Tag Archives: questions

iVoices: Colorado's Own Expert Talks Education Policy and the Courts

Exactly what role should unelected judges play in making policies for our schools? What problems have been created? What can we expect in the future? These are the kinds of questions that University of Colorado at Colorado Springs professor Joshua Dunn addresses in a new iVoices podcast with my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow (click the play button below to listen to the 15-minute discussion): The podcast only scratches the surface on the issue of the courts and education policy, because Joshua Dunn really knows what he’s talking about. Along with Martin West, he edited an important new book on the topic called From Schoolhouse to Courthouse — published by the Brookings Institution Press and Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

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Two Chances to Hear from Douglas County School Board Candidates

It’s important for Colorado citizens to get involved in local school board elections. A lot of important policies and other decisions are set at the local level, so it’s good to make an informed choice and cast a vote! If you live in Douglas County, you’ll want to know about two forums taking place where you can get to meet the school board candidates, ask them questions, and learn about where they stand on important issues like school choice, school accountability, performance pay, school financial transparency, and more. The first one, sponsored by the Douglas County Federation [local teachers union], is tonight from 7-8:30 PM at Chaparral High School. If you miss that opportunity, I received an email from A Parent’s Voice founder Donnell Rosenberg alerting me to another forum coming up in September:

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School Spending Transparency Opponents Are Running Out of Excuses

It’s been a couple months now since the Democrats running Colorado’s House Education Committee went out of their way to double-super kill school spending transparency. But no matter how uncomfortable it may make some politicians feel, the issue simply is not going to go away. The Reason Foundation’s Lisa Snell points us to a new Education Week column that explains why school officials really are without excuse when it comes to true financial transparency:

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Teacher Pay & Tenure System Like Pounding Square Peg into Round Hole

Have you ever tried to pound a square peg into a round hole (or vice versa)? How about after that doesn’t work a couple times, you go out and buy 100 of the same square pegs to keep trying what already failed? It makes about as much sense as most systems we have today for training, developing, paying, and retaining teachers. Sure, we’ve seen some progress with performance pay programs — Colorado has produced some leading examples — but the old-fashioned salary schedule still persists. Pay teachers based on seniority and academic credentials. Never mind, as the Denver Post‘s Jeremy Meyer observes from Urban Institute education director Jane Hannaway (with supporting evidence compiled here), that teachers overwhelmingly improve during the first four years of their career and then just stop: “It’s one of our very consistent findings,” said Hannaway, presenter last week at the American Educational Research Association annual meeting in San Diego, citing at least two recent studies of teacher effectiveness. “The reason of course is not clear, but it’s in study after study,” she said. “Teachers do get better (in the beginning). If you look at the same teacher at Year One, they look a lot better at […]

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Survey Says… More Teachers Happy, But What About Seniority Rules?

The new MetLife Survey of the American Teacher finds that more teachers today seem to have a bright outlook on their jobs than 25 years ago: The survey reveals that a majority of today’s teachers (62%) are very satisfied with their careers, compared to 40% in 1984. Two-thirds (67%) of teachers think that the training and preparation teachers receive does a good job of preparing them for the classroom, compared to 46% in 1984. A lot of the commenters on Joanne Jacobs’ posting are grousing that the results are bogus, since they don’t jibe with their own personal professional discontent. Maybe they have a point, maybe not: I read more ad hominem attack than substantive critique of the survey’s methodology. Since we’re trafficking in the world of anecdotes, let me add that my own kindergarten teacher seems to be pretty happy with her job. Of course, I’m not allowed into the teachers’ lounge, so my perception could be a complete illusion. And a lot more can be learned about educators’ views on the profession by perusing the entire survey. It tackles a lot of questions, but one that I’d really be curious to see answered: How satisfied are educators with […]

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Who in Congress Opts for Private Schools But Denies Choice to Others?

The clever folks at the Heritage Foundation have done it again, coming up with a new version of a classic survey (H/T Core Knowledge Blog): The new survey revealed that 38 percent of Members of the 111th Congress sent a child to private school at one time. (See Appendix Table A-1.) Of these respondents, 44 percent of Senators and 36 percent of Representatives had at one time sent their children to private school; 23 percent of House Education and Labor Committee Members and nearly 40 percent of Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Members have ever sent their children to private school; 38 percent of House Appropriations Committee Members and 35 percent of Senate Finance Committee Members have ever sent their children to private school; and 35 percent of Congressional Black Caucus Members and 31 percent of Congressional HispanicCaucus Members exercised private-school choice.[6](See Chart 1.) It’s the perfect example of “School Choice for Me, But Not for Thee”. The report is great, but I have a couple questions for the author Lindsey Burke — in search of more detail: Senator Dick Durbin is mentioned as a leading opponent of the D.C. voucher program who sends his own children to […]

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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 […]

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Deconstructing Arne Duncan and the Release of the D.C. Voucher Program Study

I’ve pointed out to you the sad story of national education officials ignoring the positive results from the D.C. voucher program as they let the ax fall on opportunity for some very needy kids. The Wall Street Journal raised serious questions about the complicity of Education Secretary Arne Duncan in hiding the results so Congress could go ahead with shutting down the program. Questioning Duncan directly, the Denver Post‘s David Harsanyi pressed the issue further, finding that the Secretary’s story on one important count didn’t match the record: When I had the chance to ask Duncan — at a meeting of the Denver Post editorial board on Tuesday — whether he was alerted to this study before Congress eradicated the D.C. program, he offered an unequivocal “no.” He then called the WSJ editorial “fundamentally dishonest” and maintained that no one had even tried to contact him, despite the newspaper’s contention that it did, repeatedly. When I called the Wall Street Journal, I discovered a different — that is, meticulously sourced and exceedingly convincing — story, including documented e-mail conversations between the author and higher-ups in Duncan’s office. The voucher study — which showed progress compounding yearly — had been around […]

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Utahns Quizzed on School Spending

There’s a neat new site you ought to see if you care about public schools: Utah Education Facts. The highlight of the site is a video where they interview average Utahns and ask them questions about the financing and spending of their state’s education system: For those who aren’t from Utah, what if somebody asked you these same sort of questions about your state? How prepared would you be? Of course, the point isn’t to pick on individuals for their knowledge or lack thereof. Instead it highlights the misinformation on which poll-based demands for more education funding largely are based. Ultimately, such a project should aim to arm the populace with more knowledge and information. And isn’t that a major part of what education should be about? Does anyone doubt a similar “man-on-the-street” interview video project here in Colorado would be a good idea? I hope somebody out there is paying attention.

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