Archive for the 'learning' Category

3rd 2015
Nevada Joins Ranks of ESA States, Adds Momentum to Educational Choice

Posted under Governor & Independence Institute & learning & Parents & Private Schools & School Choice & State Legislature

A few months ago one of my Education Policy Center friends created one of the first-ever Freedom Minute videos on “The Education Debit Card.” Remember? It’s everywhere you want to learn or Don’t leave home without it.

The Education Debit Card is a catchier name for Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). Dubbed the “iPhone” of school choice by Matt Ladner, ESAs give families control over a prescribed amount of state education funds to be used on private school tuition, tutoring, instructional materials, online courses, educational therapies, or to save for college expenses. More than any kind of choice program, it targets dollars to serve students’ individual learning needs.

At the time the video was made there were exactly two states with ESAs: Arizona and Florida. And both those states had limited eligibility, mostly students with recognized special needs and/or in special circumstances (e.g., foster care or military family). As of yesterday, there are five states, including the first to offer nearly universal ESAs to all public school children. Continue Reading »

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20th 2015
The Most Important Policy Field Trips Are the Ones I’m Not On

Posted under Edublogging & Just For Fun & learning

Fridays are always better when they involve policy field trips, don’t you think? This morning, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a floor debate on SB 45, which some of you will remember I wrote about a while back. SB 45 may well pass in the Senate, but it doesn’t have much chance of passing in the House. That doesn’t mean it’s insignificant, though. It is, after all, the first school choice bill to make it to the Senate floor for debate in quite some time. That means yours truly got to sit in on some pretty interesting arguments. We will discuss these arguments in more detail in the near future.

But I don’t want to talk about SB 45 today. In fact, I don’t want to talk about policy at all. Instead, I want to use today’s post to highlight the other young policy explorers at the Capitol.

Every time I take a field trip to the Capitol, the building is absolutely stuffed with little guys and girls who, like me, are excited to see democracy in action. These explorers lean toward the rail in the Senate gallery to get a better look at our state’s leaders, stare wide-eyed as lobbyists and folks with big briefcases rush around, and ask questions of their tour guides. Almost invariably, a couple almost fall over as they stare up at the ceiling.

Continue Reading »

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12th 2015
Myth-Buster Marcus Winters Blows Up Anti-Charter Talking Points… Again

Posted under Denver & learning & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice & Urban Schools

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for longer than I’ve been alive, then most likely you’ve heard of the show MythBusters. As the name would imply, the show’s hosts are out to disprove some commonly held misperceptions.

What’s really cool is sometimes these guys get to crash things and blow up stuff to help prove their point! Did you know that the world of education policy has its own cast of myth-busters? Or at least it should. I propose putting Marcus Winters forward as one of the leading nominees.

Last summer I told you how a study by Winters dealt a serious blow to a prominent anti-charter myth in Jeffco. His report for the Center on Reinventing Public Education told a much different story than the myth that Denver charter schools build their success on counseling out special-needs students. Continue Reading »

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19th 2015
Education Reform Policy Online Boot Camp Just Might Want You!

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Just For Fun & learning

If you’re anything like me (and for your sake, be thankful if you’re not), the idea of a free and open online course on the inner workings of education reform is kind of like Christmas and birthday all rolled into one. I didn’t even ask Santa for such a thing, but lo and behold, the Foundation for Excellence in Education delivered.

Unveiled today, it’s called EdPolicy Leaders Online: Access to Top Education Experts. Assemble some great minds, put their content online, take the free course at your own pace, and Voila!

It’s almost like magic. Well, not exactly. But thanks to technology, and some visionary thinking, you too could become a smarter, more effective Education Reformer starting as soon as March 23. According to Patricia Levesque on the Ed Fly blog, the first three courses are as follows: Continue Reading »

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21st 2014
Teacher Training, Licensure, Evaluation, Pay: Fix ‘Em All (and Do It Right)

Posted under education schools & Federal Government & Innovation and Reform & learning & Research & School Accountability & School Board & State Legislature & Teachers

It’s been more than a week now since I thankfully resisted the urge to “blow up” education schools. In the meantime, my remarks about teacher preparation have been vindicated — both the tone of urgency and the “moderate” but serious approach to addressing the issue.

Let’s start with the urgency. The National Council on Teacher Quality followed up its powerful indictment of the state of teacher preparation last week with compelling new evidence concerning the lack of rigor in education schools. How does it help students, particularly the neediest among us, to have most of these schools attract prospective teachers looking for easy As?

Now you may rightly label the headline as a “dog bites man” kind of story, but the findings deserve attention: Continue Reading »

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14th 2014
Dougco Shakes It Up Again By Earning State’s Top Accreditation Rating

Posted under Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & learning & Parents & Rural Schools & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools

There was a time when my former perpetually 5-year-old self was busy writing a lot about Douglas County. The ebb and flow of news and activity has changed that somewhat, though there have been opportunities of late to talk about my Education Policy Center friends chiming in to the courts on the Choice Scholarship Program, and more recently on the tools the district has made available to promote a broader system of informed parental choice.

This week, though, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share some other positive news. After a few years at the second-highest ranking of “Accredited,” Douglas County School District has regained its spot among the ranks of the state’s most highly accredited districts. The Colorado Department of Education’s calculations ascribed the honor to 27 of the state’s 178 school districts, none larger than Dougco.

Given the 60,000-plus student district’s top marks in Colorado for productivity, we shouldn’t be surprised by the recognition. But sadly, some are aghast. As 9 News reported, an angry faction within the district appears unready and unwilling to accept the good news at face value: Continue Reading »


6th 2014
ADHD and Education: A New Take on Personalized Learning

Posted under Edublogging & Innovation and Reform & innovation schools & learning & Suburban Schools

As this year’s election silliness mercifully raged to a close earlier in the week (well, kind of), I teased you with the promise of a blog post on ADHD as it relates to customized education and personalized learning. I then proceeded to torture you with a discussion about yet another interpretation of this year’s education survey data. It must not have been too bad, though, because you’re back for more. And I intend to fulfill my promise.

Our discussion of ADHD’s relationship with education reform begins with a fascinating New York Times article by Dr. Richard Friedman, a Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Cornell. Friedman starts out by stating a fact well known by many in the education world: The rates of diagnosis and treatment of ADHD have risen sharply over the years. According to Friedman, it is now the most prevalent psychiatric disorder among American children between the ages of 4 and 17, affecting in the neighborhood of 11% of that population at some point. Friedman points out that this has led many people to wonder whether ADHD is a real disease:

… [Y]ou may wonder whether something that affects so many people can really be a disease … And for a good reason. Recent neuroscience research shows that people with ADHD are actually hard-wired for novelty-seeking — a trait that had, until relatively recently, a distinct evolutionary advantage. Compared with the rest of us, they have sluggish and underfed brain reward circuits, so much of everyday life feels routine and understimulating. Continue Reading »


2nd 2014
Big Screen TVs and Backward Protests: Pass the Popcorn, JCEA

Posted under learning & School Board & Suburban Schools & Teachers

If you haven’t heard the news, boys and girls, there’s going to be quite a party in Jefferson County tonight. And it sounds like it’s going to be a biggin:

Turnout is expected to be so high that the teachers’ union plans to stream video from the meeting room — which holds a couple hundred people — on a big screen in the parking lot outside. Students are making plans to start their protests early in the day.


Big screen TV, you say? I’m sold. But wait, there’s more! Continue Reading »


19th 2014
Jeffco Teacher “Sickout” Has Me Feeling Sick… And Confused

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & learning & School Board & School Finance & Suburban Schools & Teachers

Having to write this kind of post makes me feel a little sick to my stomach. Why would some teachers walk out on kids, enough to close down two Jeffco high schools? The headline from a 9News story points to the only two possibilities I can see: AP US History or teacher pay raises.

What… some teachers don’t like pay raises? I doubt it. But the plan approved last night by the Jeffco school board gives 99 percent of teachers a boost in take-home pay. For 98 percent of teachers, it’s either a 2.43% increase if they earned an effective rating, or a 4.25% increase if they earned a highly effective rating. In fact, many weeks ago, the board agreed to increase the total amount available for employee pay increases — from $11.7 million to $18.2 million!

Is that so terrible? Only 66 less-than-effective teachers are left out of the extra salary, but even they get all of their increased PERA retirement costs covered by district taxpayers. New teacher base salary was raised from $33,616 to $38,000. And in an unusually generous move, teachers on the highest end of the scale ($81,031) get a one-time stipend based on their evaluation rating. Continue Reading »


3rd 2014
Brookings: Superintendents Don’t Make Big Impact on Student Learning

Posted under Innovation and Reform & learning & Research & School Board & School Finance & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Urban Schools

What exactly should we expect of Colorado’s school district leaders? With a title like SUPERintendent, are we expecting too much of what they can accomplish? What difference does it make for what students in a district learn to have an experienced superintendent as opposed to someone new at the helm?

A brand-new Brookings study strongly suggests that it doesn’t make much difference at all. The academic heavyweight team of Russ Whitehurst, Matt Chingos, and Katharine Lindquist surveyed 10 years of data in school districts across Florida and North Carolina, and found that superintendents account for a mere 0.3 percent of differences in student academic achievement.

So are they saying that it makes no difference who serves in a school district’s top position, reporting directly to the locally elected board of education? Are we to believe that it didn’t matter having my one-time educrush Michelle Rhee running D.C. public schools rather than her predecessors? That Mike Miles left no meaningful mark in Harrison? That a cage-busting leader like Dougco’s Liz Fagen is interchangeable with the average large school district superintendent?

Writing at Jay Greene’s blog, Matt Ladner succinctly clarifies what the Brookings report says: Continue Reading »

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