Archive for July, 2012

31st 2012
Let’s Treat Irreplaceables (Teachers, Not Cartoon Superheroes) Accordingly

Posted under Just For Fun & Principals & Research & Teachers & Urban Schools

One of the themes my Education Policy Center friends and I like to harp on is how poorly most of our K-12 system does in distinguishing high-quality educators from their low-performing counterparts. And the problem is especially pronounced in low-income urban communities, where tremendous need exists for great instruction to compensate for the challenges more students bring to school.

Do we provide the top-tier teachers real opportunities for more pay, career advancement, specialization, and expanded student reach? How about this one: Do schools work to keep the highest-performing instructors at a significantly greater rate than their peers who provide 5 to 6 months less of learning per year?

Education Week guest bloggers Sydney Morris and Evan Stone (co-founders of Educators for Excellence) say teachers are not surprised to hear the answer. Whether or not you are shocked, the findings of the latest report from The New Teacher Project (TNTP) should be disturbing: Continue Reading »

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30th 2012
Let’s Put Together Good Ideas to Improve How We Hold K-12 Schools Accountable

Posted under Federal Government & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & School Accountability & School Finance & Teachers

More than 10 years after Washington, D.C., gave us the No Child Left Behind era, the issue of educational accountability is returning to the forefront. How do we measure and attribute school success (or failure)? Who should be held accountable, and how should that accountability be shared? What should be the consequences, both positive and negative, and how will they be implemented and enforced? What role, if any, should the federal government play?

The New York Times is hosting a forum with some of the brightest minds in education policy chiming in on the question: “Can School Performance Be Measured Fairly?” Now look, I’m not really fond of the way the question is framed. The obvious answer is Yes, just as obvious as the answer to the question “Can School Performance Be Measured Perfectly?” is No.

That being said, some of the points respondents have made are significant, and deserve serious attention in policy debates: Continue Reading »

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27th 2012
Opportunity Culture Promotes Smarter K-12 Spending through Teaching Enhancement

Posted under Edublogging & Innovation and Reform & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Board & Teachers

Edublogger extraordinaire Joanne Jacobs brought my attention to Opportunity Culture, a new website project of the group Public Impact. The idea? How to extend the reach of excellent teachers with innovative uses of time, space, technology and professional roles. Opportunity Culture has a smart group of people advising the project, and of course Public Impact itself is co-directed by the Hassel team, who recently wrote a relatively concise Education Next piece on how the reach of excellent teachers can be enhanced. Continue Reading »

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26th 2012
Harvard Study Puts Three States on Medal Stand for Boosting K-12 Achievement

Posted under Grades and Standards & International & Public Charter Schools & Research & Sciences

The latest edition of the Olympic Games is almost here (who else do you know who gets to live through two different Summer Olympics at age 5?), so what better time to hand out some figurative medals to states for K-12 student learning success? A new Harvard study by Eric Hanushek, Paul Peterson, and Ludger Woessmann sheds some helpful light on trends in Achievement Growth among nations and states.

The authors examine gold-standard test results of 4th and 8th graders to see where the United States’ progress from 1995 to 2009 ranks among 49 nations and how 41 individual U.S. states with enough data stack up against each other from 1992 to 2011. The good news? American students cumulatively picked up nearly a year’s worth of additional skills learned in math, science and reading, with stronger gains at the earlier grade level. The not-so-good news is we’re stuck in the middle of the pack:

Students in three countries–Latvia, Chile, and Brazil–improved at an annual rate of 4 percent of a std. dev., and students in another eight countries–Portugal, Hong Kong, Germany, Poland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Colombia, and Lithuania–were making gains at twice the rate of students in the United States. By the previous rule of thumb, gains made by students in these 11 countries are estimated to be at least two years’ worth of learning. Another 13 countries also appeared to be doing better than the U.S.

I guess you could sum up American educational progress over the past 15 years with the word so-so. But the more fascinating part of the report to me is the comparison of 41 states who have participated in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) since it started in 1992. The authors of the Harvard report seized the Olympic spirit and handed out “medals” to the three states that have shown the biggest learning gains over the past two decades. And they are: Continue Reading »

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25th 2012
A Good Balance? Louisiana Brings New Kind of Accountability to Voucher Schools

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Private Schools & School Accountability & School Choice & State Board of Education

Choice and accountability are two words you’ll hear my Education Policy Center friends say quite a bit if you’re around them enough. Empowering families with a broader range of educational options, and providing transparent information about — and real consequences for — a school ‘s learning results, are two general principles they and I regularly espouse. But what kind of accountability is appropriate for private schools that accept voucher students?

One state with a large and growing private school choice program yesterday broke ground by adopting rules of a different kind from its predecessors. Fordham Institute blogger Adam Emerson, who supports the move, boils the decision down to its essence:

Louisiana has shown us that it’s possible to offer private-school choice and control for quality in a way that doesn’t cramp what makes a private school unique.

And in doing so, Louisiana has broken ground in school-voucher policy. While other states have made voucher and tax-credit-scholarship programs more transparent, only Louisiana would regulate enrollment at schools that consistently show poor performance. [emphasis added]

Continue Reading »

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24th 2012
Time to Revisit the Need for Serious Cost-Saving K-12 Reforms in Colorado

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Research & School Board & School Finance & Teachers

The Education Policy Center’s recent look at 10-year financial trends showed most Colorado K-12 schools have continued to increase real per-pupil revenues and spending — just not as quickly as most other states. But the decades-long trend of seemingly endless growth appears to be crashing headlong into fiscal realities, reaching a plateau or peak that more and more elected officials and school leaders need to be prepared to deal with.

Writing for Education Next, Nevada state superintendent James Guthrie and George W. Bush Institute research associate Elizabeth Ettema paint a broad picture that should attract some attention:

Not all relevant financial figures are available yet, but reasoned extrapolations from private- and public-sector employment data suggest that U.S. schooling may be on a historic glide path toward lower per-pupil resources and significant labor-force reductions. If not thoughtfully considered, budget-balancing decisions could damage learning opportunities for schoolchildren.

Education managers are typically inexperienced in and often reluctant to initiate cost-savings actions. Budget cuts may be poorly targeted, and students, particularly economically disadvantaged students, are swept up in the process as collateral damage.

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23rd 2012
Indiana Teacher Case Should Unsettle Colorado Union Foes of Member Options

Posted under Courts & State Legislature & Teachers

Colorado union leaders succeeded in killing this year’s House Bill 1333, a proposal that would have granted teachers the ability to opt in or out of union membership with 30 days notice. Yes, they hung their opposition on the pathetic “local control” argument. And they have to be hoping the issue just goes away.

But poke your head to look around a bit, and what do you see? Well, in Nevada efforts have stepped up dramatically to notify Clark County teachers of a very brief and inconvenient union opt-out period. And then today EAG News brings the story of an Indiana teacher who has been sued by the union after she missed a 2011 revocation deadline:

[Gina] Walker, a seventh-grade special education teacher in Indiana’s Randolph Central School Corporation, tried to quit her union last summer, but missed the July 30 drop deadline.

Because of that, union representatives told her she was required to remain a dues-paying member for the 2011-12 school year. When Walker refused to continue dues payments, the union president and vice president said they’d bring her to small claims court to get their money. Continue Reading »

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19th 2012
Latest Filings in Lobato Case Remind of Need for Real School Finance Reform

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & Governor & Innovation and Reform & School Finance & State Board of Education

Ed News reports that the State of Colorado has laid out its detailed argument in the appeal of the Lobato school funding case. Former governors of both political stripes joined the University of Colorado Board of Regents and a coalition of business leaders in submitting their formal backing with the State and against the lawsuit:

The state’s brief, along with most of the amicus briefs, attempts to make the point that the high court needs to consider all state budgetary needs, not just whether K-12 funding is constitutional, in making its eventual decision.

Continue Reading »


18th 2012
“Teacher Who Couldn’t Read” Addresses Literacy at Next Brown Bag Lunch

Posted under Denver & Independence Institute & State Legislature & Teachers

That last Brown Bag Lunch back in April — the one with Marcus Winters, author of Teachers Matterwas such a success that my Education Policy Center friends are excited to introduce the second Brown Bag Lunch, coming soon:

This year’s signature education legislation, the Colorado READ Act, has shined the light on the need to boost early childhood literacy in our state. One of the nation’s great literacy champions is coming to the Mile High City to share his compelling story and his insights on this timely and critical issue. Please join us at the Independence Institute Freedom Embassy (727 E 16th Avenue, Denver, CO 80203) on Thursday, August 2, to hear from our special guest speaker, John Corcoran, president and CEO of the John Corcoran Foundation.

Continue Reading »

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17th 2012
Douglas County Aftermath Means Time to Inform about Teacher Member Options

Posted under Governor & School Board & Suburban Schools & Teachers

So no more union monopoly collective bargaining agreement exists for teachers in Colorado’s third-largest school district… Now what? Change certainly isn’t easy. And the group losing its prestigious status, in this case the Douglas County Federation of Teachers, isn’t just going to walk away quietly into the shadows.

The largest teachers union, NEA, already is experiencing a serious membership decline nationwide. So I’m sure national AFT leadership doesn’t want its largest Colorado chapter to set the precedent of surrendering exclusive bargaining authority, government dues collection, and taxpayer-funded personnel. In that sense, seems like they almost had to ask the state to get involved. What state officials opt to do is almost anyone’s guess.

I pointed out before that while taking such a bold step may be unsettling to some employees accustomed to old patterns and relations, that in the end Douglas County teachers will have both a less filtered professional voice and more effective membership options without a master agreement. Reporter Jane Reuter’s new story for Douglas County newspapers brings home that latter point quite well: Continue Reading »


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