Archive for the 'Innovation and Reform' Category

June
19th 2014
Accelerating Quality Colorado Charter Growth a Wise Idea, Not Just for Wonks

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & State Legislature & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

Are you more likely to think of policy wonks as “wild and crazy” OR as “wise”? I know, it’s a difficult call. The Fordham Institute’s Michael Petrilli apparently has enough optimism to lean toward the latter. His new Flypaper post, “The wise wonks’ hierarchy of charter school quality” distills the insights of the blog’s recent Charter Wonk-a-Thon participants into a grand “unified theory.”

Folks, you can’t make this stuff up. But if nothing else, the exercise gave Petrilli the opportunity to draw a big triangle (three angles, three sides!) that represents a hierarchy of which states are doing chartering right, and which — well, not so much. Continue Reading »

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June
16th 2014
Title I Funds Closer to Following Colorado Kids after State Board Vote

Posted under Federal Government & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & School Finance & State Board of Education & State Legislature

Last week the Colorado State Board of Education took a relatively quiet action that may have profound results in years to come. The Board voted 6-1 to take steps toward redirecting a particular pot of federal Title I funds based not primarily on where students live, but rather on where they attend school. Title I money is allocated to support high-poverty schools.

As Chalkbeat Colorado reports, the decision means reshuffling more than a half million dollars to the benefit of the suburban Douglas County School District:

The two-year pilot is intended to account for students who attend the HOPE Online Learning Academy – Elementary but who live in other districts that now receive the Title I funding for those children. The $547,072 is the estimated shift of funds in 2014-15. A similar amount likely would be allocated in 2015-16.

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June
13th 2014
Denver Builds on Low-Income Charter Success Stories: Will Jeffco Follow Suit?

Posted under Denver & Elementary School & High School & Innovation and Reform & learning & Middle School & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Board & School Choice & Urban Schools

I’m not that old, so the thought of having a big red “Easy” button is rather appealing. According to my grown-up education policy friends, developing a high-quality education model and scaling it up to reach a huge number of kids is a far more challenging and time-consuming task. How do we take pockets of success and super-size them to make a real dent in overcoming mediocrity and closing the achievement gap?

Last night the Denver Public Schools board approved 14 new schools (including 12 charters) to open for the 2015-16 school year. Some of the names are new, but many are expansions of true success stories and promising innovations.

Headlining the group is the eight-year-old STRIVE Prep (formerly West Denver Prep) charter network, with three of the 14 new schools. Besides adding another middle school — the original model and “core competency” — to the network, STRIVE also now is slated to open a second high school and its FIRST elementary school, both in far northeast Denver. Continue Reading »

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May
30th 2014
Odds & Ends: Big Easy Goes All-Charter; Upgrading School Report Cards

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Accountability & School Choice & Urban Schools

It’s Friday, and it’s my blog. So if I want to cover two topics in a single post, well… I hope you like it. This story from Wednesday’s Washington Post was too significant to pass up. Lyndsey Layton reports that the last five traditional public schools in New Orleans close down this week, making the Recovery District the first all-charter district in the United States:

By most indicators, school quality and academic progress have improved in Katrina’s aftermath, although it’s difficult to make direct comparisons because the student population changed drastically after the hurricane, with thousands of students not returning.

Before the storm, the city’s high school graduation rate was 54.4 percent. In 2013, the rate for the Recovery School District was 77.6 percent. On average, 57 percent of students performed at grade level in math and reading in 2013, up from 23 percent in 2007, according to the state.

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May
20th 2014
Colorado Course Choice Pilot Programs Have New Resource to Consult

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & learning & Online Schools & Parents & Research & State Legislature

It was just a week ago I expressed my at finding some helpful insights and direction for the recently passed House Bill 1382′s K-12 online education pilot programs. Since then, one of the pilot program areas has received some even more detailed help in the form of a policy strategy manual.

The Fordham Foundation has released “Expanding the Education: A Fifty-State Strategy for Course Choice.” And all the policy wonks sighed and swooned. It’s that kind of step-by-step document, though for those who want the “Reader’s Digest version,” Fordham also made the following 90-second video: Continue Reading »

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May
12th 2014
So Glad to Find Insights and Direction for HB 1382′s Online Pilot Programs

Posted under Grades and Standards & High School & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Research & School Choice & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Urban Schools

A somewhat overlooked education policy outcome from this year’s Colorado legislative session was the passage of House Bill 1382. Outside the realm of full-time online schools, where the legislation has real but not overwhelming impact,

HB 1382 generally follows the recommendations of a short-lived K-12 Online Education Commission, which I told you about earlier. As sent to the governor, the bill authorizes the creation of a task force that would work on two major areas:

  1. Craft high-quality standards for authorizers of K-12 online programs; and
  2. Oversee the development of pilot programs to test innovative education policies in the online sector.

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May
7th 2014
Student-Based Budgeting: Part of Colorado K-12 Future that Can Work

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Parents & Principals & School Board & School Choice & School Finance & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

Many years ago, someone famously said: “I have seen the future, and it works.” Ironically, Lincoln Steffens said that about the Soviet Union, and he ended up being grossly incorrect.

What I see included in the future of Colorado K-12 education is considerably more modest and considerably less likely to backfire. When it comes to positive and promising development in Colorado K-12 education, I don’t need to be quite so brash — nor expect to be just plain wrong — as Mr. Steffens was.

I’m talking about student-based budgeting, which directs money to schools based on the needs of individual students attending there rather than on (often secretly) negotiated staffing formulas. As students exercise their choices within our K-12 public education system, the dollars as much as possible should be portable along with them. This move in turn puts more autonomy at the local school level, where decisions can better be made to benefit students. Continue Reading »

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May
6th 2014
Happy Teacher Appreciation Day! Let’s All Cheer for Performance Pay!

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

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day! Note that I say “Teacher,” not “Teachers” — and not just because it sounds much less awkward that way. Many, many teachers no doubt are worthy of appreciation. But they should be appreciated, and treated, as the diverse and skilled individuals they are. They bring different backgrounds to the profession, serve different groups of students in different kinds of schools, and teach different subjects in different styles.

And guess what? Many of them get different results! So why not talk about appreciating them as individuals? It’s healthy for us all to be reminded that teachers aren’t widgets. It’s safe to say that #TeachingIs something that varies in different contexts.

Thankfully, when it comes to how teachers are paid, we also see some innovative diversity in Colorado. Take a look at Harrison’s Effectiveness and Results program, pay-for-performance in Dougco, and Eagle County Schools’ “Professional Excellence, Accountability, and Recognition.” While the three look somewhat different, they share in common the feature of dropping altogether automatic pay raises based on seniority and degree credentials. Continue Reading »

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May
5th 2014
North Carolina to Follow Colorado’s K-12 Open Enrollment Policy Standard?

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & School Choice & State Legislature & Teachers

Update, 4:30 PM: The Friedman Foundation blog notes the “Friday Freakout” reaction against the proposed North Carolina program is largely based on fears that open enrollment would lead to administrative chaos. That hardly seems like a compelling argument to me.

Giving parents more say and students more options in K-12 education should be a no-brainer, win-win policy. Allow any student to cross district boundaries and enroll in any public school that has room for him? You mean there are states that still don’t do that?

Guess not. Or at least in one significant case, at least not yet. Last week the Charlotte Observer reported: Continue Reading »

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May
1st 2014
Outperforming International Peers: A Delicious Piece of Dougco PISA News

Posted under Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & math & reading & Research & Sciences & Suburban Schools

Nearly a year ago I pointed readers to an enlightening report from a group called America Achieves. The report showed how, based on international tests, even our nation’s middle-class students were falling behind their socioeconomic peers in many other countries. The findings reminded us why the bold innovators in Douglas County have been working to raise the bar.

But how do Dougco students themselves compare with their international counterparts? We have a fresh sample that offers a clear glimpse. Yesterday the district released 2012 PISA results for 15-year-olds in the two participating Dougco high schools: Continue Reading »

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