NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

INNOVATION SCHOOLS RAISE LEARNING OUTCOMES FOR STUDENTS

December 17, 2009

The Innovation Schools Act, passed by the Colorado legislature in 2008, permits public schools, groups of schools and school districts to escape some of the heaviest state regulations and the most restrictive collective bargaining agreements and to develop new, creative teaching models for delivering high-quality education to schoolchildren, says Liv Finne, Education Director for the Washington Policy Center.

The Colorado Department of Education's description of the program is two-fold:

  • The Innovation Schools Act encourages schools and districts to design and implement innovative practices in a wide variety of areas to improve student outcomes.
  • The act allows schools and districts to obtain waivers from those policies that would otherwise present obstacles to such innovations.

Key findings from Colorado's Innovation Schools Act:

  • School leaders are allowed to obtain waivers from the heaviest state regulations and the most restrictive collective bargaining agreements to offer new, creative teaching models for delivering high-quality education to schoolchildren.
  • A principal in an Innovation School is allowed to hire teachers on one-year contracts and pay them bonuses for raising student achievement.
  • The Innovation School status of a school can be revoked if, after three years, the academic performance of its students does not improve.

The new law is bringing significant educational benefits to Colorado children.  However, Innovation Schools are not legal in Washington State.  The highly-centralized regulatory structure of Washington's public school system prevents enterprising school leaders and teachers from creating school models designed to meet the educational needs of their students, says Finne:

  • Adopting an approach like the one enacted in Colorado would allow Washington officials to reorganize public education based on the knowledge and experience of local school principals and teachers.
  • An Innovation School policy would significantly increase Washington's chances of winning up to $250 million in the Obama Administration's Race to the Top competition.
  • Under current state law, Washington schools are not eligible to receive money from either program.

Source: Liv Finne, "Innovation Schools Raise Learning Outcomes for Students," Washington Policy Center, December 15, 2009.

 

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