Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Two Days in a Row!  There were so many ideas rolling around in my head last night, I didn't get them all down in cyberspace, so here are a couple of additional items.

Ted Kolderie Charter School Piece.  Minnesota education reformer Ted Kolderie had a really insightful piece in the Sunday Minneapolis StarTribune.  In the piece, Kolderie attempts to steer a middle-ground between the anti-charter school lobby and those who believe that charter schools are the answer to all of Minnesota's (and the nation's) educational woes.  He also urges getting back to the original focus of charter schools, which was to launch innovative instructional practices in hopes of finding methods that can be exported to the school population at large.  

Kolderie also touches on the Innovation Zone program promoted by Education/Evolving and MASA and adopted by the Legislature several years ago.  This legislation has allowed a select number of districts to be relieved of some state mandates and think outside the box on the delivery of instruction and assessment.  The article also looks at the teacher-led school movement and how that might contribute to innovation as well. 

It's  a very good piece and certainly worth the read.

How to Improve Public Education? All of the Above.

Presidential Education Platforms.  There hasn't been much discussion of education policy in the Presidential race, but ABC news published this short item two days ago outlining the differences that exist between the candidates.  The major difference emanates from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's greatly expanded set of school choice options, especially for students in failing schools.  While the details are murky (seeing that Federal contribution to public education hovers at less than 10% of total revenue nationally).  Would the portability proposed by Trump only apply to Federal funds or would states be required to have state (and perhaps local) revenue follow students who choose an option other than their local school district?

Here is a link to the article.

Clinton's and Trump's Plans to Help Education Differ Sharply

Monday, September 12, 2016

Election Update.  Election year means election coverage and MinnPost has put together a list of the 25 most-watched legislative races this go-round.  Given the uncertain nature of this year's presidential race, there could be more than 25 seats that will be in play.  We've seen this before in Minnesota when a non-traditional candidate (and I think it's safe to call Donald Trump a non-traditional candidate without having it seem like an insult) threw a wrench into standard voting patterns.  We have eight weeks until election day and we will certainly see a plethora of activity between now and then.

Here is the MinnPost article on their legislative races to watch.

The 25 legislative races to watch in Minnesota in 2016

One really solid Twitter user to follow for election news is former Republican party communications director Michael Brodkorb.  Michael does a really great job at finding below-the-radar items and he's balanced in the items he posts.

Here's a link to his Twitter feed.

Michael Brodkorb Twitter Feed

Litigation Update.  SEE Past-President Scott Hansen asked me at our Executive Board meeting last week if I had been following the school adequacy lawsuit in Connecticut.  I hadn't and I was happy that Scott clued me in.  For those of you who weren't aware, Judge Thomas Moukawsher ruled last week that Connecticut was "defaulting on its duty" to provide a quality education to all of the state's students.  If his comments would have stopped there, it would have been one thing, but Judge Moukawsher's ripped into Connecticut's funding system and a variety of other quality-assurance measures which he deemed totally inadequate, especially for students in racially- and economically-diverse school districts that are typically among the lowest funded school districts in the state.

While differentials in available revenue was the impetus for the lawsuit, many observers believe that the comprehensive ruling has more to do with tepid reform efforts that purportedly aim to close academic achievement gaps.  What is odd here is that Education Week gave Connecticut a B- grade for its overall system with a B+ in funding adequacy measures and a B in funding equity measures in its 2016 Quality Counts ranking.  Like Connecticut, Minnesota was accorded a B- grade in the annual rankings, but its funding grades were a D for adequacy and a B+ for equity (Frankly, I don't think Education Week understands our equity issues in Minnesota very well, at least when it comes to property wealth differentials).

So, would a legal challenge have a chance in Minnesota?  Difficult to tell and I always remind people that litigation is an iffy proposition even with a glaring case of inadequate or inequitable funding.  That said, I have been sitting in MDE's Assessment Advisory Committee that is charged with reviewing the state's plan to comply with the requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  The task ahead of that Committee is daunting, but as I have listened and participated it has gotten me wondering about how we concentrate almost exclusively on the achievement gap (which is extremely important) while ignoring the opportunity gap (which is also important).  

At the last meeting, the inclusion of science in the battery of state-measured tests was included.  Proponents believe that only when something is tested does it become important to students.  My response then (and my opinion has only strengthened since) is that we only measure about 40% of the curriculum now and it's all important to students, especially for those non-college bound students.  Adding another test for a hard academic subject while continuing to overlook the importance of career and technical education and other subject matter that falls under the "applied knowledge" category will only educationally pauperize a large number of students further.  But to maintain costly career and technical education programs and higher technology requires an investment of revenue in these programs that has been sorely lacking over the last two decades.  

One barrier to successful litigation in Minnesota is that the Legislature and successive gubernatorial administrations have created an array of categorical programs that attempt to address demographic differences that exist in Minnesota and geographic challenges that a number of small rural districts face.  To be successful, it appears any litigation would have to be an effort that would encompass all Minnesota districts contending that the basic revenue provided to all districts is well below what it needs to be in order to provide all children with quality educational opportunities.  Given our D grade in funding adequacy and the clear need to provide a broader array of student learning opportunities, maybe litigation is in order.

Here are links related to the Connecticut case:

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

School is Back!  Alice Cooper sang "school's out for summer," but I always expected a follow-up like "school's back for fall, winter, and spring" but none was coming.  He's still recording, so maybe it's in the works. 

For some folks, it's been more than a week, but most school years commenced yesterday.  I imagine phones were ringing steadily in a lot of districts as parents were trying to get their kids to the right bus stop at the right time and schools were virtual beehive with kids trying to find their way to class on time.

So welcome back everyone.  I hope to be posting more as the legislative scene will be heating up now that we are past Labor Day.  There's a lot going on and the SEE program year has started.  Don't hesitate to contact me if you have questions or comments about what's happening on the campaign front and I'm always happy to come out to member districts to participate in legislative forums or meet with school boards and district administrations.

Plug for Early Childhood.  I'm certain Governor Dayton will be pursuing more money for his pre-kindergarten program during the 2017 session and this article from The New York Times from a couple weeks back may be cited as the Governor tries to make a case for greater investment in the project. 

The Good News about Educational Inequality (Oddly worded title).

Charter School Scrutiny.  There's been a considerable amount of national attention aimed at charter schools this summer.  I'm not going to post a link to the profanity-laced story on John Oliver's HBO Last Week Tonight (this is a G-rated site after all) that aired last month, but I will post this story from The American Prospect.

The Great Diverson

The article concentrates on the city of Boston, but what portions of the article are applicable to issues relating to charters nationally.