Archive for the 'State Board of Education' Category

July
19th 2016
Colorado State Board of Education Opens up the ESSA Conversation

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Ross Izard & State Board of Education

I broke out my (heavily used) soap box a couple weeks ago to talk about the importance of having a seat at the education policy grown-ups table. We talked about Hillary Clinton’s promise to guarantee the National Education Association some level of policy influence, as well as some of the questionable stuff that has come out of working groups here in Colorado that are woefully devoid of any semblance of balanced perspectives.

I finished the post by calling for Colorado’s new working committee on the Every Student Succeeds Act to be more inclusive of reform-minded voices, and worried aloud that the deck had already been stacked in favor of the omnipresent education establishment. It looks like I spoke too soon. Continue Reading »

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July
15th 2016
Public Policy Buckets and the Law of Unintended Consequences

Posted under Rural Schools & School Board & School Finance & State Board of Education & State Legislature

You know, we spend too much time thinking about public policy in buckets. I live in the education bucket, while others live in the finance bucket or the energy bucket or the transportation bucket or… well, you get the point. But the world doesn’t really work that way, does it? Public policy in one area often deeply affects policy in another. Pull the wrong string over here and you may inadvertently spark a crisis over there.

To underscore that point, I’d like to call your attention to Exhibit A: South Routt School District (SOROCO to the locals) and the unintended consequences of the War on Coal on education in Colorado.

South Routt is a tiny school district of about 350 PK-12 students near Steamboat. I’ll forgive you if you haven’t heard of it before. Like many rural school districts in Colorado, SOROCO lives on a budgetary razor’s edge where any large swing is likely to be felt very keenly.

You can imagine the district’s panic, then, when Peabody Energy, the country’s largest coal-mining company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April 2016. Why would a national coal company’s bankruptcy matter to South Routt? Because it turns out that bankrupt corporations aren’t great at paying their taxes. Continue Reading »

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July
7th 2016
The Importance of Having a Seat at the Table

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & State Board of Education

Having a “seat at the table” is especially important to me as a five-year-old. Don’t get me wrong; I love my Mickey Mouse table and chairs, and there are definitely benefits to sitting at the kids table—food fights, extra dessert, and the social acceptability of using spaghetti noodles as walrus tusks, to name a few. But there are good reasons to want to sit at the grown-up table, too. And as I get older (very, very slowly), I’m starting to wonder about the selection process used to determine which “adults” get to sit at the education policy grown-ups table. Continue Reading »

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July
1st 2016
SBOE Primaries Set Up Interesting November Battles

Posted under Education Politics & State Board of Education

I apologize for my absence over the last week, friends. I was in Nashville eating delicious barbeque and attending the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ annual conference. This year is a special year to hang out with charter leaders, advocates, and policy wonks, as it marks the 25th anniversary of the American charter school movement. Minnesota passed the first charter school law in 1991. Since then, the movement has grown to include nearly 7,000 schools serving roughly three million students across 42 states and the District of Columbia. Yeehaw!

I learned three things at the conference. First, that Nashville’s hot, sticky weather offers a compelling argument that we should regard air conditioning as the single most important invention in human history. Second, that southern food puts all other regional foods to shame. And finally, that the American charter school movement is absolutely stuffed with inspirational people from a thousand different walks of life and of a thousand different philosophical persuasions who wake up every day thinking about how they can fight for children’s futures. Seriously, these folks are amazing.

But as much fun as I had wandering around Nashville and chatting with real-life educational superheroes, I couldn’t fully unplug from Colorado issues. In particular, readers who are politically inclined may have noticed that Colorado completed its primary elections on Tuesday. There was lots of hubbub around the Republican pick for the U.S. Senate race, and a good deal of chatter around some surprising state legislative primaries on both sides of the aisle. But very few people seem to have paid attention to primary results in one of the most important edu-areas: the Colorado State Board of Education. Continue Reading »

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June
6th 2016
State Board Tackles Not-So-Super Subgroups

Posted under Accountability & Rural Schools & School Accountability & School Finance & State Board of Education & Taxpayers

Mondays are good days to roll up our sleeves and bury ourselves in education policy arcana. This Monday is a particularly good day to do that; on Wednesday, the Colorado State Board of Education will decide the fate of a complicated but important proposal related to our state’s school and district accountability system.

The proposal deals with the use of “super subgroups” (also called “combined subgroups”), which aggregate subgroups of students—minority, at-risk, English-language learner (ELL), and special education—into a single bucket for accountability purposes under Colorado’s school and district performance frameworks (SPFs and DPFs). Pushed by some school districts, interest groups, and the Colorado Department of Education, the shift toward combined subgroups is strongly opposed by a large, diverse coalition of organizations from across the political spectrum. Careful observers will note that one of those organizations is the Independence Institute, which I happen to be rather fond of.

Why is the Independence Institute involved? To understand that, you have to understand the issue in a little more detail. Brace yourself, thar be wonkery ahead. Continue Reading »

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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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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
8th 2016
The 2016 Legislative Session Cometh

Posted under Accountability & Education Politics & Governor & Grades and Standards & Legislation & School Choice & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Teachers & Testing

The 2015 legislative session seems like it just ended, but it’s almost time for Little Eddie to once again stalk the shiny hallways of the mythical place known as the Colorado Capitol. Next week marks the beginning of the 120-day sausage-making process that we call the Colorado legislative session. And let me tell you, it’s going to be a fun one. Or maybe that’s the wrong adjective.

The 2016 session kicks off on January 13, which is next Wednesday. If this session is anything like last session, which saw an incredible number of education bills introduced (and an equally incredible number killed), we’re in for a heck of a ride. And this year, that ride may even take us through areas that have little to do with education directly. So, what’s coming down the pike? Here are my best guesses on this year’s legislative edu-themes: Continue Reading »

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January
4th 2016
Tackling the GED

Posted under Adult Education & Edublogging & Grades and Standards & High School Equivalency & State Board of Education & Testing

I hope you’ve all had a little time to decompress after the holiday. We’re officially back in business now, though, so strap on your edu-gear and prepare yourselves for a beefy post. Today, my friends, we talk GED.

A couple of weeks ago, the Colorado State Board of Education voted to approve three separate high school equivalency exams: GED, HiSET, and the TASC. Holy acronyms, Batman!

Assuming the state can successfully negotiate contracts with the relevant vendors—GED Testing Service (now a joint venture of the American Council on Education and testing giant Pearson Education) for GED, Education Testing Services for HiSET, and McGraw-Hill/CTB for TASC—those looking for a high school equivalency diploma will be able to choose which of the three tests they’d like to take. Since the vote, I’ve had a number of people approach me about my thoughts on the idea of a “menu of tests” in the world of high school equivalency.

It has taken me a little time to fully collect my thoughts on the shift, but I think I’m there now. 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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