Archive for March, 2011

31st 2011
Celebrate Opening Days for School Choice, Major League Baseball with Media Bullpen

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Governor & Just For Fun & Parents & Private Schools & School Choice & State Legislature & Urban Schools

Baseball season’s Opening Day means it’s not only time to start rooting for my Colorado Rockies. It’s also a great opportunity to introduce you to a relatively new baseball-themed website created by the Center for Education Reform, The Media Bullpen:

The Media Bullpen is a dynamic, virtual newsroom that covers the news and the news of education. It’s a sophisticated and unique technological environment that allows everyone to get in the game on the greatest discussions of our day. To understand those discussions, we need great information and reporting on all the issues relating to education—all the time.

Each day nearly 500 stories—and sometimes many more—are produced in the media about education, but they often lack the context for the public to get engaged. The Bullpen will empower the public to put in context what they see and hear. The problem is not that education is under-reported; the larger issue is that all too often, it is misreported. Balance, context, sound data, and an institutional knowledge of the many issues are often missing.

What I like about the site is how they rate the stories — anywhere from a strikeout to a home run based on “objectivity, proper context” and “exploration of data and search for accuracy.” Right now there’s a team of umpires — er, editors — doing the ratings, but it looks like the goal is to engage the readers in the rating and comment process soon.

I suspect The Media Bullpen soon will be rating stories about a couple major developments that look to have made yesterday, March 30, 2011, a landmark day for parental choice in education. Continue Reading »

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30th 2011
One Contract or Two, Making Employees Opt Out of Union Dues Each Year Isn’t Fair

Posted under Independence Institute & School Board & Teachers

As reported in the Pueblo Chieftain, today is the day a newly combined union of teachers and classified employees in School District 70 begins its master agreement negotiations. That’s fine as far as it goes. I guess one contract is easier to negotiate than two. At the risk of repeating myself from last June, the best thing that could be done with this fresh start is to get rid of a burdensome provision that afflicted both the old contracts:

Both the district’s non-union teachers and classified employees have to file a written form each year within a narrow time frame to opt out of paying a full year of union dues.

This negotiated policy affects real people, like school librarian Becky Robertson, a non-union member who missed the deadline a few years ago because of family medical emergencies. When she appealed, do you think union officials were willing to make an exception so she could save the few hundred dollars to help pay expensive bills? Watch the video about teachers unions: Continue Reading »

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29th 2011
Keep Hope Alive: D.C. School Choice SOAR Act Faces Key March 30 Vote

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Parents & Research & School Choice & Urban Schools

Tomorrow is a big day in Washington, D.C. I’m not talking about any big speeches by the President regarding overseas kinetic military actions or about Republicans and Democrats fighting it out over federal spending cuts.

On Wednesday the U.S. House of Representatives is slated to vote on the SOAR Act, which would restore and expand the popular and successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP). The Obama administration and many members of Congress began shutting down private school choice in the nation’s capital in 2009. But it’s never too late to keep hoping. (Update, 3/30: Flypaper’s Mike Petrilli highlights the disingenuous nature of the Administration’s opposition to reauthorizing the D.C. voucher program, while redefinED points to a new Washington Post editorial in support of the effort to bring back private school choice to the nation’s capital.) Continue Reading »

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28th 2011
New Orleans Charters Latest to Show Positive Results, But Challenges Lie Ahead

Posted under Public Charter Schools & Research & School Board & Urban Schools

A few weeks ago I pointed you to a study that showed Indiana charter schools outpacing their public school peers in making student academic improvements. Another place where charter schools are being done right — and on an unsurpassed scale — is New Orleans. Six of 10 public school students there is served by one of the city’s 51 charter schools.

A recently-released study by Stanford’s Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO) finds significant academic advantages achieved by New Orleans charter schools, as reported in the Times-Picayune:

A new analysis of standardized test scores in New Orleans shows a majority of the city’s independent charter schools are improving student performance in reading, math or both, at a notably faster rate than traditional schools.

Continue Reading »


25th 2011
Colorado’s Neighbors to the East Look at Passing Some Choice-Friendly Reforms

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

It’s Friday morning. I’m ready to go out and play, so not a lot to blog about today. But I just wanted to bring a couple of developments to your attention. What about Colorado’s neighbors to the east? Their legislators seem to be giving serious consideration to a couple different good, commonsense reform ideas:

  1. More than 3,000 parents, students and other supporters came out to show support for a private school tax credit scholarship bill in Nebraska’s unicameral legislature, LB50.
  2. After House Bill 2229 passed a key committee (H/T Intercepts), Kansas public school teachers are one step closer to being allowed to hear from unions and associations that don’t have monopoly bargaining privileges: you know, free choice and competition is good for teachers, too!

Speaking of competition… Hey, Colorado, let’s not allow these other states to catch up or pass us when it comes to choice-based school reform. If we can’t beat them in football (Nebraska) or in basketball (Kansas), here’s one area where we all can win!

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24th 2011
Colorado School Leaders, Check Out Digital Learning Webinar: Wed., March 30

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Principals & School Board

Hey there – YOU! I mean, hear ye, hear ye…. Colorado school and school district leaders, I wanted to share news of an upcoming online event that you may find very valuable as you seek to pursue academic excellence in these trying budget times. Education Week is hosting a webinar next Wednesday, March 30, from 11 AM to noon Mountain Daylight Time:

What are the 10 Elements of High-Quality Digital Learning that should be top of mind for everyone involved in education, from lawmakers to administrators to teachers and parents? How can your district or school harness these elements to develop an affordable, high-quality digital learning environment that engages students, parents and teachers? What have your peers learned from their own experiences with digital learning – and how can you use their insights to drive your success?

Continue Reading »

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23rd 2011
Studies Show Vouchers Help Kids, Schools; What About Research of Douglas County?

Posted under Private Schools & Research & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

For those in the know, this report is hardly a jaw-dropping, breathtaking surprise. But it’s good to see the updated information compiled in one place. Thanks to Greg Forster and the Foundation for Educational Choice, we now have the newly-released report A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Vouchers, which brings together the 27 studies “using the best available scientific methods” to show:

that vouchers improve outcomes for both participants and public schools.

Let’s break that down a little bit. Of 10 empirical studies measuring the effects U.S. voucher programs (e.g., Milwaukee, Cleveland, D.C., Florida) have on the learning of student participants:

  • 60 percent found all groups of students benefit
  • 30 percent found some groups of students benefit
  • 10 percent found no measurable impact either way
  • 0 (ZERO) percent found negative impacts on students

Continue Reading »


22nd 2011
Newly-Adopted Idaho Laws Kind of Like the Yummy Tater Tots of Education Reform

Posted under Governor & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & State Legislature & Teachers

Mashed. Baked. Au gratin. French fries. Hash browns. Tater tots…. Other than the fact it’s almost lunchtime, why am I talking about potatoes? In honor of my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow’s newly-published School Reform News article “Idaho Gov. Signs Two Sweeping Reform Bills”:

Amid a rancorous atmosphere that included vandalism against Idaho’s top public school administrator and threats of violence against lawmakers, Governor Butch Otter (R) signed a pair of bills aimed at a comprehensive overhaul of the state’s elementary and secondary schools.

Senate Bills 1108 and 1110 both passed Idaho’s upper chamber by 20-15 votes, with eight Republicans and the entire Democratic caucus in opposition. The bills passed by large margins in the House. Together the legislation would phase out teacher tenure and phase in performance pay, include student achievement and parental input in professional evaluations, and limit the scope of public-employee union collective bargaining.

Continue Reading »


21st 2011
Want a Glimpse of the Education Future? Time to Get to Know Khan Academy

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Private Schools & School Choice & Sciences

A random Monday posting… First of all, let me clarify that this post has nothing to do with old Star Trek movies or even older Mongol hordes. If you are interested at all in the future of education but haven’t heard of Khan Academy yet, now is the time to start getting up to speed. Khan gives every indication of being at the forefront of entrepreneurial education transformation. And you might even want to be aware of the free learning opportunities the Academy offers now!

Today, Joanne Jacobs points to a California news story about Egan Junior High successfully using Khan’s online learning tools in the classroom: Continue Reading »


18th 2011
Staff, Parents Discuss Falcon Innovation: Ideas Emerging as Promise Remains Strong

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Principals & School Board & School Choice & School Finance & State Board of Education & Teachers

I began the week by telling you about the series of “Innovation Conventions” going on in Falcon 49 — a school district serving about 15,000 students east of Colorado Springs. (Background: Check out District 49′s innovations page and the links it contains, especially the open letter from the Board, the iVoices podcast interview and the op-ed by Ben DeGrow.)

An article from yesterday’s Colorado Springs Gazette by Kristina Iodice highlights the latest “Convention,” this one hosted at Falcon High School for 100 staff and parents from the Falcon Zone. A couple of my Education Policy Center friends were there to listen in and observe the process unfold.

Falcon HS Innovation

Falcon Zone assistant superintendent Mark Carara welcomes the audience of staff and parents to the March 16 Innovation Convention at Falcon High School

Continue Reading »


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