Archive for the 'learning' Category

June
24th 2014
Looks Like There Are Ways to Get More Great School Leaders on Board

Posted under Denver & innovation schools & learning & Principals & Public Charter Schools & Research & Urban Schools

One of the main building blocks of a successful school clearly and undoubtedly is quality leadership. Just as clearly and undoubtedly, most school districts in Colorado and nationwide need more great principals to do more great things for kids.

The problem is particularly pronounced in some of the largest urban school districts with the highest need. So into the fray steps the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s Daniela Doyle and Gillian Locke with a new report Lacking Leaders: The Challenges of Principal Recruitment, Selection, and Placement.

The authors did their work by talking with five super-secret school districts that decided to be candid in exchange for being anonymous. So you and little old I can only speculate about whether Denver or some other Colorado district made the cut. We may never really know. Continue Reading »

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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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June
12th 2014
Vergara Big Win for California Kids, But Should We Worry about Courts’ Role?

Posted under Courts & Denver & Education Politics & learning & Principals & Research & Teachers & Urban Schools

Yesterday it was belated high fives all around for a defensive legal victory here in Colorado, as a Denver judge dismissed a union-backed lawsuit to enshrine harmful tenure protections. For anyone in the K-12 education world who may have been sleeping under a rock for a few days, you may not have heard that good policy similarly prevailed Tuesday in the California courts.

I’m talking about the Los Angeles Superior Court judge’s decision in the Vergara case. Nine student plaintiffs, backed by an advocacy group called Students Matter, won their claim that California’a particularly egregious tenure and dismissal laws led to “grossly ineffective instruction” particularly in low-income schools. If higher courts agree, the state’s laws could be thrown out and the legislature made to rewrite them.

It seems apparent to me we have two major issues at play here, potentially in conflict with one another. First, from a policy perspective, the clear and resounding victory has these little legs running and jumping for joy! Come along with me and survey the cheering voices: Continue Reading »

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May
22nd 2014
Arizona, Florida ESAs Show How Colorado Could Help Kids Like Nathan

Posted under Courts & Journalism & learning & Parents & Research & School Choice

A couple months ago I was going wild and crazy (in a good way) with the news that the Arizona Supreme Court upheld the fabulous and liberating Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs).

We remember a very important reason why a cutting-edge program like this one is so great when we hear directly from the families who benefit. Thanks to the Foundation for Excellence in Education, I came across a terrific letter by Arizona mom Amanda Howard. Her autistic son Nathan struggled in a regular kindergarten classroom, and still wasn’t talking at age 6, when they received an ESA: Continue Reading »

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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
14th 2014
International Report Shines Light on Colorado Education Performance Gap

Posted under Grades and Standards & International & learning & math & Parents & Research

Update, 5/14: RiShawn Biddle shares some further valuable insights into the PEPG report’s findings on his Dropout Nation website.

Almost exactly one year ago to the day, I brought your attention to a report from America Achieves that showed our nation’s lackluster K-12 education results are by no means just a matter of poverty.

This week the good folks at Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG) have published some insights that go a little more in depth and put a new twist on the comparison. The high-powered academic trio of Eric Hanushek, Paul Peterson, and Ludger Woessmann — the same crew that gave us Endangering Prosperity — have taken from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s own words to show readers that it’s “Not Just the Problems of Other People’s Children.”

Readers also can go back and watch the hour-long event where Peterson explains the findings and answers some questions. Continue Reading »

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May
8th 2014
Newly Reported Test Scores Bring (Mostly) Disappointing News

Posted under Grades and Standards & learning & math & reading & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Urban Schools

The good news from yesterday is summed up in two words: Sine Die. Near as I can tell, that’s Latin for “The legislature gets out of town, productive everyday citizens breathe a sigh of relief.” (But maybe I need to enroll in one of Colorado’s fine classical schools to find out for sure.)

The not-so-good news comes from a pair of test results that leave me sadly shaking my head. First, Colorado’s critical 3rd grade reading TCAP scores took a slight dip this year. We’re talking about 71.5 percent passing the proficiency bar in reading, as opposed to 73 percent last year.

The Denver Post story mentions one metro district that has bucked the trend, with Colorado Public Radio’s Jenny Brundin shining the spotlight on Westminster: Continue Reading »

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April
16th 2014
How to Avoid the Munchkins: A Little Tenure Reform Advice for Kansas

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Just For Fun & learning & Principals & State Legislature & Teachers

The teachers union may have ordered the death of its own bill to weaken mutual consent for teacher placement. But HB 1268‘s twin, the CEA’s lawsuit to enshrine tenure protections as a state constitutional right, lives on.

Meanwhile, a glimpse across the eastern border reveals the winds surrounding this debate are blowing in a very different direction. A weekend article from the Kansas City Star reports that Kansas leaders are having a heated debate about some late-developing significant tenure reform:

For generations, the state promised that before getting canned teachers could get an appeal. If a hearing officer disagreed with the teacher’s bosses, the instructor stayed in the classroom.

Continue Reading »

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April
7th 2014
Jeffco Board Makes More Money Follow Students, Brings a Jan Brady Smile

Posted under Denver & Innovation and Reform & learning & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Board & School Choice & School Finance & Suburban Schools

Once upon a time, say two years ago, I felt the heat for focusing a lot of extra attention on a certain large school district between Denver and Colorado Springs. You could almost hear a number of nearby Jan Bradys crying out in frustration: “Dougco, Dougco, Dougco!” Back then I said:

But hey, don’t complain at me! Get your school board and district to set the bar high by making some bold reform moves, and I’ll give them some attention, too.

While Dougco’s Marcia continues moving along, Jefferson County’s Jan can crack a smile. And not just because 10 days ago I filled you in with some compelling reasons to keep an eye on the suburban district’s open union negotiations (Hint: another session starts today at 4 PM in the fifth floor board room at 1829 Denver West Drive).

Jeffco gets more attention now, though, because of two big items from Thursday’s Board of Education meeting. Clearly, the new majority not only has made a laudable push for transparency but also has begun setting the bar high with its own brand of bold reform moves. Continue Reading »

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April
3rd 2014
Yes, Fordham, Colorado School Boards Matter; Let’s Encourage True Local Control

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & learning & Research & School Accountability & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Teachers

A long, long two-and-a-half years ago I shared with you my thoughts about school boards going the way of the horse and buggy. The article written by education reform senior statesman Checker Finn prompted me to weigh in:

Unlike many other areas of education reform, this is one in which Colorado would not figure to be a leader. Why? Finn himself points out that Colorado is in a small, select group in which school districts “are enshrined in the state constitutions.” And with that comes some measure of more power to effect positive, effective change within each of our state’s 178 school districts. That might help explain why Douglas County is such a shining light in the area of choice-friendly policies.

Continue Reading »

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