Archive for the 'Online Schools' Category

June
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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March
17th 2015
K-12 Bureaucratic Barriers a Problem? Who Ya’ Gonna Call? Cage-Busters!

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Just For Fun & Online Schools & Research & Teachers

It’s not a completely unfair characterization to suggest that a specialty for 5-year-old boys is busting things. Or at least enjoying watching others bust things. This post won’t help disabuse anyone of that impression.

Last week I cheered to see Marcus Winters flex his charter school myth-busting muscles. Today I bring your attention to a different kind of bustin’ going on.

Two years ago American Enterprise Institute (AEI) education scholar Rick Hess made waves calling for a greater can-do attitude among school and district administrators with his book Cage-Busting Leadership. Now he highlights the same sort of opportunities for teachers. Continue Reading »

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February
3rd 2015
Should I Get My Hopes Up about Colorado Course Choice Once More?

Posted under Education Politics & High School & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & School Finance & State Legislature

Hopes were a little high last May when I offered K-12 online pilot program ideas in the wake of House Bill 1382′s adoption. My Education Policy Center friends have been talking about the promise of Course Choice and course-level funding for a few years now.

It sure would be nice to see Colorado take even a small, clear step in the direction of greater flexibility and student access to learning opportunities. But reading the recently released HB 1382 task force report and its underwhelming recommendations gave me the deep sense that even my modest hopes may have been misplaced.

Sigh. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again…. It’s hard for a kid my age to be patient and persist rather than to quit. Continue Reading »

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December
3rd 2014
It’s Good to Let Teachers Choose, Too: Because One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Posted under Denver & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & School Finance & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Urban Schools

We often talk about the value of educational choice for students and parents, and rightly so. Less frequently do we strike the theme of the importance of letting teachers choose. As I am fond of doing, a spate of recent stories today presents me with the opportunity to tie this theme together with a big red bow. Without further ado… Continue Reading »

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December
2nd 2014
The Death of Snow Days

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Parents & Research & School Accountability & School Board & State Legislature & Teachers

I really love snow days. Every time a storm rolls into town, I wake up, rush to the window, and rip the curtains open, hoping to see those tiny, beautiful flakes of hope drift past my wide little eyes. And while my dad usually grumbles to his coffee about the morning commute as he surveys what he calls the “mess” on our street, I see nothing but the pure white promise of fun and freedom.

Brings back fond memories, doesn’t it? Well, you’d better put those safely away in the vault. Today, we discuss the impending death of the snow day. I’ll give you a minute to recover emotionally if you need it.

In states across the country, districts are experimenting with ways to avoid weather-related cancellations. Pennsylvania has created a pilot program that allows virtual learning on snow days to count as normal instruction, a school district in Georgia is doing something very similar, and New Jersey has a piece of pending state legislation aimed at making at-home, technology-based learning on snow days permissible under state law. Meanwhile, a rural district in Kentucky will allow up to ten at-home learning days due to the area’s traditionally heavy snowfall.

But why all the fuss about snow days? Is it just because of the absurd snowfall we’ve already seen in some areas this year? Not really. Believe or not, there’s actually a good deal of research out there on the subject. Continue Reading »

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October
24th 2014
Buckle Up for the Ride, Colorado: The Testing Issue Isn’t Going Away Soon

Posted under Federal Government & Grades and Standards & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & reading & School Accountability & State Board of Education & Teachers

Tests in schools, tests in schools. Why do I have a strange sort of feeling this issue isn’t riding off quietly into the sunset any time soon? First, we’ve got the entire hot mess known as Common Core (or maybe we should just follow Governor Hickenlooper’s advice and rename it “Colorado Core”?) and the new regime of PARCC assessments that go with it.

Underneath all that, though, are all the competing concerns and interests. What do we want tests to do? Is it about improving instruction and directly affecting student learning? Or are they primarily useful tools to help measure and compare how different schools and educators are doing? As I’ve heard it said many times, “what gets measured gets done.” So you can’t just throw out all the tests. But which ones do we need, and how much is too much?

As you can see, magical policy solutions aren’t hiding just beneath the surface. Some leaders on the Colorado State Board of Education have tried to find a way to give local schools and districts more testing flexibility, while preserving key features of accountability. But then the grumpy old U.S. Department of Education mothership has all but completely squashed that idea.

Then we have the legislatively-appointed Standards and Assessments Task Force. On Monday, this 15-member group met and narrowed down the areas of concern to oh, at least eight. These are items to study and make recommendations about. Looks like a big task to tackle by the early 2015 deadline. Then yesterday the Task Force set up a listening session in Colorado Springs, reports the Gazette. Among the many concerns highlighted: Continue Reading »

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October
9th 2014
Education Reform Times May Be A-Changin’, But Not for All

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Accountability & School Choice & Teachers

A long time ago, during an era known as “The Sixties,” there was a popular song called “The Times They Are a-Changin’”. Or so my Grandpa tells me. Apparently, it’s a sort of iconic piece about all the upheaval that was starting during this distant past. I have to say it’s a catchy tune, too.

Because it occurred to me as I perused this latest piece by the venerable long-time education reform Checker Finn, called “Time for a reboot” (my Dad says I should have referenced his old computer’s experience with the “blue screen of death,” but I digress). The pro-Common Core author acknowledges some of the complaints made about standardized testing and says reformers need to back away from “test-driven accountability” as a “primary tool”:

The wrong answer is to give up (or declare victory) and settle for the status quo. Far too many kids are still dropping out, far too few are entering college and the work force with the requisite skills, and far too many other countries are chowing down on our lunch.

Major-league education change is still needed, maybe now more than ever, and it’s no time for either complacency or despair.

Oh, it sure sounds like the times they are a-changin’! Finn says more emphasis needs to be placed on areas I’ve written a lot about here, including providing more quality choices, using technology to differentiate instruction, and letting the dollars follow the student. Bingo! Continue Reading »

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September
23rd 2014
More Research Could Highlight Real Promise of Blended Learning

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Research & Teachers

Today seemed like a good day to get out of the hot kitchen and look at a topic I haven’t addressed in awhile: blended learning. You know what I mean. According to the Clayton Christensen Institute, it’s:

a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace; at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home; (3) and the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.

Fittingly, then, a new piece by the Christensen Institute’s Michael Horn shares how his group is partnering up with Evergreen Education “to find more districts that are obtaining good results for students—concrete and objective—from blended learning.” This is just the kind of needed project to track the particulars of an emerging education program trend. What’s working, what’s not, etc.? Continue Reading »

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August
19th 2014
“What Are People Thinking” about Education? PEPG Makes It Pay to Know

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Research & School Finance & Tax Credits & Teachers

Sometimes you see or hear about some crazy behavior out there, and somewhat aghast, you ask aloud or think: “What are people thinking?” Other times, you’re just curious about the opinions of those adults around you who can affect important issues, and it’s just: “I wonder… what are people thinking?”

My faithful fans know that taking a look at surveys about education is more than just a passing fancy. Only a couple months ago, the Friedman Foundation’s latest national poll rightly caught my attention. But there’s none I look forward to more than the PEPG/Education Next survey, which covers a large sample of more than 5,000 adults and now has eight years of comparative data! (That’s older than I am… Really!)

In-depth coverage by Michael Henderson, Paul Peterson, and Martin West of the 2014 edition’s results sheds light on a number of important matters.

First, as my Education Policy Center friends continue to speak out for scholarship tax credits as a way to help Colorado kids win, PEPG finds national support remains strong. At 60% to 26%, favorability is consistent with (albeit slightly weaker) the Friedman results. It also once again remains the most widely popular form of school choice proposal. Hip, hip, hooray!

Second, again consistent with Friedman, the new survey found “declining” (especially among public school teachers and among Republicans) and “polarizing” support for the national standards movement known as Common Core. PEPG took a slightly different twist. The earlier survey found that results skew from slightly against to slightly in favor when a clear definition of “Common Core” is added into the question. PEPG just asked the same question, with and without the highly-charged term. Continue Reading »

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July
29th 2014
Let’s Grow Colorado K-12 Course Access But NOT Reinvent the Wheel

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Research & School Board

Give me Legos, Play-doh, or just a pile of rocks and sticks, and I’ll create something. If you want to know what some of my crazy inventions have been, just ask my poor mom. But let me tell you one thing I haven’t tried to do, and that’s reinvent the wheel.

I’m sure the members of the new online education task force are well aware of that wise maxim. One of the tasks they’re charged to do is authorize pilot programs for digital learning that can and ought to include course-level funding. A couple months ago I pointed them to a quick Fordham Institute manual about the different policy dimensions to consider.

Now I’m hoping even more that they’ll see the lessons gleaned from other states, lessons reported reported last week by Digital Learning Now. The report highlights not only the advantages of Course Access, but also key challenges that need to be addressed, such as “Creating meaningful foundations for system performance review and assessment.” Continue Reading »

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