Archive for January, 2014

January
31st 2014
Charter Schools Continue to Grow; We Need More #SchoolChoice Now

Posted under Independence Institute & Just For Fun & Parents & Public Charter Schools & Research & Rural Schools & School Choice & Teachers

Where did the time go? Unbelievably, National School Choice Week is coming to a close. It’s been a fun ride. Last night, a bunch of kids and parents showed up at the Independence Institute to watch Waiting for Superman in Spanish (more about that later). And today at Noon-1 PM local time (2-3 PM Eastern) you can join me and others for a #schoolchoice Tweet-Up.

To suit the occasion, think about the possibilities that more high-quality charter schools could offer students and families in Colorado. Yesterday the Center for Education Reform released the latest edition of the Survey of America’s Charter Schools. What a great place to go to get the “30,000-foot view” of charter trends across the nation.

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January
30th 2014
Lawsuit to Protect Tenure Over Students Makes CEA Not Only Wrong But Lonely

Posted under Courts & Denver & Governor & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Teachers & Urban Schools

Being a little kid and all, I can be sensitive to what my peers think sometimes. Have you ever stuck your neck out there, the only one in the crowd choosing something different from everyone else? If it’s a flavor of ice cream, that’s no big deal. But if it’s a True or False question, and you are the only one who chooses the wrong answer, that can be a little bit harder to take. If it’s big people making the wrong choice on something that doesn’t help students, then it’s even worse.

In case you missed it, the big news around here yesterday was the teachers union’s lawsuit and legislative attack on Senate Bill 191. The bottom line is they don’t like part of the law that gives principals the authority to keep ineffective teachers out of classrooms (known as “mutual consent”).

My Education Policy Center friends quickly responded: Continue Reading »

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January
29th 2014
Students, Families Need Less Mandate, More Education Freedom from Feds

Posted under Federal Government & Grades and Standards & Parents & Private Schools & School Choice

If you think the federal government has a benign effect on Colorado education, then you’re just not paying attention. Look at all the fuel it’s thrown onto the fire of the Common Core debate — here in Colorado and elsewhere.

The U.S. Department of Education’s work of linking Common Core to the federal Race to the Top grant program raised a lot of red flags. But according to a new Education Week story, a number of school districts now are rejecting the funds for other reasons: Continue Reading »

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January
27th 2014
School Choice Week Kicks Off; Good Luck Trying to Contain My Excitement

Posted under Denver & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & Tax Credits

The excitement around here is palpable (that means you can feel it). The fun, wild ride known as National School Choice Week has kicked off with a big bipartisan rally in Texas and big kids donned in yellow scarves ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange:

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January
24th 2014
Good News for a Friday: More Colorado Kids Graduate High School On Time

Posted under Grades and Standards & High School

What better time to talk about good news than a Friday? Chalkbeat Colorado reports that the number of students completing high school on time is moving in the right direction:

The state’s graduation rate for the class of 2013 increased by 1.5 percentage points to 76.9 percent — the same increment of change as the year before. The dropout rate also declined to its lowest point since 2003, with 2.5 percent of students statewide dropping out compared with 2.9 in 2011-2012.

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January
23rd 2014
“All Aboard” with Blended Learning and My Future “Learning Engineer” Career

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Public Charter Schools & Sciences & Teachers

When was the last time you asked a kid, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and got the answer: “A Learning Engineer!” If you’re being honest, you likely would say it’s never happened. But maybe that all will begin to change soon. Rick Hess and Bror Saxberg give life to the concept in a new book that’s excerpted as “Education Rebooted” at Education Next:

When it comes to realizing the promise of digital technology, educators need to start approaching classroom challenges as learning engineers. While such a label may sound unfamiliar at first, stick with us for a moment. The fact is that learning engineering is what tech-savvy education leaders—and more than a few who aren’t so tech-savvy—already do every day (whether they know it or not). These educators ask what problems need to be solved for students, turn to research to identify solutions, and devise smarter, better ways to promote terrific teaching and learning. What is education technology’s role in all of this? Learning engineers see this technology as a tool, not a solution.

At times I’ve thought about becoming a railroad engineer (I kind of like the tall, striped hats!). A lot better than a chemical engineer, which I have to confess sounds hard and boring. Since I rarely act rude, maybe a civil engineer would be appropriate. But no: for now, I’ll set my sights on becoming a learning engineer. Continue Reading »

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January
22nd 2014
Dougco Collision on Testing and Accountability Could Rattle Reform Debate

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & School Accountability & School Board & State Legislature & Suburban Schools & Teachers

Have you ever watched a scene in an action movie (in my case, one that’s obviously edited for younger viewers to enjoy) where two cars, or trains, or planes are on a collision course? The characters in the movie may not realize what’s coming, but everyone watching in the theater or at home can sense that they are about to crash into each other. Then 3-2-1…

BOOM!!! Bent metal, broken glass, and explosions… cool stuff.

I exaggerate just a little to say that’s kind of how I feel today. Minding my own business at Chalkbeat Colorado, I’m directed to a Denver Post story with the headline “Douglas schools seek to opt out of federal, state standardized testing.” This is the super-conservative school board that’s transforming education, right? Continue Reading »

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January
21st 2014
Colorado and Washington, DC: A Tale of Two School Principal Evaluation Systems

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Principals & Research & School Accountability & Teachers & Urban Schools

Crafting policy often can be much more art than science. Several years back research showed us that educator evaluation systems were not making meaningful distinctions, and that 98 or 99 percent of teachers were rated effective on a two-tier scale. As a result of such findings, the move to update evaluations has been a big agenda item in many states, with Colorado one of the pioneers.

You know what I’m talking about… SB 191? Right. A core piece of the legislation required that at least 50 percent of the evaluation must be tied to measures of student academic growth (including multiple measures beyond the state assessment regime). School districts could use their own systems that abide by the standard. But most districts adopted the state’s model plan, which clearly defines the other 50 percent of the evaluation.

One of the great strengths of SB 191 was that it focused on upgrading evaluations for school principals, parallel with teachers. Union officials thrive off the fear that building leaders might subjectively and unfairly target instructors. That (real or apparent) threat is greatly diminished if a principal is rated on the same standard. Continue Reading »

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January
17th 2014
Jeffco Middle School STEM Discussion Makes Me Scratch My Head

Posted under Education Politics & Middle School & Parents & School Board & School Choice & Sciences & Suburban Schools

Last night little Eddie was able to drop in on a school board meeting for what was until recently the largest school district in Colorado. That’s right. The Jeffco Board of Education took the show out into the community, coming to the people and giving residents a chance to sign up online to make public comments. (Apparently, this is all a new thing.)

So it was kind of funny to hear a couple of the commenters complain that the school board wasn’t being transparent enough because they increased transparency. I may be pretty smart, but some things are hard for me to get.

Part of the reason for the big crowd at the Arvada High School auditorium was a debate about adding sixth grade to Deer Creek Middle School as part of an expanded STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) program. Now I don’t necessarily have an opinion on this course of action, but the way it’s been handled sends up red warning flags. Continue Reading »

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January
16th 2014
I’ll Stick My Toe into the Fordham-Cato School Choice Argument… for Five Minutes

Posted under Grades and Standards & Just For Fun & Parents & Private Schools & Research & School Accountability & School Choice & Tax Credits

There’s nothing quite like taking a step into no man’s land, wandering into an argument between friends. A lot of us are on the school choice bandwagon together, but that certainly doesn’t mean everyone has the same views of what a program should look like. The Fordham Institute this week unveiled its “public accountability and private-school choice” toolkit. It called for administering state tests to all voucher / scholarship recipients, and reporting school-by-school test results if at least 10 kids participated.

It took very little time for the argument to begin: Continue Reading »

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