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Vinny Badolato

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January 9, 2012

Commentary: Standards will take charters to the next level

Wednesday is an important day for the charter school sector in Colorado.  That morning, the State Board of Education (SBE) will be voting on rules containing a set of standards that pertain to certain aspects of charter school operations and charter school authorizing.

These rules, once approved by the SBE, have the potential to transform the school/authorizer relationship and mark the next phase in the increasingly positive and productive evolution of charter schools in Colorado.

Wednesday’s vote is the culmination of multiple years of work by a wide variety of policy organizations and policymakers to move the charter school sector in Colorado to the next stage.  This effort has been spearheaded by the Colorado League of Charter Schools as a key tenet of the “Charter 2.0” initiative to implement and integrate quality standards and principles across Colorado’s charter school landscape.

The goal is to elevate the already high-performing charter school system to a new level based on industry standards and best practices that better define quality in order to cultivate a more fertile and productive system, as well as strengthen the relationship between charter schools and authorizers.

November 21, 2011

Getting past CREDO

I’ve been anxious to address the performance of Colorado’s charter school sector since I took the dive into blogging on EdNews. Before I talk about Colorado performance, however, I have to address the 400-pound gorilla in the room: The Center for Research on Education Outcomes’ (CREDO) popular – and highly misunderstood – report Multiple Choice: Charter School Study in 16 States.

For those who don’t know, the CREDO report is a broad look at charter school performance in 15 states and DC that generally uses 2003-2008 state longitudinal student performance data to compare the academic performance of charter schools student to “virtual twins” in traditional public schools (TPS).  I won’t go further into the methodology of the report due to space constraints, other than to say that it is accepted as a fairly strong method.

So what did the author find?  Well, anyone who has so much as dipped into charter school policy knows that the overall finding was the following: In math, 17 percent of charter schools demonstrated growth that significantly exceeded TPS growth, 46 percent showed indistinguishable growth, and 37 percent showed growth below their TPS peers.  This 17-46-37 combo has been cited ad nauseam since the release of the report in 2009, primarily by charter school opponents, as an indictment of charter schools and the justification to claim failure and dismantle the system.

But – and this is unfortunate – the continual drumbeat of 17-46-37 obscures some of the other very important findings of the study along with the very significant limitations of this – or any – national study on charter schools.

October 26, 2011

From left or right, deliberate distortion is dishonest

I definitely place myself on the left of the political spectrum.  I am not going to defend my position by stating what I am for or against; take my word for it.  And as a “lefty”, I am frustrated with all of the recent diatribes from the left fringe concerning their convoluted take on education reform and elections in Colorado (see here, here, and here).

What they obviously don’t understand is that their wild conspiracy theories and follow-the-money “exposes” are not grounded in truth and are really nothing more than the continual verbal diarrhea that masquerades as public discourse but actually masks what should be the real education discussion: Finding ways to deliver a quality education products that prepares all kids for success in life.

I equate these fringe-left finger-waggers with the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh on the right – charlatans preaching to their own choirs.  I am usually content to let both ends of the spectrum lob their vitriol at each other while the rest of us who find themselves somewhere in the middle of these edges of the bell curve get to work building coalitions to support real change to benefit kids.

But it bothers me when folks from the side I identify with hide behind distorted ideology and use faulty rhetoric to make their points think they are speaking for me.  You don’t speak for me or most of the left; progressives that want to preserve the “public” aspect and delivery of a free public education, but don’t think that the current system or power structure works to benefit all kids and the future of our nation.

October 20, 2011

Why I’m torn over Prop. 103

I am a nerd about voting. I love elections. I am very passionate about engaging in what I believe is the most important civic duty we are expected to perform as Americans. I usually can’t wait to get my ballot in the mail (I like the convenience of the mail ballot system, but I do miss the old process of going to the polls), tear open the envelope, fill in the lines, and bring it to a polling place (I also always hand deliver my ballot; I don’t trust putting it in the mail).

It is election season again and this time, however, I am not as excited as usual. It’s not that there aren’t any interesting items on the ballot. There’s an important school board election in Denver, and I have the opportunity to vote for the at-large and District 5 seats. Denver also has an important question that directly impacts the competitive marketplace for businesses in the city. What I am not excited about is the state question, Proposition 103. It’s not that I don’t think it is a critical question on a crucial issue. I am not excited because I am honestly torn as to what answer I am going to choose.

As we all know by now, Proposition 103 is a citizen initiated ballot question that raises state income and sales taxes for five years with the additional revenues earmarked for K-12 and higher education. Coming from a household where all current and future wages come either directly or indirectly from public education, one would think that voting yes would be no-brainer. But while the question seems straight forward enough, the reality is that the question – and its meaning – is far from straight forward. And that’s why I can’t decide.

October 5, 2011

Some thoughts on teacher effectiveness

I finished Steven Brill’s popular (infamous?) book about the school reform drama, “Class Struggle,” about a month ago.  No, I don’t plan on offering my take on the narrative.  Enough bytes have already been expended on that.  But even though I finished it and have read several other books since, one small, virtually inconsequential paragraph continues to resonate with me.

Brill describes a major frustration Eva Moskowitz, the brilliant creator of the Success Charter Network in NYC, experienced as a student at Stuyvesant High School:

Stuyvesant is New York’s star high school, from which an outsize portion of students, like Moskowiz, cruise into the Ivy League.  But to Moskowitz, many, if not most, of the teachers were anything but stars.  She thought half of the teachers were incompetent and vividly remembers math and science classes where “the students, who were all gifted, literally carried the class.  The teachers were cruising on the students’ talent,” she says.  “I remember one of the kids taught the rest of us physics, while the teacher sat there drunk . . . It was easy to be a teacher there.”

This stuck with me because, as a Stuyvesant alum myself (who did not go onto the Ivy Leagues), I totally agree.  I don’t think any of my teachers were drunk in class, but my high school memories are also littered with teacher experiences that demonstrate either severe incompetence or gross neglect.  Either way, I can’t think of any way to justify why these individuals were allowed to be instructing in any classroom.

September 12, 2011

A glaring omission from Hick’s Ed. Leadership Council

Almost eight months after declaring its creation by one of the first executive orders as governor, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office released the appointments to the Education Leadership Council (ELC) about ten days ago, to little fanfare.

This is not very surprising; it is sometimes hard to get excited about another education-focused committee.  But, if the ELC lives up to its charge – which is to “provide a meaningful forum for educators, community members, business leaders and lawmakers to examine the current status of education policies and make recommendations to the governor, General Assembly and governing boards regarding long-term improvements” – then this actually should be a fairly important committee.

The 38-member ELC is a who’s who of education in Colorado, and understandably so considering the task it is embarking on.  Since this group is mapping out the future of education in Colorado, it should be all-encompassing.  As such, every major K-12 group or association’s interests are thoroughly represented (protected?) on the ELC.

All except for one, that is.  There is a glaring disparity in representation by charter schools, and I believe this is a real problem.  Let me explain.

September 7, 2011

Ed reform experiences from childhood to adulthood

Allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Vinny Badolato and I am the newest blogger on Ed News Colorado. I am excited to have the opportunity to engage in some spirited and (hopefully) civil conversations and debates on education issues in Colorado and nationally.

Some of you know me already, but many more of you don’t.  So in order to try and frame my future pontifications, I would like to use this post to provide a little information about me – where I am coming from, what I do, and what I believe in terms of education policy and reform.  I promise to keep it brief.

I was born and raised in a mostly blue collar, middle-class neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York and attended NYC public schools through high school.  I did attend Stuyvesant High School, NYC’s top tier specialized public high school, so I am the first to admit that the educational opportunities I had did not match the vast majority of the other public school kids in NYC.  I will circle back to this in a bit.

I graduated from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., with a BA in history.  I then spent some time in D.C. post-graduation working as the research director at a private firm engaged in improving federal agency performance management.  While I liked the work, I wasn’t satisfied as knew I wanted to get engaged in education policy to improve the system.  See, I received an excellent public education in NYC, but that was definitely the exception at the time.  I experienced first-hand the vast disparities that permeated the system –in facilities, teacher quality, curriculum, and materials – and saw many of my friends fall victim to those disparities and not succeed anywhere near to their potential in school and in life.  I wanted to dedicate myself to making a drastic change in the education system, but didn’t yet have the chutzpah to make the change in my career trajectory.