Archive for the 'Teachers' Category

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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28th 2015
Jeffco Union Prez Wants “Big Lift”; For Kids’ Sake, How About Some Peace?

Posted under Education Politics & learning & School Board & Teachers & Union

The school year is underway for nearly all Colorado kids. That includes all students in Jeffco Public Schools. Let’s calm down the heat and focus on a successful school year then, right? I sure hope so, but one group seems to be throwing a wrench into the situation.

Last night the Jeffco Board of Education “unanimously approved an agreement with the teachers union that governs how educators are hired, fired and paid.” We’re talking about a much better, leaner, more flexible union contract than the previous one — as my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow explained on Complete Colorado yesterday.

(Don’t tell Ben, but I learned something he didn’t. About the new salaries they agreed to: Because of the way the two sides agreed to fix the pay system to make it fairer, about 1,400 Jeffco teachers — more than one-quarter — come home with big take-home raises in 2015. This, after last year 99 percent of teachers got a salary boost, including 4.25 percent raises for highly effective educators. A total of $20 million this board has ADDED to teacher compensation.)

Beyond the pay increases, the contract opens the door to more important decisions made at the school level, more value on performance over seniority, more fairness and options for teachers, and maybe best of all: Teacher strike averted!

This is the same agreement the Denver Post hailed as a “good agreement” because “both sides aren’t fully happy.” It contains some positive developments for district teachers, and generally is less restrictive. So time to move onward and upward, to focus on excellence in classrooms and school buildings, to strive for more and better learning? Not so fast. Continue Reading »

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7th 2015
New Reason Foundation Video Explains Important Union-Related SCOTUS Case

Posted under Courts & Teachers & Union

Happy Friday, friends! I’ve written a lot of words this week, and I suspect you all need a bit of a reading break. You know what that means: Video time! Fortunately, the Reason Foundation has provided a great new video that will suit our needs perfectly.

Yesterday, we talked about how much teachers unions dislike being treated like everyone else—particularly when it comes to recruiting and making sales pitches. As it turns out, they are similarly disinclined to allow teachers to get out of funding them in many states, even if those teachers don’t actually belong to a union and would rather not give money to organizations with which they strongly disagree.

Frustrations with teacher tenure protections convinced public school teacher Rebecca Friedrichs that she didn’t want to support the teachers union. Yet she was still forced to pay them a bunch of money through “agency fees” after she opted out of membership. That (rightfully) made her pretty mad, and resulted in a suit against the California Teachers Association challenging the practice. The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to hear the case, called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, on the basis of Friedrichs’s 1st Amendment complaint. Here’s her story in her own words:

Continue Reading »

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6th 2015
Union Complaints Obscure Need for Fair, Level Playing Field

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Journalism & Teachers & Union

It’s hard not being the only game in town. In two of Colorado’s largest school districts, the unions are used to having a privileged role in helping to run new teacher induction sessions.

This week leaders of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) and Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA) complained to the media about this year’s changes, which give them the same treatment as other groups.

Colorado Public Radio first reported the story on Monday. It didn’t sit well with Denver union officials that they no longer sponsor the breakfast for their district’s new teacher orientation session.

Meanwhile, the JCEA spokesperson essentially acknowledged that his group has been accustomed to running the show. Not only has the union hosted a lunch but according to their spokesperson Scott Kwasny, they also “would sign in all the new teachers, collect their email addresses, and pass them on to the district.” Continue Reading »

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5th 2015
New Study Highlights Success in New Orleans

Posted under Accountability & Public Charter Schools & School Accountability & School Choice & Teachers & Union

You know what’s way more fun than debunking silly arguments about charter schools? And almost as exciting as celebrating fair funding for charter students in two of my favorite districts? New research showing huge improvements in New Orleans, which has the nation’s first all-charter system.

Well, almost all charter. Over 90 percent of the city’s students are enrolled in charter schools. For those roughly 40,000 kids, things are looking pretty bright. A new Education Next study by Douglas Harris finds some fairly staggering academic gains in the wake of sweeping reforms that followed New Orleans’ near-total destruction in Hurricane Katrina. Here’s a quick overview of those reforms from the study:

What happened to the New Orleans public schools following the tragic levee breeches after Hurricane Katrina is truly unprecedented. Within the span of one year, all public-school employees were fired, the teacher contract expired and was not replaced, and most attendance zones were eliminated. The state took control of almost all public schools and began holding them to relatively strict standards of academic achievement. Over time, the state turned all the schools under its authority over to charter management organizations (CMOs) that, in turn, dramatically reshaped the teacher workforce …

…. School leaders in New Orleans talk frequently about how critical flexibility in personnel management is to their overall school success. Free of state and local mandates and constraints from union contracts, leaders reopening schools after the storm could hire anyone they wanted, including uncertified teachers, and dismiss teachers relatively easily.

So yeah, the New Orleans reforms were a pretty big deal. They also happen to be rather controversial, so a great many people on both sides of the aisle have been watching the city rather closely. Continue Reading »

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30th 2015
Jeffco Mom Speaks Truth, Thanks School Board

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Public Charter Schools & School Board & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Union

One of the harder lessons I’m learning in my youth is that quite often tall tales can spread life a wildfire before the truth has a chance to catch up and extinguish it. Thanks to lots of help from Complete Colorado, I’ve already pointed out the fact-challenged / math-challenged nature of the Jeffco school board recall. That’s the “wildfire.”

And some of the big people who really follow closely the K-12 educational goings-on just west of Denver — namely, Jeffco Students First — have posted a concise one-page fact sheet that effectively extinguishes some of the more egregious misinformation floating out there against reform-minded school board members.

The icing on this cake of tasty, truth-restoring goodness is a brand new 90-second video of a Jeffco mom thanking the school board for listening to families like hers that have kids who need different options to learn and thrive. Time to cue up Jennifer Butts: Continue Reading »

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29th 2015
On Pay for Performance and Using the Right Yardstick

Posted under Accountability & School Board & Teachers

Pay for performance (PFP) is an incredibly hotly debated facet of education reform. I’ve never really quite understood that because, well, rewarding folks for doing great work strikes me as common sense. I mean, I get more allowance money if I do my chores well, and not so much if I “clean my room” by just moving a pile of toys from one corner to another, less visible one.

Yet as a recent Denver Post article highlights, things aren’t always as clear cut for folks who are skeptical of PFP. The article provides very brief outlines of PFP system variants in Denver, Jefferson County, and Douglas County. It also launches a number of thinly veiled assaults against the concept of pay for performance, which means that—you guessed it—Little Eddie feels compelled to say a few things.

Before we get to that, though, I find it interesting (and slightly disingenuous) that the article does not include any mention of Harrison School District’s innovative compensation model. Harrison’s system is certainly the most fully developed and interesting PFP system in the state, and perhaps one of the most intriguing in the nation. Sure, Harrison is significantly smaller than the three largest districts in the state covered by the Denver Post article, but it seems like any genuine discussion of PFP needs to include their work.

Incomplete district list aside, the main thrust of the article (though I’m sure the author would contend that this is not her argument) is that pay-for-performance systems don’t work. That’s something I hear repeated often by folks who oppose compensation reform, but is it true? Continue Reading »

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28th 2015
A Tale of Two Standards? Who Can Reject a Proposed Union Contract?

Posted under Courts & Education Politics & School Board & Teachers & Union

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…. So begins one of the most famous novels of the last 200 years: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I’m too little to know what it’s all about. But the idea of making a clear and direct contrast just seemed to fit so well.

When it comes to teachers union leaders’ views, we may have a case of “binding contracts for thee, but not for me.” Double standards can be rather convenient, can’t they?

On the very same day, last Friday, two parallel stories appeared. First, from my favorite education reporter, Complete Colorado’s Sherrie Peif, about an arbitration hearing between the Thompson Board of Education and the Thompson Education Association: Continue Reading »

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