Category Archives: State Board of Education

PARCC Rides Off Into the Sunset… On a Circular Track

It’s no secret that people don’t love Pearson’s PARCC tests. Even way back in 2015, states were practically tripping on themselves trying to get away from the unpopular test, which was originally designed to provide comparable results across state lines. That trend has continued, and only a handful of the original dozens of PARCC states remain. Now, it looks like Colorado is jumping ship. It’s about time. But are we really leaving PARCC behind? Or are we just witnessing a rebranding effort? Colorado’s experience with PARCC has not been overly pleasant. For starters, and although there have been some improvements on this front, results have been slow to roll in despite promises from test-making giant Pearson Education that their technology would make those results available faster. It’s hard to do much with test scores that come in after the new school year is already in full swing. That makes it very tough to create buy-in on the part of educators, parents, or even education observers. PARCC has similarly failed to convince students and parents of its value, and opt-out numbers have soared. Those opt outs are a serious problem for a number of reasons. First, they signal that the state […]

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HB 1375: What Is It, and What Does It Mean for Charters?

Last week, we talked about the sausage-making process behind House Billl 17-1375, which was originally Senate Bill 17-061, but on two separate occasions was part of Senate Bill 17-296.  Got it? Tortured though its legislative journey was, HB 1375’s passage has been heralded by many who worked on it as a huge victory for public charter schools. The Colorado League of Charter Schools, which spearheaded the effort, has been celebrating the bill’s passage as it heads to the governor’s desk, as has much of the rest of Colorado’s education reform lobby. Even the Denver Post gave the bill it’s nod of approval just before final passage. Certainly, some high-fiving and celebration is in order. Many people and organizations, including the Independence Institute, worked in support of Senate Bill 061’s original incarnation. Those folks, and the handful of Senate Democrats brave enough to vote for the bill in its near-original form, deserve a lot of praise for their efforts. But after all the backroom deals and last-minute compromises, I think it’s important to take a close look at what, exactly, we passed. Let’s do that today. Below is a rundown of the major changes to the final bill and what they might mean […]

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Constants and Changes: Colorado's New Political Landscape in 2017

I apologize for my absence last week, friends. I was helping my policy friend Ross Izard wrap up another major publication—and trying to finish wrapping my head around the previous extraordinary (and extraordinarily confusing) political week. I’m not sure anyone fully understands what happened this November, but it’s clear that something has changed. This week was something of a watershed in modern American politics. Exactly what kind of watershed—and what it means going forward—remains to be seen. President-elect Trump is still a question mark when it comes to education, and all we can do is wait and see what happens in 2017. In the meantime, we should remember that national-level elections weren’t the only nail-biting contests in 2016. In fact, I think I could make compelling case that they weren’t even the most important. Truthfully, we should be far more interested in what happened at the state level in Colorado, where political tides and the policy shifts they bring can immediately and directly impact our lives. Let’s catch up on those important changes today. For those who don’t follow state-level politics very closely, here was Colorado’s landscape heading into the 2016 election: Democratic governor 18-17 Republican majority in the Colorado […]

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So… What Happens Now? Thoughts on What President Trump Means for Education

Something happened last night. I was already in bed, of course, but I could hear strange shouting downstairs. I couldn’t quite make it out, but it sounded like someone saying, “Wisconsin?! What?!” This morning I found my dad still awake, sitting in an arm chair with bleary eyes and a strange expression that I’m not sure I’ve seen on his face before. It was weird. It was really, really weird. I am, of course, referring to Donald Trump’s utterly astonishing victory over Hillary Clinton in last night’s presidential election. He deserves a hearty congratulation for defying the political odds and, in the end, pulling off exactly the kind of map-changing, crushing victory he said he’d accomplish. Truthfully, I never thought I would write the words “President-elect Trump.” But here we are.

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Colorado State Board of Education Opens up the ESSA Conversation

I broke out my (heavily used) soap box a couple weeks ago to talk about the importance of having a seat at the education policy grown-ups table. We talked about Hillary Clinton’s promise to guarantee the National Education Association some level of policy influence, as well as some of the questionable stuff that has come out of working groups here in Colorado that are woefully devoid of any semblance of balanced perspectives. I finished the post by calling for Colorado’s new working committee on the Every Student Succeeds Act to be more inclusive of reform-minded voices, and worried aloud that the deck had already been stacked in favor of the omnipresent education establishment. It looks like I spoke too soon.

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Public Policy Buckets and the Law of Unintended Consequences

You know, we spend too much time thinking about public policy in buckets. I live in the education bucket, while others live in the finance bucket or the energy bucket or the transportation bucket or… well, you get the point. But the world doesn’t really work that way, does it? Public policy in one area often deeply affects policy in another. Pull the wrong string over here and you may inadvertently spark a crisis over there. To underscore that point, I’d like to call your attention to Exhibit A: South Routt School District (SOROCO to the locals) and the unintended consequences of the War on Coal on education in Colorado. South Routt is a tiny school district of about 350 PK-12 students near Steamboat. I’ll forgive you if you haven’t heard of it before. Like many rural school districts in Colorado, SOROCO lives on a budgetary razor’s edge where any large swing is likely to be felt very keenly. You can imagine the district’s panic, then, when Peabody Energy, the country’s largest coal-mining company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April 2016. Why would a national coal company’s bankruptcy matter to South Routt? Because it turns out that bankrupt corporations […]

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The Importance of Having a Seat at the Table

Having a “seat at the table” is especially important to me as a five-year-old. Don’t get me wrong; I love my Mickey Mouse table and chairs, and there are definitely benefits to sitting at the kids table—food fights, extra dessert, and the social acceptability of using spaghetti noodles as walrus tusks, to name a few. But there are good reasons to want to sit at the grown-up table, too. And as I get older (very, very slowly), I’m starting to wonder about the selection process used to determine which “adults” get to sit at the education policy grown-ups table.

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SBOE Primaries Set Up Interesting November Battles

I apologize for my absence over the last week, friends. I was in Nashville eating delicious barbeque and attending the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ annual conference. This year is a special year to hang out with charter leaders, advocates, and policy wonks, as it marks the 25th anniversary of the American charter school movement. Minnesota passed the first charter school law in 1991. Since then, the movement has grown to include nearly 7,000 schools serving roughly three million students across 42 states and the District of Columbia. Yeehaw! I learned three things at the conference. First, that Nashville’s hot, sticky weather offers a compelling argument that we should regard air conditioning as the single most important invention in human history. Second, that southern food puts all other regional foods to shame. And finally, that the American charter school movement is absolutely stuffed with inspirational people from a thousand different walks of life and of a thousand different philosophical persuasions who wake up every day thinking about how they can fight for children’s futures. Seriously, these folks are amazing. But as much fun as I had wandering around Nashville and chatting with real-life educational superheroes, I couldn’t fully unplug […]

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State Board Tackles Not-So-Super Subgroups

Mondays are good days to roll up our sleeves and bury ourselves in education policy arcana. This Monday is a particularly good day to do that; on Wednesday, the Colorado State Board of Education will decide the fate of a complicated but important proposal related to our state’s school and district accountability system. The proposal deals with the use of “super subgroups” (also called “combined subgroups”), which aggregate subgroups of students—minority, at-risk, English-language learner (ELL), and special education—into a single bucket for accountability purposes under Colorado’s school and district performance frameworks (SPFs and DPFs). Pushed by some school districts, interest groups, and the Colorado Department of Education, the shift toward combined subgroups is strongly opposed by a large, diverse coalition of organizations from across the political spectrum. Careful observers will note that one of those organizations is the Independence Institute, which I happen to be rather fond of. Why is the Independence Institute involved? To understand that, you have to understand the issue in a little more detail. Brace yourself, thar be wonkery ahead.

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Failing Schools, Federal Grants, and Turnaround Efforts in Colorado

We ended last week on a high note, with conservatives banding together to preserve accountability in Colorado even in the absence of federal requirements to do so. Then a Sunday Denver Post story about federally funded school turnaround efforts in Colorado drove home the fact that—brace for impact—federal efforts at school improvement aren’t always all that helpful. From the story: At best, the results of this nationwide experiment that shoveled money at the country’s lowest-performing 5 percent of schools are unconvincing. A Denver Post analysis of student achievement data and federal School Improvement Grant funds found little correlation between money and academic gains. The story examines data from No Child Left Behind’s School Improvement Grant (SIG) program, which is a roughly $7 billion federal grant program under Title I of ESEA. Well, at least it was a roughly $7 billion federal grant program under ESEA. The grant program is not included under the new version of ESEA/NCLB known ESSA. Education sure does love its acronyms… Anyway, the program was aimed at improving the lowest-performing schools in the country. Basically, the feds awarded money to state education providers (like CDE), and those providers then turned around and offered the money through […]

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