Archive for the 'Rural Schools' Category

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
5th 2014
Evaluation Valuation: Goals, Issues, and Questions for the Coming Year

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & innovation schools & Rural Schools & School Accountability & School Board & Teachers

To students like me, teachers are mythical creatures. Sure, I see them every day, but I can’t see behind the proverbial curtain. I don’t know how they judge their success or failure in different areas, how well they are serving their students as a whole, or how they communicate information about their teaching performance to their peers. In the absence of good evaluation systems, that same ambiguity extends to parents and administrators.

As Ben Orlin recently pointed out in the Atlantic, teachers are only human. Some great teachers may portray their performance as mediocre or poor, and some less effective teachers may be inclined to exaggerate their success. In either case, it’s clear that some kind of evaluation system is necessary if we want our teachers to be fairly and accurately assessed.

Here in Colorado, SB 10-191 ostensibly aims to provide such a system. Among numerous other things, the law requires all Colorado school districts to adopt new yearly performance ratings. These ratings have been in the “practice” phase for the past few years, but are due to be fully implemented in the coming school year. That means that teachers who receive ratings below effective for two consecutive years will lose their tenure. In contrast, teachers who earn effective ratings or better for three consecutive years will be awarded tenure. Continue Reading »

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July
18th 2014
Douglas County, Falcon 49, Eaton Top Colorado in K-12 Productivity

Posted under High School & Innovation and Reform & Research & Rural Schools & School Board & School Finance & Suburban Schools

For some people, the term “productivity” doesn’t belong in K-12 education discussions. They think it’s too scary because it sounds like businesses that make money by selling goods or services. And we know that while education could learn a few more things from the competitive world of independent businesses, the two spheres don’t perfectly equate.

But let’s not freak out here. We’re talking about large sums of public tax revenues in K-12 education. Having a good way to measure how effectively that money is being spent recognizes an important reality. It’s not the be-all and end-all of the K-12 world, by any means, but it does provide a valuable indicator.

Come on now, don’t think it’s just me harping on about measuring “productivity” in education. Ask the Center for American Progress (CAP), which just released the 2014 update of “Return on Educational Investment: A District-by-District Evaluation of U.S. Educational Productivity”: Continue Reading »

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July
17th 2014
Blended Learning Takes Flight in Colo. Districts: How High Will It Soar?

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & learning & Online Schools & Rural Schools & Suburban Schools & Teachers

The great blended learning experiment continues its historic ascension in our beautiful Rocky Mountain state. Independence Institute education senior fellow Krista Kafer has documented it better than anyone. Last year it was The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning in Colorado.

Apparently, the not-so-long-ago, cutting-edge sphere of blended learning has not just made it past the ground level but is heading into the lofty (or should I say friendly?) skies. Just this week my Education Policy Center friends released Krista’s awaited sequel School District Partnerships Help Colorado K-12 Blended Learning Take Flight.

Take flight? Can’t you picture me wearing my goggles, flying a World War I-era Sopwith Camel? Better yet, behind the controls of a state-of-the-art Rocketship heading to explore strange new worlds in outer space? Or maybe just playing in the back yard (away from power lines) with my new kite? Seriously, though, Krista’s report follows the action in some key places in various parts of the state: Continue Reading »

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June
25th 2014
Holyoke’s Pursuit of Innovation Status Raises Real Questions to Answer

Posted under Innovation and Reform & innovation schools & Journalism & Rural Schools & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Teachers

Among the big people around me, there’s a fair amount of cheering and groaning and Monday morning quarterbacking. Apparently, that’s what the day after a primary election does to you. I’ll leave the politics to them, and spend just a few moments on an interesting story that slipped in last week.

Chalkbeat Colorado’s Kate Schimel reports that a second rural Eastern Plains school district is taking a serious look at applying for innovation status. In a nutshell, Holyoke district leaders would draft a plan requesting waivers from specific state laws that they believe are holding them back, and would come to the State Board of Education for a nod of approval.

The 2008 Innovation Schools Act was primarily designed for high-need urban (read: Denver) schools. About two-thirds of the state’s innovation schools are in fact in Denver. The freedom to innovate does not guarantee success. Challenges remain for schools that pursue and adopt the status, and overall the academic track record has been mixed. Continue Reading »

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January
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.

Continue Reading »

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November
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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October
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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September
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.

Continue Reading »

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August
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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