Archive for the 'Teachers' Category

19th 2015
New Research Shows Negative Union Impact on Education Outcomes

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & learning & Research & School Board & Teachers & Union

Starting discussions about the role and effects of teachers unions certainly is one way of pouring cold water on a party or social event. A lot of the topics surrounding K-12 education policy and reform can be emotionally charged.

But if you want to step back from the heated discussions and consider what the research has to say… well, frankly, there isn’t a huge record to fall back on. If you remember back a couple years (when I was still 5), I shared about a new study that purported to draw a connection between higher teacher union dues collection and lower student proficiency.

At that time, I also highlighted the only two other known pieces of quality research that spoke to the question. Back in 2007, Dr. Terry Moe from Stanford found that at the local level, restrictive collective bargaining provisions negotiated by teachers unions “has a very negative impact on academic achievement,” especially among more challenging student populations.

Then there’s the ideal state-level laboratory test case of New Mexico, which Benjamin Lindy’s analysis for the Yale Law Journal demonstrated “mixed results from union bargaining power, better SAT scores but more poor kids dropping out of high school.”

Well, a new, rigorous state-level analysis reassures us that Colorado’s education labor terrain stands us in stronger stead to help students succeed than many other states do.

Writing for Education Next, Michael Lovenheim and Alexander Willen unpack the long-term effects of states that mandate school districts give unions local bargaining monopolies. Removing other factors from the equation, the authors reach some interesting conclusions about the impacts of going to school in a “duty-to-bargain” state: Continue Reading »

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11th 2015
Ugly Smear Column Tries, Fails to Shove Conservative Education Reform Aside

Posted under Accountability & Courts & Education Politics & Federal Government & Innovation and Reform & Private Schools & Privatization & Public Charter Schools & School Accountability & School Board & School Choice & State Board of Education & Teachers & Union

I hope you all enjoyed a nice, long break from recent depressing edu-happenings over the last few days. I also hope that your disappointment is tempered by hope for the future. As my friend Ross Izard pointed out in a recent op-ed—and as my dad always says—it ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings.

I never have figured out who that fat lady is, but I’m pretty positive it isn’t Michael Vaughn, a former DPS spokesperson turned communications director for Education Post. Mr. Vaughn recently wrote a post-election Denver Post op-ed about the fact that “real” reform is winning in Colorado. It’s a rather nasty piece in which he celebrates reform victories in Denver while all but dancing on the graves of conservative education reformers around the state.

When I look at what conservative education reform folks have pushed for over the past few years in Jeffco, Thompson, Dougco, and other districts, I see a long list of meaningful reforms. New curricula, new charter schools, pay-for-performance systems, equal funding for charter students, collective bargaining reform—you name it, it’s there. But that doesn’t seem to qualify as true reform for Vaughn, who instead offers this definition of the term:

I know there’s no tried-and-true definition of reform, but there are generally accepted reform stances: school choice/charter schools; Common Core; annual, federally mandated standardized testing; teacher and school accountability. So let’s see how the losing candidates stand on these issues.

He goes on to hammer Dougco for applying for a State Board of Education Waiver from PARCC testing, taking school choice to “an extreme” with its local voucher program, “busting the union,” and “jamming” policies down teachers’ throats. He then implicitly extends most of those critiques to Jeffco, and adds an astonishingly unsophisticated take on the A.P. U.S. History fiasco that fails to acknowledge the fact that despite Julie Williams’ blunt approach to the situation, conservative concerns about the framework were ultimately validated by the College Board itself.

Sadly, those flubs are far from the worst the column has to offer. Continue Reading »

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5th 2015
Yes, Election Night Happened, But Keep Your Chins Up, Colorado Reformers

Posted under Courts & Denver & Education Politics & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Union

Yeah, yeah, yeah, school board elections happened in Colorado this week. Ok, so I promised to give you a full report yesterday. But I got a little busy crying in my Cheerios with some important stuff to do.

Do I really need to review what happened with the Teachers Union Empire Strikes Back? After all, my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow donned his Captain Obvious hat for Chalkbeat Colorado, observing “You can’t deny it was a setback for conservative reform at the school board level in Colorado. The unions had their day. There’s no doubt about it.”

Another of my Education Policy Center friends, Ross Izard, did a pretty good job laying it out in more detail. He optimistically notes that conservative education reformers have been bruised, but not beaten by the big recall in Jeffco or setbacks in a number of other districts: Continue Reading »


28th 2015
Little Action Required by Obama’s Testing Action Plan

Posted under Accountability & School Choice & Teachers & Testing & Union

Welcome back, dear readers. I apologize for leaving you mostly adrift for a week as I gallivanted around various education reform conferences. At least you got a good post about the coming local elections yesterday, and you’ve got another big one in store for today.

A national story popped up this past weekend that I really should address: After many moons supporting testing and test-linked accountability (often through questionably coercive waivers), the Obama Administration has released a new “Testing Action Plan” calling for some course alterations when it comes to testing in America. That plan comes with the blessing of testing and accountability proponent Arne Duncan, who will be stepping down as U.S. Secretary of Education in December. John King of New York will take his place.

Obviously, the administration’s movement was well received by opponents of standardized testing and tying student data to teacher evaluations. That includes horn-tooting statements from both NEA and AFT hailing the administration and reasserting that testing and test-based accountability are bad, bad things. I’m still pretty sure the unions’ position has something to do with tenure reform and an effort to cling to outdated steps-and-columns pay structures, but what do I know?

But what does the Testing Action Plan really say? For us here in Colorado, not much. Continue Reading »

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20th 2015
‘Tis the Season for Wild and Woolly School Board Election Stories

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & School Board & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Union & Urban Schools

There’s no season like school board election season. At least not in Colorado. Believe it or not, these are real stories. As my dad is fond of saying, “You can’t make this up.”

Let’s start in Jeffco, where the Denver Post shattered to pieces the whole justification for a politically motivated recall election. A video was just released about Julie Williams, one of the candidates being threatened with recall, explaining how her opponents manipulated her special-needs son to participate in a protest against her:

Yes, I agree it’s disgusting. As if to provide further clarification to answer the question at the end of the video — “Now, who are the real bullies?” — some folks have responded basically by calling Mrs. Williams and her son Randy liars. Really? I guess that’s what you do when you know you’re in the wrong.

Meanwhile, also in Jeffco, last week’s campaign finance reports caused me some concerns. One of the candidates for the non-recall seats, Ali Lasell, paid exactly $7,886.87 to a group called Mad Dog Mail:

…a Democratic persuasion mail firm based out of Florida. As our name indicates, we are strong, tough Democrats who fight against Republican smears and attacks, working only with Democratic campaigns.

Continue Reading »

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14th 2015
Denver Post Editorial Board Nails It on the Jeffco Recall… Again

Posted under Education Politics & School Board & Suburban Schools & Teachers

I know I’ve said this before, but it makes me feel good when even the mainstream media sees through the antics of anti-reform efforts in Colorado. The Denver Post has been a model for sensible, truthful commentary in recent months. So much so, in fact, that I feel compelled to make a bulleted list of their recent columns on education issues to avoid a monster paragraph:

After all that, one would think they’d be all out of good stuff to say. One would be wrong. The Denver Post Editorial Board has really outdone itself with its latest column about why the Jeffco recall effort ought to be rejected. Continue Reading »

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7th 2015
Harrison’s Successes Continue Under Pay-For-Performance System

Posted under Accountability & School Accountability & Teachers & Testing

A few months ago, I wrote about how important it is to use the right metric—fairness for teachers— when evaluating the success of pay-for-performance compensation systems. That post was a response to a rather biased Denver Post article on the subject, which featured as one of its subheadings the assertion that these systems provide “No Benefit to Students.” It also completely failed to mention perhaps the state’s most interesting example of pay for performance in practice: Harrison School District in Colorado Springs.

As it turns out, that was a serious omission. 9News ran a story yesterday about Harrison’s success at elevating its minority students. From that story:

The Harrison School District has more minorities than most districts in Advanced Placement courses. It has more Black and Latino students in Gifted and Talented classes. Harrison has a consistent graduation rate of Black and Latino students of higher than 75 percent. And, testing data shows that this district located on the southern end of Colorado Springs has the smallest achievement gap between white students and students of color.

As the story implies, Harrison’s 2014 graduation data show that 77.7 percent of its black students graduated on time. That number was 75.3 for its Hispanic students. Those paying attention will note that the rate for black students is actually higher than the state’s overall graduation rate of 77.3 percent. For further reference, the state’s overall graduation rates for black and Hispanic students were just 69 percent and 66.7 percent respectively. Continue Reading »

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23rd 2015
New Survey, Research Point to Need for Balanced Computer Use in Learning

Posted under Innovation and Reform & International & learning & Online Schools & reading & Research & Teachers

Given the prodigious quantity of blogging here, some may find the contents of this particular post somewhat hypocritical, or perhaps just a little bit ironic. But I certainly strive to keep things interesting.

Once upon a time, you heard quite a bit more from little Eddie about blended learning — though recently my eyebrows have been raised about the opening of Denver’s Roots Elementary, my dreams rekindled of Rocketship Education landing in Jeffco, and my repetition that Colorado needs course choice was, well, repeated.

For those who need a refresher, one commonly accepted definition for blended learning comes from the Clayton Christensen Institute:

a formal education program in which a student learns: at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace; at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home; and the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.

The Christensen Institute’s disclaimer that blended learning is not “technology-rich instruction” should not be brushed aside. It’s not just using more technology in the same structures and practices. Technology, though, is critical to the rethinking that comes with designing and implementing various blended learning models. Continue Reading »

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17th 2015
Thompson Majority Fights On for Local Control

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & School Board & Teachers & Union

Most of you probably remember that there’s sort of a thing going on in Thompson School District. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an understatement. In actuality, Thompson now stands alongside Jefferson County as ground zero for one of the most important education battles in Colorado.

More specifically, Thompson has been engaged in an ugly fight with the Thompson Education Association, backed heavily by legal support from the Colorado Education Association, over the reform-minded board majority’s decision not to accept two junky tentative collective bargaining agreements. At the center of that fight is an incredibly important question: Can locally elected school boards be forced to accept union contracts with which they disagree?

The issue has drawn significant attention from around the state, including an editorial from the Denver Post supporting local school boards’ ability to make judgment calls under Colorado law. It has also resulted in a flabbergastingly awful non-binding arbitration report and, more recently, an unprecedented injunction ruling that forces the district to abide by the 2014-15 collective bargaining agreement—an agreement that the board has rejected in one form or another three separate times.

The board majority isn’t giving up, though. Last night, a 4-3 vote gave the district’s legal team the authority to appeal the injunction or pursue other remedies, whatever “other remedies” means in lawyerese. In practice, a favorable ruling on appeal would free the district of the collective bargaining agreement foisted on it by the Larimer County District Court and allow the board to get back to building policies to take care of its teachers in the absence of a union contract. Continue Reading »


9th 2015
Of Successful Turnarounds, Heavy Hands, and Union Bargaining Power

Posted under Accountability & Denver & Elementary School & Teachers & Union & Urban Schools

It’s much better to have a light touch, rather than a heavy hand, from the state to exert efforts to improve schools. Colorado has its share of schools and districts in need of turnaround, with some serious options on the table (but delayed one year by a 2015 state law).

Whenever possible, I always like to highlight successful examples of struggling schools that really turn the corner and improve dramatically. Colorado Public Radio recently talked to Zach Rahn, a principal called in a few years ago to help turn around a low-performing Denver school:

He says, at that time, the school was on a downward spiral. But, through special programs, community outreach and new practices, the school has shown improvement — both in its culture and the students’ academic performance.

Rahn’s big lesson learned is worth heeding: Continue Reading »

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