Archive for the 'School Accountability' Category

7th 2015
Harrison’s Successes Continue Under Pay-For-Performance System

Posted under Accountability & School Accountability & Teachers & Testing

A few months ago, I wrote about how important it is to use the right metric—fairness for teachers— when evaluating the success of pay-for-performance compensation systems. That post was a response to a rather biased Denver Post article on the subject, which featured as one of its subheadings the assertion that these systems provide “No Benefit to Students.” It also completely failed to mention perhaps the state’s most interesting example of pay for performance in practice: Harrison School District in Colorado Springs.

As it turns out, that was a serious omission. 9News ran a story yesterday about Harrison’s success at elevating its minority students. From that story:

The Harrison School District has more minorities than most districts in Advanced Placement courses. It has more Black and Latino students in Gifted and Talented classes. Harrison has a consistent graduation rate of Black and Latino students of higher than 75 percent. And, testing data shows that this district located on the southern end of Colorado Springs has the smallest achievement gap between white students and students of color.

As the story implies, Harrison’s 2014 graduation data show that 77.7 percent of its black students graduated on time. That number was 75.3 for its Hispanic students. Those paying attention will note that the rate for black students is actually higher than the state’s overall graduation rate of 77.3 percent. For further reference, the state’s overall graduation rates for black and Hispanic students were just 69 percent and 66.7 percent respectively. Continue Reading »

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10th 2015
Wait, What? Washington Supreme Court Finds Charter Schools Unconstitutional

Posted under Accountability & Courts & Education Politics & Public Charter Schools & School Accountability & Union

I’ve got to admit, Little Eddie’s faith in judges’ ability to fairly decide education issues is beginning to fray. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that I’ve moved past fraying, and that my confidence has fully fallen apart at the seams like the blanket I’ve been dragging around with me since infancy.

Back in June, the Colorado Supreme Court made a dangerously broad decision to strike down the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program. Not long after that, a retired Colorado Court of Appeals judge handed Thompson School District perhaps the most heavily flawed “legal” document I’ve ever seen after a questionable (and expensive) non-binding arbitration process related to the district’s negotiations with its local teachers union.  Then, a Larimer County District Court judge contorted herself into a logical pretzel in order to force Thompson to abide by the terms of a contract that the board has voted down three separate times in one form or another.  

But as frustrating as judges have been in Colorado this year, our problems are small compared to a jaw-dropping 6-3 Washington Supreme Court decision that charter schools are unconstitutional. I actually had to read that headline twice to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood.

Sadly, I hadn’t. Continue Reading »

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21st 2015
Meet Colorado’s New PPI Report Card, Same as the Old PPI Report Card

Posted under Research & School Accountability & School Choice & Tax Credits

It’s Friday again, my friends, and that means it’s time for a more colorful look at education policy as we head into the weekend. I really wanted to highlight the American Federation for Children’s “Education Revolution” video, which was released a couple months ago but only just made it to my desk. But you’ll have to watch that on your own. We have colorful interactive maps to play with!

The Center for Education Reform (CER) recently released its 2015 Parent Power Index. It is absolutely stuffed with colorful, clickable goodies that are entirely too much fun to be considered education policy. But I’ll leave you to play with the report on your own time. We have important business to discuss!

If you’ll remember, Colorado came in 12th in the country last year, which was a very slight improvement from 13th in 2013. At the time, CER described Colorado this way:

Parents here are an active lot but have often been rebuffed at the legislative level when trying to expand their choices. That said, there is a strong charter law here. Many elements of digital learning are offered. The citizens of Colorado get to vote in school board elections when they go to the polls for other races. That fact, plus teacher quality measured at average levels, puts the Centennial State higher than average on giving parents power, but not high enough to put it in the top ten.

Not an unfair description. Colorado does have strong public school choice laws, a strong accountability system despite serious efforts to dismantle the system instead of working to improve it, and a very high level of transparency in education. What we don’t have is a lot of progress. Continue Reading »

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5th 2015
New Study Highlights Success in New Orleans

Posted under Accountability & Public Charter Schools & School Accountability & School Choice & Teachers & Union

You know what’s way more fun than debunking silly arguments about charter schools? And almost as exciting as celebrating fair funding for charter students in two of my favorite districts? New research showing huge improvements in New Orleans, which has the nation’s first all-charter system.

Well, almost all charter. Over 90 percent of the city’s students are enrolled in charter schools. For those roughly 40,000 kids, things are looking pretty bright. A new Education Next study by Douglas Harris finds some fairly staggering academic gains in the wake of sweeping reforms that followed New Orleans’ near-total destruction in Hurricane Katrina. Here’s a quick overview of those reforms from the study:

What happened to the New Orleans public schools following the tragic levee breeches after Hurricane Katrina is truly unprecedented. Within the span of one year, all public-school employees were fired, the teacher contract expired and was not replaced, and most attendance zones were eliminated. The state took control of almost all public schools and began holding them to relatively strict standards of academic achievement. Over time, the state turned all the schools under its authority over to charter management organizations (CMOs) that, in turn, dramatically reshaped the teacher workforce …

…. School leaders in New Orleans talk frequently about how critical flexibility in personnel management is to their overall school success. Free of state and local mandates and constraints from union contracts, leaders reopening schools after the storm could hire anyone they wanted, including uncertified teachers, and dismiss teachers relatively easily.

So yeah, the New Orleans reforms were a pretty big deal. They also happen to be rather controversial, so a great many people on both sides of the aisle have been watching the city rather closely. Continue Reading »

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16th 2015
Senate Passes Bipartisan NCLB Rewrite

Posted under Accountability & Education Politics & Federal Government & School Accountability & Testing

On Tuesday, we visited the faraway land of U.S. Congress, where the U.S. House recently (and narrowly) passed a sweeping reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as No Child Left Behind. I had planned on using today’s post to offer a brief update on the U.S. Senate’s ongoing NCLB reauthorization efforts today, but then those crafty senators went and passed the darn thing. So yeah, we’re going to talk about that.

The Senate’s effort has been spearheaded by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) and Patty Murray (D-Wash), who have been working hard to build a bill that could garner bipartisan support in the Senate. If votes are any indication, it looks like that effort was successful; the bill passed this afternoon on an 81-17 vote. I don’t know how much attention you pay to Congress (or even how much you should), but that’s pretty impressive. Even more impressive is the fact that it appears to have sailed through with relatively little drama on the floor. Continue Reading »

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15th 2015
Catching Up on Testing, Transparency, Accountability, Innovation… and More

Posted under Accountability & Federal Government & innovation schools & Rural Schools & School Accountability & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Teachers & Testing

If it seems like the middle of summer is a good time for me to catch up — well, that’s because it is. It took me a fairly long time to come down from my adrenaline rush that accompanied the high-stakes game of legislative testing chicken.

Like any legislative compromise, the final version of House Bill 1323 signed into law certainly isn’t perfect. But overall it made some positive changes.

Going forward, Colorado has maintained annual assessments but also streamlined the number and length of tests. The most underrated and underreported part of HB 1323 has to be the requirement that school districts “annually distribute to the parents of students…an assessment calendar.” The calendar is supposed to provide an estimate of annual testing times as well as which ones are required by the federal government, the state, or the district itself.

Little Eddie loves transparency and helpful information for parents! Continue Reading »

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14th 2015
ESEA Reauthorization Grinds Forward in Congress

Posted under Accountability & Education Politics & School Accountability & School Finance & Teachers & Testing

Colorado’s education scene is so interesting—and the federal education scene so ugly—that I rarely feel the need to drag our conversations beyond our state’s borders. Yet sometimes we have to force ourselves to look at what’s going on inside the Beltway, especially when the federal sausage-making process has the potential to touch Colorado in a big way. The ongoing ESEA reauthorization effort is just such a case.

For those distracted by summer weather and local education fights like the ones in Jefferson County and Thompson, Congress has been hard at work trying to finally reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which we currently know as No Child Left Behind. I was less than optimistic about the effort after HR 5 was denied a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year, but things appear to be moving along. Sort of.

Just last week, the House very narrowly passed (218-213) a rewrite of the law that goes further than the original HR 5. Continue Reading »

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10th 2015
PARCC’s Plummet

Posted under Accountability & Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & School Accountability & State Legislature & Testing

Despite valiant efforts, I was unable to find a nice, neat, uplifting Friday education story for us to talk about today. That’s kind of a good thing, though. Pressing issues like the Jeffco recall-oisseurs’ inability to tell the truth have distracted us from a large education policy discussion backlog. Today we’re going to nibble on that backlog by taking a look at the latest developments for the tortured PARCC test.

Faithful readers will recall that my policy friends Ben DeGrow and Ross Izard published a joint op-ed late last legislative session calling on Colorado’s policymakers to reach a compromise on the testing issue—and to seriously reevaluate the state’s use of the much-maligned PARCC exam. The testing compromise happened (and little else), but Colorado remains in the PARCC testing consortium for now.

Meanwhile, PARCC seems to be entering a death spiral of sorts. Continue Reading »

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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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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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