Archive for the 'Federal Government' Category

12th 2015
Federal Court Voids Intrusive Anti-Choice Order, Makes Me Smile

Posted under Courts & Federal Government & Parents & Private Schools & Research & School Choice

In the recent busy season, there hasn’t necessarily been a lot of different things to tell you about. But the coverage has been thick. And after all that — including everything from telling reformers to keep their chins up to unpacking ugly smear columns — little me is eager, practically desperate, to talk about good news and spread a little cheer.

Yesterday I ran across just such a story that made me smile. I first learned of the big judicial win for Louisiana kids from, of all places, the American Federation for Children:

“Today’s decision is a win for children, especially the more than 7,100 children who rely on the Louisiana Scholarship Program to attend a quality school of their parents’ choice,” said Kevin P. Chavous, executive counsel to the American Federation for Children. “The U.S. Department of Justice attempted to play politics and was caught red handed and reprimanded by this Court.”

Bingo. What exactly is the backstory? Well, I’m glad you asked. Continue Reading »

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11th 2015
Ugly Smear Column Tries, Fails to Shove Conservative Education Reform Aside

Posted under Accountability & Courts & Education Politics & Federal Government & Innovation and Reform & Private Schools & Privatization & Public Charter Schools & School Accountability & School Board & School Choice & State Board of Education & Teachers & Union

I hope you all enjoyed a nice, long break from recent depressing edu-happenings over the last few days. I also hope that your disappointment is tempered by hope for the future. As my friend Ross Izard pointed out in a recent op-ed—and as my dad always says—it ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings.

I never have figured out who that fat lady is, but I’m pretty positive it isn’t Michael Vaughn, a former DPS spokesperson turned communications director for Education Post. Mr. Vaughn recently wrote a post-election Denver Post op-ed about the fact that “real” reform is winning in Colorado. It’s a rather nasty piece in which he celebrates reform victories in Denver while all but dancing on the graves of conservative education reformers around the state.

When I look at what conservative education reform folks have pushed for over the past few years in Jeffco, Thompson, Dougco, and other districts, I see a long list of meaningful reforms. New curricula, new charter schools, pay-for-performance systems, equal funding for charter students, collective bargaining reform—you name it, it’s there. But that doesn’t seem to qualify as true reform for Vaughn, who instead offers this definition of the term:

I know there’s no tried-and-true definition of reform, but there are generally accepted reform stances: school choice/charter schools; Common Core; annual, federally mandated standardized testing; teacher and school accountability. So let’s see how the losing candidates stand on these issues.

He goes on to hammer Dougco for applying for a State Board of Education Waiver from PARCC testing, taking school choice to “an extreme” with its local voucher program, “busting the union,” and “jamming” policies down teachers’ throats. He then implicitly extends most of those critiques to Jeffco, and adds an astonishingly unsophisticated take on the A.P. U.S. History fiasco that fails to acknowledge the fact that despite Julie Williams’ blunt approach to the situation, conservative concerns about the framework were ultimately validated by the College Board itself.

Sadly, those flubs are far from the worst the column has to offer. Continue Reading »

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12th 2015
Can’t We Just Get Colorado on the CER Tax Credit Report Card… Please?

Posted under Federal Government & Independence Institute & Just For Fun & Parents & Research & School Choice & Tax Credits

Imagine this scenario: The teacher has posted the grades for the final exam on the wall outside the classroom. There, standing and staring at the paper is a young student crying. “What’s the matter? Did you not get a passing grade?” the passerby asks. The weeping student, struggling for composure, simply shakes her head. “Then what’s wrong?”

Finally, the answer comes out. The student explains that she was sad not because she got a poor grade, but because she never got a chance to take the course, and thus received no grade at all.

That’s kind of how I felt upon seeing the Center for Education Reform’s new Education Tax Credit Laws Across the States Ranking and Scorecard 2015.

Continue Reading »

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8th 2015
Tennessee Study Sequel Pours More Cold Water on Pre-K Enthusiasm

Posted under Early Childhood & Federal Government & Journalism & learning & Research

I’m going to be honest with everyone. Getting education policy right is hard work. There are no silver bullets out there. Some things (like school choice) show small but consistent benefits in study after study. Other practices (like paying teachers to earn masters degrees) represent large outlays of money with no return.

Today I’m looking at pre-K or early childhood education. Some recent research further calls into question the prevailing line on increasing tax subsidies for preschool. Chalkbeat Tennessee last week reported on a landmark study that challenged some conventional wisdom. Since as a 5-year-old edublogging prodigy I tend to be more than a little unconventional, it seemed like a reasonable idea to bring it to your attention:

A new Vanderbilt University study suggests that public pre-kindergarten programs in Tennessee might actually negatively impact students as they advance through school, surprising experts and advocates alike. But the study’s lead researchers say that policymakers shouldn’t abandon pre-K as they seek to close the achievement gap between minority and lower- and higher-income students.

A careful read through the executive summary of the Vanderbilt University report raises some significant caution flags. Studying a randomly assigned group of more than 1,000 kids, researchers essentially found that the initial advantages provided to Tennessee pre-K participants washes away by the end of kindergarten. By first grade, teachers observed worse “non-cognitive” (aka attitude and behavioral) outcomes for the pre-K kids, followed by a similar statistically negative result in “cognitive” (or academic) results in second grade.

This study, which follows its subjects through third grade, is not the original. It’s a sequel. Continue Reading »

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16th 2015
Senate Passes Bipartisan NCLB Rewrite

Posted under Accountability & Education Politics & Federal Government & School Accountability & Testing

On Tuesday, we visited the faraway land of U.S. Congress, where the U.S. House recently (and narrowly) passed a sweeping reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as No Child Left Behind. I had planned on using today’s post to offer a brief update on the U.S. Senate’s ongoing NCLB reauthorization efforts today, but then those crafty senators went and passed the darn thing. So yeah, we’re going to talk about that.

The Senate’s effort has been spearheaded by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) and Patty Murray (D-Wash), who have been working hard to build a bill that could garner bipartisan support in the Senate. If votes are any indication, it looks like that effort was successful; the bill passed this afternoon on an 81-17 vote. I don’t know how much attention you pay to Congress (or even how much you should), but that’s pretty impressive. Even more impressive is the fact that it appears to have sailed through with relatively little drama on the floor. Continue Reading »

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15th 2015
Catching Up on Testing, Transparency, Accountability, Innovation… and More

Posted under Accountability & Federal Government & innovation schools & Rural Schools & School Accountability & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Teachers & Testing

If it seems like the middle of summer is a good time for me to catch up — well, that’s because it is. It took me a fairly long time to come down from my adrenaline rush that accompanied the high-stakes game of legislative testing chicken.

Like any legislative compromise, the final version of House Bill 1323 signed into law certainly isn’t perfect. But overall it made some positive changes.

Going forward, Colorado has maintained annual assessments but also streamlined the number and length of tests. The most underrated and underreported part of HB 1323 has to be the requirement that school districts “annually distribute to the parents of students…an assessment calendar.” The calendar is supposed to provide an estimate of annual testing times as well as which ones are required by the federal government, the state, or the district itself.

Little Eddie loves transparency and helpful information for parents! Continue Reading »

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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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7th 2015
Let’s Get This (Legislative) Party Started

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & State Legislature

Two months ago, I celebrated the end of what I like to call the election silly season. Despite mammoth efforts by seemingly panicked teachers unions, proponents of education reform at both the state and federal levels won big in November. Much dancing and kazoo blowing ensued in education reform camps around the country.

But the election was really just a prelude to the real party, which is only just now getting started. The 114th United States Congress began yesterday, and is now beginning to wrestle with issues ranging from the Keystone XL pipeline to gas taxes to—drum roll please—ESEA reauthorization.

Regular readers will remember that I recently highlighted the somewhat awkward alliances that an ESEA reauthorization effort could create, but I’m not sure I could have predicted the speed at which the effort would move. Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, the new chairman of the U.S. Senate Education Committee, has signaled that he intends to get an ESEA authorization through committee by Valentine’s Day. Yikes. I hope everyone is wearing their seat belts. Air bags might also be helpful; previous efforts have crashed in rather spectacular fashion. Continue Reading »


19th 2014
The Great Teachers Union-Republican Alliance of 2015?

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Teachers

Yesterday, I wrote about the latest developments in what I have begun to simply call “The Testing Mess.” It’s sticky, sticky stuff, and I find that it’s often difficult to decipher which piece of the puzzle I’m going to be talking about when someone brings up “testing” in conversation these days. But being the insatiable nerd that I am, I feel compelled to complicate things even further by taking a look at some of the more interesting—and bizarre—political wrinkles behind the scenes of the debate.

I pointed you last time to an article written by Alyson Klein at Education Week. The article neatly sums up newly revealed Republican efforts to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as No Child Left Behind, the Act’s current iteration, increasingly finds itself on the wrong end of the testing discussion.

In order to achieve a reauthorization, our trusty (not really) politicians in Washington will need to navigate a political environment that I believe I accurately described yesterday as a “sausage-making process.” And just as you can never be quite sure which bits will be included in your sausage, politics can make strange bedfellows. Nowhere is that more clear than in the nascent (and highly irregular) developing relationship between the national teachers unions and Republicans over the issue of ESEA reauthorization. Continue Reading »


18th 2014
Sticky Testing Issue Knot: Where’s the Education Policy Velcro?

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Grades and Standards & Parents & School Accountability & State Legislature & Teachers

I may be a precocious and talented young edublogger, but tying shoelaces still gives me fits. My mom insists on double-knotting the laces. Occasionally, in my dreams, I am stifled and frustrated by a tight pair of shoes that I can’t remove because they have been tied snugly so many times with knots that could drive your average sailor to mutiny.

Pardon the aside, but such a strange image is what comes to mind when I search for a winning solution out of the looming political debates about testing. Except it’s even worse, because the knotted material seems less like your standard cotton, polyester, or nylon, and more like this stuff.

A couple months ago, I delivered my highly non-controversial opinion that the testing issue wasn’t going away any time soon here in Colorado. But even then, I didn’t anticipate exactly where so much friction on the HB 1202 Standards and Assessment Task Force might take us. Cue a Chalkbeat’s detailed account of the group’s Monday meeting: Continue Reading »


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