Archive for November, 2011

30th 2011
How Would Colorado’s Largest School Districts Fare on Brookings Choice Index?

Posted under Denver & Parents & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

The Brookings Institution has released a new “Education Choice and Competition Index” (ECCI) to rate the availability of schooling options for families in the nation’s 25 largest school districts (H/T Eduwonk). RiShawn Biddle has a great breakdown of the index’s strengths and shortcomings, including the need for a clearer picture of the quality of choices and an expansion to cover more districts.

Expanding to the 100 largest districts, as Biddle urges, would include some of Colorado’s own. I’m pretty sure Denver Public Schools would do well on the ECCI, given the commitment to expanding charter and innovation school options. Interestingly, the Denver Post featured a piece yesterday about how DPS schools are increasing their efforts to market themselves to parents. Continue Reading »

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28th 2011
Critics Ought to Stop Bashing Straw-Constructed Online Education Facsimiles

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & Online Schools & Parents & School Board & School Choice

With all the breathless attention on K-12 online education these days, you’d almost think it was a brand-new phenomenon — not something that got its start in Colorado more than a decade ago. This time it’s the Washington Post, chiming in to note that some are questioning the educational value of cyberschools.

Am I surprised? No. Let me repeat what I’ve said many times: Full-time online education is by no means the best option for all students, or even most students. But it works very well for many families who have chosen the learning option. Which some might have a hard time understanding if you believe the straw man presented by an opponent in the Post story: Continue Reading »

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23rd 2011
Seven Things Eddie Can Be Thankful For, 2011 Colorado Education Edition

Posted under Courts & Denver & Education Politics & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Just For Fun & Online Schools & Parents & Principals & Private Schools & School Board & School Choice & School Finance & State Board of Education & Teachers

Pretty much nobody is in school today, as we all gear up for the big turkey feast tomorrow. As my parents constantly remind me, the fourth Thursday in November is about more than food and football. Yes, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks. While I could gratefully mention the standard fare — family, friends (like those big people in the Education Policy Center), freedom, our big screen TV, and my growing (ahem!) Legos collection — more fitting for the blog are seven things to be thankful for in Colorado K-12 education: Continue Reading »

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22nd 2011
Colorado Families, ‘Tis Almost the Season for Public School Open Enrollment!

Posted under Denver & Independence Institute & Parents & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

Update, 11/23: Ed News Colorado reports some more good news about the new DPS enrollment system: “Until recently it was uncertain whether all of the 35 charter schools in the DPS system would take part in SchoolChoice. The district now has a commitment from every charter to participate.”

The holiday season is upon us. I can practically smell the Thanksgiving feast a couple days away, and then the anticipation builds and builds and builds for Christmas! But your intrepid little Eddie is always looking ahead. For many school districts in Colorado, the month of January is open enrollment period — the time when students and parents can apply to get into a school outside their neighborhood for the coming school year. (Some deadlines come earlier than others: Douglas County parents have only until January 5 for their first-round application.)

Last time I checked into it, the trend of Colorado families taking advantage of open enrollment was still growing. And there’s no reason to believe it has changed. Continue Reading »


18th 2011
Talking Teacher Pay without Breaking Up a Party or Getting Soap in the Mouth

Posted under Federal Government & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Just For Fun & Research & Teachers

When I happened to mention to my mom and dad that I might blog about this issue, one of them said: “That’s the kind of topic you bring up when you want to break up a party.” Well, there isn’t any party going on here right now, so why not just throw the provocative question out there: Are teachers paid too much? Before you roll your eyes, pick up your coat and walk out in disgust, let me explain briefly.

It’s not this precocious little 5-year-old who’s dumping broccoli on the birthday cake. It’s Andrew Biggs and Jason Richwine, from a couple of Washington think tanks, who a couple weeks ago released the report Assessing the Compensation of Public School Teachers. Sounds pretty innocent, doesn’t it? Just wait. They released the report at an event called “Are Public School Teachers Overpaid?”

Now look. I could only begin to start explaining the research methods and the finer points of the debate. As a provocative way to bring attention to the topic of K-12 employee compensation, asking “Are Public School Teachers Overpaid?” is an effective way to bring attention to your work. And it definitely brought attention. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan responded directly in a Huffington Post column. Duncan comes across as unnecessarily snippy and personal — declaring that the study “insults teachers and demeans the profession.” (See my parents’ point about breaking up parties?) Continue Reading »

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17th 2011
Paul Hill Points Way Toward Colorado’s New Digital-Friendly K-12 Funding System

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Parents & Research & School Choice

As a nation and a state, we’re on the brink of a digital learning explosion. I’m talking about a system of education characterized by flexibility, freedom and personalization — one where online courses and opportunities are embraced wholeheartedly in a family or community context, or blended in various ways with traditional classrooms and school functions.

But we just can’t flip a digital learning switch, and solve all the ills of public education. One of the biggest obstacles to the important transformation is a dusty old system of school finance that delivers money to district administrative offices and allots it to schools through staffing formulas. Dr. Paul Hill, in his thoughtful new Fordham Institute issue brief titled School Finance in the Digital-Learning Era, notes:

This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to move money from concrete facilities, established programs, and entrenched staff roles to new uses like equipment, software, and remote instructional staff. Yet to encourage development and improvement of technology-based methods, we must find ways for public dollars to do just that—and to follow kids to online providers chosen by their parents, teachers, or themselves.

Will “disruptive innovation” overtake the existing K-12 education system, or will Colorado lawmakers make some serious changes to how it is funded first? As my Education Policy Center friends contemplate how to craft a school finance system for digital learning and the 21st century, they and others couldn’t find a better resource than Dr. Hill’s new piece. Continue Reading »


16th 2011
Independence Institute Report Helps Build K-12 Financial Transparency Momentum

Posted under Independence Institute & Research & Rural Schools & School Accountability & School Finance

Not long ago my Education Policy Center friends released a report analyzing how well Colorado’s 195 local education agencies (i.e., school districts and BOCES) are complying with the 2010 Public School Financial Transparency Act. As you might imagine, this kind of work presented the challenge of capturing a perfect static picture in a dynamic online world.

Not surprisingly, a few small provisions to the report have been posted. One case was an error. A couple of others posted the missing financial documents online at the close of the 11th hour. Those details have been ironed out, but the big picture findings remain unchanged: Continue Reading »

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15th 2011
Wall St. Journal, Larry Sand Shine Light on Digital Learning’s Growth & Potential

Posted under Edublogging & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & Online Schools & Public Charter Schools & Research & Teachers

Last week I told you that the first-ever Digital Learning Day is less than three months away. Someone out there must have been paying attention! Today the Wall Street Journal has a big — no, make that a huge! — article by Stephanie Banchero and Stephanie Simon about online education cleverly called “My Teacher Is An App”:

In a radical rethinking of what it means to go to school, states and districts nationwide are launching online public schools that let students from kindergarten to 12th grade take some—or all—of their classes from their bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens. Other states and districts are bringing students into brick-and-mortar schools for instruction that is largely computer-based and self-directed.

The first sentence talks about full-time online education, something that Colorado has had going for more than a decade. (You didn’t hear it from me, but a helpful new report on this topic from my Education Policy Center friends may be coming soon.) About 2 percent of our state’s K-12 public school students are enrolled in a full-time online program, and the number has been rising significantly in recent years. Continue Reading »

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14th 2011
Don’t Bet Against Nevada, Gov. Sandoval Breaking Through on School Choice

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

Occasionally I like to take a peek around at other states and see if there’s anything Colorado can glean from them, or vice versa, or just to get a bigger picture of the education reform debate. Today let’s look west at Nevada. Why? Because of the new School Reform News story penned — er, keyboarded? — my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow:

As four school reform bills Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) successfully championed earlier in 2011 go into effect, Sandoval is redoubling efforts to expand school choice and end social promotion for third-graders who lack basic reading skills.

Nevada’s House and Senate are currently controlled by Democrats. During this last session, they refused to grant a hearing to a voucher bill Sandoval backed. Nevada lawmakers convene every other year, so the governor’s next crack at improving K-12 education will come in 2013.

Continue Reading »

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10th 2011
Plan Early for Important Digital Learning Day: February 1, 2012, is Coming

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Parents & Private Schools & School Choice & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Teachers

Twelve weeks seems like a long time to someone my age, and I know it can be really hard for almost anyone to plan beyond the Christmas holiday and into the New Year. But I wanted to let you know about a great opportunity so you can mark your calendar right away for Wednesday, February 1, 2012, the first-ever Digital Learning Day:

a year-long campaign to celebrate bold, creative innovative teachers in classrooms across this nation. These front-line innovators are already embedding digital learning into new instructional practices to ensure that every student leaves the classroom ready for college, career and life success. We ask you to join with us, as with them, as we launch an unprecedented, collaborative effort to expand innovation into every city, town, school and classroom in America!

Former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise explains a little bit more in this 3-plus minute video: Continue Reading »


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