December
29th 2015
Little Eddie the Liar?

Posted under Edublogging & Just For Fun & Research & Testing

Have you ever been accused of saying something you didn’t? You know, like the time your mom thought you nodded slightly after she asked if a new dress made her look fat, but you were really just looking at a ball of fuzz on the floor? Or when someone accused you of being a data-distorting Common Core supporter when you actually aren’t?

Wait, you mean that second thing hasn’t happened to you? I guess it must just be me. We six-year-olds are always getting picked on!

I returned from Christmas break yesterday to find a trackback on a post I wrote back in October about what this year’s NAEP results do and do not mean. In that post, I chided anti-reform activists—at that point in full rhetorical tilt just days before the catastrophic November elections—for leaping to unfounded statistical conclusions about the NAEP scale score drops in math that Colorado experienced in 2015.

The trackback led me to a Breitbart article by Ze’ev Wurman, a prominent national critic of Common Core. I was initially happy to see Little Eddie’s informal work picked up by a national education writer, but that excitement evaporated when I looked a little more closely and saw this:

Even before the recent NAEP results were published, Common Core proponents urged us not to engage in what they called “misnaepery” – or, jumping to unsubstantiated conclusions based on preliminary data.

Some were reasonably cautious, others were not beyond presenting visually misleading data to prop their claim that nothing has changed (in these charts, for example, the author draws NAEP with a 50 points/grid, where 10-12 points equal a grade level; in other words, it takes 4-5 grades difference to move the chart one grid. Small wonder the NAEP charts look flat there.)

That third link—the one serving as an example of not being reasonably cautious—leads you back to my October blog post on NAEP scores, apparently concluding that I was deliberately trying to obscure the data, claim that scores didn’t change on the 2015 NAEP, and defend Common Core.

Yeah, let’s talk about that. Continue Reading »

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December
24th 2015
Colorado Gets an Awkward Christmas Present: The SAT

Posted under Accountability & Education Politics & Grades and Standards & High School & School Accountability & State Board of Education & Testing

It’s almost Christmas, friends! We will all sit down tomorrow morning and unwrap a bunch of gifts while stuffing our faces with various tasty treats. Some of those gifts will be awesome. Action figures, video games, and bikes spring immediately to mind. Other gifts—socks, weird-flavored chocolates, and gift certificates to restaurants you hate—will be less exciting. When you open those awkward gifts, you’ll have that uncomfortable moment where you’re stuck between needing to be polite and wanting to ask loudly what in the world the person who gave you the gift was thinking.

I’m having one of those moments right now.

You see, Colorado education is getting its own awkward Christmas present this year: A shift away from the venerable, well-respected ACT. Instead, high school juniors will now take the SAT, a creation of the College Board (of APUSH fame). I’ll try to be as polite as possible in the face of this weird gift, but I am unable to refrain from asking an important question: Huh?

Continue Reading »

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December
24th 2015
Big Surprise: Jeffco’s “Just Moms” Funded Primarily and Directly by NEA

Posted under Education Politics & School Board & Union

We’re now nearing two months since the undeniably terri-bad local school board elections of 2015. I’m sure all of you remember The Night the Lights Went Dark, when very nearly every conservative school board member or candidate fell victim to the might of the education establishment and the teachers union. Now, as the dust begins to settle and the masks start to fall off, it is becoming increasingly clear that the National Education Association itself flexed its muscle to squash Colorado’s local reform efforts before they could fully take root.

In Thompson School District, a massive progressive money-laundering outfit called America Votes dumped amounts of dough into making sure a conservative board majority that had the audacity to challenge its union contract would not be reelected. America Votes’ partners include both national teachers unions, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Planned Parenthood, and whole host of other leftist organizations. It’s the same group that underwrote the union-led recall effort against Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin to the tune of a million bucks.  It’s about as left as left gets, and it also happens to have received $355,000 in 2014-15 from the National Education Association.

One wonders if that money might explain America Votes’ involvement in little Thompson School District, but one will never find out thanks to the fact that one can’t track where the money dispensed by the America Votes ATM actually originated. Given this fact, one might complain about “dark money,” if one were so inclined. Or one might just use one’s common sense to arrive at a logical conclusion about where the Thompson money came from.

Sadly, we’ll never be able to prove where the Thompson money originated. But in Jefferson County, we now know exactly who funded Jeffco United, the supposedly “parent-led” front group that spearheaded the recent Jeffco school board recall effort. In an absolutely shocking twist that I’m sure no one saw coming, we’ve learned that the National Education Association was primarily responsible for filling the pro-recall organization’s roughly $250,000 war chest.
Continue Reading »

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December
17th 2015
New Study Skewers the Poverty Excuse in American Education

Posted under International & Research

I’m only six years old, but even I know that poverty is a terrible thing. I see the other kids at school whose clothes have holes in them, or who can’t afford new toys like the ones I have, or who are having serious family issues unlike anything I’ve experienced. And yes, I’ve noticed that they tend to do worse in school than my friends from higher-income families.

Out in the big wide world of education policy, you won’t find anyone credible who will argue that poverty does not have a significant impact on academic achievement. For proof, all you need to do is take a look at the familiar income-related achievement gaps seen in last year’s PARCC scores, or the data illustrating these gaps on the most recent NAEP exam.

But why? Do we have an education problem, or a poverty problem? Are we talking about the chicken, or the egg?

Most of you know that I absolutely loathe the common argument that we have to fix poverty before we can fix achievement gaps. I fully reject the argument that low-income kids are liabilities who should be simply shuffled through a school system that callously shrugs its shoulders and says, in essence, “there’s nothing we can do with these kids.” And I think there’s plenty of reason to believe that effective schools—private, charter, and traditional—can help low-income kids defy the odds and build successful lives that break the malicious cycle of poverty rather than perpetuate it.

With the release of a new Education Next study on poverty and education in America, we have yet another piece of evidence contradicting the idea that the United States is experiencing a poverty crisis rather than an education crisis. Continue Reading »

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December
14th 2015
It’s Official, 2015 is the New “Year of Educational Choice”

Posted under Courts & School Choice & Union

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but 2015 is almost over. And boy, what a year it has been. We finally saw a successful reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, waved goodbye as our policy friend Ben DeGrow carried the reform torch to Michigan (where he’ll be needing all the warm torches he can get), and watched as yours truly turned into a slightly snarkier six-year-old.

But we can—and will—do a full rundown of 2015’s adventures later. For now, I want to focus on what the year meant for our nation in terms of educational choice. In short, it meant an awful lot.

Earlier this year, I wondered whether 2011’s “Year of School Choice” might see a repeat in 2015. As it turns out, history did repeat (and even beat) itself; 2011’s educational choice gains were eclipsed by massive leaps forward across the nation in 2015.  Fifteen states adopted 21 new or expanded educational choice programs this year, compared to 13 states in 2011. That, my friends, is a whole lotta choice. Continue Reading »

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December
10th 2015
It Actually Happened… ESSA Becomes a Reality

Posted under Accountability & Congress & Education Politics & Federal Government & Grades and Standards & Legislation & School Accountability & Teachers & Testing

It’s been a long time since we first started eyeballing the then-distant possibility of a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which most of us have grown to know in its current form as No Child Left Behind. We’ve looked at the weird alliances the effort spawned, done a little detective work, and tracked the progress of the reauthorization as it slowly developed into its near-final form.

After the bill sailed through the House and later the Senate, it became clear that this thing was actually going to happen despite years of waiting (the law was due to be reauthorized in 2007). And by golly, it really did. Continue Reading »

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December
3rd 2015
NCLB Rewrite Now Looking Like a Distinct Possibility

Posted under Accountability & Education Politics & Federal Government & Grades and Standards & School Accountability & State Legislature & Testing

Earlier this week, I gave you an overview of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the compromise No Child Left Behind rewrite that recently emerged from conference committee in D.C. At the end of that post, I mentioned how quickly the bill is moving. Well, as it turns out, it’s moving even more quickly than I had anticipated.

The U.S. House passed the bill with a 359-64 vote yesterday. And according to a New York Times article about the effort, it may soon clear the U.S. Senate and, most notably, the President’s desk:

After months of compromise and negotiation, the bill earned nearly unanimous approval from a conference committee of House and Senate members two weeks ago, and is expected to be passed by the Senate next week. A White House official said Wednesday that President Obama plans to sign it when it reaches his desk.

I’m not surprised to hear that the Senate will be taking up the bill quickly, but this is the first time I’ve seen official(ish) word that the White House intends to sign the compromise. All things considered, I think that’s great news. Continue Reading »

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December
1st 2015
ESEA Compromise Emerges in Washington

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Grades and Standards & School Accountability & School Choice & Testing

As most of you know, and as I will proudly proclaim once again, your pal Little Eddie has officially turned six. I’m practically a grown-up. That means I have more liberty to stay up later, make choices regarding vegetable consumption at dinner, and riddle my blog posts with six-year-old snark.

To ring in my newfound maturity, I need a big, important post. And what could be bigger or more important than the fact that we now stand on the cusp of ESEA reauthorization?

We’ve talked a fair amount about the somewhat tortured ESEA reauthorization process since last January.  After some rough waters earlier this year, grinding work during the summer led to what I thought was a fairly promising reauthorization bill passing in the U.S. House of Representatives. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Senate followed suit by passing its own bipartisan bill. Conflicts between the more conservative House bill and the more moderate Senate bill (and the White House, which has been a little weird about the whole thing) necessitated a conference committee between the chambers to work out differences.

Now, after months of waiting, what looks like a viable compromise bill has emerged. It’s getting a fair amount of praise from a number of corners—some of which I find a little concerning—but many folks are still trying to parse through the massive document. If you’d care to read the entire 1,061 page bill, you can find it here.

For those who value their eyesight and are not paid to undertake masochistic feats of pure wonkery, Education Week has put together a helpful rundown of the provisions in the bill.  Here are a few of what I think are the most important bits: Continue Reading »

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November
20th 2015
Change is in the Air — I’m Just Getting a Little Older, Though, Not Going Away

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Independence Institute & Just For Fun & Parents & School Board & School Choice

Maybe it’s because it’s the Friday before Thanksgiving, or maybe it’s because a couple of my really good Education Policy Center friends are picking up and moving to another state, but I’m not really keen on writing another long post today.

Change is in the air — change that I didn’t wish for, and change that will merit me keeping an eye on. I’m not just talking about the fact that, according to increasingly loud rumors, the Broncos’ great QB Peyton Manning may be ready to hang up his cleats once and for all (thanks to Complete Colorado for helping me to find this piece).

No, more fitting to my world, as part of Election 2015‘s Empire Strikes Back theme, union-backed candidates swept back into power in Jefferson County and Thompson, while reform opponents gained a foothold in Douglas County, the most interesting school district in America. Sad perhaps, but silver linings remain. Continue Reading »

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November
19th 2015
New Research Shows Negative Union Impact on Education Outcomes

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Research & School Board & Teachers & Union

Starting discussions about the role and effects of teachers unions certainly is one way of pouring cold water on a party or social event. A lot of the topics surrounding K-12 education policy and reform can be emotionally charged.

But if you want to step back from the heated discussions and consider what the research has to say… well, frankly, there isn’t a huge record to fall back on. If you remember back a couple years (when I was still 5), I shared about a new study that purported to draw a connection between higher teacher union dues collection and lower student proficiency.

At that time, I also highlighted the only two other known pieces of quality research that spoke to the question. Back in 2007, Dr. Terry Moe from Stanford found that at the local level, restrictive collective bargaining provisions negotiated by teachers unions “has a very negative impact on academic achievement,” especially among more challenging student populations.

Then there’s the ideal state-level laboratory test case of New Mexico, which Benjamin Lindy’s analysis for the Yale Law Journal demonstrated “mixed results from union bargaining power, better SAT scores but more poor kids dropping out of high school.”

Well, a new, rigorous state-level analysis reassures us that Colorado’s education labor terrain stands us in stronger stead to help students succeed than many other states do.

Writing for Education Next, Michael Lovenheim and Alexander Willen unpack the long-term effects of states that mandate school districts give unions local bargaining monopolies. Removing other factors from the equation, the authors reach some interesting conclusions about the impacts of going to school in a “duty-to-bargain” state: Continue Reading »

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