Archive for January, 2015

January
30th 2015
Testing Issue Isn’t as Easy as “1, 2, 3,” But You’ve Got to Start Somewhere

Posted under Independence Institute & Principals & School Accountability & School Board & State Legislature & Teachers & Testing

Have you ever watched a big person prepare to do some public speaking behind a microphone? Or maybe you’ve done it yourself. Almost always, when someone asks if the microphone is working, the person leans into the device and says something like, “Testing, testing… 123, testing.”

Well, I’m worried that little rote phrase may take on a new meaning with Colorado’s Great Testing Debate. At least five K-12 assessment bills have been introduced thus far in the state legislature, with many more promised to come. Some issues may have clear and solid answers readily available, but to say that isn’t the case with this particular issue would be putting it mildly.

After all, we have several worthy competing goals to consider. Standardized tests done right are an important tool that provides some genuine, transparent, and comparable information about how well teachers, principals, and schools — heavily funded by public tax dollars — are doing in meeting important goals to help students.

At the same time, testing ought to measure authentic knowledge and skills, to provide prompt and useful feedback to teachers, and to differentiate meaningfully based on student abilities, all without posing too great a burden of instructional time lost. No problem, right? Continue Reading »

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January
29th 2015
Little Eddie’s Wet Blanket: What Rise in Teacher ACT-SAT Scores Tells Us

Posted under Research & Teachers & Testing

Earlier this week, we talked about a National Council on Teacher Quality report on teacher pension systems. Today, we get to talk about an article from the Hechinger Report regarding the “quality” of teachers entering the teaching force as measured by scores on the SAT and ACT. The article highlights some new research that supposedly refutes a 2010 McKinsey and Company report. The report argued that pulling in teachers with higher scores could help the U.S. achieve the same results as countries like Finland.

The good news is that new research apparently (some of it has not been officially published) shows new teachers’ college entrance exam scores have risen. Much larger numbers of teachers are coming from the top third of the SAT score distribution. And of course, this is fantastic. But the better news is that this means we can now safely say that we have  a great deal more confidence in teachers than TV reporters. The bad news is, so what?

Sadly, Eddie has to be the wet blanket today by pointing out that aside from providing an admittedly well-deserved feel-good piece for teachers (who are frequently and wrongly attacked for their profession) and poking at the 2010 Mckinsey report, the article doesn’t accomplish much. Yeah, that’s a little cranky of me. But as the article’s last paragraph points out, the increase in teacher “quality” hasn’t done much to improve outcomes for kids overall. Continue Reading »

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January
28th 2015
After School Choice Week, How About Educate the Reporters Week?

Posted under Denver & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & Parents & Private Schools & School Choice

Last Friday I was overflowing with enthusiasm at the kickoff of the 5th annual National School Choice Week.

I got even more excited Monday morning for the big Denver celebration at our own State Capitol, where hundreds of school kids and others came to wear their yellow scarves, show their support. There was even some singing and dancing!

I may get even more excited yet when my Independence Institute friends assemble and edit their footage of the rally for a sure-to-be-great video. Stay tuned for that! Continue Reading »

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January
27th 2015
Colorado Gets Bad Grade on NCTQ’s Latest Pension Report

Posted under PERA & Research & School Finance

We’ve been talking a lot about policy recently. ESEA reauthorization issues, the hazards of requiring state testing in private schools, and some number crunchin’ on the subject of Colorado’s school funding. Then last Friday, you had a nice break. We spoke instead about School Choice Week, which is sort of like Christmas for eduwatchers like me. The successful (and fun) NCSW rally is over, but School Choice Week is still going. That means you should be out tweeting and Facebooking and doing everything you can to get the message out!

Before you go do that, though, let’s talk about just a little more policy. And to spice things up, let’s make it PERA policy. You’ll recall that we’ve talked before about the wild, shaggy policy beast that is the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association. Like many others, I pointed out some serious flaws with the state’s system, including unfunded liabilities and the unfair way the current system treats young or new public employees.

Well, those problems as they relate to teachers have once again been quantified by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). The organization recently released its latest annual report on the health of teacher pension systems around the country. The report grades each state on the extent to which their teacher pension plan: Continue Reading »

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January
23rd 2015
School Choice Week 2015 Has Officially Arrived

Posted under Edublogging & School Choice

It’s Friday again, my friends. As usual, that means your favorite little edublogger has spent his day trying to wrap things up for the week. That leaves me limited time for our conversation (try not to look so disappointed!), so today’s post will be a quick one.

Fortunately, we have something exciting to focus on during our brief time together: The kickoff of National School Choice Week in Jacksonville, Florida! If you missed the live stream, you can check out the full video below.

Continue Reading »

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January
22nd 2015
Survey Highlights Importance of Keeping State Tests off Private Schools

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Parents & Private Schools & Research & School Choice

Update: I should have looked at this post by Matt Ladner first. He largely makes the same point, but with a little more zing at Louisiana.

Though not so much this time of year, my Dad and I like to play catch in the backyard occasionally. It sounds kind of cliched, but my Dad starts talking about how he used to do the same thing with his dad. Then almost inevitably, he starts talking about this old movie called “Field of Dreams.” (After finally seeing this movie, I’m a little scared about wandering into cornfields, but that’s a different story.)

Anyway, there’s this famous line in “Field of Dreams”, where the guy keeps hearing the voice say: “If you build it, they will come.” People in the movie thought he was kind of crazy, sort of like some readers of this blog think I’m crazy.

But at least I’m here to tell you that when it comes to establishing private school choice in a state or community — and is there any doubt I’m a huge fan? — there’s a lot more to the matter than just building the program and expecting people to come. Hence, I encourage you to take a look at the American Enterprise Institute’s new study called “Views from Private Schools.” Continue Reading »

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January
21st 2015
Detective Eddie and the Case of the Missing ESEA SOTU Mention

Posted under Education Politics & Testing

As you may know, last night was the SOTU. I spent more time than one might expect attempting to convert that into a funny, education-related acronym, but had little success. For the record, I blame my failure on my age and innocent youth. Regardless, no joke for you today.

But hey, maybe I don’t need to be cracking jokes. After all, the president’s State of the Union address is pretty important. It hints at future battles, helps set the tone for the year, and provides a little more detail on potential policies in the pipeline.  Most importantly, it outlines the president’s priorities. Maybe that’s why I found it so noticeable that K-12 education—and particularly the massive ESEA reauthorization fight brewing in D.C.—received little more than a rhetorical nod.

Oh, and in case you missed the address, the video is below. If you aren’t interested in the full hour-long speech, Education Week put together a decent synopsis that you may find helpful.

Continue Reading »

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January
19th 2015
Colorado Looks Terrible at K-12 Spending (If You Fudge the Numbers)

Posted under Journalism & Research & School Finance & Transparency & Union

Perhaps you’ve heard the famous expression: “If it bleeds, it leads.” The K-12 education policy version of that axiom recently played out in a recent Colorado Public Radio (CPR) story under the heading of “Colorado per-pupil spending lags US average even more, report says.”

The report referenced comes from the Colorado School Finance Report (COSFP). Wait, where have I heard that before? Yes, the group whose spooky story doesn’t look so spooky after all when all the facts are laid out.

CPR (which in this case has nothing to do with an emergency life-saving technique) highlights a somewhat selective finding made by COSFP: Continue Reading »

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January
16th 2015
Ding Ding Ding! JCEA’s Round Two Battleflop

Posted under Education Politics & School Board & Teachers & Testing & Union

Not too long ago, John Ford of the Jefferson County Education Association told us that “the fight would start in January” (I humbly contend that the fight started back in September and that JCEA already lost the first round). I wrote about his inspiring speech recently, but here’s the video in case you forgot:

And if that weren’t enough to get this little guy scared, Complete Colorado broke the story that he’s been discussing the “unique opportunity to beat these bas***** back” with his “brothers and sisters” in Boulder Valley (yeah, I find that language creepy too).  I’m still not too sure what that blanked-out word is, but I’m pretty sure it’s not friendly.

Jeffco’s board meeting last night was supposed to be the big kick off, or the opening bell, or some other vaguely applicable sports metaphor. Instead, the effort flopped harder than Shamoo in a lap pool. Continue Reading »

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January
15th 2015
N’Orleans Research Highlights the Importance of Smart Choice Programs

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice

There are days when I think I’ve found the single, universal answer to all of my five-year-old problems. Like the time I used chewing gum to stick a loose sole back to my shoe. When I figured the same approach would also help me hang a cool Spiderman posted on my bedroom wall, I got in big trouble. Then there was the time I discovered that I could use the microwave to create nachos. It worked less spectacularly when I used it as a towel drier. I think I finally understand what my dad means when he pats me on the head and says, “Son, there’s no such thing as a silver bullet.”

As it turns out, the same thing holds true in education reform. I love school choice, but that doesn’t mean that just any choice policy will fix all of our woes automatically. It has to be done right, and one has to remember that no system (and especially not the current school system) is perfect.

Yet perfect shouldn’t be the enemy of the good when we’re talking about school choice programs. That’s why I get a little sad when I read stories like this one from KUNC about a big, fancy report from an outfit called The Education Research Alliance of New Orleans. Continue Reading »

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