Archive for December, 2011

23rd 2011
Winding Down 2011 by Looking Ahead to Colorado Digital Learning Gains in 2012

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Parents & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice & State Legislature & Teachers

I don’t think you’ll see me writing much more for the blog this year. Can you believe it’s almost 2012? Well, just in case this is the last post of the calendar year, I wanted to make sure it’s an important one. Looking at the growing world of digital learning certainly qualifies. Basically, I’m past due in telling you about a great new publication my Education Policy Center friends have created for parents: Choosing a Colorado Online School for Your Child by Ella Peterson and Pam Benigno.

Along with our fantastic School Choice for Kids website, this is definitely something you’ll want to know about for 2012, if you are at all interested in looking for a new public school for your child here in the great Centennial State. Many school district open enrollment periods really get rolling in January. This kind of guide can be very valuable if you think the cyberschool option might be right for your family.

Shortly thereafter comes the first-ever national Digital Learning Day on February 1. Colorado is one of at least 27 states to have signed on as a partner to this effort. Participating in Digital Learning Day is something I definitely look forward to!

Meanwhile, as we here in Colorado are fighting back against the overwrought attacks on full-time online schools, yesterday comes this excellent commentary in the Detroit News by Ingrid Jacques: Continue Reading »


22nd 2011
Governor Appeals Lobato Ruling; State Board May Need Some Holiday Cheer First

Posted under Courts & Governor & Independence Institute & School Finance & State Board of Education

Talk about making an important decision before Christmas AND the big snowstorm that hit the Denver area and the foothills. Yesterday morning Governor John Hickenlooper announced that he will appeal the outrageous school finance ruling in Lobato v State:

“…a final resolution of the constitutional and legal issues involved in the case require an appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court.

“The judge’s decision provided little practical guidance on how the state should fund a ‘thorough and uniform’ system of public education. Moreover, while the judge focused on the inadequacy of state funding, she did not reconcile this issue with other very relevant provisions of the Constitution, including the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, the Gallagher Amendment and Amendment 23….”

Along these same lines, UCCS political scientist Joshua Dunn even more strongly pointed out on a recent iVoices podcast that Judge Rappaport’s ruling uniquely demonstrated “an absolute contempt for the constitution” by openly stating she could ignore those important constitutional provisions. In comments for a School Reform News story written by my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow and released on Tuesday, Dunn made a couple other key observations, including: Continue Reading »

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21st 2011
New Center for Ed Reform Research Compiles Charter School Closure Data

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Parents & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice

Not long ago I told you how the number of Colorado students enrolling in charter schools was rising quickly. This followed closely on the heels of a national study debunking anti-charter mythology and showing where the real strengths of this public education option tend to stand.

One of the oft-cited advantages of charters is the greater level of accountability that allows them to be closed down much more easily than other public schools when they aren’t working as they should. Until now, though, I’m not aware of any comprehensive data telling just how many charters have closed over the course of nearly 20 years since the first states adopted a law.

The Center for Education Reform finds that 15 percent of all American charter schools that ever existed — 1,036 out of about 6,700 — have closed for a variety of reasons. CER’s original research breaks down the frequency of these different reasons as follows: Continue Reading »

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20th 2011
2012 is Coming, Time to Gear Up for the Second National School Choice Week

Posted under Just For Fun & Private Schools & School Choice

Can it be nearly a year since the first-ever National School Choice Week? You remember what a big deal I made of it then. Well, here’s fair warning that the second annual National School Choice Week is only a month away, with a great video to share in telling your friends about it:

It’s getting too near to Christmas for me to write any more. Rather than get antsy and bother you with some rambling commentary, here are links to my posts last year from National School Choice Week:

I understand that Colorado has some big things in store for the second edition of National School Choice Week. Stay tuned…


19th 2011
Denver Post Tackles Long-Studied Problem of Tax-Funded Teachers Union Release Time

Posted under Independence Institute & Journalism & School Accountability & School Board & School Finance & State Legislature & Teachers

Update, 1/5/12: Chris Tessone at the Flypaper blog also makes note of the Denver Post story, correctly observing: “It’s difficult to make an argument that taxpayers should be directly subsidizing union leaders. Organized labor already extracts indirect subsidies by skimming dues from teachers’ paychecks, sometimes against the desires of teachers.”

Guess what! Just over a week ago I banged on a drum that may have started to hurt some of your ears by now. The drum is the madness of taxpayer-funded release time for Colorado teachers unions. And then (out of the blue?) yesterday the front page of the Denver Post shouts about “Colorado teachers unions under fire for taxpayer subsidies from school districts.” Thanks so much to reporter Karen Crummy not only for taking note of this issue my Education Policy Center friends have highlighted for years but also for doing lots of her own digging to tell a pretty disturbing story.

The Post‘s findings about the number of districts paying tax dollars for union officers and other teachers to leave the classroom, and the lack of accountability for the practice, track very closely with the findings in Independence Institute papers from 2004 and 2010. That’s probably why Crummy saw fit to interview and quote one of my Education Policy Center friends:

“It’s bad enough that they pay for union release time at all, but to not even have a basic level of accountability, especially in these tighter budget times?” said Ben DeGrow, an education policy analyst at the Independence Institute who has advocated that schools change union leave policies. “It’s kind of appalling.”

Yes, you could say that, especially when the article identified more than $5.8 million in taxpayer subsidies to teachers unions over the past five years. But don’t worry, the state’s largest teachers union gave the Post an answer for that: Continue Reading »


15th 2011
Denver Innovation Schools Report Does Little to Resolve Policy Debate

Posted under Denver & Innovation and Reform & Principals & Research & Teachers & Urban Schools

Back in the warm summertime, which seems so long ago, I brought attention to a thoughtful essay that called into question the success of the Innovation Schools Act. My thoughts on the matter really haven’t changed since then — I still believe despite the clear limitations there is a place for innovation schools, though not as prevalent or prominent as some might have hoped.

Yesterday brought the release of a three-year study on the eight earliest Denver innovation schools — including Bruce Randolph, Cole, Manual and Montclair. One key, hopeful finding? Successful innovation schools exhibit “positive cultures,” which contributes to steady, effective principal leadership.

Still, the two news stories on the study make similar points. The Denver Post highlights that innovation status is simply a tool, not a magic bullet. Meanwhile, Ed News Colorado’s headline trumpets the major (and not terribly surprising) finding that the “innovation law doesn’t spark major change.” One point in the study touched on in the latter story did cause me to roll my eyes a bit: Continue Reading »

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14th 2011
Share News of Dec. 15 Teachers Union Political Refund Deadline for the Holidays!

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Teachers

Little Eddie is learning to be generous during the holiday season. That’s why I’m helping my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow with one of his favorite charities: informing and reminding Colorado teachers of their membership options. It’s especially important this time of year, because tomorrow (December 15) is the deadline for members of the Colorado Education Association (CEA) to get back their Every Member Option (EMO) funds.

What’s that, you may ask? EMO is money automatically collected with union member dues to spend on state and local political campaigns. Still need a clearer picture? Watch this 14-minute segment with the Independence Institute’s Jon Caldara interviewing Ben on his weekly public affairs show Devil’s Advocate about the Colorado teachers union political refund: Continue Reading »

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13th 2011
Effective Math and Science Program Making Big Leap in Colorado High Schools

Posted under Denver & High School & Middle School & Sciences & Teachers

Raise your hand if you agree with me that the USA — and Colorado in particular — can do a better job preparing enough students for success in the areas science, math and technology. Don’t worry about feeling self-conscious if you are in a room with other people. If you can’t overcome it, at least mentally raise your hand. That’s right. If you agree with me, and I don’t see how you couldn’t, then you should be excited by some news I have to share.

The National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) is a four-year-old program (younger than me!) that has demonstrated successful results in increasing the number of students who pass Advanced Placement (AP) exams in math and science, particularly among underprivileged students. The Colorado Legacy Foundation has reported similar positive results here in our state for the seven schools who participated in a less-than-fully-vamped version of the program in 2010-11.

The news? The effective math and science program is expanding dramatically in Colorado: Continue Reading »

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12th 2011
New Colorado School Grades Website Offers Important Info to Families

Posted under Independence Institute & Parents & School Accountability & School Choice

Having more educational choices by itself is a good thing. Yet without enough accompanying information for families to make wise and effective choices, a lot of potential is lost. That’s one of the reasons why my Education Policy Center friends continue to offer the fantastic School Choice for Kids (SCFK) website, with all its helpful information for parents.

Today brings the launch of another helpful site that complements the work of SCFK. As the name suggests, the new site does something that SCFK does not. Namely, it rates schools and gives them a grade based on measures of academic performance (static numbers) and academic growth (progress over time). In a sense, it’s like the next generation of the school report cards the Independence Institute pioneered once upon a time before the state adopted — and later discarded — School Accountability Reports. Continue Reading »

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9th 2011
Please, Please, Stop the Taxpayer-Funded (Colorado Teachers) Union Madness!

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & School Accountability & School Finance & Teachers

Sometimes you have to look outside the world of education to capture attention for issues affecting Colorado schools and the students and taxpayers invested in their success. Two headlines in particular popped up this week. The first comes from the Goldwater Institute in Arizona, which is litigating Cheatham v. Gordon, a troubling case of wasted tax dollars in Phoenix and other cities:

The contract provides an estimated $900,000 in annual release time for police union work, including lobbying. Six officers are released from city work on a full-time basis (each receiving 160 hours of overtime at 1.5x their regular salary). PLEA also uses 35 representatives. These representatives are not given a set amount of release time. Instead, they are authorized to use an unspecified amount of release time to accompany fellow officers to grievance meetings, use of force hearings, etc…. Release time harms police officers….

Then yesterday, the national website Real Clear Markets featured commentary from the Manhattan Institute’s Diana Furchtgott-Roth that the federal government is dishing out huge sums of taxpayer dollars for bureaucrats not to work: Continue Reading »

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