Archive for September, 2013

30th 2013
Successful Education Reform Much Harder Than Just Passing New Policies

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Principals & Research & School Board & Suburban Schools & Teachers

All my education reform friends out there, you and I very likely have been getting too comfortable. Or perhaps just too naive, or maybe too lacking in ambition. Leave it to the American Enterprise Institute’s Rick Hess to splash a bucket of water in our faces. But trust me, we needed the dirt knocked out of our eyes and ears.

Last week, Hess penned for National Affairs his latest thoughtful piece chocked full of insights that many education policy advocates and insiders know, but few are willing to say. Given numerous observations like the following, I recommend reading “The Missing Half of School Reform”: Continue Reading »

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27th 2013
New Mexico’s State Financial Transparency, Education Leader Shine Brightly

Posted under Just For Fun & School Finance & State Board of Education

For whatever reason, people in Colorado don’t often think of looking up at New Mexico. And that’s not just because they are below (south of) us on the map. When it comes to education outcomes, we hold the upper hand — spending about the same amount per student, but also having fewer students in poverty and having other challenges.

Still, New Mexico has at least one education-related achievement to which we could aspire: a first-in-the-nation record at state education financial transparency, while Colorado only musters a D-plus. Also admirable is the attitude and approach of their Education Secretary (kind of like our Commissioner) Hanna Skandera. She told the Santa Fe New Mexican:

When we put students’ interests first, the criticism is welcome as an opportunity to get better at what we do. When we’re putting adult interests or politics above our kids, then we have to take it back and ask the question: Is this about our kids or politics and adults?

It’s Friday afternoon, and I can’t think of a better way to wrap up the week. Kudos to Skandera, and onward and upward for Colorado!

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24th 2013
Campaign “Silly Season” Starts to Emerge in Colorado’s Largest School Districts

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Parents & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

For reasons I don’t even have time to get into, big people often call the weeks leading up to an election the “silly season.” Most think of that in terms of presidential or Congressional races. Not so much when school board elections come around, and here in Colorado that’s in the fall of odd-numbered years.

Lest you think school board elections aren’t a big deal, I have to remind you that local Colorado boards have a great deal of constitutional prerogatives and power. They just have to be ready and willing to use it. Besides, just ask a current University of Colorado Regent, a former state treasurer, and a former lieutenant governor who are all vying for positions this year. Two of them are running in three of the state’s largest districts, where the “silly season” has reached full bloom.

The former lieutenant governor is Barbara O’Brien, competing for an at-large seat on the Denver Public Schools (DPS) board. As the Denver Post reports, she just happens to be the target of an interesting attack from her opponent. Michael Kiley has heavily criticized O’Brien for her support of a short-lived statewide school voucher plan 10 years ago: Continue Reading »


23rd 2013
Union Leaders Want to Have Their Tax Hike Cake and Sue Education Reforms, Too

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & School Finance & Teachers

Colorado’s education-related scoop of the month goes to the Gazette‘s Megan Schrader for uncovering some crucial intrigue and doublespeak behind the Amendment 66 statewide tax hike campaign. Teachers union leaders want to have their cake and eat it, too:

Five days before the deadline for legal challenges to be filed against one of Colorado’s key education reform bills, the state Education Board unanimously granted a five-month extension giving teachers and unions more time to file suit.

The decision – discussed behind closed doors in a special meeting on Aug. 26 – has stirred speculation about whether the move was politically motivated to avoid a contentious lawsuit just as voters are asked to approve a $1 billion tax increase for education in November.

Continue Reading »

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20th 2013
Research Shows At Least Some Kinds of Field Trips Really Do Benefit Students

Posted under Arts & Just For Fun & Research & Rural Schools & Sciences

I’ve been delinquent from blogging so much lately, you may think little Eddie just has been on a long field trip. Well, before you get too critical, you might want to consider the great advantages this could have for me. The results of a first-of-its-kind study, outlined by Dr. Jay Greene for Education Next, are worth a closer look:

Today, culturally enriching field trips are in decline. Museums across the country report a steep drop in school tours. For example, the Field Museum in Chicago at one time welcomed more than 300,000 students every year. Recently the number is below 200,000. Between 2002 and 2007, Cincinnati arts organizations saw a 30 percent decrease in student attendance. A survey by the American Association of School Administrators found that more than half of schools eliminated planned field trips in 2010–11.

Continue Reading »

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16th 2013
The U.S. Needs a Different Path to Improve Our Unimpressive Math Scores

Posted under Grades and Standards & Just For Fun & Research

Sometimes it’s good to step back and take a look at the big picture. That’s as true in the discussions about education reform as it is anywhere. A brand-new, 6-minute video does just that, but in a clever and lighthearted manner:

Continue Reading »


13th 2013
I Want to Put a Great Big Asterisk on a Compelling Jay Greene Argument

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

This week one of my favorite researchers and thought leaders in the world of K-12 education, Dr. Jay Greene, produced an insightful blog essay titled “Fix Schools by Not Fixing Schools.” His argument isn’t as odd as the title makes it sound:

I understand that urging reformers to focus on fixing traditional schools by not fixing traditional schools sounds like abandoning the millions of children who remain in those schools, but that is simply not the case. The best hope for improving the situation of those children in traditional public schools is by expanding access to alternatives and enriching out-of-school experiences. If we succeed in expanding access to quality alternatives, more and more of those children will benefit by being able to take advantage of those alternatives. In addition, traditional public schools may be more willing and able to adopt reforms that are appropriate for their circumstances as they learn about what alternative providers are doing and feel some pressure to take steps to attract and retain their students.

Greene offers several reasons why he believes imposing reforms on traditional public schools is not a productive approach. I certainly get what he is saying. And some of his points I even accept. Continue Reading »

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12th 2013
Joining Harrison and Dougco, North Carolina Dumps Wasteful Masters Bumps

Posted under Research & School Finance & State Legislature & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Urban Schools

Colorado’s educator pay innovators — namely, Harrison and Douglas County — are further vindicated by commonsense actions from state leaders in North Carolina. Two years ago I brought readers’ attention to the massive blowout that is the research showing masters degrees for teachers don’t help students learn.

Today, as EAG News reports, the Tarheel State has jumped on board with the winning team. After April 2014, an advanced degree for a North Carolina teacher no longer will result in an automatic pay raise. In other words, it’s the end of the “masters bump.” What will happen? Look further north to another state that’s adopted this approach: Continue Reading »

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9th 2013
Two More Videos Remind Us that Dougco Innovation is Working (But I’m Not)

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Teachers

A couple weeks ago I offered up a post titled “Learning about Douglas County K-12 Innovation: Read. Watch. Share. Repeat.” Included in that post were links to a great op-ed and the first in an Americans for Prosperity Foundation video series titled “It’s Working.”

Well, confession is good for the juvenile soul. So let me tell you that I’m feeling a little overwhelmed — a little lazy, really. Instead of giving you a lot of meat to chew on, I decided to embed the two latest “It’s Working” videos, with “Louie” and “Margo”: Continue Reading »

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6th 2013
No Phony Guilt, No Forced Relocation: Colorado Kids Win with Tax Credits

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Just For Fun & Parents & Private Schools & Tax Credits

I’m a little late to the game on this one. But Friday is the time for funnies. The crazed August 29 manifesto on Slate declaring that parents who send their kids to private schools are bad people received a lot of attention for the ignorant delivery of shock value it effected. I couldn’t begin to sort through the myriad responses.

But this one was too good to pass up. (H/T Greg Forster) Writing at National Review Online, Kevin Williamson took Allison Benedikt’s Slate piece at face value and offered a superior solution: Continue Reading »

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