Archive for May, 2014

May
30th 2014
Odds & Ends: Big Easy Goes All-Charter; Upgrading School Report Cards

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Accountability & School Choice & Urban Schools

It’s Friday, and it’s my blog. So if I want to cover two topics in a single post, well… I hope you like it. This story from Wednesday’s Washington Post was too significant to pass up. Lyndsey Layton reports that the last five traditional public schools in New Orleans close down this week, making the Recovery District the first all-charter district in the United States:

By most indicators, school quality and academic progress have improved in Katrina’s aftermath, although it’s difficult to make direct comparisons because the student population changed drastically after the hurricane, with thousands of students not returning.

Before the storm, the city’s high school graduation rate was 54.4 percent. In 2013, the rate for the Recovery School District was 77.6 percent. On average, 57 percent of students performed at grade level in math and reading in 2013, up from 23 percent in 2007, according to the state.

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May
29th 2014
Past Jeffco Superintendent Hires Shine Light on McMinimee Process

Posted under Grades and Standards & Journalism & Parents & School Board & Suburban Schools

I was sitting on grandpa’s lap Tuesday night when mom let out an exasperated sigh. Unusually, it had nothing to do with me failing to clean up after dinner or leaving my Legos on the living room floor. No, as a good active and concerned mom would do, she was watching the Tweets coming out of the Jeffco school board meeting.

I asked my mom why she looked kind of sad. Apparently, the board meeting had become very contentious — some would say downright nasty — over the hiring of a Jeffco dad, Dan McMinimee, to be the next superintendent. It ended up turning into a brief but important history lesson.

Grandpa reminded us that it has been a long time since Jeffco had a superintendent search. Most parents of students in classes today weren’t around during the previous hiring processes. It was exactly 12 years ago this month when the school board last hired someone for the top position in the district: Cindy Stevenson.

Grandpa helped dig out an ancient article from a former newspaper called the Rocky Mountain News — dated May 23, 2002, with the headline “SURPRISE PICK WAS MADE IN ONLY A WEEK – JEFFCO SCHOOLS’ ATTORNEY: QUICK ACTION WAS LEGAL.” He read us the whole piece, including this part of reporter Nancy Mitchell’s story: Continue Reading »

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May
28th 2014
New “Research” Pitting Public vs. Private Schools Leaves Bad Smell

Posted under Parents & Private Schools & Research & School Choice

In the world of education policy, there’s limited research with shaky conclusions. There’s highly questionable research with sketchier conclusions. Then there’s the findings in the new book The Public School Advantage by Christopher and Sarah Lubienski. The authors not only seek to make the case that traditional public schools outperform private schools, but attempt to invalidate private school choice programs in the process.

First and foremost, let me say such apples-to-oranges comparisons give me pause. It’s extraordinarily challenging to make broad, facile comparisons between the two sectors of education. Some have tried to make the opposite case as the Lubienskis, with varying degrees of success. The point is that parents choose the best kind of school that works for their child and that we ought to be working to improve access, opportunity, and excellence through competition.

Education policy wonks and school choice supporters should take a few minutes to read Patrick Wolf’s review in the new edition of Education Next. It gets somewhat technical, but some of the main points are worth your attention: Continue Reading »

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May
27th 2014
A Year without Lobato Means Another School Finance Case Looms in Colorado

Posted under Courts & Edublogging & Governor & School Finance & State Legislature

Life here in Colorado just isn’t the same without a pending school finance lawsuit. For about eight years, the Lobato case lingered in the background — sometimes drearily, sometimes dramatically — as students and teachers, principals and parents, school boards and state lawmakers went about the work associated with their various roles in the K-12 education world.

It was almost exactly one year ago today that the Colorado Supreme Court issued its final Lobato ruling, and I began clinging to a ray of hope for true school finance reform.

What we got instead was the Amendment 66 tax hike, soundly defeated by Colorado voters. In the election’s aftermath, the state legislature came back with the so-called Student Success Act — which gave us a couple small advances but left some real opportunities for student-focused funding off the table.

Then today we read in the Boulder Daily Camera: Continue Reading »

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May
23rd 2014
Hoping for Better than Political School Finance Kumbayah Next Year

Posted under Education Politics & Governor & Independence Institute & Public Charter Schools & School Finance & State Legislature & Teachers

It’s that time of year in Colorado. I’m not talking about the crazy weather, with all the wind, rain, and hail. No, I mean schools are getting out, graduations are taking place seemingly every day, and (hooray!) summer vacation is here at last.

It’s also time for politicians to take a victory lap on the school funding issue. Because that’s what they do. Chalkbeat Colorado reporter Todd Engdahl covered a recent ceremony at Cherry Creek’s Ponderosa Elementary, where Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a pair of school funding measures into law.

Specifically, the regular school finance act (HB 1298) and the thoroughly debated Student Success Act (HB 1292) were the featured objects of enactment. Differences may appear to be forgotten, but little Eddie’s elephant-like memory clings to recent events surrounding HB 1292: Continue Reading »

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May
22nd 2014
Arizona, Florida ESAs Show How Colorado Could Help Kids Like Nathan

Posted under Courts & Journalism & Parents & Research & School Choice

A couple months ago I was going wild and crazy (in a good way) with the news that the Arizona Supreme Court upheld the fabulous and liberating Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs).

We remember a very important reason why a cutting-edge program like this one is so great when we hear directly from the families who benefit. Thanks to the Foundation for Excellence in Education, I came across a terrific letter by Arizona mom Amanda Howard. Her autistic son Nathan struggled in a regular kindergarten classroom, and still wasn’t talking at age 6, when they received an ESA: Continue Reading »

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May
20th 2014
Colorado Course Choice Pilot Programs Have New Resource to Consult

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Parents & Research & State Legislature

It was just a week ago I expressed my at finding some helpful insights and direction for the recently passed House Bill 1382′s K-12 online education pilot programs. Since then, one of the pilot program areas has received some even more detailed help in the form of a policy strategy manual.

The Fordham Foundation has released “Expanding the Education: A Fifty-State Strategy for Course Choice.” And all the policy wonks sighed and swooned. It’s that kind of step-by-step document, though for those who want the “Reader’s Digest version,” Fordham also made the following 90-second video: Continue Reading »

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May
19th 2014
Denver Post on School Safety Reporting Shows What’s Old Is New Again

Posted under Independence Institute & Journalism & Research & State Legislature

Yesterday the Denver Post featured a lengthy story on troubles with school safety reporting. When I hear about a student being stabbed, beaten up, or having some property stolen, it makes me mad. Of course, those things happen. But then to see that a lot of these incidents aren’t being publicly reported with consistency, I get even more frustrated.

My Education Policy Center friends told me it’s nothing new. Or as former baseball player Yogi Berra once famously said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.” Continue Reading »

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May
14th 2014
International Report Shines Light on Colorado Education Performance Gap

Posted under Grades and Standards & International & Parents & Research

Update, 5/14: RiShawn Biddle shares some further valuable insights into the PEPG report’s findings on his Dropout Nation website.

Almost exactly one year ago to the day, I brought your attention to a report from America Achieves that showed our nation’s lackluster K-12 education results are by no means just a matter of poverty.

This week the good folks at Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG) have published some insights that go a little more in depth and put a new twist on the comparison. The high-powered academic trio of Eric Hanushek, Paul Peterson, and Ludger Woessmann — the same crew that gave us Endangering Prosperity — have taken from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s own words to show readers that it’s “Not Just the Problems of Other People’s Children.”

Readers also can go back and watch the hour-long event where Peterson explains the findings and answers some questions. Continue Reading »

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May
13th 2014
How Can Jeffco Union Leaders’ Bad Faith Bargaining Be Good for Kids?

Posted under Education Politics & School Board & Suburban Schools & Teachers

Once upon a time not so long ago in a land very close by occurred historic open negotiations between the Jeffco school board and the Jefferson County Education Association. Then union leaders staged an impasse and slammed the door shut. Transparency gone. Citizens were left in the dark.

The open negotiations went away as the process moved to mediation, which made me sad. But I didn’t expect things to go awry so quickly. Apparently, union negotiators unilaterally decided to go public with a tentative agreement they quickly learned the school board would not support. From a Jeffco Public Schools press release: Continue Reading »

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