Archive for October, 2011

17th 2011
Effective Colorado Online K-12 Education? Change Policies Without More Regulation

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & Online Schools & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Accountability & School Choice & State Legislature

Colorado’s education story of the month has been the state of public online schools. An in-depth investigative report by Ed News Colorado (and Rocky Mountain Investigative News Network) coincided with a request for a formal legislative audit by the state senate’s highest-ranking Democratic official. Ed News Colorado’s three-part series:

The discouraging news cannot be completely brushed aside, yet the attention brought to online schools in Colorado demands context and a focus on genuine, equitable policy solutions that benefit students and support the ability of families to choose among excellent educational options. That’s why I have waited to write about the “story of the month” until my Education Policy Center friend Pam Benigno’s op-ed response was published today in the Denver Post: Continue Reading »


12th 2011
Overcoming Denver School Board Race Voucher “Myth-Information”

Posted under Denver & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Private Schools & School Board & School Choice & Urban Schools

A couple days ago I shared with you my amusement at a Denver Post headline and story that injected the rumor of “vouchers” into the board race for Colorado’s largest school district: Jefferson County. What about the state’s second-largest district? Well, the big story over at Ed News Colorado right now is “Vouchers a tricky issue in DPS race”:

When a newly-formed committee called Latinos for Education Reform placed ads in several community newspapers criticizing the records of both [Denver Public Schools board incumbent Arturo] Jimenez and board member Andrea Merida – who is not up for re-election this year – the Jimenez campaign initially complained of “race-baiting.”

But Jimenez followed that with a newsletter to supporters claiming LFER is misrepresenting itself and that its ads “are being pushed by pro-voucher individuals and special-interest groups,” making reference to “radical pro-voucher activists from Douglas County.”

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11th 2011
Wyoming School Makes Me See Myself as “Sr. Online Communication Specialist”

Posted under Elementary School & Innovation and Reform & Just For Fun & Parents & Rural Schools

Hey, wait a minute! Doesn’t America have an unemployment problem? Do we need a bunch of kids glutting the job market? I have to ask because Michelle Luce, writing for Education Debate at Online Schools, brought my attention to a Fox News story about a Wyoming school giving jobs to elementary students:

“My son Kaleb is a pencil sharpener –” his mother Angie Hiller started.

“– Writing tool assistant,” Coffeen’s school counselor Jennifer Black corrected, smiling.

Kaleb is one of many students who hold volunteer “leadership jobs” at Coffeen — one of several new initiatives at the elementary school that encourage responsibility, accountability and prepare students for the real world, according to Coffeen [Elementary] Principal Nicole Trahan.[link added]

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10th 2011
Bogey Man School Board Story in Colorado’s Largest District Lifts Hopes

Posted under Education Politics & Parents & Private Schools & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Teachers

Hey, guess what everybody? I heard that some people running for office right now want not only to bring bogey men into little kids’ bedrooms like mine, but also to feed them (with whatever bogey men eat) and…. It’s just a rumor, you say? Well, someone should write a story about it anyway. Call the Denver Post, if you’re the teachers union that is:

There’s a major power play happening in the Jefferson County school-board race that could mean big changes in the near future, including a possible move, some say, to add vouchers to the slate of choices in the district.

Hats off to the Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA) — aka the teachers union in Colorado’s largest school district — for getting their rumor printed as a headline and a lead. But I also thought the candidates they were trying to scare people about made a clear response: Continue Reading »


7th 2011
R.I.P. Steve Jobs, Sensible and Courageous Voice for Education Reform, Too

Posted under Innovation and Reform & School Choice & Teachers

A couple days ago we lost a great American entrepreneur: Steve Jobs. A million words have been offered up to commemorate his untimely passing, and the tremendous impact his genius and innovation have had on our society and our daily lives. There’s not much more I can say. I’m too young to remember life before the iPod and iPhone, and certainly before the personal computer.

But here’s a perspective you may not have seen yet. Writing at Education Next, Dr. Jay Greene brings our attention to some of the things Jobs had to say about education reform. Here’s just a snippet, from a 1995 interview:

…But it pains me because we do know how to provide a great education. We really do. We could make sure that every young child in this country got a great education. We fallfar short of that…. The problem there of course is the unions. The unions are the worst thing that ever happened to education because it’s not a meritocracy. It turns into a bureaucracy, which is exactly what has happened. The teachers can’t teach and administrators run the place and nobody can be fired. It’s terrible.

Dr. Greene goes on to remind readers how Jobs was rather exceptional among successful entrepreneurs and business leaders in that he abandoned neither keen sense nor courage in making pronouncements about the problems and prescriptions for schools. He took on a controversy that could have cost business for his company, yet he persevered and succeeded anyway. Just one more reason why this exceptional man will be missed.

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5th 2011
Time to Follow Florida and End Social Promotion for 3rd Graders Who Can’t Read

Posted under Grades and Standards & Independence Institute & Research & State Legislature & Teachers

Yesterday I told you that effective education reform might be ready to give Iowa a try. A major piece of the plan proposed by Gov. Terry Branstad and education department leader Jason Glass is to end social promotion for 3rd graders who can’t read. Well, my timing as usual is golden, since key Colorado education leaders yesterday gave serious discussion to moving the very same reform issue forward. Ed News Colorado reports:

The anxiety level in the room rose quickly after Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs and chair of the House Education Committee, briefed the group on his idea for a bill that would hold back third-graders who are the furthest behind in literacy. [link added]

About five years ago my Education Policy Center friends hosted an event with a couple experts who explained some major reasons behind Colorado’s “reading crisis.” Not all kids will be reading as well at the 3rd grade as I am, unfortunately. Let’s hope the issue of teacher training doesn’t get overlooked in this policy discussion. Not surprisingly, though, the idea to end social promotion already has opposition: Continue Reading »


4th 2011
Inquiring Minds: Is Major Education Reform About Ready to Give Iowa a Try?

Posted under Governor & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & School Accountability & Teachers

In this musical play my grandma told me about, called The Music Man, there’s a song that strongly suggests people from Iowa are stubborn, and (kinda tongue-in-cheek) tells listeners that “you really ought to give Iowa a try.” Back in January, my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow noted how one-time Colorado education innovator Jason Glass had been hired to run Iowa’s state education department.

What’s the connection? The Des Moines Register reports today that Gov. Terry Branstad and his education man Glass have proposed “the most sweeping and comprehensive changes to Iowa’s education system in the state’s history.” Reported areas of major change include: Continue Reading »


3rd 2011
Suttons Bay Joins Harrison with More NFL-Like Teacher Pay Innovations

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Rural Schools & Teachers & Urban Schools

Last week I shared with you an update about the Harrison School District’s forward-thinking teacher compensation system. Led by superintendent Mike Miles, the Colorado Springs-area district is one of the few in the state, or even in the nation, to completely discard the old salary schedule and its rigid payment of teachers based on years of experience and graduate course credits.

The timing of my update turns out to be really good. This morning I found out that a school district in Michigan, of all places, is pushing forward with a plan to pay its 60 teachers more like attorneys and less like blue-collar factory workers:

Suttons Bay Public Schools has achieved a rarity – a teachers union contract that pays teachers for performance and not seniority. While most every other Michigan district has a salary schedule that gives automatic raises to teachers for every year they work, Suttons Bay approved a four-year contract that groups teachers based upon performance, starting in the 2012-2013 school year….

“This is a vast improvement over the factory model compensation system used in nearly every school district throughout the country,” [Mackinac Center for Public Policy education policy director Michael] Van Beek wrote in an email. “Teachers are going to be rewarded for their classroom performance and leadership, not simply for years on the job or number of college credits completed. Effective teachers will be able to secure higher pay more quickly, but highly paid teachers will also have to constantly demonstrate their value to the district. This creates a much more professional environment, and one that’s zeroed in on a singular goal — increased student learning.”

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