Archive for the 'Denver' Category

July
14th 2014
Union Leaders Miss Bus as Union Bus (Thankfully) Misses Me

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Federal Government & Independence Institute & Just For Fun & Teachers

Usually I’m reluctant to cross into the intersection of education policy and national politics. But when I do, I lean heavily on the trusted big people in my life to walk me across the busy lanes of scary-looking traffic. The aftermath of the NEA Assembly in Denver is one of those times when I’m reaching out and reaching up for a hand.

My Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow took on the matter with a Greeley Tribune op-ed last week. He set up the 2009 NEA Assembly as a point of comparison, with candidly expressed union priorities put on center stage.

Retiring NEA counsel Bob Chanin laid down the line that better results for students “must not be achieved at the expense of due process, employee rights, or collective bargaining.” As Ben wrote in his column, that line in the sand expresses why union leaders are so concerned about a couple of court cases that threaten their status and bottom line. Continue Reading »

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July
10th 2014
School Choice Supply and Demand: Improving Both Sides of the Equation

Posted under Denver & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice & Tax Credits

Promoting school choice is a means to an end. Namely? Opportunity for all kids to learn and meet their potential in an educational environment that best suits them, accelerating them toward their maximum academic and social potential.

I talk here a lot about school choice, and the power of my parents being able to select the best learning option for me. Some families don’t have access to any good schools or viable learning opportunities; other families do have access. Not only should we be steadily closing the gap between those two groups, but we also should be raising the bar for all students!

The sad truth is we’ve got a long way to go to get there. And even when we get “there,” room for ongoing improvement will still exist. Making it happen requires solving two sides of an equation: Increasing the supply of appropriate, quality schools and learning options; AND addressing the demand of students and parents for these educational opportunities. Continue Reading »

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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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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
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
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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June
11th 2014
High Fives All Around: Colorado Union’s Pro-Tenure Lawsuit Shot Down

Posted under Courts & Denver & Education Politics & State Legislature & Teachers

I had planned to post this good news with you on Monday. But then sickness intervened. Not me, mind you. But the website itself was maliciously attacked, perhaps by someone who doesn’t like what this little kid has to say. Well, better late than never. And more to come soon.

You hang around these big policy wonk people long enough, and sometimes you can be overwhelmed by all the “nuance” and “qualifications” and “ambiguity.” It’s not every day you get to see the guys in the black hats flummoxed, foiled, and defeated, while the guys in the white hats celebrate a clear-cut victory.

Maybe on one of my grandpa’s old cowboy shows, or on one of the silly cartoons my parents watched growing up. But not so often in education news — unless you count late Friday afternoon: Continue Reading »

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June
5th 2014
New ACE Study Opens Mind on Comparing Public, Private Schools

Posted under Denver & High School & math & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & reading & Research & School Choice & Sciences & Tax Credits & Urban Schools

Time flies when you’re young and enjoying early summertime fun. Why, it was only last week I told you all about the bad smell left by a new book attacking private schools with weak and questionable data. Thanks, Patrick Wolf and Education Next.

However, in writing that post, I may have made a mistake. It’s not easy for a stubborn little edublogger to admit he should change his mind, but a new development this week might just do it. I wrote the following sentence: “It’s extraordinarily challenging to make broad, facile comparisons between the two sectors of education.”

It may not be terribly challenging at all to make simplistic comparisons. What’s more, it appears eminently possible to make meaningful comparisons between public and private schools on a number of academic data points. Yesterday, the local nonprofit group ACE Scholarships released a pilot analysis showing how scholarship students in 6 of their 150 partner schools fare compared with charter and other public school options available. Continue Reading »

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April
7th 2014
Jeffco Board Makes More Money Follow Students, Brings a Jan Brady Smile

Posted under Denver & Innovation and Reform & learning & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Board & School Choice & School Finance & Suburban Schools

Once upon a time, say two years ago, I felt the heat for focusing a lot of extra attention on a certain large school district between Denver and Colorado Springs. You could almost hear a number of nearby Jan Bradys crying out in frustration: “Dougco, Dougco, Dougco!” Back then I said:

But hey, don’t complain at me! Get your school board and district to set the bar high by making some bold reform moves, and I’ll give them some attention, too.

While Dougco’s Marcia continues moving along, Jefferson County’s Jan can crack a smile. And not just because 10 days ago I filled you in with some compelling reasons to keep an eye on the suburban district’s open union negotiations (Hint: another session starts today at 4 PM in the fifth floor board room at 1829 Denver West Drive).

Jeffco gets more attention now, though, because of two big items from Thursday’s Board of Education meeting. Clearly, the new majority not only has made a laudable push for transparency but also has begun setting the bar high with its own brand of bold reform moves. Continue Reading »

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