Archive for the 'Innovation and Reform' Category

September
23rd 2014
More Research Could Highlight Real Promise of Blended Learning

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Research & Teachers

Today seemed like a good day to get out of the hot kitchen and look at a topic I haven’t addressed in awhile: blended learning. You know what I mean. According to the Clayton Christensen Institute, it’s:

a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace; at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home; (3) and the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.

Fittingly, then, a new piece by the Christensen Institute’s Michael Horn shares how his group is partnering up with Evergreen Education “to find more districts that are obtaining good results for students—concrete and objective—from blended learning.” This is just the kind of needed project to track the particulars of an emerging education program trend. What’s working, what’s not, etc.? Continue Reading »

No Comments »

September
11th 2014
Empire Strikes Back against School Choice in Courts; Don’t Give Up!

Posted under Courts & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Private Schools & School Choice & Tax Credits

A couple days ago I tossed out a Star Trek reference. Today, it’s going to be a Star Wars metaphor. I hope this doesn’t cause any sort of Sci-Fi universe catastrophes, including but not limited to wormholes, disturbances in the Force, or ripples in the space-time continuum.

All that setup to talk about the Empire striking back. This time, though, it doesn’t include Darth Vader, Death Stars, or Storm Troopers. I’m talking about some large organized adult interest groups with high-paid attorneys filing lawsuits to halt promising or successful school choice programs. A couple weeks ago we smiled together at the good news for New Hampshire kids in surviving that state’s legal challenge.

But my post also featured my reaction to news of a new lawsuit against Florida’s scholarship tax credit program: Continue Reading »

No Comments »

September
9th 2014
Let’s Take a Smart Ride into a Dynamic Educational Future

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Parents & School Board & School Choice

My vision of Colorado’s educational future certainly looks humble and limited, though let’s be honest, it isn’t ridiculous. Personally I’m a bigger fan of Transformers, but for some the “future” conjures up pictures of a kind of Star Trek sci-fi world. Maybe not enough to convince them to speak exclusively to their own children in the Klingon language.

Or at least, if they do opt for that road less taken, they ought to think twice about running for school board. If for no other reason, prominent education reform thinkers like Checker Finn long have been speculating about the democratic school board model going the way of the horse and buggy. (An unfuturistic futurist?)

Now, writing for the think tank Finn ran until recently, the insightful Andy Smarick takes on the theme again. He writes for the Fordham Institute’s Flypaper blog about the “obvious problems” with the “unitary system,” in which school districts having control over all public schools in a geographic area. Continue Reading »

1 Comment »

September
3rd 2014
Brookings: Superintendents Don’t Make Big Impact on Student Learning

Posted under Innovation and Reform & learning & Research & School Board & School Finance & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Urban Schools

What exactly should we expect of Colorado’s school district leaders? With a title like SUPERintendent, are we expecting too much of what they can accomplish? What difference does it make for what students in a district learn to have an experienced superintendent as opposed to someone new at the helm?

A brand-new Brookings study strongly suggests that it doesn’t make much difference at all. The academic heavyweight team of Russ Whitehurst, Matt Chingos, and Katharine Lindquist surveyed 10 years of data in school districts across Florida and North Carolina, and found that superintendents account for a mere 0.3 percent of differences in student academic achievement.

So are they saying that it makes no difference who serves in a school district’s top position, reporting directly to the locally elected board of education? Are we to believe that it didn’t matter having my one-time educrush Michelle Rhee running D.C. public schools rather than her predecessors? That Mike Miles left no meaningful mark in Harrison? That a cage-busting leader like Dougco’s Liz Fagen is interchangeable with the average large school district superintendent?

Writing at Jay Greene’s blog, Matt Ladner succinctly clarifies what the Brookings report says: Continue Reading »

No Comments »

August
29th 2014
Jeffco Board Steps Up to Reward Outstanding Teachers

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Principals & School Board & Teachers

Like a lot of kids my age, I get a weekly allowance. It may not seem like much to you, but five bucks buys me an awful lot of valuable stuff (mostly candy). But my allowance isn’t unconditional; I get more when I’m good than when I’m bad. I get more for good grades than bad grades. Seems fairly reasonable, right?

Teacher salaries are, of course, very different from my allowance. Yet, the same principle applies: We ought to reward those who do great work, and provide incentives for those who could do better to improve. Is it really fair to give teachers who are doing an outstanding job the same pay raise (in some cases, even less) than someone rated less than effective?

Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks this way. Last night, Ken Witt on the Jefferson County School Board put forward what some are portraying as a radical proposal in the district’s ongoing compensation negotiations with the Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA). Continue Reading »

3 Comments »

August
22nd 2014
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: A Setback for Choice in North Carolina

Posted under Courts & Innovation and Reform & Private Schools & School Choice & School Finance

A lack of progress is always frustrating. I’ve been trying to convince my parents that broccoli is too dangerous to be trusted for months. But my struggles pale in comparison to the frustration that a large number of students and families in the Tar Heel State are facing after yesterday’s unfavorable ruling regarding school choice.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago while discussing an Independence Institute/Friedman Foundation amicus brief in the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program case, I find legalese to be fairly terrifying. Fortunately, the Carolina Journal provides a succinct (and mercifully un-legal) summary:

“[North Carolina Superior Court Judge] Hobgood said providing taxpayer money for the scholarships without curriculum standards or teacher certification requirements ‘does not accomplish a public purpose.’ He added that the program ran afoul of the state’s landmark Leandro decision, which requires the state to provide every child with the opportunity to have a ‘sound, basic education.’” Continue Reading »

No Comments »

August
19th 2014
“What Are People Thinking” about Education? PEPG Makes It Pay to Know

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Research & School Finance & Tax Credits & Teachers

Sometimes you see or hear about some crazy behavior out there, and somewhat aghast, you ask aloud or think: “What are people thinking?” Other times, you’re just curious about the opinions of those adults around you who can affect important issues, and it’s just: “I wonder… what are people thinking?”

My faithful fans know that taking a look at surveys about education is more than just a passing fancy. Only a couple months ago, the Friedman Foundation’s latest national poll rightly caught my attention. But there’s none I look forward to more than the PEPG/Education Next survey, which covers a large sample of more than 5,000 adults and now has eight years of comparative data! (That’s older than I am… Really!)

In-depth coverage by Michael Henderson, Paul Peterson, and Martin West of the 2014 edition’s results sheds light on a number of important matters.

First, as my Education Policy Center friends continue to speak out for scholarship tax credits as a way to help Colorado kids win, PEPG finds national support remains strong. At 60% to 26%, favorability is consistent with (albeit slightly weaker) the Friedman results. It also once again remains the most widely popular form of school choice proposal. Hip, hip, hooray!

Second, again consistent with Friedman, the new survey found “declining” (especially among public school teachers and among Republicans) and “polarizing” support for the national standards movement known as Common Core. PEPG took a slightly different twist. The earlier survey found that results skew from slightly against to slightly in favor when a clear definition of “Common Core” is added into the question. PEPG just asked the same question, with and without the highly-charged term. Continue Reading »

1 Comment »

August
15th 2014
Liberty Common Shatters ACT Test Record; State TCAPs Less Inspiring

Posted under Denver & Elementary School & Grades and Standards & High School & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & math & Middle School & Public Charter Schools & reading & Rural Schools & School Board & School Choice & State Board of Education & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

Yesterday brought a big data dump from the Colorado Department of Education, and it’s nothing that is going to get the rest of the nation ooh-ing and aah-ing about where we’re headed. When aggregate scores for 3rd to 10th graders in all three subject areas dip half a point, clearly far more is getting measured than improved. Still, there’s plenty that’s hidden when you take the statewide view.

So leave it to little old me to ferret out and compile a few of the key local story lines that deserve attention, reflection, and in a few cases, imitation. Speaking of which, none rises to the top more than the Liberty Common High School‘s record-breaking ACT score — besting the 2010 mark of 27.78 with an eye-popping 28.63.

Did I say “record-breaking”? I should have said “shattering” — almost, but not quite, Beamonesque. Congrats to Liberty Common and principal Bob Schaffer for raising the bar! When I wished them “best of success” nearly two years ago after my Education Policy Center friends concluded their visit, I had no idea they would so thoroughly heed my admonition!

Here are some other local highlights of yesterday’s test score data dump that caught my attention: Continue Reading »

1 Comment »

August
14th 2014
Too Good, Too True: KIPP’s Continuing Success

Posted under Denver & Innovation and Reform & Middle School & Research & Urban Schools

“If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.” You’ve heard that one, right? Of course you have. It’s a pretty good aphorism, and one that I’ve already heard no fewer than 2,000 times in my five years of life. Somewhat ironically, this universal statement holds true in many cases, but falls short in others. As I’ve discussed before, KIPP charter schools appear to be one of the exceptions. Now even more research has bolstered that claim.

KIPP stands for the Knowledge is Power Program. The organization currently operates 162 charter schools around the country, and many of these schools are producing some legitimately astounding results for minority and underprivileged kids. Here in Denver, KIPP operates three public charter schools that are producing similarly impressive results.

Perhaps not surprisingly, KIPP’s results have raised some eyebrows. They have also generated some skepticism. Continue Reading »

No Comments »

August
12th 2014
BFFs of the Court: Chiming in for Choice in Douglas County

Posted under Courts & Innovation and Reform & School Choice & School Finance & Suburban Schools

Court briefs are terrifying to kids like me. They are long, complicated, and governed by a system of rules in which words like “pagination” and “certiorari” are commonplace. And, in a cruelly ironic twist, they are anything but “brief.” Worse still, they have absolutely no pictures. To be honest, I look at most legal briefs as potential stockpiles of spit wad ammunition, not worthwhile entertainment reading.

That said, when someone files a legal brief aimed at supporting increased educational choice, it’s hard not to take notice. Such is the case this week.

Back on August 4, my friends at the Independence Institute and the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice filed an amicus brief on behalf of Douglas County School District in the ongoing litigation over its pilot Choice Scholarship Program. As you may remember from one of my previous posts, the Colorado Supreme Court agreed to hear the case after an appellate court overturned a lower court’s initial ruling against the program.

As David Kopel, the brief’s filing attorney, outlines in a recent blog post, this particular amicus brief is heavily focused on Choice Scholarship Program’s design and the empirical evidence on voucher programs in general. Continue Reading »

2 Comments »

Next »