June
9th 2015
New Funding Reports Try to Sound the Alarms, But Simply Don’t Add Up

Posted under Research & School Finance

Are you interested in new K-12 “research” that creates new ways to measure funding, obsesses over inputs, rests on logical leaps, AND challenges its own claims? Well, then I have a couple reports for you!

The headlines create such drama:

Sure, the United States stands at or near the top of the world’s rankings in per-pupil spending, yet its students finish well below that on measures of math and science achievement. But somehow a disaster is looming, if we don’t spend more money. Or is it that money isn’t being spent equitably? Or both?

Let’s start with the Education Law Center’s “Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card.” As its title suggests, the report purports to focus on the issue of whether states provide “fair funding” based on student poverty. Continue Reading »

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June
5th 2015
Union Interns Unionize Against Union

Posted under Just For Fun & Union

I’m pretty jaded for a five-year-old. Not much surprises me when it comes to edu-news. But sometimes, just sometimes, I see a headline that really catches my eye. Usually, that moment is followed by me checking the calendar for dangerous dates (remember April Fools’ Day?) and ensuring that I’m not looking at something like The Onion. That’s exactly what I did when I read the Daily Caller headline that the American Federation of Teachers’ paid interns are unionizing. Fortunately for us, it turns out that the article is genuine. I love fun Friday posts, and it doesn’t get much better than this.

Apparently, there is a high level of intern disgruntlement in the United States. The Daily Caller article links to a study covering some of the issues with unpaid internships. (Full disclosure: I have not read and likely will never read this study.)

AFT interns do not work on an unpaid basis. But, they have apparently grown weary of being underpaid, overworked, and receiving Spartan benefits. In other words, they are tired of being exploited by their employer. Beautifully, their employer in this case is a massive political organization that claims to be focused on protecting folks from exploitation. Continue Reading »

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June
3rd 2015
Nevada Joins Ranks of ESA States, Adds Momentum to Educational Choice

Posted under Governor & Independence Institute & learning & Parents & Private Schools & School Choice & State Legislature

A few months ago one of my Education Policy Center friends created one of the first-ever Freedom Minute videos on “The Education Debit Card.” Remember? It’s everywhere you want to learn or Don’t leave home without it.

The Education Debit Card is a catchier name for Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). Dubbed the “iPhone” of school choice by Matt Ladner, ESAs give families control over a prescribed amount of state education funds to be used on private school tuition, tutoring, instructional materials, online courses, educational therapies, or to save for college expenses. More than any kind of choice program, it targets dollars to serve students’ individual learning needs.

At the time the video was made there were exactly two states with ESAs: Arizona and Florida. And both those states had limited eligibility, mostly students with recognized special needs and/or in special circumstances (e.g., foster care or military family). As of yesterday, there are five states, including the first to offer nearly universal ESAs to all public school children. Continue Reading »

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June
2nd 2015
New Study on School Funding Assumes Its Way into Trouble

Posted under Research & School Finance

Sometimes I just want to get nerdy. I don’t mean kind of nerdy, like when we throw around phrases like “statistical significance” and call it a day. I mean really, truly nerdy. The kind of nerdy that involves using words like “exogeneity,” which is so obscure a term that Microsoft Word tells me it isn’t a word at all. In response, I proudly push my glasses up my nose and declare that not only is exogeneity a word, it is a word that matters.

What in the world am I talking about? The controversial new Education Next school funding study by C. Kirabo Jackson, Rucker C. Johnson, and Claudia Persico, of course! If you are one of those cool kids who doesn’t spend every morning perusing the latest studies on education, the quick and dirty on the study is this: It upends a great deal of research suggesting that simply increasing public school funding does little to increase academic achievement. Instead, it finds that if one changes the design of the research, large impacts are revealed. The proposed solution? You guessed it: More money.

From the study itself (emphasis added):

Previous national studies have examined the relationship between school resources and student outcomes and found little association for students born after 1950. Those studies, however, suffer from major design limitations. We address those limitations and demonstrate that, in fact, when examined in the right way, it becomes clear that increased school spending is linked to improved outcomes for students, and for low-income students in particular. Investigating the causal effect of school spending increases generated by the passage of SFRs, we conclude that increasing per-pupil spending yields large improvements in educational attainment, wages, and family income, and reductions in the annual incidence of adult poverty for children from low-income families. For children from nonpoor families, we find smaller effects of increased school spending on subsequent educational attainment and family income in adulthood.

This begs an obvious question: What exactly is the “right way” to examine the school funding issue? Continue Reading »

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May
27th 2015
Students’ Walk in the PARCC Gets a Little Shorter

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & School Accountability & State Legislature & Testing

It wasn’t too long ago that we were in the midst of a high-stakes game of legislative testing chicken.  The Great Testing Debate of 2015 eventually ground to a (sort of) conclusion that involved reducing the amount of testing overall and creating a pilot program to look into new possibilities on the testing front. Yes, I remember that I promised you a breakdown of that big, messy compromise a while back. No, we aren’t going to do that today.

Oh, stop looking so disappointed. We have plenty of time in the coming weeks to get our edu-nerd on when it comes to testing frequency and pilot programs. But as my policy friends Ben DeGrow and Ross Izard pointed out in a joint op-ed near the end of the legislative session, discussions about the tests being used–and how to make them better–are equally important.

That’s why I was glad to read last week that the PARCC consortium will be cutting down on both the amount of time students will spend taking tests and the logistical headaches caused by administering tests in two separate windows. Education Week provides a nice summary of the changes: Continue Reading »

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May
26th 2015
Stop Dumping Paperwork on Charter Applicants, and Focus on Success

Posted under Public Charter Schools & Research & School Accountability & School Board & School Choice & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Suburban Schools

Now that Memorial Day is past, and the unofficial start of summer has arrived, it’s time to start thinking about taking that fun family vacation. For me, it has to include going to the beach, or at least staying cool at a splashing fun water park. While I would enjoy swimming at the lake or at the kiddie pool, I don’t think anyone enjoys swimming through a pile of paperwork.

Yet as a new American Enterprise Institute report explains, too many public charter school authorizers are overloading applicants with questions and tasks that just aren’t necessary at getting to the bottom line of creating innovative, effective educational opportunities.

Michael McShane, Jenn Hatfield, and Elizabeth English specifically surveyed the application processes of 40 non-school-district authorizers, and found some upsetting results. School districts — which make up all the Colorado authorizers, except for the Charter School Institute — tend to lard up the process with obstacles to make it more difficult for new charters to emerge. But as AEI’s new research shows, even many of the alternatives have trouble getting it correct. Continue Reading »

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May
21st 2015
Thompson Board Stands Firm on Bad Contract; Union Backers Go Haywire

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

Yesterday I prepped you for the big vote and showdown at last night’s Thompson school board meeting on whether to accept the proposed union contract update. I told you it could go one of two ways: Either the return to the drawing board 1) resulted in some reasonable solutions to board director concerns that could be adopted, or 2) the board would take the historic step of rejecting the contract.

In case you haven’t heard, the city of Loveland witnessed Option #2 unfold. By a vote of 4-3, the union contract failed again. By collaborating to ignore nearly all the concerns raised, union leaders and district bureaucrats effectively dared the school board to stand firm or fail. The Reporter-Herald‘s Pamela Johnson quoted remarks from most of the board members, including president Bob Kerrigan: Continue Reading »

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May
20th 2015
Thompson Gears Up for the Final (?) Battle

Posted under Education Politics & Teachers & Union

We’ve talked an awful lot about Thompson School District recently. And why wouldn’t we? The district and its reform majority are, after all, at the very forefront of Colorado’s ongoing—and increasingly nasty—education reform wars. The board’s attempt to build a smarter, better union contract that does right by both its students has been met with stiff resistance from both the Thompson Education Association and its big political brother, the Colorado Education Association.

First CEA stepped into the fray by pushing a phony petition designed to block an attempt at providing the district’s negotiating team with written guidance on how to proceed. Shortly thereafter, the board rejected a laughably bad attempt at a tentative agreement. The negotiating teams were sent back to the table to take another stab at the contract on May 12. The rejection of the first tentative agreement was quickly followed by two relatively small, sadly misinformed student “rallies” not entirely dissimilar to those we saw in Jefferson County last fall.

It’s safe to say that things haven’t been pretty in Thompson. Tonight, it all comes to a head. Continue Reading »

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May
19th 2015
Tuesday Twofer: More Legal Victories for School Choice

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & Tax Credits & Union

This year has been a big year for school choice, and a decidedly bad year for teachers unions. First, a red tidal wave surged across the country in the 2014 elections despite record union spending in an effort to stop it. Then, the school choice aftershocks started. Alabama became America’s 43rd charter state, Nevada passed a very strong scholarship tax credit program that was subsequently signed into law, and Arkansas said yes to a new voucher program for special needs kids. To round things out, Montana took a step in the right direction by passing a small school choice pilot program. Wow!

We recently talked about the NEA president’s recent comment that education policy should be left “… where it belongs: The legislature.” As I highlighted then, this is an interesting statement given a number of union-led legal attacks on school choice programs around the country (including Douglas County). I cynically posited then that I suspected the unions would challenge policies they don’t like anywhere they can win. As it turns out, they may not be able to win anywhere at all. Continue Reading »

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May
15th 2015
A Friday Reminder of What Kids Can Do

Posted under Edublogging & Just For Fun

It’s been a while since we’ve had a good, fun Friday post. All that serious edu-business just keeps getting in the way. But take heart, my friends, for today is once again a Happy Friday. As I was perusing the normal news, an interesting story caught my attention: A Colorado Springs student is about to earn an undergraduate degree in computer security from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS)—before finishing high school. His name is Jacob Reichard, and he’s 17.

Check out his interview:

Continue Reading »

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