Archive for August, 2012

30th 2012
Please Don’t Send a Class of Little Eddies on an Occupy Denver Field Trip!

Posted under Denver & Independence Institute & Journalism & Parents & School Accountability & School Choice & Teachers & Urban Schools

Stop for a moment and picture a classroom of 20 little Eddies and Edwinas (girls, I know, yeck). The nice teacher one day gets up in front of the room and hands out permission slips for a field trip. “Field trip? Yay!!!” we shout. “Where are we going? The zoo? The science museum? The fire station?”

After she finally gets our class settled down, the teacher says: “No, this is going to be a great new kind of experience. We’re going to go hang out with Occupy Denver! ….”

Huh, what? This imaginary scenario must take place in Denver Public Schools (DPS), because of some very real new language being used to evaluate teachers. High-achieving DPS instructors may want to keep their “distinguished” rating by encouraging students “to question and challenge the dominant culture” and “to work for social justice”? The newly-revised evaluation framework makes these items a priority for DPS teachers in 2012-13.

Perhaps now you can understand what would upset my Education Policy Center friends so much: Continue Reading »

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29th 2012
Teachers or Union Politics? A (Brief) Colorado Tale of Two Recognitions

Posted under Education Politics & Elementary School & Teachers

Have you ever played the “one of these things is not like the other” game with only two things? The results usually are neither too difficult nor surprising. But playing a quick game, like we’re about to do, can still be informative in its own way.

Okay, let’s go. The first item comes compliments of the Colorado Springs Gazette‘s Kristina Iodice, who shares the good news that Falcon 49 elementary teacher Melanie Dolifka has been nominated as a finalist for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Congrats to Ms. Dolifka, one of the brightest stars in an innovative non-union district, for the great honor!

The second item comes from a new Colorado Watchdog story: Continue Reading »

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28th 2012
Charter School Paradox Makes Case For Adding Private Educational Choice

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

A quick hit this afternoon. The Cato Institute’s Adam Schaeffer today has released the summary of a new data analysis by RAND Corporation economist Richard Buddin, seeking to explain what he calls “The Charter School Paradox”:

On average, charter schools may marginally improve the public education system, but in the process they are wreaking havoc on private education. Charter schools take a significant portion of their students from private schools, causing a drop in private enrollment, driving some schools entirely out of business, and thereby raising public costs while potentially diminishing competition and diversity in our education system overall.

I’m still wrapping my little mind around the information presented and what he has to say, but let’s clear up one thing right away: being anti-charter is not the answer. But Cato has made a case to be considered, namely that learning will better thrive, and be more cost-effective, with both a healthy private education sector and adequate choices within the public system. Continue Reading »

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27th 2012
What Would Drive Families to Deceive to Get a Child into Aspen Schools?

Posted under Parents & Rural Schools & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

A little over 18 months ago, a story broke out of Ohio that a mom was charged with a felony for falsifying information about where she lived to get her daughter into a different public school. Neither Kelley Williams-Bolar nor any other parent should be forced to choose between finding a better education and obeying the law. Back then I wrote:

For someone like me living in Colorado, with a strong (but not perfect) open enrollment law, the first reaction was: You have to lie to get your kid into another school district? It’s very sad that some K-12 systems can be so backward and unresponsive, but it’s symptomatic of a larger problem….

Well, color me naive. A new story from the Aspen Times (H/T Ed News Colorado) reports that the problem is real in the resort town’s high-end school district, and includes more than just one person: Continue Reading »

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23rd 2012
Dougco School Board Challenges Union Leaders, May Seek Voters’ Input

Posted under Education Politics & School Accountability & School Board & Suburban Schools & Teachers

Believe it or not, it’s been a whole three days since I last shared some thoughts on the exciting goings-on in Colorado’s third-largest school district. An arbitrator ruled that Douglas County leaders couldn’t get back all the tax-funded union leave dollars because they didn’t get a change to the collective bargaining agreement in writing.

So Tuesday night at the Board meeting, one of the directors offered a peaceful compromise:

[Craig] Richardson said he wanted the district to “pursue every remedy until we have our money back … and I will not relent.”

That is, he said, unless the union accepted his challenge – to move what he described as the $52,000 balance from a union political account into a fund created by board members to help teachers pay for classroom supplies.

(You can read Richardson’s entire statement online here.) Keep the money in a political fund or donate it to cover the costs of teacher supplies? An interesting choice faces the local AFT union leadership. The $52,000 in question comes out to slightly less than $20 per Dougco teacher. But every little bit helps. Continue Reading »


22nd 2012
New PDK/Gallup Public Education Survey Results More Helpful in Context

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & School Board & School Choice & School Finance

Update, 8/22: Intercepts blogger Mike Antonucci makes some incisive observations about the need for better-informed voters while asserting that the PDK/Gallup results are not that significant, noting he “wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot poll.”

It’s late August and back-to-school season, which means it’s once again time for the new Phi Delta Kappa (PDK) / Gallup “poll of the public’s attitude toward public schools.” Right up front, let it be known that this won’t be as Pretty Darn Klever” as my commentary on last year’s results, but a few things of interest need to be pointed out from the results.

The headline and the first question featured is “What do you think are the biggest problems that the public schools of your community must deal with?” Far and away the #1 answer at 35 percent was “lack of financial support.” Coming in a distant fourth was “overcrowded schools” at 5 percent.

More interesting is what’s missing on the school finance topic from the poll of 1,000 American adults. Just a few weeks ago the Fordham Institute released its own national survey (with a nearly identical sample size). The question of what approach local school districts should take to meet existing budget challenges yielded a remarkable response:

48 percent opted for “Cut costs by dramatically changing how it does business,” while only 11 percent chose “Rely on tax increases”

Continue Reading »

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21st 2012
Competing with Vouchers, Indiana Public Schools Step Up Marketing Efforts

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Parents & Principals & Private Schools & Research & School Choice & Urban Schools

As I told you a couple months ago, the nation’s largest voucher program — enacted by Indiana in 2011 — is growing quickly in both popularity and promise.

In the Hoosier State, more than 8,000 students from low- and middle-income families are taking advantage of the private option provided by the new choice scholarships. And as Associated Press writer Tom Coyne points out, public education leaders not only are taking notice of the phenomenon, many also are taking action to try to woo families to stay: Continue Reading »

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20th 2012
Accountability, Please? Arbitrator Says Dougco Union Can Keep Tax Funds

Posted under School Accountability & School Board & School Finance & Teachers

Ed News Colorado reports today regarding a dispute over publicly-funded teacher union employees, that an arbitrator has ruled in favor of the Douglas County Federation of Teachers (DCFT) and against the taxpayers. At issue is $118,500 school district officials say the union president agreed to pay rather than be accountable for the use of tax-funded time:

Emails provided by the district show Superintendent Liz Fagen approached Smith about changing the arrangement, saying she wanted to provide more accountability for taxpayer funds.

Continue Reading »


17th 2012
Washington Post Calls for Serious Changes to Teacher Pay and Tenure

Posted under Independence Institute & Journalism & Teachers & Urban Schools

Real educator compensation reform has grown well beyond being a conservative or liberal issue. We continue to learn more and more about the costs and effects of unproductive pay systems. A couple weeks ago I brought your attention to a possible breakthrough New Teacher Project report called The Irreplaceables — showing how high-performing teachers not only are not better rewarded but also not better retained than their low-performing counterparts.

If we treat outstanding instruction so little different from, ahem, inadequate instruction, what do we expect is going to happen? Interestingly, considering the well-publicized findings of The Irreplaceables, the editorial board of the Washington Post yesterday had to acknowledge this important reality: Continue Reading »

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16th 2012
Let’s Respect and Empower Parents with Choices, Not Look Down on Them

Posted under Edublogging & Independence Institute & Parents & School Choice & Teachers

From the files of “Did she really say that?” comes a post written a few days ago by Diane Ravitch, under the heading: “Do parents always know what is best?” Ravitch extensively quotes a Louisiana teacher, who hardly wins friends and influences people with this opener:

I am tired of this attitude about parents knowing what is best for their children. Parents are easily swayed by politicians, talk show hosts and preachers. They rarely understand how schools work unless they are teachers themselves or have relatives who are teachers….

Yes, that is patronizing. Even worse, it can lead to a lot of dangerous and misguided policy conclusions. It’s hard to put it much better than has Victor Skinner of EAG News: Continue Reading »


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