Archive for October, 2017

October
26th 2017
AFT “so far” pumps $600,000 into School Board Race

Posted under Blaine Amendments & Campaigns & castle rock & Colorado Supreme Court & Douglas County & douglas county school district & Public Charter Schools & Union & Vouchers

Remember the Douglas County School Board race? The Toxic-Trio, tire scraps, Blaine Amendments, and what not? Of course you do. The Doug Co race has been one of Colorado’s most eminent issues for months. Well, mail-in ballots have arrived in homes, and with just minutes to go in the bottom of the ninth, the nation’s second largest teacher’s union has made a desperate attempt to sway the outcome of the election in its favor.

The Douglas County School Board race has garnered much national attention–and rightly so. It will not only determine the fate of private school choice in Douglas County, but could determine the constitutionality of Blaine clauses in Colorado. It’s a pivotal moment in education, which is why the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is adamantly attempting to manipulate the election to fit its political agenda.

Ross Izard, senior policy analyst at the Independence Institute and my favorite policy nerd, details the recent uncovering of an additional 300,000-dollar donation AFT made to the Douglas County race (after its initial 300,000-contribution) in his op-ed A national teachers’ union’s war machine is on the move in Colorado, which was published in The Hill.

In total, AFT has donated 600,000 dollars to the anti-choice, self-proclaimed “grassroot” Community Slate in an effort to decimate school choice in Douglas County and blacken the name of any candidate who dares advocate it. Ross’s op-ed expounds how “the [school board] race has been irrevocably altered in its final weeks” by these contributions.

After losing its collective bargaining agreement in Douglas County in 2012, the Colorado chapter of AFT needs to reinstitute itself in Douglas County to be relevant in Colorado. Electing a union friendly school board would help AFT avoid losses in membership, and capitalize on millions from a union contract.

I’m not sure why AFT so inflexibly opposes parents and students having choices in education, but I am sure of one thing; a donation of this size this late in the game means the union is unsure of or frightened by the political landscape it faces. The pro-school choice candidates, also known as Elevate Douglas County, have undoubtedly threatened AFT’s anti-choice agenda.

 

 

 

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October
19th 2017
Stanford Study Reveals the Success of New York City’s Charter Schools

Posted under charter schools & Educational Choice & Public Charter Schools & School Choice

The leaves are changing color, school is in full swing, and the air has finally cooled off. Fall is officially here in Colorado! While many kids are debating whether to be a dinosaur or superhero for Halloween, many parents have become caught up in the debate about charter schools. There has been a lot of uproar around charter schools lately, which can make the issue hard to understand from an objective standpoint. Luckily, a recent study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO) has shed some empirical light on the issue.

My friend Connan Houser– who is a research associate at the Independence Institute–wrote an op-ed titled “The undeniable efficacy of charter schools” which was published in The Hill. Connan’s piece goes into greater detail about CREDO’s findings, but I’ll give you the most important points in this post.

In early October, CREDO released a study which followed over 97,000 charter school students in New York City over the course of four years. The study found that charter schools had exceptionally positive results on students’ learning outcomes, especially for subgroups which traditionally underperform in education.

The most impressive subgroup in the study was charter school students in poverty, who outperformed non-poverty traditional public-school students. Charter school students in poverty tested at a level equivalent to receiving 55 days of extra learning in math, and at an equal reading level as “their more affluent peers.”

I could go on citing more statistics which display the impact of charter schools in New York City, but fortunately CREDO broke their findings down into a table that even a five-year-old could understand.

 

Table 8: Summary of Statistically Significant Findings for New York City Charter School Students

  Reading Math
New York City Charter Students Positive Positive
Charters in 2012-2013 Similar Positive
Charters in 2013-2014 Positive Positive
Charters in 2014-2015 Similar Positive
Charters in 2015-2016 Positive Positive
Elementary School Charter Students Positive Positive
Middle School Charter Students Similar Positive
High School Charter School Students Similar Similar
Multi-Level School Charter Students Positive Positive
First Year Enrolled in Charter School Negative Positive
Second Year Enrolled in Charter School Positive Positive
Third Year Enrolled in Charter School Positive Positive
Fourth Year Enrolled in Charter School Positive Positive
Black Charter School Students Positive Positive
Hispanic Charter School Students Positive Positive
Charter School Students in Poverty Positive Positive
Black Charter School Students in Poverty Positive Positive
Hispanic Charter School Students in Poverty Positive Positive
English Language Learner Charter School Students Similar Positive
Special Education Charter School Students Positive Positive
Charter CMO Positive Positive
Charter Non-CMO Similar Positive
Charter CMO Elementary Schools Positive Positive
Charter Non-CMO Elementary Schools Positive Positive
Charter CMO Middle Schools Positive Positive
Charter Non-CMO Middle Schools Similar Similar
Charter CMO High Schools Similar Positive
Charter Non-CMO High Schools Similar Similar
Charter CMO Multi-level Schools Positive Positive
Charter Non-CMO Multi-level Schools Similar Similar

Fig 1. Summary of Statistically Significant Findings for New York City Charter School Students, 2012-2016.  Graph from the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes, Chater School Performance in New York City, (Stanford University: CREDO 2017), 53. Online.

 

CREDO’s study concluded that students in “New York City charter schools experienced more learning gains in a year, on average, than their [traditional public-school] counterparts.” It also found that, for minority students, attending charter schools “indicated a significant academic advantage.”

It is time to consider what CREDO calls “evidence about charter schools’ impact on student outcomes,” rather than the unintelligible anti-charter school commotion. When deciding upon the futures of children like myself, adults need to hold unbiased and transparent research, such as CREDO’s, in the highest regard. Only then can we truly discern what educational models are working, and find ways to implement them into the broader educational system.

 

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October
17th 2017
AFT Jumps in Douglas County School Board Race with a BIG Splash

Posted under Blaine Amendments & dougco & Douglas County & douglas county school district & Educational Choice & School Board & School Choice & Vouchers

I just came home from school and read an article about the Douglas County School Board race. The article is titled Douglas County ‘Dream Team’  candidates get dream support via $300,000 from National Teachers Union” by Sherrie Peif from Complete Colorado. My mom and dad say this race is the most watched school board race in the country. The AFT, a teachers union, and other school choice opponents have put hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race because they oppose school choice. I don’t understand why anyone would want to stop children from attending a school that they want to attend. But I don’t always understand grown-ups.

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October
12th 2017
Opening a charter school is difficult – but worth it

Posted under charter schools & Educational Choice & Independence Institute & Public Charter Schools & Publications & Ross Izard

My friends at the Independence Institute published a new paper in July telling the stories of three groups of parents and visionaries seeking better educational options for children in their communities by starting charter schools.

Often, I don’t know why adults do what they do.  Sometimes they seem so stressed and anxious.  Sometimes they aren’t nice to each other.  Sometimes they seem so desperate and hopeless.

Other times they seem deeply satisfied, happy, or even elated.  They seem to be this way when they accomplish something that they believe to be extremely valuable—something for which they were driven to work hard.  It’s hard for me to relate because my largest accomplishment in any given day is getting my shirt on right-side-out.

One thing that adults seem to value is doing right by their children, and a big part of that is ensuring that they receive a quality education.  In some cases, that requires lots of hard work.

In The Challenges of Opening a Charter School: Three Colorado Case Studies, Ross Izard portrays the countless hours of hard work that go into navigating the many legal, logistical and bureaucratic barriers to opening a charter school.  Some of these barriers are common to all potential charter schools, but each school also faces its own unique challenges.  Izard contrasts the challenges faced by the parents trying to open a STEM-focused school in an affluent community with those faced by a visionary seeking to open a charter high school to serve teens in a poverty-stricken neighborhood who are pregnant or already parents, and still others faced by parents simply trying to expand school choice in an average suburban area with a classical charter school.

So, what does it really take to open a charter school?  First, there must be a shared vision among the parents and advocates seeking to open a charter school for what a “better” education means.  Next comes translating that vision into a hundreds-of-pages-long charter application, followed by navigating the politics and bureaucracy surrounding the application process.  Charter schools must be authorized by either a school district or the state chartering authority.  Many applications are rejected on either merit or politics.  Though charter schools can request waivers from many state laws, giving them more freedom to be autonomous, they are still public schools and must meet state academic standards and administer state assessments.  Sounds both easy and fun, right?

Wrong.

One of the most difficult challenges is funding.  Unlike traditional public schools, charter schools often must provide their own facilities, forcing them to spend resources out of their operating budgets.  There are federal and state grant programs that help charters get started, though they fall short of covering the full cost.  This leaves less money to pay their teachers, meaning they must work to find quality educators willing to work for less than they could earn in a traditional public school.

Why is it, then, that so many of these schools end up succeeding despite these disadvantages?  It’s simple: persistence, patience, and the relentless desire of parents and other visionaries determined to provide a high-quality education for Colorado’s children.

I don’t always know why adults do what they do, but this paper helps me to understand what they’re up against in the fight to create the best educational opportunities for their children.

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