Archive for the 'Education Politics' Category

October
20th 2014
Serious Discussion: Common Core Missteps Demand a Smarter Response

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & School Accountability & School Choice

I’ve discovered a new way to make myself the least popular kid on the playground or at a birthday party. All I have to do is just come running in and say with my outdoor voice, “Hey, who wants to have a serious discussion about Common Core?” Rolling eyes. Blank stares. Condescending sneers. Befuddled head-shaking. I’ve seen it all. I might as well be offering to sell my parents’ old set of encyclopedias. But I’m here today to press on and help us get closer to the core of the Common Core debate.

Some of you might be saying: “Look, there goes that [little Eddie] rushing in where angels fear to tread.” Knowing how toxic the name “Common Core” has become, I think it makes sense to migrate straight past stories about inscrutable “Common Core” math algorithms and dismissive retorts from advocates about those hayseed “Common Core skeptics.”

If you want to be far smarter about this controversial topic than all of your friends, and help lead our state to a happy solution, you simply have to start by reading Rick Hess’ new National Affairs piece titled “How the Common Core Went Wrong.”

It’s a fairly lengthy essay, but one that sets the stage with thoughtfulness, candor, and precision. The idea of voluntary common educational standards that states can adopt has a lot of merit. Yet from the top, Hess offers plenty of criticism of the approach taken by Common Core backers. The different pieces come together in a way that reveals not necessarily a bad idea or malicious intent, but something more akin to poor judgment. The standards were: Continue Reading »

No Comments »

October
17th 2014
The Unfair Retirement PERA-chute: New Group Pushes for Pension Reform

Posted under Education Politics & School Finance & Teachers

Happy Friday, readers. I know we’ll all be starting our weekends in a few hours, but I think there’s time to squeeze in just a little more education policy before then. Today’s topic: reform efforts centered on Colorado’s Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA).

I’ve written about PERA and some of its pitfalls before, but let’s recap briefly for those who are new to the discussion. PERA is Colorado’s public employee pension plan, and the program covers a variety of public employees. Many of those employees are—you guessed it—public school teachers.

While the phrase “pension plan” sounds decidedly innocuous, PERA has been criticized frequently. Among other things, the scheme has been knocked for tying Colorado to some pretty nasty unfunded liabilities and unfairly penalizing young or new public employees.

Although a 2010 bill attempted to address some of PERA’s problems, it may not have fully righted the listing ship. Now, though, the winds may be starting to shift. Continue Reading »

3 Comments »

October
14th 2014
Two New Columns Bring Us Back to Reality in Jeffco Public Schools

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & High School & School Board & Suburban Schools & Teachers

It’s time to cut through the fog. Pieces of misinformation about the Jeffco school board have become so rampant that, even with your low-beams on, you’re bound to run into one or two of them. To deny the concentrated campaign of union field-tested talking points has been effective at increasing the numbers and volume of the opposition would be to deny reality. Just like it would be to swallow the talking points whole.

As this new Townhall column by Colorado’s own Mark Baisley reminds us: Continue Reading »

No Comments »

October
10th 2014
News From the Mothership: USDOE’s Response to CO Testing Questions

Posted under Education Politics & innovation schools & Middle School & School Board & State Board of Education

A month ago, I put on my policy explorer cap and attended a Colorado State Board of Education meeting. At that meeting, a panel of CDE employees presented a whole bunch of information on testing in Colorado. More specifically, they went into some depth on the various aspects of local control as they relate to PARCC testing in the state. At the time, the panel was waiting for a response from the mothership (also known as the U.S. Department of Education) on a few of their stickier questions.

Well, that response has finally been beamed back. Notably, the sci-fi analogy doesn’t seem so farfetched when one looks at DOE’s response document—it actually feels like reading a document written in an alien language. Fortunately, Chalkbeat has provided a helpful summary for those who, like me, find legalese to be far more terrifying than extraterrestrials.

After deciphering DOE’s hieroglyphics, the document has some disappointing—albeit unsurprising—answers to the panel’s questions. In brief, Colorado doesn’t have much wiggle room when it comes to testing this year. Continue Reading »

1 Comment »

October
9th 2014
Education Reform Times May Be A-Changin’, But Not for All

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Accountability & School Choice & Teachers

A long time ago, during an era known as “The Sixties,” there was a popular song called “The Times They Are a-Changin’”. Or so my Grandpa tells me. Apparently, it’s a sort of iconic piece about all the upheaval that was starting during this distant past. I have to say it’s a catchy tune, too.

Because it occurred to me as I perused this latest piece by the venerable long-time education reform Checker Finn, called “Time for a reboot” (my Dad says I should have referenced his old computer’s experience with the “blue screen of death,” but I digress). The pro-Common Core author acknowledges some of the complaints made about standardized testing and says reformers need to back away from “test-driven accountability” as a “primary tool”:

The wrong answer is to give up (or declare victory) and settle for the status quo. Far too many kids are still dropping out, far too few are entering college and the work force with the requisite skills, and far too many other countries are chowing down on our lunch.

Major-league education change is still needed, maybe now more than ever, and it’s no time for either complacency or despair.

Oh, it sure sounds like the times they are a-changin’! Finn says more emphasis needs to be placed on areas I’ve written a lot about here, including providing more quality choices, using technology to differentiate instruction, and letting the dollars follow the student. Bingo! Continue Reading »

No Comments »

October
8th 2014
A Show in Jeffco: Last Week’s Meeting and What Lies Ahead

Posted under Education Politics & School Board & Teachers

As you may recall, I went to a party last Thursday night. Sadly, I didn’t find the snacks I was promised (though not for lack of trying). What I did find was a relatively small room absolutely packed with cameras, tension, and people wearing cheaply designed custom t-shirts. And snacks or no snacks, I got quite a show.

The meeting began with more than two hours of public comments. Some of these comments were entertaining, but others were so venomous that I felt compelled to cover my little ears. Threats were issued, ultimatums were given, and political potshots were taken. Many (many) thousands of up-twinkles were given. And through all of this, the board majority listened patiently and without reaction. That’s pretty impressive.

But the public comments were just the beginning. Shortly thereafter, the real fun started as the board began discussion on the “censorship” issue” that has rocked the district in recent weeks. Superintendent Dan McMinimee offered a pretty reasonable compromise that restructured the district’s two existing (and rather mysterious) review committees instead of pursuing an amended proposal for a new committee. Continue Reading »

4 Comments »

October
7th 2014
Falling Membership Decline Begs Question: Is Time on the NEA’s Side?

Posted under Education Politics & Teachers

Time is not on my side today, which means I have only a few moments to write something. Which is interesting. Because as Mike Antonucci reports, time doesn’t seem to be on the side of the National Education Association, either: Continue Reading »

No Comments »

September
29th 2014
Jefferson County’s Ongoing Case of the Blue Flu

Posted under Education Politics & School Board & Teachers

Whatever Jeffco’s teachers have, it seems to be pretty contagious. First it spread like wildfire through two high schools, then it infected thousands of Jeffco high school students. Now, it’s made its way to teachers in two more schools. We should probably start making warning posters: “The blue flu is active in this area. Symptoms include sign making, shaking fists, excessive use of words like ‘disrespect’ and ‘secrecy,’ and irrational protesting about non-existent threats to 1st Amendment rights.”

Eek! I’m not sure mom’s advice to wash my hands before eating is going to help with this one. What will help, though, are thoughtful pieces like the one posted earlier today by my friend Ross Izard of the Independence Institute.

Izard uses the piece to take apart the two most commonly cited reasons for the protests: Censorship of the new AP US History (APUSH) curriculum framework and the new pay-for-performance system in the district, which readers will remember I wrote about in detail when news of the sick outs first broke.

According to Izard, the censorship argument is a straw man. After all, the opposite of censorship is community discussion, and that’s exactly what the board proposal in question called for before being tabled. Continue Reading »

3 Comments »

September
19th 2014
Jeffco Teacher “Sickout” Has Me Feeling Sick… And Confused

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & learning & School Board & School Finance & Suburban Schools & Teachers

Having to write this kind of post makes me feel a little sick to my stomach. Why would some teachers walk out on kids, enough to close down two Jeffco high schools? The headline from a 9News story points to the only two possibilities I can see: AP US History or teacher pay raises.

What… some teachers don’t like pay raises? I doubt it. But the plan approved last night by the Jeffco school board gives 99 percent of teachers a boost in take-home pay. For 98 percent of teachers, it’s either a 2.43% increase if they earned an effective rating, or a 4.25% increase if they earned a highly effective rating. In fact, many weeks ago, the board agreed to increase the total amount available for employee pay increases — from $11.7 million to $18.2 million!

Is that so terrible? Only 66 less-than-effective teachers are left out of the extra salary, but even they get all of their increased PERA retirement costs covered by district taxpayers. New teacher base salary was raised from $33,616 to $38,000. And in an unusually generous move, teachers on the highest end of the scale ($81,031) get a one-time stipend based on their evaluation rating. Continue Reading »

15 Comments »

September
16th 2014
Task Force Talks Testing: The Challenges Ahead

Posted under Education Politics & State Legislature

As you may have noticed, I’ve been talking a lot about testing recently (see here and here). I thought I got it all out of my system, but it turns out blogging about testing is a little like eating potato chips—it’s close to impossible to stop yourself once you’ve opened the bag. It’s like cracking open a greasy, delicious version of Pandora’s Box.

As I continue to eat my rhetorical potato chips and write about testing issues in Colorado, a legislative task force on testing issues has opened its own, much less easily digestible Pandora’s Box.

Born out of a piece of legislation originally designed to give districts testing flexibility, the task force has been, well… tasked with creating a report and issuing recommendations on testing in Colorado. Yesterday marked the group’s third meeting since July. It is required to finish its work by January 31 of next year.

There’s a problem, though: Testing is a massively complex, delicate issue. The task force’s first two meetings were largely gobbled up by information gathering, and it’s still waiting on at least one important study’s results. Even so, the group is only authorized to work for a limited amount of time, and the deadline looms in the not-too-distant future. At the last meeting, one task force member remarked: Continue Reading »

No Comments »

Next »