July
8th 2014
Colorado Starts New School Finance Lawsuit: How Different than Lobato?

Posted under Courts & Denver & Education Politics & Governor & Independence Institute & School Finance & State Legislature

Back at the end of May I told you about another school finance lawsuit looming in Colorado. Even as my Education Policy Center friends were helping me write that, I could almost hear the distant strains of anguish. Lobato was floating out there for nearly eight years… do we really have to endure the same excruciating twists and turns again?

The answer is “Sort of.” On Friday, June 27, the same law firm that brought you Lobato made it official when they filed Dwyer v State in Denver District Court. The good news is this time they’re not asking to break the bank:

The plaintiffs ask that the negative factor section be stricken from the state’s school funding law and that the legislature be barred from reinstating the factor in another form. The suit does not ask that lost funding be restored.

After all, National Education Association data indicates that Colorado ranks 21st in per-pupil spending. So cries for an extra $2 billion a year in the wake of Amendment 66‘s decisive electoral conflagration might just be scoffed at this point. Continue Reading »

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July
3rd 2014
Dougco Choice Spirit on Display with Aspiring Florida School Board Leader

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Parents & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools

Writing over at redefinED today, Travis Pillow features a Floridian named Brian Graham, a school choice supporter who is running for his local Board of Education:

If he’s successful this fall, he will join the small but growing ranks of school board members around the state – including his friend Jason Fischer in neighboring Duval County – who say school districts should embrace the full range of options available to parents, and look to add more of their own.

A couple cursory comments. First off, because of the public positions he has taken, little Eddie wishes Mr. Pillow well. Second, it appears the Sunshine State holds school board elections on regular election days in even-numbered years. I wouldn’t mind Colorado considering that change. Continue Reading »

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July
1st 2014
Would Letting Kids Sleep In More Help Academic Results? Please Say Yes

Posted under High School & International & Middle School & Parents & Principals & Research & School Board & Teachers

You know one thing I’m thankful for? My Education Policy Center friends never order a wake-up call to get me out of bed early so they can help me write this blog. Little prodigies like me need all the sleep we can (though I try not to concede that argument when my mom tells me it’s time to hit the hay).

A couple years ago I directed your attention to research that suggested small positive benefits for middle schoolers who delayed early start times. Interesting fodder to file away in the back compartments of the brain, and move along.

Until, that is, I recently found an article by Colorado’s own Holly Yettick in Education Week that highlights an international study calling out the U.S. for having the highest rate of sleepy students in the secondary grades. Or at least that’s based on what teachers report in surveys. Continue Reading »

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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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