Archive for July, 2011

29th 2011
Year of School Choice a Great Birthday Present in Milton Friedman’s Honor

Posted under Independence Institute & Parents & Private Schools & Research & School Board & School Choice & State Legislature

The birthday of the late, great economist Milton Friedman is in two days. He would have been 99 years old. Since the anniversary of Friedman’s birth falls on a Sunday and I won’t be blogging then, what better time to commemorate him and his passionate life’s work to expand school choice? In the Education Policy Center’s ever-evolving issue paper — A Chronology of School Choice in the U.S. — senior fellow Krista Kafer describes the seminal contribution he made to this important movement:

At mid-century, the concept of a ‘voucher’ for parents first appeared in 1955 in the article “The Role of Government in Education” by economist Milton Friedman, who would later win the Nobel Prize in economics. [link added]

Robert Enlow, who heads up the Foundation for Educational Choice (created to carry on Milton and wife Rose Friedman’s legacy of school choice advocacy), penned a great op-ed yesterday that brings together a confluence of important events: Continue Reading »

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28th 2011
For the Kids, Please, D.C. Leaders Need to Streamline Department of Education

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Independence Institute & Parents & School Accountability & School Choice

Judging by some of the grumbling I hear from my parents lately, there’s a big hubbub in Washington, D.C., about people in government borrowing bazillions of dollars and not paying it back — or something like that. Which reminds me… You really ought to watch this 2-minute video put together by my friends at the Independence Institute:

Even though it stars yucky girls, it won seventh place in some big national competition. Guess I should be happy for all of them — so sue me, all right?

But anyway, this is an education blog, and I did have a reason for bringing up D.C. and politicians. (Only so often, you know, don’t want to make it more than I can take.) Allison Sherry of our own Denver Post has an interesting write-up for Education Next on the education policies and platforms of leading Republican presidential contenders. While you should read through the whole thing, I picked out one section to highlight: Continue Reading »

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27th 2011
Save Our Schools… Huh?

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Governor & Teachers

Update, 7/28: Writing at redefinED, Doug Tuthill and Adam Emerson highlight the rich irony behind the “Save Our Schools” phenomenon.

So apparently there’s some big national march called “Save Our Schools” or something like that. I told you about it a month ago. While the good people at the National Council on Teacher Quality took a conciliatory approach to pointing out the flaws in the “SOS” program. But the award goes to Sara Mead, writing at Eduwonk, for this effective takedown:

…This is not an agenda for accomplishing anything. It’s just a wish list. Half of it is a wishlist of things the organizers don’t want (performance-based pay, school closures). Half of it is a wishlist for things someone might want, without any clear theory of how to operationalize them or what that might actually look like in practice in the real world. (I, too, would like to see “Well-rounded education that develops every student’s intellectual, creative, and physical potential”–but in the absence of clear prescriptions and mechanisms about how to make that a reality, well, you might as well wish for a pony, too.)…

I can’t help but think that a lot of people marching on the nation’s capital for this cause — as pure as their motives may be — are tangling with some vague, outsized imaginary enemy. Then again, as Anthony Krisky has pointed out, it’s not exactly a grassroots movement. Given the pro-union sympathies of so many of its outspoken leaders, one might have to ask them what they think about Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s reforms enabling local school districts to save teacher jobs? Is that “anti-teacher”?

Guess what, Colorado has its own “SOS,” too. I wholeheartedly defend their right to speak up. I just don’t get much of where they’re coming from with a largely illogical, fanciful and ambiguous agenda. Maybe we should just start referring to it as SOS?… as in: Huh?

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26th 2011
If It’s So Urgent, Why Did ACLU & Co. Wait So Long to Stop Dougco Vouchers?

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

Some groups like the ACLU have their reasons for wanting to shut down the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program and take educational opportunities away from about 500 kids. Some people can’t help but be offended by other people’s choices, I guess.

Here we stand one week away from the start of a legal hearing to determine whether the legal request to enjoin the choice program should be granted. But if it’s such a big deal for the ACLU and its pals to stop families from receiving Douglas County vouchers, why did they wait so long?

That’s part of the strong argument raised by the Dougco legal team in their response to the motion for a preliminary injunction: Continue Reading »

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22nd 2011
NCTQ Student Teacher Study Raises Valid Questions for Colorado K-12 Education

Posted under Research & State Legislature & Teachers

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I have a great deal of respect for the work of the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). As I pointed out a few months ago, NCTQ has been spearheading an important review of the university programs that prepare teachers for K-12 schools in the U.S.

Yesterday the organization released a report highlighting one phase of its research — namely, student teaching. Among the important standards examined were the amount of classroom time and commitment expected of student teachers, the role the program plays in matching students to cooperating teachers, as well as requirements that cooperating teachers have at least three years experience and a proven record of effectiveness at improving student learning.

NCTQ selected about 10 percent of the nation’s 1,400 teacher preparation programs to create a random sample across the USA. You may not be surprised to learn that the overall results are less than stellar. But as Education News Colorado’s Todd Engdahl reports, one of the three Colorado programs selected was one of only 10 nationwide to receive the highest mark from NCTQ: Colorado Christian University. The two other institutions from our state fared much worse: Continue Reading »


20th 2011
School District Sending Flyers + Kids as Props (- Permission) = Bad Tax Hike PR

Posted under Education Politics & Parents & School Finance & Suburban Schools

Good thing my parents don’t have any kids enrolled in Brighton Public Schools. Nothing per se against the school district northeast of Denver. But I can only imagine my mom and dad’s reaction if they got one of those tax hike-supporting political flyers in this year’s school information packet. Probably something like what one mom told Channel 7 reporter Russell Haythorn (though maybe a bit more colorful):

“Education specific funding being used to push a political agenda — that’s not appropriate,” said concerned parent Stacy Petty.

Agreed. And credit goes to the hard-working folks at Complete Colorado for breaking this story first. They have posted a copy of the flyer sent home to Brighton parents. Continue Reading »

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19th 2011
Stories of Special Needs Kids Bolster Dougco, Arizona Choice Programs

Posted under Independence Institute & Parents & Private Schools & School Board & School Choice & School Finance & State Legislature

It was just last week I introduced you to a new video produced by my friends in the Education Policy Center that highlighted one family’s story to show why the Douglas County vouchers are needed to help save students. (Wouldn’t you like to see more of these brief video profiles that tell the real stories behind Colorado’s groundbreaking local school choice program?)

Then today — what do you know? — the Goldwater Institute releases an article right along the same vein. You see, just like Douglas County became the first local school district to enact a private school choice program, Arizona this year was the first state in the nation to create “Empowerment Scholarship Accounts.” Designed to serve students with special needs, these ESAs are almost like super-vouchers.

From the Goldwater report: Continue Reading »


18th 2011
Wired Article: Khan Academy Is Boosting More Kids Into Advanced Math and Science

Posted under Elementary School & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Sciences & Teachers

Don’t ask, because I don’t know what happened to all my time today. Rather than go in depth and expound on something profound, I will just direct you to this fascinating story in Wired magazine about “How Khan Academy is changing the rules of education”:

“This,” says Matthew Carpenter, “is my favorite exercise.” I peer over his shoulder at his laptop screen to see the math problem the fifth grader is pondering. It’s an inverse trigonometric function: cos-1(1) = ?

Carpenter, a serious-faced 10-year-old wearing a gray T-shirt and an impressive black digital watch, pauses for a second, fidgets, then clicks on “0 degrees.” Presto: The computer tells him that he’s correct. The software then generates another problem, followed by another, and yet another, until he’s nailed 10 in a row in just a few minutes. All told, he’s done an insane 642 inverse trig problems. “It took a while for me to get it,” he admits sheepishly.

Carpenter, who attends Santa Rita Elementary, a public school in Los Altos, California, shouldn’t be doing work anywhere near this advanced….

Funny, that’s what some people say about this 5-year-old’s edublogging prowess. But I digress. The article by Clive Thompson is a long and substantial one, but also engaging. If it doesn’t make you think about the current education paradigm — and whether and how we can go about it more effectively — then you’re not trying too hard. I’ve told you about Khan Academy before, but have yet to point you to anything this in-depth.

While Khan definitely has his critics, this article sure makes it look like his video-based program is having tremendous results for some students in the areas of math and science. Happy digging!

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15th 2011
NYC Study Shines Positive Light on Core Knowledge Program Reading Success

Posted under Elementary School & Independence Institute & Parents & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice & Urban Schools

Learning to read is essential to a quality education. Kind of goes without saying, doesn’t it? There has been increased attention in recent years on the importance of phonics and scientifically-based reading instruction. These are crucial features of instructing students in the early grades, ensuring they get off to a strong start in their educational careers, yet in too many cases (at least in Colorado) teachers are not adequately prepared to impart the learning to students.

Yet can what sustain and build on those reading skills as students reach 8th grade and beyond? Take a glimpse at what has gone on the past few years in a small corner of the New York City Public Schools (New York City? I can almost hear some of you ask in the voice of disgruntled Texas cowhands. Yes, the Big Apple!). In a New York Daily News op-ed, Sol Stern highlights the success of the three-year Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA) program piloted in 10 Bronx and Queens elementary schools:

After the first year, [then school chancellor Joel] Klein announced the early results: On a battery of reading tests, the kindergartners in the Core Knowledge program had achieved gains five times greater than those of students in the control group. The second-year study showed that the Core Knowledge kids made reading gains twice as great as those of students in the control group.

Continue Reading »

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14th 2011
New I.I. Video Highlights Douglas County Vouchers for Nate Oakley, 499 Other Kids

Posted under Courts & Independence Institute & Parents & Private Schools & School Choice & Suburban Schools

Today I’m going to step back and let someone else do the talking. You’ve probably been following the developments surrounding Colorado’s groundbreaking Douglas County Pilot Choice Scholarship Program. I’ve covered it a lot here. Since the promising program was approved in March, 500 students have won vouchers worth about $4,600 to help cover the cost of tuition at a private school families have chosen to best suit their needs.

In this new video produced by my friends in the Independence Institute’s Education Policy Center, it’s a story like 13-year-old Nate Oakley’s that brings to life the need for Douglas County vouchers, and the real threat created by lawsuits filed by the ACLU and other groups:

After that, what more can I say? For many kids and many parents, school choice really matters. Don’t take it away.


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