Archive for the 'School Accountability' Category

February
23rd 2016
Failing Schools, Federal Grants, and Turnaround Efforts in Colorado

Posted under Accountability & Federal Government & School Accountability & State Board of Education

We ended last week on a high note, with conservatives banding together to preserve accountability in Colorado even in the absence of federal requirements to do so. Then a Sunday Denver Post story about federally funded school turnaround efforts in Colorado drove home the fact that—brace for impact—federal efforts at school improvement aren’t always all that helpful. From the story:

At best, the results of this nationwide experiment that shoveled money at the country’s lowest-performing 5 percent of schools are unconvincing. A Denver Post analysis of student achievement data and federal School Improvement Grant funds found little correlation between money and academic gains.

The story examines data from No Child Left Behind’s School Improvement Grant (SIG) program, which is a roughly $7 billion federal grant program under Title I of ESEA. Well, at least it was a roughly $7 billion federal grant program under ESEA. The grant program is not included under the new version of ESEA/NCLB known ESSA. Education sure does love its acronyms…

Anyway, the program was aimed at improving the lowest-performing schools in the country. Basically, the feds awarded money to state education providers (like CDE), and those providers then turned around and offered the money through a “competitive” process to local school districts. In turn, the local school districts were supposed to target the money toward effective improvements in their lowest-performing schools. Continue Reading »

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December
31st 2015
Little Eddie’s Look Back at 2015

Posted under Accountability & Edublogging & Education Politics & Just For Fun & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Accountability & School Board & School Choice & State Legislature & Testing & Union

I can’t believe I’m already saying this, but 2015 is almost over! It’s been such a busy, exciting year that it feels like it started just yesterday. I hope all my faithful readers are getting ready to launch into a 2016 full of prosperity, happiness, and better education for Colorado kids! For now, let’s pause and take a look back at the top five most exciting edu-happenings of 2015. Continue Reading »

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December
24th 2015
Colorado Gets an Awkward Christmas Present: The SAT

Posted under Accountability & Education Politics & Grades and Standards & High School & School Accountability & State Board of Education & Testing

It’s almost Christmas, friends! We will all sit down tomorrow morning and unwrap a bunch of gifts while stuffing our faces with various tasty treats. Some of those gifts will be awesome. Action figures, video games, and bikes spring immediately to mind. Other gifts—socks, weird-flavored chocolates, and gift certificates to restaurants you hate—will be less exciting. When you open those awkward gifts, you’ll have that uncomfortable moment where you’re stuck between needing to be polite and wanting to ask loudly what in the world the person who gave you the gift was thinking.

I’m having one of those moments right now.

You see, Colorado education is getting its own awkward Christmas present this year: A shift away from the venerable, well-respected ACT. Instead, high school juniors will now take the SAT, a creation of the College Board (of APUSH fame). I’ll try to be as polite as possible in the face of this weird gift, but I am unable to refrain from asking an important question: Huh?

Continue Reading »

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December
10th 2015
It Actually Happened… ESSA Becomes a Reality

Posted under Accountability & Congress & Education Politics & Federal Government & Grades and Standards & Legislation & School Accountability & Teachers & Testing

It’s been a long time since we first started eyeballing the then-distant possibility of a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which most of us have grown to know in its current form as No Child Left Behind. We’ve looked at the weird alliances the effort spawned, done a little detective work, and tracked the progress of the reauthorization as it slowly developed into its near-final form.

After the bill sailed through the House and later the Senate, it became clear that this thing was actually going to happen despite years of waiting (the law was due to be reauthorized in 2007). And by golly, it really did. Continue Reading »

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December
3rd 2015
NCLB Rewrite Now Looking Like a Distinct Possibility

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

Earlier this week, I gave you an overview of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the compromise No Child Left Behind rewrite that recently emerged from conference committee in D.C. At the end of that post, I mentioned how quickly the bill is moving. Well, as it turns out, it’s moving even more quickly than I had anticipated.

The U.S. House passed the bill with a 359-64 vote yesterday. And according to a New York Times article about the effort, it may soon clear the U.S. Senate and, most notably, the President’s desk:

After months of compromise and negotiation, the bill earned nearly unanimous approval from a conference committee of House and Senate members two weeks ago, and is expected to be passed by the Senate next week. A White House official said Wednesday that President Obama plans to sign it when it reaches his desk.

I’m not surprised to hear that the Senate will be taking up the bill quickly, but this is the first time I’ve seen official(ish) word that the White House intends to sign the compromise. All things considered, I think that’s great news. Continue Reading »

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December
1st 2015
ESEA Compromise Emerges in Washington

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Grades and Standards & School Accountability & School Choice & Testing

As most of you know, and as I will proudly proclaim once again, your pal Little Eddie has officially turned six. I’m practically a grown-up. That means I have more liberty to stay up later, make choices regarding vegetable consumption at dinner, and riddle my blog posts with six-year-old snark.

To ring in my newfound maturity, I need a big, important post. And what could be bigger or more important than the fact that we now stand on the cusp of ESEA reauthorization?

We’ve talked a fair amount about the somewhat tortured ESEA reauthorization process since last January.  After some rough waters earlier this year, grinding work during the summer led to what I thought was a fairly promising reauthorization bill passing in the U.S. House of Representatives. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Senate followed suit by passing its own bipartisan bill. Conflicts between the more conservative House bill and the more moderate Senate bill (and the White House, which has been a little weird about the whole thing) necessitated a conference committee between the chambers to work out differences.

Now, after months of waiting, what looks like a viable compromise bill has emerged. It’s getting a fair amount of praise from a number of corners—some of which I find a little concerning—but many folks are still trying to parse through the massive document. If you’d care to read the entire 1,061 page bill, you can find it here.

For those who value their eyesight and are not paid to undertake masochistic feats of pure wonkery, Education Week has put together a helpful rundown of the provisions in the bill.  Here are a few of what I think are the most important bits: Continue Reading »

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November
13th 2015
New PARCC Scores Are Ugly, but the Real Question Is Why

Posted under Accountability & Research & School Accountability & School Board & School Choice & Testing

(An important note for today’s post before we get started: PARCC results cannot and should not be compared to previous TCAP or CSAP results. Seriously, don’t do that. Yes, I’m looking at you.)

A lot of kids my age would love to go to the park on a fine Friday like this one. I, however, feel obligated to spend some time trudging through a PARCC of a different sort today. Buckle your seatbelts for some intense nerdery.

Yesterday saw the release of Colorado’s first-ever PARCC results. For those not in the edu-loop, PARCC is Colorado’s new statewide assessment in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics. It officially supplanted the TCAP last school year.

Many of you probably know that PARCC hasn’t exactly been happily embraced. A great many states have run away from it like scalded dogs (note that the number of PARCC states is now six, with D.C. tacked on for good measure) despite recent changes designed to make the test less onerous.

Given all the hubbub, saying that folks on all sides of the issue were anxiously anticipating these results would be an understatement. Unfortunately (though not unexpectedly), those results were less than flattering. I’ll let you dig through the nitty gritty numbers if you’re so inclined. For now, we’ll just hit some highlights and look at a couple of nifty charts from an excellent Chalkbeat Colorado article on yesterday’s score release. You should definitely go read that article, and this one, if you’re into charts as much as I am. You can also play around with their cool database tool if scrolling through PDFs isn’t your thing.

Chart from Chalkbeat Colorado

Chart from Chalkbeat Colorado

Continue Reading »

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November
11th 2015
Ugly Smear Column Tries, Fails to Shove Conservative Education Reform Aside

Posted under Accountability & Courts & Education Politics & Federal Government & Innovation and Reform & Private Schools & Privatization & Public Charter Schools & School Accountability & School Board & School Choice & State Board of Education & Teachers & Union

I hope you all enjoyed a nice, long break from recent depressing edu-happenings over the last few days. I also hope that your disappointment is tempered by hope for the future. As my friend Ross Izard pointed out in a recent op-ed—and as my dad always says—it ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings.

I never have figured out who that fat lady is, but I’m pretty positive it isn’t Michael Vaughn, a former DPS spokesperson turned communications director for Education Post. Mr. Vaughn recently wrote a post-election Denver Post op-ed about the fact that “real” reform is winning in Colorado. It’s a rather nasty piece in which he celebrates reform victories in Denver while all but dancing on the graves of conservative education reformers around the state.

When I look at what conservative education reform folks have pushed for over the past few years in Jeffco, Thompson, Dougco, and other districts, I see a long list of meaningful reforms. New curricula, new charter schools, pay-for-performance systems, equal funding for charter students, collective bargaining reform—you name it, it’s there. But that doesn’t seem to qualify as true reform for Vaughn, who instead offers this definition of the term:

I know there’s no tried-and-true definition of reform, but there are generally accepted reform stances: school choice/charter schools; Common Core; annual, federally mandated standardized testing; teacher and school accountability. So let’s see how the losing candidates stand on these issues.

He goes on to hammer Dougco for applying for a State Board of Education Waiver from PARCC testing, taking school choice to “an extreme” with its local voucher program, “busting the union,” and “jamming” policies down teachers’ throats. He then implicitly extends most of those critiques to Jeffco, and adds an astonishingly unsophisticated take on the A.P. U.S. History fiasco that fails to acknowledge the fact that despite Julie Williams’ blunt approach to the situation, conservative concerns about the framework were ultimately validated by the College Board itself.

Sadly, those flubs are far from the worst the column has to offer. Continue Reading »

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October
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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September
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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