Archive for March, 2012

30th 2012
PACE Teachers Weigh In on Pensions, Open Negotiations, Funding, and Literacy

Posted under Online Schools & School Finance & Teachers

The Professional Association of Colorado Educators (PACE) — a young, small, but growing (Hey, sounds like me!) non-union teacher membership organization — this week released the results of a member survey on some key education policy issues facing our state. With a Spring Break Friday sailing me away into lazy oblivion, today seemed like the perfect opportunity to step back and see the informed opinions of more than 100 Colorado teachers.

Without further ado on this quick-hit post, here are some results from the PACE member survey: Continue Reading »

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29th 2012
Many Colo. Parents Aren’t Buying SB 130′s Early Childhood Bureaucratic Change

Posted under Early Childhood & Governor & Independence Institute & Parents & State Legislature

Look, I’m still young, but I’m learning that there are some different major philosophies out there about what government can and should do. My friends around this place believe that government’s role should be limited and tend to be very skeptical when proposals come forward to expand the government’s role. This one issue is a little bit outside the realm of K-12 education, but it’s drawn some late and well-deserved attention from a couple grassroots groups that also cover the issue.

I’m talking about Senate Bill 130, which just passed the legislature’s upper chamber and is on its way to the Republican-majority House. The legislation would create a new government bureaucratic agency known as the “Early Childhood and School Readiness Commission.”

My friends at Parent Led Reform correctly identify some red flags:

It is touted as merely a bill to restruct [sic] state departments for the sake of efficiency and money savings.

But parents aren’t buying it. Continue Reading »

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27th 2012
In Denver on April 12? Bring Your Brown Bag Lunch to a “Teachers Matter” Event

Posted under Independence Institute & Research & Teachers

If you live in the Denver area, please mark your calendars for April 12. My Education Policy Center friends are hosting a brown bag lunch event with a special guest speaker. Dr. Marcus Winters, a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs assistant professor and Manhattan Institute senior fellow, will be sharing the findings and recommendations from his new book Teachers Matter: Rethinking How Public Schools Identify, Reward, and Retain Great Educators:

The question is, how do we sort out the good teachers from the bad? Winters shows the shortcomings of the current system, which relies on credentials and longevity, and spells out a series of reforms based on results achieved in the classroom. For the first time, standardized test results offer an objective, reliable measure of student proficiency that can be tied to an individual teacher. Sure to be controversial, Winters’s plan will be of interest to the education community, policy makers, and parents concerned about the future of education in America.

I’m so glad that Dr. Winters lives in Colorado and can drive up to visit the Independence Institute. The invitation to the event reminds us that the issue is one of profound and timely relevance in our own state: Continue Reading »

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26th 2012
Late-Night Louisiana House Advances School Choice, Tenure Reform Bills

Posted under Governor & Parents & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & School Accountability & School Choice & State Legislature & Teachers

A lot of big people were paying attention to Louisiana this weekend because of some big presidential primary election there. But I’m more interested in Bayou State developments from the world of K-12 education. And they look pretty big from here.

Last Thursday night Republicans and Democrats in the Louisiana House of Representatives came together to approve a major educational voucher and charter school expansion (House Bill 976). The programs are mainly aimed at low-income students enrolled in schools with mediocre or poor performance on the state’s accountability system. The discussion and vote (63-42) went late into the night. Continue Reading »

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23rd 2012
Harrison Teacher Performance Pay: Fordham’s Guide to Serious Reform

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Research & Teachers

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about the performance pay plan in Colorado Springs’ Harrison School District, so you may not be up to speed on this cutting-edge innovation. At that time, six months ago, Harrison superintendent Mike Miles was sharing the district’s story around Ohio.

From those events has come at last an excellent Fordham Institute publication with Superintendent Miles himself as the lead author — “to serve as a tool and model for Ohio’s school districts” (and for others as well). I don’t think he’s far off to describe Harrison’s compensation reform as “arguably the boldest pay-for-performance plan in the country.” It’s certainly the boldest in Colorado, and there are only a handful of other districts that even could be considered in the running.

The Fordham report is worth reading in full, as it gives a critical, in-depth look beyond even what my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow wrote in his 2011 issue paper Pioneering Teacher Compensation Reform. Miles lays out in detail the thoughtful and balanced approach to making transformational change, while also answering many of the common objections to teacher performance pay. Here are a baker’s dozen highlights that give the flavor of how different teacher compensation works in Harrison: Continue Reading »


22nd 2012
Dougco Board and HB 1118: Tuesday’s Colorado Open Union Negotiations Two-Fer

Posted under Independence Institute & School Board & School Finance & State Legislature & Suburban Schools & Teachers

Timing is everything, they say. What were the odds that these two key votes would go down the same day? The dual development certainly is noteworthy.

On Tuesday the Colorado House of Representatives adopted House Bill 1118, which simply requires school districts to open up union negotiations to public observation so taxpayers and teachers can see dollars and interests negotiated in good faith. The vote was 33 to 31, with one member absent. All other Democrats but one voted No. All Republicans but one voted Yes.

Later that night the Douglas County Board of Education unanimously voted to approve a resolution that the district’s union negotiations be held in public view. Last month the grassroots group Parent Led Reform, led by local mom Karin Piper, proposed the issue before the Board. Continue Reading »


21st 2012
Independence Institute Shares Colorado’s Own Digital Learning Roadmap

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Parents & Preschool & School Accountability & School Choice & School Finance & Teachers

Do you ever get lost, driving around a big city and missing your destination? Maybe you pass the same landmark two, three, or even four times, getting more frustrated along the way. Maybe your GPS is malfunctioning, or maybe you just wish you had a GPS! For me, the feeling comes as I search for the pirates’ buried stash of gold doubloons (okay, it’s really some of those chocolate candies wrapped in gold foil, but please play along). What makes it so much easier to find the treasure?

That’s right, a map. A treasure map. X marks the spot. Now it isn’t exactly the same, but today my Education Policy Center friends officially released “The Future of Colorado Digital Learning: Crafting a Policy Roadmap for Reform.” A quick read with some pretty graphics (thanks, Tracy!), it lays out the main policy changes that many of the state’s online education leaders see as important — including some of the important changes Center director Pam Benigno highlighted in an op-ed last fall.

From the media release sent out this morning: Continue Reading »

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16th 2012
Is Someone Ready to Take Care of Colorado Teachers’ “Hotel California” Problem?

Posted under Denver & Independence Institute & School Board & Teachers

Quite awhile ago I highlighted the work of my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow discussing the issue of union revocation periods. What is that, you say? Well, teachers in 30 Colorado school districts (and other school employees in 11 districts) have just a short window of time to cancel their membership dues deduction.

You read that right. They can decide at any point during the year to start paying dues to a union. But if they wish to stop, they have to wait until the busy first two weeks of September or pay dues the rest of the year. If 148 school districts can accommodate requests throughout the year, why are employees in the rest accorded less equal treatment?

As introduced in an August 2010 article Ben wrote for Liberty Ink Journal, a one-time Denver teacher named Deb found out it’s not just the two-week window that imposes a burden: Continue Reading »

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15th 2012
Dougco School Board Approves Choice Program: Looking Back One Year Later

Posted under Courts & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools

Can you believe it was one year ago today that the Douglas County Board of Education voted to adopt the groundbreaking Pilot Choice Scholarship Program? (Can you also believe that I was 5 years old then and am still 5 years old now? I need to talk to my Education Policy Center friends about this.) Time certainly flies.

So rather than diving into the news of the day, it seemed fitting to feature a brief retrospective. A lot has happened since then. To refresh your memory, here are some of the highlights: Continue Reading »


14th 2012
Denver Mayor Hancock and Andre Agassi Discussed Education Reform: A Good Sign?

Posted under Denver & Federal Government & Independence Institute & Just For Fun & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & State Legislature & Teachers

A couple weeks ago I excitedly tweeted about a great blog piece in which four of Colorado’s leading Democrats — Lt. Governor Joe Garcia, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, and State Senator Michael Johnston — explained why they support school choice.

Then today Todd Shepherd of Complete Colorado forwarded me an interesting little tidbit of information that ties right in. It’s a tidbit that (to the best of my knowledge) no one has reported on, and hey, even 5-year-old blogging prodigies like to share scoops once in awhile. Apparently, on January 9 of this year, Mayor Hancock took a 30-minute call from former tennis champion Andre Agassi on the subject of “Education Reform.”

Some of you may be scratching your head, but there is a good reason not to be surprised. After holding the number 1 world ranking, winning eight Grand Slam singles titles and claiming an Olympic gold medal, Mr. Agassi opened a highly-successful Las Vegas charter school, the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy. The school has graduated close to 100 percent of its mostly low-income students ready to do college work. Continue Reading »

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