Archive for the 'Education Politics' Category

June
23rd 2016
Investigating Dougco’s Independent Investigation

Posted under Douglas County & Education Politics & School Board

Let’s begin today’s post with a little bit of vocabulary. Merriam-Webster defines the word “independent” as:

a (1) :  not subject to control by others :  self-governing (2) :  not affiliated with a larger controlling unit <an independent bookstore>

b (1) :  not requiring or relying on something else :  not contingent <an independent conclusion> (2) :  not looking to others for one’s opinions or for guidance in conduct (3) :  not bound by or committed to a political party

c (1) :  not requiring or relying on others (as for care or livelihood) <independent of her parents> (2) :  being enough to free one from the necessity of working for a living <a person of independent means>

Some of our friends in Douglas County, however, have chosen to use a more novel definition of the term when discussing the recent results of an independent investigation into bullying allegations against Dougco school board members Meghann Silverthorn and Judith Reynolds: That anyone who finds against their accusations cannot be independent. We’re going to spend some time dissecting that claim today. Continue Reading »

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June
21st 2016
Independent Investigation Clears Dougco Conservatives… And Raises Important Questions

Posted under Douglas County & Education Politics & Local Reform

Remember that student protest at Ponderosa High School in Douglas County back in March? I wrote then:

The cynical side of me believes that this is but the first step in the march toward a full-blown assault on Dougco’s (now one-seat) conservative majority in 2017.

As is usually (and depressingly) the case, my cynicism was well founded. The protest spawned a fabricated “bullying” fiasco that became the first major political play in what I believe is a wider game to purge conservative thought and policy from Douglas County School District. Now, however, it’s become clear that this particular political maneuver didn’t pan out as the establishment-minded board members Anne-Marie Lemieux, David Ray, and Wendy Vogel had hoped. Continue Reading »

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May
20th 2016
Commissioner’s Resignation Shatters Friday Quiet

Posted under Colorado Department of Education & Education Politics

Yesterday, we took a philosophically taxing tour through the moral stickiness of education. I had hoped that today would be a good chance to cool off and talk about something a little less heavy. No such luck.

If you pay even a little attention to the education scene in Colorado, you probably heard that Commissioner Rich Crandall stepped down from his post yesterday afternoon. Continue Reading »

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May
4th 2016
Inadequate Funding or Inadequate Information?

Posted under Education Politics & Media & School Finance

Welcome back, friends. I apologize for my absence during the second half of last week. Do you have any idea how busy an intrepid policy explorer like myself gets in the closing weeks of the legislative session? Plus, I had to carve out some extra time to watch interesting education TV shows hosted by my Independence Institute policy friend Ross Izard. See here for a segment on charter funding equity, and here for one of my favorite Colorado private schools, Arrupe Jesuit High School.

I’m sorry I left you hanging. But now we’re back. And we’ve got some serious edu-policy work to do. Today’s topic: school finance in Colorado. No, no. Don’t run. I promise it’ll be (mostly) painless.

I started thinking about how important it is to get accurate information out there about school finance in Colorado when I read a Colorado Public Radio story about our state’s supposed failure to adequately fund its public schools despite a “booming” economy. Continue Reading »

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April
26th 2016
2016 Legislative Session Sprints Toward Finish Line

Posted under Colorado General Assembly & Education Politics & Legislation & State Legislature

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s already the end of April. That means another legislative session is winding down, its drama and intrigue fading quietly into the warmth and relaxation of summer. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There are 336 bills still pending in the legislature, including 51 that are at least peripherally related to education. All of those have to be dealt with by May 11. Colorado’s lawmakers have a lot left to do under the dome.

Of course, those lawmakers have already done a lot of work, some good and some bad. We’ve talked about a number of high-profile bills over the course of the session, including a couple bad bills on accountability, one of which died rather spectacularly, and a bill intended to bolster floundering civic knowledge. We’ve also discussed a variety of other bills, some of which got pretty interesting.

As the session ramps up for its final weeks, I thought it might be helpful to provide an update on some of the more interesting education-related bills still lingering in halls of the Colorado Capitol. This stuff gets complicated, and tracking it all at once can be a bit like juggling a hundred balls of different shapes and sizes. On fire. With a blindfold on.

We won’t hit everything, but we’ll hit the big stuff. Continue Reading »

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April
12th 2016
Turning Over a New Leaf: Better Turnover Figures Make Me Smile

Posted under Colorado Department of Education & Douglas County & Education Politics & Jefferson County & School Board & Teachers

There are a lot of exciting days every year. Christmas, Easter, snow days, and my birthday all spring to mind immediately. But for education nerds, there’s no day more exciting than New Numbers Day. Today, my friends, is that day.

Okay, New Numbers Day was technically April 7, when the Colorado Department of Education released brand-new, more accurate teacher turnover numbers for school districts across the state. But we’re going to talk about it today, and one of the benefits of entirely made-up holidays is that you can have them whenever you want. So there.

Regular readers of my diatribes will remember that I am not a fan of the way CDE has reported teacher turnover in the past. Why? Because the Department included a whole bunch of stuff that created an inaccurate picture of actual turnover in school districts. More specifically, the state’s old calculations included teachers leaving after riding out their final year of employment under PERA’s 110/110 program, the ones scooped up as additional losses due to differences in reporting timeframes between the district and the state,  those on single-year contracts, and others who were promoted or moved to non-teaching positions in the district.

That last part is especially problematic. Continue Reading »

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March
31st 2016
Expected but Disappointing: SCOTUS Splits on Important Union Tribute Case

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & Teachers & Union

Good afternoon, fellow policy nerds. I’m a little strapped for time today thanks to some exciting stuff going on at the Capitol. The drama surrounding the School Finance Act continues, and I’m going to be watching the second half of SB 148’s Senate Education Committee hearing. If you’ll recall, I’m sort of a fan of that bill. So is my policy friend Ross Izard, who took to the Denver Post to make the case for the bill. (Funny how often Ross’s and my viewpoints line up, isn’t it?)

Anyway, we don’t have much time to chat this afternoon, so today’s post will be a short one. That’s probably for the best; nobody likes to dwell on bad news.

Back in February, I wrote about what Justice Scalia’s tragic death might mean for some important education-related cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. I (and every other education wonk in the country) predicted then that the 4-4 split between conservative and liberal justices could spell serious trouble for the very important Freidrichs case, which deals with forced payment of “agency shop fees” by teachers. I wrote:

The most immediate ramifications of the tie vote rule work in favor of unions, and particularly the teachers unions. Tough questions asked from the bench during oral arguments in the Friedrichs case led many to believe that a decision against agency shop fees was all but inevitable. Such a decision would have been a significant victory for teachers and other workers forced to pay tribute to deeply political (i.e., Democratic) unions with which they disagree, and would have put a big dent in teachers union budgets in many states across the nation (though unfortunately not Colorado). Justice Scalia’s untimely departure has changed all that. A tie now seems unavoidable, which will result in the unions getting to keep their forced tribute payments for now. Ick.

Unfortunately, that prediction turned out to be accurate. Continue Reading »

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March
25th 2016
Better Than TV: Senate Education Committee Gets Interesting

Posted under Accountability & Education Politics & State Legislature & Testing

I had a nice, easy (read: boring) education policy post planned for this fine Friday afternoon. Then I stayed out way past my bedtime to attend a Senate Education Committee hearing that turned out to be so wild and crazy and fantastically entertaining that I feel compelled to share it with you.

Those of you who have been reading my ramblings for a while probably remember how much time we spent talking about the Great Testing Debate of 2015, in which legislators from both sides of the aisle worked to scale back state testing. The debate ultimately culminated in a couple of legislative compromises (see here and here) that significantly scaled back testing, especially in light of further reductions made on the PARCC side of the equation.

But that doesn’t mean everyone was satisfied. A strange (and somewhat disturbing) mashup of hard-right conservatives and union folks want even deeper cuts—especially after ESSA’s passage created some additional state leeway on the testing front. Ninth grade has become the biggest focal point in that conversation, with SB 16-005 aiming to cut that grade’s test entirely.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time dwelling on the policy ins and outs of SB 005 itself. My Independence Institute friend Ross Izard made clear last year that the Education Policy Center is supportive of a statewide assessment in 9th grade. I believe some statewide assessment at this critically important high school transition is valuable for students, parents, teachers, and taxpayers. I’m siginificantly less excited about that assessment being PARCC.

But who cares what I think? Let’s talk about the fun stuff! Continue Reading »

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March
16th 2016
New Bill Seeks to Bolster Floundering Civic Knowledge

Posted under Education Politics & Social Studies & State Legislature

About this time last year, I wrote a starry-eyed post about how much I love seeing fellow policy explorers on field trips to the Colorado State Capitol. I wrote then:

For those who spend a lot of time at the Capitol, these bright-eyed explorers are sometimes viewed as a hassle. They clog the stairs, block the hallways, and every now and then manage to run smack into someone who probably believes they are far too important to be run into. But we should be careful about looking at these little guys (my people!) as hurdles that must be (sometimes physically) clambered over and worked around in the pursuit of more important business. In fact, I’d like to argue that there is no more important business than introducing our kids to the American system of government.

When I look around at groups of kids touring the Capitol—some of them wearing little ties and doing their best to stand up straight and proud, others struggling just to take it all in—I wonder how many of tomorrow’s leaders I’m looking at. How many future legislators, governors, and justices have I seen? How many activists, teachers, and nonprofit leaders am I watching form right before my eyes? How many of these wide-eyed little tykes will grow into great movers and shakers, military leaders, entrepreneurs, community champions, artists, or scientific pioneers? How many future presidents have I walked right past without knowing?

I still believe that “there is no more important business than introducing our kids to the American system of government.” And you know what? I’m not the only one.

Earlier this month, a broad, bipartisan group of legislators introduced Senate Bill 148, which will require Colorado high school students to pass the 100-question civics portion of the U.S. Naturalization Test, more colloquially called the “citizenship test,” in order to graduate. Sometime between starting 9th grade and finishing high school (testing schedules and administration are left up to schools), students would have to get at least 60 of the test’s 100 multiple-choice questions correct. Folks applying for citizenship in the United States must answer six of 10 randomly selected questions in order to pass. They also have to complete an English-language section.

If you couldn’t tell from my sentimental words at the beginning of this post, I like SB 148. Honestly, it’s hard not to in light of the very scary data on U.S. students’ civic knowledge.

In 2014, a nationally representative sample of 8th graders took the NAEP civics test. The results were astonishing. Check out the graphic below:

http://www.nationsreportcard.gov/hgc_2014/#civics

From The Nation’s Report Card

Continue Reading »

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March
11th 2016
Shades of Jeffco: Dougco’s Student Walkout

Posted under Accountability & Douglas County & Education Politics & School Board & Union

Yesterday, we covered some very interesting new research on educator evaluation reforms. While we were busy reviewing that study, our friends down in Douglas County School District were busy making news. Let’s catch up on that news today.

First up was a student walkout/protest at Ponderosa High School. Roughly 200 students paraded around with signs blasting Superintendent Liz Fagen and decrying what they see as concerning levels of teacher turnover at Ponderosa and other schools. They blame unfair teacher evaluations and pay under the district’s pay-for-performance system for this turnover. I think I’m having flashbacks to Jeffco’s misguided protests in 2014… Continue Reading »

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