Tag Archives: reform

Little Eddie's Debate Wish List

Tonight’s a big night, my friends. To fully enjoy the spectacle, you’ll need a comfortable couch, plenty of popcorn, and the abilities to suspend disbelief and suppress maniacal laughter. You may also want to have what my dad calls “adult beverages” on hand in case the opportunity for a “drinking game” presents itself. I’m too young to know what either of those things mean, naturally. No, I’m not talking about another absurd Douglas County school board meeting where the three members of the district’s Toxic Trio attempt to blow up any remaining notion of responsible governance—though that could be pretty entertaining. I’m talking about the presidential debate this evening between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The event is predicted to draw as many as 100 million viewers. That’s a pretty ridiculous number. So ridiculous, in fact, that I do believe I have a meme for that. If you are wondering whether my use of Dr. Evil’s likeness hints at my feelings for either candidate, I assure you that it does not. I am far too young to vote on anything other than where to go for dinner with my family. But tightening polls indicate that we could potentially wind up […]

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SB 191's Reforms Begin to Take Hold

Passed in 2010 with bipartisan support, Colorado’s Senate Bill 191 is a big law that includes a lot of different timelines. Frequent delays in the law’s implementation only add to the confusion. But despite all that messiness, the law is beginning to do its work. At its core, SB 191 is a tenure reform law. Okay, okay, legal nerds, a “non-probationary status” reform law. Previously, Colorado teachers earned non-probationary status after three years of teaching. That status provides near-absolute “due process” job protections that could force school district leaders to navigate legal requirements all the way to the steps of the Colorado Supreme Court should they decide to fire a non-probationary teacher. Under SB 191, teachers earn non-probationary status after three years of effective teaching. As an important corollary, those same teachers can lose that status after two years of ineffective teaching. We’ve discussed the ins and outs of these reforms at some length in the context of the union-led assault on legislative authority that is the Masters case, which deals with SB 191’s lesser-known mutual consent provision. We’ve also covered the Independence Institute’s arguments about why the union is way off base legally in that case. We won’t beat those […]

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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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Investigating Dougco's Independent Investigation

Let’s begin today’s post with a little bit of vocabulary. Merriam-Webster defines the word “independent” as: a (1) :  not subject to control by others :  self-governing (2) :  not affiliated with a larger controlling unit <an independent bookstore> b (1) :  not requiring or relying on something else :  not contingent <an independent conclusion> (2) :  not looking to others for one’s opinions or for guidance in conduct (3) :  not bound by or committed to a political party c (1) :  not requiring or relying on others (as for care or livelihood) <independent of her parents> (2) :  being enough to free one from the necessity of working for a living <a person of independent means> Some of our friends in Douglas County, however, have chosen to use a more novel definition of the term when discussing the recent results of an independent investigation into bullying allegations against Dougco school board members Meghann Silverthorn and Judith Reynolds: That anyone who finds against their accusations cannot be independent. We’re going to spend some time dissecting that claim today.

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Turning Over a New Leaf: Better Turnover Figures Make Me Smile

There are a lot of exciting days every year. Christmas, Easter, snow days, and my birthday all spring to mind immediately. But for education nerds, there’s no day more exciting than New Numbers Day. Today, my friends, is that day. Okay, New Numbers Day was technically April 7, when the Colorado Department of Education released brand-new, more accurate teacher turnover numbers for school districts across the state. But we’re going to talk about it today, and one of the benefits of entirely made-up holidays is that you can have them whenever you want. So there. Regular readers of my diatribes will remember that I am not a fan of the way CDE has reported teacher turnover in the past. Why? Because the Department included a whole bunch of stuff that created an inaccurate picture of actual turnover in school districts. More specifically, the state’s old calculations included teachers leaving after riding out their final year of employment under PERA’s 110/110 program, the ones scooped up as additional losses due to differences in reporting timeframes between the district and the state,  those on single-year contracts, and others who were promoted or moved to non-teaching positions in the district. That last part […]

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Opting out of What, Exactly?

It’s Thursday again, which (I think) still qualifies as a serious work day. I suppose that means we should do something that amounts to serious education policy-ing rather than just watching a video or something. Oh, stop looking at me like that. You like it when we get nerdy. If the plan is for us to be serious today, we should pick a super-serious topic. And if we have to pick a super-serious topic, what could be better than opting out of statewide assessments? It is, after all, testing season in Colorado. I was thinking about opt outs yesterday as I read a Politico article about a new push by the opt-out “movement” to diversify the people who participate. Or should I say who don’t participate? Whatever. The point is that they want the movement to be less white. More specifically, they’d like it to be less white and poorer. Now why would opt-out folks want something like that?

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Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: Jeffco's Ken Witt Pokes Recall Advocates

Friday Fun Day has arrived yet again. I don’t have super-secret materials to share or an inspiring video to show you today. But I do have something pretty darn entertaining: A school board reformer in Jeffco calling the bluff of recall proponents in Jeffco by filing a complaint against… himself. Yes, that’s right. Tired of accusations that the board majority members have violated state sunshine laws, Jefferson County Board of Education President Ken Witt filed an ethics complaint against himself with the Colorado Ethics Commission. In his words: This recall election will cost the district between $100,000-$200,000. That’s money that won’t go to our classrooms and our students. They have spent well over $100,000 gathering tens of thousands of signatures. … But not one is brave enough to sign a complaint? Out of the hundreds of thousands of dollars they have spent, they couldn’t spend the 49 cents for the stamp to send a complaint? And they accuse us of wasting money.

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Thompson Stands Up for Change

Some famous guy at some point in history once said that the hardest part of any effort is taking the first step. How right he was. Even at the tender age of five, I can tell you that it’s hard to do big, scary, important stuff. But you don’t need to take my word for it. Just ask the Thompson Board of Education! Reform-minded members of Thompson’s school board took a really big first step last night when they shot down the tentative agreement coming out of the district’s months-long union negotiation process. You probably remember our discussion of that agreement a couple of weeks ago. If not, this piece by my friend Ross Izard should catch you up. The short version is this: The “new” contract stunk. Faced with the prospect of having to sign the aforementioned stinky contract, Thompson’s reformers took a brave stand and refused to act as a rubber stamp for the union or district bureaucrats. The board members did a great job of articulating their points, and they made a whole lot of good sense to me.

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Apathy, Confusion, and Survey Data: What the Numbers Really Tell Us

I was going to write about an interesting article I read on ADHD, school choice, and personalized learning today, but then I was distracted by a very interesting blog post on Americans’ understanding of education policy—or lack thereof. The irony of being distracted from writing about and ADHD article is not lost on me, but I choose to ignore it. Never fear, fellow policy explorers; we will revisit ADHD school choice later this week. Today, we talk survey. Yes, again. No, I can’t be persuaded otherwise. As you well know—and possibly as you have come to hate—I have an unhealthy fascination with surveys and the data they produce. Happily, the last couple of months have served up a veritable smorgasbord of tasty survey data for me to munch on in addition to my normal thinkin’ snacks of M&Ms and pretzel sticks. I even got to join Martin West last week for a delicious re-analysis of data from Education Next’s big survey this past summer. Now, Dr. Morgan Polikoff, a young researcher at the University of South Carolina’s Rossier School of Education, has chimed in on the issue with a blog post written for the Fordham Institute. Polikoff takes a closer […]

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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.

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