Archive for the 'Grades and Standards' Category

December
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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December
5th 2014
Among New School Awards, Jeffco’s Edgewater Elementary Stands Out

Posted under Elementary School & Grades and Standards & Public Charter Schools & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

It’s Friday, time to stick to something a little lighter and perhaps more upbeat. This week the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) publicly celebrated its annual award winners.

While 27 districts, including Douglas County, earned recognition for topping the state’s accreditation system, today I particularly would like to bring attention to the school-level results from 2013-14 in three major categories: Continue Reading »

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November
24th 2014
Sticky Numbers: Making Sense of Dougco’s Pay System and Its Outcomes

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & School Accountability & School Finance & Teachers

Like Elmer’s glue, numbers get sticky when misused. And just like glue is tough (but fun!) to peel off your hands, it can take a little while to clear up sticky number messes. Yet clean them up we must, and so I dedicate today’s post to clearing up some numerical confusion surrounding Dougco’s pay-for-performance system.

The most recent illustration of sticky confusion in Dougco comes courtesy of comments on a recent Denver Post op-ed written by Doug Benevento, Vice President of the Douglas County Board of Education. Some of the comments are the typical anti-reform, pro-union rhetoric to which we’ve all sadly grown accustomed, but some others hint at some more systemic misunderstandings of the district’s pay structure and the numbers associated with it. Those need to be addressed.

The first big misunderstanding is DCSD’s actual turnover rate. One commenter accuses Benevento of “finagling” (great word) CDE’s official 17.28% teacher turnover figure to make the district look better. Yet it is CDE, not Benevento, doing the finaglin’. Continue Reading »

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November
18th 2014
Customized Success: New Study Hints at the Power of Personalized Learning

Posted under Edublogging & Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & Public Charter Schools & Research

Earlier this month, I wrote about some new brain science (sorry for the technical terminology) highlighting the potential benefits of personalized learning for children with ADHD. And as if that wasn’t interesting enough, I soon discovered another juicy piece of new research on personalized learning in charter schools.

Before I could really chow down on the wonky goodness, though, reality demanded that I detour back to Jeffco for a quick update on the district’s ongoing, still-nonsensical drama. Then Douglas County, that pesky bastion of meaningful school reform, had to go and regain its spot in the top tier of Colorado’s school accreditation system. Yeah, it was a busy couple of weeks in Colorado education.

Things have settled a bit now, so I’ve been able to sit down and devour my latest tasty wonk morsel: A study on the effects of personalized learning from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the RAND Corporation. Using test data, teacher logs, teacher surveys, student surveys, and a few interviews with administrators, the study looks at 23 charter schools that have implemented personalized learning approaches. Importantly, most of the schools included in the study are located in urban areas and have high percentages of low-income and minority students.

It’s a pretty lengthy study with a lot to say, and I encourage you to read the full report if you need something tasty to chew on. For now, though, we’ll just focus on what I think is the most important highlight: Student achievement results. Continue Reading »

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November
14th 2014
Dougco Shakes It Up Again By Earning State’s Top Accreditation Rating

Posted under Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & learning & Parents & Rural Schools & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools

There was a time when my former perpetually 5-year-old self was busy writing a lot about Douglas County. The ebb and flow of news and activity has changed that somewhat, though there have been opportunities of late to talk about my Education Policy Center friends chiming in to the courts on the Choice Scholarship Program, and more recently on the tools the district has made available to promote a broader system of informed parental choice.

This week, though, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share some other positive news. After a few years at the second-highest ranking of “Accredited,” Douglas County School District has regained its spot among the ranks of the state’s most highly accredited districts. The Colorado Department of Education’s calculations ascribed the honor to 27 of the state’s 178 school districts, none larger than Dougco.

Given the 60,000-plus student district’s top marks in Colorado for productivity, we shouldn’t be surprised by the recognition. But sadly, some are aghast. As 9 News reported, an angry faction within the district appears unready and unwilling to accept the good news at face value: Continue Reading »

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November
7th 2014
It’s Not What You Think: “The End of School Choice” Means Something Better

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & Parents & School Accountability & School Choice & State Legislature

I’m not really sure how I should feel. Seeing a new opinion article titled “The end of ‘school choice’” at first made me tense up inside. Upon closer inspection, I was relieved to find it wasn’t coming from the likes of someone who believes that choice backers deserve “a special place in hell.”

No, quite the contrary. The headline was actually a clever device to get us to read some interesting thoughts by Doug Tuthill, posted at redefinED (H/T Matt Ladner):

The annual American Federation for Children conference is one of the country’s largest gatherings of school choice advocates. So it was notable, during the most recent conference in Orlando, that speakers regularly used the terms “parental choice” and “educational choice,” but not “school choice.”

This shift in semantics reflects an emerging trend that’s a game changer – the expansion of choice in publicly-funded education is increasingly including learning options beyond schools.

Continue Reading »

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November
4th 2014
Apathy, Confusion, and Survey Data: What the Numbers Really Tell Us

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Research

I was going to write about an interesting article I read on ADHD, school choice, and personalized learning today, but then I was distracted by a very interesting blog post on Americans’ understanding of education policy—or lack thereof. The irony of being distracted from writing about and ADHD article is not lost on me, but I choose to ignore it.

Never fear, fellow policy explorers; we will revisit ADHD school choice later this week. Today, we talk survey. Yes, again. No, I can’t be persuaded otherwise.

As you well know—and possibly as you have come to hate—I have an unhealthy fascination with surveys and the data they produce. Happily, the last couple of months have served up a veritable smorgasbord of tasty survey data for me to munch on in addition to my normal thinkin’ snacks of M&Ms and pretzel sticks. I even got to join Martin West last week for a delicious re-analysis of data from Education Next’s big survey this past summer. Now, Dr. Morgan Polikoff, a young researcher at the University of South Carolina’s Rossier School of Education, has chimed in on the issue with a blog post written for the Fordham Institute.

Polikoff takes a closer look at data gathered from the Education Next survey, the PDK/Gallup survey, and a survey of California voters conducted by the Rossier School itself. He notes some pretty wide discrepancies between the survey’s results, including the near-opposite results of EdNext and PDK on the issue of using test scores in teacher evaluations that I wrote about when the survey data was first released. He also points out that Americans are frequently wrong or uninformed about education policy issues. This is, he implies, due to widespread disinterest in the topic of education. Continue Reading »

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October
28th 2014
COSFP’s School Funding, Instruction Story Not So Spooky with All the Facts

Posted under Grades and Standards & Research & School Finance

Yesterday I shared a really interesting survey-based analysis by Dr. Martin West that strongly suggests the average American has a good handle on how well their local schools perform, but a lot less accurate picture of how well their local schools are funded.

On average, voters underestimate how much is spent per pupil by their local school districts, more than one-third less than the real financial picture. While there could be a number of sources and factors that lead people to such inaccurate conclusions, groups like the Colorado School Finance Project (COSFP) certainly don’t help when they omit $934 million in spending reported by the Department of Education to make the K-12 budgetary picture look bleaker.

Well, they’re ba-a-a-ack. ‘Tis Halloween week, after all. And although my parents have effectively limited my exposure to the world of all things creepy and spooky, I am all too familiar with the experience of reading the selectively scary stories of K-12 funding that COSFP and others peddle. Just look at the group’s latest monthly update: Continue Reading »

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October
24th 2014
Buckle Up for the Ride, Colorado: The Testing Issue Isn’t Going Away Soon

Posted under Federal Government & Grades and Standards & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & reading & School Accountability & State Board of Education & Teachers

Tests in schools, tests in schools. Why do I have a strange sort of feeling this issue isn’t riding off quietly into the sunset any time soon? First, we’ve got the entire hot mess known as Common Core (or maybe we should just follow Governor Hickenlooper’s advice and rename it “Colorado Core”?) and the new regime of PARCC assessments that go with it.

Underneath all that, though, are all the competing concerns and interests. What do we want tests to do? Is it about improving instruction and directly affecting student learning? Or are they primarily useful tools to help measure and compare how different schools and educators are doing? As I’ve heard it said many times, “what gets measured gets done.” So you can’t just throw out all the tests. But which ones do we need, and how much is too much?

As you can see, magical policy solutions aren’t hiding just beneath the surface. Some leaders on the Colorado State Board of Education have tried to find a way to give local schools and districts more testing flexibility, while preserving key features of accountability. But then the grumpy old U.S. Department of Education mothership has all but completely squashed that idea.

Then we have the legislatively-appointed Standards and Assessments Task Force. On Monday, this 15-member group met and narrowed down the areas of concern to oh, at least eight. These are items to study and make recommendations about. Looks like a big task to tackle by the early 2015 deadline. Then yesterday the Task Force set up a listening session in Colorado Springs, reports the Gazette. Among the many concerns highlighted: Continue Reading »

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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 »

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