Sunday, November 30, 2008
Here is what I assume is an honest disagreement. You have a Senator with responsibility to fund education who is disappointed at public ed's track record over recent decades. On the other side you have bureaucrats (not trying to be pejorative) who have been doing the job that the Senator is dissatisfied with.
Without taking sides on this issue, I'd simply like to point out that if there was true local control and variety within public education this would not be an issue. Schools are already required to map their texts to the state core, but it's a law with no consequence. That leads to politicians (not pejorative) stepping outside their traditional role to get the results they want, and defensive bureaucrats (again, not pejorative) protecting their turf.
I don't care who does the work of mapping curriculum, just that students in school get the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. If a school doesn't provide its teachers with the tools they need to teach content in the right sequence and my kid struggles, I should be able to find a school that does. Maybe another school uses ProCert for mapping. Great. Maybe that school works better.
This is why the Charter model works so well. Everyone attends a charter school because they chose to, and if it doesn't cut it, they'll choose to leave.
Utah has a strong tradition of providing choice in public education, but we need districts, politicians, and the bureaucracy to allow for variety and innovation. Allowing parents to choose doesn't do any good if we limit their choices.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
"So if Obama and other politicians don’t want to send their kids to schools where even the principals have such views, that’s no scandal. The scandal is that these politicians tolerate such awful schools at all. For anyone."
Goldberg further argues that Republicans' strong advocacy for vouchers removes them from the debate over education reform.
Curious. Vouchers had dominated the education reform debate for several years in Utah until they were defeated by voters last year. With that controversial issue off the table, education reformers from the center-right should pull other reform arrows from their quivers, including merit pay, expansion of public school choice, reform of school finance, and a loosening of bureaucratic ropes that stifle innovation in schools.
I'm glad to see Democrats call for increased accountability and choice.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Against the current system, the Trib says that incumbents not being selected to run again is evidence that the system is inequitable and arbitrary. But these incumbents were selected by an inequitable and arbitrary system, right? Do arbitrarily selected incumbents have an automatic right to run again? Couldn't the fact that incumbents are weeded out be a sign of improvement in the system? Shouldn't the selection committee be able to decide that their previously inequitable and arbitrary decisions should be undone?
The answer is no, but not for the self-contradictory reasons the Tribune thinks. The committee selecting who gets to run shouldn't even be there. The Trib editorial board seems to think that the committe should be replaced by themselves.
They say they want direct elections, but not really. If we follow the same election procedures for other policy-making offices, then
So, the editors of the state's biggest newspaper will protect the people from themselves and not let the school board lean to the right in a right-leaning state.
Friday, November 21, 2008
- 40% based on student acheivement measured by valid assessments
- 30% based on quality teaching as measured by classroom observations
- 20% based on leadership and professional excellence
- 10% based on satisfaction of students and parents
UPDATE: Mark Peterson at USOE highlighted this post in his News Digest under "Top Pics." I'm flattered. He said that I "claim credit" for the merit pay plan. Maybe my post sounds too self-centered. I'm more interested in getting good practices in education and providing incentive for educational excellence.
In fact, I give a lot of credit to the legislature, and to Senator Stephenson (with whom I shared my model before any schools adopted it and improved it with his feedback). The plan to have districts and charters submit a range of plans was good. If my model is one of the better ones and can be used more widely, that's great. It's not the only workable solution, but it does provide incentive for the excellent teaching practices and leadership that creates good schools and students who learn. I am just glad that a good model plan is moving forward, and I hope that there will be some funding for it this year.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
At least one member of the State Board of Education is adamant that charter schools not get away with breaking ... rules created by the board
Nine of 21 school districts surveyed didn't allow companies to compete in a fair and open environment when it came to school construction projects
School districts are employing bus drivers who have criminal convictions and serious driving violations, a state audit released Tuesday shows.
So more than a third of school districts haven't followed rules about spending public money, and several haven't followed rules (or common sense) and hired bus drivers with criminal records and DUIs. Yet nit-picky Teresa Theurer instead focuses on a charter school that she thinks didn't tell the local school district in time about its application to expand two years from now.
She said this about the U.S. Department of Education's decision to deny NCLB flexibility for Utah schools so they could use Computer Adaptive Testing.
She's completely right. I hope she frames this quote, but makes "department" removable, so it can be replaced with "Legislature" or "School Board" as the situations warrant.
He said that politicians (who set education policy) tend to come to making policy using the same mindset that they have in politics: There is a winner and a loser. But in real life, progress and innovation happens because people have the freedom to make a choice where they both win.
He applied that to charter schools. The establishment and many politicians seem to think that if charter schools win, then school districts lose.
They are missing two key points. The first is that the schools exist for children. If some schools or some models of school suffer because families choose better schools, we should be satisfied that the children are winning. If poor performing schools close (even poor performing charter schools) then children and taxpayers win.
Second, districts usually win anyway when charters open. They have fewer students, which means they can offer smaller classes and tailor their approach and instruction to the students who choose to stay because they have a program that fits the children's needs.
Charter schools aren't taking part of the pie away from school districts. Instead, as Stossel said, "Charter school operators are baking thousands of new pies."
Call me a baker.
I am supportive of establishing rules and procedures that everyone knows and that create the environment for smooth progress. The State Board's rules often don't achieve that goal.
I don't have a specific problem with this story, but the attitude as expressed by SBE member Teresa Theurer, of Logan is exactly the problem. No, we don't let schools choose which rules to follow, but isn't local control and choice for families more important than satisfying the bureaucracy?
Is the public education system, of which Charters are an equal member, there for the control of a Board, or of parents?
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Kyle Bateman resigned his seat (or his election win--the results weren't official for another day) because of a residency issue related to which of his two homes was his primary residence.
Kim Burningham, a long-serving, establishment-minded, former chair and current member of the Board, believes Bateman "manipulated" the system to keep "anti-voucher" candidates out of the race. (Vouchers are a dead issue in Utah for everyone except those with sour grapes that, er, their side won. It's weird.)
The entire State Board issue (establishment folks keep complaining about the process) is one of the consequences that follow from elections. The entrenched interests want to make the issue about vouchers. Reformers want to pursue reforms that empower parents, build local control, provide incentives for innovation, and hold schools accountable to those who attend them.
Is it a surprise that a state which reelected Gov. Huntsman by 60 points and reelects education reformers to the legislature by huge margins would also elect a school board of reformers? Voters voted against vouchers, but not against education reform.
Friday, November 14, 2008
"We are at a very pivotal and critical time in education. We have an opportunity to look at education through a different lens."
"This is a time in history when we have a chance to really make a difference."
"Young people need to have respect for multiple views and other perspectives."
Might I suggest a real solution? Convert one of the district's existing urban schools to a charter school, bring in an education reformer to run it, and let it serve as a model of ways to innovate and improve.
Urban centers across the country, in places like D.C. and Boston, have done so successfully. There's evidence of what can work. Let's try it here.
**There are several successful urban charter schools already, including City Academy, Salt Lake Arts Academy, Guadalupe (which addresses many of the issues that educators in the meeting spoke about), and Dual Immersion. I take nothing from them, but will celebrate the time when the establishment looks seriously at what those schools have accomplished and converts one of their struggling schools to a charter to implement innovations that are proven to work.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Re-elected House members with grades from UAPCS:
Ronda Menlove: B
Ben Ferry: A
Jack Draxler: A
Fred Hunsaker: A
Curt Webb: A
Kerry Gibson: B
Gage Froerer: B
Neil Hansen: D
Brad Dee: B (New Majority Whip)
Richard Greenwood: B
Paul Ray: A
Curt Oda: A
Doug Aagard: B
Kevin Garn: A+ (New Majority Leader)
Julie Fisher: A
Roger Barrus: B
Sheryl Allen: C
Jim Gowans: D
Jan Seelig: B
Rebecca Chavez-Houck: B
Christine Johnson: B
Dave Litvack: B
John Dougall: B
Jackie Biskupski: B
Larry Wiley: D
Ron Bigelow: A+
Neal Hendrickson: D
Kory Holdaway: C
Mark Wheatley: C
Phil Riesen: B
Carol Spackmann Moss: C
Eric Hutchings: C
Jim Dunnigan: B
Lynn Hemingway: B
Todd Kiser: A
Jim Bird: B
Wayne Harper: A
Tim Cosgrove: C
Steve Mascaro: B
Merlynn Newbold: A
Greg Hughes: A
Carl Wimmer: A
Mel Brown: B
John Mathis: A
Ken Sumsion: A
Craig Frank: A+
Steve Sandstrom: B
Lorie Fowlke: C
Brad Daw: B
Keith Grover: B
Chris Herrod: A
Steve Clark: A
Becky Lockhart: A+ (New Assistant Whip)
Mike Morley: A-
Patrick Painter: A
Brad Winn: A
Kay McIff: B
Brad Last: B
Mike Noel: A
Dave Clark: A (New Speaker)
Newly elected House members with the member being replaced and the former member's grade. An * indicates a party switch.
Ryan Wilcox: Glenn Donnelson, A
Brent Wallace*: Lou Shurtleff, C
Becky Edwards: Paul Neuenschwander, B
Sue Duckworth: Carl Duckworth, D
Brian King: Roz McGee, D
Laura Black*: Mark Walker, A
Marie Poulson: Karen Morgan, B
Trisha Beck*: Sylvia Andersen, A
Jay Seegmiller*: Greg Curtis, A
Kraig Powell: Gordon Snow, A
Francis Gibson: Aaron Tilton, A
Christine Watkins: Brad King, C
Don Ipson: Steve Urquhart, A
As you see, most sitting Representatives were re-elected. There were only a handful who sought re-election and lost, most notable is Greg Curtis, whose loss hurts because he was a very effective supporter of charters. Sylvia Andersen sought re-election and lost at her party convention.
In the spirit of outreach, I'll not assume that new representatives will be stronger or weaker than those they replace, other than to say that Democrats are less likely to be supprotive than Republicans, and Seegmiller certainly won't be as strong as Curtis if only because he won't be Speaker.
I am pleased that, with the notable exception of Curtis, our supporters who had targets because of their support of education reform won, and generally won huge. Greg Hughes had a close race (though I doubt it would have been close if not for the October ethics controversy, which was subsequently dismissed), but Utah County supporters who faced establishment-backed challengers both within and outside their party, won handily.
Here's hoping that such a victory for those Republican lawmakers in a tough environment (first vote after vouchers, in the most Democratic year in over a decade) empowers them to vote for reform and innovation, even if the education establishment doesn't like it.
Re-Elected Senators with their 2008 grades from UAPCS:
Karen Mayne: A
Mike Waddoups: A (New Senate President)
Chris Buttars: A
Mark Madsen: A+
John Valentine: I (Missed too many votes; probable A)
Curt Bramble: A
Allen Christensen: A
Scott Jenkins: A (New majority whip)
Lyle Hillyard: A
New Senators, whom they replaced, and the former Senator's grade:
Luz Robles: Replaced Fred Fife, B
Karen Morgan: Replaced Carlene Walker, I (Missed too many votes; probable A)
Dan Liljenquist: Replaced Dan Eastman, A+
Ralph Okerlund: Replaced Darin Peterson, A
David Hinkins: Replaced Mike Dmitrich, B
Steve Urquhart: Replaced Bill Hickman, A
As briefly mentioned in a previous post, this puts us in an even to slightly stronger situation in the Senate. New Senators Karen Morgan and Steve Urquhart were in the House last year, and received grades of B and A respectively. Hinkins should be a much stronger supporter than Dmitrich was. Liljenquist, Okerlund, and Urquhart are replacing supporters, and I anticipate the same level of support from the new Senators.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
In the Senate we are probably even to marginally stronger. There was no change in party balance (with two seats changing party, one in each direction), but Brian Hinkins in District 27 is a wonderful addition to the Senate. Our support was already very strong here, and will remain so in the future. I believe the new leadership team of Waddoups, Killpack, Jenkins, and Knudson will be strong advocates for education reform that centers around parental involvement and education innovation.
In the House, we are probably marginally weaker, not the least because Greg Curtis was defeated. Curtis was a controversial figure, in large part becaue he was so effective at getting his agenda through. Many, including some voters in his own district, didn't like his tactics, but he got done what he wanted. He was supportive of the charter school movement, so his loss will be felt, though I believe Dave Clark will be an equally strong supporter of the cause of education reform. His leadership team of Kevin Garn, Brad Dee, and Becky Lockhart should also be supportive. (Garn and Lockhart sponsored two key charter school bills last year.)
Again, there were few seats that changed hands. One important change was in District 69, which Brad King had held for some time. He ran (and lost) for the Senate, and a more supportive Democrat was elected. An important and more negative change was in District 48, where Trisha Beck was elected to the seat formerly held by Sylvia Andersen, who strongly supported charters. An important change that didn't happen was in District 51, where Greg Hughes (one of the strongest charter supporters in the House) was re-elected in a campaign that had a lot of media attention. With those changes, I believe we are marginally weaker in the House.
The State Board of Education has always been a challenge for education reformers as the majority of the Board have historically been establishement-minded folks. This year several reform-minded candidates were elected. Those pick-ups were tempered by Mark Cluff's defeat. Cluff had been the strongest charter advocate on the board, and he was replaced by a candidate with long establishment ties. Still, innovators and reformers picked up at least two seats on a 15-member board, and that strengthens their hand. Hopefully, the board will move away from the idea that "State Board" control is the same as local control.
Mostly even-to-good news from the election. Keep watching this space for more details about the specific changes to seats and the newly elected officers who set education policy.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Now the State Board of Education has added its voice to the chorus calling for fundamental reform in how students are funded. (I wish the SBE was as concerned about local control when it writes its own rules. Here's a solid principle: "State Board" control is really no different than "Legislature" control. If we want local control, then let schools decide how they allocate resources locally.)
I don't mean to complain. I welcome the State Board to the right side of this debate.
What will it take to get this done? A unified voice and strategy would help, but we really need a change in mind-set from both the legislature and the bureaucracy. Every wrinkle in the state funding program (and there are lots of them) is there because someone wanted it there, and simplifying the system now will pose a threat to a lot of rice bowls. There is at least one legislator and one bureaucrat (often supported by the entire legislature and bureaucracy) behind every stream of funding.
We need the legislature to trust schools to spend money wisely, and then we need schools to trust parents to choose wisely. Schools should have the flexibility to spend their limited funds how they see fit, and then parents should have the ability to choose which school is building the programs and providing the resources that they want for their children.
Good news is that Utah has an exemplary public school choice environment. While it could be improved, it does have at least some of the necessary public accountability to replace legislative control.
Will the legislature ever allow schools the freedom to spend based on local needs? If they do, will the State Board just become the new regulator?
Jordan district is third in a growing line of school districts to pass a resolution protesting a new law that allows charter school students access to the same local taxes that their neighbors already have.
The new law is an effort to address the basic equity that should be the basis of public school funding in Utah. All public school students, regardless of which public school they attend, should be funded equally.
The parents of charter students are paying property taxes to the districts in which they live. This year, Jordan district is not educating 4600 children who have chosen to attend charter schools. In Granite district the number is 2700. In Alpine, it's 5800. Statewide, 28,500 children and their parents have chosen charter schools.
The idea of district property tax revenue (which makes up between 20 and 30 percent of school funding) following students to charter schools was always part of the Utah plan. Utah’s first charter school law was based on existing Open Enrollment policy, which requires districts to transfer local revenue when a student chooses to attend a school in another district.
Just as they do when students transfer between districts, charter students originally received shared funding when transferring to charter schools. For the first four years, districts were required to contribute 50 percent of per-pupil local revenue for each former student that chose a charter school.
In 2003 the Legislature began financing the entire local portion with income tax dollars, giving districts time to make adjustments. This year, the legislature reinstated cost sharing, with districts contributing 25 percent of local funding.
Districts have gotten used to receiving revenue and collecting taxes for children they no longer educate, and it they are foreseeing headaches from the reinstatement of a portion of the original process. We all need to understand, however, that taxes are levied to educate students, and that local education funding should follow students to the public school they attend, just as it does when a child attends in a different district.
Charter schools are public schools held to the same—and in some cases greater—accountability standards as district schools. All public school students should be funded at the same level and from the same sources, no matter which model of public school they attend.
Is it possible that the needs of schools and students in Ogden, Alpine, and Richfield might be different? Nope. The State Board thinks that, even though Utah schools are trying to stretch limited resources over ever growing student populations, they can't have the freedom to decide how to best use those resources to benefit their own students.
Having one counselor for every 350 kids is a fine goal, but given budget constraints, isn't is okay that some schools might choose to operate a little differently? Might choose to use efficiency, technology, or other ways to help counsel students, and invest more on teacher salaries or classroom technology?
Some schools already meet the standard set by the SBE (the statewide average is one counselor per 378 students) and some don't. The ratio at some schools is much higher, in fact. (See Tribune article.) That ought to be fine. The needs and priorities of students will be different. For as much as the SBE got right the need for financial flexibility in how schools are funded (see related post), they really ought to apply the same principle to their own rules.
"Over the last 40 years, one nation after another has produced a better educated workforce than we have," Marc Tucker, of the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce said. "Continue down that road and we are finished."
Utah is taking "a comparatively broader look" at reform than Massachusetts and New Hampshire are. Here's hoping that the broad approach includes more freedom for students and parents, and more flexibility for schools.