June
30th 2014
Friedman Survey Finds Big Shift on Standardized Testing, Not to Mention….

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & Tax Credits

For someone who has what some would consider an unhealthy fascination with education surveys, it has been awhile since I really delved into one of them. Back then, the big concern was about PDK/Gallup’s wording of a key question about school choice — adding the ominous phrase “at public expense.”

This latest survey of a nationally representative sample of voters is sponsored by my friends at the Friedman Foundation. Interestingly, this renowned pro-school choice group led its release of the results with the headline: “Parents say too much focus on standardized tests.” According to their poll, 44 percent of parents think standardized tests take up too much time, 22 percent say too little, and 30 percent say it’s about right.

Note that we’re talking about parents of school-aged children — a smaller subset of voters. Interestingly, though, the results for non-parents only skew a little bit toward the “too little” and “about right” categories. More significantly is the comparison to last year’s findings from a different poll, in which 61 percent of parents said testing was “about right,” compared to 11 percent saying “too little.” Continue Reading »

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June
25th 2014
Holyoke’s Pursuit of Innovation Status Raises Real Questions to Answer

Posted under Innovation and Reform & innovation schools & Journalism & Rural Schools & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Teachers

Among the big people around me, there’s a fair amount of cheering and groaning and Monday morning quarterbacking. Apparently, that’s what the day after a primary election does to you. I’ll leave the politics to them, and spend just a few moments on an interesting story that slipped in last week.

Chalkbeat Colorado’s Kate Schimel reports that a second rural Eastern Plains school district is taking a serious look at applying for innovation status. In a nutshell, Holyoke district leaders would draft a plan requesting waivers from specific state laws that they believe are holding them back, and would come to the State Board of Education for a nod of approval.

The 2008 Innovation Schools Act was primarily designed for high-need urban (read: Denver) schools. About two-thirds of the state’s innovation schools are in fact in Denver. The freedom to innovate does not guarantee success. Challenges remain for schools that pursue and adopt the status, and overall the academic track record has been mixed. Continue Reading »

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June
24th 2014
Looks Like There Are Ways to Get More Great School Leaders on Board

Posted under Denver & innovation schools & learning & Principals & Public Charter Schools & Research & Urban Schools

One of the main building blocks of a successful school clearly and undoubtedly is quality leadership. Just as clearly and undoubtedly, most school districts in Colorado and nationwide need more great principals to do more great things for kids.

The problem is particularly pronounced in some of the largest urban school districts with the highest need. So into the fray steps the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s Daniela Doyle and Gillian Locke with a new report Lacking Leaders: The Challenges of Principal Recruitment, Selection, and Placement.

The authors did their work by talking with five super-secret school districts that decided to be candid in exchange for being anonymous. So you and little old I can only speculate about whether Denver or some other Colorado district made the cut. We may never really know. Continue Reading »

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June
23rd 2014
Florida Doubles Number of States with Cutting-Edge Choice through ESAs

Posted under Governor & Parents & School Choice & State Legislature & Tax Credits

“And then there were two.” Usually that phrase suggests narrowing down the field, like moving to the championship round of your favorite sport with only the two finalists left to vie for the title. Or maybe like tomorrow in Colorado, it means narrowing down the field of major party candidates to one each.

But today’s case, in which I’m ready to break a mile-wide smile, we reach the number two by addition, by doubling the number of states from one to two. States with what? Education savings accounts to give families of select kinds of students maximum choice. First there was Arizona, now there is (no surprise) Florida: Continue Reading »

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June
19th 2014
Accelerating Quality Colorado Charter Growth a Wise Idea, Not Just for Wonks

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & State Legislature & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

Are you more likely to think of policy wonks as “wild and crazy” OR as “wise”? I know, it’s a difficult call. The Fordham Institute’s Michael Petrilli apparently has enough optimism to lean toward the latter. His new Flypaper post, “The wise wonks’ hierarchy of charter school quality” distills the insights of the blog’s recent Charter Wonk-a-Thon participants into a grand “unified theory.”

Folks, you can’t make this stuff up. But if nothing else, the exercise gave Petrilli the opportunity to draw a big triangle (three angles, three sides!) that represents a hierarchy of which states are doing chartering right, and which — well, not so much. Continue Reading »

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June
18th 2014
Study Gives Another Jeffco Anti-Charter Myth a Serious Blow

Posted under Denver & Parents & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

Tomorrow the Jeffco school board is set to cast a final vote on the 2014-15 budget. At the forefront of the discussion is the 3-2 majority’s proposal to share an extra $3.7 million of local property tax funds with public charter schools. Even though that would cut the gap in half, some still seem to find it disturbing that charter students should be treated even somewhat more fairly.

Two weeks ago, one of the two other board members suggested a “compromise.” Instead of the extra $3.7 million, Jill Fellman said, the board should allocate a smaller amount of dollars already approved by the state for charter facilities, and that if charter parents didn’t like it, they should go work for another tax hike.

Today, the Denver Post editors stepped in again and urged Jeffco to get over it already. Rather than seriously considering ridiculous phony compromises, approving the $3.7 million should be a no-brainer. On this front, the Post says Jeffco should emulate Denver Public Schools. Continue Reading »

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June
17th 2014
CER Completes Trifecta of Helpful Scholarship Tax Credit Studies

Posted under Courts & Parents & Private Schools & Research & School Choice & State Legislature & Tax Credits

For those wild and crazy policy wonks out there, it’s been quite a past few weeks for reports that speak directly to the adoption of school choice through K-12 scholarship tax credits. And since I’m all pumped up these days trying to help more Colorado Kids Win, that’s about as fun as summer can be. (Well, outside of trips to the beach or Coors Field, or playing soldiers in the backyard with some of my friends.)

First, it was the Friedman’s analysis of regulation in private school choice programs that has me seeing more and more the advantages of the tax credit approach. Then there’s the local ACE Scholarships study that opens doors to better comparisons of public and private school performance.

Now today, the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Education Reform (CER) caps off the trifecta with the totally brand-new Education Tax Credit Scholarships Ranking & Scorecard 2014. They analyze and give out a grade to each of the 14 states with this kind of program, based on important chosen criteria: Continue Reading »

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June
16th 2014
Title I Funds Closer to Following Colorado Kids after State Board Vote

Posted under Federal Government & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & School Finance & State Board of Education & State Legislature

Last week the Colorado State Board of Education took a relatively quiet action that may have profound results in years to come. The Board voted 6-1 to take steps toward redirecting a particular pot of federal Title I funds based not primarily on where students live, but rather on where they attend school. Title I money is allocated to support high-poverty schools.

As Chalkbeat Colorado reports, the decision means reshuffling more than a half million dollars to the benefit of the suburban Douglas County School District:

The two-year pilot is intended to account for students who attend the HOPE Online Learning Academy – Elementary but who live in other districts that now receive the Title I funding for those children. The $547,072 is the estimated shift of funds in 2014-15. A similar amount likely would be allocated in 2015-16.

Continue Reading »

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June
13th 2014
Denver Builds on Low-Income Charter Success Stories: Will Jeffco Follow Suit?

Posted under Denver & Elementary School & High School & Innovation and Reform & learning & Middle School & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Board & School Choice & Urban Schools

I’m not that old, so the thought of having a big red “Easy” button is rather appealing. According to my grown-up education policy friends, developing a high-quality education model and scaling it up to reach a huge number of kids is a far more challenging and time-consuming task. How do we take pockets of success and super-size them to make a real dent in overcoming mediocrity and closing the achievement gap?

Last night the Denver Public Schools board approved 14 new schools (including 12 charters) to open for the 2015-16 school year. Some of the names are new, but many are expansions of true success stories and promising innovations.

Headlining the group is the eight-year-old STRIVE Prep (formerly West Denver Prep) charter network, with three of the 14 new schools. Besides adding another middle school — the original model and “core competency” — to the network, STRIVE also now is slated to open a second high school and its FIRST elementary school, both in far northeast Denver. Continue Reading »

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June
12th 2014
Vergara Big Win for California Kids, But Should We Worry about Courts’ Role?

Posted under Courts & Denver & Education Politics & learning & Principals & Research & Teachers & Urban Schools

Yesterday it was belated high fives all around for a defensive legal victory here in Colorado, as a Denver judge dismissed a union-backed lawsuit to enshrine harmful tenure protections. For anyone in the K-12 education world who may have been sleeping under a rock for a few days, you may not have heard that good policy similarly prevailed Tuesday in the California courts.

I’m talking about the Los Angeles Superior Court judge’s decision in the Vergara case. Nine student plaintiffs, backed by an advocacy group called Students Matter, won their claim that California’a particularly egregious tenure and dismissal laws led to “grossly ineffective instruction” particularly in low-income schools. If higher courts agree, the state’s laws could be thrown out and the legislature made to rewrite them.

It seems apparent to me we have two major issues at play here, potentially in conflict with one another. First, from a policy perspective, the clear and resounding victory has these little legs running and jumping for joy! Come along with me and survey the cheering voices: Continue Reading »

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