Archive for the 'School Accountability' Category

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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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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