Archive for the 'Innovation and Reform' Category
It’s a busy Friday at the end of a sad and difficult week. So I’m happy just to follow Mike Antonucci’s witty lead. Today on his Intercepts blog he pointed out some true “Hedge Fund Hilarity” in a Wall St. Journal column about national teachers union president Randi Weingarten “trying to strong-arm pension trustees not to invest in hedge funds or private-equity funds that support education reform.”
(That’s the same Randi Weingarten who has stepped forward as the face of the opposition to Douglas County’s bold agenda of innovating and re-imagining public education.)
To which Antonucci cuttingly replied:
Am I the only one who sees the irony in the American Federation of Teachers bellyaching about people using teachers’ money for causes they might not support?
At the risk of sticking my neck out there by responding to a rhetorical question, even this naive young edublogger has to answer, No, you’re not alone. Sigh. Is it the weekend yet?
Update, 5/14: The U.S. Department of Education gave the Chingos & Peterson study its highest rating for the quality of research design, further validating a positive impact of school choice.
Gold-standard research on the positive impacts of school choice keeps rolling in. The latest work by Matthew Chingos and Paul Peterson measures the results for New York City students who received modest privately-funded vouchers to attend private schools. The study directly compared how many voucher students successfully completed high school and enrolled in college compared to non-voucher peers. For one group in particular, the results are remarkable:
Among African Americans, 26 percent of the control group attended college full-time at some point within three years of expected high-school graduation. The impact of a voucher offer was to increase this rate by 7 percentage points, a 25 percent increment. Among students using the voucher to attend a private school, the estimated impact was 8 percentage points, or roughly 31 percent.
No statistically significant results were found for other groups of students. The authors speculate that the observed benefit may have occurred because “the African American students in the study had fewer educational opportunities in the absence of a voucher.” Most notably, the effect measured is greater than some of the popular, widely-used, and costlier reform efforts of smaller class sizes or improved teacher quality. Continue Reading »
Often it’s very easy to get bogged down in a big education policy debate like Colorado’s SB 213 school finance reform proposal. Then along comes a Denver Post op-ed piece by a motivated citizen that exhales a breath of fresh air:
Colorado currently spends about $10,600 per student per year on K-12 education. You can get a pretty good private education for that. Sen. Johnston wants to increase school spending to nearly $12,000 per student. But without changing the design of the system, why should anyone expect different results?
Let’s stop funding the education establishment and instead fund parents and children. In a state-regulated environment, let’s give that $10,000 to parents for each child they have in school and let them decide how and where the money used to educate their children should be spent.
The author is Littleton’s own John Conlin, founder of the small nonprofit activist group End the Education Plantation. True fans may recall his appearance several months ago in an on-air interview with my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow. Continue Reading »
For those who long have rolled up their sleeves to try to improve student learning, the cause of urban high school reform remains one of the most daunting tasks. Even in areas where the most concentrated and sustained efforts at reform have taken place, the promising results have been very limited. Enter a brand new report by A-Plus Denver, titled Denver and Aurora High Schools: Crisis and Opportunity.
Author Sari Levy gathered and analyzed student performance data from Colorado’s two large urban school districts, and the picture painted is not a very rosy one:
- Based on ACT test scores, “about a third of students in [Denver Public Schools] and [Aurora Public Schools] would not qualify for basic military service”
- On a day when Colorado college graduates are encouraged to show off their alma mater, it’s disheartening to see the rates of DPS and APS students needing college remediation are steady or rising
- Denver’s level of success on Advanced Placement (AP) courses lags well below the national average
- In a number of DPS schools, students in poverty have just above a zero chance of earning a 24 or higher on the ACT, which would place them at the average of their peers who will earn a 4-year college degree
- Average ACT scores across Denver and Aurora remained flat from 2008 to 2012
Let’s go over it again: Standardized tests are far from the be-all and end-all of education. But if we’re not going to put money in student backpacks and make schools directly accountable to parents, how can such assessments NOT be used as a key component of measuring student progress, teacher effectiveness, and school quality? If the test is broken, fix it or find a new one.
Nevertheless, the predictable overreactions return as more news this week filters out of Atlanta that shows the city’s terrible cheating scandal was bigger and more systemic than previously reported. I had thought of the comparison to students cheating on tests before, but a national expert picks an even better analogy:
Abandoning testing would “be equivalent to saying ‘O.K., because there are some players that cheated in Major League Baseball, we should stop keeping score, because that only encourages people to take steroids,’ ” said Thomas J. Kane, director of the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University, who has received funding from the Gates Foundation.
Now my faithful readers know I’m not a naysaying, “we ain’t never done it that way before” curmudgeon. If we find a better way to assess student learning, let’s go for it. Adaptive online tests offer hope of that someday, along with the promise of more secure systems that could better prevent cheating. Continue Reading »
Take your hats off to those teachers union officials, they sure know how to plan ahead sometimes. The Education Intelligence Agency’s Mike Antonucci brings our attention to a PBS Newshour clip in which NEA president Dennis Van Roekel tried to respond to a question about why private educational choice works at the college level but should be rejected for K-12 students:
I think post-secondary education, college and university, I think you have to put that into a different category than K-12 education, because then you’re choosing between a career or college and specialized training. That definitely makes sense. But for young children, they shouldn’t have to be bussed somewhere. It should be in their neighborhood.
Huh? Giving a voucher or tax credit is bad because a kid might have to ride a bus? Antonucci presumes Van Roekel meant to say something else. Perhaps his analysis is correct. I’m not sure the Friedman Foundation will need to add this argument to its list of anti-school choice myths that need to be rebutted. Continue Reading »
It’s been several days since I’ve had a chance to write here. The end of my spring break provided a lot of time for reflection on some issues that really have been bothering me. Now that I’ve had time to re-evaluate my well-known positions on some key education issues, I feel it is my obligation to share with you the following:
- When it comes to education, I’ve come to agree with Diane Ravitch that parents don’t really know what is best for kids. They should leave it all up to the experts in the classroom and the school district administration building. (I would also like to apply this logic to the question of eating vegetables, an area in which I’m now considered an expert.)
- As a result, I now believe this whole idea of school choice is really overblown, and actually undermines the great work professional educators do on our behalf every day. Instead of celebrating the recent Indiana Supreme Court decision, we all should be sobbing our hearts out right along with the Hoosiers fans, whose team went down hard in the Sweet 16.
- I’ve also made a resolution to stop spending nearly so much time praising the innovative, transformational work going on in school districts like Douglas County and Falcon 49. In fact, I feel really bad for all the time and energy I’ve spent undermining the great traditions of public education unions and bureaucracy.
How many education programs do you know that make Frank Sinatra songs pop into your head? At least that’s what some of the big people I know tell me. (H/T Ed News Colorado) Well, the Colorado Springs Gazette‘s Carol McGraw today featured such an online program from the Widefield School District that is tailored to families looking for options:
D3 My Way, unlike some programs, allows students to take nine-week blocks, so not as many courses have to be taken at once.
It’s been a boon for military families, athletes in training, older students who must work, children with medical issues, those needing a personal learning environment, and others who find the flexible schedules and studying at their pace ideal.
While the big school finance reform legislation at the Colorado State Capitol explores reshuffling the dollars in a 20th century system — and dashing my youthful hopes along the way — other states continue to plow ahead with the idea of course choice. Students are enabled to customize their education by choosing courses regardless of school and district boundaries, mainly through the use of digital technology.
Well, count Florida among the states seriously looking at revamping a system to promote flexibility and reward student mastery, rather than just continue to fund learning based on seat time. With Utah and Louisiana already pioneering in this area, it’s great to hear redefinED’s Ron Matus talk with national blended learning guru Michael Horn about the new world where the change might lead us and speculate how it might unfold: Continue Reading »