Archive for the 'Principals' Category

September
17th 2014
Russian Dolls and Education Policy: New Study Looks More Closely at Teacher Evaluations

Posted under Principals & Research & School Accountability & Teachers

Ever heard of a matryoshka doll? You may not have heard the name before, but I bet you’ll recognize the concept. You start with a big doll, break it open, and discover a smaller doll inside. That doll contains a still smaller doll, and inside that one is an even smaller one. You’ve got to dig down through an awful lot of layers before you reach the center. (Do you feel the education policy analogy coming on?)

Teacher evaluation is like the center of many education policy matryoshka dolls. In particular, strategic compensation and tenure policies are heavily dependent on the reliability and validity of the teacher evaluations being used. That realization raises some big questions regarding evaluation, some of which I’ve written about before.

As it turns out, even “evaluation” may be too big a doll. A new study by Matthew Chingos, Russ Whitehurst, and Katharine Lindquist argues that the area of greatest concern is more specific still: The portion of evaluations based on classroom observation. Continue Reading »

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August
29th 2014
Jeffco Board Steps Up to Reward Outstanding Teachers

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Principals & School Board & Teachers

Like a lot of kids my age, I get a weekly allowance. It may not seem like much to you, but five bucks buys me an awful lot of valuable stuff (mostly candy). But my allowance isn’t unconditional; I get more when I’m good than when I’m bad. I get more for good grades than bad grades. Seems fairly reasonable, right?

Teacher salaries are, of course, very different from my allowance. Yet, the same principle applies: We ought to reward those who do great work, and provide incentives for those who could do better to improve. Is it really fair to give teachers who are doing an outstanding job the same pay raise (in some cases, even less) than someone rated less than effective?

Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks this way. Last night, Ken Witt on the Jefferson County School Board put forward what some are portraying as a radical proposal in the district’s ongoing compensation negotiations with the Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA). Continue Reading »

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July
23rd 2014
Overconfidence, Low Expectations, Little Innovation: Not a Good Mixture

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & International & learning & math & Principals & Research

Remember that clip from the ages-old education documentary Waiting for Superman, where we’re told that American students are behind the pack in math in almost any way you measure it, except for one:

Yes, when it comes to students’ classroom confidence (“I get good marks in mathematics”), a much different story emerges: The USA is #1! Compare that to #32 in actual math proficiency overall, or #28 among kids with college-educated parents. Continue Reading »

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July
1st 2014
Would Letting Kids Sleep In More Help Academic Results? Please Say Yes

Posted under High School & International & Middle School & Parents & Principals & Research & School Board & Teachers

You know one thing I’m thankful for? My Education Policy Center friends never order a wake-up call to get me out of bed early so they can help me write this blog. Little prodigies like me need all the sleep we can (though I try not to concede that argument when my mom tells me it’s time to hit the hay).

A couple years ago I directed your attention to research that suggested small positive benefits for middle schoolers who delayed early start times. Interesting fodder to file away in the back compartments of the brain, and move along.

Until, that is, I recently found an article by Colorado’s own Holly Yettick in Education Week that highlights an international study calling out the U.S. for having the highest rate of sleepy students in the secondary grades. Or at least that’s based on what teachers report in surveys. Continue Reading »

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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
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
7th 2014
Student-Based Budgeting: Part of Colorado K-12 Future that Can Work

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Parents & Principals & School Board & School Choice & School Finance & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

Many years ago, someone famously said: “I have seen the future, and it works.” Ironically, Lincoln Steffens said that about the Soviet Union, and he ended up being grossly incorrect.

What I see included in the future of Colorado K-12 education is considerably more modest and considerably less likely to backfire. When it comes to positive and promising development in Colorado K-12 education, I don’t need to be quite so brash — nor expect to be just plain wrong — as Mr. Steffens was.

I’m talking about student-based budgeting, which directs money to schools based on the needs of individual students attending there rather than on (often secretly) negotiated staffing formulas. As students exercise their choices within our K-12 public education system, the dollars as much as possible should be portable along with them. This move in turn puts more autonomy at the local school level, where decisions can better be made to benefit students. Continue Reading »

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May
6th 2014
Happy Teacher Appreciation Day! Let’s All Cheer for Performance Pay!

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Principals & Research & School Board & Teachers

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day! Note that I say “Teacher,” not “Teachers” — and not just because it sounds much less awkward that way. Many, many teachers no doubt are worthy of appreciation. But they should be appreciated, and treated, as the diverse and skilled individuals they are. They bring different backgrounds to the profession, serve different groups of students in different kinds of schools, and teach different subjects in different styles.

And guess what? Many of them get different results! So why not talk about appreciating them as individuals? It’s healthy for us all to be reminded that teachers aren’t widgets. It’s safe to say that #TeachingIs something that varies in different contexts.

Thankfully, when it comes to how teachers are paid, we also see some innovative diversity in Colorado. Take a look at Harrison’s Effectiveness and Results program, pay-for-performance in Dougco, and Eagle County Schools’ “Professional Excellence, Accountability, and Recognition.” While the three look somewhat different, they share in common the feature of dropping altogether automatic pay raises based on seniority and degree credentials. Continue Reading »

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April
28th 2014
Denver Post: “Fundamental Fairness” in Jeffco Charter Student Funding Plan

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Principals & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Board & School Finance & State Legislature & Suburban Schools

When the Center for Education Reform (CER) released this year’s Charter School Law Rankings and Scorecard in March, I didn’t take time to give you an update. Colorado scooted up from 10th place to 9th place, not for any improvements of its own but because one state (ahem… Missouri) took a small step back.

But it’s action on the local front that soon may show Colorado outperforming the ranking of our law, at least in one important respect.

CER uses a 55-point scale to rate the quality of state laws related to public charter schools. The formula takes into account the availability of different entities to authorize charters, various restrictions on the number of charters that can open statewide, and to what extent these schools can operate free from a number of different regulations.

More than a quarter of the total scorecard, however, is tied to the issue of funding equity — whether charter students have access to the same share of operating funds and relevant facilities dollars as their counterparts in district-run schools. In this regard, a significant number of states top Colorado, though only by small margins. (Even the best states have a ways to go.) 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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