Archive for the 'School Board' Category

20th 2015
Change is in the Air — I’m Just Getting a Little Older, Though, Not Going Away

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Independence Institute & Just For Fun & Parents & School Board & School Choice

Maybe it’s because it’s the Friday before Thanksgiving, or maybe it’s because a couple of my really good Education Policy Center friends are picking up and moving to another state, but I’m not really keen on writing another long post today.

Change is in the air — change that I didn’t wish for, and change that will merit me keeping an eye on. I’m not just talking about the fact that, according to increasingly loud rumors, the Broncos’ great QB Peyton Manning may be ready to hang up his cleats once and for all (thanks to Complete Colorado for helping me to find this piece).

No, more fitting to my world, as part of Election 2015‘s Empire Strikes Back theme, union-backed candidates swept back into power in Jefferson County and Thompson, while reform opponents gained a foothold in Douglas County, the most interesting school district in America. Sad perhaps, but silver linings remain. Continue Reading »

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19th 2015
New Research Shows Negative Union Impact on Education Outcomes

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & learning & Research & School Board & Teachers & Union

Starting discussions about the role and effects of teachers unions certainly is one way of pouring cold water on a party or social event. A lot of the topics surrounding K-12 education policy and reform can be emotionally charged.

But if you want to step back from the heated discussions and consider what the research has to say… well, frankly, there isn’t a huge record to fall back on. If you remember back a couple years (when I was still 5), I shared about a new study that purported to draw a connection between higher teacher union dues collection and lower student proficiency.

At that time, I also highlighted the only two other known pieces of quality research that spoke to the question. Back in 2007, Dr. Terry Moe from Stanford found that at the local level, restrictive collective bargaining provisions negotiated by teachers unions “has a very negative impact on academic achievement,” especially among more challenging student populations.

Then there’s the ideal state-level laboratory test case of New Mexico, which Benjamin Lindy’s analysis for the Yale Law Journal demonstrated “mixed results from union bargaining power, better SAT scores but more poor kids dropping out of high school.”

Well, a new, rigorous state-level analysis reassures us that Colorado’s education labor terrain stands us in stronger stead to help students succeed than many other states do.

Writing for Education Next, Michael Lovenheim and Alexander Willen unpack the long-term effects of states that mandate school districts give unions local bargaining monopolies. Removing other factors from the equation, the authors reach some interesting conclusions about the impacts of going to school in a “duty-to-bargain” state: Continue Reading »

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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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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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5th 2015
Yes, Election Night Happened, But Keep Your Chins Up, Colorado Reformers

Posted under Courts & Denver & Education Politics & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Union

Yeah, yeah, yeah, school board elections happened in Colorado this week. Ok, so I promised to give you a full report yesterday. But I got a little busy crying in my Cheerios with some important stuff to do.

Do I really need to review what happened with the Teachers Union Empire Strikes Back? After all, my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow donned his Captain Obvious hat for Chalkbeat Colorado, observing “You can’t deny it was a setback for conservative reform at the school board level in Colorado. The unions had their day. There’s no doubt about it.”

Another of my Education Policy Center friends, Ross Izard, did a pretty good job laying it out in more detail. He optimistically notes that conservative education reformers have been bruised, but not beaten by the big recall in Jeffco or setbacks in a number of other districts: Continue Reading »


29th 2015
Look Under the District 38 School Board Campaign Mask

Posted under Accountability & Courts & Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Parents & School Board & School Finance & Suburban Schools & Union

The week of Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year. I can practically taste the candy in my mouth right now. One of the perks of being a perpetual 5-year-old is the unending chance to go Trick-or-Treat year after year without any sense of self-consciousness or guilt.

It also happens to be nearing the peak of crazy season with school board elections a mere 5 days away. I wish these two simultaneous happenings were just an unhappy coincidence. There’s more than meets the eye, though.

In the past, little yours truly has dressed as Mr. Potato Head and the Incredible Hulk. This time around, I’m going as a Super Secret Ninja Spy. Yet while Halloween-style dress up and make believe is perfectly fine for the younger set, that’s not so much the case when it comes to important races deciding who sits on school boards.

Coming to mind quickly, of course, is the union-backed “Clean Slate” candidates in Jeffco who claim to be independent in the nonpartisan election, while spending nearly two-thirds of all their campaign funds on Mad Dog Mail, “a Florida-based advertising firm that works exclusively with Democrats.”

Meanwhile, up in Thompson, you have incumbent school board member Denise Montagu not reporting $2,500 given by the Colorado Education Association, and then returning the same-sized contribution from another out-of-town teachers union.

A truly prime example can be found, though, in one of the lower profile Board of Education races, in northern El Paso County’s Lewis Palmer School District 38. There, as in a number of districts this year, some reform-minded candidates are opposing candidates who are more closely connected with the K-12 establishment. Continue Reading »

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27th 2015
Get Past the High Drama and Give Reform a Chance to Succeed

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & School Board & Suburban Schools & Union

Some days I wish that improving schools for all students and giving all families access to the best educational options were easier to accomplish. But change can be difficult, especially when self-interested groups have their power and prestige at stake.

Emotions are tense and high in Jefferson County, where a fact-challenged, union-backed recall election against three school board reformers has consumed a lot of attention. The good news is that it means many people care about the future and about the value of education.

The sad part, however, is that a group of people are persuaded that restoring control to the union and traditional bureaucratic powers will help quiet down the turmoil that the union and allies have manufactured from the very beginning.

Try to do things a little differently? You know, focus on raising student achievement, funding all public students fairly, and rewarding highly effective educators, and what do you get? Bullying of reform supporters — which apparently gets you promoted to PTA president.

But at least board members’ children aren’t subject to this harassment, right? Uh, guess again: Continue Reading »

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20th 2015
‘Tis the Season for Wild and Woolly School Board Election Stories

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & School Board & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Union & Urban Schools

There’s no season like school board election season. At least not in Colorado. Believe it or not, these are real stories. As my dad is fond of saying, “You can’t make this up.”

Let’s start in Jeffco, where the Denver Post shattered to pieces the whole justification for a politically motivated recall election. A video was just released about Julie Williams, one of the candidates being threatened with recall, explaining how her opponents manipulated her special-needs son to participate in a protest against her:

Yes, I agree it’s disgusting. As if to provide further clarification to answer the question at the end of the video — “Now, who are the real bullies?” — some folks have responded basically by calling Mrs. Williams and her son Randy liars. Really? I guess that’s what you do when you know you’re in the wrong.

Meanwhile, also in Jeffco, last week’s campaign finance reports caused me some concerns. One of the candidates for the non-recall seats, Ali Lasell, paid exactly $7,886.87 to a group called Mad Dog Mail:

…a Democratic persuasion mail firm based out of Florida. As our name indicates, we are strong, tough Democrats who fight against Republican smears and attacks, working only with Democratic campaigns.

Continue Reading »

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14th 2015
Denver Post Editorial Board Nails It on the Jeffco Recall… Again

Posted under Education Politics & School Board & Suburban Schools & Teachers

I know I’ve said this before, but it makes me feel good when even the mainstream media sees through the antics of anti-reform efforts in Colorado. The Denver Post has been a model for sensible, truthful commentary in recent months. So much so, in fact, that I feel compelled to make a bulleted list of their recent columns on education issues to avoid a monster paragraph:

After all that, one would think they’d be all out of good stuff to say. One would be wrong. The Denver Post Editorial Board has really outdone itself with its latest column about why the Jeffco recall effort ought to be rejected. Continue Reading »

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9th 2015
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: Jeffco’s Ken Witt Pokes Recall Advocates

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & Journalism & School Board

Friday Fun Day has arrived yet again. I don’t have super-secret materials to share or an inspiring video to show you today. But I do have something pretty darn entertaining: A school board reformer in Jeffco calling the bluff of recall proponents in Jeffco by filing a complaint against… himself.

Yes, that’s right. Tired of accusations that the board majority members have violated state sunshine laws, Jefferson County Board of Education President Ken Witt filed an ethics complaint against himself with the Colorado Ethics Commission. In his words:

This recall election will cost the district between $100,000-$200,000. That’s money that won’t go to our classrooms and our students. They have spent well over $100,000 gathering tens of thousands of signatures. … But not one is brave enough to sign a complaint? Out of the hundreds of thousands of dollars they have spent, they couldn’t spend the 49 cents for the stamp to send a complaint? And they accuse us of wasting money.

Continue Reading »

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