.35 million anti-Buck television campaign rated by the Denver Post as “leans deceptive.”

“Many teachers don’t like their money used this way,” said Independence Institute education policy analyst Ben DeGrow. “Besides leaving the union, there really isn’t anything they can do about it.”

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27th 2010
Local Union’s Illicit Campaign “Mistake” Takes Member Teacher Funds for Granted

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Teachers

My friends at the Independence Institute yesterday filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission after a local teachers union small donor committee reported giving $2,000 to Congresswoman Betsy Markey’s campaign. As the Longmont Times-Call reports:

The teachers’ union committee is not registered with the Federal Election Committee, so it is prohibited from contributing more than $1,000 to candidates for federal offices.

“It was an oversight; it’s been corrected,” said Trip Merklein, president of the SVVEA [St. Vrain Valley Education Association].

One of my Education Policy Center friends chimed in about the complaint: Continue Reading »

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26th 2010
Figuring Out the Union Cost Premium and Our Priorities for Public Education

Posted under Research & School Finance & Teachers

One argument in education I’m already tired of is what’s the impact of union collective bargaining on student learning. Do unions help or hinder achievement? The problem is it’s an oversimplified question, as I once explained a long time ago.

But the ever insightful Mike Antonucci from the Education Intelligence Agency put forward an interesting twist to the question on his Intercepts blog. The real effect of teachers’ union contracts, he says, is the 20.7% cost premium for states (including Colorado) with collective bargaining. To take it a step further, it would be good to control this finding for the cost of living to see how much of the premium remains.

On that note comes an interesting story from California (H/T Joanne Jacobs): a school employees union “is protesting a program to place parents in volunteer positions on campus.” I guess it comes down to whether you think our K-12 system is primarily a taxpayer-funded jobs program or a means to help educate students and prepare them for the future.

I vote for the latter. Whichever priority you choose has consequences–including the cost of education. Definitely something that deserves a closer look.

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25th 2010
Can Denver Leaders Rise Above Education Reform Backlash to Make Needed Progress?

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Public Charter Schools & School Choice

It sure looks like Denver’s education reform backlash has made some noise of late. As the editors of the Denver Post explain today, what’s really absurd is the venomous propaganda being launched at successful charter schools in the district’s proposal to expand them into the northeast region of the city’s troubled education system:

DPS has produced a thoughtful blueprint for reforming schools in northeast Denver, using programs and tools that have proven successful in other parts of the city.

DPS board members ought to publicly disavow the misinformation campaign that says charter schools “perpetuate the school-to-jail track” and also alleges that the reforms will “force hundreds of high school students out of their neighborhood.”

It is unbelievable that anyone who cares about education, even if they disagree with DPS policy, would use such blatantly false rhetoric.

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21st 2010
State Board of Education Transformers: A Colorado Election Season (After)Thought?

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & State Board of Education & Teachers

‘Tis the political campaign season, fa la la la la…. Yesterday the Denver Post published its endorsements of Colorado State Board of Education candidates. This year 3 of the 7 seats are up for election — two open after Board members are retiring and one held by an appointed Board member who stepped in to fill out a term. So what does the Post think?:

The Colorado State Board of Education will face many important issues in the coming years, not the least of which is choosing a new education commissioner.

The balance of the seven-member board is crucial, and we hope voters will choose to elect reformers who will continue the good work that has put Colorado at the forefront of education reform.

One critical issue is the approval of the nuts and bolts of a new teacher evaluation system that will link teacher tenure to student achievement.

Now, look. Little Eddie doesn’t touch candidate endorsements with a 10-foot pole. All you big people out there have to decide who you want to serve on the State Board of Education. But maybe you’re wondering what it is the Board actually does. That I can help with. We’ve got an iVoices podcast to explain.

And there’s something else I hope you keep in mind. The Post is urging you to put education reformers on the State Board. But I’ll go a step further: Wouldn’t it be a lot cooler to have some education transformers? A State Board where there’s “more than meets the eye,” maybe — but definitely one filled with bold visionaries interested in helping to serve all Colorado kids? I thought you might agree with that.


19th 2010
Ben DeGrow Covers Indiana, Rhode Island Charters for School Reform News

Posted under Independence Institute & Journalism & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Accountability & School Choice

In his role as writer and contributing editor for School Reform News, my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow recently came out with two articles on charter school developments in other states. First up is a research-based boost for nontraditional public school excellence in one of the Heartland’s cities:

Researchers at Vanderbilt University’s National Center on School Choice followed students in Indianapolis who switched from traditional public schools to charter schools. The study found the group, which included students from 2nd through 10th grade, made substantial strides in math achievement and smaller gains in reading. African-Americans made statistically significant gains in math, and Hispanics demonstrated significant growth in reading.

“Indianapolis was a district in high need of innovative schools,” said Anna Nicotera, coauthor of the study and director of research and evaluation at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS). “These schools appear to have filled that niche.”

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18th 2010
Douglas County School Board Making Strong Statement for Parental Choice

Posted under Homeschooling & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools

How often do you see a local school board proactively promoting school choice — including choices inside and outside the district, for the sake of satisfying the local education customers? Let’s be honest: It’s pretty rare. So maybe it’s time to introduce you to the Board of Education for the Douglas County School District, the third largest in Colorado. Last Thursday the DCSD board sent out a memo that included this interesting passage:

We also want to address the perception that the Board of Education prefers one type of school over another. Nothing could be further from the truth. Simply put, your Board supports choice. We believe that informed parents, not Board members, are best suited to determine which schools will best serve the needs of their individual students. Under our Superintendent’s leadership, schools are making efforts to define themselves clearly. We strongly support these efforts so that parents have the best information to choose which school will meet the unique learning needs and goals of their children. This work will also provide choices for teachers to match their professional styles with the school’s learning environment. Our role will be properly limited to ensuring that all schools operate on a level playing field, one that affords equal resources and opportunities for all students…. [emphases added]

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15th 2010
As Waiting for Superman Opens Today in Colorado, Listen to an Exclusive Interview with Director Davis Guggenheim

Posted under Denver & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Urban Schools

You might be saying by now: When will this kid stop writing about the movie Waiting for Superman? To be honest, I don’t know. I’m too young and impulsive to plan that far ahead. But since today is the movie’s official opening in Colorado, what better reason to bring it up again today?

Well, here’s one. My Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow got the opportunity to conduct a 5-minute exclusive interview of the movie’s director Davis Guggenheim. You can listen to it online. Special thanks to the gracious staff of the Colorado Children’s Campaign for their help in making the interview possible after their special 25th anniversary luncheon event. (For another Guggenheim interview from yesterday’s event, check out Ed News Colorado’s blog, complete with video.)

No, make that two reasons: My Education Policy Center friends are going to see the movie today. Do you think they invited me? No. Not even to cheer me up from the “Reformer-Michelle Rhee-Resigned-from-Her-Job-in-D.C.” Blues. So maybe if they read this, they’ll feel guilty and invite me along. At least I hope so.

While my friends soon will be Done Waiting to watch Waiting for Superman, this Colorado kid can’t wait any longer to see the movie.


14th 2010
I’ve Got The Reformer-Michelle Rhee-Resigned-from-Her-Job-in-D.C. Blues

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Urban Schools

Sorry, no long post today. I’m sad, and reeling a bit. My edu-crush and reform hero Michelle Rhee has announced her resignation as chancellor of Washington, D.C., public schools. Guess I knew it was coming, but was probably in denial. The place to go for thoughtful reactions is School Reform News, where many respected education reformers weigh in (H/T Jay Greene’s blog) — including Robert Enlow, Virginia Walden Ford, Greg Forster, Matt Ladner and Lisa Snell. They offer an important reminder:

“Rhee was overhyped in the sense that reformers need to put broad systemic reforms in place, like the DC charter law, in addition to strong leaders,” Ladner said. “Rhee lasted approximately the average tenure for an urban superintendent. Leaders come and go, but the struggle for reform goes on.”

“Rhee was not overhyped,” said Forster. “What was overhyped was the whole heroic reformer model that says the system can work as long as we put the right people in charge of it.” Continue Reading »


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