Archive for April, 2011

29th 2011
Falcon 49 Takes Another Noteworthy Bold Step in Following Innovative Path

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Rural Schools & School Board & Suburban Schools & Teachers

About four weeks ago I raised the question about Falcon School District 49′s school buses at the State Capitol stunt: Are they serious about tough decisions ahead? Well, in a story reported this week by the Colorado Springs Gazette‘s Kristina Iodice, the answer appears to be Yes:

A staffing plan that eliminates 143 jobs, including teaching positions, in Falcon School District 49 was approved Wednesday by the school board.

Board members also voted to reinstate the Transportation Department as fee-for-service operation with no budget other than the money necessary to bus special education students. That vote caused the crowd at Falcon High School to erupt in applause.

After that cheerful moment, Chief Education Officer Becky Carter delivered her staffing plan, which was approved but not released Wednesday. It eliminated 108 positions in schools; 16 in learning and pupil services; 10 in special education; six in facility maintenance, and three 3 in other/administration.

Of course, Falcon 49 is the 15,000-student school district in the Pikes Peak region that’s pursuing innovation district status. The school board set the budget parameters for each of the four zones of innovation and left specific decisions on staffing positions (except for proposed cuts at the shrinking central administration level) up to the building principals and zone leaders. Continue Reading »


27th 2011
Cincinnati Study, Step Up for Colorado, Bolster SB 191 Implementation Success

Posted under Principals & Research & State Board of Education & Teachers

There’s more to creating good policy than just passing a good law. This is especially true when it comes to big changes, like Colorado Senate Bill 191′s push to update how teachers are evaluated and retained. It wasn’t that long ago I expressed my concerns about the implementation.

A couple weeks ago the co-chairs of the State Council on Educator Effectiveness presented their recommendations to the Colorado State Board of Education. One of the presenters expressed a hopeful confidence that the 50 percent of teacher and principal evaluations based on observed performance would match up with the 50 percent based on student growth.

The good news, as reported by Education Next, is that new research by Thomas Kane and colleagues shows creating such an effective evaluation system can be done — because in a sense, the Cincinnati Public Schools’ Teacher Evaluation System (TES) already has done it: Continue Reading »


26th 2011
Is Momentum Growing for Open School Union Negotiations in Colorado?

Posted under Independence Institute & School Accountability & School Board & School Finance & Suburban Schools & Teachers

Transparency. Good government. Conducting public business in the light of day. I happen to think these are more than trite phrases and ideas. If you’ve been following my coverage of the dispute over opening union bargaining sessions in Colorado Springs School District 11, you have an idea of what I mean.

Yesterday my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow took on the growing controversy over whether negotiations in Colorado’s largest school district — Jefferson County Public Schools — should be open to public observation. The story is kind of long and convoluted, which is why he took it on in his own blog rather than drag this poor little 5-year-old kid into the fray so quickly. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to highlight a couple items, including his conclusion:

Neither parents and other taxpaying citizens, nor the journalists who help bring them information, are welcome at the table to observe how tax dollars are divvied up and many operational policies are established. I just so happen to think that good government conducts its affairs in the light of day. Here’s hoping we can get a positive resolution for greater transparency in Jeffco — and soon.

Continue Reading »


25th 2011
Successful Arizona Blended Learning Charter Shows Colo. Can “Seize the Day”

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Public Charter Schools & School Choice

I’m still recovering from an Easter candy “hangover,” so this post will not be filled with my usual in-depth analysis. Instead, I want you to check out a new School Reform News feature story by my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow about a cutting-edge Arizona “blended learning” charter school that’s getting remarkable results:

Explaining the success of Carpe Diem Collegiate High School and Middle School requires more than simple answers, but the school’s innovations hold great promise for expanding educational excellence and opportunity.

With dozens of cubicles filling a large, open room, Carpe Diem resembles a corporate office more than a traditional school. Students in grades 6 through 12 sit at their individual stations as software loaded on their laptop computers guides them through core instructional material…. Continue Reading »


22nd 2011
Hoosier School Reform Daddy?: Voucher Plan Advances, Bargaining Bill Signed

Posted under Governor & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Private Schools & School Board & School Choice & School Finance & State Legislature & Teachers

Just to be clear up front, I’m not necessarily implying any sort of superiority from the Hoosier State. Not at all. It’s far more about having a little Friday fun with puns. After all, it’s fun to revel in the news from the Foundation for Educational Choice:

The Indiana Senate today passed legislation that would create the nation’s broadest school voucher program, allowing low- and middle-income families to use taxpayer funds to send their children to the private school of their choice.

House Bill 1003, which was approved by the Senate in a 28-22 vote, would create a new scholarship program enabling families to send their children to the private school of their choice. Scholarship amounts are determined on a sliding scale based on income, with families receiving up to 90 percent of state support.

Having the full support of Governor Mitch Daniels and now having passed both houses, the voucher program is sure to become law in Indiana. But HB 1003 has to return to the House first to iron out details. The Foundation explains that the Senate added a “$1,000 tax deduction for private and homeschool expenses” available to all families regardless of income. If that piece survives the conference, then it’s an even bigger victory for parental choice and educational freedom. Continue Reading »


21st 2011
Not the Time for Education Schools to Resist Transparent Review Process

Posted under Research & Teachers

A few days ago I told you about the recent Denver visit from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ)’s Sandi Jacobs, but I never really got to the interesting part: the main part of her presentation. She came to talk about the big project NCTQ and U.S. News and World Report have launched to evaluate the nation’s schools of education.

Now, naturally, I don’t write much about schools of education. At my age it’s really quite a bit trying to follow teachers and schools, without keeping frequent tabs on who’s teaching the teachers that teach in our schools. Still, it’s an important issue — a HUGE issue, really. Just as a major example, why is there such a large-scale problem with equipping elementary instructors in teaching literacy and math? It’s truly exciting to see NCTQ take on this large task.

Unsurprisingly, there has been some pushback. NCTQ explains that many education schools “do not intend to cooperate” with a national review process that — to its credit — is being conducted very transparently. Education Week Teacher Beat blogger Stephen Sawchuk has been covering the story of four states (Georgia, Kentucky, New York and Wisconsin) that have refused to “participate voluntarily” in the evaluation. The Eduwonk wisely notes that such obstruction represents “a remarkably counterproductive strategy.” Continue Reading »


20th 2011
Douglas County Reports 28 Private Schools Apply to Accept Voucher Students

Posted under Parents & Private Schools & School Choice & Suburban Schools

Update, 12:30 PM: The Denver Post says it’s 27 schools, not 28 — as stated on the Douglas County web page linked below. Looks like 27 is the correct number, if you count multiple campuses of Denver Christian and the Denver Street School as one school each. The Post also says 8 of the schools are non-religious, whereas I only count 7. I’m willing to be corrected on the matter, though.

A couple weeks ago I reminded readers that there would be many interesting angles to follow as the Douglas County pilot voucher program rolls out. Well, here’s some good news: According to the district website, an assortment of 28 different non-public schools have applied as potential partners.

Looking over the list, it represents a diversity of private educational options interested in accepting some of the 500 publicly-funded Douglas County choice scholarship students for the 2011-12 school year. Yes, there are the variety of expected Christian schools and Catholic schools, some of which have special focuses on targeting at-risk students.

There is also a Jewish school (Hillel Academy) and seven non-religious schools by my count. Included among the latter are schools that focus on educating gifted students (Mackintosh Academy) or special needs students (Humanex Academy) and those that provide college prep (Accelerated Schools) or even multicultural programs (Colorado International School).

Douglas County School District will announce by May 2 which schools’ applications are accepted to serve as partners for the choice scholarship program. In the meantime, the district soon will start accepting student applications to participate. A lottery will be held on May 16 if more than 500 qualified students apply.

It’s good to see school choice marching on in Colorado!


19th 2011
Hoping Colorado’s New Education Commissioner Will Be a Chief for Change

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Just For Fun & State Board of Education

Yesterday the Colorado State Board of Education was in deliberations to interview and consider one or more applicants for the state’s next education commissioner. Right now everything is in the hush-hush, so don’t even bother to ask me who any of the finalists are. Why? Because I don’t know.

The new commissioner is scheduled to be appointed at the next monthly Board meeting (May 11 and 12). Whoever it ends up being, I hope the leader is a true education transformer, someone who would be at home fitting in with the 10 state education commissioners (having just doubled in size) who form the group “Chiefs for Change.”

Have you heard about Chiefs for Change? It’s “a coalition of state school chiefs and leaders that share a zeal for education reform. Together, they provide a strong voice for bold reform on the federal, state and local level.” You can read their mission statement and guiding principles here. Where are they from? Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia. Maybe Colorado’s next? Continue Reading »

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18th 2011
The Implementation of SB 191: A Reason for Little Me to Get Old and Skeptical?

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

When (or should I say if) I get older, maybe I’ll acquire a healthy dose of that battle-worn cynicism about highly-lauded education reform initiatives like Colorado’s Senate Bill 191 — also known as the “Great Teachers and Leaders” law. Sometimes I think I’m too young to adjust my expectations appropriately. But if someone as smart and experienced as Sandi Jacobs from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) is upbeat but realistic about it, why shouldn’t little Eddie?

Sandi Jacobs… You may be scratching your head, saying, “Where have I heard that name before?” My Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow has interviewed her for podcasts a few times before, most recently back in February for a discussion on “Upgrading Colorado Teacher Policies,” based on the latest edition of NCTQ’s State Teacher Policy Yearbook. Having spoken here in Denver Friday at a Donnell-Kay Foundation Hot Lunch event, Sandi also guest-blogged over at Education News Colorado: Continue Reading »


15th 2011
American Prospect Boosting Mike Miles’ Reform Cred? & Other Twitter Questions

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

The must-read, full-length education story of the week is a piece by Dana Goldstein at the American Prospect, titled “The Test Generation.” Before you think this little guy has gone completely loony tunes, you have to know a couple things:

  1. The article is all about Colorado, and mainly about the implementation of Senate Bill 191, but it opens with and focuses plenty of attention on the remarkable pioneering work of Harrison School District Two; and
  2. While I don’t agree with all the article’s points and conclusions, it’s a mostly fair assessment that provides some interesting insights into Colorado’s efforts to forge ahead on enhancing educator effectiveness.

Showing the story’s release was timed well, earlier this week the co-chairs of the State Council on Educator Effectiveness presented their thick set of recommendations (PDF) to the State Board of Education for consideration. More thoughts on that to come in the near future.

More interesting is Goldstein’s close look at Harrison superintendent Mike Miles, whose focused leadership in the development of a groundbreaking new teacher evaluation and pay system have unsurprisingly garnered criticism from the teachers union. Yet so far the results speak for themselves: Continue Reading »


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