Archive for the 'State Legislature' Category

February
26th 2015
Reading New ETS Report on Millennials Not Likely to Cheer You Up

Posted under Grades and Standards & High School & Innovation and Reform & Research & School Choice & School Finance & State Legislature

A few weeks ago I raised the question: Should I get my hopes up about Colorado course choice again? Today, it seems more appropriate to ask whether I should get my hopes up at all.

Yeah, you might think that sounds kind of depressing. But dare I say you haven’t yet had the chance to drink deep the dose of melancholy that flows through Robert Pondiscio’s new Flypaper post “America’s Millennials: Overeducated and Underprepared.” To his credit, he tries to soften the blow with some lighthearted old sports announcer allusion, but the damage cannot be escaped.

What’s the big downer? Pondiscio points readers like you and me to a new Educational Testing Service (ETS) report America’s Skills Challenge: Millennials and the Future. The bottom line? While American Millennials are on track to reach the highest level of educational attainment EVER, they are less literate and numerate than both prior U.S. generations and to their international peers. There are also apparent implications about growing inequality in skills between the privileged and the less privileged.

Yikes! I feel Pondiscio’s pain. Even though trailing behind the Millennials in vaguely defined Generation Z, my fellow kids and I will reap some of the consequences. So yes, I do care. Continue Reading »

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February
20th 2015
State Board Gets Even Weirder On Testing Issue

Posted under Education Politics & School Board & School Finance & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Testing

Last month, we kicked off the 2015 legislative party together. I promised it would be an exciting year, and that has certainly been the case. But I may have been wrong about where that excitement would be coming from. The legislature has its hands full when it comes to education-related issues, but the real party seems to be at the Colorado State Board of Education.

As faithful readers and education followers know, the Colorado State Board of Education got weird in January by voting (along unexpected lines) to grant districts waivers from the performance-based part of this year’s PARCC exams. Those waivers were slapped down by a recent opinion from Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, but that hasn’t stopped the action at good ol’ SBOE.

For starters, the board voted 5-1 (Chairwoman Marcia Neal was absent due to medical issues) to postpone action on the PARCC waiver requests it has received. Judging from comments made during the meeting, this extension is being granted in the hopes that the legislature will “clarify” the issue. According to Chalkbeat, there are currently 20 district waiver requests pending. PARCC’s Performance-Based Assessment is due to be administered next month, which means the extension causes some interesting timing issues.

Most education folks (including myself) thought the matter was settled with the AG’s opinion, but that apparently isn’t the case. Buckle your seatbelts, friends—stuff’s likely going to get weirder on PARCC waivers before it gets… unweirder. Nope, that’s not a word.

Anyway, because the waiver decision extension wasn’t quite weird enough, rogue SBOE member Steve Durham also pulled out another surprising motion: Eliminate penalties for districts who fail to meet the required 95 percent participation threshold on state assessments due to parental opt outs. Continue Reading »

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February
12th 2015
Keeping the Conversation Going: Independence Institute’s New National School Choice Week Video

Posted under School Choice & State Legislature

I’ve spent a lot of time at the Colorado State Capitol over the last month or so. Committee hearings, meetings, awkward hallway loitering—you name it, this little guy has done it. But by far the most fun I’ve had under the golden dome was the National School Choice Week rally last month. I hope you were there too, because I made a list. Did you really think those bright yellow scarves that your favorite ruggedly handsome policy analysts handed out were just for show?

But just in case you weren’t around to be counted with the hoard of yellow-clad school choice supporters, my friends at the Independence Institute put together a fun little video on the rally. Specifically, Damon Sasso and Justin Longo deserve a huge shout out for their great work filming, editing, and polishing the video. They even managed to make Ross Izard sound good, and believe me when I tell you that’s tough to do.

Ben DeGrow conducted the interviews, and he did so well that I’ve heard he’s been nominated to replace now-disgraced NBC anchor Brian Williams.

Without further ado, here’s the video:

Continue Reading »

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February
11th 2015
AG Slaps Down State Board Waivers on PARCC Testing

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Testing

Last month, we talked about some State Board of Education weirdness that resulted in a vote to allow districts to apply for waivers from the first half of the state’s new PARCC tests. Called the Performance-Based Assessment, this portion of PARCC is administered in March. Since then, we’ve seen some entertaining fireworks at board meetings over the issue, including a particularly fun meeting in Jefferson County that saw a board member illegally abstaining from a vote—an action ironically taken under the pretext that she could not “violate board policy or the law.” According to Chalkbeat, 10 districts have applied for the waiver.

Being the curious policy explorer that I am, I’ve had many conversations with a variety of knowledgeable adults on this topic. What does the Performance-Based assessment do exactly? What happens if we don’t take it? Does the State Board have the authority to provide these waivers? When will our new attorney general, Cynthia Coffman, issue an official opinion?

Other than a CDE statement instructing districts to “continue implementing state and federal law” until an official opinion is issued and an unofficial opinion issued by an assistant AG, the answers to these questions were usually shrugs and various interpretations of one of my favorite parent-defense phrases: “I dunno.”

Well, it looks like we now at least have an official answer to the legality question. Continue Reading »

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February
10th 2015
New ESA Momentum Could Make 2015 “Year of School Choice: Part II”

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Parents & Private Schools & School Choice & State Legislature

One bit of wisdom I’ve gleaned in my young life is that when it comes to movies, the sequel is most often not as good as the original. There are exceptions, yes, but it’s a good rule of thumb. When it comes to education policy, though, I fully hope and expect the trend to be bucked.

For those who don’t remember, back in 2011 when I was 5 years old (just like I am now) we had the fabulously successful “Year of School Choice,” with lots of new and expanded legislative programs across the nation. A Politico article last Friday caught my attention by strongly suggesting that history may repeat itself in 2015 — sort of: Continue Reading »

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February
3rd 2015
Should I Get My Hopes Up about Colorado Course Choice Once More?

Posted under Education Politics & High School & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & School Finance & State Legislature

Hopes were a little high last May when I offered K-12 online pilot program ideas in the wake of House Bill 1382′s adoption. My Education Policy Center friends have been talking about the promise of Course Choice and course-level funding for a few years now.

It sure would be nice to see Colorado take even a small, clear step in the direction of greater flexibility and student access to learning opportunities. But reading the recently released HB 1382 task force report and its underwhelming recommendations gave me the deep sense that even my modest hopes may have been misplaced.

Sigh. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again…. It’s hard for a kid my age to be patient and persist rather than to quit. Continue Reading »

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January
30th 2015
Testing Issue Isn’t as Easy as “1, 2, 3,” But You’ve Got to Start Somewhere

Posted under Independence Institute & Principals & School Accountability & School Board & State Legislature & Teachers & Testing

Have you ever watched a big person prepare to do some public speaking behind a microphone? Or maybe you’ve done it yourself. Almost always, when someone asks if the microphone is working, the person leans into the device and says something like, “Testing, testing… 123, testing.”

Well, I’m worried that little rote phrase may take on a new meaning with Colorado’s Great Testing Debate. At least five K-12 assessment bills have been introduced thus far in the state legislature, with many more promised to come. Some issues may have clear and solid answers readily available, but to say that isn’t the case with this particular issue would be putting it mildly.

After all, we have several worthy competing goals to consider. Standardized tests done right are an important tool that provides some genuine, transparent, and comparable information about how well teachers, principals, and schools — heavily funded by public tax dollars — are doing in meeting important goals to help students.

At the same time, testing ought to measure authentic knowledge and skills, to provide prompt and useful feedback to teachers, and to differentiate meaningfully based on student abilities, all without posing too great a burden of instructional time lost. No problem, right? Continue Reading »

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January
7th 2015
Let’s Get This (Legislative) Party Started

Posted under Education Politics & Federal Government & State Legislature

Two months ago, I celebrated the end of what I like to call the election silly season. Despite mammoth efforts by seemingly panicked teachers unions, proponents of education reform at both the state and federal levels won big in November. Much dancing and kazoo blowing ensued in education reform camps around the country.

But the election was really just a prelude to the real party, which is only just now getting started. The 114th United States Congress began yesterday, and is now beginning to wrestle with issues ranging from the Keystone XL pipeline to gas taxes to—drum roll please—ESEA reauthorization.

Regular readers will remember that I recently highlighted the somewhat awkward alliances that an ESEA reauthorization effort could create, but I’m not sure I could have predicted the speed at which the effort would move. Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, the new chairman of the U.S. Senate Education Committee, has signaled that he intends to get an ESEA authorization through committee by Valentine’s Day. Yikes. I hope everyone is wearing their seat belts. Air bags might also be helpful; previous efforts have crashed in rather spectacular fashion. Continue Reading »

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January
6th 2015
ESAs + Tax Credits = Grand Plan for Brighter School Choice Future

Posted under Courts & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & Parents & Private Schools & Research & School Choice & State Legislature & Tax Credits

I spent the last couple days of 2014 looking back. With 2015 underway, it’s now time to peer directly into the future of possibilities.

Fortunately, I have really smart people like the Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke and the Cato Institute’s Jason Bedrick to do all the heavy lifting for me. (Besides, it’s especially interesting to see these two D.C. think tanks team up together.) Their piece for National Affairs, titled “The Next Step in School Choice,” has me smiling optimistically at the possibilities.

Building off the late, great Milton Friedman’s vision of “partial vouchers,” the authors remind us of the inefficiencies of the current system and efforts to overcome them: Continue Reading »

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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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