Archive for the 'Research' 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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September
15th 2014
The No-Longer-Invisible Achievement Gap: Challenges for Foster Kids in Colorado

Posted under Research & School Choice

My parents sometimes drive me crazy. They won’t let me drink soda or jump on (or off) the bed, and they stubbornly refuse to allow me to live solely chocolate and bacon (hint of the day: combine the two for double the nutrition). Still, for all the frustrations parents can bring, I know I’m lucky to have them. Some kids are in much worse situations, and those kids face some serious hurdles.

Although many people know that foster children face enormous challenges, it’s rare to see those challenges quantified. Maybe that’s why this story in the Denver Post today is so impactful. The story highlights new research showing that foster kids are facing an even tougher road than we might have thought when it comes to education.

Here are the report’s key findings:

  • Fewer than 1 in 3 Colorado students who were in foster care during high school graduated within four years of entering 9th grade.
  • Although the on-time graduation rate for Colorado students as a whole has steadily improved, the rates for students in foster care remained stable and well below their non-foster care peers.
  • Approximately 1 in 11 students in foster care dropped out one or more times.
  • Students in foster care dropped out earlier in their educational careers than did other unique populations.

Those few bullet points have effectively erased what was previously seen as an “invisible achievement gap.” We’ve known for years about gaps between other student populations (particularly minority and white students), and now we see that there may be other, even wider chasms among our students that need to be bridged.

And so, faithful readers, this week starts with a new education problem for us to tackle—and it’s a big one. As I’ve opined many times before, every child deserves a great education and the opportunities that accompany it. The trick is figuring out how to make that happen. Continue Reading »

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September
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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August
27th 2014
Rubric’s Cube: Understanding Colorado’s Recent Voucher Grade

Posted under Courts & Private Schools & Research & School Choice & Tax Credits

We’re all instinctively wary of being graded, I think. Being evaluated can make you a little nervous, and there’s always that slight moment of panic as a teacher hands back an exam. Yet, that information often proves to be extremely valuable. A good evaluation helps you identify strengths, weaknesses, and things you’ll do differently moving forward. Still, it’s always important to look at the rubric being used when you interpret results.

Today, the Center for Education Reform released a new report that grades voucher programs across the United States.  Being well-informed readers of my blog, many of you may recognize the template; the organization has previously released reports that grade state charter laws (Colorado outscored all but eight other states) and scholarship tax credit programs. The voucher grades, however, are brand new.

I know, I know. You want to know how Colorado on the test. But like that infuriating teacher that stands in front of the class making small talk while his students sweat bullets over the stack of graded tests in his hand, I’m going to make you wait. Yes, I’m that guy. Continue Reading »

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August
25th 2014
What Can Colorado Learn from NYC Charter Network’s Amazing “Success”?

Posted under Grades and Standards & learning & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice & Urban Schools

Colorado isn’t the only state to release its annual test results lately. Here we touted the record-shattering ACT performance of Fort Collins charter Liberty Common High School. At the same time, we were disappointed to see a charter school network serving a higher-need student population falter somewhat but STRIVE to take responsibility and improve.

Along with many other area schools that serve lots of low-income and underprivileged students, maybe they should and could glean a lot from a genuine study of Harlem Success Academies. Why? As the New York Post recently reported, the more than 6,000 kids enrolled in the 22-charter school network took the big state test in math and reading absolutely knocked it out of the park: Continue Reading »

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August
20th 2014
It Says What? Facts, Fiction, and NEA’s Foot-in-Mouth Disorder

Posted under Federal Government & Grades and Standards & Parents & Research & Teachers

Everyone suffers from foot-in-mouth disorder at some point in their lives. You know the situation: You’re in the middle of an important conversation, things are going well, and you’re looking pretty smart.  Then, with no warning at all, you blurt out something silly. Maybe it was offensive, confidential, or ill-advised. Or maybe it was just plain wrong.

Fear not, my friends. The National Education Association is right there with you.

As you likely know, the results of two major, nationally representative surveys on education policy issues were released recently. I wrote about the PEPG/Education Next Survey just yesterday. Today, I got to dig into the second survey, conducted by Phi Delta Kappa and Gallup. Careful readers will note that I’ve outlined some issues with previous iterations of this particular survey, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about today. No, today I’d like to talk about what the survey results do (and do not) say. 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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August
14th 2014
Too Good, Too True: KIPP’s Continuing Success

Posted under Denver & Innovation and Reform & Middle School & Research & Urban Schools

“If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.” You’ve heard that one, right? Of course you have. It’s a pretty good aphorism, and one that I’ve already heard no fewer than 2,000 times in my five years of life. Somewhat ironically, this universal statement holds true in many cases, but falls short in others. As I’ve discussed before, KIPP charter schools appear to be one of the exceptions. Now even more research has bolstered that claim.

KIPP stands for the Knowledge is Power Program. The organization currently operates 162 charter schools around the country, and many of these schools are producing some legitimately astounding results for minority and underprivileged kids. Here in Denver, KIPP operates three public charter schools that are producing similarly impressive results.

Perhaps not surprisingly, KIPP’s results have raised some eyebrows. They have also generated some skepticism. 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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July
25th 2014
1000s Embrace Florida K-12 Choice: When Can Colorado Kids Win, Too?

Posted under Independence Institute & Parents & Private Schools & Research & School Choice & School Finance & Tax Credits

I hope you haven’t forgotten about helping Colorado Kids Win (including giving the Facebook page a “Like”). After all, it’s been two whole weeks since I’ve reminded you about the benefits of K-12 scholarship tax credits that our state’s kids could really use.

And you know that this particular little kid will use almost any excuse he can to get you speaking out for more school choice right here in the great Centennial State. Take for instance some intriguing news from the nation’s largest (and second oldest) scholarship tax credit program:

Students using school choice scholarships now make up nearly a third of K-12 students in Florida private schools.

Continue Reading »

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