Tag Archives: idea

A Glimpse at New Schools: Math and Science Leadership Academy

After the Colorado Independent brought attention to Denver’s Math and Science Leadership Academy (MSLA) on Friday, I decided it was turn to shine the light on a brick-and-mortar school that is unique for one reason: no principal. No principal, you say? That has to be good, right? When I throw spit wads at the kid next to me, whose office are they going to send me to? Right? Okay, okay, I can stop being goofy for a few minutes. MSLA is not a charter school but an innovation school. The school’s founders had to ask for waivers from state law that would allow it to operate with two “lead teachers” instead of a principal. Teachers evaluate each other through a peer review system. Located in southwest Denver, it’s a K-5 elementary school with a “primary focus” on “science, technology, and mathematics.” MSLA opened its doors this year to students in kindergarten through second grade. Parents who are interested can go to the school’s website for more information on admissions.

Read More...

Overhaul Detroit Schools without Giving Health Insurance to Dead People

It’s Friday. What better time to kick an institution that’s down, and deservedly so? If anyone is taking nominees for an American school district to tear down and start over the education system from scratch, I vote for the Detroit Public Schools. Anyone with me? The district’s well-documented failures and financial deficits are exacerbated by the latest findings of far-reaching corruption. The Detroit Free Press reports today about what was found in a pair of audits of Detroit Public Schools (H/T Intercepts): Among the findings: 160 outdated BlackBerrys, 11 motorcycles, 97 two-way phones and 50 handheld radios sat unused. One audit also showed that 411 people — including some who are dead — were receiving health insurance even though they weren’t eligible. Ending those benefits will save the district an immediate $2.1 million, [emergency financial manager Robert] Bobb said. Health insurance for dead people? To cover future embalming needs? Protection money from grave robbers? If we take away their benefits, will they be added to the rolls of Americans without health insurance? Unbelievable stuff. Do you see what I mean?

Read More...

Baltimore School Celebration Ends with Union Rules Imposed on Charter

Alexander Russo at This Week in Education reports that the city of Baltimore threw a party to celebrate some dramatic improvements in student achievement: No doubt, the city has pulled things together in recent years. The number of students exceeding the state reading standard increased by 92 percent over the last two years, and the number of students exceeding the state math standard increased by 107 percent. All this apparently without any of the standards-lowering that other states have engaged in. The district still ranks near the bottom of Maryland’s 24 districts. But it’s worth celebrating. Academic performance in Charm City must have been pretty bleak before, if after such improvements the district still ranks last in the state. But then you see what’s happening to a charter school that’s been the shining light in Baltimore, and you wonder about the level of commitment to continuing the improvement process they’ve started to celebrate:

Read More...

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.

Read More...

Discuss the "Rock Star" Teacher Idea While I Take a Trip to the Beach

Next week I’ll be on vacation at the beach, and blogging won’t be high on my priority list. But before taking off, I want to leave you with a glimpse into a school model based on the “rock star” teacher idea. This doesn’t mean bringing in real-life rock stars to teach. To my mom and dad, that probably would be some guy named Bon Jovi. To my gramps, maybe some ancient dude named Elvis I’ve heard him talk about. But they’d all be wrong. In a nutshell, the idea is to free up funds to pay the best teachers more by allowing for larger class sizes. The question is: Will it work? Over at Jay Greene’s blog, Dr. Matt Ladner has written about the “rock star” teacher idea several times. The latest highlights a New York Times story about a Washington Heights school scheduled to open in the fall that will pay its eight teachers each $125,000 a year, with a chance to earn more in performance incentives.

Read More...

Research Shows Information Changes Public Opinion on School Funding

One of the main things my friends here at the Education Policy Center do is to shed light on the public debate with information. It’s good to see in scientific terms that information makes a difference with people’s opinions about important policy issues related to education. The new issue of Education Next highlights the research of University of Chicago Professor William Howell and Brown University Professor Martin West — who tested this idea in the area of whether schools should receive more funding. Here’s a sample of what they learned: The average per-pupil spending estimate from respondents to the 2008 Education Next/PEPG survey was $4,231, and the median response was just $2,000; but for these respondents, local average spending per pupil at the time exceeded $10,000. When told how much the local schools were spending, support for increased spending dropped by 10 percentage points, from 61 percent to a bare majority of 51 percent. Howell and West find that these differences in opinion based on exposure to key information are consistent across a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds, views about the local public schools, and political ideologies. “It’s clear that the American public is quite willing to update its views […]

Read More...

Yes, We Should At Least Give the Year-Round School Idea a Chance

It isn’t easy for me to say this, and many of my fellow kids may vote me out as a Benedict Arnold, but Colorado teacher Kathy Kullback has a good point: Maybe there’s something to the year-round school idea. What? No more summer vacation, you argue? Ms. Kullback writes: As a special educator, I tried to sign up special education students with generalized learning disabilities reading below grade level for summer school, but soon learned that the only special education students who take an extended year are cognitively disabled. I was advised that I not extend my students’ school year because the esteem issues associated with students of average cognitive ability attending summer school with students with cognitive disabilities is too severe. Then why not offer different classes for the learning disabled student? If year round classes are good for cognitively disabled students, it seems to me that year round classes would give regular education students that needed boost of continuity, and aid in their achieving academic success. It just makes sense. Year-round school usually means more overall days in the classroom. But just because you give up the long summer vacation doesn’t mean you’re in school every week of […]

Read More...

More Clarity Doesn't Give Arne Duncan Free Pass on Voucher Study Release

When I wrote yesterday with questions about Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s handling of the release of the D.C. voucher study, I didn’t necessarily expect such a fast answer. But former U.S. Department of Education official Russ Whitehurst has posted “Secretary Duncan Is Not Lying”. It’s a worthy read, and puts to rest the more extreme hypothesizing that Duncan knew about the positive results and intentionally hid them from Congress during the important debate on reauthorizing the program. While it seems clear that extreme case isn’t true, Jay Greene also rightly observes that other unsettling issues remain: Why did Duncan suppress the positive results in a Friday afternoon release with no publicity and a negative spin? Why falsely claim that the WSJ never attempted to contact him? The Secretary may well not be lying about his knowledge of the study but his credibility in general is very shaky right now. I’m too young to really grasp it all, but it seems politics lies at the center of the controversy. The D.C. voucher issue raises the specter of divisions within the Democratic Party and therefore causes some adults discomfort. But downplaying the results of the research doesn’t serve either the kids in […]

Read More...