Archive for the 'School Accountability' Category

May
27th 2015
Students’ Walk in the PARCC Gets a Little Shorter

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & School Accountability & State Legislature & Testing

It wasn’t too long ago that we were in the midst of a high-stakes game of legislative testing chicken.  The Great Testing Debate of 2015 eventually ground to a (sort of) conclusion that involved reducing the amount of testing overall and creating a pilot program to look into new possibilities on the testing front. Yes, I remember that I promised you a breakdown of that big, messy compromise a while back. No, we aren’t going to do that today.

Oh, stop looking so disappointed. We have plenty of time in the coming weeks to get our edu-nerd on when it comes to testing frequency and pilot programs. But as my policy friends Ben DeGrow and Ross Izard pointed out in a joint op-ed near the end of the legislative session, discussions about the tests being used–and how to make them better–are equally important.

That’s why I was glad to read last week that the PARCC consortium will be cutting down on both the amount of time students will spend taking tests and the logistical headaches caused by administering tests in two separate windows. Education Week provides a nice summary of the changes: Continue Reading »

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May
26th 2015
Stop Dumping Paperwork on Charter Applicants, and Focus on Success

Posted under Public Charter Schools & Research & School Accountability & School Board & School Choice & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Suburban Schools

Now that Memorial Day is past, and the unofficial start of summer has arrived, it’s time to start thinking about taking that fun family vacation. For me, it has to include going to the beach, or at least staying cool at a splashing fun water park. While I would enjoy swimming at the lake or at the kiddie pool, I don’t think anyone enjoys swimming through a pile of paperwork.

Yet as a new American Enterprise Institute report explains, too many public charter school authorizers are overloading applicants with questions and tasks that just aren’t necessary at getting to the bottom line of creating innovative, effective educational opportunities.

Michael McShane, Jenn Hatfield, and Elizabeth English specifically surveyed the application processes of 40 non-school-district authorizers, and found some upsetting results. School districts — which make up all the Colorado authorizers, except for the Charter School Institute — tend to lard up the process with obstacles to make it more difficult for new charters to emerge. But as AEI’s new research shows, even many of the alternatives have trouble getting it correct. Continue Reading »

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May
1st 2015
NEA President Reminds Us That Education Policy Belongs in Legislatures, Not Courts

Posted under Accountability & Courts & Education Politics & School Accountability & School Choice & Tax Credits & Teachers & Union

I don’t want to write about the teachers union today. I already did that this week, and it resulted in a whole bunch of grownups calling me and my friend Ross Izard ugly names. When I told Ross, he just laughed and said “If you’re catching flak, you’re over the target.” I don’t really know what that means, but I know I don’t like meanies.

Besides, I’d much rather write about the fact that the top schools in Denver are charters, or a weird math thing called Simpson’s Paradox and how it relates to the recent release of NAEP social studies scores. Even better, I’d like to just post a video of a dinosaur and leave it at that.

Unfortunately those things aren’t in the cards (today). My friend Jason Bedrick caught my attention with a tweet too fantastic to ignore this morning:

Fine. We’ll talk about unions again. I have no choice if they’re going to make it this easy. Continue Reading »

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April
30th 2015
High-Stakes Game of Legislative Testing Chicken Nears Point of No Return

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Just For Fun & School Accountability & State Legislature & Testing

There’s nothing quite like the last-minute drama of a Colorado legislative session to fire up the creative juices. Last year at this time, I imagined the crazy showdown over transparency in the Student Success Act as an old gangster film.

This time around, the big looming education issue is what to do about testing. No need to rehash it all, since it’s ground I’ve covered here thoroughly in recent days.

A couple weeks ago, I pointed out that Colorado seems to be stuck in a testing rut. With less than a week to go in the legislative session and both remaining testing bills (HB 1323 and SB 257) stalled in their respective houses, it sure looks like that rut is getting even deeper.

Denver Post education reporter Eric Gorski had a great piece yesterday about how the debate is stuck in limbo, and I’m not just praising him because he included one of my Tweets in the story: Continue Reading »

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April
14th 2015
Whichever Way You Look, Colorado Seems to be Stuck in a Testing Rut

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & Independence Institute & Parents & School Accountability & State Legislature & Testing

I came across a story in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times under the headline: “Majority of California’s Latino voters highly value school testing.” Given the state of affairs in Colorado, how could something like that escape my attention?

A majority of Latino voters, 55%, said mandatory exams improve public education in the state by gauging student progress and providing teachers with vital information. Nearly the same percentage of white voters said such exams are harmful because they force educators to narrow instruction and don’t account for different styles of learning.

The survey, sponsored by the Times, found that even higher percentages of Californians (77% Latino, 56% White, 64% Total) agreed that “students’ achievement and progress on standardized tests” should be an important or the most important factor in teacher pay and evaluations. That finding casts even more doubt on the suspect poll finding trumpeted by the National Education Association last year.

Especially interesting, given this is the state that gave us last year’s earth-shattering Vergara ruling. Though no one seems to have consulted the Colorado Education Association president, who recently told legislators that “all teachers do the same job.” Continue Reading »

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April
9th 2015
Tick, Tock: Accountability Clock Leading Some CO School Districts to Watershed

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Grades and Standards & High School & innovation schools & Public Charter Schools & School Accountability & State Board of Education

Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Not many clocks today actually make that noise anymore. But even with the digital timepieces we’re more accustomed to now (and are pretty much all little people like me have known), if you set the alarm you know that it’s bound to go off at some point.

Whether it’s a soothing chime, a familiar radio station, or a deeply irritating Beep, beep, beep, your time to sleep (or whatever) eventually will run out. The question for struggling Colorado schools and districts is what’s going to happen after time is up. That time is drawing perilously close for some.

As Chalkbeat Colorado reports this morning, the 5-year accountability clock is quickly running out for some districts: Continue Reading »

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January
30th 2015
Testing Issue Isn’t as Easy as “1, 2, 3,” But You’ve Got to Start Somewhere

Posted under Independence Institute & Principals & School Accountability & School Board & State Legislature & Teachers & Testing

Have you ever watched a big person prepare to do some public speaking behind a microphone? Or maybe you’ve done it yourself. Almost always, when someone asks if the microphone is working, the person leans into the device and says something like, “Testing, testing… 123, testing.”

Well, I’m worried that little rote phrase may take on a new meaning with Colorado’s Great Testing Debate. At least five K-12 assessment bills have been introduced thus far in the state legislature, with many more promised to come. Some issues may have clear and solid answers readily available, but to say that isn’t the case with this particular issue would be putting it mildly.

After all, we have several worthy competing goals to consider. Standardized tests done right are an important tool that provides some genuine, transparent, and comparable information about how well teachers, principals, and schools — heavily funded by public tax dollars — are doing in meeting important goals to help students.

At the same time, testing ought to measure authentic knowledge and skills, to provide prompt and useful feedback to teachers, and to differentiate meaningfully based on student abilities, all without posing too great a burden of instructional time lost. No problem, right? Continue Reading »

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January
13th 2015
Little Eddie’s Transparency Soap Box

Posted under Education Politics & School Accountability & School Board & Transparency

I love flashlights. I can remember many nights spent reading under my Batman sheets with a flashlight well past the time I should have been asleep. And just last week, I used a flashlight to hunt down the final Lego block I needed to finish my replica Millennium Falcon. It had fallen under the bed. As an added bonus, I also found three socks, two pennies, and a Superman action figure while I was down there.

As useful as real, physical flashlights are, though, I think metaphorical flashlights are even more powerful—especially when they’re used to shed light on political processes. That’s I celebrated when my Independence Institute friends successfully opened the door on district-union negotiations with Proposition 104 this past November. The proposition passed with a 70% yes vote, which to me says that Coloradans really, really value transparency in government. Who can blame them?

But district-union negotiations are only one part of the puzzle. School boards conduct a lot of business that falls well outside direct interactions with local unions. And although Colorado’s Sunshine Law requires school boards to provide “full and timely” notice of public meetings, a recent story from the Colorado Springs Gazette highlights the fact that this doesn’t necessarily mean that the public is given all the information they need to be fully involved: Continue Reading »

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December
18th 2014
Sticky Testing Issue Knot: Where’s the Education Policy Velcro?

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Grades and Standards & Parents & School Accountability & State Legislature & Teachers

I may be a precocious and talented young edublogger, but tying shoelaces still gives me fits. My mom insists on double-knotting the laces. Occasionally, in my dreams, I am stifled and frustrated by a tight pair of shoes that I can’t remove because they have been tied snugly so many times with knots that could drive your average sailor to mutiny.

Pardon the aside, but such a strange image is what comes to mind when I search for a winning solution out of the looming political debates about testing. Except it’s even worse, because the knotted material seems less like your standard cotton, polyester, or nylon, and more like this stuff.

A couple months ago, I delivered my highly non-controversial opinion that the testing issue wasn’t going away any time soon here in Colorado. But even then, I didn’t anticipate exactly where so much friction on the HB 1202 Standards and Assessment Task Force might take us. Cue a Chalkbeat’s detailed account of the group’s Monday meeting: Continue Reading »

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December
4th 2014
Report Madness! A Breakdown of This Week’s Charter School Reading

Posted under Public Charter Schools & reading & Research & School Accountability & School Board & School Choice

As a junior education policy explorer, I’ve noticed a couple of things. First, education stuff is complicated. Second, complicated education stuff leads to a whole bunch of reports and studies. Lastly, those reports  and studies tend to come in spurts—a fact that often results in a whole lot of reading for yours truly. Let it never be said that I don’t get enough reading practice! Today, I’m going to outline a couple of recent reports on our good friends in the charter sector.

The first report comes from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. In addition to highlighting the explosive growth of charters in many areas, the report details the largest and fastest growing charter communities in the nation by examining districts with over 10,000 students.

Not surprisingly given the city’s education efforts after Katrina, New Orleans remains at the top of the list for its percentage of students enrolled in charter schools (90 percent). Michigan and Ohio also take home prizes for having the most cities with a top-ten spot for charter enrollment share. Some Colorado districts also earn honorable mentions; Weld came in 15th, Brighton in 16th, Colorado Springs D11 in 20th, and DPS in 21st on the list of highest district charter enrollment percentages.

But Colorado’s biggest prize goes to—you guessed it—Douglas County, which placed fifth in the country on the report’s index for growth in charter student numbers. Continue Reading »

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