Archive for the 'Journalism' Category

30th 2015
Don’t Fall Victim to MisNAEPery

Posted under Accountability & Edublogging & Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & math & reading & Research & Testing

It’s NAEP season, my friends. The 2015 National Assessment of Education Progress results were released this week to a barrage of spin, rhetoric, and general “misNAEPery.” I’ve mostly seen this misNAEPery pop up in the form of certain folks using the data to show that education reform efforts aren’t working. (For now, we’ll ignore the crushing irony of using test scores to prove that testing isn’t valuable.) That’s a bummer, so let’s spend a few minutes today talking about what this year’s results do and do not mean.

First, let’s talk briefly about the results themselves. Chalkbeat ran a pretty good piece on Colorado’s 2015 NAEP scores that included some nifty graphs. Nifty or not, however, I take some issue with the graphs’ reliance on percentages of kids scoring proficient or better rather than scale scores. Not that I blame Chalkbeat for going this way; graphs showing what appears to be actual change are a lot more exciting than what you get when you look just at scale scores over the past ten years. Those graphs look like this:

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9th 2015
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: Jeffco’s Ken Witt Pokes Recall Advocates

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & Journalism & School Board

Friday Fun Day has arrived yet again. I don’t have super-secret materials to share or an inspiring video to show you today. But I do have something pretty darn entertaining: A school board reformer in Jeffco calling the bluff of recall proponents in Jeffco by filing a complaint against… himself.

Yes, that’s right. Tired of accusations that the board majority members have violated state sunshine laws, Jefferson County Board of Education President Ken Witt filed an ethics complaint against himself with the Colorado Ethics Commission. In his words:

This recall election will cost the district between $100,000-$200,000. That’s money that won’t go to our classrooms and our students. They have spent well over $100,000 gathering tens of thousands of signatures. … But not one is brave enough to sign a complaint? Out of the hundreds of thousands of dollars they have spent, they couldn’t spend the 49 cents for the stamp to send a complaint? And they accuse us of wasting money.

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8th 2015
Tennessee Study Sequel Pours More Cold Water on Pre-K Enthusiasm

Posted under Early Childhood & Federal Government & Journalism & learning & Research

I’m going to be honest with everyone. Getting education policy right is hard work. There are no silver bullets out there. Some things (like school choice) show small but consistent benefits in study after study. Other practices (like paying teachers to earn masters degrees) represent large outlays of money with no return.

Today I’m looking at pre-K or early childhood education. Some recent research further calls into question the prevailing line on increasing tax subsidies for preschool. Chalkbeat Tennessee last week reported on a landmark study that challenged some conventional wisdom. Since as a 5-year-old edublogging prodigy I tend to be more than a little unconventional, it seemed like a reasonable idea to bring it to your attention:

A new Vanderbilt University study suggests that public pre-kindergarten programs in Tennessee might actually negatively impact students as they advance through school, surprising experts and advocates alike. But the study’s lead researchers say that policymakers shouldn’t abandon pre-K as they seek to close the achievement gap between minority and lower- and higher-income students.

A careful read through the executive summary of the Vanderbilt University report raises some significant caution flags. Studying a randomly assigned group of more than 1,000 kids, researchers essentially found that the initial advantages provided to Tennessee pre-K participants washes away by the end of kindergarten. By first grade, teachers observed worse “non-cognitive” (aka attitude and behavioral) outcomes for the pre-K kids, followed by a similar statistically negative result in “cognitive” (or academic) results in second grade.

This study, which follows its subjects through third grade, is not the original. It’s a sequel. Continue Reading »

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25th 2015
What’s New? PDK/Gallup Survey Flubs School Choice Question Once More

Posted under Journalism & Private Schools & Research & School Choice

For being so young, it feels like I’ve really had to repeat myself a lot lately. Not “Get off my lawn”-type of repetition, but still… it gets a little annoying sometimes. Just in the last couple weeks, the theme applies to Colorado’s need for course choice and the same old results for our state from the Parent Power Index.

Thankfully for you and me both, this one will be short, sweet, and to the point. It relates to the continued bias of an important question in the PDK/Gallup annual public education survey. A couple of years ago (when I was still 5), I pointed out how the following wording fell well short of reasonable expectations of objective answers: Continue Reading »

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6th 2015
Union Complaints Obscure Need for Fair, Level Playing Field

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Journalism & Teachers & Union

It’s hard not being the only game in town. In two of Colorado’s largest school districts, the unions are used to having a privileged role in helping to run new teacher induction sessions.

This week leaders of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) and Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA) complained to the media about this year’s changes, which give them the same treatment as other groups.

Colorado Public Radio first reported the story on Monday. It didn’t sit well with Denver union officials that they no longer sponsor the breakfast for their district’s new teacher orientation session.

Meanwhile, the JCEA spokesperson essentially acknowledged that his group has been accustomed to running the show. Not only has the union hosted a lunch but according to their spokesperson Scott Kwasny, they also “would sign in all the new teachers, collect their email addresses, and pass them on to the district.” 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 »


1st 2015
Denver Post Editors Hit Back-to-Back Homers for Students, Parents

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Journalism & Public Charter Schools & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Teachers

My dad told me about these crinkly pieces of paper with print on them that people used to get, something they would read to find out what’s going on in the world. I guess they’re called “newspapers”? Apparently, some websites actually have newspapers, or so I’m told.

The last few days, the editors of one of these publications, the Denver Post, have got me thinking maybe I should take a look. Because I’m definitely taking heart. First, there was the ruling in the Douglas County choice scholarship case. You already may have seen my reaction to that.

How crazy is it then that yours truly almost could have written the Post editorial that came out shortly thereafter, titled “A regrettable ruling on Dougco’s school voucher program”: Continue Reading »

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8th 2015
Colorado, Time to Observe National Charter Schools Week Eddie-Style

Posted under Independence Institute & Journalism & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice & School Finance

It’s a little bittersweet writing near the end of National Charter Schools Week, a couple short days after Colorado’s legislative session concluded with very little progress made on behalf of choice and fair funding. (Nor does all the wet, gray, gloomy weather help, either!)

Looking back, though, the week kicked off with a great Watchdog story about how Denver charter schools regularly top the district’s performance ratings. Not earth-shattering news for me or my faithful readers, but definitely a good reminder and an opportunity to spread the word.

Denver isn’t an isolated example. There are good reasons why a new report shows in 10 other major cities that waiting list demand for charters far outstrips the available seats. Come on, can’t we do something about that? After all, there’s the latest major CREDO report that I recently brought your attention to, which shows a continuing positive trend for urban charter school performance. Continue Reading »

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4th 2015
Broad Brush “Limited Impact” Claim Vindicates Progress of Prop 104

Posted under Independence Institute & Journalism & School Board & Teachers & Transparency & Union & Urban Schools

Last week I posted a case study from the Thompson School District, an example of how NOT to negotiate an employee agreement. Just because the popularly enacted Prop 104 has opened the door on these negotiations doesn’t guarantee that they will be conducted effectively, at least not on the first try.

That isn’t to say open negotiations have little or no impact. Unless you’re writing a Friday headline for Chalkbeat Colorado Rise and Shine:

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24th 2015
RIP, C-FLEX? This Year Perhaps, But Bring Back the Debit Card ASAP

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & Parents & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & State Legislature

Yesterday I celebrated the fantastic news that Alabama has become the 43rd charter school state. In that post I noted that Alabama is behind the curve (and way behind Colorado) on public school choice, but beat us to the punch on scholarship tax credits.

Still, as good as it is, welcoming new states into the charter fold wasn’t at the forefront of my mind when I contemplated that 2015 could become the official Year of School Choice sequel. I made that observation based on the number of states pursuing new or expanded Education Savings Account (ESA) programs.

For example, I’m not the only waiting with bated breath to see if and when Alabama’s next door neighbor, Mississippi, will become the third ESA state. (My elders keep advising me to be patient, but that’s just really hard!) Continue Reading »


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