Archive for the 'Teachers' Category

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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June
11th 2014
High Fives All Around: Colorado Union’s Pro-Tenure Lawsuit Shot Down

Posted under Courts & Denver & Education Politics & State Legislature & Teachers

I had planned to post this good news with you on Monday. But then sickness intervened. Not me, mind you. But the website itself was maliciously attacked, perhaps by someone who doesn’t like what this little kid has to say. Well, better late than never. And more to come soon.

You hang around these big policy wonk people long enough, and sometimes you can be overwhelmed by all the “nuance” and “qualifications” and “ambiguity.” It’s not every day you get to see the guys in the black hats flummoxed, foiled, and defeated, while the guys in the white hats celebrate a clear-cut victory.

Maybe on one of my grandpa’s old cowboy shows, or on one of the silly cartoons my parents watched growing up. But not so often in education news — unless you count late Friday afternoon: Continue Reading »

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June
6th 2014
Jeffco Board Member Offers Tax Hike as Charter Funding “Compromise”

Posted under Education Politics & Parents & Public Charter Schools & School Board & School Choice & School Finance & Teachers

Another Jeffco school board meeting, another set of fun or crazy things to talk about. These meetings have become a regular kind of twisted entertainment for my family, I think. As best as I can tell, three big items went down last night.

The Denver Post and some other major media focused on the finalized contract for Dan McMinimee — which meets my expressed hopes of sending “the right message to tie a significant portion of the new superintendent’s pay to measures of performance.”

Chalkbeat reporter Nic Garcia covered a second important development, namely that the school board rejected the teachers union contract proposal Continue Reading »

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May
23rd 2014
Hoping for Better than Political School Finance Kumbayah Next Year

Posted under Education Politics & Governor & Independence Institute & Public Charter Schools & School Finance & State Legislature & Teachers

It’s that time of year in Colorado. I’m not talking about the crazy weather, with all the wind, rain, and hail. No, I mean schools are getting out, graduations are taking place seemingly every day, and (hooray!) summer vacation is here at last.

It’s also time for politicians to take a victory lap on the school funding issue. Because that’s what they do. Chalkbeat Colorado reporter Todd Engdahl covered a recent ceremony at Cherry Creek’s Ponderosa Elementary, where Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a pair of school funding measures into law.

Specifically, the regular school finance act (HB 1298) and the thoroughly debated Student Success Act (HB 1292) were the featured objects of enactment. Differences may appear to be forgotten, but little Eddie’s elephant-like memory clings to recent events surrounding HB 1292: Continue Reading »

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May
13th 2014
How Can Jeffco Union Leaders’ Bad Faith Bargaining Be Good for Kids?

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

Once upon a time not so long ago in a land very close by occurred historic open negotiations between the Jeffco school board and the Jefferson County Education Association. Then union leaders staged an impasse and slammed the door shut. Transparency gone. Citizens were left in the dark.

The open negotiations went away as the process moved to mediation, which made me sad. But I didn’t expect things to go awry so quickly. Apparently, union negotiators unilaterally decided to go public with a tentative agreement they quickly learned the school board would not support. From a Jeffco Public Schools press release: Continue Reading »

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May
8th 2014
Newly Reported Test Scores Bring (Mostly) Disappointing News

Posted under Grades and Standards & learning & math & reading & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Teachers & Urban Schools

The good news from yesterday is summed up in two words: Sine Die. Near as I can tell, that’s Latin for “The legislature gets out of town, productive everyday citizens breathe a sigh of relief.” (But maybe I need to enroll in one of Colorado’s fine classical schools to find out for sure.)

The not-so-good news comes from a pair of test results that leave me sadly shaking my head. First, Colorado’s critical 3rd grade reading TCAP scores took a slight dip this year. We’re talking about 71.5 percent passing the proficiency bar in reading, as opposed to 73 percent last year.

The Denver Post story mentions one metro district that has bucked the trend, with Colorado Public Radio’s Jenny Brundin shining the spotlight on Westminster: Continue Reading »

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May
6th 2014
Happy Teacher Appreciation Day! Let’s All Cheer for Performance Pay!

Posted under Innovation and Reform & Principals & Research & School Board & Teachers

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day! Note that I say “Teacher,” not “Teachers” — and not just because it sounds much less awkward that way. Many, many teachers no doubt are worthy of appreciation. But they should be appreciated, and treated, as the diverse and skilled individuals they are. They bring different backgrounds to the profession, serve different groups of students in different kinds of schools, and teach different subjects in different styles.

And guess what? Many of them get different results! So why not talk about appreciating them as individuals? It’s healthy for us all to be reminded that teachers aren’t widgets. It’s safe to say that #TeachingIs something that varies in different contexts.

Thankfully, when it comes to how teachers are paid, we also see some innovative diversity in Colorado. Take a look at Harrison’s Effectiveness and Results program, pay-for-performance in Dougco, and Eagle County Schools’ “Professional Excellence, Accountability, and Recognition.” While the three look somewhat different, they share in common the feature of dropping altogether automatic pay raises based on seniority and degree credentials. Continue Reading »

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May
5th 2014
North Carolina to Follow Colorado’s K-12 Open Enrollment Policy Standard?

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & School Choice & State Legislature & Teachers

Update, 4:30 PM: The Friedman Foundation blog notes the “Friday Freakout” reaction against the proposed North Carolina program is largely based on fears that open enrollment would lead to administrative chaos. That hardly seems like a compelling argument to me.

Giving parents more say and students more options in K-12 education should be a no-brainer, win-win policy. Allow any student to cross district boundaries and enroll in any public school that has room for him? You mean there are states that still don’t do that?

Guess not. Or at least in one significant case, at least not yet. Last week the Charlotte Observer reported: Continue Reading »

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April
29th 2014
Teachers vs. the Public on K-12 Education: Scratching the Surface

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice & Tax Credits & Teachers

Earlier today one of my Education Policy Center friends got to watch most of an online telecast of a panel discussion titled Teachers versus the Public: What Americans Think about Schools and How to Fix Them. One of the co-authors of a recently released book by the same name, Dr. Paul Peterson, led the discussion.

The book and the discussion are essentially a reflection on some of the more interesting results like those released in the 2013 Harvard/Education Next survey. Many months ago I offered readers some examples of how this poll cast skepticism on the findings of the more widely touted PDK/Gallup education survey. Continue Reading »

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April
25th 2014
Is It Time to Rethink the Colorado Department of Education’s Role?

Posted under Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Research & School Finance & State Board of Education & State Legislature & Teachers

A Friday is as good a time as any to step back, survey the education reform landscape, and question some underlying assumptions. The new Fordham Institute report The State Education Agency: At the Helm, Not the Oar summons us to rethink the role of a major player in the K-12 policy world.

Here’s the question: Are we asking, or expecting, too much from our state education agencies (SEAs)? Here we’re talking about the Colorado Department of Education (CDE). Andy Smarick and Juliet Squire lay out the scope of the problem, and then offer a solution.

On the first count, it’s hard to disagree: The current approach of trying to do too much is having some bad results. The Fordham authors cite an example close to home: Continue Reading »

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