Archive for the 'School Accountability' Category

October
20th 2014
Serious Discussion: Common Core Missteps Demand a Smarter Response

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & School Accountability & School Choice

I’ve discovered a new way to make myself the least popular kid on the playground or at a birthday party. All I have to do is just come running in and say with my outdoor voice, “Hey, who wants to have a serious discussion about Common Core?” Rolling eyes. Blank stares. Condescending sneers. Befuddled head-shaking. I’ve seen it all. I might as well be offering to sell my parents’ old set of encyclopedias. But I’m here today to press on and help us get closer to the core of the Common Core debate.

Some of you might be saying: “Look, there goes that [little Eddie] rushing in where angels fear to tread.” Knowing how toxic the name “Common Core” has become, I think it makes sense to migrate straight past stories about inscrutable “Common Core” math algorithms and dismissive retorts from advocates about those hayseed “Common Core skeptics.”

If you want to be far smarter about this controversial topic than all of your friends, and help lead our state to a happy solution, you simply have to start by reading Rick Hess’ new National Affairs piece titled “How the Common Core Went Wrong.”

It’s a fairly lengthy essay, but one that sets the stage with thoughtfulness, candor, and precision. The idea of voluntary common educational standards that states can adopt has a lot of merit. Yet from the top, Hess offers plenty of criticism of the approach taken by Common Core backers. The different pieces come together in a way that reveals not necessarily a bad idea or malicious intent, but something more akin to poor judgment. The standards were: Continue Reading »

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October
9th 2014
Education Reform Times May Be A-Changin’, But Not for All

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Accountability & School Choice & Teachers

A long time ago, during an era known as “The Sixties,” there was a popular song called “The Times They Are a-Changin’”. Or so my Grandpa tells me. Apparently, it’s a sort of iconic piece about all the upheaval that was starting during this distant past. I have to say it’s a catchy tune, too.

Because it occurred to me as I perused this latest piece by the venerable long-time education reform Checker Finn, called “Time for a reboot” (my Dad says I should have referenced his old computer’s experience with the “blue screen of death,” but I digress). The pro-Common Core author acknowledges some of the complaints made about standardized testing and says reformers need to back away from “test-driven accountability” as a “primary tool”:

The wrong answer is to give up (or declare victory) and settle for the status quo. Far too many kids are still dropping out, far too few are entering college and the work force with the requisite skills, and far too many other countries are chowing down on our lunch.

Major-league education change is still needed, maybe now more than ever, and it’s no time for either complacency or despair.

Oh, it sure sounds like the times they are a-changin’! Finn says more emphasis needs to be placed on areas I’ve written a lot about here, including providing more quality choices, using technology to differentiate instruction, and letting the dollars follow the student. Bingo! Continue Reading »

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October
3rd 2014
Power to the Parents: Colorado Comes in 12th in CER Report

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Parents & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Accountability

Today, the battle continues in Jeffco following the school board’s very reasonable vote on the curriculum review controversy. But we’ve talked about Jeffco a lot recently, so I think it’s time to look at something a little more uplifting. And what could be more uplifting than empowering K-12 parents to make good decisions about their children’s educational paths?

Like a zealous English teacher, the Center for Education Reform (CER) loves to grade stuff. Most recently, I wrote about Colorado’s grade (and how it was calculated) when it comes to voucher programs. Now, the organization has released a report ranking each state based on what it calls the Parent Power Index (PPI). The scores are calculated using a variety of criteria ranging from school choice and teacher quality to transparency and media reliability.

Colorado barely missed a top-ten slot in this year’s report, coming in at number 12 with a PPI of 76 percent. Continue Reading »

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September
17th 2014
Russian Dolls and Education Policy: New Study Looks More Closely at Teacher Evaluations

Posted under Principals & Research & School Accountability & Teachers

Ever heard of a matryoshka doll? You may not have heard the name before, but I bet you’ll recognize the concept. You start with a big doll, break it open, and discover a smaller doll inside. That doll contains a still smaller doll, and inside that one is an even smaller one. You’ve got to dig down through an awful lot of layers before you reach the center. (Do you feel the education policy analogy coming on?)

Teacher evaluation is like the center of many education policy matryoshka dolls. In particular, strategic compensation and tenure policies are heavily dependent on the reliability and validity of the teacher evaluations being used. That realization raises some big questions regarding evaluation, some of which I’ve written about before.

As it turns out, even “evaluation” may be too big a doll. A new study by Matthew Chingos, Russ Whitehurst, and Katharine Lindquist argues that the area of greatest concern is more specific still: The portion of evaluations based on classroom observation. Continue Reading »

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September
10th 2014
Not a Walk in the PARCC: Testing and Local Control In Colorado

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & innovation schools & School Accountability & School Board & State Board of Education

I wanted to open this post with a cute joke rhyming joke, but it turns out nothing rhymes with local control, Common Core, or assessments. Unfortunately for you, this means you get serious Eddie today. Maybe it’s for the best—issues surrounding testing, local control, and the Common Core are pretty serious these days.

As the debate over Common Core and its associated assessments continues to heat up, things are likely to get even more serious. The argument for local control in testing is growing louder and stronger, and leaders at every level of the Colorado education system are beginning to ask very serious (and very important) questions about where power ought to reside when it comes to standards and assessments.

Today, those questions were most prominent at a State Board of Education meeting in Denver. Toward the end of a meeting segment aimed at better understanding assessment options in the state, both Vice Chairman Marcia Neal and Chairman Paul Lundeen voiced concerns about increasing federal influence in Colorado’s education system. Lundeen called on Colorado to find ways to return power to the local level while maintaining acceptable levels of accountability.

Both members acknowledged that any major change will take time, further research, and possibly even legislative action.  Continue Reading »

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September
8th 2014
Onward and Upward: Jeffco Forges Ahead with New Pay Model

Posted under School Accountability & School Board & Teachers

A while back, I wrote about a proposal in Jefferson County that aimed to reimagine the way the district’s pay structure works. The proposal generated much huffing and puffing by the teachers union. Happily, this has not resulted in them blowing the proverbial house down. In fact, the school board voted last week to press forward on a more sensible pay system.

The most interesting parts of the model’s newest iteration are the details, which a recent story in Chalkbeat outlines rather well: 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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May
30th 2014
Odds & Ends: Big Easy Goes All-Charter; Upgrading School Report Cards

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Accountability & School Choice & Urban Schools

It’s Friday, and it’s my blog. So if I want to cover two topics in a single post, well… I hope you like it. This story from Wednesday’s Washington Post was too significant to pass up. Lyndsey Layton reports that the last five traditional public schools in New Orleans close down this week, making the Recovery District the first all-charter district in the United States:

By most indicators, school quality and academic progress have improved in Katrina’s aftermath, although it’s difficult to make direct comparisons because the student population changed drastically after the hurricane, with thousands of students not returning.

Before the storm, the city’s high school graduation rate was 54.4 percent. In 2013, the rate for the Recovery School District was 77.6 percent. On average, 57 percent of students performed at grade level in math and reading in 2013, up from 23 percent in 2007, according to the state.

Continue Reading »

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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.

Continue Reading »

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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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