Archive for the 'Public Charter Schools' Category

August
18th 2014
No Excuses: STRIVE to Do Better

Posted under Denver & Grades and Standards & High School & Middle School & Public Charter Schools & Urban Schools

One day not so long ago, my father sat me down for one of his famous heart-to-heart chats. I’d done poorly on a math quiz (it turns out that two plus two does not equal a picture of a dragon eating a stick figure), and I knew I was in big trouble. But he didn’t scold me. Instead, he told me to “own my mistake, find out why it happened, and fix it.” Excuses, he said, would do nothing but hold me back.

I was reminded of my father’s words this weekend as I read the education news. As many of you may know, Colorado released the 2014 TCAP results last week. With a few exceptions, they were wholly uninspiring. Some results were, however, surprising. Perhaps most notably, STRIVE’s eight charter schools in Denver experienced a very significant backslide in scores.

Normally, such results would bring about a hurricane of political spin, bluster, and excuses. Indeed, some opponents of reform have already begun touting STRIVE’s 2014 results as evidence of broader failures in the Denver charter movement. STRIVE itself has taken an entirely different (and very refreshing) tack: accepting responsibility and working toward improvement. Continue Reading »

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August
15th 2014
Liberty Common Shatters ACT Test Record; State TCAPs Less Inspiring

Posted under Denver & Elementary School & Grades and Standards & High School & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & math & Middle School & Public Charter Schools & reading & Rural Schools & School Board & School Choice & State Board of Education & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

Yesterday brought a big data dump from the Colorado Department of Education, and it’s nothing that is going to get the rest of the nation ooh-ing and aah-ing about where we’re headed. When aggregate scores for 3rd to 10th graders in all three subject areas dip half a point, clearly far more is getting measured than improved. Still, there’s plenty that’s hidden when you take the statewide view.

So leave it to little old me to ferret out and compile a few of the key local story lines that deserve attention, reflection, and in a few cases, imitation. Speaking of which, none rises to the top more than the Liberty Common High School‘s record-breaking ACT score — besting the 2010 mark of 27.78 with an eye-popping 28.63.

Did I say “record-breaking”? I should have said “shattering” — almost, but not quite, Beamonesque. Congrats to Liberty Common and principal Bob Schaffer for raising the bar! When I wished them “best of success” nearly two years ago after my Education Policy Center friends concluded their visit, I had no idea they would so thoroughly heed my admonition!

Here are some other local highlights of yesterday’s test score data dump that caught my attention: Continue Reading »

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August
1st 2014
Adults Say the Darndest Things, Too: Jeffco Anti-Charter Edition

Posted under Denver & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

One night, not too long ago, when I made one of my off-the-wall education prodigy remarks, my dad just smiled and replied, “Kids say the darndest things.” Apparently, there used to be a TV show by that name — or so my grandpa once told me. The premise was to take advantage of youthful innocence and get little tykes like me to repeat things adults wouldn’t say in polite company, or just misuse words in a funny way.

And then the other day I was reading this piece of work from Jeffco School Board Watch, and thought out loud: “It’s not just kids who say the darndest things!” The opponents of expanded choice and charter funding equity in Denver’s western suburbs are really out there grasping at straws now.

You mean they weren’t before? some might say. At least this time it wasn’t one of the minority board members offering a bizarre, phony “compromise.” Their special education argument against charters has been seriously called into question, so they’ve fallen back to a new absurd line of defense. Continue Reading »

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July
22nd 2014
Can’t Get Enough Productivity: Charter Schools Doing More with Less

Posted under Innovation and Reform & learning & math & Public Charter Schools & reading & Research & School Choice & School Finance

If “productivity” is really a dirty word for education, as some critics would like us to believe, maybe that explains why I feel the overwhelming urge to write about it for the second time in less than a week. A kind of “forbidden fruit” thing, you know. Or maybe the connection just was too easy to make during these hot and lazy, hazy days of summer.

Last Friday I took a look at the productivity of Colorado school districts, as measured in a new report by the Center for American Progress (CAP). A couple of this blog’s favorite topics — Douglas County and Falcon 49 — emerged with flying colors.

So right on cue, here comes a first-of-its-kind analysis, comparing the productivity of public charter schools to other public schools in 22 states and the District of Columbia. The University of Arkansas’s “The Productivity of Public Charter Schools” made an across-the-board finding that shouldn’t exactly startle anyone who pays attention. Not only is charter productivity higher in every state: Continue Reading »

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July
21st 2014
Argue Policy, Not Philosophy

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Public Charter Schools & Research

Some things don’t mix well. Mustard and chocolate cake, seafood and ice cream, bacon and vegetables—all of these make me wrinkle my nose. As it turns out, hard-nosed philosophy and education policy also do not make a good pair.

Last week, Andy Smarick wrote about the problems that arise when philosophical views collide with education policy discussions. While Andy was specifically discussing the ongoing (and rather nasty) debate over charter schools, I think his point is applicable to education policy more generally.

Instead of arguing over well-supported points or thoughtful positions, education activists and experts too often find themselves battling over philosophical differences. As these debates become increasingly vitriolic, potentially valuable answers to important policy questions are ignored. Sadly, this means that kids like me may be denied the solutions we deserve while the grown-ups we depend on for help point fingers and sling insults. Continue Reading »

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July
10th 2014
School Choice Supply and Demand: Improving Both Sides of the Equation

Posted under Denver & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice & Tax Credits

Promoting school choice is a means to an end. Namely? Opportunity for all kids to learn and meet their potential in an educational environment that best suits them, accelerating them toward their maximum academic and social potential.

I talk here a lot about school choice, and the power of my parents being able to select the best learning option for me. Some families don’t have access to any good schools or viable learning opportunities; other families do have access. Not only should we be steadily closing the gap between those two groups, but we also should be raising the bar for all students!

The sad truth is we’ve got a long way to go to get there. And even when we get “there,” room for ongoing improvement will still exist. Making it happen requires solving two sides of an equation: Increasing the supply of appropriate, quality schools and learning options; AND addressing the demand of students and parents for these educational opportunities. Continue Reading »

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June
30th 2014
Friedman Survey Finds Big Shift on Standardized Testing, Not to Mention….

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & Tax Credits

For someone who has what some would consider an unhealthy fascination with education surveys, it has been awhile since I really delved into one of them. Back then, the big concern was about PDK/Gallup’s wording of a key question about school choice — adding the ominous phrase “at public expense.”

This latest survey of a nationally representative sample of voters is sponsored by my friends at the Friedman Foundation. Interestingly, this renowned pro-school choice group led its release of the results with the headline: “Parents say too much focus on standardized tests.” According to their poll, 44 percent of parents think standardized tests take up too much time, 22 percent say too little, and 30 percent say it’s about right.

Note that we’re talking about parents of school-aged children — a smaller subset of voters. Interestingly, though, the results for non-parents only skew a little bit toward the “too little” and “about right” categories. More significantly is the comparison to last year’s findings from a different poll, in which 61 percent of parents said testing was “about right,” compared to 11 percent saying “too little.” 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
19th 2014
Accelerating Quality Colorado Charter Growth a Wise Idea, Not Just for Wonks

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & State Legislature & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

Are you more likely to think of policy wonks as “wild and crazy” OR as “wise”? I know, it’s a difficult call. The Fordham Institute’s Michael Petrilli apparently has enough optimism to lean toward the latter. His new Flypaper post, “The wise wonks’ hierarchy of charter school quality” distills the insights of the blog’s recent Charter Wonk-a-Thon participants into a grand “unified theory.”

Folks, you can’t make this stuff up. But if nothing else, the exercise gave Petrilli the opportunity to draw a big triangle (three angles, three sides!) that represents a hierarchy of which states are doing chartering right, and which — well, not so much. Continue Reading »

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June
18th 2014
Study Gives Another Jeffco Anti-Charter Myth a Serious Blow

Posted under Denver & Parents & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

Tomorrow the Jeffco school board is set to cast a final vote on the 2014-15 budget. At the forefront of the discussion is the 3-2 majority’s proposal to share an extra $3.7 million of local property tax funds with public charter schools. Even though that would cut the gap in half, some still seem to find it disturbing that charter students should be treated even somewhat more fairly.

Two weeks ago, one of the two other board members suggested a “compromise.” Instead of the extra $3.7 million, Jill Fellman said, the board should allocate a smaller amount of dollars already approved by the state for charter facilities, and that if charter parents didn’t like it, they should go work for another tax hike.

Today, the Denver Post editors stepped in again and urged Jeffco to get over it already. Rather than seriously considering ridiculous phony compromises, approving the $3.7 million should be a no-brainer. On this front, the Post says Jeffco should emulate Denver Public Schools. Continue Reading »

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