Archive for the 'Rural Schools' Category

31st 2014
Charter Schools Continue to Grow; We Need More #SchoolChoice Now

Posted under Independence Institute & Just For Fun & Parents & Public Charter Schools & Research & Rural Schools & School Choice & Teachers

Where did the time go? Unbelievably, National School Choice Week is coming to a close. It’s been a fun ride. Last night, a bunch of kids and parents showed up at the Independence Institute to watch Waiting for Superman in Spanish (more about that later). And today at Noon-1 PM local time (2-3 PM Eastern) you can join me and others for a #schoolchoice Tweet-Up.

To suit the occasion, think about the possibilities that more high-quality charter schools could offer students and families in Colorado. Yesterday the Center for Education Reform released the latest edition of the Survey of America’s Charter Schools. What a great place to go to get the “30,000-foot view” of charter trends across the nation.

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4th 2013
Many Rural Districts Like Four -Day School Week, No Reason for Amendment 66

Posted under Independence Institute & Research & Rural Schools & School Board & School Finance & State Legislature

Out on the campaign trail advocating for Amendment 66 (the election is over tomorrow… YAY!), state senator Michael Johnston (D-Denver) has used a variety of points to make the case for the billion-dollar statewide tax increase. One that showed up in a recent email report would be one that many Denver-area residents might gloss over. He touts having driven 28,000 miles for 600 meetings with 7,000 people, then writes:

I am grateful that my kids can still go to school five days a week in a state where 80 school districts can only keep the doors open 4 days a week.

The email message is not the only place the theme has been delivered. Among other places, Johnston also mentioned the four-day week as a plug for Amendment 66 on a recent Colorado Public Radio debate with my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow.

The statement contains a grain of truth. As the Denver Post reported last year, about 80 of the state’s 179 school districts now operate on a four-day week. But why? Because these overwhelmingly rural districts all would like to have five days of school, but can’t afford it? Not so fast. For a significant number of them, it’s not a matter that they can’t keep the doors open on Friday (or maybe Monday), but that they won’t do so. Continue Reading »

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31st 2013
Weld County School Districts Stand Out on Safety, Fiscal Sanity, Sound Policy

Posted under Education Politics & Rural Schools & School Board & School Finance & State Legislature & Suburban Schools & Teachers

It’s pretty rare to see a geographically-themed post like this one here. While Weld County has become a focus for some about a debate to secede and create a 51st state, more interesting to me is a series of stories that set apart a number of the county’s school districts.

The 12 school districts in northern Colorado’s mostly rural Weld County rank it second in the state to El Paso County, which has 15 different districts. Stealing the headlines a couple days ago was Weld Re-10J, better known as Briggsdale School, for adopting a student safety plan that includes enabling teachers and other staff to carry concealed firearms on school property.

About 9 months ago I told you about the defeat of Senate Bill 9, which “would have allowed school boards to authorize carrying of concealed weapons in schools.” Apparently, Briggsdale has found a loophole that the Dolores County School District devised earlier this year. Don’t ask how or why: I’m too little. Continue Reading »

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20th 2013
Research Shows At Least Some Kinds of Field Trips Really Do Benefit Students

Posted under Arts & Just For Fun & learning & Research & Rural Schools & Sciences

I’ve been delinquent from blogging so much lately, you may think little Eddie just has been on a long field trip. Well, before you get too critical, you might want to consider the great advantages this could have for me. The results of a first-of-its-kind study, outlined by Dr. Jay Greene for Education Next, are worth a closer look:

Today, culturally enriching field trips are in decline. Museums across the country report a steep drop in school tours. For example, the Field Museum in Chicago at one time welcomed more than 300,000 students every year. Recently the number is below 200,000. Between 2002 and 2007, Cincinnati arts organizations saw a 30 percent decrease in student attendance. A survey by the American Association of School Administrators found that more than half of schools eliminated planned field trips in 2010–11.

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14th 2013
For Aspen, Jeffco, and Others, Billion-Dollar Tax Initiative Also Happens to be Unfair

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Rural Schools & School Board & School Finance & Suburban Schools

The Aspen Daily News yesterday reported on the struggle facing school board members in the upscale mountain community as they ponder whether to support the billion-dollar tax hike headed for November’s ballot:

Board member Elizabeth Parker told Pitkin County commissioners in a joint meeting Tuesday that she would have a hard time throwing her support behind Amendment 66, which voters will decide in November, because it will likely lead to future requests for local tax increases.

Yes, that’s one valid concern. One can imagine how that might make it difficult for a school board official to hesitate in supporting a proposal that means more tax dollars for education programs. Initiative 22 (probably soon to be renamed Amendment 66) puts the heat on a number of districts to ask local residents for more in property taxes. It also provides state dollars to underwrite many local mill levy elections, and creates three new types of mill levy taxes. Continue Reading »

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10th 2013
Numbers Tell Part of the Tale: Drilling into Census Bureau’s Colorado K-12 Data

Posted under Denver & Rural Schools & School Finance & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Urban Schools

Mike Antonucci is doing yeoman’s work at the Education Intelligence Agency, going state by state to update K-12 student, employee, and spending data from the U.S. Census Bureau. I’ve called on his helpful charts that show the relationship of pupil enrollment to teacher hiring, and how states (and even districts) are doing financially compared to five years earlier.

Friday it was Colorado’s turn in the spotlight. Antonucci came at the information from an interesting angle, showing that Denver Public Schools’ ProComp “performance pay” system has not deterred new hiring. He makes a few other valuable observations. But leave it to little old Eddie here to uncover a few more interesting tidbits from the data for you all.

First of all, the Census Bureau says the state’s per-pupil funding grew by 8.3 percent from 2006 to 2011 — just short of keeping pace with inflation. Yet as Antonucci explains in a newer post, school districts typically are not set up to absorb the occasional recessionary cuts like they are the frequent increases that outstrip the “marginal costs”: Continue Reading »

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21st 2013
That’s One Small Step for Digital Learning and Quality Options for Colorado Students

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & learning & Online Schools & Parents & Rural Schools & State Board of Education & State Legislature

Has Colorado taken another step toward providing students with greater choice and opportunity through access to digital learning options? If so, how big and effective a step has been taken? Let’s look at a piece of education legislation that was overshadowed by the likes of the “Future School Finance Act” and others, Senate Bill 139.

A recent online column by Reilly Pharo of the Colorado Children’s Campaign and the Donnell-Kay Foundation’s Matt Samelson shares an overview of SB 139′s key provisions: Continue Reading »

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10th 2013
Finding the Positives in Colorado’s Latest 3rd Grade Reading TCAP Results

Posted under Denver & Elementary School & Grades and Standards & learning & Magnet School & Parents & Public Charter Schools & reading & Research & Rural Schools & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Urban Schools

It’s that time of year again. I get to share some news and thoughts with you about the latest release of Colorado’s 3rd grade reading test results. We’re talking the “preliminary and unofficial” results from TCAP, the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program, formerly known as CSAP. As last year’s debate on HB 1238 (the Colorado READ Act) reminded us, making sure kids have proficient reading skills by this milestone year is a crucial indicator of their future learning success.

Ed News Colorado this week reports:

Colorado’s third grade TCAP reading scores remained flat in 2013 for the third year in a row, according to TCAP results released Tuesday.

Once again defying the trend and deserving a little extra kudos is Denver Public Schools, for boosting its 3rd grade reading proficiency up to 61 percent, closer to the state average. Also making progress is Westminster 50, which rebounded from a low 40 percent two years ago to 50 percent today. As the article points out, Aurora took a small hit but anticipates “a much different story next year,” while large suburban districts Jefferson County, Douglas County, and Cherry Creek followed the state’s flat trend line. Continue Reading »

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2nd 2013
More Than a May Day Coincidence: SB 213 Tax Hike and “Phantom” Funding Reform

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Governor & Innovation and Reform & Public Charter Schools & Research & Rural Schools & School Finance & State Legislature

There are a few possible explanations for all those shouts of “May Day” Coloradans may have heard yesterday. Some might have been the annual calls for an imaginary workers’ paradise, while others might have been desperate pleas of displaced Texans and Californians calling for relief from the late-season snow. In my education policy wonk world, though, “May Day” was code for a noteworthy coincidence. Have you heard?

As Ed News Colorado reports, the state legislature yesterday put the finishing touches on Senate Bill 213, the new school finance bill tied to some form of a billion-dollar tax increase initiative. Finishing its partisan course, the senate approved house amendments by a party-line 20-15 tally. Every legislative vote cast for SB 213 has come from Democrats; every vote against has come from Republicans. The Governor, also a Democrat, has given every indication of signing it into law.

The strict partisan divide may have something to do with all the bill’s missed reform opportunities, including continued inequities for charters and only a tiny share of total funds assigned to student “backpacks” (and in the final version of SB 213, pgs 139-140, even that small amount of principal “autonomy” is subject to district-level review). Then there’s the issue of “phantom students,” an ongoing problem of inequity left completely untouched by this new legislation.

That brings us to the May 1 coincidence. The same day as Colorado’s SB 213 received its final stamp of legislative approval, the smart people over at Education Next published a research-based commentary by Marguerite Roza and Jon Fullerton titled “Funding Phantom Students: State policies insulate districts from making tough decisions.” Continue Reading »


2nd 2013
Split Partisan SB 213 Vote Shifts Debate from Real Reform to Raising Taxes

Posted under Denver & PPC & Rural Schools & School Board & School Finance & State Legislature

In case you haven’t been following me on Twitter (which raises the question: Why not?), you may not have noticed that the big education bill of the 2013 Colorado legislative session has made its way through the State Senate. As a new Ed News Colorado story by Todd Engdahl highlights, Senate Bill 213 has advanced as a purely partisan piece of legislation:

The Senate approved Senate Bill 13-213 on a 20-15 preliminary vote, which is expected to be the same party-line total when a final vote is taken later.

That final vote occurred earlier today by the same 20-15 margin. And thus the 174-page legislation motors on over to the House now. Still not really much choice or backpack funding at all. Changing from a single count date to average daily membership is great, but not worth a billion smackeroos. As the Education Reform Bulletin proclaims about SB 213, raising taxes trumps reform. Continue Reading »

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