Archive for January, 2013

31st 2013
A Couple More Weeks of Waiting for School Finance “Grand Bargain” Details

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

Back in early December my Education Policy Center friends helped put on a State Capitol event, laying out ideas for dramatic “backpack funding” reforms that need to be at the heart of this year’s keystone school finance debates. We’ve been waiting awhile now to see what Senator Johnston’s “Grand Bargain” legislation might look like.

I can get impatient about these things. As Ed News Colorado reports, the time is drawing near, but legislative leaders are proceeding deliberately: Continue Reading »

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30th 2013
On This Measure of Charter School Laws, Colorado Ranks 4th… Not Bad

Posted under Parents & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Accountability & School Choice

Keep those education policy grades a-rollin’ in! Not even two weeks since I shared with you that the Center for Education Reform placed Colorado 10th nationally for the strength of its charter school law, here comes another rating. The ever-growing National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) has released its fourth annual ranking of state charter laws.

So what’s different? (Commence Wonk Speak) NAPCS incorporates more factors into its rating system, including an added focus on issues of ensuring quality control. In addition to measuring access to multiple authorizers, levels of school-based autonomy, and equitable funding, NAPCS also gives credence to transparent approval processes, performance-based contracting, and clear guidance regarding student enrollment and recruitment procedures. (End Wonk Speak)

The formula helps Colorado to rank 4th overall, earning 70 percent of the possible points. Remarkably, while the competition is growing from other states improving their policies, Colorado still managed to pick up significant points and gain three spots since last year: Continue Reading »

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29th 2013
It’s Hard to Get Beyond Emotion in Legislative Debates on School Safety

Posted under School Board & State Legislature

School safety is a big deal. I don’t write a lot about it, partly because big people say I’m not “mature” enough yet to understand it all. But after hearing one of my Education Policy Center friends interview a school board member about a legislative bill he supports, I had to put a little something out there. Senate Bill 9 simply would have allowed local school boards to adopt policies that allow teachers and other school employees to carry concealed weapons on campus.

The goal? School security, keeping students safe. Apparently, there have been some pretty awful things that have happened I’m not “mature” enough to know about. (That’s OK, I’d rather not know.) In the end, after a long hearing, the Senate Judiciary Committee killed SB 9 on a 3-2 party line vote. Given the nature of the bill, I found this one tidbit interesting: Continue Reading »

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25th 2013
Climb (Dance & Tweet) Aboard the National School Choice Week Train with Me

Posted under Denver & Independence Institute & Just For Fun & Online Schools & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & Teachers

It’s fun to be part of something big that promotes a great cause. And this year that something has grown bigger than ever before: National School Choice Week! This year I’m excited to see the national celebration spotlighted by a national cross-country Whistle Stop Tour. It kicks off today in Los Angeles, California, and ends up in New York City a week later. Oh, how little Eddie would love to hitch a ride on the rails!

While the Whistle Stop Tour has no plans to visit my neck of the woods, it does at least cut through the southeastern part of Colorado. And if you can’t catch the train at any of its stops across the Fruited Plain, there’s still plenty of other things to do. More than 1,000 events are planned from coast to coast.

Let’s start with some of what’s going on right here in Denver. My Education Policy Center friends are sponsoring a community showing of Waiting for Superman… in Spanish! This will be a great chance for me to learn some words en espanol besides gracias or adios. Rumor has it some food and prizes might be involved. Details for the Thursday evening, January 31, event at Centro San Juan Diego can be found on this handy flier. Continue Reading »


24th 2013
Yes, Colorado Has Lots of Room to Improve How We Prepare Teachers for Job

Posted under Grades and Standards & Research & Teachers

It sure seems like Colorado education policies are getting graded quite a bit these days. Last week we earned a B from the Center for Education Reform for the quality of our charter school law, which placed us in the top 10 among states. Two weeks ago Students First looked at a whole range of policies to rank us 9th nationally but give us only a C.

Another group not grading on the curve is the National Council on Teacher Quality — better known as NCTQ. The picture isn’t pretty at all. The release of the 2012 edition of the State Teacher Policy Yearbook focused in on a weak area for Colorado: teacher preparation.

Last year, rating states on a whole gamut of instructional policies — including the identification and retention of effective teachers — Colorado pulled down a modest C. Our state’s worst of the five areas was in how well we provide for preparing teachers to do the job: D-minus.

So I guess we should be mildly upbeat that a year later Colorado now has a D in teacher preparation policies? Not exactly. Some just seem to blame the group giving out the grades: Continue Reading »

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23rd 2013
Too Many Elementary Teachers Makes Case for Market-Based Differential Pay

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & Research & School Board & Suburban Schools & Teachers

Thanks to Ed News Colorado, my attention today was brought to an interesting Education Week story by Stephen Sawchuk that says colleges of education are graduating too many elementary school teachers:

Finally, the tendency toward oversubscription in the elementary fields is also a function of candidates’ interest, said Amee Adkins, an associate dean of the college of education at Illinois State University, in Normal, and the president of the Illinois Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

“It’s content material they were less intimated [sic] by,” she said, ticking off a list of reasons. “Kids are cuter when they’re little. And it’s probably when [the candidates] remember having the most fun in school.”

The Education Intelligence Agency’s Mike Antonucci has been on the case of “teacher shortage alarmists” for quite awhile now, a much needed service. But I don’t think that until now there has ever been evidence so compelling to shoot down the alarmists’ case. Continue Reading »

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21st 2013
To Free Up Education Funds, Fix PERA and Offer Scholarship Tax Credits

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Private Schools & School Choice & School Finance & State Legislature & Tax Credits & Teachers

You know how much I have to restrain myself when it comes to using the “it’s for the kids” mantra, so I simply couldn’t resist quickly bringing your attention to some important new insights from local pension system analyst Joshua Sharf.

With the tongue-in-cheek title “PERA – It’s All for the Kids,” he paints full-color pictures showing that dollars per student spent on the state retirement system have been growing dramatically, the heaviest burdens borne by taxpayers. Is it any wonder why many school districts might be feeling the pinch? Does it make sense now why I told you a few months back that a better solution than yelling at TABOR is fixing PERA? Continue Reading »

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17th 2013
How Long Can Colorado Stay in Top 10 for Strong Charter School Laws?

Posted under Grades and Standards & Parents & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice

In the education reform world, you’ve got to be comfortable with the idea of assigning states grades and putting them on a scorecard. Why, it was just last week I highlighted Colorado’s top 10 finish — aided by the curve — on Student First’s inaugural State Policy Report Cards.

Well, once again Colorado has landed in the top 10 (just barely), though this time it’s a B we earned rather than a C. And it’s a familiar place to be. What am I talking about? The Center for Education Reform’s 2013 Charter Law Ranking Chart. As I noted last year when dissecting the rankings: Continue Reading »

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16th 2013
Liberty Watch Push for Open Union Negotiations Gains Traction in Loveland

Posted under Independence Institute & School Board & Suburban Schools & Teachers

It’s great to see more Colorado citizens demanding their tax-funded school districts conduct important business about personnel policies and special interest privileges in the public eye.

A petition by the grassroots group Liberty Watch to bring negotiation transparency and other union reforms to Thompson School District made its way onto the pages of today’s Loveland Reporter-Herald, collecting the petitions of more than 180 local residents.

Liberty Watch director Nancy Rumfelt is trying to get the petition’s reform proposals onto the February 20 school board agenda. You can learn more about the proposals and their rationale by listening to Rumfelt’s 20-minute on-air radio interview last week with one of my Education Policy Center friends.

Not surprisingly, though, most Thompson leaders seem more than a little reluctant to take on transparency and the other issues: Continue Reading »

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15th 2013
EIA Reports $15 Million Spent by NEA Union on Advocacy Groups in 2011-12

Posted under Education Politics & Teachers

Little Eddie has been so busy, his head is spinning. But I didn’t want to leave everyone hanging. If you are a teacher or know a teacher, you might encourage them to check out this new report from Mike Antonucci at the Education Intelligence Agency: [National Education Association] Gave $15 Million to Advocacy Groups in the 2011-12 fiscal year.

The report includes a list of all the reported beneficiaries, everyone from the AFL-CIO and America Votes to We Are Ohio. Of course, that money overwhelmingly comes from member dues. Continue Reading »

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