Archive for December, 2013

23rd 2013
Can Colorado Make K-12 Dollars Clearer?

Posted under Governor & Independence Institute & Research & School Board & School Finance & State Board of Education

(H/T Ed News Colorado) Yesterday’s Washington Post posted a story under the headline “Colorado’s Hickenlooper wants to put school budgets online”:

“So far, no state’s ever had total transparency on how their tax dollars are spent to every school,” Hickenlooper said in a recent interview.

Looking ahead to 2014, it’s encouraging to read about bipartisan political will to track every dollar of school spending. Now that the smoke from Amendment 66′s smoldering wreckage has started to clear, it’s nice to see greater financial transparency as a serious policy discussion rather than a selling point for a (failed) billion-dollar tax increase. But will the governor continue to insist that creating this kind of online financial transparency would cost $18 to $20 million? Continue Reading »

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20th 2013
If This Education Research Were Real, You Might Buy Me a Cool Christmas Gift

Posted under International & Just For Fun & Research

‘Tis the Christmas holiday season, and maybe (just maybe) my last posting of 2013. Nobody’s in school now, and education policy drifts even further from the brain as visions of sugarplums (or actually, new Lego sets) dance in small children’s heads.

Nonetheless, the season provides a great opportunity to drive home an important point about the research that underlies education policy debates. Jay Greene yesterday dispatched a message to Marc Tucker and Diane Ravitch, urging them to contact Santa Claus. (As a small aside, let me make the point that contacting the big jolly man in the red suit can be a difficult task. I’m still trying to get an explanation why last year I got earmuffs, mittens, and socks rather than a new PlayStation.)

Greene points us to a fabulous Education Next piece by Matthew Chingos with the provocative title, “Big Data Wins the War on Christmas.” It seems the Harvard graduate and Brookings Institution fellow stumbled onto some fascinating research data from the latest PISA international test results. Continue Reading »

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19th 2013
And Then There Were Three (Years of Colorado School Grades)

Posted under Grades and Standards & Independence Institute & Parents & School Choice

Three is a magic number… Yes it is! This week Colorado School Grades (CSG) issued their 3rd annual report cards of every public school in the state. If you don’t know what the website is about, I’m not going to rehash the basics except to say: Continue Reading »


13th 2013
Big Testing (Why Not Funding?) Changes Coming Soon to Colorado K-12

Posted under Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Parents & School Choice & School Finance & State Board of Education & State Legislature

A couple of stories this week in Ed News Colorado serve as a reminder that whether or not there are new laws or reforms to debate, some kind of change will keep coming to the state’s schools. First comes from the State Board of Education’s Wednesday meeting, where we learned that schools and districts will have exactly one year reprieve on their formal accountability ratings after the new testing begins in 2014-15:

As for teachers, their students’ performance on the new tests will factor into their year-end evaluations starting in 2016.

“Some states declared a timeout,” said Elliott Asp, the special assistant to the commissioner and one of the architects behind the state’s plan for testing. “We don’t want to go there.”

We want to ensure greater accountability for learning results. But the shift to a new kind of testing system realistically demands some sort of accommodation. Providing a year’s worth of reprieve from sanctions or other consequences makes sense on the surface. The story drives home the reality of coming changes — a computerized test-taking system with new assessments rolling out in 2014-15. That puts the consequences back to 2015-16. Continue Reading »

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10th 2013
EAGLE-Net Broadband Delays Test Patient Hopes for Digital Learning Policies

Posted under Grades and Standards & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Research & School Accountability & School Choice & School Finance

The power and potential of blended learning stand out in several ways. It can give students more control over their education — like having a customized playlist — and enable them to advance at their own pace. It can expand the reach of effective teachers and allow them to focus time more efficiently on what they do best. It can foster more innovation to speed up the process of building effective learning systems. And it can do all that without requiring new revenue.

Some of the greatest potential to help students lies in Colorado’s rural areas, and some districts have begun to embrace the possibilities. But in order to make blended learning work, they have to access digital technology in the form of high-speed Internet access. Hence, an eye-catching new story by Andy Vuong in the Denver Post (H/T Complete Colorado): Continue Reading »


9th 2013
I’ve Got Better Ideas for a Real Day of Action: Help Colorado Kids Win

Posted under Education Politics & Just For Fun & School Finance & Tax Credits & Teachers

The national teachers unions have christened today a “National Day of Action.” So rather than spend too much time sitting here working on the blog, I am going to get busy and play ball outside. Then after awhile when I get cold, it will be time to go inside and take action with my Legos and video games (until my parents make me participate in cleaning up and setting the dinner table, that is).

But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn more about the National Day of Action. In (almost) 12 Days of Christmas style, Mike Antonucci breaks down the union-sponsored list of activities. For some reason, it looks different than my own plan to commemorate the second Monday in December. Continue Reading »

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5th 2013
Weighted Student Formula Yearbook Highlights Better K-12 Funding Approaches

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Principals & Research & Urban Schools

When I hear “yearbook,” my thoughts turn to a page full of photos (including the goofy ones, you know who you are) of kids in the same class at school. But the Reason Foundation’s Weighted Student Formula Yearbook is somewhat different.

This yearbook is a one-of-a-kind look at 14 different school districts that use “portable student funding” (I like the term “backpack funding”) to make sure dollars are distributed fairly and transparently to serve real students’ needs. It also gives building principals more autonomy and responsibility to make budgetary decisions. Reason’s research gets updated every year, kind of like a school yearbook, but instead helps us to see which school systems are setting the pace in this area. Continue Reading »


4th 2013
Warmed by the Thought of Another School Choice Whistle-Stop Tour

Posted under Just For Fun & Parents & School Choice

The bone-chilling cold has arrived, so I really needed something to fill me with warm thoughts. Even though it’s more than 7 weeks away, what about the official announcement that there’s soon going to be another National School Choice Week Whistle-Stop Tour?

Planned by National School Choice Week, the tour will span 3,800 miles and feature special events in 14 cities. Modeled after pioneering whistle-stop tours in American history, the events will call attention to the benefits of – and need for – greater educational opportunity for children and families.

The tour will launch from Newark, New Jersey on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 and end in San Francisco on Saturday, February 1, 2014.

Continue Reading »

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3rd 2013
Bad News for U.S. School Performance; How to Fix “Leaning Tower of PISA”?

Posted under Foreign Countries & Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & Research & Sciences

Today is PISA Day, and I’m not referring to pepperoni pies or unusual Italian landmarks. The 2012 results from the Program for International Student Assessment are in, and it doesn’t look pretty for the good old USA. At least not on the surface.

First, let’s take a quick trip back to September, when I brought your attention to the unsettling book Endangering Prosperity and pointed out that America needs to take a different path to improve unimpressive math test scores. That was when our nation’s 15-year-olds scored a sub-par 487 on the PISA: Continue Reading »

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