Archive for March, 2011

17th 2011
Florida, Gov. Rick Scott Close to Raising Bar on Teacher Tenure, Evaluation Reform

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

You may have missed it because you were recovering from the New Year’s holiday, but I told you a couple months ago how Florida’s new governor Rick Scott was considering some pretty bold education reforms. The first two points of consideration I listed were:

  • Following Colorado’s lead by tying a significant portion of teacher evaluations to measured student academic growth
  • Phasing out tenure for K-12 teachers by denying it to new hires

Something similar was attempted last year in the Sunshine State, but then-governor Charlie Crist took his big veto pen and halted Senate Bill 6 in its tracks. Well, yesterday, SB 736 (called the “Son of 6″ by the local Naples News) passed the house of representatives and now awaits the new governor’s signature. No one, and I mean no one, expects Scott to pull a Crist on this serious legislative attempt to overhaul teacher tenure and evaluations: Continue Reading »


16th 2011
Douglas County School Board Enacts Voucher Pilot Program, Makes History

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

You may have already heard about last night’s BIG news from Douglas County: The Board of Education voted to adopt (quite possibly) the nation’s very first ever school board-approved private school choice scholarship program. And the vote was unanimous! What took me so long to post this, you say? Trying to recover from last night, where I was Tweeting up a happy storm!

DCSD Board Vote

The Douglas County Board of Education prepares to make the historic vote on March 15, 2011 -- from L to R: Dr. Elizabeth Celania-Fagen, superintendent; Board of Education members Justin Williams, Dan Gerken (vice president), Doug Benevento, Craig Richardson, John Carson (president), Meghann Silverthorn, Clifton Stahl

What more can I say? Find a full report at Ed News Colorado, as well as blog coverage by Jay Greene and Adam Emerson. Get more details from the Douglas County School District choice page, or better yet, from the press release below sent out today by my Education Policy Center friends: Continue Reading »


15th 2011
Getting Over the Past, Looking to the (School Choice and Innovation) Future

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Parents & Private Schools & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

Today I’m trying not to think about the past and focusing instead on the future. By the past, I’m referring to yesterday’s vote in Colorado’s House Education Committee that killed the “Parent Trigger” bill (aka HB 1270). This blogger Victor from the Education Action Group says the “education establishment won their fight.” Disappointed only begins to describe how I feel. Also sad for the kids trapped in the lowest-performing schools.

But it’s time to look ahead. Not that far, either. As in tonight, a huge vote is taking place in Douglas County to approve the Blueprint for School Choice — including a first-of-its-kind choice scholarship pilot program for private school students. Please note:

School choice supporters need a show of force for important Douglas County Board choice scholarship vote: 5 PM, Dougco Admin Building, 620 Wilcox St, Castle Rock, Board of Ed room (upstairs). Continue Reading »

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14th 2011
Falcon 49 Parents, Teachers, District Leaders Convene Around Innovation

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Parents & Principals & School Board & Teachers

Has it really been a whole month since I wrote about the Falcon 49 innovation plan — not to mention the Cookie Monster? Time flies. Next thing you know, I’ll blink and turn 6.

Anyway, over the weekend, we saw one of the first promising signs that the district’s innovative reform is gaining traction. The Colorado Springs Gazette reports on a gathering of key players in the Vista Ridge community:

Teachers, parents and district employees at the district’s first “Innovation Convention” mulled110 ideas including tapping Google for online tools including e-mail, changing teacher evaluations and scheduling more time for planning and collaboration.

As Falcon pursues streamlining the administration and bringing power down to the building level, these conventions can play a critical role in making the schools more productive, responsive and focused on student needs. Yes, one meeting doesn’t begin to solve every problem. But among other things it does get the process rolling toward identifying specific waivers that should be requested under the Innovation Schools Act — such as costly job protections for ineffective teachers.

Innovation Conventions for the other two zones (Falcon and Sand Creek) are scheduled for this week. Making positive change seldom is easy, or so my mom and dad say. I don’t know if they had Falcon District 49′s innovation plan in mind, but it’s good to see this process moving forward. Here’s to doing the best we can to ensure it results in greater flexibility to meet the needs of students and provide academic excellence.


11th 2011
Flattered by Matthew Tabor After a Great Edublogging Podcast: Check It Out!

Posted under Edublogging & Governor & Innovation and Reform & Just For Fun & Research & Teachers

It has been said that flattery will get you nowhere. I don’t know who said that, but it wasn’t a 5-year-old education blogger and his name wasn’t Eddie. My Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow hosted a podcast with prolific education blogger and new media entrepreneur Matthew Tabor from Education Debate at Online Schools. After Matthew put up this post late yesterday, Ben wants to record podcasts with all the prolific education bloggers he can:

…Ben is a favorite of mine because he exemplifies that holy trinity of blogging: clear, concise and thoughtful. Think about it – it’s tough to pull off all three at the same time.

Also, from what I hear, he’s a mentor to 5-year old education blogger Eddie, who posts his analysis of education policy at Ed Is Watching.

You can’t buy that kind of good press. Well, maybe you can. I just haven’t saved enough in my piggy bank to even begin imagining the possibility. It’s not the first time Matthew has said nice things about me, this blog and my friends. Anyway, the podcast discussion is thought-provoking and hopefully inspiring. Please listen!

And for all that and more, I urge you to bookmark Matthew’s site to get helpful news and great insights, like his recent piece praising Pennsylvania’s governor for seeking to remove “master’s bumps” (teacher pay incentives for earning master’s degrees) out of the education budget. Yes, you read me right. What was once kind of a visionary, off-the-wall suggestion has been reinforced by research, touted in the Independence Institute’s Citizens’ Budget, and now is up for serious debate in one of our nation’s largest states.

I’d like to think I played maybe just a tiny part in that whole process. Then again, I could be flattering myself. It is Friday, after all.

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10th 2011
Kit Carson Becomes First Innovation District: Case of One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Rural Schools & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Teachers

One of the great cliches in policy is that “one size doesn’t fit all.” Well, cliches get to be that way by having some truth behind them. Kind of like my dad’s spiffy loafers are a little big for my feet when I try them on, sometimes even the best state policies need to be tweaked to meet the needs of local communities. Ed News Colorado reports on yesterday’s State Board of Education meeting, in which Kit Carson R-1 became the state’s first district to receive innovation status:

The State Board of Education voted 6-1 Wednesday to grant an innovation application from the Kit Carson school district. A key feature of the plan grants the district waivers from some provisions of Senate Bill 10-191, the landmark educator evaluation and tenure law.

The vote is noteworthy because board members faced a seeming conflict between the 2008 Innovation Schools Act and last year’s educator effectiveness law.

It’s interesting, because as Ed News’ Todd Engdahl notes, the lead Democratic sponsors of the two pieces of legislation both come from the same northeast Denver Senate District 33. SB-191′s Senator Michael Johnston succeeded former Senate President Peter Groff, who championed the Innovation Schools Act. On both bills the lead Republican sponsor was Senator Nancy Spence, who gave Kit Carson’s proposal her blessing in advance of yesterday’s meeting. Continue Reading »


9th 2011
Head Start Hasn’t Lived Up To Its Promises: How About Just Getting Out of Debt?

Posted under Early Childhood & Federal Government & Research & School Finance

Adults can be strange sometimes. Create a government program. Make it about helping little kids like me. Give it a catchy name like “Head Start.” Spend billions of dollars. And then when the evidence repeatedly shows it doesn’t work? Just ignore it.

Wait, huh?

Okay, not all adults have that mindset. But it’s funny to see the reaction some have when the idea of cutting 15 percent of Head Start’s budget is introduced. Writing at National Review, Mona Charen takes on the Washington Post‘s E.J. Dionne. She criticizes him for being “impervious to evidence,” and then opines the following: Continue Reading »

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8th 2011
Indiana Study Adds One More Proof to Pile: Charters Thrive in Right Conditions

Posted under Education Politics & Governor & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice & State Legislature

Indiana is one of those states where an ambitious education reform push is underway. Interestingly, the Indianapolis Star reports today on some new evidence (H/T American Federation for Children) bolstering part of the legislative package supported by Governor Mitch Daniels and State Superintendent Tony Bennett:

The Star looked at charter schools’ scores on ISTEP [Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress] and new end-of-course exams in math and English for high school students last year and compared them with scores in Indianapolis Public Schools. The comparison showed:

Charter schools’ overall performance on ISTEP very closely matched that of IPS, but charters ranked somewhat higher on year-over-year improvement for their students compared with those who had similar scores in English. Continue Reading »

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7th 2011
School Choice for Kids Adds Brief Podcasts to Enhance Parent-Friendly Experience

Posted under Independence Institute & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Choice

When Mondays come, especially when the Monday is cold and wet and foggy, I’m on the lookout for good news. For parents seeking a better educational option for their kids, I just might have the sort of news you’re looking for.

First and foremost, my Education Policy Center friends have added a new feature to one of my personally favorite sites on the Internet: School Choice for Kids. As if the site weren’t parent-friendly enough (but can it ever truly be?), a series of new brief, informative podcasts have been added to select pages. The four English and three Spanish podcasts provide a quick overview of the subject matter and point users to relevant other pages and features on the site — like this one on public online education.

Coincidentally, another school information website was unveiled today. The Center for Education Reform has launched The site offers an interactive map of the United States with links to all 5,301 charter schools nationwide.

Nothing against this new site: In fact, I’ve got it bookmarked as a resource in case I’m looking for a charter school somewhere outside Colorado. But I’m still partial to School Choice for Kids. Not only does it include all Colorado schools — including traditional public, charter, option, online and non-public — but it also has a top-notch searchable map feature that allows you to find just what you’re looking for and where.

And now it has great little podcasts to enhance the experience, particularly for the non-visual learners out there surfing the Web in search of the right school. Remember four words: School Choice for Kids!

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4th 2011
Colorado Considers “Parent Trigger,” California Parents Struggle to Keep It

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & State Legislature & Teachers & Urban Schools

A couple weeks ago I told you that the “parent trigger” idea was coming up soon for consideration in the Colorado legislature, and dispelled any idea that it might have something to do with guns or horses. Remember? We’re talking about empowering parents to change low-performing schools so they can improve them. Ok, so now it’s finally here, and it has a number: House Bill 1270 (PDF).

If you live around Denver like I do and have the alternative of being bored this evening (and 8:30 isn’t past your bedtime!), then I truly hope you’ll tune in to tonight’s Devil’s Advocate show on Channel 12, as HB 1270 sponsor Rep. Don Beezley and my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow talk about the “parent trigger” with host Jon Caldara.

An Ed News Colorado story earlier this week gave a nutshell explanation of what HB 1270 would do: Continue Reading »


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