Archive for the 'Urban Schools' Category

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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18th 2015
Granddaddy of KIPP Studies Shows More Success for Growing Charter Network

Posted under Denver & learning & Parents & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice & Urban Schools

I can confess to you that something has made Eddie a little sad lately. That’s just the amount of crazy charter-bashing going on these days.

Some of this craziness gets imported locally by reform opponents who twist themselves in knots to dance around their rage at the Jeffco and Thompson boards of education providing fair, equitable funding for public charter school students.

A quick reminder to all that public charter schools are not a silver bullet solution, nor are they in any way guaranteed success. But in Colorado, charters tend to slightly outperform their traditional school peers and are overrepresented among the highest performers. Unlike their counterparts, struggling charters can be closed down. Meanwhile, some charters — like KIPP — are hitting it out of the park.

Two and a half years ago I smiled at the fresh research showing KIPP middle schools provide significant learning boosts while working with challenging student populations. Just over a year ago, I highlighted some further analysis that unraveled some of the skepticism about the famous charter network’s success. Bottom line? “KIPP is obviously doing something right.”

Well, my friends, this week appears the granddaddy of them all (so far). Again from Mathematica Research, this rigorous study shows that the positive impacts are sustained even as the network continues to grow, or “scale up”. (H/T Choice Media) Continue Reading »

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11th 2015
Independence Institute “Indoctrinates” CO School Board Candidates with Helpful Policy Information

Posted under Edublogging & Education Politics & School Board & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

It’s hard to believe it’s Friday again. I’ve been scurrying around the Independence Institute office helping my policy friends get ready for their first of five 2015 Colorado School Board Candidate Briefings. This one was held in Loveland, Colorado, last night. Attendees received a presentation on Colorado education policy, and had a chance to ask questions of the policy folks. It was a great time!

But as my friend Ross Izard points out in a recent Greeley Tribune op-ed, Loveland is now ground zero for one of the most important education fights in the state. That means anti-reform forces north of the big city are busy shouting at the top of their lungs about the evils of education reform. Nowhere is that panicked shrieking more evident than on the Thompson School District Reform Watch Facebook page, which is absolutely stuffed with some of the most creative conspiracy theories I’ve ever seen.

Somewhat ironically given the page’s frequent complaints about a lack of transparency, the operators have chosen to remain anonymous. Hey, that’s their right. But because I like to talk the talk and walk the walk, feel free to check out the About Eddie page here on Ed is Watching if you’d like to learn more about me and the grown-ups who help me write these posts.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. Among the Reform Watch page’s most recent posts are a number of pokes at the Loveland school board candidate briefing last night. Below are a few of my favorite snippets from posts over the last couple of days (screen captured just in case they get deleted):

The Independence Institute Saga continues…with holding regular seminars and training sessions, sometimes to unsuspecting and gullible citizens and candidates. As with their sister group, the Leadership Program of the Rockies, they are Americans for Prosperity, Friedman, KOCH and ALEC all rolled into one.

Last night the II was in Loveland with their Reform School Board Candidate Training Program. We are trying to get information on who all was in attendance at the Chop House for this event. The rumor mill has named some very interesting people who are not from the TSD communities. (See our Eye Opener post on Sep. 9th for the details of what these sessions are all about). We also know that the TSD candidates were invited.

When you take a look at the II website, remember that you are reading from the Americans for Prosperity Manual. At first, it may look good, but as they say “The Devil is in the Details”. Beware!! 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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4th 2015
New Orleans Video Underscores the Power of Reform

Posted under Accountability & Innovation and Reform & Public Charter Schools & Testing & Urban Schools

What a week! My mom and dad moved me to a new house last weekend. This one is a long way from the Capitol, which they say is to keep me from sneaking in there and playing edu-politics when I should be doing my homework. On top of that, I attended an awesome student-based budgeting event yesterday with my Education Policy Center friends. So did a whole bunch of other people from around the state who are interested in empowering school-level decision-making.

All of which is to say that yours truly is a bit tired today. Fortunately for me, I ran across an awesome Heritage Foundation video this morning about New Orleans’ (nearly) all-charter system and the results it has achieved since Katrina. The video offers a very human side of the story through interviews with school leaders and students in the city. I bet you’ll love it as much as I did.

Continue Reading »

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20th 2015
Eddie’s Crazy Idea: More Colo. Districts Should Pursue Student-Based Budgeting

Posted under Denver & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Principals & Research & School Board & School Finance & Suburban Schools & Urban Schools

Hey, I’ve got a crazy idea! Why not have school districts base their budgeting on students like me (or any student, for that matter)? It just makes sense to do it that way, right? Especially since the whole K-12 education enterprise is supposed to be about the kids.

It’s not that simple, however, and it’s not usually the case. Things like staffing formulas and seniority rules — not to mention bureaucratic traditions and old-fashioned accounting systems — generally rule the day. But in Colorado, the practice of Student-Based Budgeting is on the rise:

Through student-based budgeting (SBB), six school districts have prioritized student need over administrative convenience with a cost-effective approach that places more funds under individual school control.

This is from one of those long issue papers by my Education Policy Center friends that little me may never get around to reading cover to cover. SBB isn’t terribly glamorous, nor (like any other reform) is it a silver bullet. Even so, I’ve learned just enough to know that it’s something that very much should be on your radar. Plus, it has a fun and inspiring cover: Continue Reading »

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18th 2015
New York Charter Success: You Know How to Spell It

Posted under Elementary School & learning & math & Middle School & Public Charter Schools & reading & Research & School Choice & Testing & Urban Schools

It’s often been said “you can’t argue with success” (or Success). But that doesn’t stop some from trying.

Last year, I pointed out the collective jaw-dropping that took place when test results came back from students in the Harlem Success Academies, a New York City charter network that overwhelmingly serves poor and disadvantaged families. Just to revisit for the record:

Seven out of the state’s 15 top-scoring schools on math proficiency tests this year were Success Academy charter schools….An astounding 93.9 percent of Success students passed the Common Core math exam and 64.5 percent passed the English proficiency test….

After a closer look at the results, all that critics and skeptics were left to stand on was the suggestion that the astounding, off-the-chart scores for poor kids in the Big Apple must have been some kind of a fluke. With the release of the latest achievement scores, as reported by Reason blogger Jim Epstein, that line just became a lot harder to defend. Continue Reading »

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21st 2015
Close Look at Diverse Charter Options Helps to Tell Us What Parents Want

Posted under Denver & learning & Parents & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Choice & School Finance & Urban Schools

What do parents want? I’m not sure why people bring this question to me. Based on my somewhat limited experience, I tend to think the answer has something to do with keeping rooms clean, eating fruits and vegetables, minding manners, and not breaking things. When it comes to a child’s education, I think there’s more to the story.

Looking back over the last year-plus, it’s been a banner stretch for focusing on a diverse body of meaningful charter school research. It started with Marcus Winters’ Denver special education myth-buster. Winters has compiled the findings of his Denver and New York City research in a new piece for Education Next:

The conventional argument that charters enroll relatively few students with disabilities because they “counsel out” special needs students after they enroll is inconsistent with the enrollment data. In fact, students with disabilities are less likely to exit charter elementary schools than they are to exit district schools. More students with IEPs enter charter schools in non-gateway grades than exit them.

Beyond that important research, the following findings make for a fairly comprehensive and insightful list of mostly positive news since mid-2014: Continue Reading »

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17th 2015
Friday Decisions: A Furry Friend, Sneak-onomics, and Extra Ice Cream!

Posted under Accountability & Denver & Elementary School & Just For Fun & Middle School & Sciences & Social Studies & Suburban Schools & Testing & Urban Schools

Yesterday the Colorado Department of Education released CMAS science and social studies test results. It’s only the second year the test has been given (science to 5th and 8th graders, social studies to 4th and 7th graders), so you can’t read too much into the trend lines.

The bottom line is that scores are up slightly (except for 8th grade science), but overall Colorado students are not on track in these areas. Colorado Public Radio also notes that, as in other tested areas, there is a sizable achievement gap among ethnic groups.

The overall trend of small gains in 3 of the 4 subject areas generally seems to hold locally in places like Denver, Boulder, Loveland, and Grand Junction. (Thanks to Chalkbeat, you can search scores for individual districts and schools.)

But that’s all just prelude to (finally!) Friday fun time. Continue Reading »

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2nd 2015
New Arrupe Jesuit Profile Highlights the Power of Educational Freedom

Posted under Private Schools & School Choice & Tax Credits & Urban Schools

It’s almost time for July 4th! We’re only hours away from barbeques, fireworks, and copious amounts of flag waving. Before we get to that stuff, though, let’s take a few minutes to talk about a different kind freedom: The kind that empowers kids without means to access the high-quality educational options they need to build better futures.

Although states around the country have been busy adopting school choice programs, Colorado has been stubbornly slow to expand options for its students. This frustrating fact is highlighted by the recent Douglas County voucher decision. While the Dougco decision has teed up an incredibly important fight over discriminatory Blaine Amendments around the country, that fight will take time. And time is something that many low-income or at-risk kids do not have on their side.

Recognizing this fact, some private schools are finding ways give low-income kids the freedom to chart their own courses even in the absence of educational choice policy. My Independence Institute policy friend Ross Izard recently published a profile of Arrupe Jesuit High School, a private Catholic high school in Denver that uses an innovative model to serve exclusively low-income kids, the overwhelming majority of whom are ethnic minorities. Continue Reading »

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