November
6th 2014
ADHD and Education: A New Take on Personalized Learning

Posted under Edublogging & Innovation and Reform & innovation schools & learning & Suburban Schools

As this year’s election silliness mercifully raged to a close earlier in the week (well, kind of), I teased you with the promise of a blog post on ADHD as it relates to customized education and personalized learning. I then proceeded to torture you with a discussion about yet another interpretation of this year’s education survey data. It must not have been too bad, though, because you’re back for more. And I intend to fulfill my promise.

Our discussion of ADHD’s relationship with education reform begins with a fascinating New York Times article by Dr. Richard Friedman, a Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Cornell. Friedman starts out by stating a fact well known by many in the education world: The rates of diagnosis and treatment of ADHD have risen sharply over the years. According to Friedman, it is now the most prevalent psychiatric disorder among American children between the ages of 4 and 17, affecting in the neighborhood of 11% of that population at some point. Friedman points out that this has led many people to wonder whether ADHD is a real disease:

… [Y]ou may wonder whether something that affects so many people can really be a disease … And for a good reason. Recent neuroscience research shows that people with ADHD are actually hard-wired for novelty-seeking — a trait that had, until relatively recently, a distinct evolutionary advantage. Compared with the rest of us, they have sluggish and underfed brain reward circuits, so much of everyday life feels routine and understimulating. Continue Reading »

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November
5th 2014
Silly Season Returns Good News for School Choice, Bad News for Unions

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Federal Government & Governor & Innovation and Reform & School Choice & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Teachers

The silly season is over. We are now free to return to our everyday silliness. This morning I was reminded that television and Internet advertising is also frequently used to sell food, drinks, cars, airfare, electronics, and toys. Who knew that the airwaves and “Interwebs” could so thoroughly be used to hawk consumer goods, and not just to convey fearful messages about how Candidate B hates People and wants to take away their Things, so vote for Candidate A?

Anyway, since so many important decisions about schools are made at the state and national level, the results of these elections that nearly drive my parents crazy actually have a fair amount to tell us about the world that I’m interested in. Let’s cue the various expert big people to fill in the gaps: Continue Reading »

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November
4th 2014
Apathy, Confusion, and Survey Data: What the Numbers Really Tell Us

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Research

I was going to write about an interesting article I read on ADHD, school choice, and personalized learning today, but then I was distracted by a very interesting blog post on Americans’ understanding of education policy—or lack thereof. The irony of being distracted from writing about and ADHD article is not lost on me, but I choose to ignore it.

Never fear, fellow policy explorers; we will revisit ADHD school choice later this week. Today, we talk survey. Yes, again. No, I can’t be persuaded otherwise.

As you well know—and possibly as you have come to hate—I have an unhealthy fascination with surveys and the data they produce. Happily, the last couple of months have served up a veritable smorgasbord of tasty survey data for me to munch on in addition to my normal thinkin’ snacks of M&Ms and pretzel sticks. I even got to join Martin West last week for a delicious re-analysis of data from Education Next’s big survey this past summer. Now, Dr. Morgan Polikoff, a young researcher at the University of South Carolina’s Rossier School of Education, has chimed in on the issue with a blog post written for the Fordham Institute.

Polikoff takes a closer look at data gathered from the Education Next survey, the PDK/Gallup survey, and a survey of California voters conducted by the Rossier School itself. He notes some pretty wide discrepancies between the survey’s results, including the near-opposite results of EdNext and PDK on the issue of using test scores in teacher evaluations that I wrote about when the survey data was first released. He also points out that Americans are frequently wrong or uninformed about education policy issues. This is, he implies, due to widespread disinterest in the topic of education. Continue Reading »

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October
31st 2014
Antonucci Reminds Us to Be Skeptical of Union Leaders’ Pleas to Change

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Innovation and Reform & School Finance & Teachers

From the spooky to the smile-inducing to the skeptical, welcome to Eddie’s roller coaster world of education policy commentary. Skeptical, you say? What am I talking about?

The article of the week for you to read comes from Education Next and America’s most well-informed and honest observer of all things related to the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers, Mr. Mike Antonucci. He lays out the big story about teachers unions and the war within. Bringing nearly two decades of experience watching union leadership operate, he starts the article with this back-to-the-future comparison: Continue Reading »

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October
30th 2014
Tools of Choice: Dougco’s Press for Informed Parental Decisions

Posted under events & Parents & School Choice

Making choices is tough. Would Spiderman or Batman win in a fight? Should I have ice cream for dessert, or should I have ice cream and candy for dessert? What should I do with my finger after picking my nose? Should I ask for a smaller present on both my birthday and Christmas, or should I just ask for one really big present? It all gets a little confusing if you ask me.

If you think that little guys like me have it rough, you should talk to our parents. They have to make hundreds of decisions, all (ok, most) of which are more important than the already stressful choices I outlined above. Among those choices, one stands out as particularly consequential: Which school best fits my child’s needs?

That, my friends, is a tough nut to crack. In fact, one of the most commonly cited arguments against school choice is that some parents—particularly those who don’t earn much or who have lower levels of education themselves—simply aren’t able to find the information they need to make good choices for their children. In one district, that may be about to change. Continue Reading »

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October
28th 2014
COSFP’s School Funding, Instruction Story Not So Spooky with All the Facts

Posted under Grades and Standards & Research & School Finance

Yesterday I shared a really interesting survey-based analysis by Dr. Martin West that strongly suggests the average American has a good handle on how well their local schools perform, but a lot less accurate picture of how well their local schools are funded.

On average, voters underestimate how much is spent per pupil by their local school districts, more than one-third less than the real financial picture. While there could be a number of sources and factors that lead people to such inaccurate conclusions, groups like the Colorado School Finance Project (COSFP) certainly don’t help when they omit $934 million in spending reported by the Department of Education to make the K-12 budgetary picture look bleaker.

Well, they’re ba-a-a-ack. ‘Tis Halloween week, after all. And although my parents have effectively limited my exposure to the world of all things creepy and spooky, I am all too familiar with the experience of reading the selectively scary stories of K-12 funding that COSFP and others peddle. Just look at the group’s latest monthly update: Continue Reading »

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October
27th 2014
Americans Understand Their Schools, Just Not School Finance

Posted under Research & School Accountability & School Finance

All things considered, I think my school is pretty good. It’s got monkey bars, snack time, culturally enriching field trips, and shiny blue fish stickers. Oh, and my dad went there.

If you’re thinking that those things aren’t very convincing measures of overall school quality, you’re right. Yet for a long time, factors like these were held out as possible explanations for the gap between people’s generally positive opinions on their own schools and their less-than-optimistic views of the school system as a whole. Ok, maybe not the monkey bars or fish stickers, but you get the point.

The days of guessing may be coming to a close. Martin West’s new analysis of data from this year’s Education Next Survey (which I wrote about back in August) may be the closest I’ve seen to a really plausible, research-based explanation of what I’ll call—brace for neologism—the “perspective gap.” Continue Reading »

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October
24th 2014
Buckle Up for the Ride, Colorado: The Testing Issue Isn’t Going Away Soon

Posted under Federal Government & Grades and Standards & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & reading & School Accountability & State Board of Education & Teachers

Tests in schools, tests in schools. Why do I have a strange sort of feeling this issue isn’t riding off quietly into the sunset any time soon? First, we’ve got the entire hot mess known as Common Core (or maybe we should just follow Governor Hickenlooper’s advice and rename it “Colorado Core”?) and the new regime of PARCC assessments that go with it.

Underneath all that, though, are all the competing concerns and interests. What do we want tests to do? Is it about improving instruction and directly affecting student learning? Or are they primarily useful tools to help measure and compare how different schools and educators are doing? As I’ve heard it said many times, “what gets measured gets done.” So you can’t just throw out all the tests. But which ones do we need, and how much is too much?

As you can see, magical policy solutions aren’t hiding just beneath the surface. Some leaders on the Colorado State Board of Education have tried to find a way to give local schools and districts more testing flexibility, while preserving key features of accountability. But then the grumpy old U.S. Department of Education mothership has all but completely squashed that idea.

Then we have the legislatively-appointed Standards and Assessments Task Force. On Monday, this 15-member group met and narrowed down the areas of concern to oh, at least eight. These are items to study and make recommendations about. Looks like a big task to tackle by the early 2015 deadline. Then yesterday the Task Force set up a listening session in Colorado Springs, reports the Gazette. Among the many concerns highlighted: Continue Reading »

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October
23rd 2014
Building a Well-Rounded Education: Field Trips and Hamlet with Dr. Jay Greene

Posted under reading & Research & writing

Sometimes my mom pokes fun at my dad for being a little portly. His response is always the same: “I’m just a well-rounded individual.” But while my dad’s goal (every year) is to make himself narrower around the middle, that may be exactly the opposite of what we want to see in our children’s education.

Jay Greene, already one of my favorite academics due to his work on school choice, has most recently taken to arguing for wider ranging liberal (no, not that kind of liberal) education in American schools. He begins a recent post on the topic thusly:

Some people seem determined to narrow education.  I’ve been trying to make the case for a well-rounded, liberal education, but that idea has less support than I realized.  In their effort to maximize math and reading test scores, schools have sometimes narrowed their focus at the expense of the arts and humanities.

That narrowing focus often cuts programs like art, music, drama, field trips, and extracurricular activities. Continue Reading »

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October
22nd 2014
Silly Season Won’t Last, So Find Out Candidate Stances on Key K-12 Issues

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Governor & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Teachers

Oh, it’s the silliest, silliest season of the year. How do I know? My grandpa muttering under his breath when one more irritating political ad interrupts his otherwise enjoyable viewing of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. And the other night my mom crumpling up the latest campaign attack flier that came in our mailbox and finally telling dad they need to turn in their ballots “to stop the madness.” Yes, it’s less than two weeks until Election Day 2014.

Above the fray comes the American Enterprise Institute’s Rick Hess and Max Eden noting how little this year’s prospective political officeholders are saying about the things that affect my world, things like Common Core standards, tenure reform, and school choice:

A systematic analysis of campaign Web sites for the 139 major party candidates for governor or U.S. senator (there is no Democrat running for the Kansas Senate seat) shows that most hopefuls have little to say on any of these pressing questions.

Call me curious, or call me crazy. This little piece prompted me to check out Colorado’s own major party candidates — including two guys running for governor and two running for U.S. Senate. What do they have to say about K-12 education matters? After all, maybe we’re part of the exception here, or maybe there’s more to the story that AEI seeks to tell. Continue Reading »

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