Tuesday, 4 January 2011 15:19 by Admin
National Journal Online today asked contributors to its Education Experts Blog for ideas on what 2011 may hold in school reform, since divided government in Washington means "it's likely that any changes on the federal level will be incremental. That means it's up to the folks at the local level--the school boards, the superintendents, and the unions--to turn around the failing schools and lift up the ones languishing in the middle."
Colorado's Bob Schaffer, one of the experts surveyed, posted this response with praise for Centennial Institute's recent policy brief on "Much Better Schools on Much Lower Budgets."
The Best Answers Are Indeed LocalBob SchafferChairman, Colorado State Board of Education, and former U.S. Congressman
There’s certainly nothing good about a flat economy. There’s even less that’s positive about the precarious actions our federal government has tripped through over the past three years that have made matters worse.
Economic uncertainty, however, should be embraced by school leaders as good enough a reason as any to insist upon structural reforms to improve education systems. Treating teachers like real professionals instead of union workers comes to mind.
So does, applying more market forces to demand quality improvement. It’s always a good time to treat more parents like customers and children like real Americans.
The most pragmatic answers about school improvement are indeed local in nature. Solutions that fail to acknowledge the Constitution’s placement of these matters squarely within the jurisdiction of the states, local communities and ultimately parents, are European-style fads that rarely work very well and never work for long.
Former Commissioner of Education for Colorado, Dr. Bill Moloney recently released an uplifting issue brief suggesting we can achieve “better schools on lower budgets.” Produced for the Denver-based Centennial Institute, Moloney’s paper makes a sobering analysis of situations in Colorado that are similar to those of other states.
In his report (CLICK HERE), he makes a compelling case for questioning contemporary fads that have sidetracked America’s public schools, for discarding many of them and for abandoning academic distractions that tend to divert precious classrooms resources. For example, class-size reduction has shown little beneficial impact, he asserts, certainly not for the money.
Dr. Moloney’s report is worth a read by anyone serious about education policy, reform and management. Attention to what states and school districts can actually do offers the promise of yielding far greater practical results than does the current federal inclination to hurl larger grenades of yet-to-be-printed cash in the general direction of the country’s most serious academic crisis points.
Dr. Moloney is right when he points out, “nothing is beyond our reach, if we care enough.”
Friday, 3 December 2010 09:14 by Admin
Colorado's second straight year of inevitable cuts in state aid to education can become an opportunity to improve learning performance while shedding needless costs, according to a policy brief from the Centennial Institute, Colorado Christian University's think tank. The paper is online here: Centennial Policy Brief No. 2010-2 "Much Better Schools on Much Lower Budgets: A Primer for Colorado Policymakers" draws on proven models for achieving more with less, from schools across the country and around the world. "Our state has massive cost inefficiencies and educational deficiencies within the structure of K-12 education, built up over decades and crying out for correction," says the author. Over $1 billion must be cut from projected spending in order to balance the 2011-2012 budget. Students in neighboring Utah, the paper points out, significantly outperform Colorado students on the respected NAEP test, even though Utah's spending per pupil is only 61 cents on the dollar compared to Colorado's. Denver parochial schools succeed better with minority youngsters than nearby public schools, at just 55 cents on the dollar. Looking abroad, we see education systems from Canada to Korea to Germany far exceeding the United States in academic achievement at 30% lower cost. The paper is organized in Q&A format around 20 concise topics, starting with "Admit: The US trails woefully in global rankings," running through "See why the teaching profession has faltered" and "Realize school funding is bloated, not starved," and concluding with recommendations to "Legislate boldly in 2011." William J. Moloney, former Colorado Education Commissioner with a lifetime of school experience in a half-dozen other states and countries, authored the policy brief in consultation with a panel of educators, legislators, and budget experts. "It is in our power to fix what is broken; all that's needed is the political will," Moloney writes in the introduction. "There will never be a more opportune moment to break out of the old paradigm." He calls on the General Assembly to reinterpret Amendment 23's factor formulas in line with budget realities; offer local school districts a timeout from costly mandates, accreditation, and testing; allow schools to outsource many functions; encourage charters, vouchers, and tax credits; and defuse PERA's "pension time bomb." John Andrews, director of the Centennial Institute, says in an editor's note that when Moloney warned some weeks ago about Colorado public education becoming one of several "metastasizing entitlements that have reached a point of absolute unsustainability," defenders of the education status quo replied in print with emotion, not logic. They deemed the former commissioner's analysis "offensive to educators" -- without attempting to refute it factually. (Denver Post, Oct. 3 and Oct. 14, 2010.) In releasing the policy brief today, Andrews commented: "Centennial Institute and Bill Moloney will be working actively with legislators of both parties to help translate this new paradigm into budgetary solutions. With or without cooperation from teacher unions and the education lobby, the state's dire fiscal condition is forcing policymakers to think way outside the box -- and that's good news for ill-served Colorado schoolchildren."