Archive for the 'Innovation and Reform' Category

December
15th 2014
Justice’s Slow-Turning Wheel: CEA’s Opening Tenure Appeal Argument

Posted under Courts & Denver & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & School Choice & Teachers

When I told you last week about the Colorado Supreme Court hearing in the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program case, it came home just how slowly the wheels of justice turn. At least that’s how it seems from the perspective of a perpetual 5 year old.

But I hadn’t given much thought to how redundant education-related legal proceedings can seem to be until this morning. That’s when I saw the headline from Chalkbeat Colorado, “Teachers union files appeal in mutual-consent lawsuit”. I scratched my head, thinking haven’t we crossed the same point on this road before? Continue Reading »

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December
12th 2014
NCTQ Slaps Down Colorado on Teacher Preparation: Will We Ever Learn?

Posted under Elementary School & High School & Innovation and Reform & Middle School & reading & Research & State Legislature & Teachers

There’s nothing to be proud about narrowly avoiding failure. It makes me nervous just to think about how Colorado still teeters on the edge when it comes to the quality of our teacher preparation. We know how important the role of the classroom instructor is for helping students learn, so the latest release of the National Council on Teacher Quality’s State Teacher Policy Yearbook hardly inspired confidence.

NCTQ’s yearbook has been more or less an annual tradition in recent times. The overall project grades states comprehensively on five key areas: Continue Reading »

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December
3rd 2014
It’s Good to Let Teachers Choose, Too: Because One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Posted under Denver & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & School Finance & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Urban Schools

We often talk about the value of educational choice for students and parents, and rightly so. Less frequently do we strike the theme of the importance of letting teachers choose. As I am fond of doing, a spate of recent stories today presents me with the opportunity to tie this theme together with a big red bow. Without further ado… Continue Reading »

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December
2nd 2014
The Death of Snow Days

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Parents & Research & School Accountability & School Board & State Legislature & Teachers

I really love snow days. Every time a storm rolls into town, I wake up, rush to the window, and rip the curtains open, hoping to see those tiny, beautiful flakes of hope drift past my wide little eyes. And while my dad usually grumbles to his coffee about the morning commute as he surveys what he calls the “mess” on our street, I see nothing but the pure white promise of fun and freedom.

Brings back fond memories, doesn’t it? Well, you’d better put those safely away in the vault. Today, we discuss the impending death of the snow day. I’ll give you a minute to recover emotionally if you need it.

In states across the country, districts are experimenting with ways to avoid weather-related cancellations. Pennsylvania has created a pilot program that allows virtual learning on snow days to count as normal instruction, a school district in Georgia is doing something very similar, and New Jersey has a piece of pending state legislation aimed at making at-home, technology-based learning on snow days permissible under state law. Meanwhile, a rural district in Kentucky will allow up to ten at-home learning days due to the area’s traditionally heavy snowfall.

But why all the fuss about snow days? Is it just because of the absurd snowfall we’ve already seen in some areas this year? Not really. Believe or not, there’s actually a good deal of research out there on the subject. Continue Reading »

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November
21st 2014
Teacher Training, Licensure, Evaluation, Pay: Fix ‘Em All (and Do It Right)

Posted under education schools & Federal Government & Innovation and Reform & learning & Research & School Accountability & School Board & State Legislature & Teachers

It’s been more than a week now since I thankfully resisted the urge to “blow up” education schools. In the meantime, my remarks about teacher preparation have been vindicated — both the tone of urgency and the “moderate” but serious approach to addressing the issue.

Let’s start with the urgency. The National Council on Teacher Quality followed up its powerful indictment of the state of teacher preparation last week with compelling new evidence concerning the lack of rigor in education schools. How does it help students, particularly the neediest among us, to have most of these schools attract prospective teachers looking for easy As?

Now you may rightly label the headline as a “dog bites man” kind of story, but the findings deserve attention: 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
11th 2014
For More Educational Freedom, I’ll Give Up (Figurative) Ed School Explosions

Posted under education schools & Innovation and Reform & reading & Research & Suburban Schools & Teachers

Explosions are cool effects to watch in the world of make-believe — action movies and video games, though my parents pretty tightly limit my exposure even to those. That may be in part because mom and dad want to send the message that blowing things up in real life is generally a bad idea with lots of potentially bad consequences. Somebody could get hurt.

So it’s probably not surprising that I experienced a curious reaction to Rick Hess’s latest blog piece, titled “A Better Path than ‘Blowing Up’ Schools of Education.” By schools of education, of course we’re talking about the colleges that train K-12 classroom teachers and other educators.

Let me start off by saying that among those who want to see parents more empowered and students have access to more great teachers, education schools remain perhaps the least talked about but widely recognized institution that stands as an obstacle to reform. As Hess acknowledges, sheer numbers dictate their influence: 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
6th 2014
ADHD and Education: A New Take on Personalized Learning

Posted under Edublogging & Innovation and Reform & innovation schools & learning & Suburban Schools

As this year’s election silliness mercifully raged to a close earlier in the week (well, kind of), I teased you with the promise of a blog post on ADHD as it relates to customized education and personalized learning. I then proceeded to torture you with a discussion about yet another interpretation of this year’s education survey data. It must not have been too bad, though, because you’re back for more. And I intend to fulfill my promise.

Our discussion of ADHD’s relationship with education reform begins with a fascinating New York Times article by Dr. Richard Friedman, a Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Cornell. Friedman starts out by stating a fact well known by many in the education world: The rates of diagnosis and treatment of ADHD have risen sharply over the years. According to Friedman, it is now the most prevalent psychiatric disorder among American children between the ages of 4 and 17, affecting in the neighborhood of 11% of that population at some point. Friedman points out that this has led many people to wonder whether ADHD is a real disease:

… [Y]ou may wonder whether something that affects so many people can really be a disease … And for a good reason. Recent neuroscience research shows that people with ADHD are actually hard-wired for novelty-seeking — a trait that had, until relatively recently, a distinct evolutionary advantage. Compared with the rest of us, they have sluggish and underfed brain reward circuits, so much of everyday life feels routine and understimulating. Continue Reading »

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