Archive for the 'School Choice' Category

June
15th 2016
New Report Reviews Research on Educational Choice

Posted under Education Savings Accounts & Research & School Choice & Tax Credits & Vouchers

I know this isn’t a “cool” thing to say, but I get really excited about new research. I eat up statistical analyses like most people eat donuts (I eat those, as well). But do you know what is way more exciting than a single new study on a fascinating education topic? A review of a whole bunch of tasty research.

Enter the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice’s new edition of “A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice.” Written by Dr. Greg Forster, these reports are a great way to stay up to date with the latest research on educational choice. The last report was published in 2013, so this new edition brings a bunch of new information to the table. Continue Reading »

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June
10th 2016
Dougco’s Voucher Lawsuit Muddle Explained

Posted under Colorado Supreme Court & Constitution & Courts & Douglas County & Legal Issues & School Choice & United States Supreme Court

I got a lot of questions yesterday about yet another ruling on the Douglas County voucher program. Was this good news? Was it bad news? Which lawsuit was this anyway? What the heck is going on in Douglas County?

It occurred to me after about the 50th question that stuff has gotten pretty complicated when it comes to vouchers in Dougco. We’re going to dedicate today’s post to clearing up the confusion. After all, there’s nothing worse than being perplexed over the weekend.

Let’s start from the beginning. Most everyone probably remembers that the original Dougco voucher program was shot down by the Colorado Supreme Court almost a year ago thanks to our state’s icky Blaine Amendment. That decision was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the whole process was complicated by the tragic (in so, so many ways) death of Justice Antonin Scalia and the fact that SCOTUS had already taken a Blaine-related case out of Missouri.

The case remains in limbo somewhere in the echoing hallways of the U.S. Supreme Court, which has yet to decide whether it will hear the case at all. It will likely remain undecided for some time. But Douglas County didn’t want to wait to get a voucher program up and running, so it approved a new version that excludes faith-based schools in March 2016.

For those of you keeping score, this means that there are now two Dougco voucher programs out there. Continue Reading »

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May
13th 2016
New Study Studies Studies on School Choice

Posted under Private Schools & Research & School Choice & Tax Credits

Well, friends, the 2016 legislative session is officially a done deal. I’ll have an official wrap-up (autopsy?) for you next week, but for now we can all breathe a little easier knowing that the crush of state-level education politics will recede for the most part until the fall. That leaves plenty of time to nerd it up, and nerd it up we shall.

Let’s get the policy party started today with a new study out of the University of Arkansas’s Department of Education Reform. Written by M. Danish Shakeel, Kaitlin P. Anderson, and Patrick J. Wolf, the study takes a look at the effects of private school choice programs around the world. Or, rather, the study looks at studies on the effects of private school choice programs around the world. That makes it a “meta-study.” Today’s lesson in impenetrable academic jargon: Studying studies yields meta-studies. You’re welcome.

Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat: I have a love-hate relationship with meta-studies. On one hand, comprehensive examinations of previous research are enormously valuable for those of us who swim in policy waters. On the other hand, they can easily fall victim to cherry picking, or the tendency to pick only studies that agree with whatever point you want to make. Then you have the issue of ensuring that the studies you are studying with your meta-study are actually decent—a question that often leads to screening processes that can, once again, easily fall victim to bias. That’s why you so often see meta-studies on the same subject reaching entirely different conclusions.

As a matter of fact, this particular meta-study is largely intended to correct what the researchers see as flaws in previous reviews of school choice research. Continue Reading »

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April
22nd 2016
Catching up on Some Exciting Policy Work

Posted under Blaine Amendments & Colorado General Assembly & Edublogging & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & State Legislature

It’s Friday! Birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and Little Eddie is wearing shorts at work. That’s right, shorts. I’ll be putting those shorts to good use this afternoon when I head to the Denver zoo for a fun safari.

You probably guessed that all of that information is leading to the part where I say that today’s post will be quick and easy. You are correct. There’s a ton of stuff to talk about, including a disturbingly Masters-like state supreme court ruling on teacher tenure in North Carolina, the Colorado Senate Education Committee’s laudable work in passing Senate Bill 16-188 on equitable charter funding last night, and a whole raft of new and interesting research. We’ll get to all that—or at least a lot of it.

For now, though, I think it would be good to catch you up on some of the very cool work being done by my policy friends at the Independence Institute. In fact, let’s do that with a list. Everyone likes lists. Continue Reading »

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April
7th 2016
Opting out of What, Exactly?

Posted under Accountability & Innovation and Reform & Opt Outs & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & Testing & Union

It’s Thursday again, which (I think) still qualifies as a serious work day. I suppose that means we should do something that amounts to serious education policy-ing rather than just watching a video or something. Oh, stop looking at me like that. You like it when we get nerdy.

If the plan is for us to be serious today, we should pick a super-serious topic. And if we have to pick a super-serious topic, what could be better than opting out of statewide assessments? It is, after all, testing season in Colorado.

I was thinking about opt outs yesterday as I read a Politico article about a new push by the opt-out “movement” to diversify the people who participate. Or should I say who don’t participate? Whatever. The point is that they want the movement to be less white. More specifically, they’d like it to be less white and poorer.

Now why would opt-out folks want something like that? Continue Reading »

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March
18th 2016
Dougco Restarts Its Voucher Program, Minus Religious Schools

Posted under Blaine Amendments & Douglas County & School Board & School Choice

Just last week, we covered some Jeffco-tinted news about a student walkout/protest in Douglas County School District.  But those aren’t the only waves Dougco has made recently, or even the most important. No, the most exciting news to come out of the district is that the conservative board majority voted Tuesday to restart its local voucher program, the first of its kind in the nation.

This time, however, those pesky religious schools will have to sit out—along with any of the kids who wanted to attend them. The new program, now called the School Choice Grant Program, explicitly prohibits religious schools from participating. It also revisits the old program’s contentious charter school funding mechanism (and funding amounts), though that’s a conversation for another day. For now, let’s focus on the religious aspect.

Most of you already know about the original Choice Scholarship Program, so we won’t spend a lot of recounting all of the details. It’s been a while since we talked about the Dougco case’s legal slog in any detail, though, so I think it’s a good idea to pause and consider what’s going on here and what it means. Continue Reading »

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February
11th 2016
Winning By Losing: New ECCI Ratings Raise Some Interesting Questions

Posted under Accountability & Research & School Choice & Tax Credits

As you probably guessed from the long absence after my last post about two abominable “snowbills,” I’ve been spending a fair amount of time in the shiny hallways of the Colorado Capitol talking about the importance of choice and accountability.

Today, I’d like to take a break from politics and get back to policy. We’re going to do that by taking a look at the new Education Choice and Competition Index ratings from the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. Everybody likes ratings, right?

I’d bet the folks at Denver Public Schools are especially fond of ratings these days. Why? Well, because they sort of won. First, they took third place in a Fordham Institute analysis of America’s best cities for choice. And last week, Denver was revealed to be the highest-scoring large district in Brookings’ 2015 ECCI report—a pretty significant improvement from the district’s fifth-place finish in last year’s report. It was also the second-best district overall, surpassed only by New Orleans. In fact, it only lost out to the pretty awesome “Recovery District” by a single point (81-80) on Brookings’ 100-point scale.

First off, congratulations Denver! Woot! Please conduct the obligatory victory dance now. I’ll wait.

With that out the way, we have to do a little nerding (nope, not a word) and dig into the info. That’s what we do here, after all. Brace yourselves, there be math ahead.  Continue Reading »

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January
29th 2016
The Inevitability of Educational Choice

Posted under Magnet School & Online Schools & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & Tax Credits

Well, my friends, National School Choice Week 2016 is almost over. I know, I know. Every week should really be National School Choice Week. But let’s be honest, we can’t expect to pull together massive rallies like the one we had yesterday every week. And hey, at least you got to watch some sweet videos and learn a new dance.

As this year’s biggest school choice celebration winds down, I think it’s good for us to pause and consider how far educational choice has come in America. Private school choice experienced explosive growth across the country in 2015, with 15 states adopting or expanding 21 different educational choice programs. More than half the states in America now offer some type of private educational choice option—an astonishing 59 programs in total.

There are now 166,588 kids using school vouchers; 219,833 kids in scholarship tax credit programs; and 7,046 kids making use of education savings accounts in the United States. Sadly, Colorado has yet to unleash the full benefits of private school choice.

Growth in school choice hasn’t been limited to private schools. Public school choice is also expanding rapidly. There are 6,700 public charter schools in the United States. Those schools serve nearly three million kids.

There are an estimated 2.2 million kids being homeschooled in the United States. Another 320,000 students are enrolled in full-time online education, and 2.3 million students take online classes in addition to their brick-and-mortar education. Yet another 2.6 million students attend 3,200 magnet schools found in all 50 states.

Here in Colorado, there are now 226 charter schools serving more than 108,000 students. That’s about 12 percent of total public school enrollment in the state. Roughly 10 percent of PK-12 students in Colorado—nearly 87,000 kids—attend schools outside their districts of residence, and an uncountable number of others attend schools within their district other than their assigned neighborhood schools.

School choice is not just a thing. It is the thing.

And the best part? There’s no going back now. The educational choice movement has fundamentally altered the education paradigm. Now that parents and students have tasted educational freedom, there will be no returning to the days of rigid, monopolistic systems that too often fall short of meeting students’ needs. The Overton Window has shifted, and it will never shift back.

As Andy Smarick recently wrote in a piece fittingly titled “School Choice: The End of the Beginning”: “Increasingly, the conversation is no longer about whether to have school choice. It’s about how to make school choice work.”

We too often find ourselves sitting around tables talking about school choice as if it is still some newfangled, crazy idea. It’s not, and we should stop. We are not an idealistic minority, we are the majority.  Choice in education is the rule, not the exception. We’re the tide, not the sand castle.

Let’s make sure we enter this year’s school choice battles with the right perspective. Victory is, after all, inevitable.

 

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January
27th 2016
Celebrating National School Choice Week 2016

Posted under Edublogging & Education Politics & Legislation & School Choice & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Tax Credits

Does everybody know what time it is? No, not Tool Time. Do I look like Tim Allen to you?

It’s National School Choice Week! This year’s National School Choice Week is a big one, with 16,140 events scheduled around the country, including 318 here in Colorado. Governor Hickenlooper joined 31 other governors and 240 municipal and county leaders from across the country—the mayors of Denver, Aurora, Greeley, Lakewood, Thornton, and county leaders from Sedgwick County among them—in issuing an official proclamation that this week is all about school choice. Awesome.

In keeping with my yearly tradition of using videos to entertain you during this important time rather than relying solely upon my acid wit, we will celebrate here on Ed is Watching by… well, watching some cool videos.

But before you settle in with your popcorn or Sour Patch Kids or whatever tasty snacks education policy nerds eat while watching school choice videos, I have an important announcement: There will be a very big, very fun, and yes, very yellow National School Choice Week rally on the west steps of the Colorado Capitol tomorrow morning (January 28) at 11:30 a.m.  Be there, or forever suffer the knowledge that you missed out on great speakers like former Lt. Governor Barbara O’Brien and new Colorado Commissioner of Education Rich Crandall, happy kids, and fuzzy yellow scarves. Continue Reading »

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January
15th 2016
New Study on LA Voucher Program Holds Important Lessons for Choice Advocates

Posted under Accountability & Research & School Choice & Tax Credits

Welcome back, fellow policy explorers. I apologize for my absence these past few days, but the start of the 2016 legislative session and other pressing edu-business issues have kept me away from my keyboard this week. We’re back to work today, and will be looking at some new school choice research out of Louisiana.

First, a bit of bad news. We can no longer say no random-assignment study has ever found that private school choice programs have a negative effect on students. Until recently, there had been 12 random-assignment studies on the topic, of which six found positive impacts for all students, five found positive impacts for some students and not for others, and one found no visible effect.

Enter unlucky number 13. A working paper recently published by the National Bureau of Economic Research examined the effects of the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP), which provides vouchers for lower-income kids attending public schools with a C, D, or F grade under the state’s evaluation system. Started in 2008, the program was initially limited to just New Orleans—a place that many of you know I happen to see as something of a proof point in the reform conversation. The program went statewide in 2012, and now serves about 7,100 kids.

Because the LSP uses a lottery system to award vouchers at schools with more applicants than available seats, the researchers were able to easily compare randomly assigned (thus, “random-assignment”) voucher recipients and non-recipients in the program’s first statewide year. I’ll let you work your way through the full paper and its methodology on your own if you are so inclined. For now, we’ll settle for a snippet from the abstract:

This comparison reveals that LSP participation substantially reduces academic achievement. Attendance at an LSP-eligible private school lowers math scores by 0.4 standard deviations and increases the likelihood of a failing score by 50 percent. Voucher effects for reading, science and social studies are also negative and large. The negative impacts of vouchers are consistent across income groups, geographic areas, and private school characteristics, and are larger for younger children. Continue Reading »

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