2nd 2016
Long Weekend, Short Videos: New Freedom Minutes Promote School Choice in CO

Posted under Educational Choice & Just For Fun & Public Charter Schools & Video

It’s the Friday before a holiday weekend, which I know means that you’re all looking for a big, heavy, policy-focused blog post to round out the week. No? That’s not what you want? Alright, fine. We’ll keep it light and fun. And what could be lighter and more fun than a cute kid talking about school choice?

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to present Jordan Smith in two brand-new Freedom Minutes. The first video is all about Jordan’s charter school in Jefferson County, Goldenview Classical Academy. You may remember that GVCA has been the subject of some pretty ugly attacks recently—attacks that I’ve spent considerable time debunking. But nothing I write could ever be as compelling as hearing about the school from one of its student fans firsthand, so I will simply shut up and allow Jordan to do the talking. Check it out:

In the second video, Jordan uses her charm to promote the newly redesigned School Choice for Kids website. This site is designed to empower parents by helping them navigate the complex educational choice landscape in Colorado and find the best school for their children. And because the Education Policy Center believes in helping as many parents as possible, the site is also available in Spanish. Check out Jordan’s video below, then surf around on the site yourself to see what a great tool it is. Don’t forget to share!

I hope everyone has a great, relaxing Labor Day weekend. I’ll see you back here next week!

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31st 2016
A Field Trip to STEM School and Academy

Posted under Educational Choice & Public Charter Schools

Those who know me know that there are few things I love more than getting out and visiting schools. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life as an edu-nerd. Spreadsheets, data, laws, and studies are very much my bag. But those things can never truly convey the power of education to change lives and help kids reach their full potential. Education has always been, is now, and will forever be a fundamentally human undertaking that has to be observed firsthand to be fully appreciated.

We’ve talked quite a bit about the moving stories of unique private schools in Colorado, which are laid out nicely by my policy friend Ross Izard in his Profiles in Private Education series. But there are plenty of inspiring stories in the public school system, too, and those stories deserve to be told. That’s why I was so excited when I received a comment from a woman named Denise Gliwa on one my posts inviting me to visit a unique charter school in Douglas County School District called STEM School and Academy. Denise works at the school, and she thought I might be interested in seeing STEM in action. She was right.  Continue Reading »

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26th 2016
2016 Ed Next Survey Data Released

Posted under Accountability & Educational Choice & Grades and Standards & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & School Accountability & Tax Credits & Teachers & Tenure & Testing & Union & Vouchers

If there’s one thing I look forward to most every year, it’s the release of new survey data on education opinions in America. I’m just kidding. I obviously look forward to Christmas most. But new survey data is a close second.

About this time last year, we were gleefully digging through the results of the 2015 Education Next and Gallup/PDK education surveys. The latter poll, you may remember, is not really one of my favorites when it comes to fairness and a general lack of bias. We’ll have to wait a bit longer to see if this year’s version is a little more credible. In the meantime, we can chew on the generally more convincing Education Next results for 2016.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Education Next poll, it gathers a nationally representative sample of adults (about 4,000 this year) and asks them questions about just about everything you could ever imagine related to education. There is tons and tons of useful, interesting information buried in this year’s results and the accompanying narrative summary and interactive graphs, but we’ll just focus in on the big stuff for today. Continue Reading »

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19th 2016
Louisiana’s Lesson: Attacking Private School Choice Hurts Public School Districts

Posted under Educational Choice & Research & School Finance & Vouchers

Buckle up, friends. We’re heading back to Louisiana for today’s post. Figuratively, of course—Louisiana isn’t exactly somewhere I’d like to be in person right now. Here’s hoping everyone stays safe down there.

The good news is that we get to remain dry (literally and figuratively) in our chairs and take a look at yet more research related to educational choice in Louisiana, this time on the financial consequences of scaling back the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP). Those who argue that private school choice sucks money out of public education may want to brace themselves; today’s post may cause severe damage to their inaccurate worldview. Continue Reading »

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18th 2016
New School Year, New Assessment Data

Posted under Colorado Department of Education & Grades and Standards & Research & Testing

As I mentioned last week, it’s back-to-school season in Colorado. As it turns out, it’s also get-your-test-scores-back season. Yes, that’s right. We have a whole raft of new data to dissect and discuss. Hooray!

I see you looking at your calendar, and I know what you’re thinking: Didn’t students take these tests like, last spring? Well, yes. Yes, they did. And you’re not the only one who finds the delay perplexing. As it turns out, that reporting lag causes some major problems for local school and district leaders looking to make adjustments for the new academic year. To make matters worse, the recently released PARCC scores only cover state-level data. That means district- and school-level data in English language arts and mathematics won’t be available until later this month.

In fairness, releasing the scores in August is significantly better than releasing them in, say, November. And I should mention that scores from the older TCAP tests were also released in August. Still, one of the promises of computer-based online testing was that it would get valuable data into the hands of educators faster. That simply hasn’t happened. Maybe the delay has something to do with the fact that 2015 testing compromise legislation added the option of taking a paper-and-pencil version of the test, but I’m not sure that explanation will do much to bolster support for the faltering PARCC assessments.

But we can save a discussion on the merits of PARCC itself for another time. We have data to look at, including data from Colorado’s own CMAS tests in social studies and science and from the venerable ACT. Continue Reading »

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11th 2016
New Dougco Ruling Stretches Logic, Hampers Choice

Posted under Blaine Amendments & Colorado Supreme Court & Courts & Douglas County & Educational Choice & Legal Issues & Vouchers

Yesterday, we celebrated the continuing success of public school choice by taking a look at some very encouraging findings in Colorado’s public charter school sector. I mentioned in the post that despite the rapid expansion of charter schools, demand is far outstripping supply when it comes to school choice—there are thousands of students on charter waiting lists and in lottery pools across the state.

Yet even as I type this, between 10,000 and 15,000 seats sit empty in Colorado private schools. Each of those seats represents the opportunity to change a student’s life, but that doesn’t stop choice opponents from fighting tooth and nail to shut down any attempt to open the door to those opportunities.

Sadly, these opponents scored another win against choice in Douglas County last week when 2nd Judicial District Court Chief Judge Michael Martinez—the very same judge who blocked the original Dougco voucher program in 2011—ruled that the district’s new local voucher program, which excludes faith-based schools, is still bound by the Colorado Supreme Court’s sweeping 2015 ruling under Colorado’s Blaine Amendment. Continue Reading »

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10th 2016
CO Charter Schools Knocking It Out of the Park in Latest Report

Posted under Colorado Department of Education & Public Charter Schools & Research

It’s back-to-school season in Colorado. Some kiddos started class today, and many more will be hitting the books again over the next couple of weeks. By the time August is over, most of Colorado’s 900,000 PK-12 students will be back to learning and growing in the state’s public school system.

Well north of 100,000 of these students will be heading back to public charter schools. And as my policy friend Ross Izard points out in a recent column, that’s a pretty good place to be. Continue Reading »


5th 2016
Little Eddie Gears up for a Busy Weekend of Studying

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government

It’s been another pretty slow week in Colorado education news, but that’s okay with me. Friday is upon us once again, and I’ve got a lot to think about and accomplish before I even begin to think about fun, sun, and trips to the pool this weekend. The biggest thing on my to-do list is to help my policy friend Ross Izard prepare for the first meeting of the Every Student Succeeds Act Hub Committee on Monday afternoon.

Ross was appointed to the committee last month, and he has been reading and gathering feedback since the letter came through. He’s reviewed ESSA before, but he has buckled down during the last couple weeks and reviewed the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed regulations and a whole bunch of other stuff ranging from commentaries to summaries to charts. A lot of trees have died at the hands of the Independence Institute’s printer over the course of the last week. Fortunately, their deaths were not in vain; Ross definitely has some ideas about how to move forward, though I can’t share those quite yet. Continue Reading »


2nd 2016
Ding Dong! NCLB Waivers Are Dead

Posted under Accountability & Education Politics & Every Student Succeeds Act & Federal Government & Legal Issues & Tenure

I’ve talked a fair amount over the last couple of years about the “weaponized waivers” employed by the Obama administration under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the previous iteration of which was called No Child Left Behind. The newest iteration of the act, now called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), passed back in December of last year. As of yesterday, ESSA officially ushered NCLB waivers down the path of the dinosaurs. That’s great news for those of us who think that the federal government has little business dictating education policy to states. Continue Reading »

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29th 2016
The Power of Financial Transparency (and Interns)

Posted under Accountability & School Finance & Taxpayers & Transparency

The last few days have been relatively quiet on the education news front, which means we don’t have a lot of really heavy stuff to discuss. That’s probably a good thing after yesterday’s enormous post on some recent voucher research finding negative academic impacts for participating students.

Still, we should never let a good blog post go to waste. There’s always good policy meat to chew on. And as it turns out, the Independence Institute Education Policy Center has been plenty busy doing exactly that despite the summer doldrums. Today we’ll play a little catch up and cover some fantastic work on the part of one of the Institute’s summer interns, who decided to tackle a critical but often ignored aspect of education policy in Colorado: financial transparency. Continue Reading »

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