Tag Archives: education

Are Michigan Lawmakers Being Inspired by Colorado's Innovation School Act?

Last year Colorado passed the Innovation Schools Act, which I applauded as a positive step forward. But our state isn’t the only one to see greater need for public school flexibility to make personnel decisions in the best interests of students. Look at Michigan. The Detroit Free Press recently reported on a legislative proposal “to allow teachers and parents to convert their local schools into independently run schools with more flexible rules.” Known as Senate Bill 636, the proposal would enable the creation of so-called “neighborhood schools”, especially targeted toward high at-risk student populations.

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Please Don't Let Unions Play Hide-and-Seek with Teachers' Money

Hide-and-seek can be a lot of fun, but not when someone else — especially some big group — is playing it with your money. That’s why my friends at the Independence Institute make such a big deal about government spending transparency. But what about transparency for teachers who belong to, or have to pay fees to, a union? Following the story of the Indiana state teachers union that lost millions of dollars of members’ money through gross mismanagement, James Sherk and Dan Lips from the Heritage Foundation wrote a great piece for yesterday’s National Review Online called “Shady Dealings”. They explain how teachers unions have fought having to shine light on their financial activities:

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All Eyes (Including Mine) on Radical Westminster School Innovation

I’ve told you before about Westminster School District’s program to move from seat time to standards — re-thinking the whole traditional grade system that has dominated American education for decades — and the Doogie Howser-like potential such a system could offer me. Well, earlier this week, Rebecca Jones at Ed News Colorado chronicled the fact that the moment of truth has arrived for Westminster (aka Adams 50): It’s the last day of the 2008-09 school year in the district. The last day of life as most students and teachers there have always known it. The last day that categories like “third grade” or “sixth grade” – or A or B+ or C- — will exist in most of Westminster. The district is scrapping traditional notions of grade level and doing away with letter grades. Students will instead progress through academic levels 1-10 based on their mastery of subjects, not on the length of time they’ve been in school. This concept, known as standards-based education, has been tried in individual schools and in some small districts in Alaska, but never before in a large, urban district such as Westminster. The bold step is bringing national attention to the district.

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Jay Mathews Inspires My Radical Ideas to Spend $100 Billion on Education

In today’s Washington Post, education columnist Jay Mathews raises the question: If you had $100 billion to fix our schools, what would you do? Faithful readers know I was skeptical of the federal government’s “magical money tree” a few months ago. My sentiment hasn’t changed. Some ideas for spending 100 billion (that’s a 1 followed by 11 zeroes) new smackeroos in the education bureaucracy inevitably will be better than others, and some may end up yielding some positive results. In his column, Mathews grades five proposals for spending the money, realistically noting of those who submitted the proposals: Their goal is to get the biggest change by January 2012. I think they are dreaming. The federal stimulus is designed to save jobs, not raise student achievement. But some (not all) of the ideas are so good some states might (repeat, might) be tempted to try them. To rate the five proposals yourself, as well as five others Mathews invented, check out his blog post.

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Celebration Widespread for State Board Approval of First Innovation Schools

After a close vote Monday from the Denver Public Schools board, Manual High and Montclair Elementary found smooth sailing from the State Board of Education in their pursuit to become Colorado’s first “innovation schools”. As Ed News Colorado explains, the vote in favor of the waiver request was unanimous — winning plaudits from both sides of the political aisle: “I really think this is groundbreaking for Denver and groundbreaking for the state of Colorado,” said Elaine Gantz Berman, D-1st District, herself a former DPS board member. “I’m hoping that this growing, positive trend finally gives the state the motivation it needs to realize that our schools are being crushed by rules, regulations and bureaucracy,” said board Chair Bob Schaffer, R-4th District. My Education Policy Center friends at GoBash point out that this is no small request: Manual and Montview “received waivers from 40 state statutes, 32 district policies, and 18 collective bargaining agreement provisions”. Also, another good point from Colorado Charters: State Board Vice-Chair Randy DeHoff commended DPS for learning from their charter schools. Charter schools operate via waiver from state laws and district policies. The only substantive difference between charter schools and “innovation schools” is that the latter still […]

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More High-Quality Choices? Denver May Be on Verge of Major Breakthrough

Today’s big education story in the Denver Post suggests we may be on the verge of some major innovative developments that promote consumer choices and academic excellence: This morning, the Denver School of Science and Technology charter school will announce that it plans to open four new schools over the next five years. And this evening, Denver’s school board will vote on whether to allow Manual High and Montclair Elementary to become the state’s first “innovation schools.” The designation would give them charterlike freedoms to hire and fire and set their own calendars…. High-performing West Denver Preparatory Charter School hopes to add two middle schools in northwest Denver; the Cesar Chavez Academy organization based in Pueblo will try to open its first Denver school; and Knowledge Is Power Program, or KIPP, wants a middle school on the west side that will feed its high school opening this August. Organizations also are forming to help support the creation of new schools in DPS. The Walton Family Foundation — a K-12 education-reform charity established by Wal-Mart magnate Sam Walton — is focusing on Denver. The National Association of Charter School Authorizers chose Denver as the first district it will help with more […]

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Senate Vote Against D.C. Scholarship Kids Makes Me Want to Throw Legos

Way to go, U.S. Senate. You made a 5-year-old boy cry. How dare you vote to take away scholarships from D.C. kids who really need them! Have you seen these kids? Even the Eduwonk – no big fan of vouchers – says “the spectacle of forcing the kids to leave their schools before they age out is pretty cold-hearted.” Uh-huh. Fifty-eight U.S. Senators – including Colorado’s own Michael Bennet and Mark Udall – have decided to spend billions on wasteful pork projects, but can’t spare anything to keep 1,700 students from exercising the choice to enroll in a better school. And to think I’ve said nice things about Mr. Bennet before. I’m thinking about taking it back. Andy Smarick at the Flypaper blog asks: “Why are they doing this?” He makes some very good points, and I have to agree with him. But really, I’m just plain mad right now. I’ve even thought about throwing some of my Legos at the next U.S. Senator who comes my way. (Not that many ever have, mind you.) Will President Obama show the Senators who’s in charge? His press secretary said today that “it wouldn’t make sense to disrupt the education of those […]

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Tenure Reform Would Be Another Good Idea for Obama & Colorado to Embrace

President Obama made some remarks about education yesterday, and my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow got a chance to respond in this piece from Face The State: Ben DeGrow, education policy analyst for the Independence Institute, said he is glad to finally see Obama taking a strong position on education. “Obama the candidate and Obama the President has been all over the place on education reform, and it’s been hard to pin him down,” said DeGrow. “The comments in [Tuesday’s] speech are mostly promising, and we need to hold him to those comments.” [link added] In the Face the State piece, State Board of Education chairman Bob Schaffer also raised the point that Obama has given no indication of wanting to help stop an effort by Democrats in Congress to take away private tuition scholarships from poor kids in the nation’s capital. Still, the President’s message yesterday was largely on the right track. Among the less traditionally Democratic education reform ideas Barack Obama embraced are charter schools, accountability, and teacher performance pay. In the latter case, Obama seems to grasp the importance of the current problem with teacher quality: In his speech, the president issued a call for a […]

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Edspresso is Hot These Days, Burning Down the Magical Money Tree

The horse isn’t dead yet, so I’m not going to stop beating it. I’ve already highlighted the silliness of the “magical money tree” solution to education coming from Congress. Let’s not mince words: the so-called “stimulus” bill in Washington, DC, is a disaster. A disaster for education reform, and a disaster for students – who would end up being burdened with far, far more debt than we can hope to gain from the proposed education spending. As much as I have enjoyed picking apart the nonsense of this gargantuan wasteful spending bill, the writers at the Edspresso blog truly have been in their heyday unraveling the topic. After a hot start a few years ago, Edspresso went through some tough, slow times. That appears to be in the past, though. The latest piece “Status Quo Education Stimulus” ironically lauds the National Education Association for showing us how “the stimulus bill is nothing more than additional funding for the education programs and structures that already exist, regardless of efficacy.”

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Outside Education Experts Help Point the Way to Get Colorado On Track

Education policy is often as much art as it is science. But Colorado’s education policy still can benefit from the informed perspectives of non-Colorado experts. Denver’s own Piton Foundation convened a panel of six national education experts who observe what Colorado has done in many reform areas, and asked for their honest assessments. The result is a brand new report Colorado’s 2008 Education Reforms: Will They Achieve the Colorado Promise? (PDF). In today’s Denver Post, education writer Jeremy Meyer sums up the findings: Six national education experts took a look at Colorado’s education landscape and found the state is on track in some areas but has a long way to go in others.

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