Archive for the 'State Legislature' Category

April
14th 2015
Whichever Way You Look, Colorado Seems to be Stuck in a Testing Rut

Posted under Education Politics & Grades and Standards & Independence Institute & Parents & School Accountability & State Legislature & Testing

I came across a story in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times under the headline: “Majority of California’s Latino voters highly value school testing.” Given the state of affairs in Colorado, how could something like that escape my attention?

A majority of Latino voters, 55%, said mandatory exams improve public education in the state by gauging student progress and providing teachers with vital information. Nearly the same percentage of white voters said such exams are harmful because they force educators to narrow instruction and don’t account for different styles of learning.

The survey, sponsored by the Times, found that even higher percentages of Californians (77% Latino, 56% White, 64% Total) agreed that “students’ achievement and progress on standardized tests” should be an important or the most important factor in teacher pay and evaluations. That finding casts even more doubt on the suspect poll finding trumpeted by the National Education Association last year.

Especially interesting, given this is the state that gave us last year’s earth-shattering Vergara ruling. Though no one seems to have consulted the Colorado Education Association president, who recently told legislators that “all teachers do the same job.” Continue Reading »

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April
8th 2015
Keep That School Choice Train A-Rollin’: Nevada Prepares to Join the Scholarship Tax Credit Club

Posted under Private Schools & School Choice & State Legislature & Tax Credits

Man, it’s been an exciting two weeks for school choice. Last month, we celebrated Alabama’s induction into the charter club after it become the 43rd state to pass a charter law. We paused briefly to remember Colorado’s now-dead attempt at an ESA law, then proceeded to revel in the glory of freshly encouraging research on urban charters. I rounded out it all out by providing an update on the nation’s biggest school choice developments.

The fifth item on the list was the passage of Nevada’s scholarship tax credit bill by the state’s lower legislative house. Guess what? That bill has now passed the Nevada State Senate and is heading to Governor Brian Sandoval’s desk for signature. I can say with 99.99 percent certainty that he will sign it forthwith (the .01 percent accounts for the possibility of an alien invasion and/or meteor strike). Why? Well, because he happily stated that he “will sign it when it reaches [his] desk” during Nevada’s 2015 State of the State address.

Once the governor puts ink to paper, Nevada will become the 15th state to adopt a scholarship tax credit program. It will be the 26th state to adopt a private school choice program of any kind. Continue Reading »

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April
2nd 2015
One Week’s Progress Gives Hope for Another Year of School Choice

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

Awhile back I asked the pertinent and hopeful question: Could 2015 turn out to be the Year of School Choice: Part II? Now that your split sides have had ample time to recover from yesterday’s laugh-out-loud April Fool’s posting, let’s look back on the updates from just the past week.

To do so, we really need go no further than the American Federation for Children website, just to rehash the developments of the past seven days: Continue Reading »

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March
24th 2015
RIP, C-FLEX? This Year Perhaps, But Bring Back the Debit Card ASAP

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & Parents & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & State Legislature

Yesterday I celebrated the fantastic news that Alabama has become the 43rd charter school state. In that post I noted that Alabama is behind the curve (and way behind Colorado) on public school choice, but beat us to the punch on scholarship tax credits.

Still, as good as it is, welcoming new states into the charter fold wasn’t at the forefront of my mind when I contemplated that 2015 could become the official Year of School Choice sequel. I made that observation based on the number of states pursuing new or expanded Education Savings Account (ESA) programs.

For example, I’m not the only waiting with bated breath to see if and when Alabama’s next door neighbor, Mississippi, will become the third ESA state. (My elders keep advising me to be patient, but that’s just really hard!) Continue Reading »

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March
18th 2015
What’s a “Bedfellow”? New Article Takes a Look at Weird Alliances and Tenure Reform

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Teachers & Union

Late last year, I wrote about the sticky testing issue knot. After a series of weird events on the State Board of Education and the early prospect of a strange alliance between Republicans and teachers unions during the ill-fated effort to reauthorize ESEA, we may be looking at more of a sticky testing issue black hole. Now, though, things are beginning to reach maximum weirdness, with the same strange alliances seen in Congress being observed in Colorado.

So yeah, stuff’s complicated. It’s getting tough to make sense of it all. That’s why I was glad to see my Independence Institute friend Ross Izard’s new article, “Strange Bedfellows: Teachers Unions, Conservatives, and Tenure Reform.” I’m pretty sure I’m too young to know what a “bedfellow” is, but I think I see what Ross is trying to convey.

The article takes a long, hard look at the differing motivations behind the oddly aligned conservative and union pushes against testing and for opt-outs. We’ll just do a brief overview of the highlights here in order to avoid unnecessary brain damage, but the article is stuffed with links and references for those whose nerdy proclivities drive them to dig a little deeper into the debate. Continue Reading »

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March
6th 2015
How Do We Get the Student Data Coin to Land on Both Sides?

Posted under Education Politics & Parents & State Legislature & Teachers

Have you ever had a day where it just seemed like “Heads they win, Tails you lose”? On those days it may not seem like it, but the truth remains that there are two sides to the coin. (And no, I’m not talking about the coin flip required in Jeffco’s union contract to determine which teacher of equal seniority gets let go.)

The same holds true for the role of data in education. Certain kinds of student data are appropriate for school districts and state agencies to collect, mostly related to academic performance and attainment. But in my humble opinion, the subject matter of some questions is inappropriate. There’s also the issue of whom the data is being shared with.

If you remember last year, I brought your attention to some great work being done by some Colorado parents to tighten up laws that protect student data privacy from local or state breaches, or other misuse. Continue Reading »

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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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