Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Not a Heavily Scheduled Wednesday, but Things Got Done. Two education-related meetings at the Legislature today. The House Education Finance Committee took testimony from two charter school-related organizations: Charter School Partners (represented by Brian Sweeney) and the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools (represented by Gene Piccolo). Also testifying was Joe Nathan from the Center for School Change.

Not a whole lot to report. The quality bug seems to have infected the charter and choice movement to the same extent as with other parts of the education system. As I wrote the other day, one of my major concerns with the education reform movement over the years, especially as it relates to choice, is that "choice" and "difference" seem to be as much the goal as achievement itself.

Many of you have heard me use this example before, but for those who haven't, when William Bennett spearheaded "A Nation at Risk" in the early-1980s, he made it clear that the movement was all about high standards for everyone and pushed--albeit a bit on the acerbic side--for higher levels of achievement and more rigor in curricular offerings. I was working on education issues at the legislature during this period and the Legislative Commission on Public Education commissioned a study of parents and community leaders on their feelings regarding their schools. The findings were, in brief, although some folks had concerns about achievement levels, everyone pretty much "liked" their local schools and thought that the problem with public education lie elsewhere in the system (the old "I hate Congress, but love my member of Congress" argument). Here we sit almost 30 years later and the shoe is on the other foot to some extent. When parents of charter school students are informed that their particular charter isn't doing that well, many of those parents say "We like our charter school." A lot of this reinforces the "soft" nature of measuring satisfaction in public education and how quantitative measurement is only part of the gig when trying to determine the how consumers view the quality of the experience at the school their children attend.

It is refreshing to see the charter movement taking the next step and being very diligent about measuring achievement levels in their schools and taking aggressive steps to improve achievement at those charter schools they view as under-performing.

The only other things to report from the hearing is that Joe Nathan hailed the report from the Center for American Progress that I kind of gave the backhand to in the blog last week and Gene Piccolo spoke out for increased equalization of the referendum. Say what (you say)? Yes, because equalization aid follows students to charter schools from school districts that qualify for equalization, the erosion of equalization aid due to the failure by the Legislature to adjust the referendum equalizing factors upward to account for property value growth means less money for charter schools. Always nice to have another ally, even when it's unexpected.

The Senate Education Committee heard two bills. The first, Senator David Hann's SF 55, extended the deadline from June 30, 2011, to June 30, 2012, for a charter school authorizer prior to August 1, 2009, to apply to the Commissioner of Education to continue as an authorizer. The committee then turned to SF 69, Senator Gen Olson's bill that relieves some of the mandates that face home schools and school districts that deal with home schools. SF 69 was amended and re-referred to the Senate Finance Committee with a recommendation to pass as amended.

Came Across This Interesting Little Item. The standards debate is taking place throughout the entire country and this little cartoon

No comments: