Archive for the 'Innovation and Reform' Category

4th 2015
New Orleans Video Underscores the Power of Reform

Posted under Accountability & Innovation and Reform & Public Charter Schools & Testing & Urban Schools

What a week! My mom and dad moved me to a new house last weekend. This one is a long way from the Capitol, which they say is to keep me from sneaking in there and playing edu-politics when I should be doing my homework. On top of that, I attended an awesome student-based budgeting event yesterday with my Education Policy Center friends. So did a whole bunch of other people from around the state who are interested in empowering school-level decision-making.

All of which is to say that yours truly is a bit tired today. Fortunately for me, I ran across an awesome Heritage Foundation video this morning about New Orleans’ (nearly) all-charter system and the results it has achieved since Katrina. The video offers a very human side of the story through interviews with school leaders and students in the city. I bet you’ll love it as much as I did.

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20th 2015
Eddie’s Crazy Idea: More Colo. Districts Should Pursue Student-Based Budgeting

Posted under Denver & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Principals & Research & School Board & School Finance & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

Hey, I’ve got a crazy idea! Why not have school districts base their budgeting on students like me (or any student, for that matter)? It just makes sense to do it that way, right? Especially since the whole K-12 education enterprise is supposed to be about the kids.

It’s not that simple, however, and it’s not usually the case. Things like staffing formulas and seniority rules — not to mention bureaucratic traditions and old-fashioned accounting systems — generally rule the day. But in Colorado, the practice of Student-Based Budgeting is on the rise:

Through student-based budgeting (SBB), six school districts have prioritized student need over administrative convenience with a cost-effective approach that places more funds under individual school control.

This is from one of those long issue papers by my Education Policy Center friends that little me may never get around to reading cover to cover. SBB isn’t terribly glamorous, nor (like any other reform) is it a silver bullet. Even so, I’ve learned just enough to know that it’s something that very much should be on your radar. Plus, it has a fun and inspiring cover: Continue Reading »

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14th 2015
Jeffco Leads the Way on Sensible Union Contract Changes

Posted under Innovation and Reform & School Board & Union

I’ve got to be honest, the Denver Post’s Editorial Board has kind of been knocking my socks off recently. First, they wrote good, thoughtful columns on the Dougco voucher decision and the abuse of democracy that is the Jeffco recall. Now they’ve come out with a new column praising Jefferson County School District’s new tentative tentative agreement with the Jefferson County Education Association.

No, the second “tentative” is not a typo. As exciting as this new contract is, it still needs to be ratified by JCEA’s more than 3,000 members. That said, I join the Denver Post in praising Jeffco adults’ newfound ability to “gather their senses,” and I sincerely hope cooler heads will prevail when it comes to contract ratification among union members.

While we wait for the results of the union ratification vote scheduled for August 21, it’s helpful to take a look at why this agreement is such a big deal. From my edu-wonk perspective, it accomplishes some very important things:

  • Prioritizes teacher performance in cases of layoffs or displacements instead of basing these decisions solely on seniority. Under the current agreement, displacement decisions between teachers of equal seniority are decided not by effectiveness, but by “a flip of a coin between the teachers involved by a disinterested third party.” Nope, not kidding.
  • Eliminates the district’s responsibility to collect union dues through its payroll system
  • Eliminates privileged union access to district communication systems and facilities
  • Allows teachers to select their own representation during the grievance process rather than forcing them to utilize JCEA for such services
  • Eliminates taxpayer-subsidized union leave time, including for union officers
  • Significantly reduces the length and intrusiveness of the contract. For example, it lightens the burden of some excessively rigid class-size formulas, which allows for more flexibility at the school level.

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30th 2015
Jeffco Mom Speaks Truth, Thanks School Board

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Public Charter Schools & School Board & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Union

One of the harder lessons I’m learning in my youth is that quite often tall tales can spread life a wildfire before the truth has a chance to catch up and extinguish it. Thanks to lots of help from Complete Colorado, I’ve already pointed out the fact-challenged / math-challenged nature of the Jeffco school board recall. That’s the “wildfire.”

And some of the big people who really follow closely the K-12 educational goings-on just west of Denver — namely, Jeffco Students First — have posted a concise one-page fact sheet that effectively extinguishes some of the more egregious misinformation floating out there against reform-minded school board members.

The icing on this cake of tasty, truth-restoring goodness is a brand new 90-second video of a Jeffco mom thanking the school board for listening to families like hers that have kids who need different options to learn and thrive. Time to cue up Jennifer Butts: Continue Reading »

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10th 2015
PARCC’s Plummet

Posted under Accountability & Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & School Accountability & State Legislature & Testing

Despite valiant efforts, I was unable to find a nice, neat, uplifting Friday education story for us to talk about today. That’s kind of a good thing, though. Pressing issues like the Jeffco recall-oisseurs’ inability to tell the truth have distracted us from a large education policy discussion backlog. Today we’re going to nibble on that backlog by taking a look at the latest developments for the tortured PARCC test.

Faithful readers will recall that my policy friends Ben DeGrow and Ross Izard published a joint op-ed late last legislative session calling on Colorado’s policymakers to reach a compromise on the testing issue—and to seriously reevaluate the state’s use of the much-maligned PARCC exam. The testing compromise happened (and little else), but Colorado remains in the PARCC testing consortium for now.

Meanwhile, PARCC seems to be entering a death spiral of sorts. Continue Reading »

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9th 2015
Fact-Challenged (or Math-Challenged?) Jeffco Recallers Send Wrong Messages

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & math & School Board & Suburban Schools & Union

You can learn a lot by observing people’s actions, not just their words. How do you “get politics out of our schools”? More politics. How do you “restore democracy”? By trying to overturn the will of the voters. How do you “fight to save education”? By feeding people lies and misinformation rather than encourage critical thinking.

So it goes in the overheated rhetoric of Jeffco School Board Recall Land. A land where Chalkbeat tells us that “thousands” of people turned out for Wednesday evening’s recall kickoff party in Golden, while Channel 7 reports 1,200 were in attendance. I get it: a lot of people were there.

But the size of the crowd doesn’t matter as much as the factual basis (or lack thereof) for trying to remove three elected school board officials. The group that shares a spokesperson with the union and has the Colorado Democratic Party’s attorney as its registered agent is well within its rights to attempt a recall election. Continue Reading »


7th 2015
SCOTUS to Hear Friedrichs Case: Big Moment for Educational Freedom?

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & School Board & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Union

After last week’s legal setback for school choice in Colorado, I found a hopeful silver lining in a path to the U.S. Supreme Court. How great is the hope? Honestly, little me doesn’t know.

But my attention was so wrapped up in that story and others, that I nearly missed the U.S. Supreme Court’s announcement that it would hear another pro-freedom education case: Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. The bottom line? A ruling in this case could strike down the ability of teachers unions to collect forced fee payments.

In all, 10 California teachers have stepped forward to challenge coercive union power. At the heart is a brave woman named Rebecca Friedrichs, who was profiled a few months ago in the Daily Caller: Continue Reading »

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18th 2015
Performance-Based Learning, Strategic Compensation Keep My Eyes on Mesa 51

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & learning & Online Schools & School Board & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Testing & Union

When it comes to K-12 education, I tell you a lot about what’s going on in the Denver area and along the Front Range. That’s where most people in our state live. But Colorado is a big place, and it’s good for me to keep expanding my horizons.

One of those places is called the Western Slope. The largest school district out there is Mesa Valley 51. A lot of times it’s just hard for little me to get a good look at what’s taking place on the other side of the mountains.

I appreciate the big step ladder provided by the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, which includes an Emily Shockley article yesterday that points to big things happening in Mesa 51, namely a forward-thinking system of competency-based (or “performance-based”) learning. It will launch in seven schools this fall: Continue Reading »

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16th 2015
Great Minds Assemble to Promote ESA Success for Nevada Students

Posted under Innovation and Reform & learning & Parents & Private Schools & School Choice & State Legislature

A couple weeks ago I giddily danced to the national news of this year’s growing momentum behind educational choice. Foremost among recent developments is Nevada’s breakthrough adoption of a nearly universal ESA program in Nevada.

This snippet from Leslie Hiner’s new column in The Hill puts the new Education Savings Account in perspective:

During the 2014-15 school, more than 377,000 pupils utilized vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and ESAs. With recent action in the states, that number will grow exponentially. In Nevada alone, over 453,000 students will be eligible to use an ESA in 2016.

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11th 2015
Waiting for Dougco Choice Ruling? Florida, Kansas Serve Up Good News

Posted under Courts & Denver & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Private Schools & School Board & School Choice & State Legislature & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Union

Education policy and the courts: Usually not a match made in heaven. Though often there’s a very good reason to pay close attention. Like six months ago, when I proclaimed my excitement that the landmark Douglas County school choice case finally reached a hearing at the Colorado Supreme Court.

Sorry if I got anybody’s hopes up. We’re into the summer months, closing in on the fourth anniversary of when the complaint was first filed against the Choice Scholarship Program, and here we are still waiting for the big decision from the seven justices.

Meanwhile, you can cheer up a bit at a tidbit of good school choice news from a different case: Continue Reading »

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