Archive for June, 2017

June
19th 2017
PARCC Rides Off Into the Sunset… On a Circular Track

Posted under Academic Achievement & Accountability & Education Politics & State Board of Education & Testing

It’s no secret that people don’t love Pearson’s PARCC tests. Even way back in 2015, states were practically tripping on themselves trying to get away from the unpopular test, which was originally designed to provide comparable results across state lines. That trend has continued, and only a handful of the original dozens of PARCC states remain. Now, it looks like Colorado is jumping ship. It’s about time. But are we really leaving PARCC behind? Or are we just witnessing a rebranding effort?

Colorado’s experience with PARCC has not been overly pleasant. For starters, and although there have been some improvements on this front, results have been slow to roll in despite promises from test-making giant Pearson Education that their technology would make those results available faster. It’s hard to do much with test scores that come in after the new school year is already in full swing. That makes it very tough to create buy-in on the part of educators, parents, or even education observers.

PARCC has similarly failed to convince students and parents of its value, and opt-out numbers have soared. Those opt outs are a serious problem for a number of reasons. First, they signal that the state is spending many millions of dollars on a testing instrument that parents and students do not see as valuable enough to use, particularly in certain grade levels. Second, they throw a serious wrench in the state’s accountability system. You know there’s an issue when you have to start flagging school and district accountability reports with asterisks for “low participation.” Finally, and more seriously, the unreliable data caused by the opt-out movement harms parents’ ability to make informed educational choices and adds fuel to the fire of the anti-reform movement.

There are many, many issues involved in Colorado’s current testing situation. But I remain convinced that one of the primary drivers of Colorado’s testing woes has been PARCC’s unpopularity. That’s why I was thrilled to see Independence Institute support a bill this year to remove PARCC from all Colorado high schools and replace it with a test that prepares students for and aligns with the SAT in 11th grade. That bill has since been signed into law.

Now, it looks like Colorado is taking similar steps in earlier grades. Thanks to a Colorado State Board of Education decision back in December, Colorado will soon move away from PARCC testing in grades 3-8 as it withdraws from the PARCC testing consortium. That should be cause for celebration for parents concerned about PARCC and a good catalyst to begin returning our focus to sensible accountability and testing. But don’t get too excited yet. Continue Reading »

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June
8th 2017
The Education Establishment is Dead, Long Live the Education Establishment?

Posted under Education Politics & Every Student Succeeds Act & Federal Government & Ross Izard

The king is dead, long live the king.” Have you heard that one before? It’s a phrase a variety of countries have used to simultaneously announce the death of a monarch and the ascension of a new one. The phrase has survived into the modern era in part because it provides an excuse to use the word epanalepsis and in part because it turns out to be a pretty poignant description of the lack of change when regimes shift.

I was reminded of this old phrase while reading a recent blog post by American Enterprise Institute education guru Rick Hess, who has been working for a while now to prevent education reformers from morphing into a new education establishment. This particular post is in response to a number of folks who took issue with a previous Hess post criticizing the amount of bureaucratic paperwork involved in crafting state education plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act. You know, like the 150-page one Colorado submitted in May. In that post, Hess wrote:

The vapidity of the exercise would be unremarkable if everyone clearly understood that these filings are the kind of pointless, paper exercise demanded by 21st century bureaucracy, and that the only thing that matters is what states and districts actually do after they’ve submitted their plans. But what’s disconcerting is how much enthusiasm the education intelligentsia has invested in these latter-day TPS reports. It makes them look more than a little like Initech’s paper-loving mandarins—and that’s not something I would wish on anyone. Continue Reading »

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June
1st 2017
Superintendent Subterfuge: Broken Promises, Empty Words, and the Crystal Ball in Jefferson County

Posted under Education Politics & Jefferson County & School Board & Union

Remember that recall thing that happened in Jeffco back in 2015? Of course you do. We all do. In fact, a fair number of folks are still suffering from the edu-PTSD that nasty fight caused. Many speculated as the dust settled that the dishonesty underlying the Jeffco recall portended broken promises and bad behavior by the new 5-0 anti-reform board. And based on the board’s recent selection of Eagle County’s legendarily anti-reform Jason Glass as its new superintendent, it would appear those predictions have come true.

It became clear pretty quickly following the 2015 election that recall proponents were somewhat… erm… less than honest about their motivations and backers. That’s a nice way of saying they lied through their collective teeth. First, it emerged that the teachers union began working against the conservative reform majority “from the moment the polls closed in 2013” despite statements to the contrary from just about everyone on the pro-recall side. Then, we discovered that the “parent-led” recall effort was, in fact, directly funded by the National Education Association. When that revelation blew up a legal attempt by the pro-recall Jeffco United to conceal its donors, it was revealed that things were even worse than they seemed. The organization received literally 99.9 percent of its money from teachers unions.

And, of course, those are only the worst examples of deliberate lying in the Jeffco recall. There were numerous other claims made that were roundly proven to be either inaccurate or flatly false. One of the largest and most heavily publicized of these claims dealt with the selection and contract of Dan McMinimee, whom the Jeffco school board’s conservative majority hired as the district’s chief in 2014. Back then, the same group of people who would later become the faces of the Jeffco recall effort argued that McMinimee’s salary was unjustifiably higher than his predecessor, Cindy Stevenson. As it turns out, that was a lie. Meanwhile, progressives and other opponents of the board’s conservative reform majority castigated them for engaging in a less-than-transparent selection process that presented only one sole finalist to the public.

The shrieking about McMinimee was at least part of the reason the pro-recall side prevailed in 2015. But their outrage apparently died with the old majority. Continue Reading »

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