Archive for May, 2016

May
27th 2016
Another Friday, Another Goodbye, and a Big Opportunity

Posted under Douglas County & School Board

I hate goodbyes, especially when I have to issue them back to back to people who I think have done good work. Late last week, we talked a little about Commissioner Rich Crandall’s abrupt decision to resign from his position after only a few months on the job. Now we’re saying goodbye to Douglas County’s stalwart superintendent, Dr. Liz Fagen.

Dr. Fagen has been with Douglas County for six years. That’s a pretty good run if you consider that the typical tenure of a superintendent is only about three years—and that’s in districts far less venomous and politically charged than Douglas County. While there is research out there finding that superintendents are not the biggest influences on district performance (see the study linked in the prior sentence), no one can argue with the fact that Dr. Fagen has overseen some dramatic and successful changes in Douglas County. Continue Reading »

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May
20th 2016
Commissioner’s Resignation Shatters Friday Quiet

Posted under Colorado Department of Education & Education Politics

Yesterday, we took a philosophically taxing tour through the moral stickiness of education. I had hoped that today would be a good chance to cool off and talk about something a little less heavy. No such luck.

If you pay even a little attention to the education scene in Colorado, you probably heard that Commissioner Rich Crandall stepped down from his post yesterday afternoon. Continue Reading »

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May
19th 2016
Tough Choices and Doing “The Right Thing” in Education

Posted under Edublogging & Graduation & Principals & Teachers

It’s graduation time across Colorado and the nation. Happy kids everywhere are moving up a grade, finishing school, or digging in to do some more work over the summer. I think that’s fantastic, but I was reminded today of a different perspective while I was perusing my daily flood of education news, blogs, and columns.

Brace yourselves. Today’s post is a little squishy. Stop scowling. We five-year-olds are allowed to be squishy sometimes.

Most of you probably know that despite some amazing success stories, I have serious questions about number-gaming when it comes to graduation rates. The same applies to rates of advancement in lower grades. But I will admit that I have not spent a lot of time pondering the issue in terms of the potentially agonizing decisions teachers and school leaders have to make when it comes to sending kids out into the real world—or holding them back.

That perspective, and the important philosophical questions it raises, popped into the ol’ thinker this afternoon as I read a guest post on Rick Hess’s blog. Written by Meira Levinson, a professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the post puts forward a fictional scenario involving an underprivileged eighth-grader at the end of a school year. The big question at the end: What is the right thing to do? Continue Reading »

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May
13th 2016
New Study Studies Studies on School Choice

Posted under Private Schools & Research & School Choice & Tax Credits

Well, friends, the 2016 legislative session is officially a done deal. I’ll have an official wrap-up (autopsy?) for you next week, but for now we can all breathe a little easier knowing that the crush of state-level education politics will recede for the most part until the fall. That leaves plenty of time to nerd it up, and nerd it up we shall.

Let’s get the policy party started today with a new study out of the University of Arkansas’s Department of Education Reform. Written by M. Danish Shakeel, Kaitlin P. Anderson, and Patrick J. Wolf, the study takes a look at the effects of private school choice programs around the world. Or, rather, the study looks at studies on the effects of private school choice programs around the world. That makes it a “meta-study.” Today’s lesson in impenetrable academic jargon: Studying studies yields meta-studies. You’re welcome.

Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat: I have a love-hate relationship with meta-studies. On one hand, comprehensive examinations of previous research are enormously valuable for those of us who swim in policy waters. On the other hand, they can easily fall victim to cherry picking, or the tendency to pick only studies that agree with whatever point you want to make. Then you have the issue of ensuring that the studies you are studying with your meta-study are actually decent—a question that often leads to screening processes that can, once again, easily fall victim to bias. That’s why you so often see meta-studies on the same subject reaching entirely different conclusions.

As a matter of fact, this particular meta-study is largely intended to correct what the researchers see as flaws in previous reviews of school choice research. Continue Reading »

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May
6th 2016
Waivers, Waivers Everywhere

Posted under Accountability & Public Charter Schools & School Board & Traditional Public Schools

A couple of weeks ago, I provided a rundown of the legislation still pending in the 2016 legislative session’s busy final days. One of the bills lingering out there is HB 16-1343, which seeks to eliminate automatic waivers for charter schools. As I’ve said before, there is little danger that the bill will survive. But that won’t stop the teachers union and its allies from using it as an opportunity to pontificate about those evil, nasty, no-good charter schools.

And pontificate they have. CEA has published all manner of charter-related ugliness on its Twitter account, and has supported 1343 on its website. More recently, the often icky Colorado Independent jumped on the bandwagon with an article accusing charters of “dodging Colorado laws”—likely after all the more credible news outlets declined to become mouthpieces for union propaganda.  But hey, I guess some folks have to take what they can get.

Anyway, the Independent article focuses on the union’s central messaging plank: That the waivers granted to charter schools create an unfair ability to shirk legal requirements that other schools have to follow. Why do charters deserve equal funding, they ask, if they don’t have to play by the same rules as traditional public schools? Traditional public schools do not have a way to waive out of these requirements, after all. Right? Wrong. Let’s talk. Continue Reading »

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May
4th 2016
Inadequate Funding or Inadequate Information?

Posted under Education Politics & Media & School Finance

Welcome back, friends. I apologize for my absence during the second half of last week. Do you have any idea how busy an intrepid policy explorer like myself gets in the closing weeks of the legislative session? Plus, I had to carve out some extra time to watch interesting education TV shows hosted by my Independence Institute policy friend Ross Izard. See here for a segment on charter funding equity, and here for one of my favorite Colorado private schools, Arrupe Jesuit High School.

I’m sorry I left you hanging. But now we’re back. And we’ve got some serious edu-policy work to do. Today’s topic: school finance in Colorado. No, no. Don’t run. I promise it’ll be (mostly) painless.

I started thinking about how important it is to get accurate information out there about school finance in Colorado when I read a Colorado Public Radio story about our state’s supposed failure to adequately fund its public schools despite a “booming” economy. Continue Reading »

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