Archive for April, 2012

30th 2012
Union Leaders Bullying Teachers Is Not Something We Have to Accept, Either

Posted under Edublogging & Education Politics & Research & State Legislature & Teachers

There’s a lot of talk these days in education about dealing with the perennial problem of school bullies. Not long ago an acclaimed movie was released, and President Obama spoke out against it, while new research suggests that it leads victims to hurt themselves more and special-needs students to suffer from anxiety and depression.

Hey, I can’t imagine if some big, mean kid wanted to come beat me up and take my lunch money because — who knows? — maybe I’m a cute and clever blogging prodigy. But it could conceivably happen. Maybe they’d just want to call me mean and nasty names like “Blog Geek.” I don’t know. But a new Washington Examiner column by Joy Pullmann quite clearly brings home that there’s a whole other kind of school bullying going on:

Earlier this month, the presidents of America’s two largest teachers unions co-hosted a screening of the new documentary “Bully.” The movie, of course, aims to combat bullying of schoolchildren.

But even as they publicly eschew bullying, these unions and their locals across the nation bully teachers and competing organizations to maintain membership and power….

Continue Reading »


25th 2012
Advancing Digital Learning Reforms Means Hard (and Smart) Work Lies Ahead

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

Digital learning is much more than a buzzword. It’s a real trend in K-12 education that’s growing faster than any single person or entity can keep up with. The effective use of technology in instruction to enhance student learning experiences takes on a variety of forms — including full-time online education programs and numerous blended learning models. Like many other reforms, it can be done well or done badly.

While digital learning is no magical silver bullet to save every student in every school, neither is it something to be feared. Rather, the opportunity needs to be embraced as a tool to strengthen and enhance the reach of quality instruction, to improve and diversify curricula, to focus staff time and energy, and provide for more productive use of education dollars.

I can’t begin to try to point you to all the important nooks and crannies of this issue, but the Thomas B. Fordham Institute has brought together some of the best current thinking in their new book Education Reform for the Digital Era. (If you’d rather pop up some popcorn, Fordham also has just released a 90-minute video panel discussion on this very theme.)

Well worth the read is the book’s introduction. Fordham’s Checker Finn and Daniela Fairchild lay out the large-scale challenges facing any major effort to maximize digital learning capabilities for students: Continue Reading »

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24th 2012
House Bill 1333 Options for Teachers Generates Tweets, Clears First Committee

Posted under Denver & Edublogging & Education Politics & Independence Institute & State Legislature & Teachers

Last week I brought your attention to Denver teacher Ronda Reinhardt’s story of the union denying her ability to opt out. She was excited to see a legislative solution proposed, a bill that succeeded yesterday at its first official hearing yesterday, passing Colorado’s House Education Committee:

House Bill 1333, sponsored by Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, and heard in the House Education Committee, would give school districts 30 days to cancel a teacher’s payroll deductions for vunion [sic] dues after receiving written notification from the teacher.

Under collective bargaining agreements ruling many larger school districts, teachers only may cancel their membership within a two-to-three week “opt-out window” at the beginning of the school year. If they miss the window, they’re obligated to pay dues for the rest of the year.

Two groups came forward to testify against this commonsense legislative proposal. The only argument made by both the Colorado Association of School Boards and the Colorado Education Association was that giving teachers more options somehow would violate “local control.” Yes, they seriously hung their case on the claim that the state has no compelling interest whatsoever in ensuring basic rights for teachers. Would CEA make the same case against a state policy that provides classroom instructors with due policy tenure protections? You make the call! Continue Reading »


19th 2012
Dougco, Dougco, Dougco! State Board Reapproves Teacher Licensure Waiver

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Just For Fun & State Board of Education & Suburban Schools & Teachers

Before diving in, I have to be up front with you: Yes, this is the third time in less than 10 days I’m writing about Douglas County. (And it has nothing to do with the fact that the first legal documents were filed this week in the appeal of last August’s district court permanent injunction overreach — though I’m getting ready for a Court of Appeals hearing to take place some time this summer.) No, this one may lie even further beneath the radar.

In 2008 my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow published an innovative school district issue paper titled Douglas County’s Home-Grown Teachers: The Learning Center Waiver Program. Since 2007 the district has had the freedom essentially to train its own teachers in key strategic areas:

The waivers enable the Douglas County Learning Center to train three types of teaching candidates:

  • Alternative licensure for non-licensed applicants with content expertise in highneeds areas—especially math, science, foreign language, and technical trades
  • Teachers-in-Residence (TIR) primarily for licensed applicants with non-special education teaching endorsements to become special education instructors
  • Professionals-in-Residence (PIR) for non-licensed professional applicants who “are not interested in seeking licensure” but want to teach a course on a specialized topic

So what’s the news? Continue Reading »

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18th 2012
Denver Teacher Tells Frustrating Union Opt-Out Story: Here Comes HB 1333

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Independence Institute & State Legislature & Teachers

About a month ago I innocently raised the question: Is someone ready to take care of Colorado teachers’ “Hotel California” problem? A 2010 article by my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow highlighted a couple real-life examples of teachers who were harmed by the tight revocation deadlines and burdensome procedures for many teachers who simply want to end their union dues deduction.

Then today the Denver Post has published a “guest commentary” written by yet another teacher, Ronda Reinhardt, who last year missed the Denver Classroom Teachers Association’s November 15 deadline to cancel her union membership payments. You’re better off taking a couple minutes to read her frustrating story, but here she points out the silver lining: Continue Reading »

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16th 2012
Vincent Carroll Sounds Bold Themes of Dougco School Board Budget Proposal

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & School Board & School Finance & Suburban Schools & Teachers

Last week I brought your attention to the Douglas County school board’s bold proposals heading into historic open negotiations. (Thank you, Parent Led Reform!) While I’m little and sometimes notice things that most big people do not, that’s certainly not the case with the Dougco budget proposal.

In fact, Denver Post columnist Vincent Carroll yesterday delved into a few areas I barely touched on, particularly in relation to how district teachers are paid:

In contract negotiations with the district’s teacher union, the board has signaled it wants to move toward a system in which pay scales are related to the relative scarcity (or abundance) of various categories of teachers. That way, the district hopes to attract the best possible applicants.

In other words, if the district gets hundreds of applications every time it has an opening for a physical education instructor but only a few applications to teach AP calculus, why should it pay the same for both of those career paths?

Continue Reading »


11th 2012
Encouraging News: Performance Pay in Harrison Gradually Gaining Teacher Support

Posted under Independence Institute & Research & Teachers & Urban Schools

I’m busy tweeting about the landmark first day of open union negotiations in Colorado’s third largest school district — Douglas County — so you’ll have to forgive a shorter post for today.

In my normal brilliantly childlike fashion, I jump at the opportunity to put together two topics I’ve written about recently. What are those two things? A survey of teacher opinion and the Harrison School District Two’s cutting-edge performance pay system.

Put them together and what do you get? An in-depth article yesterday from the Gazette‘s Carol McGraw gives the answer: Continue Reading »


10th 2012
Dougco Board Proposes Teacher Raises, Performance Pay, & Ending Union Privileges

Posted under Innovation and Reform & School Board & School Choice & School Finance & Suburban Schools & Teachers

I write a lot about Douglas County here, and with good reason. The school board there has charted a bold course. Hey, it wasn’t much more than a year ago that they voted to establish the first locally-created private school choice program in the nation. More recently, they demonstrated their commitment to transparency by voting to open union negotiations to public view.

Tomorrow morning’s Dougco open negotiations Twitter Rally, which yours truly will be a part of, should be noteworthy not only for the breakthrough moment but for the content of the conversation. Because, you guessed right, it sure looks like the Board of Education of Colorado’s third-largest school district has taken the bold approach.

While leaders in the 42,000-student Adams 12 school district “are proposing a 3 percent reduction in employee pay through furlough days and an increased pension contribution,” Dougco is offering up a more appealing plan to : Continue Reading »


5th 2012
Baseball Season (and the Inevitable Comparisons with Education Reform) is Back

Posted under Independence Institute & Journalism & Just For Fun & School Finance & Teachers

What role should value-added test scores play in evaluating teacher performance? While I’m not going to take both sides of the debate, like the nation’s largest teachers union has done recently, there is more nuance to the question than the purpose of this post is suited to address. Maybe you can come to next week’s Education Policy Center event on Teachers Matter with Dr. Marcus Winters and get his thoughts.

Part of the debate, however, has filtered into the issue of whether teachers’ value-added (aka VA) performance scores should be disclosed to the public. A couple years ago the Los Angeles Times stirred up controversy by publishing teacher ratings. In February the “Old Gray Lady” herself, the New York Times, followed suit.

Rather than opine on the controversy myself, it seems a far better (and easier) approach to bring your attention to the insightful and creative commentary of California’s Larry Sand, author and former teacher known for espousing commonsense views on education issues: Continue Reading »

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4th 2012
Fordham Offers a Few Good Suggestions to Improve Colorado K-12 Accountability

Posted under Independence Institute & Parents & Research & School Accountability & School Choice & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Teachers

Calling all Colorado education policy makers and policy wonks: I hope you’ll check out this new Fordham Institute report Defining Strong State Accountability Systems: How Can Better Standards Gain Greater Traction? My Education Policy Center friends and I can’t endorse everything in the publication.

But it’s worth looking at because Colorado is one of seven state accountability systems profiled. The 2009 CAP4K changes to the state’s accountability law, as well as 2010′s educator effectiveness legislation, were both cited as key reasons for including the Centennial State in the analysis. The authors make some excellent points to chew on.

First, improvements can be made to the way district and school performance data are presented: Continue Reading »

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