Archive for December, 2010

20th 2010
Education Reform Stocking Stuffers

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Just For Fun & Online Schools & Research & School Finance & Urban Schools

Kids are out of school. Christmas is 5 days away. Nobody is writing about education now. It seems like just about everybody has packed it up to go on vacation until 2011. But you get one more post from me before the holidays steal the last bit of your attention away. And it could be a highly practical payoff if you’re willing to invest a very brief moment of time.

Last-minute shopper looking for a gift or stocking stuffer for that education reformer in your life? Try one of these new books:

…And the one I’m really waiting for (though you probably will have to drop a picture of the book in the stocking, as the actual published copy isn’t due out until January: (H/T Mike Petrilli, Flypaper) The Bee Eater: Michelle Rhee Takes On the Nation’s Worst School District. For this I might just be able to wait until 2011.


17th 2010
League Stands Up for Charters vs. Unfriendly Greeley, Pueblo School Boards

Posted under Denver & Public Charter Schools & School Board & School Choice & Urban Schools

In the end-of-the-year holiday dash, it sure looks like the Colorado League of Charter Schools has been busy. Busy standing up against the anti-charter actions of a couple local school boards.

Two cases in point. The first is an op-ed League president Jim Griffin penned for the Greeley Tribune. It came out a couple days ago as the Greeley school board contemplated denying an expansion of the successful Union Colony charter school on the basis of student demographics. (The board since has officially rejected it.)

But Griffin provided the skeptical Board and the Tribune itself with some clarifying insights: Continue Reading »

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16th 2010
Cast Your Votes for the Best and Worst K-12 Education Developments in 2010

Posted under Federal Government & Governor & Just For Fun & Parents & School Choice & School Finance & Teachers & Urban Schools

What are the best and worst developments in K-12 education for 2010? You can chime in and make your selections on a poll sponsored by Education Next — based on a list released by Stanford University’s Koret Task Force on K-12 Education.

Ten items are available for you to rate either as one of the two best or two worst developments. Included as possible choices are items I’ve written about over the course of 2010, including: Continue Reading »

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15th 2010
Traverse City (Mich.) Schools Open Door to Negotiations, Good Government

Posted under Research & School Board & School Finance & Teachers

The Mackinac Institute for Public Policy’s Michael Van Beek — who is essentially the Michigan equivalent of my friends in the Education Policy Centerbrought some interesting news to my attention with a recent posting:

The Traverse City Area Public School district is raising transparency to a new level by posting on its website the contracts it proposes to unionized employees. At present, only the proposed transportation employee union contract is available, but eventually, all of them will be.

So what, you say, that’s more than 1,000 miles away. Why should little Eddie in Colorado care? Glad you asked for me. Several months ago my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow wrote an issue backgrounder called “Colorado Education and Open Negotiations: Increasing Public Access to School District Bargaining.” He noted that only one of 42 bargaining districts in our state have policies that ensure public access to the union negotiating process. Continue Reading »

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14th 2010
AP Education Poll: Firing Bad Teachers Not Only Issue On Which Public Weighs In

Posted under Education Politics & Journalism & Parents & Research & Teachers

Quick hit for today from The Associated Press, highlighting results from a new education survey:

An overwhelming majority of Americans are frustrated that it’s too difficult to get rid of bad teachers, while most also believe that teachers aren’t paid enough, a new poll shows.

The Associated Press-Stanford University poll found that 78 percent think it should be easier for school administrators to fire poorly performing teachers. Yet overall, the public wants to reward teachers — 57 percent say they are paid too little, with just 7 percent believing they are overpaid and most of the rest saying they’re paid about right.

A full copy of the survey data is available here. When asked about problems facing American schools today, reuspondents listed the following as “extremely” or “very” serious, in descending order: Continue Reading »


13th 2010
Best Wishes to Michelle Rhee & Indiana Leaders, Even If Selfish of Me to Say So

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

My mom and dad work with me a lot to help me be less selfish. The phrase “Me first” is kind of frowned upon in our household. Ok, I get that. But what about “We first”? If I’m thinking about all us kids out there who are students, that’s not being too self-centered… right?

It was about two months ago you all had to help me fight back the tears after the news that Michelle Rhee was forced out of her job as D.C. schools chancellor. But it’s always darkest before the dawn, they say. For last week the news came out that my edu-crush is now leading a national education reform advocacy group known as… you guessed it: Students First. Isn’t this great news?

Well, if you don’t want to drown in my enthusiasm, you ought to read the thoughtful, well-informed perspective of the Center for Education Reform’s Jeanne Allen, who offers some valid cautions to Rhee with her “Welcome Aboard” message. Continue Reading »

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10th 2010
Most Voters Still Lowball the Amount of Money Funding K-12 Public Schools

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

Interesting results from a survey by the Foundation for Educational Choice came out recently, gauging opinions and understanding of education issues of voters in six different states: Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, New Jersey and New York.

Taking a look at the full results (PDF) is fascinating. A few items about school choice jump out. Respondents in all states strongly support charter schools and private school tax credit programs and also favor vouchers. But interestingly, there was a lot of skepticism about virtual schools. Maybe if voters in these states were more familiar with online education as we are in Colorado, their opinions would change. Continue Reading »


9th 2010
Congrats to Colo. School Districts with Distinction, School Centers of Excellence

Posted under Denver & Elementary School & Middle School & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

This morning, Colorado’s outgoing governor Bill Ritter formally recognized some schools and school districts for outstanding academic performance.

A couple observations, first about the school districts. As Ed News Colorado’s Nancy Mitchell explains and breaks down, there are five levels of rating districts can earn from the state’s Department of Education. Only 14 of 178 earned the highest (“Accredited with Distinction”), while 7 districts received the lowest (“Accredited with Turnaround”). Most districts fall somewhere in between.

Many times we’ve heard during the discussion about Douglas County’s groundbreaking private school choice proposals (which passed on to the superintendent in resolution form on Tuesday night) that the district doesn’t need choice because it’s the highest-performing district in the state. But a careful look at the list shows Douglas County isn’t anywhere in the top 14 “with distinction.” Maybe — just maybe — a whole slate of expanded choices and options for families will help the district compete and rise to the top. Hmmmm.

With the governor’s blessing today, the Colorado Department of Education also recognized 32 schools as “Centers of Excellence” for demonstrating the highest rates of student academic growth while serving at-risk student populations (75 percent or more). Included on the list are a number of Denver schools I have highlighted to you before, such as:

Congratulations to all 32 schools and 14 districts that received these highest honors. Now onward and upward to even greater things for Colorado students!

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8th 2010
Little Girl Tells Ms. Johnson, Colorado Teachers About Dec. 15 Refund Deadline

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

It’s not often I get to tell you about a kid cuter than little ol’ me. But credit goes to Lynn Bartels at the Denver Post for noting the real star of this great video — a video which explains how the Colorado Education Association automatically collects funds from members “to help influence elections” and how they can get the money back if they ask:

You go, little girl! Tell Ms. Johnson about the Every Member Option refund. If she doesn’t like 99.9% of those dollars going to fund one political party or if she just doesn’t want her money spent on Colorado political campaigns, Ms. Johnson (and any other teacher in Colorado who belongs to the CEA) can:

But don’t delay. After December 15, it’s too late.

Yes, I’m still thankful Colorado teachers at least can request political refunds. But can’t it be done more politely by, you know, by asking first?


7th 2010
Two New Reports: Colorado Lawmakers Can Make K-12 Education More Productive

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

So you just got elected (or re-elected) to the Colorado state legislature. But it’s not as much fun as you thought, because they say there’s this big budget deficit that has to be made up. And that means some spending cuts, which won’t make you the most popular person with a lot of the interest groups that depend on funding from tax dollars.

That includes K-12 education, which makes up the biggest part of the state’s general fund budget (about 45 percent). Some cuts will have to be made. But does that mean bad times for schools and students? Not necessarily, not if state leaders are willing to make some tough decisions. What sort of decisions? Well, I’m glad you asked.

The Independence Institute has created a really thick report known as the Citizens’ Budget to show how legislators can find lots of ways to save money without harming important services. This big project helps to show in detail what my mom and dad have taught me so well: it’s not about how much you spend as much as how smart you are about spending it. (That’s saved me from breaking the piggy bank on a couple occasions.) Continue Reading »


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