Archive for August, 2011

August
31st 2011
New Figlio Study Shows Real Learning Gains for Florida Tax Credit Students

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

Little Eddie is busy beating the heat, so no long, clever and insightful entries for today. In the meantime, chalk another one up for the positive effects of school choice. Matt Ladner points us to a new study on one of the nation’s major education tax credit programs:

A careful analysis of test score gains by David Figlio of Northwestern University has found a modest but statistically significant gains for Florida tax credit students. The data in this study are messy, and Dr. Figlio admirably goes about sorting through the various issues in an even-handed fashion.

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August
30th 2011
Michigan Legislator Attacks Choice, Wants Public Schools to Control Who Attends

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Parents & PPC & School Board & School Choice & State Legislature & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

From the files of “I’m glad s/he’s not my state legislator,” we turn to the state of Michigan — where lawmakers are considering a plan to give families greater choice through mandatory public school open enrollment. A recent Associated Press story highlights some of the outrageous rhetoric from the opposition:

State Rep. Timothy Bledsoe, a Democrat from Grosse Pointe, said he’s worried that a mandatory schools of choice program would be the “death blow” to local control of schools.

“If your school board cannot control its boundaries and who is allowed to attend your schools, there just isn’t much left that Lansing can’t determine,” Bledsoe said. “The school board is left to hire and fire the superintendent and that’s about it.”

A pretty silly argument all in all. Mandatory open enrollment essentially means no school can keep out students based on where they live, as long as there is a seat open and the school doesn’t have to create a special program or accommodation just for that student. Public school choice leader Colorado has mandatory open enrollment — one of the nation’s strongest open enrollment laws, in fact. In 2010-11, about 66,000 students attended a public school outside their district of residence (roughly 8 percent of the total public school population). And that doesn’t include students enrolled in a school outside their assignment zone but still within the same district. Continue Reading »

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August
29th 2011
Kudos to Indiana Families, Reformers for Early Choice Scholarship Success

Posted under Courts & Denver & Innovation and Reform & Parents & PPC & Private Schools & School Choice & Suburban Schools

Was it really less than three weeks ago I wondered aloud about the pending school choice rulings here in Colorado and in Indiana? While a Denver District Court judge put a (temporary) halt to the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program, a few days later Hoosier families celebrated a better result. Today Associated Press writer Tom Coyne highlights the Indiana program’s early popularity (H/T Adam Emerson):

Under a law signed in May by Gov. Mitch Daniels, more than 3,200 Indiana students are receiving vouchers to attend private schools. That number is expected to climb significantly in the next two years as awareness of the program increases and limits on the number of applicants are lifted….

Until Indiana started its program, most voucher systems were limited to poor students, those in failing schools or those with special needs. But Indiana’s is significantly larger, offering money to students from middle-class homes and solid school districts. [emphasis added]

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August
26th 2011
Hanushek Connection: Lobato Testimony, Funding Research, Waiting for “Superman”

Posted under Courts & Denver & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & PPC & Research & School Finance

It’s been a couple weeks since I chimed in on Colorado’s Lobato school funding trial — in particular on the dubious $115,000 taxpayer-underwritten study proclaiming that our state’s K-12 education system is inadequately funded. Well, believe it or not, the District Court hearing is still going on. After the case seemingly has dropped off most of the local media’s radar, Ed News Colorado’s Todd Engdahl continues the fine work of providing daily updates from the courtroom, including the latest:

“There’s no consistent relationship between school resources and school achievement,” Hoover Institution scholar Eric Hanushek testified Thursday in the Lobato v. State school funding case.

Hanushek, a nationally known researcher on the economics of education, is the key expert witness for the state as it seeks to counter the plaintiffs’ claim that Colorado’s school funding system doesn’t adequately meet the education requirements of the state constitution.

Questioned by Senior Assistant Attorney General Carey Markel, Hanushek added, “Money certainly matters; you can’t run a school without money.” But, he added, “How you spend money is more important than how much … In general, you can’t expect any large achievement gains without changing the way you spend.”

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August
24th 2011
Rick Hess: Why Don’t Unions Stand Up for Effective Principals, Ed School Reform?

Posted under Education Politics & education schools & Innovation and Reform & PPC & Principals & School Finance & Teachers

Time is of the essence today, so one of my Education Policy Center friends will simply take a quick moment and point you to a very insightful blog passage about the dynamics of education reform. Take it away, Dr. Rick Hess:

…it strikes me as ludicrous for the unions to sit quietly by and share the blame for timid, tepid leadership, or when unions passively take the blame for weak teachers when teacher preparation programs produce graduates of dubious merit. In doing so, teachers and unions become complicit. The problem, I think, is a variation on Ted Sizer’s famed “Horace’s Compromise.” Teacher unions, superintendent and principal associations, schools of education, and school boards avoid calling each other out on such things, while focusing their energies on presenting a united front demanding more money and deference from taxpayers and policymakers. By the way, this phenomenon is part of what drives “reformers” to distraction. They can’t understand why so many supes and school boards seem to placidly accept onerous collective bargaining requirements, or why quality-conscious teachers don’t do more to call out feckless leadership.

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August
23rd 2011
In Two Major Studies on Academic Standards, Colorado is Statistical Oddball

Posted under Grades and Standards & math & PPC & reading & Research & School Accountability & State Board of Education

How did Colorado get to be the oddball? It’s got to be more than just so I would have something to tell you about. Oddball at what? you ask. Okay, let me back up and give you a little context.

Yesterday Harvard professor Paul Peterson wrote yesterday on Education Next about a new U.S. Department of Education report rating state math and reading standards for 4th and 8th grade. Though USDOE’s report didn’t acknowledge it, Dr. Peterson and his team had published very similar research — comparing state standards to the “gold standard” National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) — just a year ago:

Every state, for both reading and math (with the exception of Massachusetts for math), deems more students “proficient” on its own assessments than NAEP does. The average difference is a startling 37 percentage points.

Interestingly, the new USDOE report concludes: Continue Reading »

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August
22nd 2011
When Education and Politics Collide: Chicago Messes with Texas Edition

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Governor & Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & PPC & School Accountability & Teachers

I’m not sure what it is with big people’s fascination with politics, and how discussions about education seem to cross over into the absurd the closer big elections get. Case in point: the Republican governor of Texas announces he is a candidate for President. Less than a week later, the Democratic U.S. Secretary of Education levels a bizarre and scathing critique at the Lone Star State:

“Far too few of their high school graduates are actually prepared to go on to college,” Duncan said on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital With Al Hunt” airing tonight and tomorrow. “I feel very, very badly for the children there.”

“You have seen massive increases in class size,” Duncan said of the Texas public school system during Perry’s terms as governor since December 2000. “You’ve seen cutbacks in funding. It doesn’t serve the children well. It doesn’t serve the state well. It doesn’t serve the state’s economy well. And ultimately it hurts the country.”

Eduwonk and Time Magazine education columnist (and Democrat) Andrew Rotherham was as puzzled as anyone by the Secretary’s broadside, and got a chance to follow up directly: Continue Reading »

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August
18th 2011
Outside the Education Box: Blended Learning Opportunities for At-Risk Teenss

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & PPC & Public Charter Schools & School Accountability & School Choice & Urban Schools

A new piece for Education Next by June Kronholz profiles Virginia’s four Performance Learning Centers (PLCs) — blended learning environments that use online technology to help get struggling at-risk students to graduate high school (H/T Joanne Jacobs). The story is chocked full of interesting anecdotes and insights. This one caught my attention:

Students graduate when they earn the state-mandated 22 credits, but they can’t receive diplomas until spring. Firth, the Virginia PLC director, said he recently learned that some of those graduates-without-diplomas were being counted as absent by the district because, well, they weren’t in school. “We’re so outside the box and education is so inside the box,” [Richmond Technical Center PLC academic coordinator Wes] Hamner sighed.

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August
17th 2011
Four Takes on the Phi Delta Kappa Education Poll: Pretty Darn Klever, Huh?

Posted under Journalism & Just For Fun & Online Schools & PPC & School Choice & Teachers

It was to my youthful bemusement that today I ran across several edublog postings about a new “PDK” poll. PDK? At first I wondered that might stand for: Pretty Darn Klever? (or Kute?) Maybe Precociously Delightful Kid? (Guess they weren’t really talking about me, though….)

It’s actually the 43rd Phi Delta Kappa poll of American opinion on the public schools. Who has time to actually read it these days? Maybe you do, but instead I’ll just point you to some highlights brought out by more astute commentators: Continue Reading »

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August
16th 2011
Dougco Choice Injunction: What Now for Families? Who All Will Appeal?

Posted under Courts & High School & Independence Institute & Middle School & Parents & PPC & Private Schools & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools

My Education Policy Center friends told you the judge’s decision last Friday to put the brakes on the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program would create a lot of chaos for families. That’s the question of the hour: What are the more than 300 students who had received scholarships (and some had already started schools) going to do?

Just like families make different choices based on their students’ educational needs, so many of their fallback scenarios will be different. FOX 31 News highlights one Castle Rock family:

Two of Becky Barnes’ kids were enrolled in the voucher program. Now unable to pay their private school tuition she is working hard to get them enrolled in public schools. Her first grader will go back to the neighborhood school.

Her 7th grader will attend cyber school. Other families are choosing to stay at their private school and pay the tuition.

Becky Barnes is one of three parents whose emergency education plans were documented today in an article by Karin Piper. Another parent was Diana Oakley, mother of Nate Oakley, for whom things seem to be working out at least for now: Continue Reading »

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