Archive for the 'Education Politics' Category

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 »

1 Comment »

February
11th 2015
AG Slaps Down State Board Waivers on PARCC Testing

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Testing

Last month, we talked about some State Board of Education weirdness that resulted in a vote to allow districts to apply for waivers from the first half of the state’s new PARCC tests. Called the Performance-Based Assessment, this portion of PARCC is administered in March. Since then, we’ve seen some entertaining fireworks at board meetings over the issue, including a particularly fun meeting in Jefferson County that saw a board member illegally abstaining from a vote—an action ironically taken under the pretext that she could not “violate board policy or the law.” According to Chalkbeat, 10 districts have applied for the waiver.

Being the curious policy explorer that I am, I’ve had many conversations with a variety of knowledgeable adults on this topic. What does the Performance-Based assessment do exactly? What happens if we don’t take it? Does the State Board have the authority to provide these waivers? When will our new attorney general, Cynthia Coffman, issue an official opinion?

Other than a CDE statement instructing districts to “continue implementing state and federal law” until an official opinion is issued and an unofficial opinion issued by an assistant AG, the answers to these questions were usually shrugs and various interpretations of one of my favorite parent-defense phrases: “I dunno.”

Well, it looks like we now at least have an official answer to the legality question. Continue Reading »

1 Comment »

February
5th 2015
Today’s Policy Field Trip to Senate Ed and the Discussion to Come

Posted under Education Politics & Private Schools & School Choice & Tax Credits

As you all know, I love policy field trips. And I especially love those field trips when they are about something as fun as school choice. Maybe that’s why I had so much fun at today’s Senate Education hearing. Well, the very end of it, anyway; I showed up a little late. My little legs can only carry me so fast!

So what exactly happened in Senate Ed today? The committee heard Senator Kevin Lundberg‘s bill on tax credits for private school tuition, which is known to political nerds as SB 045. Feel free to read the bill if you’d like (it differs significantly from the tax credit scholarship programs we’ve talked about before), but here’s the quick and dirty version: The bill would allow taxpayers enroll their children in a private school (or who provide a scholarship for other children to do so) to receive a tax credit in return. It also would allow credits for parents who use home-based education for their children.

As one might expect, the bill drew its fair share of fire. Democratic senators Andy Kerr, Michael Merrifield, and Michael Johnston all offered amendments to the bill. These included a requirement that private school students take state tests, require private schools to scrap their admission requirements, and a proposal from Sen. Kerr to make the issue a statewide ballot question. All of these were defeated. Sen. Johnston then offered a tricky amendment that would allow the program to begin only after the “Negative Factor” has been eliminated—a move designed to force Republicans to choose between two untenable positions. This was also defeated. Continue Reading »

No Comments »

February
3rd 2015
Should I Get My Hopes Up about Colorado Course Choice Once More?

Posted under Education Politics & High School & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & School Finance & State Legislature

Hopes were a little high last May when I offered K-12 online pilot program ideas in the wake of House Bill 1382′s adoption. My Education Policy Center friends have been talking about the promise of Course Choice and course-level funding for a few years now.

It sure would be nice to see Colorado take even a small, clear step in the direction of greater flexibility and student access to learning opportunities. But reading the recently released HB 1382 task force report and its underwhelming recommendations gave me the deep sense that even my modest hopes may have been misplaced.

Sigh. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again…. It’s hard for a kid my age to be patient and persist rather than to quit. Continue Reading »

No Comments »

February
2nd 2015
Tom Coyne’s Smart Jeffco Whistle Bomb

Posted under Education Politics & Research & School Board & Teachers & Union

Every now and then, an op-ed drops from the sky like one of those whistle bombs in the movies. The resulting explosion gets folks all riled up, and usually leads to some highly entertaining (though not terribly productive) conversations. Today is one of those days, with a Denver Post op-ed that sees Jeffco’s Tom Coyne outlining one of Colorado education’s biggest issues: The difficulty of removing ineffective teachers from the classroom.

Coyne smartly argues that despite spending enormous amounts of money, Colorado districts haven’t been able to achieve their academic goals. Coyne quantifies these shortcomings in Jeffco at some length using some pretty convincing data. As he puts it:

As taxpayers, we spend an enormous amount of money each year to achieve these goals. For example, based on the most recent Colorado Department of Education data, in the 2012-13 school year, total revenue per student in Jeffco was $10,420, or over $260,000 for every classroom of 25 students. In aggregate, total revenue in Denver’s most affluent suburban school districts (Boulder Valley, Cherry Creek, Douglas County, Jefferson County, and Littleton) was about $2.5 billion in 2012-13.

Despite this spending, we aren’t coming close to reaching our student achievement goals. Continue Reading »

No Comments »

January
21st 2015
Detective Eddie and the Case of the Missing ESEA SOTU Mention

Posted under Education Politics & Testing

As you may know, last night was the SOTU. I spent more time than one might expect attempting to convert that into a funny, education-related acronym, but had little success. For the record, I blame my failure on my age and innocent youth. Regardless, no joke for you today.

But hey, maybe I don’t need to be cracking jokes. After all, the president’s State of the Union address is pretty important. It hints at future battles, helps set the tone for the year, and provides a little more detail on potential policies in the pipeline.  Most importantly, it outlines the president’s priorities. Maybe that’s why I found it so noticeable that K-12 education—and particularly the massive ESEA reauthorization fight brewing in D.C.—received little more than a rhetorical nod.

Oh, and in case you missed the address, the video is below. If you aren’t interested in the full hour-long speech, Education Week put together a decent synopsis that you may find helpful.

Continue Reading »

2 Comments »

January
16th 2015
Ding Ding Ding! JCEA’s Round Two Battleflop

Posted under Education Politics & School Board & Teachers & Testing & Union

Not too long ago, John Ford of the Jefferson County Education Association told us that “the fight would start in January” (I humbly contend that the fight started back in September and that JCEA already lost the first round). I wrote about his inspiring speech recently, but here’s the video in case you forgot:

And if that weren’t enough to get this little guy scared, Complete Colorado broke the story that he’s been discussing the “unique opportunity to beat these bas***** back” with his “brothers and sisters” in Boulder Valley (yeah, I find that language creepy too).  I’m still not too sure what that blanked-out word is, but I’m pretty sure it’s not friendly.

Jeffco’s board meeting last night was supposed to be the big kick off, or the opening bell, or some other vaguely applicable sports metaphor. Instead, the effort flopped harder than Shamoo in a lap pool. Continue Reading »

No Comments »

January
13th 2015
Little Eddie’s Transparency Soap Box

Posted under Education Politics & School Accountability & School Board & Transparency

I love flashlights. I can remember many nights spent reading under my Batman sheets with a flashlight well past the time I should have been asleep. And just last week, I used a flashlight to hunt down the final Lego block I needed to finish my replica Millennium Falcon. It had fallen under the bed. As an added bonus, I also found three socks, two pennies, and a Superman action figure while I was down there.

As useful as real, physical flashlights are, though, I think metaphorical flashlights are even more powerful—especially when they’re used to shed light on political processes. That’s I celebrated when my Independence Institute friends successfully opened the door on district-union negotiations with Proposition 104 this past November. The proposition passed with a 70% yes vote, which to me says that Coloradans really, really value transparency in government. Who can blame them?

But district-union negotiations are only one part of the puzzle. School boards conduct a lot of business that falls well outside direct interactions with local unions. And although Colorado’s Sunshine Law requires school boards to provide “full and timely” notice of public meetings, a recent story from the Colorado Springs Gazette highlights the fact that this doesn’t necessarily mean that the public is given all the information they need to be fully involved: Continue Reading »

No Comments »

January
9th 2015
State Board Gets Weird on Testing Issue

Posted under Education Politics & State Board of Education & Testing

My little legs are tired from my various policy field trips this week, so I’m going to sit down, rest, and use the brief respite to catch you up on the most interesting piece of education news this week: Yesterday’s unexpected motion and surprising vote by the Colorado State Board of Education. I may also pound down a quick snack. I’ve got to keep my strength up for the coming heavy-weight bout in Jeffco, after all.

Yesterday, the State Board sat down to do its thing, which you may be unsurprised to learn consists of voting on stuff related to education. Normally, this can be a fairly dry process. This meeting turned out to be a little different, as newly appointed board member Steve Durham brought forward an unscheduled motion to allow school districts to waive out of the first portion of state-mandated PARCC testing. For those who don’t know, PARCC has two parts: A performance-based assessment administered in March and an end-of-year assessment administered in late April or May.

The legality of the motion was swiftly challenged by Senior Assistant Attorney General Tony Dyl, who told the board members that despite wide latitude to waive certain portions of state statute, they likely did not have the authority to waive this particular requirement. Continue Reading »

3 Comments »

January
8th 2015
JCEA Says the Fight Is On, So It Doesn’t Hurt for Me to Stay in Shape

Posted under Education Politics & Journalism & Just For Fun & Teachers

My Grandpa occasionally likes to watch boxing on TV, something he once told me was a “stress reliever.” My dad says when he was younger, he used to have a punching bag in the basement that he would use for working out, maybe for some of the same purposes.

I’m still only 5 years old, but beginning to think that maybe it’s time for this little edublogger to don the gray sweatsuit and do some jump-roping or running through the park. Why? Because John Ford, the president of the Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA), said “the fight’s going to start in January”: Continue Reading »

2 Comments »

Next »