Archive for the 'State Legislature' Category

December
18th 2014
Sticky Testing Issue Knot: Where’s the Education Policy Velcro?

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

I may be a precocious and talented young edublogger, but tying shoelaces still gives me fits. My mom insists on double-knotting the laces. Occasionally, in my dreams, I am stifled and frustrated by a tight pair of shoes that I can’t remove because they have been tied snugly so many times with knots that could drive your average sailor to mutiny.

Pardon the aside, but such a strange image is what comes to mind when I search for a winning solution out of the looming political debates about testing. Except it’s even worse, because the knotted material seems less like your standard cotton, polyester, or nylon, and more like this stuff.

A couple months ago, I delivered my highly non-controversial opinion that the testing issue wasn’t going away any time soon here in Colorado. But even then, I didn’t anticipate exactly where so much friction on the HB 1202 Standards and Assessment Task Force might take us. Cue a Chalkbeat’s detailed account of the group’s Monday meeting: Continue Reading »

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December
12th 2014
NCTQ Slaps Down Colorado on Teacher Preparation: Will We Ever Learn?

Posted under Elementary School & High School & Innovation and Reform & Middle School & reading & Research & State Legislature & Teachers

There’s nothing to be proud about narrowly avoiding failure. It makes me nervous just to think about how Colorado still teeters on the edge when it comes to the quality of our teacher preparation. We know how important the role of the classroom instructor is for helping students learn, so the latest release of the National Council on Teacher Quality’s State Teacher Policy Yearbook hardly inspired confidence.

NCTQ’s yearbook has been more or less an annual tradition in recent times. The overall project grades states comprehensively on five key areas: Continue Reading »

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December
2nd 2014
The Death of Snow Days

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Parents & Research & School Accountability & School Board & State Legislature & Teachers

I really love snow days. Every time a storm rolls into town, I wake up, rush to the window, and rip the curtains open, hoping to see those tiny, beautiful flakes of hope drift past my wide little eyes. And while my dad usually grumbles to his coffee about the morning commute as he surveys what he calls the “mess” on our street, I see nothing but the pure white promise of fun and freedom.

Brings back fond memories, doesn’t it? Well, you’d better put those safely away in the vault. Today, we discuss the impending death of the snow day. I’ll give you a minute to recover emotionally if you need it.

In states across the country, districts are experimenting with ways to avoid weather-related cancellations. Pennsylvania has created a pilot program that allows virtual learning on snow days to count as normal instruction, a school district in Georgia is doing something very similar, and New Jersey has a piece of pending state legislation aimed at making at-home, technology-based learning on snow days permissible under state law. Meanwhile, a rural district in Kentucky will allow up to ten at-home learning days due to the area’s traditionally heavy snowfall.

But why all the fuss about snow days? Is it just because of the absurd snowfall we’ve already seen in some areas this year? Not really. Believe or not, there’s actually a good deal of research out there on the subject. Continue Reading »

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November
26th 2014
One More Year: Districts Take Different Paths as 191 Closes In

Posted under School Accountability & School Board & State Legislature & Teachers

It’s almost Turkey Day, and that means it’s time to start thinking about the things we’re thankful for. At the top of my list are my dog, my parents, and pumpkin pie with Cool Whip on it. But while I sit here smacking my lips at the thought of tomorrow’s pie, some school districts are feeling thankful for a very different reason: This year’s reprieve from SB-191’s requirement that 50 percent of teacher evaluations be based on multiple measures of student learning.

This afternoon, Chalkbeat posted an article detailing some of the districts that have chosen to press ahead with SB-191’s requirements along with some others that have chosen to wait. The article is based on a survey of Colorado’s 20 largest districts, which together employ more than two-thirds of the state teachers.

Chalkbeat found that just over half of the districts—including our friends in Douglas and Jefferson County—have decided to forge ahead as originally planned. Some other districts have decided to weight their growth data at zero percent of the evaluation formula, basing evaluations only on professional quality standards. The lone outlier from the 50-0 dichotomy is Mesa, which decided to weight growth data at 25 percent for the year. Continue Reading »

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November
25th 2014
Thankful Not to Have Unions’ Political Spending Record, Long-Term Prospects

Posted under Education Politics & Independence Institute & School Choice & State Legislature & Teachers

‘Tis the week of Thanksgiving, which allows me the chance to express my gratitude about many things. One of those is that I didn’t spend nearly $70 million on the 2014 elections and yet lose so badly, as the two national teachers unions did.

The holidays are supposed to be a time of reflection. Yes, Thanksgiving is mostly about looking back, so maybe this would be a better conversation for a New Year’s resolution. But if nothing else, certain demographic realities are staring the major teachers unions in the face. Their activist base isn’t getting any younger. Now that really doesn’t put a big crimp in their plans for the near future, but it has to be a serious part of their long-term strategy sessions.

Two questions follow: First, how much of a chance is there that unions will look to change their political spending habits? Dropout Nation’s RiShawn Biddle details a whole other batch of newly reported spending by the National Education Association: $132 million in funding that doesn’t directly support political candidates and parties but has the usual strong Leftward ideological bent. Continue Reading »

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November
21st 2014
Teacher Training, Licensure, Evaluation, Pay: Fix ‘Em All (and Do It Right)

Posted under education schools & Federal Government & Innovation and Reform & learning & Research & School Accountability & School Board & State Legislature & Teachers

It’s been more than a week now since I thankfully resisted the urge to “blow up” education schools. In the meantime, my remarks about teacher preparation have been vindicated — both the tone of urgency and the “moderate” but serious approach to addressing the issue.

Let’s start with the urgency. The National Council on Teacher Quality followed up its powerful indictment of the state of teacher preparation last week with compelling new evidence concerning the lack of rigor in education schools. How does it help students, particularly the neediest among us, to have most of these schools attract prospective teachers looking for easy As?

Now you may rightly label the headline as a “dog bites man” kind of story, but the findings deserve attention: Continue Reading »

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November
7th 2014
It’s Not What You Think: “The End of School Choice” Means Something Better

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & Parents & School Accountability & School Choice & State Legislature

I’m not really sure how I should feel. Seeing a new opinion article titled “The end of ‘school choice’” at first made me tense up inside. Upon closer inspection, I was relieved to find it wasn’t coming from the likes of someone who believes that choice backers deserve “a special place in hell.”

No, quite the contrary. The headline was actually a clever device to get us to read some interesting thoughts by Doug Tuthill, posted at redefinED (H/T Matt Ladner):

The annual American Federation for Children conference is one of the country’s largest gatherings of school choice advocates. So it was notable, during the most recent conference in Orlando, that speakers regularly used the terms “parental choice” and “educational choice,” but not “school choice.”

This shift in semantics reflects an emerging trend that’s a game changer – the expansion of choice in publicly-funded education is increasingly including learning options beyond schools.

Continue Reading »

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November
5th 2014
Silly Season Returns Good News for School Choice, Bad News for Unions

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Federal Government & Governor & Innovation and Reform & School Choice & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Teachers

The silly season is over. We are now free to return to our everyday silliness. This morning I was reminded that television and Internet advertising is also frequently used to sell food, drinks, cars, airfare, electronics, and toys. Who knew that the airwaves and “Interwebs” could so thoroughly be used to hawk consumer goods, and not just to convey fearful messages about how Candidate B hates People and wants to take away their Things, so vote for Candidate A?

Anyway, since so many important decisions about schools are made at the state and national level, the results of these elections that nearly drive my parents crazy actually have a fair amount to tell us about the world that I’m interested in. Let’s cue the various expert big people to fill in the gaps: Continue Reading »

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October
22nd 2014
Silly Season Won’t Last, So Find Out Candidate Stances on Key K-12 Issues

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & Governor & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Teachers

Oh, it’s the silliest, silliest season of the year. How do I know? My grandpa muttering under his breath when one more irritating political ad interrupts his otherwise enjoyable viewing of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. And the other night my mom crumpling up the latest campaign attack flier that came in our mailbox and finally telling dad they need to turn in their ballots “to stop the madness.” Yes, it’s less than two weeks until Election Day 2014.

Above the fray comes the American Enterprise Institute’s Rick Hess and Max Eden noting how little this year’s prospective political officeholders are saying about the things that affect my world, things like Common Core standards, tenure reform, and school choice:

A systematic analysis of campaign Web sites for the 139 major party candidates for governor or U.S. senator (there is no Democrat running for the Kansas Senate seat) shows that most hopefuls have little to say on any of these pressing questions.

Call me curious, or call me crazy. This little piece prompted me to check out Colorado’s own major party candidates — including two guys running for governor and two running for U.S. Senate. What do they have to say about K-12 education matters? After all, maybe we’re part of the exception here, or maybe there’s more to the story that AEI seeks to tell. Continue Reading »

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October
21st 2014
COLA Wars: Yesterday’s Colorado Supreme Court Ruling on PERA

Posted under School Finance & State Legislature & Teachers

My parents don’t often let me drink soda, but I like to think of myself as a Coca-Cola guy. Pepsi just doesn’t quite do it for me. And don’t even get me started on the off-brand colas. Big K Cola? Yuck!

I have to admit, though, that I haven’t yet tasted this PERA COLA thing I’ve heard so much about. Maybe that’s for the best; judging by some of the reactions I’ve seen to yesterday’s Colorado Supreme Court ruling on the issue, I’m thinking I’d probably find it a bit too heavy.

I wrapped up last week’s policy adventures by writing about Colorado’s Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA), which provides pensions for many Colorado’s public school teachers (roughly  and a large number of other public employees in the state. In that post, I briefly mentioned a 2010 bill that aimed at partially correcting one of PERA’s biggest problems: Unfunded liabilities.

While that bill was a small—perhaps inadequately small—step in the right direction for Colorado, it required some tough changes to be made. Among those changes was a reduction in annual cost-of-living (COLA) adjustments for those covered by PERA’s pensions—including the more than 100,000 retirees who are already receiving benefits. More specifically, the bill cut yearly COLA increases from 3.5 percent to 2 percent or inflation, whichever happens to be lower.

As you may have guessed, this move made some folks rather unhappy. A lawsuit was filed, legal battles were fought, and the case eventually wound up in front of the Colorado Supreme Court. The question: Does the 3.5 percent yearly COLA increase represent a contractual, constitutionally protected obligation for PERA?  According to the Court, the answer is no. Continue Reading »

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