Archive for the 'School Accountability' Category

April
3rd 2014
Yes, Fordham, Colorado School Boards Matter; Let’s Encourage True Local Control

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & learning & Research & School Accountability & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Teachers

A long, long two-and-a-half years ago I shared with you my thoughts about school boards going the way of the horse and buggy. The article written by education reform senior statesman Checker Finn prompted me to weigh in:

Unlike many other areas of education reform, this is one in which Colorado would not figure to be a leader. Why? Finn himself points out that Colorado is in a small, select group in which school districts “are enshrined in the state constitutions.” And with that comes some measure of more power to effect positive, effective change within each of our state’s 178 school districts. That might help explain why Douglas County is such a shining light in the area of choice-friendly policies.

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March
24th 2014
Colo. Digital Learning Policy Alternate Route Gives Some Spring Break Hope

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & learning & Online Schools & School Accountability & School Finance & State Board of Education & State Legislature

Have you ever tried to plan a trip to an important new destination? Maybe it was a long road trip for SPRING BREAK or a family vacation or a visit to an old friend who moved to a new town. You program your GPS, or at least make a search on Google Maps first. (Back in the old days, they tell me you had to actually use a fold-up road map, plotting your way across highways from one city to the next.)

One thing those old road maps couldn’t tell you — and even sometimes the fancy technology lets you down — is about major road construction, a rush-hour traffic jam, or a bridge washed out ahead. You may have already plotted your route, but at that point an unexpected development compels you to go back, change the plan, and find a detour.

Almost a couple full years ago now, my Education Policy Center friends worked with online school leaders and other smart policy folks to help craft a Digital Learning Policy Road Map for Colorado. The brief report laid out a sequence of concrete changes that needed to happen to ensure digital technology was best used to “enhance opportunities for Colorado’s children to achieve educational success.” Continue Reading »

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March
13th 2014
Whoa… Are the Wheels Starting to Come Off Common Core in Colorado?

Posted under Federal Government & Grades and Standards & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Accountability & State Board of Education & State Legislature

The more the pro-Common Core crowd doubles down, the more traction the opposition gains. And I can’t say I’m terribly disappointed. Snarky online quizzes that studiously avoid the term “Common Core” aren’t helpful for making the case to back national standards.

On the other hand, Rick Hess’ clever and insightful satire (I hope that debating federal policy with a UFO is indeed satire) sheds some real light on why their effort is spinning its wheels at best, and more likely starting to spin out of control: Continue Reading »

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February
3rd 2014
Good Information is the Fuel That Makes Good Policies Like Course Choice Work

Posted under Journalism & Online Schools & Parents & Research & School Accountability & School Choice & School Finance

Today we move beyond the growing annual celebration of National School Choice Week (and fun pictures from my Education Policy Center friends’ Thursday night event). Now right in front of us stands Digital Learning Day and the growing reminder that we need to expand the notion of school choice to include course choice!

Nearly two years ago now, my senior education policy analyst buddy wrote a paper calling for Colorado to adopt a system of course-level funding. Back then, Utah was the pioneer model for creating such a system to offer students more flexibility and access to quality learning options. Now Louisiana, Florida, and even Michigan are on board with course choice programs, too. Continue Reading »

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January
22nd 2014
Dougco Collision on Testing and Accountability Could Rattle Reform Debate

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & School Accountability & School Board & State Legislature & Suburban Schools & Teachers

Have you ever watched a scene in an action movie (in my case, one that’s obviously edited for younger viewers to enjoy) where two cars, or trains, or planes are on a collision course? The characters in the movie may not realize what’s coming, but everyone watching in the theater or at home can sense that they are about to crash into each other. Then 3-2-1…

BOOM!!! Bent metal, broken glass, and explosions… cool stuff.

I exaggerate just a little to say that’s kind of how I feel today. Minding my own business at Chalkbeat Colorado, I’m directed to a Denver Post story with the headline “Douglas schools seek to opt out of federal, state standardized testing.” This is the super-conservative school board that’s transforming education, right? Continue Reading »

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January
21st 2014
Colorado and Washington, DC: A Tale of Two School Principal Evaluation Systems

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Principals & Research & School Accountability & Teachers & Urban Schools

Crafting policy often can be much more art than science. Several years back research showed us that educator evaluation systems were not making meaningful distinctions, and that 98 or 99 percent of teachers were rated effective on a two-tier scale. As a result of such findings, the move to update evaluations has been a big agenda item in many states, with Colorado one of the pioneers.

You know what I’m talking about… SB 191? Right. A core piece of the legislation required that at least 50 percent of the evaluation must be tied to measures of student academic growth (including multiple measures beyond the state assessment regime). School districts could use their own systems that abide by the standard. But most districts adopted the state’s model plan, which clearly defines the other 50 percent of the evaluation.

One of the great strengths of SB 191 was that it focused on upgrading evaluations for school principals, parallel with teachers. Union officials thrive off the fear that building leaders might subjectively and unfairly target instructors. That (real or apparent) threat is greatly diminished if a principal is rated on the same standard. Continue Reading »

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January
16th 2014
I’ll Stick My Toe into the Fordham-Cato School Choice Argument… for Five Minutes

Posted under Grades and Standards & Just For Fun & Parents & Private Schools & Research & School Accountability & School Choice & Tax Credits

There’s nothing quite like taking a step into no man’s land, wandering into an argument between friends. A lot of us are on the school choice bandwagon together, but that certainly doesn’t mean everyone has the same views of what a program should look like. The Fordham Institute this week unveiled its “public accountability and private-school choice” toolkit. It called for administering state tests to all voucher / scholarship recipients, and reporting school-by-school test results if at least 10 kids participated.

It took very little time for the argument to begin: Continue Reading »

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January
3rd 2014
Can Schools Boost Brain Skills for Reading, Not Just Raise Test Scores?

Posted under Grades and Standards & learning & reading & Research & School Accountability & Suburban Schools

Thanks once again to the edublog linking queen Joanne Jacobs, a December Scientific American column by psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman caught my attention. And it should yours, too.

The author unpacks a study of Boston students that found while some schools improved performance on standardized academic assessments, they didn’t really improve measures of cognitive ability. In other words, better schools boost scores on math and reading tests, but those students’ brain skills still are functioning about the same.

Kaufman begins the column by citing some of his own recent research that unsurprisingly shows “good standardized test takers also tend to have high cognitive ability.” I am curious to see more about how the two results mesh. As more schools increase test scores without registering an effect on brain skills, does the identified relationship or tendency fade? Continue Reading »

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December
10th 2013
EAGLE-Net Broadband Delays Test Patient Hopes for Digital Learning Policies

Posted under Grades and Standards & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & learning & Online Schools & Research & School Accountability & School Choice & School Finance

The power and potential of blended learning stand out in several ways. It can give students more control over their education — like having a customized playlist — and enable them to advance at their own pace. It can expand the reach of effective teachers and allow them to focus time more efficiently on what they do best. It can foster more innovation to speed up the process of building effective learning systems. And it can do all that without requiring new revenue.

Some of the greatest potential to help students lies in Colorado’s rural areas, and some districts have begun to embrace the possibilities. But in order to make blended learning work, they have to access digital technology in the form of high-speed Internet access. Hence, an eye-catching new story by Andy Vuong in the Denver Post (H/T Complete Colorado): Continue Reading »

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October
21st 2013
Even This Post Might Be Too Much Attention on Common Core Debate

Posted under Foreign Countries & Grades and Standards & Private Schools & Research & School Accountability & School Choice & Teachers

The reason I rarely write about Common Core is the same reason why I’m writing about it today. Huh, you say? America’s fourth most influential Edu-Scholar Eric Hanushek makes a persuasive case in U.S. News:

Policymakers and reform advocates alike have rallied around introducing a set of national content standards, suggesting that this will jump-start the stagnating achievement of U.S. students. As history clearly indicates, simply calling for students to know more is not the same as ensuring they will learn more.

Bottom line (read the whole article): Common Core standards are not going to move the needle on the important content and skills U.S. students learn. For every Massachusetts that performs fairly well with high standards, there’s a California that has high standards but struggles tremendously in its educational results. Continue Reading »

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