Wednesday, September 25, 2013

SB 191 Implementation and the Teacher's Union

By Brad Miller

What is the story behind the State Board of Education's decision to agree to allow the teachers' unions additional time to plan their legal attack on SB191?  Most close observers have concluded that the unions have wanted to delay the filing until after the elections in order not to disrupt the feel-good stories that must be told in support of Amendment 66.  But there is another side to the story.

The extension gives life to the educator evaluation law that is being rolled out across 178 Colorado districts right now.  That momentum is the best defense against union meddling.  Had the union dropped the lawsuit at the end of August it would have likely included an injunction against the educator evaluation law, and stopped the rollout in its tracks.  

The political advantage the unions sought in the extension is illusory. The very threat of a suit against the educator evaluation law shows their true position: to the detriment of highly qualified teachers everywhere, the union seeks to keep those few who do not belong, still in the classroom. 

This is one more example of how the teachers union has sought to impede needed education transformation and in so doing they undermine the root argument supporters are using for amendment 66.

On one hand the union, one of the largest  pro-66 funders, argues that the nearly one billion dollar tax increase will support reforms. On the other hand they seek to gut the basis of that reform--an educator evaluation law designed to promote a highly qualified teacher in every classroom.

This is a stinging indictment of the legacy K-12 government education effort.  One of the most far reaching influencers of the decades-in-place system--the teachers union--wants it both ways.  More money, and no honest accountability.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Defining Blended Learning

What is blended learning? Definitions abound and just about the time someone defines it, new technology and innovative ideas change the landscape once again.

However evasive the definition is, blended learning is quite simply a combination of technology-based online learning and face to face time with an instructor.

Blended learning is part of the new jargon floating around in public education. And why wouldn't it be with several aspects that entice policy makers and educators alike?

First, technology can be incorporated into a student's day with less expense and more personalization. A student can work on lessons designed to address deficiencies and not waste time doing assignments just because everyone in the class got to lesson 15 in the textbook.

Second, utilizing technology, students can learn to mastery rather than accumulating seat time. Technology-based programs track student progress, whether its online or not. This opens up the door for policy makers to discuss competency of the student rather than how much time has been spent in a particular subject. In other words, taxpayer funds could be used for a student learning OUTCOME rather than simply inputs.

As advances are made in technology, the ways to effectively use that new technology also increase. As a state we can examine different funding models because the technology finally allows us that luxury. That isn't as easy as it sounds, however. Not all students learn at the same, or even average, pace. Some have extra needs such as English is not their first language.

Regardless of how blended learning is ultimately used, the variety of options now available to educators and policy makers opens the door wide open.