Archive for the 'Teachers' Category

August
21st 2014
Back-to-Back: Durango, Pueblo Papers Weigh In for Open Negotiations

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

Anyone who has been a reader of this blog for any length of time knows that I’m a big fan of open negotiations. When school board representatives and the leaders of employee groups sit down to discuss how huge chunks of taxpayer-funded K-12 budgets are spent, and set policies that affect classrooms, we’re better off with parents, teachers, and community members able to keep an eye on the action.

Earlier this year the Jeffco school board and teachers union made a historic agreement for bargaining transparency. When last we checked in, though, union leaders staged an impasse that led to mediation and took discussions back behind closed doors. Only a couple of other school districts make it nearly even that far by holding some sort of real open negotiations.

That soon could change. Thanks to the concerted effort of my Independence Institute friends, it soon may become the law of the land. Proposition 104 will be on the ballot for Colorado voters to decide this year. Continue Reading »

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August
20th 2014
It Says What? Facts, Fiction, and NEA’s Foot-in-Mouth Disorder

Posted under Federal Government & Grades and Standards & Parents & Research & Teachers

Everyone suffers from foot-in-mouth disorder at some point in their lives. You know the situation: You’re in the middle of an important conversation, things are going well, and you’re looking pretty smart.  Then, with no warning at all, you blurt out something silly. Maybe it was offensive, confidential, or ill-advised. Or maybe it was just plain wrong.

Fear not, my friends. The National Education Association is right there with you.

As you likely know, the results of two major, nationally representative surveys on education policy issues were released recently. I wrote about the PEPG/Education Next Survey just yesterday. Today, I got to dig into the second survey, conducted by Phi Delta Kappa and Gallup. Careful readers will note that I’ve outlined some issues with previous iterations of this particular survey, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about today. No, today I’d like to talk about what the survey results do (and do not) say. Continue Reading »

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August
19th 2014
“What Are People Thinking” about Education? PEPG Makes It Pay to Know

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Research & School Finance & Tax Credits & Teachers

Sometimes you see or hear about some crazy behavior out there, and somewhat aghast, you ask aloud or think: “What are people thinking?” Other times, you’re just curious about the opinions of those adults around you who can affect important issues, and it’s just: “I wonder… what are people thinking?”

My faithful fans know that taking a look at surveys about education is more than just a passing fancy. Only a couple months ago, the Friedman Foundation’s latest national poll rightly caught my attention. But there’s none I look forward to more than the PEPG/Education Next survey, which covers a large sample of more than 5,000 adults and now has eight years of comparative data! (That’s older than I am… Really!)

In-depth coverage by Michael Henderson, Paul Peterson, and Martin West of the 2014 edition’s results sheds light on a number of important matters.

First, as my Education Policy Center friends continue to speak out for scholarship tax credits as a way to help Colorado kids win, PEPG finds national support remains strong. At 60% to 26%, favorability is consistent with (albeit slightly weaker) the Friedman results. It also once again remains the most widely popular form of school choice proposal. Hip, hip, hooray!

Second, again consistent with Friedman, the new survey found “declining” (especially among public school teachers and among Republicans) and “polarizing” support for the national standards movement known as Common Core. PEPG took a slightly different twist. The earlier survey found that results skew from slightly against to slightly in favor when a clear definition of “Common Core” is added into the question. PEPG just asked the same question, with and without the highly-charged term. Continue Reading »

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August
5th 2014
Evaluation Valuation: Goals, Issues, and Questions for the Coming Year

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & innovation schools & Rural Schools & School Accountability & School Board & Teachers

To students like me, teachers are mythical creatures. Sure, I see them every day, but I can’t see behind the proverbial curtain. I don’t know how they judge their success or failure in different areas, how well they are serving their students as a whole, or how they communicate information about their teaching performance to their peers. In the absence of good evaluation systems, that same ambiguity extends to parents and administrators.

As Ben Orlin recently pointed out in the Atlantic, teachers are only human. Some great teachers may portray their performance as mediocre or poor, and some less effective teachers may be inclined to exaggerate their success. In either case, it’s clear that some kind of evaluation system is necessary if we want our teachers to be fairly and accurately assessed.

Here in Colorado, SB 10-191 ostensibly aims to provide such a system. Among numerous other things, the law requires all Colorado school districts to adopt new yearly performance ratings. These ratings have been in the “practice” phase for the past few years, but are due to be fully implemented in the coming school year. That means that teachers who receive ratings below effective for two consecutive years will lose their tenure. In contrast, teachers who earn effective ratings or better for three consecutive years will be awarded tenure. Continue Reading »

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July
17th 2014
Blended Learning Takes Flight in Colo. Districts: How High Will It Soar?

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Journalism & learning & Online Schools & Rural Schools & Suburban Schools & Teachers

The great blended learning experiment continues its historic ascension in our beautiful Rocky Mountain state. Independence Institute education senior fellow Krista Kafer has documented it better than anyone. Last year it was The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning in Colorado.

Apparently, the not-so-long-ago, cutting-edge sphere of blended learning has not just made it past the ground level but is heading into the lofty (or should I say friendly?) skies. Just this week my Education Policy Center friends released Krista’s awaited sequel School District Partnerships Help Colorado K-12 Blended Learning Take Flight.

Take flight? Can’t you picture me wearing my goggles, flying a World War I-era Sopwith Camel? Better yet, behind the controls of a state-of-the-art Rocketship heading to explore strange new worlds in outer space? Or maybe just playing in the back yard (away from power lines) with my new kite? Seriously, though, Krista’s report follows the action in some key places in various parts of the state: Continue Reading »

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July
15th 2014
Can Someone Help Me Understand this Third Way on Masters Bumps?

Posted under education schools & Innovation and Reform & Research & School Board & State Legislature & Teachers

It’s been awhile, but one of my favorite K-12 topics to share with you is the need to change the practice of automatic pay raises for master’s degrees. As recently as 2011, the high-quality research was unanimous (34-0) on the ineffectiveness of awarding teachers masters degrees. As recently as last month, it remains “one of the most consistent findings in education research.”

That’s why I rejoiced when North Carolina followed the example of a couple forward-thinking Colorado school districts and sent “masters bumps” the way of the dodo bird. The commonsense reform crosses partisan and ideological boundaries.

But, as the Associated Press now reports, the Tar Heel State is taking a second look even as momentum grows in other states: Continue Reading »

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July
14th 2014
Union Leaders Miss Bus as Union Bus (Thankfully) Misses Me

Posted under Denver & Education Politics & Federal Government & Independence Institute & Just For Fun & Teachers

Usually I’m reluctant to cross into the intersection of education policy and national politics. But when I do, I lean heavily on the trusted big people in my life to walk me across the busy lanes of scary-looking traffic. The aftermath of the NEA Assembly in Denver is one of those times when I’m reaching out and reaching up for a hand.

My Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow took on the matter with a Greeley Tribune op-ed last week. He set up the 2009 NEA Assembly as a point of comparison, with candidly expressed union priorities put on center stage.

Retiring NEA counsel Bob Chanin laid down the line that better results for students “must not be achieved at the expense of due process, employee rights, or collective bargaining.” As Ben wrote in his column, that line in the sand expresses why union leaders are so concerned about a couple of court cases that threaten their status and bottom line. Continue Reading »

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July
1st 2014
Would Letting Kids Sleep In More Help Academic Results? Please Say Yes

Posted under High School & International & Middle School & Parents & Principals & Research & School Board & Teachers

You know one thing I’m thankful for? My Education Policy Center friends never order a wake-up call to get me out of bed early so they can help me write this blog. Little prodigies like me need all the sleep we can (though I try not to concede that argument when my mom tells me it’s time to hit the hay).

A couple years ago I directed your attention to research that suggested small positive benefits for middle schoolers who delayed early start times. Interesting fodder to file away in the back compartments of the brain, and move along.

Until, that is, I recently found an article by Colorado’s own Holly Yettick in Education Week that highlights an international study calling out the U.S. for having the highest rate of sleepy students in the secondary grades. Or at least that’s based on what teachers report in surveys. Continue Reading »

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June
25th 2014
Holyoke’s Pursuit of Innovation Status Raises Real Questions to Answer

Posted under Innovation and Reform & innovation schools & Journalism & Rural Schools & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Teachers

Among the big people around me, there’s a fair amount of cheering and groaning and Monday morning quarterbacking. Apparently, that’s what the day after a primary election does to you. I’ll leave the politics to them, and spend just a few moments on an interesting story that slipped in last week.

Chalkbeat Colorado’s Kate Schimel reports that a second rural Eastern Plains school district is taking a serious look at applying for innovation status. In a nutshell, Holyoke district leaders would draft a plan requesting waivers from specific state laws that they believe are holding them back, and would come to the State Board of Education for a nod of approval.

The 2008 Innovation Schools Act was primarily designed for high-need urban (read: Denver) schools. About two-thirds of the state’s innovation schools are in fact in Denver. The freedom to innovate does not guarantee success. Challenges remain for schools that pursue and adopt the status, and overall the academic track record has been mixed. Continue Reading »

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June
12th 2014
Vergara Big Win for California Kids, But Should We Worry about Courts’ Role?

Posted under Courts & Denver & Education Politics & learning & Principals & Research & Teachers & Urban Schools

Yesterday it was belated high fives all around for a defensive legal victory here in Colorado, as a Denver judge dismissed a union-backed lawsuit to enshrine harmful tenure protections. For anyone in the K-12 education world who may have been sleeping under a rock for a few days, you may not have heard that good policy similarly prevailed Tuesday in the California courts.

I’m talking about the Los Angeles Superior Court judge’s decision in the Vergara case. Nine student plaintiffs, backed by an advocacy group called Students Matter, won their claim that California’a particularly egregious tenure and dismissal laws led to “grossly ineffective instruction” particularly in low-income schools. If higher courts agree, the state’s laws could be thrown out and the legislature made to rewrite them.

It seems apparent to me we have two major issues at play here, potentially in conflict with one another. First, from a policy perspective, the clear and resounding victory has these little legs running and jumping for joy! Come along with me and survey the cheering voices: Continue Reading »

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