February
6th 2015
Overcoming the Gloom, Focusing on the Sunshine of #SchoolChoice

Posted under Independence Institute & Just For Fun & Parents & Research & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

Well, the Brookings Institution this week released its latest edition of the Education Choice and Competition Index. Might I add the acronym ECCI (ecky?), awash in a sea of edu-acronyms through which yours truly has to doggy paddle day after day, is just a bit too much fun to say. And say. And say again. (Sorry, I’m getting a dirty stare from my Education Policy Center friends.)

Back to the point. I thought about writing a whole new blog post about the scoring system that strangely underrates Douglas County, arguably the most choice-friendly school district in America. Instead, I’m just going to send you back to last year’s soapbox on the same topic. Deja vu all over again, to quote a famous American.

The only difference is that this year Dougco’s C-plus was good enough for a 13th place tie with Pinellas County (Florida), San Francisco Unified, and next-door neighbor Cherry Creek. Cherry Creek?, you say. Yes, just go back and read last year’s edition. But it doesn’t all have to be naysaying and gloom. It’s Friday, so why not a video? Continue Reading »

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February
5th 2015
Today’s Policy Field Trip to Senate Ed and the Discussion to Come

Posted under Education Politics & Private Schools & School Choice & Tax Credits

As you all know, I love policy field trips. And I especially love those field trips when they are about something as fun as school choice. Maybe that’s why I had so much fun at today’s Senate Education hearing. Well, the very end of it, anyway; I showed up a little late. My little legs can only carry me so fast!

So what exactly happened in Senate Ed today? The committee heard Senator Kevin Lundberg‘s bill on tax credits for private school tuition, which is known to political nerds as SB 045. Feel free to read the bill if you’d like (it differs significantly from the tax credit scholarship programs we’ve talked about before), but here’s the quick and dirty version: The bill would allow taxpayers enroll their children in a private school (or who provide a scholarship for other children to do so) to receive a tax credit in return. It also would allow credits for parents who use home-based education for their children.

As one might expect, the bill drew its fair share of fire. Democratic senators Andy Kerr, Michael Merrifield, and Michael Johnston all offered amendments to the bill. These included a requirement that private school students take state tests, require private schools to scrap their admission requirements, and a proposal from Sen. Kerr to make the issue a statewide ballot question. All of these were defeated. Sen. Johnston then offered a tricky amendment that would allow the program to begin only after the “Negative Factor” has been eliminated—a move designed to force Republicans to choose between two untenable positions. This was also defeated. Continue Reading »

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February
3rd 2015
Should I Get My Hopes Up about Colorado Course Choice Once More?

Posted under Education Politics & High School & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & School Finance & State Legislature

Hopes were a little high last May when I offered K-12 online pilot program ideas in the wake of House Bill 1382′s adoption. My Education Policy Center friends have been talking about the promise of Course Choice and course-level funding for a few years now.

It sure would be nice to see Colorado take even a small, clear step in the direction of greater flexibility and student access to learning opportunities. But reading the recently released HB 1382 task force report and its underwhelming recommendations gave me the deep sense that even my modest hopes may have been misplaced.

Sigh. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again…. It’s hard for a kid my age to be patient and persist rather than to quit. Continue Reading »

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February
2nd 2015
Tom Coyne’s Smart Jeffco Whistle Bomb

Posted under Education Politics & Research & School Board & Teachers & Union

Every now and then, an op-ed drops from the sky like one of those whistle bombs in the movies. The resulting explosion gets folks all riled up, and usually leads to some highly entertaining (though not terribly productive) conversations. Today is one of those days, with a Denver Post op-ed that sees Jeffco’s Tom Coyne outlining one of Colorado education’s biggest issues: The difficulty of removing ineffective teachers from the classroom.

Coyne smartly argues that despite spending enormous amounts of money, Colorado districts haven’t been able to achieve their academic goals. Coyne quantifies these shortcomings in Jeffco at some length using some pretty convincing data. As he puts it:

As taxpayers, we spend an enormous amount of money each year to achieve these goals. For example, based on the most recent Colorado Department of Education data, in the 2012-13 school year, total revenue per student in Jeffco was $10,420, or over $260,000 for every classroom of 25 students. In aggregate, total revenue in Denver’s most affluent suburban school districts (Boulder Valley, Cherry Creek, Douglas County, Jefferson County, and Littleton) was about $2.5 billion in 2012-13.

Despite this spending, we aren’t coming close to reaching our student achievement goals. Continue Reading »

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January
30th 2015
Testing Issue Isn’t as Easy as “1, 2, 3,” But You’ve Got to Start Somewhere

Posted under Independence Institute & Principals & School Accountability & School Board & State Legislature & Teachers & Testing

Have you ever watched a big person prepare to do some public speaking behind a microphone? Or maybe you’ve done it yourself. Almost always, when someone asks if the microphone is working, the person leans into the device and says something like, “Testing, testing… 123, testing.”

Well, I’m worried that little rote phrase may take on a new meaning with Colorado’s Great Testing Debate. At least five K-12 assessment bills have been introduced thus far in the state legislature, with many more promised to come. Some issues may have clear and solid answers readily available, but to say that isn’t the case with this particular issue would be putting it mildly.

After all, we have several worthy competing goals to consider. Standardized tests done right are an important tool that provides some genuine, transparent, and comparable information about how well teachers, principals, and schools — heavily funded by public tax dollars — are doing in meeting important goals to help students.

At the same time, testing ought to measure authentic knowledge and skills, to provide prompt and useful feedback to teachers, and to differentiate meaningfully based on student abilities, all without posing too great a burden of instructional time lost. No problem, right? Continue Reading »

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January
29th 2015
Little Eddie’s Wet Blanket: What Rise in Teacher ACT-SAT Scores Tells Us

Posted under Research & Teachers & Testing

Earlier this week, we talked about a National Council on Teacher Quality report on teacher pension systems. Today, we get to talk about an article from the Hechinger Report regarding the “quality” of teachers entering the teaching force as measured by scores on the SAT and ACT. The article highlights some new research that supposedly refutes a 2010 McKinsey and Company report. The report argued that pulling in teachers with higher scores could help the U.S. achieve the same results as countries like Finland.

The good news is that new research apparently (some of it has not been officially published) shows new teachers’ college entrance exam scores have risen. Much larger numbers of teachers are coming from the top third of the SAT score distribution. And of course, this is fantastic. But the better news is that this means we can now safely say that we have  a great deal more confidence in teachers than TV reporters. The bad news is, so what?

Sadly, Eddie has to be the wet blanket today by pointing out that aside from providing an admittedly well-deserved feel-good piece for teachers (who are frequently and wrongly attacked for their profession) and poking at the 2010 Mckinsey report, the article doesn’t accomplish much. Yeah, that’s a little cranky of me. But as the article’s last paragraph points out, the increase in teacher “quality” hasn’t done much to improve outcomes for kids overall. Continue Reading »

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January
28th 2015
After School Choice Week, How About Educate the Reporters Week?

Posted under Denver & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & Parents & Private Schools & School Choice

Last Friday I was overflowing with enthusiasm at the kickoff of the 5th annual National School Choice Week.

I got even more excited Monday morning for the big Denver celebration at our own State Capitol, where hundreds of school kids and others came to wear their yellow scarves, show their support. There was even some singing and dancing!

I may get even more excited yet when my Independence Institute friends assemble and edit their footage of the rally for a sure-to-be-great video. Stay tuned for that! Continue Reading »

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January
27th 2015
Colorado Gets Bad Grade on NCTQ’s Latest Pension Report

Posted under PERA & Research & School Finance

We’ve been talking a lot about policy recently. ESEA reauthorization issues, the hazards of requiring state testing in private schools, and some number crunchin’ on the subject of Colorado’s school funding. Then last Friday, you had a nice break. We spoke instead about School Choice Week, which is sort of like Christmas for eduwatchers like me. The successful (and fun) NCSW rally is over, but School Choice Week is still going. That means you should be out tweeting and Facebooking and doing everything you can to get the message out!

Before you go do that, though, let’s talk about just a little more policy. And to spice things up, let’s make it PERA policy. You’ll recall that we’ve talked before about the wild, shaggy policy beast that is the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association. Like many others, I pointed out some serious flaws with the state’s system, including unfunded liabilities and the unfair way the current system treats young or new public employees.

Well, those problems as they relate to teachers have once again been quantified by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). The organization recently released its latest annual report on the health of teacher pension systems around the country. The report grades each state on the extent to which their teacher pension plan: Continue Reading »

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January
23rd 2015
School Choice Week 2015 Has Officially Arrived

Posted under Edublogging & events & School Choice

It’s Friday again, my friends. As usual, that means your favorite little edublogger has spent his day trying to wrap things up for the week. That leaves me limited time for our conversation (try not to look so disappointed!), so today’s post will be a quick one.

Fortunately, we have something exciting to focus on during our brief time together: The kickoff of National School Choice Week in Jacksonville, Florida! If you missed the live stream, you can check out the full video below.

Continue Reading »

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January
22nd 2015
Survey Highlights Importance of Keeping State Tests off Private Schools

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Parents & Private Schools & Research & School Choice

Update: I should have looked at this post by Matt Ladner first. He largely makes the same point, but with a little more zing at Louisiana.

Though not so much this time of year, my Dad and I like to play catch in the backyard occasionally. It sounds kind of cliched, but my Dad starts talking about how he used to do the same thing with his dad. Then almost inevitably, he starts talking about this old movie called “Field of Dreams.” (After finally seeing this movie, I’m a little scared about wandering into cornfields, but that’s a different story.)

Anyway, there’s this famous line in “Field of Dreams”, where the guy keeps hearing the voice say: “If you build it, they will come.” People in the movie thought he was kind of crazy, sort of like some readers of this blog think I’m crazy.

But at least I’m here to tell you that when it comes to establishing private school choice in a state or community — and is there any doubt I’m a huge fan? — there’s a lot more to the matter than just building the program and expecting people to come. Hence, I encourage you to take a look at the American Enterprise Institute’s new study called “Views from Private Schools.” Continue Reading »

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