Gov. Bobby Jindal's focus on education: An editorial

Editorial
The Times-Picayune
October 26, 2011

Gov. Bobby Jindal earned plenty of political capital with his commanding reelection victory Saturday. Now the governor is vowing to use some of it to focus on education reform during the first year of his second term.

The governor promised to release details of his education agenda in the future, and Louisianians need to be able to consider the specifics of Gov. Jindal’s plans. But he said his main areas of concern will include giving parents more choices in where their children can attend school, giving them more information about schools to help them make decisions and expanding teacher evaluations to reward educators who improve student achievement.

Those are three important areas of reform, and the governor is right to highlight them.

The educational transformation in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina has greatly expanded parents’ choices and improved student performance. But that work has only begun, and it’s important that it continues here and in other parts of the state where children have not been served well.

As the governor noted, “We have made great progress as a state; we have a lot of more work to do.”

The governor is also signaling that he plans to be more involved in pushing for his legislative agenda next year — and that’s needed as well. Too often during his first term, Gov. Jindal seemed to not give sufficient priority to the legislative process. That limited what he was able to accomplish.

The governor will need to remain engaged to expand education reforms, as he’s sure to find some opposition. But most Louisiana parents want and deserve a better education for their children — and that’s what the governor must pursue.

Budget panel backs expanding charter school program statewide

By Jason Stein and Erin Richards
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
October 26, 2011

An independent charter school program would expand to medium and large school districts around Wisconsin, under a bill passed Wednesday by Republicans on the Legislature’s budget committee.

The proposal passed 12-3 on a party-line vote, with Republicans voting in favor and Democrats against.

Republicans also approved 12-3 another bill that would overhaul the state’s tax enforcement system.

Charter schools already exist all over the state but are now authorized entirely by local school boards, except in Milwaukee and Racine. The schools bill would allow independent charter school programs, which are authorized by a body other than the school board, to start up in other districts. The bill would largely apply to districts with more than 2,000 students, which account for roughly a quarter of the districts in the state.

Republicans said it would help provide another options for students whose schools are failing them.

“The bill we are taking up today is truly something that is going to help the long-term prospects of Wisconsin,” said Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester), a co-chairman of the committee.

But Democrats said the program would undermine local control of schools by elected officials – school board members – in favor of an unelected board. They said the proposal would also prove another financial blow to regular public schools that are losing nearly $800 million in state aid over two years as part of the state budget and having tight state caps placed on their property tax levies.
“Charter schools are not evil, but this bill is being pushed by an awful lot of people who believe public schools are evil,” Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) said.

Charter schools are public schools that have more freedom to experiment with curriculum and staffing than traditional public schools. They exist through a contract with a chartering authority that outlines academic targets and other measures of performance that the school must meet. If the school can’t meet the targets, the chartering authority may shut them down.

Charter advocates like to say that the schools receive autonomy in exchange for accountability.

New board planned
The new bill would create a statewide board to authorize independent charter schools in other parts of the state. The practice of allowing charters to be authorized by an entity other than the local school board already happens in Milwaukee, where the Common Council, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Milwaukee Area Technical College can all charter the independent schools. MATC does not currently use that authority.

When districts charter schools, they get to count the children as part of their total enrollment.

In the bill, the chair of the statewide charter board and another member would be appointed by Gov. Scott Walker and future governors. The Republican and Democratic leaders in the state Senate and Assembly would each have one appointee to the board. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers would also sit on it.

Nonprofits would receive the contracts to run the charter schools, and the bill would repeal the current ability of Milwaukee Public Schools to contract with for-profit businesses to run charter schools. The statewide board could enter into five contracts in the 2012-’13 school year, with five more being added each year until the 2017-’18 school year, when the board would be able to have an unlimited number of contracts.

The state would pay for the program by figuring how many students in a given district are attending a charter school rather than a regular public school and giving the charter school $7,775 for each student. The state would then take that money out of the state aid going to the regular district. If the aid to the district isn’t enough to cover the charter school cost, the rest would come from state taxpayers. The district would not be able to make up the lost state aid through property taxes.

The bill would also allow a school board to convert all schools in a district into charter schools and end a requirement in current law that a petition must be signed first by half of the teachers in the school district.

Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine) said the bill went too far.

“This bill unravels a 100-year-old tradition of local control over schools, creates unnecessary bureaucracy, and worsens already devastating cuts to public education,” Mason said.

Smaller districts exempt
For the state charter board provisions, Republicans excluded school districts with fewer than 2,000 students, where the loss of students to a charter school would be a more serious financial hit. About 315 of the state’s 424 school districts would be too small to be affected by the state charter school board, according to the Legislature’s nonpartisan budget office.

Under the bill, local cooperative education service agencies, which are regional government agencies that provide services to public schools, could also independently charter schools – in districts of any size.

Sarah Granofsky Toce, the executive director of the Wisconsin Charter Schools Association, said that people or organizations who want to open charter schools would need to first apply to their local school district, which would have 90 days to work out an agreement with the potential school operator. If no agreement is reached, she said, the operator could then take its proposal to one of the newly created entities that will authorize the charter schools.

She said if the bill passes, it would take awhile to set up the authorizing boards and train the members how to review applications and look for quality proposals.

Tax bill: The tax-enforcement measure would have complex and arcane effects on how certain cases are handled by the Department of Revenue. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau said it wasn’t possible to estimate what effect the bill would have on state revenue.

The drafting file noted 10 pages of suggested provisions that came from a May 16 meeting with Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. James Buchen, a lobbyist for WMC, said the business lobby gave feedback on the bill and it wasn’t surprising his group was involved.

“The bill is trying to respond to the concerns of taxpayers. Businesses are taxpayers,” Buchen said.

Department of Revenue spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis said the agency consulted with various groups on the bill to make the tax system “more fair, clear and consistent.”

“Much of the bill codifies existing practices within the agency. Yes, WMC was part of the business groups, as should be expected,” Marquis said.

Rep. Pat Strachota (R-West Bend), a lead sponsor of the bill, said that she has been working on similar legislation since 2005 and that she has largely worked with the Department of Revenue. Strachota said the bill would have a minimal effect on state revenue by design, saying she had removed elements of the bill that might have had a larger effect.

But Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) said he was concerned about the involvement of WMC in putting the bill together.

Daily Headlines for October 26, 2011

Nearly Half of States Link Teacher Evaluations to Tests
Wall Street Journal, October 26, 2011
Nearly two-thirds of states have overhauled policies in the last two years to tighten oversight of teachers, using techniques including tying teacher evaluations to student test scores, linking their pay to performance or making it tougher to earn tenure, according to a report issued Wednesday.

Bullying Add-Ons Make No Child Reform Less Certain
Washington Times, DC, October 25, 2011
Democrats plan to introduce two anti-bullying amendments when a major education reform proposal hits the Senate floor later this year – but the measures could put bipartisan support for the bill in serious jeopardy.

Education Needs A National Forum
Post Crescent, WI, October 26, 2011
Since Congress let the national No Child Left Behind Act expire, Gov. Scott Walker and State Supt. Tony Evers are developing their own plan for assessing the state’s schools. We’ve praised the bipartisan effort in the past.

Teachers’ Union Fat Cats
American Spectator, October 26, 2011
As with the celebrities, there’s something rather hilarious about the appearance of the nation’s two largest teachers’ unions at a protest against allegedly pampered fat cats. Few organizations have managed to become so influential — and build such vast coffers — at the expense of taxpayers and their children.

STATE COVERAGE

Charter Schools Have Proved Their Value
South Coast Today, MA, October 26, 2011
At least once a year, opponents gather to make their case against charter public schools at a Statehouse hearing, but their arguments repeatedly gain little traction.

October Two Miami-Dade Charter Schools Lose Funding
Miami Herald, FL, October 25, 2011
Miami-Dade school district officials say one school is not serving its special-needs students, and the other faces questions about its finances.

Florida Charter Schools’ Track Record At Issue In Expansion
Florida Times Union, FL, October 26, 2011
Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson said Tuesday the state application for opening charter schools doesn’t need to address performance.

Charter School Proposals Meet Tough Sell Before Unified Board
Commercial Appeal, TN, October 26, 2011
A dozen companies that planned to open charter schools in the coming year missed the first hurdle Tuesday, including the W.E.B. Du Bois Consortium, led by former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton.

County OK For Bonds Likely A First For A Charter School
Columbus Dispatch, OH, October 26, 2011
Officials from Cornerstone Academy in Westerville have received Franklin County’s blessing to sell up to $11.5 million in tax-exempt bonds, a rare maneuver that will allow a charter school to purchase and improve its building.

Jammed Detroit Public School Cited As Hazard
The Detroit News, MI, October 26, 2011
A Detroit public school was cited Tuesday by the Detroit Fire Marshal’s Office for overcrowding after a parent complained to fire officials that too many children were in her son’s kindergarten class.

CPS Parents To Show Support For Longer School Day
Chicago Tribune, IL, October 25, 2011
The fight over the longer school day has now moved from the teachers to the parents. Parents from both sides are planning protests at Chicago Public Schools headquarters Wednesday as the Board of Education sits down for its monthly scheduled board meeting.

KIPP School Poised for Growth in Oklahoma City Area
The Oklahoman, OK, October 26, 2011
Mike Feinberg, founder of a charter school network that now has 109 schools across the nation, will be in Oklahoma City on Thursday to speak to supporters of the local KIPP school.

Proposals For Schools Need Thoughtful Study
Austin American-Statesman, TX, October 25, 2011
Chief among those half-baked proposals is Carstarphen’s plan to create up to three in-district charter schools in the Eastside Memorial/Johnston High attendance zone that would be run by IDEA charter schools of South Texas .

Charter Schools to Allow Midyear Students to Enroll
Denver Post, CO, October 26, 2011
Students who move to Denver in the middle of the school year now can enroll at a charter school — if there’s space.

Public Charter Schools Should Be An Option Here
News Tribune, WA, October 26, 2011
The state PTA has gotten tired of waiting for Superman. Last week, it mounted a new and welcome push to persuade the state to reconsider public charter schools, an educational option common in most other states but forbidden – stupidly forbidden – in Washington.

Washington Supreme Court Should Rule Soon On Education-Funding Lawsuit
Seattle Times, WA, October 25, 2011
With more state budget-cutting in the offing, Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn urges the state Supreme Court to rule soon in the case of McCleary v. Washington. Some clarity on the state’s education obligations are needed before the Legislature convenes.

Where All The Teachers Are Above Average
Oregonian, OR, October 25, 2011
The point here is that Oregon City — and much of Oregon’s educational establishment — isn’t even willing to try to develop a fair and workable merit-pay system. It would rather send back a federal grant than work out a plan to provide the money as bonus pay to the Frank Caros who are teaching in its schools.

California Bucks U.S. Trend On Teacher Evaluations
Los Angeles Times, CA, October 26, 2011
A report released by the National Council on Teacher Quality finds most states have made significant changes in recent years. Many now consider student achievement when determining instructors’ tenure or dismissal.

Group Seeks Partnership With Charter Operator to Open High School in Brisbane
Mercury News, CA, October 25, 2011
Parents who have long been pushing for a charter high school in Brisbane are seeking to team up with a Redwood City-based charter-school operator to help make their vision finally come true in two years.

REALM Charter School Teachers Join Union
The Daily Californian, CA, October 25, 2011
The teachers at REALM charter school in Berkeley will now be represented by a teachers’ union, joining a growing number of charter school teachers in the state who are unionizing.

Corbett Education Initiatives Sent for Senate Vote
Philadelphia Inquirer, PA, October 26, 2011
A state Senate committee approved legislation Tuesday that moves forward three key Corbett administration education initiatives: vouchers, charter-school expansion, and increased funding of tax credits that pay for private-school tuition.

Pa. Senate to Consider Bill on School Vouchers
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, PA, October 26, 2011
Legislation to help low-income families pay private school tuition is on its way to the Senate floor.

Haslam Doesn’t Support Charter School Moratorium
The Tennessean, TN, October 26, 2011
Gov. Bill Haslam says he does not support a two-year moratorium on new charter schools after the recently unified school board in Shelby County said it is considering asking state legislators to stop charter school expansion.

School Voucher ‘Choices’ Won’t Help Most Students
The Tennessean, TN, October 26, 2011
Lawmakers pushing school vouchers again argue they would provide more choices for low-income students in Tennessee’s four biggest counties. That’s a bunch of hooey.

Give Districts Tools Needed To Evaluate
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, WI, October 25, 2011
Senate Bill 95 would allow school boards to use value-added analyses of scores on state assessments as one factor among others to evaluate and, if needed, end a teacher’s employment as a teacher in a district. This is not new or novel. Many states permit the use of pupil assessments in removing ineffective teachers.

Douglas County School-Board Candidate Complains Election Is Partisan, Violating Colorado Law
Denver Post, CO, October 26, 2011
In Douglas County, already divided over a school-voucher program, the fight to control the school board got more contentious this week as one candidate charged that three others violated state law with their campaigns.

Vote No On Measure U — It’s The Right Vote For Students
Times-Standard, CA, October 26, 2011
There are many issues which raise concern regarding Measure U and the impact that it will have on both the Fortuna Elementary and Rohnerville Elementary school districts, and specifically the students.

VIRTUAL LEARNING

Technology Can’t Replace Classroom Learning
St. Petersburg Times, FL, October 26, 2011
If you have listened to the radio lately, you’ve probably heard advertisements touting the Florida Virtual School.

Cyberschools Need Greater Regulation, Says New Report That Call Them ‘Wild West Of American Education’
Kalamazoo Gazette, MI, October 26, 2011
As the Michigan Senate prepares to consider a proposal that would expand public funding of cyberschools, a national think-tank has issued a study that finds “serious flaws with full-time virtual schools.

Online Schools A Virtual Waste For Students
Detroit News, MI, October 26, 2011
Many parents find themselves telling their children not to spend an entire day staring at a computer or television screen. But this isn’t the case for some school districts, home-schooling advocates and private corporations across the country, who are advocating for full-time online learning as a substitute for traditional neighborhood schools.

‘Blended Learning’ at Chandler School Under Study Across Valley, U.S.
East Valley Tribune, AZ, October 25, 2011
Sitting side by side at a table tucked against a wall of their classroom, two eighth-graders at Chandler’s Willis Junior High School eye the computer screens in front of them, discuss the numbers, then transfer what they’ve learned to graph paper using the pencils in their hands.

Governors Bush And Wise Announce Blueprint For Digital Education Initiative
Pelican Post, LA, October 25, 2011
This past week, former Florida Governor and chairman of Digital Learning Now! Jeb Bush and former West Virginia Governor Bob Wise unveiled an expansive plan for utilizing technology to achieve educational progress entitled the “Roadmap for Reform: Digital Learning.” The detailed 72-point plan aims to bridge the considerable gap between student needs and available state resources using technology and digital learning.

Andre Agassi focuses on U.S. education efforts after Las Vegas success

Tennis champion and hometown hero Andre Agassi will see his ultimate dream come true at Saturday night’s 16th Grand Slam charity event with a superstar celebrity lineup. He is firmly convinced that the gala fundraiser will take him over the money mark so that he never has to worry again about his Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy living on forever.

The sports superstar who has raised multimillions told me: “I never thought 15 years ago when we started this, we would make it this far. But I played each year by year with one goal in mind, which was to make sure I can fund the school forever.

“Every year, we’ve taken that a step closer, and now I’m proud to say this Saturday night, it’s not going to be just a fantastic evening because the cast of talent we have, it’s going to be even more of a celebration because I am under the full hopes that we will actually get us over the threshold so we’ll never have to worry about our school living in perpetuity. It’s really exciting — it’s going to be a very celebratory atmosphere, to say the least.

I had to ask Andre what was the one defining moment, a magic moment, that he decided he had to take on the epic challenge to change education here in Las Vegas with his own charter school.

“This was an evolution in process for me, giving back, and seeing the inequalities that exist in the world, traveling the world. I knew giving back was something that I wanted to do, focusing on children was an easy focus for me,” he said in our one-on-one. “I think the moment that I really took on the Herculean task of building a K-12 charter school in the most economic challenged area of Las Vegas was when I was at my lowest point, quite ironically. I was stuck at No. 140 in the world after being No. 1 in the world and very disconnected with my life, in a life I just didn’t recognize anymore. You read all about that depression and anguish in my book.

“The only thing that made sense to me, of choosing going nowhere or taking ownership of my life, was to use my tennis for something that really resonated with me, and that was impacting children. And the greatest way to do that was through education, so that’s when I said I’m going to build my school, and I’m going to use that vehicle as the one thing that gets me to connect with this very sport that I spent, unfortunately, too long in my life not loving.”

I wanted to know from Andre if his ambitious dream had finally come true when the first graduation ceremony took place for his kids going off to college last year.

“You know, Robin, I think being from a sport where you weren’t measured by being good, you were measured by being better than one other person, I’ve never, ever felt like I’ve arrived at any given moment,” he replied. “I’ve seen all these intersections that make me very proud for what’s being done, makes me very grateful for what’s being accomplished in these children’s lives.

“But if you ask me to really pinpoint true success, I would say success of these children going away to college, becoming successful, coming back to their community, making a difference for the next generation, seeing the circle of life continue, I think ultimately is the greatest payoff. I don’t know if that day ever really happens in one moment, I think it’s just an ongoing process, and it’s certainly a journey that I choose to live.”

So if his debut Las Vegas school is guaranteed forever status Saturday, what does he want to tackle next? I asked: “If you reach this extraordinary goal Saturday night knowing that perpetuity is assured, do you then take on a new challenge? If you can make it work in Vegas, to this degree, could you make it in every other city across the country? If you started the same school system everywhere else, could you clean up the education mess we have in America?

Andre responded: “I think you are 100 percent right, I think we have a long ways to go, I think there is a lot more to do. I’ve started doing it nationally now. I figured out a model that helps us reach out to traditional capital and solve the one impediment that is the single curse in these great operators expanding their footprint, and that is the facilities component of education that they’re providing. So, in other words, a best-in-class charter school operator operates in the black, meaning they can run economically sound and sustainable, and they also educate at a much higher level and gets great educational results.

The one impediment they have, though, is the facilities, so I’ve figured out a way to facilitate that for them. So, as a result, we have over $500 million to deploy nationally. We have built our first school in North Philadelphia that opened this August. Our next one is in Milwaukee. We’ll build 75 over the next two to three years, and it’s my belief, in the next five to 10 years, we’ll have billions invested, B as in billions, invested in the infrastructure for those that know how to educate our future. It’s one of the things that I’m taking on, and God only knows what other direction I’m going to go, but I’m not stopping.

“For now that includes tennis, but unfortunately tennis is one of those things that dictates it for me. I don’t have a say over my body, and I only get a few years to feel the way I’ve been feeling, and I felt great playing here in Vegas with our tennis champions last week. We had a great time, so as long as I can do it healthy and create a little nostalgia, I’ll never lose sight of the connection to the one thing that made all these dreams possible.”

Andre teased with a preview of Saturday’s Grand Slam dinner and concert at the Wynn: “You can expect a great lineup of talent — Michael Buble, Jimmy Kimmel, Martina McBride, Smokey Robinson and Train. You can also expect a great celebratory atmosphere because we are absolutely in a position, we have come light-years in the last three years, and the territory we’ve covered as it relates to what our needs are and how we are going to achieve, how we are going to accomplish those goals, and Saturday night getting over that finish line is not just people that have launched this mission, but people that have helped me see it through.

“I don’t think I’ll ever stop worrying about lining up these stars, though. That’s my greatest thorn in the side. There’s so many incredible people wanting to give their talents, but the schedule and the timing of people’s lives don’t always work out so neatly, and one year to the next, it’s hard to say how easy or difficult it’s going to be. … This year, we are proud of the lineup we have. Half came later than I wanted, and the other half came in time for me to really take a deep breath.”

Saturday’s fundraising event for the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education continues to transform education and benefit his tuition-free K-12 public charter school. Longines, the famous maker of elegant timepieces, is the new presenting sponsor with Steve Wynn’s casino hotels.

“It’s amazing what can be accomplished when people come together to change lives and make the world a better place for children,” Andre summed up. “This year’s event is so special. It will create an everlasting memory and enable us to give the tools of hope to the next generation.”

Daily Headlines for October 26, 2011

Nearly Half of States Link Teacher Evaluations to Tests
Wall Street Journal, October 26, 2011
Nearly two-thirds of states have overhauled policies in the last two years to tighten oversight of teachers, using techniques including tying teacher evaluations to student test scores, linking their pay to performance or making it tougher to earn tenure, according to a report issued Wednesday.

Bullying Add-Ons Make No Child Reform Less Certain
Washington Times, DC, October 25, 2011
Democrats plan to introduce two anti-bullying amendments when a major education reform proposal hits the Senate floor later this year – but the measures could put bipartisan support for the bill in serious jeopardy.

Education Needs A National Forum
Post Crescent, WI, October 26, 2011
Since Congress let the national No Child Left Behind Act expire, Gov. Scott Walker and State Supt. Tony Evers are developing their own plan for assessing the state’s schools. We’ve praised the bipartisan effort in the past.

Teachers’ Union Fat Cats
American Spectator, October 26, 2011
As with the celebrities, there’s something rather hilarious about the appearance of the nation’s two largest teachers’ unions at a protest against allegedly pampered fat cats. Few organizations have managed to become so influential — and build such vast coffers — at the expense of taxpayers and their children.

STATE COVERAGE

CALIFORNIA

Vote No On Measure U — It’s The Right Vote For Students
Times-Standard, CA, October 26, 2011
There are many issues which raise concern regarding Measure U and the impact that it will have on both the Fortuna Elementary and Rohnerville Elementary school districts, and specifically the students.

California Bucks U.S. Trend On Teacher Evaluations
Los Angeles Times, CA, October 26, 2011
A report released by the National Council on Teacher Quality finds most states have made significant changes in recent years. Many now consider student achievement when determining instructors’ tenure or dismissal.

Group Seeks Partnership With Charter Operator to Open High School in Brisbane
Mercury News, CA, October 25, 2011
Parents who have long been pushing for a charter high school in Brisbane are seeking to team up with a Redwood City-based charter-school operator to help make their vision finally come true in two years.

REALM Charter School Teachers Join Union
The Daily Californian, CA, October 25, 2011
The teachers at REALM charter school in Berkeley will now be represented by a teachers’ union, joining a growing number of charter school teachers in the state who are unionizing.

COLORADO

Charter Schools to Allow Midyear Students to Enroll
Denver Post, CO, October 26, 2011
Students who move to Denver in the middle of the school year now can enroll at a charter school — if there’s space.

Douglas County School-Board Candidate Complains Election Is Partisan, Violating Colorado Law
Denver Post, CO, October 26, 2011
In Douglas County, already divided over a school-voucher program, the fight to control the school board got more contentious this week as one candidate charged that three others violated state law with their campaigns.

FLORIDA

October Two Miami-Dade Charter Schools Lose Funding
Miami Herald, FL, October 25, 2011
Miami-Dade school district officials say one school is not serving its special-needs students, and the other faces questions about its finances.

Florida Charter Schools’ Track Record At Issue In Expansion
Florida Times Union, FL, October 26, 2011
Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson said Tuesday the state application for opening charter schools doesn’t need to address performance.

ILLINOIS

CPS Parents To Show Support For Longer School Day
Chicago Tribune, IL, October 25, 2011
The fight over the longer school day has now moved from the teachers to the parents. Parents from both sides are planning protests at Chicago Public Schools headquarters Wednesday as the Board of Education sits down for its monthly scheduled board meeting.

MASSACHUSETTS

Charter Schools Have Proved Their Value
South Coast Today, MA, October 26, 2011
At least once a year, opponents gather to make their case against charter public schools at a Statehouse hearing, but their arguments repeatedly gain little traction.

MICHIGAN

Jammed Detroit Public School Cited As Hazard
The Detroit News, MI, October 26, 2011
A Detroit public school was cited Tuesday by the Detroit Fire Marshal’s Office for overcrowding after a parent complained to fire officials that too many children were in her son’s kindergarten class.

OHIO

County OK For Bonds Likely A First For A Charter School
Columbus Dispatch, OH, October 26, 2011
Officials from Cornerstone Academy in Westerville have received Franklin County’s blessing to sell up to $11.5 million in tax-exempt bonds, a rare maneuver that will allow a charter school to purchase and improve its building.

OKLAHOMA

KIPP School Poised for Growth in Oklahoma City Area
The Oklahoman, OK, October 26, 2011
Mike Feinberg, founder of a charter school network that now has 109 schools across the nation, will be in Oklahoma City on Thursday to speak to supporters of the local KIPP school.

OREGON

Where All The Teachers Are Above Average
Oregonian, OR, October 25, 2011
The point here is that Oregon City — and much of Oregon’s educational establishment — isn’t even willing to try to develop a fair and workable merit-pay system. It would rather send back a federal grant than work out a plan to provide the money as bonus pay to the Frank Caros who are teaching in its schools.

PENNSYLVANIA

Corbett Education Initiatives Sent for Senate Vote
Philadelphia Inquirer, PA, October 26, 2011
A state Senate committee approved legislation Tuesday that moves forward three key Corbett administration education initiatives: vouchers, charter-school expansion, and increased funding of tax credits that pay for private-school tuition.

Pa. Senate to Consider Bill on School Vouchers
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, PA, October 26, 2011
Legislation to help low-income families pay private school tuition is on its way to the Senate floor.

TENNESSEE

Charter School Proposals Meet Tough Sell Before Unified Board
Commercial Appeal, TN, October 26, 2011
A dozen companies that planned to open charter schools in the coming year missed the first hurdle Tuesday, including the W.E.B. Du Bois Consortium, led by former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton.

Haslam Doesn’t Support Charter School Moratorium
The Tennessean, TN, October 26, 2011
Gov. Bill Haslam says he does not support a two-year moratorium on new charter schools after the recently unified school board in Shelby County said it is considering asking state legislators to stop charter school expansion.

School Voucher ‘Choices’ Won’t Help Most Students
The Tennessean, TN, October 26, 2011
Lawmakers pushing school vouchers again argue they would provide more choices for low-income students in Tennessee’s four biggest counties. That’s a bunch of hooey.

TEXAS

Proposals For Schools Need Thoughtful Study
Austin American-Statesman, TX, October 25, 2011
Chief among those half-baked proposals is Carstarphen’s plan to create up to three in-district charter schools in the Eastside Memorial/Johnston High attendance zone that would be run by IDEA charter schools of South Texas.

WASHINGTON

Public Charter Schools Should Be An Option Here
News Tribune, WA, October 26, 2011
The state PTA has gotten tired of waiting for Superman. Last week, it mounted a new and welcome push to persuade the state to reconsider public charter schools, an educational option common in most other states but forbidden – stupidly forbidden – in Washington.

Washington Supreme Court Should Rule Soon On Education-Funding Lawsuit
Seattle Times, WA, October 25, 2011
With more state budget-cutting in the offing, Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn urges the state Supreme Court to rule soon in the case of McCleary v. Washington. Some clarity on the state’s education obligations are needed before the Legislature convenes.

WISCONSIN

Give Districts Tools Needed To Evaluate
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, WI, October 25, 2011
Senate Bill 95 would allow school boards to use value-added analyses of scores on state assessments as one factor among others to evaluate and, if needed, end a teacher’s employment as a teacher in a district. This is not new or novel. Many states permit the use of pupil assessments in removing ineffective teachers.

VIRTUAL LEARNING

Technology Can’t Replace Classroom Learning
St. Petersburg Times, FL, October 26, 2011
If you have listened to the radio lately, you’ve probably heard advertisements touting the Florida Virtual School.

Cyberschools Need Greater Regulation, Says New Report That Call Them ‘Wild West Of American Education’
Kalamazoo Gazette, MI, October 26, 2011
As the Michigan Senate prepares to consider a proposal that would expand public funding of cyberschools, a national think-tank has issued a study that finds “serious flaws with full-time virtual schools.

Online Schools A Virtual Waste For Students
Detroit News, MI, October 26, 2011
Many parents find themselves telling their children not to spend an entire day staring at a computer or television screen. But this isn’t the case for some school districts, home-schooling advocates and private corporations across the country, who are advocating for full-time online learning as a substitute for traditional neighborhood schools.

‘Blended Learning’ at Chandler School Under Study Across Valley, U.S.
East Valley Tribune, AZ, October 25, 2011
Sitting side by side at a table tucked against a wall of their classroom, two eighth-graders at Chandler’s Willis Junior High School eye the computer screens in front of them, discuss the numbers, then transfer what they’ve learned to graph paper using the pencils in their hands.

Governors Bush And Wise Announce Blueprint For Digital Education Initiative
Pelican Post, LA, October 25, 2011
This past week, former Florida Governor and chairman of Digital Learning Now! Jeb Bush and former West Virginia Governor Bob Wise unveiled an expansive plan for utilizing technology to achieve educational progress entitled the “Roadmap for Reform: Digital Learning.” The detailed 72-point plan aims to bridge the considerable gap between student needs and available state resources using technology and digital learning.

Newswire: October 25, 2011

Vol. 13, No. 41

A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN? The late-Steve Jobs may have felt Bill Gates would have been “a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger,” and Gates may have found Jobs “fundamentally odd,” but the views of these two masters of the tech universe on education are less adverse. For both, it’s all about the professionalization of teachers. Jobs, in Walter Isaacson’s book Steve Jobs, allegedly told President Obama that the nation’s education system is “crippled by union work rules” and that there is no hope for ed reform until “the teachers’ unions were broken.” Jobs’ idea, and a good one, is to give principals the authority to hire and fire their own staff – just as occurs in most businesses, and which happens in most charter schools. He says all this under the umbrella that the U.S. is strangling itself with “regulations and unnecessary costs,” that put us at a competitive disadvantage with nations like China. The Gates, both Bill and Melinda, take a more nuanced, research-based approach, beginning with a recent survey conducted with Scholastic Inc. Survey results indicate that teachers want to be treated like professionals. In direct opposition to some union opinion, 85% of teachers concur that student growth “over the course of an academic year” should be a factor in their evaluations. They are receptive to new teacher evaluations and want the right kind of support to improve their classroom performance, which is part of Gates’ Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) program. MET is collecting video tapes of teachers, with the goal to first better define effective teaching, something the research world shockingly has yet to do, but, to also provide appropriate supports to help willing teachers improve their performance – in other words, act like pros. For reformers, look at the words of both and the actions of Gates, and you’ll find a path for teaching to become a profession its followers can be proud of.

A NEW CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT: Too bad the NAACP doesn’t realize it yet, but too many inner-city, minority kids from disadvantaged neighborhoods are drowning in abysmal public schools that have been failing for years. The group has protested co-locating top-notch charters with traditional public schools in NYC and, generally, is anti-charter. It’s befuddling at best that instead of marching to city hall to improve schools by supporting quality choice options, the NAACP and other groups are walking arm-in-arm with unions who are fighting charters from moving into the neighborhood. (Think KIPP, Harlem Success Charters, Harlem Children’s Zone, to name a few). A California Charter Schools Association study examined the state’s API and found that the average black charter school student outscored his counterpart in traditional public schools by an average of 18 points over the last four years. What’s the NAACP waiting for? The brand new civil rights movement is all about doing whatever it takes to make schools work for kids. If that’s charters, fine. Vouchers, great. Full-service schools. Go for it. But, to stand guard over the failing old ways instead of being in the vanguard of what’s new and can work — it’s unthinkable. Come on, NAACP, represent your constituents.

CER REFORMIES ROCK THE GALA. Who says ed reformers don’t know how to have fun? October 20 was a rockin’ evening to celebrate the hard work of trying to improve education opportunities for students nationwide. Honorees of the evening were serenaded by The Reformers, all leaders of the education reform movement themselves. This year’s honorees include: The Honorable John Boehner, Katherine Bradley, Kevin Chavous, John Fisher, Steve Klinsky, John Legend, Eva Moskowitz and Brian Williams of NBC News. Can’t wait for the next Gala!

STATESIDE Pennsylvania Senate education committee, under time pressure due to end of legislative session, was able to pass a reform amendment that combined and subsequently weakened the voucher bill, SB 1, and the charter bill, SB 904, in order to ensure the Senate would pass something. Taken out is the multiple authorizers for charters. And, for vouchers, only the bottom five percent of failing schools are included. Expect a vote in the Senate as early as tomorrow on the bill. Then, it will move on to the House where it is possible the multiple authorizers for charters could be put back in the legislation.

Michigan is once again making moves to improve learning and offer more choice to families. A bill just passed the Senate that would remove the cap on the number of charters university authorizers may approve. It also would eliminate the “single site” requirement, which would pave the way for replication of successful schools. And, it expands digital learning opportunities. Now being debated in the House.

New Jersey lawmakers are bringing back scholarships for low-income students to attend private schools. Right now, the bill, the Opportunity Scholarship Act (OSA) is pared down to only include cities like Camden and Newark, but expect more action after the Nov. election.

Daily Headlines for October 25, 2011

Fewer Rules, Not Vouchers, Needed To Improve Schools
Patriot News, PA, October 25, 2011
Until the 1840s, America’s education system was highly localized. Wealthy people sent their children to elite private schools. Public school students attended classes for only a few weeks each winter, often in poorly equipped schoolhouses with untrained teachers.

No Child Left Behind – Turning A Yardstick Into A Cookie Cutter
The Republic, MA, October 25, 2011
If what you’d been doing was failing badly, but the thing you’d replaced it with was shown to have problems of its own, would it make sense to return to the place you’d been in initially?

STATE COVERAGE

Sluggish on Schools
Boston Herald, MA, October 25, 2011
Momentum is on the side of school reformers these days. A slew of new urban charter schools opened in Massachusetts this fall, and now comes word that an advocacy group has, in just one month, collected more than 100,000 voter signatures in support of a ballot question that would shake up teacher evaluation and hiring rules statewide.

College Readiness Is Lacking, City Reports Show
New York Times, NY, October 25, 2011
Only one in four students who enter high school in New York City are ready for college after four years, and less than half enroll, according to the A-through-F high school report cards released on Monday.

Solving Puzzle of Bad Teachers
Albany Times Union, NY, October 24, 2011
A New York City speech and language teacher showed up late 101 times in a single school year and left early 47 others. Though she never bothered to clock in some days, she successfully fought off the Department of Education’s attempt to fire her for 18 months and paid a fine before she returned to the classroom.

Catholic School Enrollment Continues To Decline
Baltimore Sun, MD, October 24, 2011
At 4.3 percent, it’s the smallest percentage drop seen in past four years at the 60 archdiocese-run schools

Charter Schools: Getting to Success
Richmond Times-Dispatch, VA, October 25, 2011
The Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts, the first elementary-grade charter school in Virginia , has endured its share of growing pains. The Richmond-based school has been dogged by questions about finances and the leadership of its principal, Pamela Boyd. Now the school — and some members of the Richmond school system — say the state needs to improve its notoriously weak charter-school law.

Va. Should Allow Charter Schools More Autonomy
Richmond Times-Dispatch, VA, October 25, 2011
Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts and Richmond Public Schools are joined at the hip, and neither seems terribly comfortable with the arrangement.

Teachers Propose Fairfax Charter School
Washington Examiner, DC, October 24, 2011
Maryland has more than 50. Virginia has just four. And Fairfax County has none at all. But if a group of area educators is successful in their bid to the state Board of Education, the county could become home to Northern Virginia ‘s first charter school by 2013.

3 More Hall Schools Want Charters
Gainesville Times, GA, October 24, 2011
Pending state approval, three new charter schools will soon join Hall County ’s ranks.

White Says He Has Proof That Charters ‘Dump’ Students Back To IPS
Indianapolis Star, IN, October 24, 2011
Superintendent Eugene White has long argued that Indianapolis Public Schools are victimized by charter schools that take a full year’s worth of state aid but then dump students back on the district.

Endangered Profession?
Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, IN, October 25, 2011
Double-digit enrollment decreases in education schools at area colleges and universities ought to be an early warning that something’s amiss in Indiana ’s efforts to overhaul its schools. When students choose not to pursue teaching careers because of discouraging job prospects or unfavorable attitudes toward the profession, the very quality of education is at risk.

CPS May Extend Longer-Day Incentives To Charter Schools
Chicago Tribune, IL, October 25, 2011
Chicago Public Schools is considering offering financial incentives to charter schools willing to adopt a longer school day this year, even as the attorney general’s office prepares to petition Cook County Circuit Court to stop the extended day from being implemented in more neighborhood schools.

Educators Develop Uniform Guidelines For Principal Performance
Minnesota Public Radio, MN, October 24, 2011
With increasing pressure over the last decade to improve student achievement, a growing body of research highlights the crucial role school principals play in creating good environments for learning.

New Data To Help In Assessing Learning
Tulsa World, OK, October 25, 2011
New data from Tulsa Public Schools offer parents greater insight into the impact their child’s classroom experience is having on their achievement in reading, math and other tested subjects.

City Teachers Turn Down Bonuses
KATU, OR, October 24, 2011
Oregon City educators rejected a multimillion-dollar grant meant to reward teachers, because the money would have been tied to student test scores.

Two Oakland Schools To Split From The District
Oakland Tribune, CA, October 24, 2011
The faculty at two Oakland elementary schools have voted to break away from the district and convert their schools into independently run charters, a move that could cost Oakland Unified more than $4 million.

Minersville Area Superintendent Questions Fairness Of Voucher Proposal
Republican Herald, PA, October 25, 2011
With a tuition voucher bill to be considered by the Senate Education Committee in Harrisburg today, Minersville Area School District Superintendent M. Joseph Brady urged parents and taxpayers Monday night to take action.

State Senate Needs To Act On SRC Nominations
Philadelphia Inquirer, PA, October 25, 2011
It was good to see Gov. Corbett act swiftly to fill the latest vacancy on the School Reform Commission, but the state Senate still needs to accelerate action on his nominations so the panel can get to work on unresolved issues.

Shelby County Board To Consider Vouchers Tonight
Commercial Appeal, TN, October 25, 2011
Days after Sen. Brian Kelsey refiled his school voucher bill in mid-October, school boards large and small have stood up to fight.

Pro-Charter School Lobbying Group Emerges
Florida Times Union Blog , FL, October 24, 2011
A new lobbying group for charter schools officially launched on Monday. With support from the Walton Family Foundation, the Florida Charter School Alliance will advocate for policies that benefit charter schools.

Superintendents Oppose Proposed House Bill 136
The Morning Journal, OH, October 25, 2011
A group of 17 local school superintendents are asking residents to tell their state representatives to not support proposed Ohio House Bill 136.

New Orleans Schools Chief Is on the Cusp of Grasping State Superintendent’s Reins
Times Picayune, LA, October 24, 2011
White’s appointment is still uncertain. Any candidate will need an eight-member supermajority on the 11-member board to take over the Louisiana Department of Education.

Denver’s School Board Races Are Colorado’s Most Expensive Ever
KDVR, CO, October 24, 2011
A year after Colorado saw the most expensive U.S. Senate race in the entire country, an election that’s seen more than $600,000 in campaign contributions might seem like a low budget affair.

VIRTUAL LEARNING

Study Raises Questions About Virtual Schools
Washington Post, DC, October 24, 2011
As an increasing number of cash-strapped states turn to virtual schools — where computers replace classmates and students learn via the Internet — a new study is raising questions about their quality and oversight.

District Considers Mix Of Online, Classroom Teaching; Parents Upset
WFMZ, PA, October 24, 2011
The district is exploring the option of hybrid learning, said superintendent Larry Mayes, who explained that it combines online curriculum and classroom interaction with a teacher.

Cyberschools Would Receive Funding Under Michigan Senate Proposal; Critics Raise Concerns
Kalamazoo Gazette, MI, October 24, 2011
When supporters of cyberschools talk about changing Michigan law to fund the schools’ expansion, they point to states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, where thousands of students are enrolled in virtual charter schools.

College Readiness Is Lacking, City Reports Show

By FERNANDA SANTOS
New York Times
October 24, 2011

Only one in four students who enter high school in New York City are ready for college after four years, and less than half enroll, according to the A-through-F high school report cards released on Monday.

Those numbers, included for the first time in the report cards, confirmed what the state suggested several months ago: the city still has a long way to go to prepare students for successful experiences in college and beyond. And they were a signal that graduation rates, long used by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg as a validation of his education policies, were not as meaningful as they seemed.

“There’s a huge change in life chances for kids who are successful in post-secondary education,” the city’s chief academic officer, Shael Polakow-Suransky, said. “We really have a task to prepare kids for that, and the data is one of the most motivating tools.”

About half of the 363 schools that got report cards received the same grade as the previous year, and about one-third of them received a lower grade. Officials linked the decline to tougher standards: graduation rules were tightened, grading practices were revamped and documentation requirements were made stricter, leaving less room for schools to manipulate test scores and dropout rates.

Fifty-four schools, or 15 percent, received a higher grade.

The measures of college readiness are new, and did not factor into schools’ grades this year, but they will be part of the grades next year. For most schools, not much is likely to change. Those that received an A or B this year had the highest percentage of students who took college-level courses, did not need remediation classes upon graduation and went to college within four years of entering high school, according to an analysis by The New York Times.

There were, however, many exceptions among A schools. At It Takes a Village Academy in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, more than 90 percent of students graduate in four years, but only 9 percent meet the college readiness criteria. At South Bronx Preparatory, the graduation rate also topped 90 percent, but the college-readiness rate was closer to 15 percent. At All City Leadership Secondary School in Bushwick, Brooklyn, every student who entered in 2007 graduated, but less than a quarter met the new standard.

Over all, the college readiness rate was less than half the graduation rate in 299 of the schools that received their report cards, the analysis shows.

Mr. Polakow-Suransky said Monday that the level of instruction that students at all grade levels receive would not improve until the tests by which they were measured became better at assessing the skills they would need after graduation, like analytical writing, critical thinking and problem-solving.

“If I’m a teacher,” he said, “I’m going to look closely at what that exam is measuring and key my curriculum and my work to passing that exam. That is the reality of what high-stakes exams are designed to do.”

Over the summer, officials at the State Education Department reported that only 21 percent of city students who started high school in 2006 were prepared for college when they graduated four years later. That finding comes from community colleges’ discovery that by scoring a 75 on the English Regents and an 80 on the math Regents, students typically earn at least a C in college courses on the same subjects. Those who score lower are quite likely to require remediation, a path that reduces the likelihood that they will graduate.

The progress reports this year measured schools against that standard, as well as others. Looking at students who entered high school in fall 2007, they revealed the percentage who scored above a 3 on an Advanced Placement exam, above a 4 on the International Baccalaureate exam and above a 65 on the Regents exams in Algebra II, chemistry or physics. They also showed the percentage of students who earned a C or higher in a course they took for college credit.

Mr. Polakow-Suransky said it was unclear how much weight the college-readiness measures would have on the reports next year. Currently, 60 percent of a school’s grade is based on how much students progress from one year to the next, 25 percent of it is based on their performance on standardized tests and 15 percent is based on more subjective measures, like a school’s safety and environment.

To meet the graduation requirements set by the report cards released Monday, students had to score at least 65 on four of the five Regents exams they took last year, instead of 55; this year, they will have to achieve a 65 on all five exams. Unlike previous years, teachers were not allowed to rescore tests with scores just below a passing grade.

In addition, schools had to offer more evidence that students who left had gone to another school or program, and had not simply dropped out.

In the end, 32.7 percent of schools received an A on their progress reports, 31.6 percent got B’s, 24 percent C’s, 8.2 percent D’s and 3.6 percent F’s. Last year, the number of schools scoring D’s and F’s was about the same, while 38 percent of the schools received A’s, 29.7 percent earned B’s and 21.6 percent had C’s.

Staten Island posted the best results: 6 of its 11 high schools received A’s, and there were no D’s or F’s in the borough. Brooklyn logged the worst performance, with 28 percent of its 116 high schools scoring A’s and 14 percent of them receiving D’s and F’s. Among the schools in Manhattan, 38 percent had A’s, 27 percent scored B’s, 24 percent earned C’s, 6 percent received D’s and 4 percent F’s.

The city withheld the report cards for seven schools — Theatre Arts Production Company, Bronx Aerospace and Pulse in the Bronx, and School for International Studies, Bushwick School for Social Justice, Foundations Academy and the F.D.N.Y. High School for Fire and Life Safety in Brooklyn — because there were questions about the numbers they reported.

At the 11 city high schools that began receiving roughly $20 million in federal grant money last year to improve their results, the reports offered no clear conclusion as to whether the strategies they had adopted, like replacing the principal and lengthening the school day, were working.

Six of them received the same grades as last year, two saw drops in their scores and three of them improved. William E. Grady Career and Technical Education High School in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, which registered one of the city’s largest score increases, went to a B from a D in 2009-10. In 2011, Grady’s graduation rate was just over 50 percent; fewer than 5 percent of those students met the city’s standard for college readiness.

Its new principal, Geraldine Maione, said that because Grady was a vocational school, it attracted mostly students who were looking to move into trades, though some hoped to go to college. She also said the city’s expectations were, at times, unrealistic.

“We know what we’re dealing with,” Ms. Maione said. “Many of my kids are not going to be ready for college in four years, so isn’t it better they stay in high school?”

Charter School Bill Would Remove Replication Roadblocks, Expand Choices for Michigan Families

CER Press Release
Washington, DC
October 25, 2011

A recently passed Senate bill now being debated in the House provides Michigan with the opportunity to strengthen its charter school law and provide new choices for even more of the state’s students.

Two of the primary measures in the bill include removing the cap on the number of charter schools university authorizers may approve and elimination of the “single site” requirement allowing school replication. This removes many of the roadblocks successful charter schools in the state face in creating additional schools.

“Michigan’s students deserve their chance at success and that requires giving them the freedom to explore educational options tailored to their specific needs,” said Jeanne Allen, president of The Center for Education Reform. “Students who want to be in charter schools are stuck on waiting lists with even more trapped in failing schools, which the US Secretary of Education predicts will dramatically increase this year.”

In addition to numerous other important improvements regarding accountability and operations, the proposal before the House would ensure increased digital learning opportunities among all students

“Michigan’s law has fallen behind those it used to outpace by failing to improve on important charter policies that increase quality opportunities for students. The current, bi-partisan effort, once passed, will further the state’s standing as a state making strides in reforming education,” said Allen. “Removing roadblocks to replicating successful charter schools is necessary to strengthen the state’s educational system.”

CER last ranked Michigan’s charter school law as the nation’s 5th strongest in its report “Charter School Laws Across the State,” a report that will is annually updated each winter.

URGENT: Ed Reform Needs Your Help!

After months of deliberating on how best to improve educational opportunities for Pennsylvania the Senate passed the SB 1, and the bill awaits a hearing in the House Education Committee. Voice your support for ed reform now!

The proposal builds on work begun earlier this year in the legislature and represents unprecedented unity among the Governor, the House and the Senate in supporting a package that is critical for any state to improve its schools. But there is still work to be done and your voice is needed! Please take a moment NOW to reach out to your Representatives to support expanded choice and charter improvements in Pennsylvania.

Here’s why it’s important:

• Expand meaningful school choices for children, particularly lower and middle-income families.

• Give families with children in the lowest performing school districts the opportunity to choose a better school for their child, with the money allocated for their education following them to the school their parents best feel meets their needs.

• Provide additional tax incentives for businesses to contribute their profits to scholarship organizations (the Educational Improvement Tax Credit), which provide middle and low income parents with support to pay for alternative educational opportunities.

• Make additional improvements to the state’s charter school law paving the way for further action in the House that would enable new, publicly accountable authorizers to manage, open and monitor charter schools. Such laws in other states are responsible for the highest number of high quality charter schools.

What are parents saying to the House? Check out their comments

Act now! Call AND write your legislator and tell him/her you are counting on his/her support to ensure Pennsylvania’s students have access to the high-quality choices and charter schools policies included in SB1.