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August 4, 2011
SBE mulls test costs, NCLB waiver
Testing costs and the possibility of waiving out of the NCLB law sparked lively discussion among State Board of Education members.
August 3, 2011
State Board has a big day
The State Board of Education got an estimate on new test costs Wednesday and an earful about proposed teacher evaluation regulations.
July 25, 2011
Opinion: Has reform cart outpaced data horse?
Several high-profile education reforms passed by the Colorado legislature in the last few years rely on massive collections of data to work as planned. For example, the 2009 accountability bill requires administrators at struggling schools to use school-level data to drive the improvement planning process. Senate Bill 191’s teacher evaluation provisions require more, however. Administrators must be able to drill down to the individual level, accurately linking teachers with students to evaluate teachers based on how well their students progress over the year. And Senate Bill 10-036 tills the soil for teacher prep programs to monitor the achievement of their graduates’ students in order to improve teacher prep programs. All are ambitious laws -- and I sometimes fear that Colorado’s reform cart has raced ahead of the data horse. The Colorado Department of Education, school districts and the Department of Higher Education are still working out the details on the kinds of data needed. That’s not a criticism. Collecting data that links every student, teacher, school and public university in the state is incredibly slow and painstaking when done right – and you definitely want it done right. I just worry that the public enthusiasm for the reforms will fade before they even get a chance. Collecting data that links every student, teacher, school and public university in the state is incredibly slow and painstaking when done right – and you definitely want it done right. That would be a shame because Colorado is headed toward building one of the most sophisticated data systems in the country, one that can be used to help improve our schools in many ways. Administrators and teachers can use data to identify their schools’ weaknesses and work together to set targets and monitor improvement. Principals can provide useful feedback to individual teachers, helping the weakest improve or find a new profession. Researchers can measure which programs and reforms are most successful over time and examine why.
July 20, 2011
"Using the indefensible to defend the status quo"
Interesting thoughts from Dropout Nation's RiShawn Biddle on how some standardized testing critics are using the Atlanta scandal to overstate their case. Here's a highlight: Plenty has already been said about the cheating scandal at the Atlanta school district. And, as one would expect, education traditionalists such as American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Diane Ravitch proclaimed that the mess proved that standardized testing leads to perverse incentives that force teachers to behave unethically, provide low-quality instruction, and ultimately, poorly serve the children in their care...
July 5, 2011
Months after launching ARIS audit, comptroller surveys its users
Three months after announcing that he would take a taxpayer's suggestion and audit the Department of Education's online data system, Comptroller John Liu is asking the system's most frequent users for feedback. Liu announced in March that he would audit the Achievement Reporting and Innovation System, the department's data warehouse known as ARIS, which has attracted no shortage of critics for its $81 million price tag and early glitches. In June, Liu's office distributed a satisfaction survey to some ARIS users, including teachers. "As part of the audit, we are evaluating whether the system meets users’ needs," read an email containing the survey sent June 14 by Vince Liquori, director of financial audit in the comptroller's office. A high school teacher who received the survey sent it to GothamSchools after the deadline to complete it, June 24, had passed. The 21-question survey asks respondents for details about how they use ARIS and whether they think they system is helping them boost student achievement. The survey also includes a free-response section for respondents to list what they like and dislike about the system and identify which of its features they would change. The survey comes as ARIS continues to contend against lower-budget competitors for teachers' attention.
June 29, 2011
Bills will hold DOE's feet to fire on discharge, graduation rates
The City Council is requiring the education department to provide more transparent reporting to support claims for two of its signature achievements: higher graduation rates and fewer failing schools. In the midst of finalizing next year's city budget, the council managed to pass two bills that target the Department of Education's bookkeeping. One of them requires the department to disclose more detailed information about students who leave the system without graduation. The second mandates the release of information about students who do not graduate when their high schools close. Under the first bill, the DOE will be forced to provide more detailed data about student discharge rates, which critics say is overused by schools in order to inflate graduation rates. In 2009, Leonie Haimson, of Class Size Matters, released a report that found discharge rates steadily climbed since 2000. That prompted a state audit that concluded the dropout rate was in fact higher than claims made by the DOE. Out of 88,612 students from the 2004-2008 cohort, 19 percent - or 17,025 - were discharged and 10 percent - or 9,323 - dropped out, according to the audit. "This bill will for the first time allow us to know what happened to the thousands of students every year who are discharged from high schools," Haimson said. "It will make it possible to see if they're honestly reporting discharge rates.
June 6, 2011
DPS' response to the credit recovery controversy
Editor's note: This post was submitted to Education News Colorado by Antwan Wilson, Denver Public Schools' assistant superintendent, office of post-secondary readiness. It offers the district's response to this blog post from EdNews Publisher Alan Gottlieb, and this article from Westword. I wanted to take this opportunity to address the concerns raised in recent media reports about the credit recovery at North High School. The issues raised in the report are very serious ones, and we are actively investigating the claims and reviewing our overall credit-recovery procedures. Should we find violations of our guidelines or ethical standards or the need to implement clearer or stronger policies, we will take action to ensure the integrity and rigor of that program and all of our programs. We certainly recognize that for our diplomas to have value, our programs must be - and be seen as - rigorous. In addressing the concerns about rigor, it’s important to take a minute to discuss the purpose of credit recovery and where it fits in our overall high school programs. To date, that investigation has determined at a minimum that there were serious deficiencies in following procedures and keeping records during the 2009-10 school year. First, a word on rigor. Over the past several years, the Denver Public Schools has significantly strengthened the rigor of its high school programs. The district has increased the number of credits required for graduation from 220 to 240 (the highest in the state to our knowledge) by adding a fourth year of math and additional lab-science requirement, among other changes. We have nearly doubled the number of students taking and receiving college credit from Advanced Placement courses over the past five years, and we have also nearly tripled the number of students concurrently enrolled in college-level courses. The percent of concurrently enrolled students receiving As, Bs, or Cs in these college level courses (and therefore college credit) is over 80 percent. And these increases cross all racial and socioeconomic groups. Our district also has posted double-digit gains in math and reading proficiency on state assessments over the past five years. Our mission at DPS is to ensure that all of our students graduate high school and successfully pursue postsecondary opportunities and become successful world citizens. This is an important mission in that it sets a high bar that requires that we implement a system district-wide that meets the needs of all of our students regardless of who they are, where they come from, or what their previous academic performance may have been. Aligning mission to Denver Plan This mission aligns with the 2010 Denver Plan goal of being the best urban school district in the country. It says that we recognize and appreciate the diversity within our student population and the many unique needs of our students and we are making it our responsibility to construct a system that prepares all students for success in the college and career opportunities they seek. READ THE REST OF THIS STORY IN THE BLOG ARCHIVE
May 19, 2011
Analysis: Sorting out the 2011 session
The 2011 legislative session won’t go down in history as having a significant impact on education policy. But even quiet sessions have consequences.
May 9, 2011
Higher ed performance bill passes
Updated - The higher education performance funding bill is on its way to the governor.
April 14, 2011
Linked to test scores, principal ratings took a hit last year
Principals who worried that new, toughened state math and English exams would hurt their performance reviews had good reason: Far fewer principals earned high marks from the city last year. Data on principals' performance ratings, which GothamSchools obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request, show that the number of principals who "substantially exceed" expectations fell by roughly 60 percent from 2009 to 2010. (A full list of all principals and how they scored is at the end of this post.) The decrease parallels a drop in test scores and fewer schools earning "A" grades on their progress reports. The percentage of elementary and middle schools to get A’s on their city-issued report cards fell from 84 to 25 percent — a drop precipitated by more students failing the exams and the city grading schools on a curve. With fewer principals earning the city's highest rating, more fell into the middle. Principals can earn one of five ratings: does not meet expectations, partially meets, meets, exceeds, or substantially exceeds. The number of principals rated as "exceeding" expectations rose from 465 to 608 and the number who "meet" expectations climbed from 114 to 376. The number of principals earning substandard marks also rose. In 2009, only five principals were rated "does not meet" expectations, but that number more than quadrupled to 21 in 2010. Even with the increase, the percentage of principals earning the lowest rating is now only 1.4 percent of the 1449 on the city's list.
April 4, 2011
Parent involvement bill passes Senate
Budget discussions dominated Monday at the Capitol, but two education bills advanced in the Senate and House.
March 15, 2011
Chief DOE deputy to parents and teachers: Check our work
The city is putting in new measures to help the schools that it is closing, the Department of Education's top deputy said yesterday. Those measures, which include formalizing the city's plans to support the schools and developing best practice guidelines for closing schools, come in response to criticism from the Panel For Educational Policy and others, Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky told GothamSchools. But parents and teachers should still monitor the city's progress and hold the department accountable, he told people attending a public meeting in Brooklyn last night organized by City Councilman Brad Lander. The exchange took up just a few minutes of a two-hour meeting that focused on the effect of testing on city classrooms and on Polakow-Suransky's hopes for new tests based on national standards. At the meeting, Ann-Marie Henry-Stephens, an assistant principal and English teacher at Paul Robeson High School, one of the schools that the city plans to phase out, asked Polakow-Suransky how the city planned to better support teachers. "The teachers who are at my school or at any school really don't feel supported by the DOE — when is the DOE going to treat us as equals and treat us with some professional courtesy?" Stephens asked, prompting applause from the audience of teachers and parents. She continued: Right now, we have a new evaluation system, we are hearing about layoffs, the Teacher Data Initiative. A lot of what you are doing and saying to teachers is punitive, and we want support because it’s really hard, there’s so much to learn, so much to do…. So really, when are we going to get the support especially in schools that are struggling?…Schools are struggling and they’re crying out for help, but we don’t get the help, we get evaluated. Polakow-Suransky responded: I think you’re right that there’s not been consistent set of supports for the schools that are phasing out as part of the process of creating new schools.
March 15, 2011
Hick, Bennet join NCLB reform push
Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Michael Bennet Tuesday enlisted in the Obama administration’s campaign to reform the No Child Left Behind law.
March 14, 2011
House Ed kills trigger bill
The parent trigger bill was killed in committee Monday, while the concussion and recess bills advanced in floor action.
February 28, 2011
Education tax, parent ‘trigger’ surface
A proposed tax bailout for education and a bill giving parents a tool to force closure of failing schools rolled out Monday.
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