Archive for the 'Education Politics' Category

April
22nd 2015
If You Want Something Done Right: CEA Steps into Thompson’s Union Negotiations

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Union

After observing many of them on the playground, I can say that bullies are interesting creatures. Usually, they figure they can just push you around without any resistance. But stand up to them just a little, and they have to reevaluate.

That reevaluation usually involves a two-step process. First, they try out nasty underhanded tactics like those used by the Jefferson County Mean Girlz. If that doesn’t work, or they meet more resistance (as the Mean Girlz certainly did), they often run off to find bigger, meaner friends to back them up.

It appears that the Thompson Education Association has been paying attention to the Jeffco edu-blob’s failures on step one of the bullying handbook. The district’s union and its supporters have skipped straight to step two and called in reinforcements from the Colorado Education Association, our state’s powerful and extremely political teachers union. Continue Reading »

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April
14th 2015
Whichever Way You Look, Colorado Seems to be Stuck in a Testing Rut

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & Independence Institute & Parents & School Accountability & State Legislature & Testing

I came across a story in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times under the headline: “Majority of California’s Latino voters highly value school testing.” Given the state of affairs in Colorado, how could something like that escape my attention?

A majority of Latino voters, 55%, said mandatory exams improve public education in the state by gauging student progress and providing teachers with vital information. Nearly the same percentage of white voters said such exams are harmful because they force educators to narrow instruction and don’t account for different styles of learning.

The survey, sponsored by the Times, found that even higher percentages of Californians (77% Latino, 56% White, 64% Total) agreed that “students’ achievement and progress on standardized tests” should be an important or the most important factor in teacher pay and evaluations. That finding casts even more doubt on the suspect poll finding trumpeted by the National Education Association last year.

Especially interesting, given this is the state that gave us last year’s earth-shattering Vergara ruling. Though no one seems to have consulted the Colorado Education Association president, who recently told legislators that “all teachers do the same job.” Continue Reading »

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April
9th 2015
Tick, Tock: Accountability Clock Leading Some CO School Districts to Watershed

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Grades and Standards & High School & innovation schools & Public Charter Schools & School Accountability & State Board of Education

Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Not many clocks today actually make that noise anymore. But even with the digital timepieces we’re more accustomed to now (and are pretty much all little people like me have known), if you set the alarm you know that it’s bound to go off at some point.

Whether it’s a soothing chime, a familiar radio station, or a deeply irritating Beep, beep, beep, your time to sleep (or whatever) eventually will run out. The question for struggling Colorado schools and districts is what’s going to happen after time is up. That time is drawing perilously close for some.

As Chalkbeat Colorado reports this morning, the 5-year accountability clock is quickly running out for some districts: Continue Reading »

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April
1st 2015
Unity is Strength: Independence Institute Staff Take the Plunge and Unionize

Posted under Edublogging & Education Politics & Independence Institute & Just For Fun & Transparency & Union

You know, maybe I’ve been too hard on teachers unions. Just this year, I’ve celebrated their declining membership rates, poked fun at their colossal loss of money in the 2014 election cycle, and had a little too much fun reliving an extraordinarily entertaining “battleflop” by Jeffco’s local teachers union.

Who can blame me? My big boy policy friends at the Independence Institute are always talking about union political spending, making sure union negotiations are required to be public, and helping teachers learn more about how they can opt out of paying union dues. Ben DeGrow did a scathing analysis of posts on the Jefferson County Education Association’s Facebook page back in January, and just this month Ross Izard published an article decrying union efforts to undermine tenure reform and accountability systems in education. I’m just a little guy, and I’ve got to follow the grownups’ lead.

But now it seems like the grownups may be changing their minds. Faced with impossible expectations and the cruel management of Jon Caldara, staff members are banding together for support. Continue Reading »

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March
19th 2015
NEA: Colorado Falls from 21st to 22nd in Per-Pupil Spending – Sound the Alarms!

Posted under Education Politics & Research & School Finance & Teachers

The bad news? Today is one of those days when little Eddie is going to be a broken record. The good news? This will be brief and to the point.

Go back in your mind all the way to last March, a whole year ago. The National Education Association — the nation’s largest teachers union — released its annual statistical dump known as Rankings & Estimates. The big news? Colorado ranked 21st in per-pupil spending during the 2012-13 school year.

In recent months, this information has provided a great antidote to attempted spooks and various forms of number-fudging. With this year’s new release of Rankings & Estimates, guess where Colorado stands? Continue Reading »

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March
18th 2015
What’s a “Bedfellow”? New Article Takes a Look at Weird Alliances and Tenure Reform

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Teachers & Union

Late last year, I wrote about the sticky testing issue knot. After a series of weird events on the State Board of Education and the early prospect of a strange alliance between Republicans and teachers unions during the ill-fated effort to reauthorize ESEA, we may be looking at more of a sticky testing issue black hole. Now, though, things are beginning to reach maximum weirdness, with the same strange alliances seen in Congress being observed in Colorado.

So yeah, stuff’s complicated. It’s getting tough to make sense of it all. That’s why I was glad to see my Independence Institute friend Ross Izard’s new article, “Strange Bedfellows: Teachers Unions, Conservatives, and Tenure Reform.” I’m pretty sure I’m too young to know what a “bedfellow” is, but I think I see what Ross is trying to convey.

The article takes a long, hard look at the differing motivations behind the oddly aligned conservative and union pushes against testing and for opt-outs. We’ll just do a brief overview of the highlights here in order to avoid unnecessary brain damage, but the article is stuffed with links and references for those whose nerdy proclivities drive them to dig a little deeper into the debate. Continue Reading »

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March
6th 2015
How Do We Get the Student Data Coin to Land on Both Sides?

Posted under Education Politics & Parents & State Legislature & Teachers

Have you ever had a day where it just seemed like “Heads they win, Tails you lose”? On those days it may not seem like it, but the truth remains that there are two sides to the coin. (And no, I’m not talking about the coin flip required in Jeffco’s union contract to determine which teacher of equal seniority gets let go.)

The same holds true for the role of data in education. Certain kinds of student data are appropriate for school districts and state agencies to collect, mostly related to academic performance and attainment. But in my humble opinion, the subject matter of some questions is inappropriate. There’s also the issue of whom the data is being shared with.

If you remember last year, I brought your attention to some great work being done by some Colorado parents to tighten up laws that protect student data privacy from local or state breaches, or other misuse. Continue Reading »

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March
5th 2015
Down Goes ESEA Reauthorization?

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government

As the “Great Testing Mess of 2015” grinds on, one of the questions that’s been in the back of the education world’s collective mind is how a federal ESEA reauthorization might affect states’ situations. We’ve talked before about some of the weird politics behind the reauthorization effort, and I even speculated that things may not have been looking good after President Obama failed to even mention the possibility of an ESEA reauthorization in his State of the Union speech. Unfortunately, it looks like that speculation may have been on target.

Rick Hess, a conservative scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and one of my education policy heroes, posted a smart article earlier this week that takes a look at our ESEA prospects after last Friday’s congressional drama. For those who don’t know, House Republicans pulled back from a vote on Rep. John Kline’s HR 5, or the Student Success Act, after failing to garner enough support. Interestingly, a nearly identical bill did pass back in 2013.

So what happened? I’ll let Rick explain:

… Back in 2013, when the U.S. House passed the Student Success Act without much drama, I was surprised. I’d expected that a number of Tea Party conservatives (several dozen or more) would simply refuse to vote for anything that might be construed as ratifying a federal role in schooling. I was wrong. The bill sailed through.

Last Friday, pretty much the same bill was to be voted on by the House (if anything, it had a few improvements that should have also made it more attractive to conservatives worried about federal overreach). I thought it would coast through given an enhanced Republican majority, the GOP’s desire to show that it can legislate responsibly now that it controls the House and Senate, and the 2013 vote. Instead, leadership delayed the vote amidst furious pushback from the Tea Party wing and a complicated situation with funding for the Department of Homeland Security.

Continue Reading »

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March
3rd 2015
Another Victory For Choice: Alabama’s STC Program Wins the Day

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & School Choice & Tax Credits

I love to see choice win. In fact, I’m hoping that we will have a favorable ruling on the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program from the Colorado Supreme Court any day now. In the meantime, I’ll have to make due with another victory for scholarship tax credits down south.

Just this week, the Alabama Supreme Court handed down a ruling upholding the state’s scholarship tax credit program. Edu-nerds can read the full decision here, but be warned: It’s 200 pages long. Bring snacks. For everyone else, here’s the short version from Tuscaloosa News story linked above:

The justices said the law does not violate restrictions on giving public funds to private, religious schools because the tax credits go to parents and to scholarship program donors, not to the schools. They also said Republican lawmakers acted legally when they passed the bill the same night that it was introduced in a conference committee.

If you’ve heard similar language in legal decisions on scholarship tax credits before, that’s because it is one of the most important lines of defense for these programs. Money doesn’t flow from the state to private—and possibly religious—schools as it does in voucher programs. Instead, private donors receive tax credits for donating to private scholarship granting organizations that give private scholarships to kids to attend private schools. World record for use of “private” in a single sentence? Perhaps. But it serves to illustrate an important point: No money passes through the state. In fact, that’s one of the main reasons scholarship tax credit programs are so difficult for choice opponents to beat in court. Continue Reading »

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February
20th 2015
State Board Gets Even Weirder On Testing Issue

Posted under Education Politics & School Board & School Finance & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Testing

Last month, we kicked off the 2015 legislative party together. I promised it would be an exciting year, and that has certainly been the case. But I may have been wrong about where that excitement would be coming from. The legislature has its hands full when it comes to education-related issues, but the real party seems to be at the Colorado State Board of Education.

As faithful readers and education followers know, the Colorado State Board of Education got weird in January by voting (along unexpected lines) to grant districts waivers from the performance-based part of this year’s PARCC exams. Those waivers were slapped down by a recent opinion from Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, but that hasn’t stopped the action at good ol’ SBOE.

For starters, the board voted 5-1 (Chairwoman Marcia Neal was absent due to medical issues) to postpone action on the PARCC waiver requests it has received. Judging from comments made during the meeting, this extension is being granted in the hopes that the legislature will “clarify” the issue. According to Chalkbeat, there are currently 20 district waiver requests pending. PARCC’s Performance-Based Assessment is due to be administered next month, which means the extension causes some interesting timing issues.

Most education folks (including myself) thought the matter was settled with the AG’s opinion, but that apparently isn’t the case. Buckle your seatbelts, friends—stuff’s likely going to get weirder on PARCC waivers before it gets… unweirder. Nope, that’s not a word.

Anyway, because the waiver decision extension wasn’t quite weird enough, rogue SBOE member Steve Durham also pulled out another surprising motion: Eliminate penalties for districts who fail to meet the required 95 percent participation threshold on state assessments due to parental opt outs. Continue Reading »

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