Archive for November, 2012

30th 2012
Not Louisiana, Too! Judge Striking Down Vouchers Bad Start to Weekend

Posted under Courts & Governor & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Private Schools & School Choice

Just the kind of glum news you (don’t!) want to hear before your weekend gets rolling, from the Wall Street Journal:

A Louisiana district court judge ruled Friday that the state’s school-voucher program is unconstitutional, dealing a blow to one of the nation’s most expansive efforts to let students attend private schools at taxpayer expense.

Judge Tim Kelley, a Republican, ruled that the program, created and championed by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, illegally diverts tax money intended for public schools to private and religious schools instead.

Very sad to see the educational fate of thousands of students in private schools up in the air. Those of us in Colorado who waited more than a year for an Appeals Court hearing — and especially those Douglas County families who had everything turned upside down by the August 2011 injunction — feel the pain.

Here’s hoping that Governor Bobby Jindal and all the great supporters of school choice in Louisiana are able to get things turned around, sooner rather than later. And here’s hoping that things turn out better in Indiana, where the nation’s most thriving private school choice program is before that state’s supreme court.

Don’t know about you, but I’m going to try to focus on some cheerier news for the weekend.

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29th 2012
Colorado K-12 Funding Debates REALLY Could Use Some Accepted Facts

Posted under Independence Institute & Journalism & Research & School Finance

A new Cato Institute education blogger, Jason Bedrick, highlights the work of the Independence Institute’s Education Policy Center in a posting today with a message that certainly needs to be repeated: “Public schools cost more than Americans think.” Bedrick cites Ben DeGrow’s recent interview with 9News disputing Colorado school funding figures, and makes a couple salient observations:

  1. Bedrick attacks the news report’s underlying notion that “the amount of money spent per child in the public schools is a matter of political opinion to be legitimately debated rather than an empirical fact” — don’t take the dollar figures someone states at face value; check out the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) data!
  2. Bedrick also believes reporter Nelson Garcia was asking the wrong question: “He wanted to know the amount of state tax dollars that public school districts receive per pupil. The more relevant question is what is actually spent per pupil, including local and federal sources of funding.”

Continue Reading »

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28th 2012
Growing Support for Dougco Pay-for-Performance Suggests Staying Power

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Private Schools & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Teachers

According to a school district dispatch yesterday, Douglas County’s visionary, cutting-edge work in performance-based educator pay and evaluations has received a key nod of community support:

The Castle Rock Economic Development Council (EDC) has endorsed the Douglas County School District pay-for-performance program.

“We know excellent schools are one of the top reasons that companies choose to locate in Douglas County,” said Frank Gray, President, Castle Rock EDC. “We applaud DCSD for their ongoing commitment to excellence and we believe pay-for-performance will continue to improve our schools.”

The Douglas County Pay-for-Performance plan is something that my Education Policy Center friends and I are keeping a close eye on. District leaders are working hard and quickly to break the mold and upgrade how educators are evaluated and compensated, including a system of market-based differential pay based on teacher job descriptions. Except a more detailed report in the months ahead. Continue Reading »

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27th 2012
Food for Thought as Colorado Grinds Ahead Reforming Teacher Evaluations

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Research & School Choice & State Legislature & Teachers

With so much going on in Colorado’s world of education reform — and all sorts of new and shiny things taking place — it can be easy to forget the state is in the middle of a large-scale change to teacher evaluations.

The highly-charged debates over SB 191 in 2010 seem like a distant memory. Yet the long process of implementing a new evaluation system focused on educator effectiveness grinds forward across Colorado, with bill sponsor Senator Michael Johnston insisting there is no reason to delay further.

A couple of new reports from different sources give reason for ed reformers to keep their fingers crossed. A Center for American Progress report by Patrick McGuinn unpacks the challenges facing state education agencies as they try to bring new evaluation systems to life on a large scale. The report specifically cites Colorado’s work to multiply the number of qualified trainers and the unique partnership between CDE and the Legacy Foundation — concluding that a lot of careful thought and planning has to be given to any state contemplating similar reform. Continue Reading »

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20th 2012
Denver Teacher Finally Able to Exit Union, But Happy Ending Isn’t for All

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Teachers

I have a (sort of) happy ending to a story shared here back in April. Though she had to wait nearly a whole year, Denver teacher Ronda Reinhardt finally was able to exercise her right and revoke her union membership.

In many Colorado school districts (including Denver), a teacher who wants to exercise her right to leave the union can only do so during a brief window of time and under certain conditions. These opt-out periods vary from district to district. As Ronda’s experience highlights, many teachers don’t know about the restrictions until they want to quit and find out it’s too late.

Tim Farmer from the Professional Association of Colorado Educators (PACE) shared the account of Ronda finally being able to exercise her choice: Continue Reading »


19th 2012
Families Watch as Dougco Choice Program Comes Before Appeals Court Today

Posted under Courts & Independence Institute & Parents & Private Schools & School Board & School Choice

I’m on pins and needles today. Not because all the turkey and football is only three days away, but because this afternoon is an important hearing that could affect the future of school choice in our state. The Colorado Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments concerning the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program and the injunction issued by a Denver judge in August 2011.

My friends from the Education Policy Center and from Great Choice Douglas County will be on hand for the hearing. But in case we all need to be reminded, the ultimate direction of this case will have a significant impact on plenty of real students and their families: Continue Reading »

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15th 2012
Colorado TBD and School Finance Partnership Stars Aligning: Coincidence?

Posted under Governor & Innovation and Reform & School Finance

Sometimes the stars seem to align, and you have to wonder who is manipulating the telescope. I haven’t gotten into astronomy — at least not yet. But what I’m talking about really isn’t about astronomy. It’s about politics, and giving money to education bureaucrats. A metaphor, as it were.

Today, Ed News Colorado reports that Governor John Hickenlooper’s statewide listening tour has yielded some convenient recommendations for K-12 education:

Public school funding – tied to student outcomes – higher education support and expansion of preschool and full-day kindergarten should be top state priorities, according to the board of directors of TBD Colorado, the group that’s spent more than a year studying and sampling public attitudes about major issues facing the state.

Throw more money at the problem? Hmmm. The stars are beginning to align between the governor’s “TBD” initiative and the established-interest-heavy School Finance Partnership. Well, I may be only a perpetually 5-year-old blogging prodigy, but that was predictable.

More funding into the currently unsustainable K-12 system? I can’t say for certain whether the deck was stacked for the status quo. Or whether the findings actually are representative of Coloradans’ policy priorities for education, and little Eddie and friends just have that much more work to do persuading people about the need for more freedom and a productive approach that funds students directly, empowers parents, and leads to effective outcomes.

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13th 2012
Falcon 49 Moves Forward on Teacher Career Track Innovation: A Delicious Idea

Posted under Innovation and Reform & School Board & Teachers

Just when someone might think the innovation process in Falcon School District 49 has stalled out (just one school got rid of tenure so far?), here comes a pie in the face. Not a yucky key lime pie in the nostrils, mind you, but a delicious chocolate cream pie surprise that you can lick off your lips.

The Colorado Springs Gazette reports yesterday that District 49 is actively working to change teachers’ professional career track:

“If you’re a great teacher, in order to progress you have to go outside that environment and become an administrator,” said board Vice President Christopher Wright.

Wright said he wants the district to create a professional development program where teachers are responsive to classroom needs, and where teacher training programs work consistently with schools to make ongoing improvements.

Continue Reading »

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9th 2012
Michael Johnston’s Best-Ever Education Speech Inspires Funding Reform, Too

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & School Finance & State Legislature

In a recent column for Forbes magazine, communications expert Nick Morgan gave Colorado some great kudos with his recognition of “The Best Speech About Education–Ever.” He was praising this great speech our state senator Michael Johnston made last month in Connecticut about “what’s possible and what’s next.”

Watch the speech, and you’ll see why Johnston’s passion, knowledge and experience make him the leading voice on education in the Colorado state legislature. Sometimes we see eye to eye, and sometimes not.

But his influence in several reform debates is difficult to dispute — whether it has been carrying the SB 191 teacher evaluation overhaul, defending Colorado’s embrace of Common Core standards, or even agreeing to sign on as sponsor of a parent trigger bill not popular within his own party. Continue Reading »

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7th 2012
A Fine Day to Let Others Break Down Education Reform Election Results

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & School Choice & School Finance

I’m still recovering from all the election excitement. Rather than try to rehash all the interesting results for the world of education reform, I’m going to do the lazy, little kid thing and point you to a few pieces to digest the information and analysis for yourself: Continue Reading »

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